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Escape Plan: Unexpected Los Angeles

by Keith langston
Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, CA

Here’s your perfect Los Angeles itinerary loaded with great things to enjoy, and the best places to eat, sleep, drink, and more.

Hammer Museum (Photo by Keith Langston)

This is your unexpected escape plan to Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is home to some of the most fascinating attractions in the USA, and visitors from around the world flock to the “City of Angels” in search of exciting things to do, see, taste, and experience. To make your next visit an exceptional one, we combed LA to uncover the best hidden gems and unnoticed marvels that are just waiting to be discovered. Here’s your perfect itinerary loaded with great things to enjoy, and the best places to eat, sleep, drink, and more. This is your unexpected escape plan to Los Angeles.

EAT 
LA is known for its Asian and Mexican cuisine, and it most certainly deserves to be, since the city has some of the best in all of America. However, there are tons of other awesome dining options in Los Angeles. VTree (vtreevegan.com) in Silverlake, for example, is dishing out vegan soul food that’s so good you may never eat meat again. Collard greens, cornbread, and coleslaw are all served alongside hearty BBQ (meatless) ribs and delicious (chickenless) fried chicken. You can even order vegan Po Boys and chicken ’n waffles.

Pizza at Cinque Terre West in Los Angeles

Pizza at Cinque Terre West
Photo: Courtesy of Cinque Terre West

For another surprise, head out to the Pacific Palisades, a beachside neighborhood located at the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. There you’ll find Cinque Terre West (cinqueterrewest.com), a family-owned Italian restaurant and wine bar where all the pasta is handmade in-house, and the sauces are prepared daily. They also serve other scrumptious Italian dishes like burrata and handmade pizzas that come topped with delicacies such as fresh black truffles.

W Wow Suite in Los Angeles, CA

W Wow Suite
Photo: Courtesy of W Hotels

SLEEP
Los Angeles is home to an endless array of stunning hotels, all of which have their own vibe and charm. For a truly unexpected treat, be sure to stay at the W’s westside location, W – West Beverly Hills (w-hotels.marriot.com). While technically titled “West Beverly Hills,” the hotel actually sits in a quaint residential neighborhood in-between Beverly Hills, Century City, Bel Air, and Westwood. Not only does this provide a secluded stay, but it also puts you in a great location. The hotel is a short drive from the beach, West Hollywood, the airport, and more. Best of all, it’s a W property, meaning the hotel is filled with fantastic rooms, a trendy pool area with cabanas, and an outdoor bar. Plus, since the W is the tallest building in the neighborhood, most of the rooms get sweeping, unobstructed views of the city.

DO
Why walk Hollywood Boulevard when you can get up-close views of the Hollywood sign on horseback. Sunset Ranch (sunsetranchhollywood.com) offers guided horseback tours of the Hollywood Hills, providing stunning vistas of the city below. Not only is riding horseback on the side of a mountain exhilarating, but the LA skyline in the distance makes for Insta-worthy selfies. The tours run through the hills of Griffith Park, creating a rather unexpectedly rugged outdoor experience in the middle of LA.

Sunset Ranch Horseback Ride in Los Angeles, CA

Sunset Ranch Horseback Ride
Photo: Courtesy of Sunset Ranch

Another excellent activity in LA is visiting the world-class museums. While LACMA may be the city’s most famous, the Hammer (hammer. ucla.edu) is the underappreciated gem that’s certainly worth a visit. The Hammer is a private museum that’s completely free to the public. It’s an outstanding mix of classical and modern art, with one room containing paintings by Monet and Van Gogh, and another displaying an interactive modern exhibit that critiques the way old western movies portrayed indigenous people. While the juxtaposition might sound jarring, it actually makes for a well-rounded and beautiful excursion through art, both past and present.

Fellow Cocktail Selection in Los Angeles, CA

Fellow Cocktail Selection

DRINK
Westwood is best known as being the home of UCLA, but it’s also filled with historic theaters, celebrity gravesites, and museums and galleries. Because of how buzzing the neighborhood has become, new restaurants and bars have recently discovered what an attractive location Westwood is. One of those newcomers is Fellow (fellow.la). They not only have an on-site art gallery, but they specialize in an excellent drink menu for patrons of all ages and walks of life. They boast an impressive wine and cocktail list, as well as a large nonalcoholic cocktail menu. They even have a curated water menu handpicked by a water sommelier. At Fellow, everyone can experience the ritual and romance of a great drink.

Tofu at Imari in Los Angeles, CA

Tofu at Imari
Photo: Courtesy of Imari

Not too far away in neighboring Brentwood sits Imari (imari-la.com), a restaurant and bar focusing on washoku, or fine Japanese cuisine. At Imari, dishes are served on small, sharable plates, and diners are encouraged to accompany the meal with traditional sake. However, with the small plates and slow-food atmosphere of Imari, it actually serves as the perfect spot for a relaxing night of sharing wine and sake with friends, all while sampling some truly outstanding Japanese dishes.

UNWIND
If you’re in need of a restorative activity, head to The Mindry (themindry.com) in Malibu. It’s a beautifully beachy space to do yoga and go on guided meditative journeys. Inside, you’ll find candlelit rooms and soothing music. Throughout the day, a variety of classes are offered, from strengthening yoga to reiki, and all of them are taught by friendly, welcoming instructors. The studio is conveniently located across the street from the ocean, so it’s the perfect way to compliment a day at the beach.

Meditation at The Mindry in Los Angeles, CA

Meditation at The Mindry
Photo: Keith Langston

For a solo retreat, a visit to the Self- Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine (lakeshrine.org) is in order. Nestled into a canyon in the Pacific Palisades, this temple and lake were created to give everyone from every religion and spiritual belief a space to relax, meditate, and enjoy the beauty of nature. The centerpiece of the property is the lake, which has two resident white swans. Along the lakeside sits small cottages, palm trees, manicured gardens, ornate carvings, and a shrine that contains the ashes of Gandhi. All throughout the property, you’ll find little coves, inlets, and shaded benches that are perfect for sitting down, collecting your thoughts, and giving thanks for how fortunate we all are to be able to travel to new and beautiful places.

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