This sprawling megalopolis is one of the most enigmatic places in America. At once a gaudy spectacle and a sublime patchwork of intimate neighborhoods, L.A. can be tamed-if you know where to look.
Author Tricia Romano Photography Amanda Friedman
DAY THREE | You’ve lived like a local for two days; now it’s time to be a tourist. Grab a quick bite alongside budding screenwriters at the Bourgeois Pig Café (1) in Beachwood Canyon, then drive up to Griffith Park Observatory (2). On a clear day you can see Los Angeles’ mighty sprawl, and no matter the weather, you’ll be able to get a very close look at the storied Hollywood sign. Hooray for Hollywood, and hooray for lunch. L.A. is very proud of In-N-Out Burger (3), so go see what all the fuss is about. Try a classic burger, or—even better—order off the secret menu and ask for the burger “animal style,” which means the patty is smothered with grilled onions, extra sauce, mustard and pickles.
In Hollywood proper, you’ll head to—where else?—the three-mile Hollywood Walk of Fame (4), where bumping into Barney, Elvis and Marilyn impersonators is only part of the fun. You’ll wind up at another worthwhile tourist trap, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (5). The Chinese temple facade is infamous—and for good reason. When it opened in 1927 with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s The King of Kings, fans rioted while trying to spot the celebrities (sound familiar?). If you want, you can see an actual flick here, but after that three-mile walk, you’d rather see dinner.
Look no farther than Palm’s Thai (6), where you will be serenaded by Thai Elvis. Kavee Thongpreecha dons a pompadour, pinkie ring and patent leather lifts while he croons Elvis’ hits with aplomb. The food is as good as the entertainment; the standard pad thai is delicious, but if you like it hot, go with the curry.
For the perfect Hollywood ending, check into the W Hollywood Hotel (7), which features actual red carpet throughout its vast interior. After you walk it, freshen up, do a lap through the W’s A-list nightclub, Drai’s Hollywood, and head out for a night on the Sunset Strip. Rainbow Bar & Grill (8) is the perfect setting for cocktails and people-watching. It’s part Godfather hangout (red leather booths, fireplace and cozy interior) and part rock ‘n’ roll party scene (diners whose fashions and musical tastes haven’t changed since 1985, when hair metal bands like Mötley Crüe, Poison and Ratt ruled the strip). Don’t be put off by the five-dollar cover; you’ll get a free drink ticket when you walk in the door.
You end your evening—and trip—riding down Sunset, the wind in your hair, understanding why Los Angeles needs to be spread out across all of these towns, burgs, hamlets and neighborhoods: otherwise, it would be too much cool in one place.
Los Angeles–based writer TRICIA ROMANO walks everywhere.