Ahh, it’s that final rush before Christmas day and everyone is squeezing out every last drop of 2012 so that they can take the next week or two just to relax and prepare for 2013. Some of us are going to have to prepare for even more: visitors. Be it family or old friends, you may be readying for an onslaught of out-of-towners, many of whom have never been to Los Angeles. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong. You may think that you have everything planned out and that you know where people are going to want to go but people will inevitably be overwhelmed by the city and how weird Los Angeles can be. I remember when the first time my father visited me out here, he had a near panic attack in a Santa Monica parking structure because he couldn’t believe that we didn’t have to pay for parking. Moreover, taking two suburban Starbucks lovers to the Silver Lake Intelligentsia was an awful, intimidating thing to do. A dinner at Son of a Gun turned into a near disaster after the price-to-size ratio was so skewed that no out-of-towners wanted to eat despite their not paying the bill. These normal things, things you don’t really think as “extreme” can be quire scary for parents and the like. Where should you take them then? We thought of a few suggestions from our experience that may help certain visitors you have coming. Here’s to an easy visit!
For The LA First Timer: Brunch at Bottega Louie
Downtown’s immaculate Bottega Louie has great food, great service, and a great look. For any Los Angeles first timer, they won’t know what to expect but you want to make them feel comfortable, pampered, and not at all intimidated. Grabbing an (early) brunch at Louie is a great idea because it is affordable and you are in an area that you can cruise around town from with great ease. This place can be loud (Sorry, Grandma!) but the look on a newcomer’s face when they see the dessert display is always a fond memory.
For An Easy Lunch: Tender Greens or Food+Lab Santa Monica Blvd
You want every meal to be special. Understandable: you are entertaining! You don’t want to smother your guests, though. Taking a break from any exotic or expensive lunches, stop by a Tender Greens location or the always subdued Food+Lab on Santa Monica. Both places have easy foods and should delight every type of eater. (Note: we stopped in last week and Food+Lab may be closed starting Monday through the new year. Call before you go!)
For The Coffee Lover: The Pasadena Intelligentsia
Because both the Venice and Silver Lake versions of Intelligentsia are so busy and places like Handsome may be too obscure (somehow), trek to Pasadena’s Intelligentsia as since it is quiet, you’ll have the comfort of suburban retail, and it is generally a slower pace than the rest of Los Angeles.
For The “Coffee Lover”: Any Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
With Starbucks being everywhere now, everyone is a “coffee expert.” You can’t go to a Starbucks, though. You’re in LA! Be a little more exotic, no? You don’t even have to be that crazy: go to a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf just to show them “the LA Starbucks.” Sure, it looks like a peek into the nineties but it’s just as good. Their tea and home goods are also great, too.
For The Person Who “Doesn’t Want To Do Anything”: Warner Brothers Studio Tour
When my parents visited last they “didn’t want to do anything.” That sounded great and I planned what I thought to be family friendly things: it was a disaster. No one wanted to go for a hike, no one wanted to look at little shops in Los Feliz, no one wanted to go to the beach, and everyone wanted to wander down Hollywood Blvd. What does any LA visitor secretly want to do? Be impressed by Hollywood. Thus, a studio tour covers seeing a show, seeing “celebrities,” and all things “Hollywood” in a quick swoop. We’ve heard from locals that it’s actually pretty neat, too.
For The Easily Impressed: Dresden Room
The Dresden is a personal favorite to bring out-of-towners because it is so damned quirky. You’re going to want to take younger folks (Sorry, Dad!) as it is always better later when live music is happening and it never fails to impress. If it weren’t around the Christmas and New Years holidays, Tiki Ti when open is a great alternative. They’re both within walking distance, too.
For The Starstruck Hollywood Visitor: Lake Hollywood Park
Lake Hollywood Park has the best view of the Hollywood sign and of the city. On a clear day, drive on up and spend thirty minutes taking photos, taking in the city, and pointing out cool landmarks. Your visitors will get a huge kick out of taking photos here and will want to stay a while, too. This visit always impresses.
For The Celebrity Seeker: BLD
Every time you have brunch at BLD, you always see a celebrity. Always. This is a great place to casually bring a parent and chill out for a while with good food and drinks and try to see a famous person or two. We’ve seen Josh Groban, Tim Allen, Zac Efron, Kurt Russell, and more eating on random visits. There’s always someone here. (Dinner alternative? Little Dom’s. Everyone from Chloë Sevigny to Jon Hamm to Rose McGowan to Jason Lee frequent here.)
For The Homesick Friend: The Grove
The Grove is safe, retail therapy. The Farmers Market has some special oddities as does The Grove itself. You can also play rich and poke around Barneys or lay low and wander into Abercrombie. Whatever you want to do, this will make your homesick friend feel like they are at a more sophisticated version of their hometown mall.
For The Even More Homesick Friend: Burbank Empire Center
This little “shopping mall” just off of the 5 is a great place to take the extremely fickle, extremely homesickly persons who just can’t deal with all the cool places you are taking them. Thus, go to where the Target and the Great Indoors and the Olive Garden and the Marshall’s and the Outback are: go to Burbank Empire Center.
For The Star Gazer: Griffith Park Observatory
This is a quick drive or bus ride to get to and has incredible views. You can pop into the Observatory for a little tour as well and grab lunch at their cafe while overlooking hikers. If you have a mildly athletic friend, hike your way up and go to Trails on your way back. Delightful!
For The New Yorker: Mas Malo followed by a cocktail on the roof of The Standard
The New Yorker is always hard to please because they have basically everything we have. The initial thought is to get them pizza. Easy! But, pizza is done better in New York: we can’t compete. How can we impress? With Mexican food. Take them for some good eats at Mas Malo and then for a comfortable rooftop drink at The Standard, which is always special. Go during a weeknight or early unless you want to be stuck in a line for an hour.
For The Fashionista: Melrose, Between Fairfax And La Cienega
This strip of stores is the best place to go for anyone who wants to shop. The stores range from the more casual Marc by Marc Jacobs to the super extreme retail hubs like Alexander McQueen and Paul Smith. There are a few restaurants to swing by and quirky spaces like Kelly Weastler and the new Rag and Bone. Hope over to Opening Ceremony and RTH, too.
For The Southerner or The Parent: Disneyland
This may be a frustrating day but Disney is a safe, safe, safe bet. Everyone will be happy and you won’t have to think for a day. There will be lines, sure, but spend most of your time in California Adventure. Why? Because you can openly drink on that side of the park.
For The Cynic: Stay at home and watch screeners.
You cynic will be impressed with nothing and won’t really want to do shit. Whatever. One thing that will impress them is that you have cool friends with award season screeners and they let you borrow them so that you can spend the day watching a ton of movies that haven’t even hit your cynic’s theatres yet. This will easily impress them–and you won’t have to leave the house!
There are tons of other places to take your out-of-towners. Do you have any go-to spots? Any suggestions of places we should add to the list? Add your thoughts in the comments and we’ll make this an ongoing forum to help your entertaining guests be as easy as possible.