One of many winged murals around city
No, I haven't renounced my loyalty to the East Coast, but have you ever taken a trip and it turned out to be everything you wanted and more? That was my first trip to Los Angeles this past weekend. After being on the road traveling for the past month with my job, I finally had a chance to take some much-needed vacation time. And I did something that was completely out of character for me: I had zero set plans for when I got there. That's right: no agendas, timetables or schedules. Two my good friends from college have lived there the past two years so I figured I’d let them show me around their city. Sure, I had a couple things I definitely wanted to see like the Hollywood sign and the Walk of Fame, but the unplanned moments were by far the best.
I essentially hit the ground running early Thursday morning with my flight landing at 12 a.m. and didn’t stop until I left on Sunday morning. In the three days I was there I traveled all over from Inglewood, Hollywood, DTLA and Santa Monica and had a blast. I know I barely scratched surface of the city, but here are my favorite destinations around LA:
The Metro: I know it’s not technically a place, but of all the public transportation I’ve ever taken, the LA Metro is by far the cleanest and most efficient. Not to mention it’s so easy to use if you’re directionally challenged like myself. It may not seem that hard to more experienced public transportation riders but I quite literally drive everywhere back home so this was new to me. By my third day in LA, I knew how to get from my friend’s apartment on Inglewood to the connecting Metro line and into downtown and the bus times. It’s all about the small victories, right?
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA): The Grand Ave. branch of the MOCA located in the Arts District, features permanent and rotating exhibitions and is totally free to the public. As an artist I had to check it out. I loved seeing work by my favorite visual artists Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol. Check them out during the weekday when to avoid large crowds of tourists.
My shirt matched this Takashi Murakami piece perfectly. I had to get a pic.
You know I had to journey into the Fashion District while in town. Nasty Gal, Forever 21, Fashion Nova and a host of other brands call LA home but I made it a point not to hit any of them up. I can buy their clothes online anytime; I was looking for some true West Coast hidden treasures. And that’s when I found Iguana Vintage. I’m gonna call this the Mecca of thrift stores: three floors packed with clothes and costumes from every year of the last century at great prices (vintage camo Army jackets for $20, and authentic silk kimonos for $80, both in perfect condition). Iguana Vintage has three locations in Los Angeles but the Hollywood location that I visited is by far the biggest and best stocked. There are gems around every corner from throwback baseball jerseys to 70s disco jumpsuits, and not to mention the extensive selection of wigs, shoes, jewelry, and accessories. I definitely had the most fun in the fur section downstairs though as you can see by the picture above. Next trip I make to LA I’m bringing an empty suitcase and two full paychecks just for shopping here! Visit Online
Some of the finds inside Iguana Vintage
The Last Bookstore
I love reading. I probably spend just as much money on books as I do clothes, probably more. So when my friend recommended I check this downtown spot out I took him on his word. I’ve gotten lost in a book before, but I literally got lost in this place. Bigger must be the motive in LA because this was another three-floor store packed with all kinds of books and reading materials from every genre. They buy and sell new and used books so its bound to be a surprise every time you go in. Within the first few minutes, I found the fashion section and had 6 or 7 books in my bag. As a true test to see if they could continue to surprise me, I asked where the African American/Cultural Studies section was, which usually has very slim pickings in your standard retail bookstores. I found it upstairs and it was very well stocked with about 5 bookshelves of material from women’s studies, to LGBT. I even found a book I had been searching forever to find for $6. Visit Online
This place is massive!
West Hollywood (WeHo):
I didn’t spend nearly enough time to see a fraction of it but we went out to the bars and clubs here every night. I knew the gay nightclub scene would be something I had to experience while in LA and the strip was booming each night. Santa Monica Blvd is lined with clubs, stores, bars, and restaurants all packed to capacity from open to close. I had the most fun at this bar called Trunks: strong/cheap drinks, dancing, and singing (i.e. screaming) throwback Mariah Carey and JLo tunes. Blow and Abbey are cool spots as well if you want a larger atmosphere.
Club Nights with my bro TJ
One of the main things I really wanted to do was put my feet in the Pacific Ocean, so I devoted a whole day at the Santa Monica Pier for the sole purpose of going to the beach and getting some sun. The beach is big enough that you don’t feel cramped with all the other people around, and I spent most of my time just laying on the beach listening to music. I walked the pier and went to the strip and did some window shopping at the stores also. It wasn’t too hot either which made it perfect to just lay out.
Feeling the Cali vibes
So speaking of food, I honestly didn’t eat anything too different while I was there (Chipotle is bae wherever you go), but I did have a couple dope meals. The first was this chicken spot I literally walked up on one night walking back to the apartment called Bourbon Street Fish & Grill. They had a sign out front that said “Steve Harvey Hoodie Award: Best Fried Chicken”. Well, who am I to disagree with Steve Harvey right? Honestly, it was actually some pretty good chicken too. The next spot was in Santa Monica called BiBi Bop and it’s like the Chipotle of Asian takeout. They make your bowl made to order in front of you and you can customize it with noodles, rice, choice of protein, add veggies and sauce and boom, lunch! Definitely enjoyed eating this on the pier. Hungry after all the club hopping? The Halal Guys restaurant is right down the block and will take care of that. Try the chicken platter with the white sauce…it tastes even better the morning after too.
(l-r) The sign outside Bourbon Street, halal from Halal Guys, Bowl from Bibi Bop
My first time in LA was a great set up for future trips. I definitely will be back!