what to see in los angeles

Take a splurge and charter a boat to Catalina Island. (Photo: Getty Images)

Los Angeles

The ‘Capital of Cool’ Awaits: Follow This Locals’ Guide to Los Angeles

Sprawling, diverse, and incredibly vibrant, Los Angeles has in recent years become the country’s Capital of Cool.

And while indeed you’d be hard pressed to find a more interesting assortment of restaurants, shops, bars, and galleries anywhere, making LA an incredibly rewarding city to explore, it’s also a great place to simply hang out and soak up its beauty and that gorgeous Southern California weather.

We tapped three locals behind some particularly noteworthy attractions to share some of their favorite ways to experience Los Angeles.


Hauser & Wirth is one of the premier art galleries in the world, with a roster of both blue-chip and emerging contemporary artists, and locations in cities like London, Zurich, Hong Kong, and New York.

what to see in los angeles
Find your art fix at Hauser & Wirth. (Photo: Getty Images)

Their opening in a converted flour mill in LA in 2016 sent a signal not only about the art scene in this city but also further cemented the reputation of Downtown Los Angeles as a new creative hub.

After seeing a show and visiting the exceptional bookstore, settle in for a knockout meal at Manuela, the gallery’s rustic-chic restaurant where Chef Kris Tominaga blends the influence of his Southern heritage with the bounty of local California produce.

Kris’s picks:

Local and Authentic: Coni’Seafood

Inglewood is not a part of town most visitors to LA are likely to find themselves in, but it’s worth making a pilgrimage for Coni’Seafood, an unassuming, down-home bastion of Nayarit-style seafood. Grab a seat out back, order a michelada or a margarita, and tuck into the huge portions of ceviche, smoked marlin tacos, and the signature grilled snook with caramelized onions.

Famous and Great: Venice Beach

For food and fun, there really is no better place to spend a day than Venice. Yes, there’s the famous beach itself, but if you want a taste of LA culture now and the people who make it what it is, take a long stroll down Abbot Kinney Boulevard, where you’ll find a dense concentration of the city’s coolest shops and restaurants.

A few current favorites: Felix Trattoria, for exceptional Italian fare; Salt & Straw, for artisanal ice cream in unusual flavors like Avocado Toast; and Huset, for a well-curated selection of Scandinavian goods for the home.

Worth a Splurge: Sushi Zo

Sushi is practically a religion in LA, and Sushi Zo may be its high temple. It’s nigiri-only, omakase-only ($200 per person), and photos are not allowed—in other words, this is a place that is all about the purity of the seafood, and the experience created by a true sushi master. The West LA location was recently joined by one in Downtown LA.


English designer Julia Clancey is known for an unabashed embrace of glamour: think billowy evening dresses regally encrusted with crystal, sexy sequined jumpsuits, bedazzled and candy-colored caftans, and of course her signature turbans.

what to see in los angeles
Shop for colorful clothes at Julia Clancey’s studio. (Photo: Nathan Lump)

While most of her ready-to-wear pieces are sold online, you can visit her West Hollywood studio by request to see her designs for yourself, as well as to commission bespoke pieces.

Julia’s picks:

Local and Authentic: Los Liones Trail

Hiking is one of the many ways fitness-mad Angelenos get their steps in, and Topanga State Park’s beautiful Los Liones is a local favorite on Saturday and Sunday mornings, especially, when its ocean views and abundant vegetation are at their best.

It’s 4.4 miles are only moderately difficult, offering great reward for not too much effort.

Famous and Great: Petersen Automotive Museum

It’s fitting that a city so in love with—and dependent on—cars would have a museum devoted to them, and even if you’re not a car lover yourself the Petersen is a fascinating exploration of cars and culture, set behind a zippy façade of stainless-steel ribbons.

There are hundreds of cars to see here, from vintage to futuristic, plus fascinating special exhibits.

Worth a Splurge: A Night at Magic Castle

The iconic Victorian Mansion in Hollywood is the home of the Academy of Magical Arts and a night there—formal dress required, no photos—is about an atmospheric immersion into the world of magic, with dinner and drinks thrown in.

what to see in los angeles
Have an extraordinary night at Magic Castle. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Magic Castle is a private members’ club and so you must have an invitation from a member to get in; ask your concierge to hook you up with an invite, and give him or her plenty of advance notice to finagle one. (High rollers can also organize a group event and purchase a one-day membership to make it happen.)


With its mismatched furniture and museum-like vitrines filled with objets, The Bazaar is as playful in its approach to aesthetics as it is serious in its approach to food.

The menu is a cornucopia of tapas-style treats, from more typical Spanish offerings from José Andrés and his team like croquetas and plates of jamón iberico and Spanish cheese to less expected options like a caviar bar and “little sandwiches” that include a Philly Cheesesteak and King Crab Steamed Buns.

what to see in los angeles
Sip a creative cocktail at The Bazaar. (Photo: The Bazaar)

Ricardo Garrido Gomez has recently overseen the launch of Bazaar Flight at Gate Bar Centro, a 12-course pairing of experimental cocktails with tapas at Bazaar’s bar-within-a-bar.

Ricardo’s picks:

Local and Authentic: Downtown LA Arts District

Nothing symbolizes LA’s recent cultural upswing more than the official creation of the Arts District in Downtown LA, a recognition that the explosion of art studios and galleries in this once-gritty industrial section of the city has firmly put LA on the art world map.

It’s a great area to stroll around, admiring the many murals by LA street artists and popping into galleries showcasing both blue-chip and emerging artists like Hauser & Wirth, Harmony Murphy, and Grice Bench. There are some excellent art-focused walking tours of the neighborhood so if you’re interested in getting immersed, ask your concierge to hook you up with one.

Famous and Great: Universal Studios

Yes, it’s a theme park, but one dedicated to the movies is particularly appealing in the city that practically invented them. In addition to attractions like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Studio Tour is an hour-long behind-the-scenes look at how film and TV is made, and fun for all ages.

Worth a Splurge: Private boat charter

Most people don’t necessarily think of LA as a place to get out on the water, but it’s actually a great way to enjoy that spectacular Southern California weather, and see a different side of the city.

One popular option is to cruise out to Catalina Island where you can grab a bike and explore the beaches and check out its many shops and restaurants. Your hotel concierge can arrange a crewed boat for you; if you’re in or near Marina del Rey, try Captain Jim at Mojo Sailing (858-449-6802).