I was never really that big on Los Angeles.
It was just the place you stopped on the way home from New York.
But the times and my opinion are changing…suddenly it’s all about LA.
California has a long, heady reputation as the land of opportunity.
It’s been the iconic home of the hippie, the internet, Hollywood – it’s a melting pot of this heritage which is in renaissance.
There’s freshness to this new scene that feels a little like Brooklyn in 2000.
Except sunnier with less coffee and more super foods.
The hipsters have left the East Coast in search of like-minded West Coast partners and the result is an amazing fusion of bi-coastal energy.
California has developed a whole new brand of cool.
On my last trip (about a month ago) I did five new things. Things/places/spots that I’d never visited before.
Stuff that was well and truly off the usual Hollywood, Beverly Hills grid.
All of them are new must-do’s.
Print this one out and keep it with your passport.
The Broad (pronounced B-road) is LA’s newest contempory museum.
Named after philanthropist Eli Broad, who financed the $140 million build to share his significant modern art collection with the world.
The structure itself is extraordinary and was a decade in the making. Designed by New York architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro (responsible for my fave building in NYC – the High Line) the massive, all white building is wrapped in a honeycomb exoskeleton that works with windows and sky wells to diffuse light throughout the gallery spaces and protect the art from overexposure.
Once inside you get the feeling of being within a giant beehive – everything is smooth, round and cavernous.
The museum is full of post-war masters with works from Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Joseph Beuys, Damien Hirst, Sharon Lockhart, Kara Walker and Andy Warhol. It also has the world’s largest collection of Cindy Sherman.
It’s a museum for all ages and tastes.
You’ll find Warhol’s Elvis sitting alongside Koon’s giant blue balloon dog.
This is my ABSOLUTE crazy-if-you-don’t in LA.
GRAND CENTRAL MARKET.
This phenomenal market has been part of Los Angeles food culture since 1917 when it serviced the mansions of Bunker Hill that sit just above it.
The cable car that ferried California’s wealthy down the hill (Angels Flight) is still in operation and holds the record as the shortest railway in the world.
The market has evolved with the city and moved from an open-air growers stalls to a under-cover uber-cool catacomb of food experiences.
You could spend all day and night eating here but for me, the must-munch are:
Madcarpa: Only the best fresh falafel sandwich in the history of best falafel sandwiches.
It doesn’t look like much (above) but I dream about this food moment. Like all the time. Even writing about this sandwich is giving me anxiety.
Grand Central Market (317 South Broadway) is open 8am-10pm each day. For more information head to www.grandcentralmarket.com
HARRY POTTER AT UNIVERSAL STUDIOS.
From The Simpsons and Jurassic Park to Transformers and Shrek there’s a ride for every taste, height, weight and age at Universal Studios.
The stand-out for me is the original lot tour which takes about an hour and winds you through movie history – Alfred Hitchcocks office, Wisteria lane, the shark from Jaws, the hotel from Psycho -this is the way you should start your visit to the theme park.
Then…you must run to it’s latest attraction: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
It’s a new generation motion simulator ride in which you’re individually suspended in swinging chairs – and without giving all of it away – to simulate the feeling of reallyflying. Just like Harry and Hermione. It’s 4-D so there’s smell, touch, sound, vision and it’s one of the most amazing, freaking rides I’ve ever experienced.
Two adjectives: phenomenal and beautiful.
PLUS watching all the people that think they’re literally wizards is priceless.
Universal Studios (100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City ) is open 9am-pm seven days. Visit www.universalstudioshollywood.com
WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL.
Across the road from The Broad is the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by architect Frank Gehry.
You need to stand back (like on the other side of the road) to put the magnitude of this landmark into perspective. This is LA’s Opera House (literally and figuratively)and it’s not dissimilar to ours in design vibe.
Inspired by the Gehry’s love of sailing, the exterior is made up of billowing stainless steel sails which reflect light like a mirror ball.
I cannot believe that despite growing up in America and visiting California countless times that I had not made the pilgrimage to Griffith Observatory.
What a special spot.
Located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, the observatory provides a 360 degree view of Los Angeles, and it’s surrounding mountains and THAT sign.
Built in 1919, the beautiful building is home to permanent and seasonal astronomy exhibits but it’s on the balconies and roof that the true magic lies.
Arrive an hour before sunset with your camera. Here’s the place you’ll find natures most perfect light and epic back drops.
I knew it was going to be major and that’s why I wore this outfit.