Orange County’s northern neighbor offers scene-stealing arts and culture opportunities for a creative weekend away.
By Briana Verdugo
Grit and glamour, a melange of characteristics that both confront and complement one another, a place unlike any other right at the doorstep of Newport Beach; Los Angeles can sometimes feel like a spot we’ve been to a million times and know too well, but it’s an area made for rediscovery.
Living so close to LA can make any visit feel like a chore—a place we have to go for a meeting or to pick someone up from the airport—but rarely do nearby residents get to experience the city with the star-filled eyes of a person who has never been before. Our proximity to LA shouldn’t render us complacent in our knowledge of the area. There is so much more than meets the eye in this world-famous site, and just an overnight stay or weekend there can reignite a sense of delight and pride for the legendary locale.
From old Hollywood hangouts to new theaters, museums and restaurants, the City of Angels is a humming heart of culture and creativity in Southern California that’s just a stone’s throw away.
It’s a place where countless actors and actresses have ventured to start a career that lands their name on the sidewalk with a star to shine for all to see. Hollywood is a romanticised and demonized place that no visit to LA could be complete without. Busy with tourists and street performers, the famous neighborhood is abuzz with eye-catching sites, movie premieres and awards shows, but an oasis of calm and charisma is found at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Originally opened in 1927, the hotel is a living memento of old Hollywood that has been updated with every modern luxury while maintaining its historic charm. It’s one thing to visit so-called Tinseltown, but The Hollywood Roosevelt offers a chance to feel entwined with the area’s enchanting past.
In its 90 years of operation, the space has played host to the inaugural 1929 Academy Awards and welcomed guests from Clark Gable, Shirley Temple and Charlie Chaplin, to Prince and Angelina Jolie. Today, the hotel is in the midst of a modern Hollywood revival, after a $25 million guestroom renovation in 2015. From the updated chic tower accommodations, guests can look over the mansion-crowded Hollywood Hills.
The hotel’s hidden gems might be its poolside cabanas, one of which served as home to Marilyn Monroe for two years. The private bungalows look out over the pool, which also happens to be a swimmable million-dollar work of art thanks to a mural by acclaimed artist David Hockney painted on the bottom. The Palm Springs-like environment is enhanced by the addition of the Tropicana Pool Café, which offers healthy bites and tasty cocktails to sun-soaked guests.
Back inside the hotel’s tower, a wealth of fun can be had sipping cocktails at the cozy Library Bar, a charming hideaway at which there is no menu. Guests simply tell knowledgeable bartenders what flavors they are craving (for instance, sour, citrusy and whiskey-based) and the mixologists get to work crafting something completely original for you to savor. Another favorite hangout is The Spare Room, an amusement-inspired bar with a plethora of classic, custom-made wooden board games for guests to play, as well as a vintage two-lane bowling alley.
For less games and more food, visitors can head to Public Kitchen & Bar for dynamic American cuisine selections crafted by Executive Chef Tim Goodell—known in Orange County for the now-closed Aubergine in Newport and Troquet at South Coast Plaza, the chef was also formerly with A Restaurant in Newport and recently opened Royal Hen on Balboa Island. Options like snow crab mac and cheese, hearty pork chops and scallops paired with wild mushroom risotto and shaved truffle are served in the plush, sophisticated setting. For late-night bites, 25 Degrees is a 24-hour burger bar that hits the spot after a night of fun.
While the The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel might serve every need for a visit to Hollywood, from history to chic dining and rave-worthy cocktails, just outside its doors lies endless possibilities for exploration. Stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and pay homage to your favorite stars whose names are immortalized on the busy sidewalk or head to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (now called TCL Chinese Theatre by the new owner) to see a movie where it first premiered and enjoy a tour of the space, which houses film memorabilia and countless stories of history-making moments since its opening in 1927. Down the road is the Dolby Theatre where Hollywood’s biggest night, the Academy Awards ceremony, takes place, and visitors can also tour the stunning space.
Without a doubt, movies make Hollywood what it is, and indulging in our fascination with films and their history is a memory-making endeavor.
Beyond its movie magic, LA is a hotbed of classic museums, modern art and acclaimed stage venues. For a view of the intergalactic stars while in LA, visitors can venture to the Griffith Observatory, located in Griffith Park, just northeast of the hotel. The site’s most popular attraction may be the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, which offers exciting live shows of discovery including the now-playing “Centered in the Universe,” which explores fundamental questions about our place in the universe.
Across town, the The J. Paul Getty Museum showcases stunning historical exhibits from around the world, bringing education to life with its vast collection of art and artifacts. The Getty Center, which is reached by tram, sits atop a hill, offering expansive views of LA’s glittering streets below in the evening.
For those in search of more modern pieces, The Broad, which opened in 2015 in downtown LA, pairs remarkable architecture with contemporary art. The 120,000-square-foot space offers two stories of exhibits filled with some of the Broad collection’s 2,000 works: sculptures, paintings and multimedia. The art and building are not the only modern aspects of the museum; visitors can enjoy much of the collection with the help of The Broad’s mobile app. Options for self-guided tours include commentary from artists about their peers’ work, an architectural tour, a children’s tour and more.
LA is also home to one of the nation’s most influential nonprofit theater companies: The Center Theatre Group, which performs at the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year) and Kirk Douglas Theatre. Also marking a half century of operation in 2017, the Ahmanson Theatre (located at The Music Center) is a venue that shines a spotlight on both pre-Broadway runs as well as Broadway and West End hits. In honor of its milestone year, the Ahmanson is hosting a range of incredible performances. Starting Feb. 21 through April 1, the theater will present the five-time Tony Award-winning musical “Fun Home,” which takes a look into the main character’s life at three pivotal points. And from April 4 to May 14, audiences can view James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim’s acclaimed musical “Into The Woods.”
About 30 minutes away in Beverly Hills, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts also brings a wealth of exciting theater, dance and music selections to the stage at its venue, which opened in 2013. The structure serves as a memento of historic LA (the restored, original 1933 Beverly Hills Post Office serves as the theater’s lobby) and a reminder of the eclectic talents that continue to spout from the city today. Many other theater options highlight excellent performances from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to the Pantages Theatre, the latter just blocks away from The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
LA is an enormous city, and it is impossible to see everything in one quick trip, but picking and choosing a few spots you’ve always wanted to experience makes for an exciting story fit for the silver screen.
This members-only club is unlike anywhere else in Los Angeles, or the world.
For a trip to Los Angeles that intrigues and enchants, there is only one place that can offer a captivating, magical experience. The Magic Castle is a members-only club where those who enjoy the art of illusion can sip on a cocktail or enjoy dinner in between a wide range of shows in various small, ornate theaters. If you’re not a member of the Academy of Magical Arts, there are only two ways to be admitted into the private clubhouse—a grand mansion in the Hollywood Hills that was originally built in 1908—either you are invited by a member or you book a stay at the Magic Castle Hotel. Either way, one of LA’s most exclusive clubs will not disappoint for those who desire to be amazed and mesmerized. (323-851-3313; magiccastle.com)