A long weekend in Downtown Los Angeles (D.T.L.A.)

At least once a year I find myself having to travel to Los Angeles for work. I never mind going because I lived there for one year back in the mid 2000's and had a decent experience. A few years ago I even hosted a luxury outlet shopping trip that stopped for a few nights in L.A. While my work is usually the reason I stay in Downtown L.A. or D.T.L.A. as its been rebranded, I often choose to stay downtown because of its off-the-beaten-path spots. If you're planning a trip to Los Angeles I'd highly recommend booking your stay in D.T.L.A.

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FRIDAY: California Love

:: 12:10pm :: LAX
Since you're going to gain back three hours flying west I like to start my morning nice and early. There's an Alaska Airlines flight that leaves from National Airport (DCA) at 9:10am and arrives in Los Angeles (LAX) 6 hours later at exactly 12:10pm. It often arrives a little early and Alaska Airlines are the friendliest in the industry. Not to mention since acquiring Virgin America this airline has picked up some very hip habits like gourmet snacks (think LesserEvil Buddah Bowl Organic Popcorn which are dairy free but taste like movie theater popcorn and Skinny Dipped Dark Chocolate Almonds) and free texting. 

:: 2:00pm :: The Luxe City Center Hotel
Pick up a rental car at LAX and head less than 20 miles (1 hour in L.A. traffic) to downtown L.A. I like to pull into the circular driveway of the Luxe City Center Hotel and drop off my bags. My hotel room usually isn't ready this early, especially if there was a game or concert the night before at the Staples Center - located right across the street. If my hotel room is ready I'll request a refrigerator - which is free but is first come, first serve. The fridge they provide is slightly larger than a standard hotel room minifridge. Think a large college dorm fridge. (Fun fact: when you rent an apartment in L.A. you typically have to buy your own fridge. The units are not required to come with one and people take them along with them when they move out.) 


:: 3:00pm :: Whole Foods or Urth Caffe
I'll drop my bags off in my room and drive or walk to Whole Foods located 15 minutes away on South Grand Ave and West 8th Street. I like to get snacks for the room so I don't raid the minibar and I also like having my own water, yogurt, granola and fresh fruit so I'll have a healthy option for breakfast the next morning. It's also really cool to see what local products the Whole Foods carry in different cities. I'm a huge fan of shopping the local grocery stores in other states as well as other countries. Some of the best souvenirs from my travels are local spices, grains or just a delicious meal from the hot food bar.

If my room and/or a refrigerator is not available I'll leave my bags with the bellman and drive to Urth Caffe's downtown location. A healthy L.A. chain restaurant, Urth Caffe is known for their cute sidewalk table seating, extensive coffee and tea menu and delicious cakes. My go-to order is the Urth quesadilla, which comes with housemade quacamole and pico de gallo. And I never leave without a slice of the Coconut Royal Cake piled high with fresh whipped cream and berries.

:: 4:00pm :: Back at the Hotel
I typically have to work pretty early the next day so I'll head to the convention center, a 5 minute walk from The Luxe City Center Hotel, to find boxes of materials I've had sent ahead and set up my booth area. If I'm giving a speech or conducting a workshop I'll use this time to practice my presentation. 


:: 7:00pm :: Bottega Louie
For dinner I'll try to convince one of my friends from college - many of them relocated to LA - to meet me downtown for dinner at Bottega Louie. Known for their extensive patisserie filled with macarons and other French desserts as well as their high end pizzas and pasta dishes - Bottega Louie is a restaurant you can pop into for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also have a fantastic brunch! Put your name down for a table and kill time by having a drink at the adorable bar or plotting what you'll have for dessert as you peruse the patisserie. 

:: 9:00pm :: Nixo Patio Lounge
I'll usually end the night with a nightcap at Nixo Patio Lounge - the terrace bar/restaurant located on the second floor of The Luxe City Center Hotel. The patio overlooks D.T.L.A.; the last time I stayed at the hotel I sat on the terrace with a cocktail and watched the lunar eclipse with one of my sorority sisters. 
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SATURDAY: Nobody Walks in L.A. 


:: 7:00am :: Runyon Canyon
You may be a bit jetlagged so don't be surprised if you wake up at 5 or 6am which is 8 or 9am east coast time. Since you're awake and it's Saturday morning you might as well make the most of it and hike Runyon Canyon. Runyon - as the locals call it - is a hiking trail located in West Hollywood. My apartment was located in this neighborhood when I briefly lived in Los Angeles, but I only hiked Runyon once maybe twice. There are two entrances to Runyon, but I usually find parking near the Franklin Ave entrance (the other entrance is on North Fuller Avenue). There is a medium to easy route you can take from this entrance and there will be some great views of the city waiting for you at the top. 


:: 8:00am :: Eggslut
Now its 8am and you're starving - this is the perfect time to queue up at Eggslut in D.T.L.A. before the lines get long. Typically I work the rest of my Saturday, but if you're in town on vacation you can get in the standby line for The Broad - a contemporary arts museum located on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, which opens at 10am. You can also leave early to try and beat the traffic and explore Los Angeles past D.T.L.A. 

:: 10:00am :: Santa Monica - Malibu - Abbot Kinney
If you're going to Santa Monica check out the Santa Monica pier and the shops on the promenade. A little further up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is El Matador State Beach. A hidden gem you'll want to check out. (Beware there are ALOT of stairs and you've already gotten your cardio for the day.) Keep driving on the PCH and you'll end up in Malibu. Check out Malibu Country Mart for shopping, dining and good celebrity spotting. Abbot Kinney boulevard is back near Santa Monica and chocked full of boutiques, including the original Tom's shoe store, a rare Daniel Wellington shop and Pixi Beauty store.
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SUNDAY: But First Brunch



:: 8:00am :: Agape International Spiritual Center
If you're up early again (or you have to work on the weekends like me) drive to Beverly Hills for the 8am service at Agape International Spiritual Center - which is exactly as L.A. as it sounds. This trans-denominational metaphysical church is lead by Michael Beckwith who is prominently featured in the documentary based on the self-help book "The Secret" I've spotted both Laila and Tatiana Ali (no relation) at the early service but if you don't have to work and you manage to sleep in there's also an 11am service. 



:: 11:00am :: Brunch
After church you can hit up sunday brunch at any number of great places nearby. The Cheesecake Factory in Beverly Hills isn't far from Agape and has a weekend-only brunch menu which includes items like chicken and waffles and jambalaya hash. There is also a Beverly Hills location of Urth Caffe and if you choose to go there make sure to cross Wilshire Boulevard and stroll up and down South Beverly Drive to check out the boutique-like versions of your favorite stores. Sam Edelman and & Other Stories are my go-to's. There's also a great newstand that sells international fashion magazines. I like to pick up Paris Vogue while I'm in the area. 

You can also walk from Agape to the Beverly Center - a high end mall with flagship locations of stores like Longchamp and Victoria's Secret that usually have pieces I can't find in D.C. There's also a huge Forever21 with a photobooth inside and a well stocked Saint Laurent store. 

If you've got a big appetite and you're willing to splurge I highly recommend the buffet at Cavatina - The restaurant inside of the Sunset Marquis hotel. Walk past the famous pool and koi pond and dine in the outside restaurant. Afterwards stroll around the property and try to get a peek at who is staying in the exclusive bungalows.



:: 1:00pm :: Olympic Spa
After brunch, if you're not in a food coma...or even if you are...drag yourself over to Koreatown and spend the rest of the day luxuriating in herbal pools and Himalayan salt rooms at Olympic Spa. This women's only Korean spa is an amazing experience not to be missed. There's also a full Korean restaurant inside...in case you get hungry again!
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MONDAY: As Seen on T.V.

:: 9:00am :: Check out of The Luxe City Center
Check out of The Luxe City Center Hotel a little early so you have time to explore before you leave Los Angeles this afternoon.



:: 10:00am :: The Dunes from HBO's Insecure
Drive towards LAX, but make a pitstop in Inglewood for a photo op at The Dunes, the apartment the main character lives in on the HBO series Insecure. Stop in nearby Leimert Park for a flat white coffee from Hot and Cool Cafe also featured on the show.

:: 11:00am :: Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles
Finally get a to-go order of chicken and waffles from Roscoe's to eat on the plane.

:: 12:00pm :: LAX
If you think you'll get hungry a second time during the 6 hour flight home, pick up an Asian Chicken Salad (dressing on the side so it wont get soggy during your flight) at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck. You'll pass the restaurant on your right hand side as you walk from TSA to the Alaska Airlines gates. You'll touch down in D.C. a few minutes before 9pm. 

Hope you enjoyed your long weekend downtown in the city of angels. Do you have a favorite spot in Los Angeles? Tell me in the comments or tag me on social media with the hashtag #WearIWentLA

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