There’s a lot of things your average Orange Countian could do in the OC with their next free Saturday, but when you want to do something special, something adventurous – the cool thing to do is go to LA and pretend to be cool. For someone who doesn’t actually live in Los Angeles, though, trying to see the LA sights can be hard to manage when you GoogleMap it only to find that your chosen spots are all half an hour from each other. Yikes.
But fear not, non-LA-dwellers: pick an LA neighborhood to metaphorically drill down into and soon your Instagram will be just as hip as everyone else’s. Next time the weather’s good, (which is always) take your most fuel-efficient car and a few friends down the I-10 and plant yourself in the Miracle Mile.
You can start the day with brunch from Republique on La Brea Avenue. It’s a sweet hipster cafe by day but a fancy French restaurant/bar by evening. Don’t be scared off by a long line when you get there. The dine-in and take-out lines are combined, and it’s bigger inside than it looks, so there’s plenty of seating. And it’s worth the wait: their hot dishes are delish and so are their pastries displayed just so in the glass case. The ambiance inside is delightful, with multiple large skylights and community tables and a mix of new and old architecture.
Of course, if for some reason kale-gruyere-asparagus quiche, cranberry-marmalade bread pudding, and blood orange mimosas aren’t your cup of tea, you can pop across the street to La Brea Bakery for some more American-style breakfast foods.
Just a few minutes’ drive from Republique is the LA County Museum of Art. LACMA’s collection covers an impressive range of styles, centuries, and continents. It’s always got cool new exhibits, too, though they may cost extra – just check online or ask when you get your ticket. The current popular exhibit is Random International’s Rain Room, but it’s so popular its pre-reserved tickets are sold out right up until it leaves in May. There’s plenty of other limited time exhibits to see, though, if you can’t get into Rain Room. One of the free ones is James Turrell’s Breathing Light. (You know, the one Drake f*cks with.) You’ll have to check in at one of the iPads near the entrance to reserve a time to see it, and the whole experience feels kind of like walking into an episode of Star Trek. But it’s one of the good episodes, not the ones where someone turns into a lizard or walks around without a brain. Trust me.
Due to the recent opening of The Broad Museum in DTLA, whose collection used to be housed at LACMA, the LACMA is in some transition. Much of their contemporary building was closed off when I was last there to make way for new installations. Even so, that’s only a tiny bit compared to their permanent collection. Depending on how much time you have to spend at the museum, you may or may not see everything they have to offer. Highlights and best Instagram photo-op spots include Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, around the back side; Matisse’s La Gerbe, in the Ahmanson Building; Chris Burden’s Urban Light, along Wilshire Boulevard; and Jesús Rafael Soto’s Penetrable in the Plaza.
The area around LACMA on the Miracle Mile is called Museum Row – there’s even a Snapchat geofilter for it. You can pick from any of the museums that strike your fancy: The Petersen Automotive Museum, La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, Craft and Folk Art Museum, and LACMA are all within walking distance from each other. Spend a whole day or spend a few hours taking in all the history, art, or cars. Keep an eye out for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum, which is set to open across the street from LACMA in 2017.
When you get hungry, The Farmers Market is only another short drive (and search for parking) away. There you can pick from a huge variety of food – I tried the Cajun food from The Gumbo Pot, and my friends went for falafel from Moishes. There’s definitely something that’ll make everyone in your group happy. Pro Tip: head up the stairs near Magee’s Kitchen for less crowded seating. The Farmers Market is connected to The Grove, so take a spin through there to let your lunch digest and do some of your mid-to-high-end shopping, all while keeping an eye out for celebs (sightings not guaranteed).
And if you’re not tired yet, the Miracle Mile is also home to a lot of other things. But one personal favorite of Yours Truly is Whimsic Alley – a store designed to look like Diagon Alley, featuring merch from Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock and Tolkien fandoms. Check their Facebook page for upcoming nerdy events like book signings and their annual Yule Ball. You can stop on your way down the street for an afternoon pick-me-up at Black Dog Coffee or Milk Jar Cookies.
You can always leave the Miracle Mile entirely, if something else strikes your fancy, but even that can be interesting when your GPS takes you through the hilly, hidden neighborhoods I can only dream of living in (someday, someday). But if you want to stay in the area, you can end your day with a show. While the iconic Troubadour isn’t technically in the Miracle Mile, it’s only a hop, skip, and a jump northwest up to Santa Monica Boulevard. The Wiltern and The El Rey are both on Wilshire east of LACMA. Post-show, treat yo’ self to an empanada at El Diner next door to the El Rey. It’s greasy, delicious, satisfying, and a little overpriced – kinda like Los Angeles itself. Waze yourself back home fully content with your social network-worthy day, and remember not to Instagram and drive.