Beautiful night of Los Angeles downtown skyline and palm trees in foreground
Jetsetter Guides

You’re Not a Tourist: Los Angeles

Any Angeleno can tell you that the real LA can’t be found on the Walk of Fame or under the Hollywood Sign (although that is a lovely hike). Here are the insider spots us Jetsetters love, from the Pinata District to the Topanga Canyon concert hikes.

Colorful image from Mexican pinatas. This craft is very popular and can be purchased at any stand throughout Mexico.
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Pinata District

LA is larger than Rhode Island & Delaware combined, so it's easy to feel overwhelmed. That’s why we recommend thinking about the city as a series of connected villages. One of our favorites? The Pinata District. You’ll drive through what seems like an otherwise-industrial (and, ok, a little down-at-the-heels) section of downtown, only to stumble upon a riot of color and sound around the intersection of Central Avenue and Olympic Boulevard. On weekends, Mexican pop music blares while blocks of vendors hawk a mind-boggling array of technicolor pinatas, from mini-cacti to life-sized Donald Trumps along with every manner of candy and toy to fill them. The area's shops sell a wide array of great Mexican handicrafts, cooking supplies and homegoods; and the sidewalks are crammed with vendors serving up fresh churros, fruit juices, tacos and other delicious treats. The best part? It’s a mere five minute drive from Mariscos Jalisco, the city’s best taco truck. Be sure to stop here for their famous tacos de camerons, deep-fried corn tortillas stuffed with shrimp then topped with oh-so-fresh salsa and avocado. We’d fly across the country for this taco alone!

two women walking toward tree in ROW DTLA

LA Design Fest at ROW DTLA
people walking and sitting in front of a bright white building
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ROW DTLA

Skip The Grove or the chain stores lining Hollywood Boulevard and head to ROW DTLA. The reimagined industrial complex was originally built in 1917 along the Southern Pacific Railroad to ferry California’s bountiful produce across the country. Now it’s been redesigned as a 32-acre cutting edge retail and entertainment complex. Sample the best of LA’s up-and-coming food vendors at the al fresco Smorgasburg food market. Shop for cutting edge menswear at Bodega, oh-so-LA casualwear at Bridge & Burn, ethical fashions from a celeb stylist at Galerie.LA and design-conscious goods at Poketo. There are also plenty of places to fill your stomach, from sweets tasting at Dandelion Chocolate to seafood at Rappahannock Oyster Bar. But the real culinary star is the 38,500 square-foot Tartine Manufactory food hall with a bakery, market, coffee lab and two restaurants.

studio interior area
room with interesting art at Gold Diggers Hotel
seating area in studio

Photos by Pablo Enriquez and Laetitia Wajnapel

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Gold Diggers Hotel

The Chateau Marmont has glam rock-and-roll cool. But in-the-know hip kids are flipping for the underground and way cooler Gold Diggers Hotel. Previously the film studio of cult director Ed Wood, later a wild rehearsal space for everyone from The Doors to Jimi Hendrix and Guns N’ Roses, Gold Diggers was most recently a dive bar with dancers of the, ahem, exotic variety. It’s now been reimagined as an 11-room boutique hotel and recording studio. The sexy moody rooms sport please-touch textures like velvet and shag alongside groovy murals and music-centric touches like a custom vinyl albums on your pillow at night. Artists like Academy Award-winning Ryan Bingham and producer-songwriter Sam Hollander, who’s worked with bands like Weezer, Panic! at the Disco, and One Direction, can record from the comfort of their rooms, which connect to the main onsite recording studio. Downstairs is a dive bar with one of the city’s coolest funk & disco parties as well as music showcases.

RELATED: The Best Hotels in LA Now 

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alcoholic beverage in glass
friends at night on a tour at Lost Spirits Distillery
red lit forrest looking room at Lost Spirits Distillery
tent area exterior at Lost Spirits Distillery at night
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Lost Spirits Distillery

Take Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, add booze, robot birds and a whiskey island, and you’ve got Lost Spirits Distillery. This distillery tour has more in common with a Disney ride than your average artisanal liquor tasting. Set in a warehouse in downtown LA, each tasting room is themed after a different movie—think Pirates of the Caribbean, Alice in Wonderland and The Island of Dr. Moreau. Along the way, you’ll try rum on a ship floating in 5,000 gallons of water, trek through a jungle and sip brandy on a carousel of dragons. Your guide? A 2001: A Space Odyssey-style computer system that the owners programmed to narrate your tour. So skip Disney and get your drink on in this wild wonderland of spirits.

people performing and others watching during sunset on a huge rock
crowd at dusk on large rock watching people perform
a band performing during sunset on mountains
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Topanga Canyon Concert Hikes

Hiking is a beloved LA past time, but we’re about to take it up a level. LA musical collective Flight of Voices organizes pop-up concerts throughout the city, from a winery in Malibu to a Himalayan salt room. Each concert features different configurations of talented musicians spanning genres like rock, bluegrass, R&B and folk. But their best events are musical hikes in Topanga Canyon. You’ll meet on a private property near a secret back entrance to hike up the Santa Monica Mountains. After an hour-long walk, you’ll arrive at stunning summit with views of the ocean, mountains and city below. Musicians from Flight of Voices play a concert as the sun sets behind them. Pure LA magic.

rose in wine glasses outside
group of girls posing in front of giraffe
Giraffe labeled wine
overhead shot of an event at Malibu Wine
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Malibu Wines

Everyone thinks of Malibu for its beaches (and rightly so - don’t miss the majestic cliffs of El Matador or the sugary sands of Point Dume). But we love Malibu even more for what’s further inland—the wild canyons, the rolling vineyards and the horse ranches. Our favorite is Saddlerock Ranch, a 1,000 acres encompassing a ranch, vineyard, historic caves, hiking trails and quite the mix of animals. Book a wine safari and you can get up close and personal with zebras, camels, alpacas, bison and the real Malibu celebrity, Stanley the Giraffe! Afterwards, head to the tasting room, reopening in March after damage from the Woolsey fire. It’s the perfect place to sip a rose, listen to live music and take in some pretty amazing people watching.

Close up image of 2 bowls of traditional Thai food, a pad Thai with shrimps and red curry noodles with chicken and vegetables. Served on a wooden table near Sukhumvit road in Bangkok.
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Thai Street Food Market

With the largest Thai population outside of Asia, Los Angeles is one of the best places in the world to sample the country’s famous eats, from hole-in-the-wall spots like Sapp Coffee Shop to hip modern takes like Night + Market Song. But for a true weekend experience, you’ll want to head to the Wat Thai Temple in North Hollywood. Each weekend, the parking lot in front of the Buddhist temple comes alive with street vendors hawking green curry, larb, boat noodles and more. Twenty percent of the sales go to supporting the temple, so stuffing your face is clearly the right thing to do.

Stahl House

Photo by Frank Zhang on Unsplash

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Stahl House

Leave behind the tourist hordes doing star tours of the front gates of houses that may or may not actually belong to anyone famous. Instead, see one of the true celebrity houses of Los Angeles. Our picks? Architectural A-listers like the Stahl House. Perched atop the Hollywood Hills, this glass modernist home by Pierre Koenig has appeared in everything from Nurse Betty to a music video by Wilson Phillips. Also worth a visit is the Eames Case Study House No. 8. It served as both a home and studio to the famous designers Ray and Charles Eames and remains as it was during their lifetimes. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House sits atop Barnsdall Art Park, an example of the California Romanza architectural movement (and a great place to have a sunset picnic while overlooking the city).  

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New Beverley Cinema

Want to get a slice of true Hollywood history? This old theater was previously a candy factory, beer parlor, Jewish Community Center and vaudeville house that hosted the likes of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Now it’s one of the coolest places to see a flick in Los Angeles thanks to owner Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino selects the movies himself, often from his personal collection & almost all are shown on 35mm film. Expect everything from grindhouse flicks to weekend “Kiddee Matinees”, with vintage cartoons and shorts for the youngin’s. It’s a great window into Hollywood’s art house scene and perhaps catch a glimpse of the Oscar-winning filmmaker himself.

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