Los Angeles is one of my favourite cities in the US. However since I only visited LA at the young age of fourteen with my mum and grandma, I don’t feel like I had the proper LA experience or know enough about the city to write about it. Which is why this week I asked Mona, of the blog Mona Corona, who has lived in Los Angeles for 28 years, to share her advice on this beautiful city. Discover a local’s travel guide to Los Angeles; all the best things to do, where to eat, the fun activities you can’t miss, the off the beaten track locations nobody knows about and much more!
Hi Mona! Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi, I’m Mona Corona. I’m an affordable luxury travel blogger, a social media professor at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM), and a digital strategy consultant. Although I spend a lot of time traveling, I was born and raised in LA, and have lived here my entire life.
What are your favourite places to eat in Los Angeles?
One of my favorite things about LA is the food. LA is a melting pot of people, and with that comes a melting pot of cuisine (literally!) From upscale trendy sushi dinners at Nobu and ultra-expensive Michelin-starred restaurants such as Melisse, to one-dollar street tacos in the middle of the night, and the famous California fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger when you’re on the go; there is something here for every palate. LA is also a great place for healthy eating. We have tons of delicious vegan/vegetarian cafes (including a personal favorite of mine – vegan Mexican food from Gracias Madre), refreshing juice and smoothie shops, and plenty of places to get a sweet treat – healthy or not! For a super trendy LA vibe, visit my favorite restaurant Bestia, located in the Arts District of Downtown LA. Be sure to make a reservation well in advance, and dress to impress!
Do you have a favourite place to study or work?
LA also has plenty of amazing coffee shops, where people like to hang out, work, or study. Coffee shops bring out the creativity in me (ok, maybe it is the caffeine) but something about being around other bloggers and freelancers is very motivating, which is why I love to work from them, My favorite coffee shop to work from is Verve, especially the Downtown LA location.
What about when you want to relax? Do you have a favourite relaxing spot?
When I’m not working, I love to hang out at the various rooftop pools that can be found in the city, and enjoy a cocktail or a swim. I also love to go to the beach, specifically Malibu because the drive down PCH is gorgeous. Here in LA we are blessed with year-round sunshine, so any time is a good time to be outdoors.
Is there a typical activity locals do in their free time?
LA is a very active city, and on the weekend you can find many Angelenos hiking the various trails such as the celebrity hot-spot of Runyon Canyon, or doing yoga, spin (cycling) or some other type of fitness activity. We are also known to have amazing nightlife, with the casual Santa Monica beach bars, or upscale clubs of Hollywood’s famous Sunset Strip.
What is your favourite activity or thing to do in Los Angeles?
When visiting LA, you can’t forget the shopping. From the high-end designers of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, to the quaint thrift shops of Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, and everything in between; Shopping in Los Angeles is one of my favorite things to do.
Do you have a favourite photo spot in Los Angeles?
If you’re looking for a little culture, LA is also home to some amazing art museums. You can visit the LACMA for contemporary art and a photo op at the famous LACMA light posts, or browse the Broad and see the famous Infinity installation for an Instagram-worthy picture that will surely make your friends jealous.
When is the best time to visit your city?
With year-round warm weather, there is never a bad time to visit Los Angeles. Winters can be a little chilly for us since we are not used to cold, but spring, summer, and fall are all usually pleasant and warm. To really take advantage of LA’s beautiful beaches, visit in the summer because the Pacific Ocean waters can be quite chilly.
What’s one “touristy” thing in Los Angeles everyone should actually do?
Although Malibu has the nicest beaches in LA, Venice Beach is one tourist area everyone must visit. The Venice boardwalk is filled with shops, street performers, and lots of quirky characters. Speaking of quirky characters, Hollywood and Highland is another tourist hot spot that should also be visited to walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. To complete your totally-touristic adventure, take a hike up to the famous Hollywood sign from the beautiful Griffith Observatory for another great photo op and excellent workout. If you’re a movie fan you’ll want to check out also the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Hollywood.
What’s one “off the beaten track” place people don’t normally know about but should definitely visit?
While many people spend a good amount of time exploring the Westside and Hollywood on their trip to LA, the Eastside should certainly not be overlooked. Downtown LA has a bustling city-feel with gorgeous skyscrapers that light up the city at night, and some of the best restaurants in town. Furthermore, the artsy Eastside neighborhoods of Echo Park and Silver Lake are where the hipsters can be found, and have some great farmers markets and lots of mom-and-pop stores with unique finds.
Any tips or tricks on how to navigate Los Angeles?
The one downside of LA is the traffic. Public transportation is also not as reliable as other metropolitan cities, so the best advice is to plan out your day so you are not trying to go from one side of the city to the other during the morning or evening rush hour commute. Uber and Lyft are good options for getting around, or you can rent a car.
Any tips on how to visit Los Angeles like a local so that travellers reading this can blend in?
If you do decide on a car rental, drive as the Angelenos drive. While it is hard to stick out as a tourist due to so many types of people that make up LA, driving too slow, too aggressive, or not aggressive enough will surely set off some road rage to your fellow drivers. Parking can also be tough, so be sure to carefully read all street signs.
What is the best area in Los Angeles to stay in? Any specific hotels you can recommend?
Staying in West Hollywood, Mid-City, or Beverly Hills are all good areas for being central to many points of interest. For a real LA feel, stay at the SLS (Beverly Hills), the Standard (Downtown or Hollywood) or the Ace Hotel (Downtown). If you prefer to be by the beach, the Shangri-La in Santa Monica is beautiful, but a more expensive option. For a real luxury stay and the likely celebrity sighting, book a room at the Montage Beverly Hills, or the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons.
What do you love most about Los Angeles?
What has kept me in LA for all these years is definitely the good weather, for one, but also the unique and vibrant culture. LA is one of the most diverse and accepting cities, where people from all countries and all walks of life come to fulfil the American dream (or Hollywood dream for those in the entertainment business.) LA is also the only place where you could go to the beach, then drive 2 hours into the mountains to go skiing in the same day. The ideal climate and close proximity to nature makes this city hard to leave. Paired with amazing food, shopping, and opportunities, there is no place I would rather call home than LA.
Have you been to Los Angeles before? How did you find it? Let us know in the comments below! I hope you find this local’s guide to LA useful in planning your trip, so that when you visit you can blend in and not stand out as a tourist right away! If you’re planning a wider California road trip, check out this guide to the best places to visit on the USA West Coast.