Bound for Los Angeles, we packed our car for a week-long trip that started in Malibu and then down to Santa Monica. We had a long list of things to do, places to eat at, and a few neighborhoods to explore. Though my husband and I both spent time living in the area, it had been years since we had been back.
Given how large the area of L.A. is, truly one week is not enough time to see it all. So we picked a few things that caught our attention and adventured through a few different neighborhoods. Our home base was Santa Monica as we wanted to be near the ocean and in a walkable neighborhood.
Each day we chose a pocket of L.A. or daringly two, to go explore. We really loved the area we were in, and especially the Silver Lake and Los Feliz area. For our next trip, I’d love to spend more time in these areas doing a deeper dive. And there’s that long list of restaurants in downtown and West Hollywood which we’ll save for another trip sans baby.
It was our first road trip with our little one (here is everything we packed) and tried to make the most of it. Doing three nights in Malibu first worked out well and then ending in Santa Monica felt like a well-balanced trip (see my Malibu guide here).
Here’s a look at what we did with our time, where we ate and loved, and a few things to do that stood out. There is a lot of incredible design, food, and neighborhoods to love here.
Where to Stay
Santa Monica Proper Hotel
For this trip, I did a ton of research to figure out the best place and location to stay. The Santa Monica Proper was my first choice for design and location, the hotel is absolutely stunning. A big part of our experience in L.A. was getting a chance to explore several pockets. So I found that being based in Santa Monica would get us to areas like Venice, West Hollywood, Brentwood, and more in not too long of a time.
The Proper is designed by iconic Kelly Wearstler, a designer known for combining textures, tones, all with an eclectic edge. The hotel is truly one of a kind. Both the lobby and downstairs restaurant, Palma, has such an inviting space and are great for hanging out for a meal or even to get some work done. Upstairs, there is a rooftop pool and their other restaurant, Calabra. You definitely want to reserve in advance for that restaurant.
Overall it was a wonderful experience, the hospitality was great and the room was super cozy.
Things to Do + Restaurants by Neighbhorhood
We covered a lot of ground over the course of four days from Santa Monica. Probably a bit too much, but it gave us a good idea of where we would love to explore more for our next trip down south. Seeing a few different pockets of LA was wonderful and a lot of it was driven by food and design + architecture. I’m breaking out this section by area because it truly is dependent on where you would like to spend time — the traffic is truly no joke.
Santa Monica & Nearby
Since we stayed in Santa Monica, we took advantage of being able to walk around the downtown area and stroll to restaurants. A few highlights from our time:
Donuts at Sidecar. The line is out the door for a reason and you can’t miss trying these donuts while here. Their flavors are always fun and love that they have seasonal options too.
Omakase lunch at Sushi Tsujita. One of the best meals we had during our week was the omakase lunch at Sushi Tsujita. Named one of the best sushi joints in LA, their more affordable lunch omakase is a delight. No reservations needed, just walk up.
Ramen at Tsujita Annex. On one street, you’ll find Tsujita has a few different ramen locations (yes same business as Sushi Tsujita). It was one of our favorite ramens we have had stateside and I highly recommend trying the dipping ramen.
Dinner at Calabra at the Proper. Definitely make a reservation to eat here at least once and I would show up for a sunset drink prior. On a clear day, you can see the Getty all the way down to the ocean for epic views. The Mediterranean-inspired menu serves amazing food, beautifully plated with bold flavors.
Breakfast at Palma at the Proper. Lovely spot for breakfast, their avocado toast was so delicious.
Stroll to the beach. On a clear day, make your way down to the beach and go for a stroll. It’s a great spot to go for a long walk or even set up at the beach for the day.
Other Spots Saved But Not Visited: Little Prince LA, Tartine, goodboybob coffee roasters, Cassia, SUGARFISH, and Birdie G’s.
Breakfast at Great White. One of our early mornings we popped down to Venice to eat at Great White. We showed up just after open and it was already quite full. Their breakfast burrito and overnight oats were so delicious, I would have gone here twice if we had more time.
Stroll the Venice Canals. I know this may be super touristy, but it is truly so beautiful. The homes are quaint and I love how quiet it feels strolling through.
Shop Abbot Kinney. This street is full of shops and restaurants, so if you’re looking to get your shopping fill, come here.
Other Spots Saved But Not Visited: Chulita, Dudley Market, Gran Blanco, Gjusta, and The Butcher’s Daughter.
Los Feliz + Silver Lake
Coffee at Maru. We trekked across the city to go explore Los Feliz and Silver Lake in the same day. Maru was one of our favorite coffee shops on the trip and adored the SANSO LA flower store pop-up next to it.
Lunch at Pine & Crane. This Taiwanese joint was one of the best lunches, I felt like I was right back in Taipei. Their steamed buns are delicious so if they’re available, definitely grab an order.
Tour the Neutra VDL Studio and Residence. LA is full of incredible architecture and a few of the famous homes are available to tour. We love Neutra’s work so we booked a tour of his Silver Lake residence and studio. It’s a short tour but still wonderful.
Other Spots Saved But Not Visited: Ceviche Project, Kismet, Dinosaur Coffee, Botanica Restaurant, and Silverlake Ramen.
Other Things We did
An afternoon at the Getty Center. We blocked off an entire afternoon to spend up at the Getty Center and are so glad we did. The grounds are wildly impressive and with clear views over the city, it was wonderful. Loved seeing the art, strolling the gardens, and a really family-friendly thing to go do.
Stopped by Shoppe Amber Interiors. One of my favorite home stores, Shoppe Amber Interiors, has a few locations to go shop in person. We popped by the Pacific Palisades and picked up a few things for the home. As a partner with them, you can use my discount code “JWRIGHT15” for 15% off your order online or in-store.