Los Angeles is a city that's constantly on the go, from Angelenos' love affair with the automobile to L.A.'s endless entertainment options. Even the city's cutting edge architecture seems to be in perpetual motion. For travelers and locals alike, it's important to take a break from the fast pace of this global metropolis. From secluded gardens and coastal sunsets to relaxing spas and serene dining experiences, discover the best places to chill out in Los Angeles.
You’re surrounded by Hollywood history the moment you step into the Spanish Colonial style lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt. The first Academy Awards were presented at a private dinner in the hotel’s Blossom Ballroom, while Clark Gable and Carole Lombard carried on their infamous affair in the hotel penthouse. Marilyn Monroe lived at the hotel for two years as her modeling career began to take off - she was staying in one of the vintage 1950s Cabanas at the time of her first professional magazine shoot, which took place at the Roosevelt's pool.
The Tropicana Pool is an urban oasis at the heart of the hotel, featuring the celebrated David Hockney-painted pool, surrounded by lush foliage and exclusive Cabana rooms. This seductive retreat welcomes a trendy crowd day and night, when intimate conversations are whispered around glowing fire rings.
Located in Little Tokyo, the DoubleTree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown features a lush sanctuary on its rooftop, the idyllic Kyoto Gardens. Spanning a half-acre of manicured greenery, cascading waterfalls and tranquil ponds, the garden is a meticulous recreation of an ancient Japanese Garden in Tokyo. Originally established for the 16th Century samurai lord Kiyomasa Kato, the Japanese Garden in Tokyo became an oasis for residents of the city.
One of L.A.'s most popular event and wedding venues, Kyoto Gardens also features the outdoor Upper and Lower Terraces, as well as the Thousand Cranes room, which boasts stunning views of the garden and skyline. Kyoto Gardens has appeared in numerous commercials, movies and TV series, including The Runaways, Rampart, Her, Law and Order Los Angeles, The Biggest Loser, NCIS Los Angeles, Prime Suspect, Hostage, David Tutera’s My Fair Wedding and Battle of the Sexes.
The majestic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (“COLA”) rises 11 stories above Temple Street, a short walk from Grand Park and the Music Center. Designed by Pritzker Prize winner Rafael Moneo, the state-of-the-art building is renowned for its Modernist look. The cathedral opened to the public in 2002, the first Roman Catholic Church to be built in the western United States in 30 years. Natural light floods the cathedral interior, thanks to 33,500 square feet of alabaster windows, the largest single use in the world. The Mausoleum features Baroque Revival-style stained glass windows, while the Meditation Garden offers a serene place to rest.
Grand Park is an urban oasis that stretches from Grand Avenue at the Music Center to Spring Street at City Hall. Since its opening in 2012, Grand Park has become a popular gathering spot for community events, cultural experiences, festivals and holiday celebrations. The 12-acre park has four distinct areas, featuring the restored Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, an intimate performance lawn, a community terrace, and a grand event lawn. Visitors can bring their own picnic or purchase food and beverages on site. Selected events will invite food trucks and other food vendors. The park is open to the public daily from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The arrival of the opulent Millennium Biltmore Hotel in 1923 was a "statement to the rest of the world that Los Angeles had arrived as an American metropolis." The Biltmore's impact was undeniable and its grandeur would become an integral part of the history of our city. . It’s one of those cool places to go in L.A. because you can explore the property, which boasts more on-screen film and TV appearances than any other L.A. hotel, and easily imagine you're closing a deal with Don Draper on Mad Men or battling Slimer in the original Ghostbusters.
The Richard J. Riordan Central Library is the third largest public library in the United States in terms of book and periodical holdings. Renamed in 2001 for former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, the Central Library is located in Downtown L.A. in the historic 1926 Goodhue Building, which is a designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Central Library’s Rare Books Department has over 16,000 volumes, dating from the 15th century, with a majority from the 18th and 19th centuries. Core collections include California History, Mexicana, Pacific Voyages, Costumes and more. The Central Library also houses and archives the extensive Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection of over 3 million historic photographs. Many images can be viewed by the public via the online photo collection. The Central Library also hosts [ALOUD], a popular series of free panels that brings together today’s brightest cultural, scientific, and political luminaries with the curious minds of Los Angeles.
What better way to get a view of the sparkling city lights than from a spot nestled on the 15th floor above South Hill Street? Perch is a restaurant, bar and lounge that offers its guests fire pits, indoor and outdoor seating, and tasty French fare. If you’re thirsty for a Parisian-inspired cocktail or want to cool off with a craft beer, this is the place for you. Wrap yourself around the balcony and enjoy unobstructed views of the City of Angels. You can thank us later.
For a unique tour of Griffith Park, get in the saddle with Sunset Ranch Hollywood, the only horse ranch located in greater Los Angeles. Sunset Ranch offers a variety of services and activities, including guided trail rides, boarding and lessons. A one-hour trail ride into Griffith Park includes a great view of the Hollywood Sign. A two-hour ride to the top of Griffith Park features spectacular 360-degree views of Los Angeles. A variety of other ride options are available, including Lunch Ride, Sunset Dinner Ride, BBQ Ride and Kids’ Party.
Located on a stretch of Venice Boulevard that’s better known for strip malls and Indian food, the Museum of Jurassic Technology is home to hundreds of fantastical and fascinating artifacts - some real, some invented. They're interspersed with no distinction between fact and fantasy. The museum is a true cabinet of curiosities, from portraits of canine cosmonauts to bats that can fly through walls, sculptures on the head of a needle and much more. On the second floor, tea and cookies are served in the Tula Tea Room, which is next to the rooftop garden where you might spot founder David Wilson playing an obscure medieval instrument.
Located in the historic West Adams District, the Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens (PALG) is a nonprofit spiritual center that opened in 2002. PALG was founded by, and is the headquarters of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA), a non-denominational, ecumenical church. Visitors are invited to "unwind the mind" by walking the stone labyrinth, modeled after the famous Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France. The Asian-themed meditation garden features 16 water fountains, a koi pond and several intimate seating areas for reflection and meditation. Docents are available to give tours of the historic Guasti Villa, built in 1910-14 by Secundo Guasti, an Italian immigrant whose namesake Southern California winery was at one time the largest in the world. The mansion was later the home of legendary director and choreographer, Busby Berkeley.
The one-of-a-kind Malibu Wine Safari allows you to have a taste of local wines while getting up close to wildlife. The safari takes you around a 1,000-acre vineyard - guests enjoy wine pairings and mingle with zebras, camels and giraffes. It’s a perfect experience for those who love wine and exotic animals.
Why just admire the art at a museum when you can learn to create your own masterpieces? There's no better way to take an art class than being surrounded by a world-class art collection. The Getty Center in Brentwood and the Getty Villa in Malibu are a couple cool places in Los Angeles that offer an incredible array of classes and workshops that cover drawing, pen and ink wash, sculpting, gilding, and jewelry making. Whatever your level of experience or medium of choice, there’s a class for you. They even offer free courses at both locations on the first and third Sunday of every month. Art classes are offered at museums around L.A., such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Craft & Folk Art Museum and the Natural History Museum.
Solstice Canyon is an easy hike along a shaded trail that is partially paved before it gives way to a fire road. A babbling brook is the soundtrack as the trail leads you to Tropical Terrace and the foundations of a house designed by renowned architect Paul Williams, who also designed homes for Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball, as well as the Theme Building at LAX. A seasonal waterfall cascades into a pool in the rocks behind the former home. Do some exploring and you’ll find a statue of the Virgin Mary in a nearby grotto.
Looking for some cool spots in L.A. to get your toes wet? Head to El Matador State Beach for dazzling views of the California coastline. Located between Leo Carillo State Beach and Point Dume State Beach in Malibu, this stretch of sand is renowned for its sea caves and unique rock formations. As the sun starts to set, revel in the multi-hued cotton candy clouds.
The first of its kind in America, The Dog Café is nestled in a Silver Lake strip mall, where guests can pay $10 for one hour of fun with dogs rescued from L.A. shelters. Pups live on site for as long as it takes to find them forever homes and are free to roam the play area, showing their personalities outside of stressful shelter environments. The staff reports large numbers of post-work visitors stopping by just to decompress - many successful adoptions have happened since their grand opening in April 2016.
For a serene L.A. dining experience, don't miss Sushi Row, a stretch of Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley that gets its name from the area's many raw fish specialists. Asanebo is the most upscale sushi restaurant on Sushi Row - it's a Michelin-starred champion for lovely omakases featuring some of the best cuts in town. The seared toro is a must, and believe it or not, the hot dishes are just as good as their sushi selection.
Once a haven for hippies in the 70's, Inn of the Seventh Ray hasn’t lost touch with its roots, ever an icon of the health-conscious Topanga Canyon lifestyle. On a bright, sunny day or a warm evening, there isn't a bad table on the fairytale patio, which also hosts many weekend weddings. On a chilly night, the seats in front of the fireplace are the most desirable. Long known as a sanctuary for vegetarians, the restaurant continues its commitment to organic, sustainable and local fare, but equal care is given to meats, which are raised in natural settings, free of antibiotics. A vegetarian risotto special is redolent of black truffles, vegan soups are made daily based on the chef’s whim, and Prime hanger steak comes with a huitlacoche potato.
One of the best places in Los Angeles to relax is tucked away in the Pacific Palisades a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine is a lush, ten-acre site with gardens, a spring-fed lake, and a variety of flora and fauna. Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1950, the Lake Shrine welcomes thousands of visitors each year to enjoy its scenic beauty and serenity. The Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial is a "wall-less temple" that features a thousand-year-old stone sarcophagus from China, which holds a portion of Gandhi's ashes in a brass and silver coffer. Elvis Presley frequently visited the Lake Shrine and became close with Sri Daya Mata, the worldwide leader of the Self-Realization Fellowship for over 55 years.
Less well-known than the Lake Shrine, the Self-Realization Fellowship International Headquarters is located northeast of Downtown L.A. at the top of Mount Washington. Originally opened in 1909 as the Mount Washington Hotel, the three-story "Mother Center" is the administrative center of the SRF headquarters. The public is invited to wander the grounds, which include gardens, meditation areas and babbling brooks.
The Korean Bell of Friendship is a massive, intricately-decorated bronze bell that's housed in a stone pavilion in Angel’s Gate Park, situated on a knoll that overlooks the sea gate from which U.S. troops sailed into the Pacific. The bell site offers breathtaking views of the Los Angeles harbor, the Catalina Channel and the sea terraces of San Pedro hill. The bell was presented to the people of Los Angeles in 1976 by the people of the Republic of Korea to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial, honor veterans of the Korean War, and to symbolize friendship between the two nations. Cast in Korea and shipped to the U.S., the bell weighs 17 tons, is 12 feet high and 7.5 feet wide. Since 2010, the bell is struck five times a year: on New Year's Eve, Korean American Day (January 13), July 4th, Korean Liberation Day (August 15), and every September in celebration of Constitution Week. The bell has no clapper, but is struck from the outside with a wooden log. The Korean Bell of Friendship was declared Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 187 in 1978.
It’s one of those cool places in L.A. everyone should see at least once.
Built in 1874, the Point Fermin Lighthouse was the first navigational light into the San Pedro Bay. If you’re into historic buildings, it’s one of the best places to go in Los Angeles. Paul J. Pelz, a draftsman for the U.S. Lighthouse Board, designed the Stick Style Victorian lighthouse. The Stick Style is an early Victorian architectural style and is simpler in design and decoration than the later high Victorian period. In 1972, the Point Fermin Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse was restored, retrofitted, and rehabilitated for public access in 2002, and opened to the public in 2003 under the management of the Department of Recreation and Parks for the City of Los Angeles. Movie fans will recognize the Point Fermin Lighthouse from the wedding scene in (500) Days of Summer.
With its spectacular natural setting adjacent to Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park and the Port of Los Angeles, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, one of the best places in L.A., is uniquely suited to its leadership role in marine science education, aquaculture research and community recreation. The historic Frank Gehry-designed aquarium displays the largest collection of Southern California marine life in the world.