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LA Vacation in June - Where to stay

Hello, everyone. My wife and I are visiting LA for five full days/nights plus one evening/night in late June. I’ve come here for sage advice regarding our stay.

We know we’ll stay in Santa Monica for one evening/night, plus one full day/night. We are then heading down to Malibu for a half-day, then over to the final destination for the remaining four days/nights. Where should that be? We’ll rent a car so we can drive to restaurants and sites during the day, but I’m really more concerned about the evenings when we’ll imbibe. I thought Hollywood might be within a good striking distance to surrounding neighborhoods with nightlife. Is there a better option? I’m basically looking for a neighborhood that is within a reasonable cab ride (or even walking distance) to the most restaurants and bars possible. And, I’d appreciate any suggestions for exact locations/streets within a particular neighborhood where there’s a good bar scene.

For some background information on the bar aspect, we’d like places that have fantastic outdoor spaces or have great views of the surroundings or make fancy cocktails or have craft beer or have a can’t miss happy hour or are quintessential LA experiences or are really interesting and unique - whether it’s a hole in the wall all the way up to a nicer atmosphere. My wife and I are in our mid-thirties, if that makes a difference.

There’s some great information on here already. I plan to heavily research establishments so I’m more educated. I’ll then probably come back and ask questions about specific cuisines, restaurants, and bars. In the meantime, the burning question is where to stay so we have access to said restaurants and bars. Thanks!

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  1. How old are you? If you are young, Hollywood. If a little older, West Hollywood. If retired, Beverly Hills.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mc michael

      Or the new Ace Hotel Downtown LA if you are between young and a little older. Than you can go to Langer's Deli and a Dodger's game.

      1. re: mc michael

        <If retired, Beverly HIlls>

        :-). Beg your pardon? Beverly Hills, like any other place in LA has its own redeeming qualities.
        I'd say it depends on what the OP wants/needs and where their interests lie.
        If you're into pro baseball then definitely stay downtown and eat at restaurants in that area.
        If the arts are where you're coming from the new Annenberg Theatre has just opened in Beverly HIlls and, of course, everyone knows some great food can be found in the area.
        If the ocean is where you'd like to be then Santa Monica is definitely the place to stay and there are outstanding restaurants available.
        It depends on your interests.

      2. There is no "one" best neighborhood to stay in. You have to be prepared to drive if you are looking to experience the breadth and depth of what the greater LA area has to offer in terms of food and drink. You might stay in the San Gabriel Valley if you are interested in the many types of Chinese food offered there or downtown for some of the newer hot spots along with great drinking and close access to Silver Lake, East Hollywood and Thai town and Korea town or West Hollywood or in Santa Monica or Venice for all those areas offer (Tar & Roses or Tacos Punta Cabras or Gjelina or Superba Snack Bar or Willie Jane or Rustic Canyon or Shunji or Sushi Mori or?). Do your research, but be prepared to drive for the good stuff.

        I would not stay out in Malibu unless the beach scene is what you are looking for because it is really isolated from the rest of LA, but rather drive out one night to Nobu or what have you.

        1 Reply
        1. W hotel on Hollywood Blvd, and can take in a show at the Pantages Theater

          1. Consider downloading the Uber app. Using Uber will give you the freedom to dine and drink and stay anywhere without concerns about drinking and driving.

            1. Why move around? Find one place and stay there.

              BTW from Santa Monica to Malibu is "up" not "down". So you head "up" to Malibu.

              1 Reply
              1. re: PeterL

                I agree. Any way you slice it, you're going to have to drive from neighborhood to neighborhood to see anything, and once you're mobile, it doesn't really then require you to spend overnight in other neighborhoods to get a feel for them.

                I would try some place fairly central - Mid-Wilshire, West Hollywood - and then plan your sight seeing and eating itnerary. Yes, LA is very spread out but not so much that you need to relocate regularly during a week long visit.

              2. I concur with the reply suggesting you establish a single base and operate from there, rather than waste limited time relocating. That quibble aside, and addressing the "bar aspect" of your inquiry, here's a few suggestions for drinks with a view: Nikita, in Malibu; Penthouse at the Huntley (Santa Monica); Paradise Cove (north Malibu).

                1. I'd stay in Santa Monica. You've got the beach, the pier, lots of restaurants and bars plus you have Venice. Nice ride UP the coast to Malibu. If you're into high end dining you've go Mellise close by. That sounds like a nice vacation to me. Also large choice of hotels. Checkout the Marriott.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Baron

                    Yep, but be prepared for throngs and traffic (incoming in the a.m., outgoing in the p.m.) Lots of neuvo-hip, upscale resto options in SM proper and Main St.

                  2. Downtown. Be in the middle of everything.

                    12 Replies
                    1. re: ns1

                      I wish there was a flag for "not recommend."

                      1. re: Wayno

                        Yes, so that I can vehemently "not recommend" staying in Westwood/Santa Monica.

                        He's already doing 2 days in Malibu/Santa Monica. After that, he can get out of the bubble known as the "Westside" over onto DTLA, where he can then explore everything else this great city has to offer, including (but not limited to) Hollywood, Pasadena, DTLA, SGV. And they would be able to do it using public transport if they wanted to party it up in Hollywood.

                        1. re: Wayno

                          <I wish there was a flag for 'not recommend'>

                          For you. I've stayed downtown (a westsider here) and loved it. The dive bars, some outstanding restaurants in K Town, diversity, museums…
                          Once again, it depends on the person and what they're interested in.

                          1. re: latindancer

                            Point taken. I was basing my cryptic comment on the assumption that OP would stay in only a single spot, and I'm not sure whether DTLA would provide the SoCal experience as much as being based farther west. Depends on where the OP is coming from. If a major city like Chi, NY or Boston, they may like being based nearer the ocean, esp given the stated desire to see SM and Malibu. That said, there are benefits to DTLA, Hollywood, WeHo, and points west.

                            1. re: Wayno

                              "I'm not sure whether DTLA would provide the SoCal experience as much as being based farther west"

                              Maybe true if you define the SoCal experience as beaches.

                              1. re: Wayno

                                Well, for what it's worth Wayno, you were correct in the assumption about wanting to stay by the ocean, at least for some time. We're from Michigan, where we have endless miles of coastline, but certainly not the ocean.

                                1. re: ignatiusjreilly

                                  Just a heads-up. June weather in the west half of LA is known as June-Gloom. The low clouds that typically stick around until 1100-1200 and return around 1500-1600 are notorious buzz-killers for those jonesing for a Baywatch day. This type of cloudiness can be around anywhere from late April through July, but June is typically gray.

                                  Lots of places will satisfy your craft beer urge, but Father's Office always has a well-curated selection along with very good food. The one in Santa Monica is the original, but the newer one in Culver City/Palms (at the east end of the Helms Building) is more spacious, laid back and has a nice patio area that is great on a summer day.

                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                    If the OP goes to Father's Office, I'd *strongly* recommend the Culver City/Palms one. The Santa Monica one is... uncomfortable.

                                    For Mexican, maybe Tacos Puntas Cabras in Santa Monica. No view, not really much alcohol to speak of, but it's just really good food in a hole-in-the-wall environment, and I imagine it's really different from what you can get in MI.

                                    If you go Downtown, the Varnish may be worth a visit for a drink.... It's certainly very atmospheric.

                                    Would also add to not be overly ambitious about hitting a ton of different parts of LA, esp if food is not your primary concern. Traffic is unpredictable and can be terrifying, Downtown roads can be very confusing b/c several are one-way or lead to different "levels" (kind of an upstairs/downstairs thing). Choose a few things to focus on for a relaxed time (which it sounds like you're already doing).

                                    You'll see more of LA in subsequent visits. =)

                                    1. re: ilysla

                                      Yup on your post. Just my opinion, but emersing one's self in as few areas as possible works better for me.

                                      1. re: ilysla

                                        We've been to the SM location several times, always in the evenings. Always laugh at how incredibly dark it is in there. Great food and drink though.

                                        1. re: prawn

                                          I don't think you want it more brightly lit b/c then you'd notice how cramped it is. Honestly, the first time I went there, I seriously think I had difficult rotating *in place*. Oy.

                                          Yes, very good food, though. But it's nice to be able to spread your elbows when you eat a burger!

                                        2. re: ilysla

                                          Definitely hit up TPC for tacos/tostadas/etc

                            2. Thanks to everyone for their responses. I very much appreciate your suggestions, including restaurants and bars to check out.

                              MC Michael, we are in our mid thirties.

                              Maudies5, we do have and use Uber, so thanks for the reminder. It’s indispensable.

                              I can definitely understand the suggestions to stay in one place. We thought about moving once because LA is so expansive, we’d like to see as much as possible. And, really, it’s a compromise between my wife and me. I’m into seeing the sites, going to museums, visiting the ethnic areas, being in an urban environment, and generally being on the go all the time. My wife, on the other hand, loves beaches and could sit in the sun all day. Spending a few nights in Santa Monica was a big deal to her, so I certainly obliged. But, it just seems that 6 nights in just that one area would mean we miss out on nightlife in places like Hollywood, West Hollywood and Downtown – where I gather a cab ride would be too expensive for us. Santa Monica’s also somewhat further from things we’d like to do during the day, like Chinatown, Little Tokyo, the LCMA, Koreatown, a studio tour, the Grand Central Market, maybe the Valley for dim sum, and some other activities. So, I thought it would be a good way to appease both of us. NS1 pretty much hit the nail on the head with my reasoning.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: ignatiusjreilly

                                so what I'm hearing is Santa Monica for 2-3 days and then DTLA for the rest of the time, since DTLA would give you public transport access to Hollywood / GCM / Koreatown / Chinatown / Little Tokyo and walking distance to all the new shit that DTLA has to offer.

                                HOWEVER, note that DTLA hotels will rape you for parking.

                                1. re: ns1

                                  <will rape you for parking>

                                  Depends on where he stays.

                                2. re: ignatiusjreilly

                                  I think ns1 has it right.
                                  If you are in town on June 23, you should go to see The Black Version at the GroundlingsTheatre. You could get something to eat after (around 10) in the area. Need to make theatre reservations about 4-5 days in advance.

                                  1. re: ignatiusjreilly

                                    Are you staying in Malibu for an evening overnight, or just visiting for half the day? The latter makes sense, the former does not.

                                    "the Valley" in LA = the San Fernando Valley. The San Gabriel Valley is always referred to by its full name verbally (maybe "the SGV," but I've never heard it that way). Refer to the wrong one when trying to get directions, and you'll be a good 30 mi off your target....

                                    Quintessential LA is, IMHO, enjoying our relatively inexpensive ethnic food in downscale environs, then going to upscale eateries to see how the other half lives, driving ridiculous distances and braving horrific traffic to get... anywhere, noticing how rude people can become when they're isolated in their cars all day long, and marveling at how the city of LA is really more like 100+ different areas all rolled into one, bizarro (if enjoyable) place. And this comes from someone who grew up in the area....

                                    I think Downtown makes a lot of sense as your 2nd place to stay. Maybe even Pasadena (can take the Metro into DTLA, possibly into parts of Hollywood, although I think you'd need to transfer)?

                                    I don't think West Hollywood has much of a "nightlife" for people in their mid-30's (IMHO, of course).... I wouldn't say LA in general has much of a nightlife since everything here closes relatively early compared to other, major metropolitan areas....

                                    1. re: ilysla

                                      Maybe even Pasadena (can take the Metro into DTLA, possibly into parts of Hollywood, although I think you'd need to transfer)?
                                      ---------------------
                                      You would need to transfer (Gold -> Red)

                                      LA has a great nightlife scene - it just ends promptly at 2am.

                                      1. re: ns1

                                        Off-topic, but I think part of my idea of a great nightlife (for adults > 30 yrs old) involves late-night eateries, people bustling about (not for work, but for leisure) even into the wee hrs of the night (and just b/c their drunk and coming home from the club).

                                        I think it involves more of a sense of community than I get from most places in LA, but I also am not much of a night-out person, either....

                                        For me, the nightlife scene here seems more suited for people in their 20's and early 30's. Again, JMHO.

                                      2. re: ilysla

                                        Ah, thanks for the correction on the San Gabriel Valley.

                                        We're planning on being in Malibu for a half day or so. It's reassuring to hear you say that makes sense.

                                        1. re: ignatiusjreilly

                                          Even though Santa Monica and Malibu are close together and by the ocean, I do think there's enough of a different feeling in the two places to make seeing each worthwhile. Might even want to take a hike in Malibu, since you'll be getting enough of the ocean!

                                          Likewise, Downtown LA will also give you a *VERY* different flavor of LA.... Maybe take in a show while your there (since access to the Music Center and such can be very difficult from other parts of town).

                                    2. I'll second the recommendation for my hometown of Hollywood, though the W is probably too pricey. Plenty of nightlife. Great bars. (Musso and Frank is a must. And for the great view, have a drink at Yamashiro, but do not, under any circumstances, order food there.) Great dive bars, too: Frolic Room, Boardner's, the Powerhouse. Parking and hotels, cheaper than downtown. And if you're near one of the three Red Line stations you'll have easy, 20-minute-or-less access to everything downtown, and more importantly, Langer's Deli. Plenty of high end stuff in and around, on Sunset Strip and WeHo.

                                      Plus and, Hollywood = Ricky's Fish Tacos. :-))))

                                      I would take Chinatown off your list except for a quick snapshot. (Which you could take from Nick's Cafe or Phillipe's). Infinitely better Chinese in the SGV.

                                      One other thing and sorry if I missed it: where are you visiting from? We could focus on things we might do better here. Won't send you for Tex-mex if you're from San Antone, or pizza if you're from NYC.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jesstifer

                                        Lots of great recommendations. Thanks. I've read about Rickey's Fish Tacos, Yamashiro (including to avoid the food), Langer's Deli, and the great Chinese in SGV, but the others are new to me.

                                        We're from metro-Detroit. Pretty much the only thing we have in spades here is Middle Eastern and Detroit-style coney islands. There are great breweries around the state, but California has great breweries, too. We also have a surprisingly sizable Mexicantown. There are authentic places for those willing to venture outside the typical restaurants well known to gringos (I'm a gringo). But, I'm sure it's nothing like LA, and we are very much looking forward to tacos.

                                      2. Okay, now my priceless two cents.

                                        Definitely divide your stay between Santa Monica and somewhere else. Who wants to waste time driving both ways between Santa Monica and downtown? Not to mention the possibility of getting stuck in rush hour traffic. And you get a better feel for a place if you stay there.

                                        Malibu is not a place, per se. It is a long, narrow highway next to the ocean, and pretty sparsely developed. If you drive to Malibu thinking you're going to arrive somewhere, you'll end up pretty bewildered. I would choose the Getty Villa as a destination.

                                        I don't think downtown LA is a good suggestion for a multi-night stay. Downtown is great, but it's still a little limited, and not a great place for strolling at night. You'll be a lot more comfortable in Hollywood or West Hollywood. You're closer to a lot more stuff, and no shortage of drinking options. Save downtown for a couple of side trips. And whatever you do, take an architectural tour with the LA Conservancy. And have brunch at The Perch.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: MarkC

                                          Downtown is great, but it's still a little limited, and not a great place for strolling at night
                                          ----------
                                          Don't find this true in 2014 at all.

                                          1. re: MarkC

                                            I will say, backing up my own post, that the disadvantage to West Hollywood over Hollywood is, no Metro station, which makes getting almost everywhere else (except Santa Monica, where they've already been) more difficult.

                                          2. Santa Monica is FILLED with bars and happy hours and great restaurants, and you can do it all on foot from any downtown SM hotel. I recommend (without knowing your budget) The Shore, as it will put you walking distance to endless choices.

                                            Downtown LA has The Ace, which is walking distance to so many of LA's most interesting and new restaurants, and will give you a completely different perspective. Bar upon bar in that area, as well (plus the Ace roof!).

                                            1. South Bay - Shade Hotel...

                                                1. Since I last checked, there's been a few more posts that offer excellent information. Thanks so much to all the contributors in this thread. This was my first post on Chowhound, and it's a great feeling to know that so many people have gone out of their way to help and offer advice.

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: ignatiusjreilly

                                                    Please be sure to report back on your choices and impressions. Gives us info and makes us feel our recommendations are worthwhile.

                                                    1. re: nosh

                                                      Will do. I know this board very much appreciates trip reports.

                                                      1. re: ignatiusjreilly

                                                        One more piece of advice, if you're going to be driving extensively (pretty much a given in LA). Do what all Angelenos do and pay close attention to rush hour traffic, and plan religiously around it. Not just freeways but major surface streets are miserably clogged, and nothing will kill your mood faster. Know which direction the traffic is headed at which time of day, and make sure you're not there.

                                                        1. re: MarkC

                                                          " Do what all Angelenos do and pay close attention to rush hour traffic, and plan religiously around it. "

                                                          I find that when I'm on holiday my mood about things like traffic is a lot more forgiving than when I've been working all day and now fighting my way to do a couple of errands before finally heading out to eat.

                                                          1. re: Servorg

                                                            For me, it depends on if I have a reservation to make or want to get to some sort of site/museum b/f it closes. If I'm just strolling around and people-watching, traffic doesn't bother me at all (on vacation).