Author Charles Lockwood Photography Brown Cannon III
DAY ONE / Since 1927, the Beverly Wilshire Hotel has stood majestically at the crossroads of busy Wilshire Boulevard and swank Rodeo Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills. It’s sure to impress you as much as it did Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
The day begins a short stroll from the hotel at Jack N’ Jill’s, a café on Beverly Drive, the closest thing Beverly Hills has to a Main Street. Locals keep coming back for gourmet comfort food with a Southern accent and California flair. Try the Savannah strawberry oatmeal pancakes.
Afterward, head to the Pacific beach town of Venice. Your drive through the burg of Beverly Hills would have passed through a lima bean farm only 100 years ago. When you arrive at the Venice Canals, between Washington and Venice boulevards, take in these lovely, recently improved waterways. They are the remains of developer Abbot Kinney’s ill-fated 1905 plan to create an LA version of Venice, Italy. Several of the development’s original (and now very pricey) bungalows still stand among newer, even pricier homes lining the canals.
Wander along nearby Abbot Kinney Boulevard between California and Westminster avenues, past funky antiques shops, trendy clothing stores, galleries, and quirky restaurants that contribute to the distinctively bohemian lifestyle of Venice.
Lunch is at The Lobster, near the Santa Monica Pier. It’s hard to believe this sprawling restaurant began as a small seafood shack in 1925. Thanks to a 180-degree view of the ocean, a seaside terrace, and chef Allyson Thurber’s no-nonsense preparation of the freshest seafood, The Lobster is always buzzing with loyal diners.
Explore the Santa Monica Pier next. On any given day, throngs of Angelenos and visitors enjoy the vintage merry-go-round, the new Ferris wheel and roller coaster, and many other attractions. Many more visitors simply stroll along the pier, enjoying the fresh air and ocean views.
After exploring the pier by foot, enjoy the eclectic scene by bicycle. Grab the right bike at the 7 Blazing Saddles rental shop and follow the serpentine beach-front path southward to Venice. Pass surfers riding the waves and hardbodies flexing on Muscle Beach, as well as an assortment of fortune tellers, henna tattooists, portrait artists, and jewelry vendors lining the pathway known as Venice Boardwalk. Even if you’ve seen it on film, nothing compares to the real thing.
It’s time for dinner and a respite from this anything-goes atmosphere, so head to the Huntley Hotel and its 8 Rooftop Restaurant. From the 18th floor, indulge in a magnificent view of the Santa Monica Bay, with its lights twinkling along the coastline. Just as impressive is the restaurant’s cuisine, deftly blending Pacific, Asian, and American flavors.
After dinner is the perfect time to enjoy the Third Street Promenade. End your day at the vibrant outdoor collection of shops, restaurants, bars, and cinemas. In the evenings, musicians, jugglers, dancers, artists, and vendors further ramp up the energy.