The Cultivist’s Guide to Los Angeles
Two words—and you conjure the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the storied abodes of celebrities and stars, dense neighborhoods backing onto golden beaches, cars and palm trees. Forever regenerating, Los Angeles always has something new to reveal.
Where to Stay
Located in an area long thought best avoided, NoMad Los Angeles comes as an excellent reason to reconsider downtown’s iffy reputation. Set in an ornate 1920s neoclassical building that was once the Bank of Italy’s headquarters, the hotel now includes interiors by a legendary Parisian design name, Jacques Garcia. The mirrored coffee bar on the lobby level, modeled after the 300-year-old Caffè Florian in Venice, is a great place to see and be seen by L.A.’s artists and creative entrepreneurs.
If the “new next” is not your thing, you can never go wrong with the Chateau Marmont, perched above Sunset Boulevard. The celebrity sightings notwithstanding, it’s one of the few hotels that boast private bungalows, a lovely pool, and lush gardens overlooked by arched colonnades. If you’re hoping to squeeze into Bar Marmont, I’d suggest the lounge on the first floor instead—still celeb-packed, but a bit more low-key and convivial.
Where to Eat
Sure, the city is the new mecca for art, but one of my favorite things here is actually the food! My go-to when friends and family are visiting that I want to impress is Manuela. Not only does it have the friendliest staff but the tucked-away corners are perfect for meals with good conversation over cocktails. The art on the walls is also a draw for us culture vultures, as the place is co-owned by the presidents of the Hauser & Wirth gallery complex, of which it is part.
Vegan- and health-friendly restaurants are in no short supply here, making it sometimes difficult to satisfy meat cravings. For those moments, Parks BBQ (get the beef brisket) and Here’s Looking at You, both in Koreatown, are two places I always recommend for a full belly.
L.A. isn’t too much of a drinking city, given the necessity to drive, but with ride shares more available, locals are taking the time to enjoy happy hour. For this, you can’t top the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel: The wine list is superlative and the crowd a mix of celebrities and fashion and art folks. Make sure you snag a seat on the terrace if it’s warm enough—as the sun begins to set, the light is absolute magic.
What to See
As a curator, my sightseeing tends to circle around art, but you can’t come to L.A. and ignore the incredible natural landscapes. Topanga State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains has great views of open grassland, live oak, and the Pacific Ocean, as well as 28 trails. My favorite trek begins at Los Liones Canyon trailhead and then arrives at a clearing on a ridge from which you look down on Pacific Palisades and the ocean beyond. It’s more than a five-mile hike, so I reward myself with a pizza and a glass of wine at Little Beach House Malibu, not too far from the park.
Los Angeles has some mega-museums and private collections that should not be missed—MOCA, the Broad, the Marciano Art Foundation, and LACMA—but I tend to spend my weekends exploring some of the smaller nonprofit institutions that are pushing the boundaries of viewership. When I’m downtown, I always make a point to check out the Mistake Room and ICA LA, where César García and Jamillah James, respectively, lead the curatorial visions, and each visit is a dive into new ideas and artists. In West Hollywood, LAXArt is experiencing the same kind of growth under Hamza Walker.
Where to Shop
Scotti Sitz’s Garde is possibly my favorite home store anywhere in the world. Located in a former electronics-repair shop, this showroom carries everything from Scottish mohair blankets to Simone Crestani’s whimsical glass vessels. A former executive at Calvin Klein and Giorgio Armani, Sitz designed the store herself, keeping the concrete floors and installing a poplar wall to display her international finds.
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2018 Summer Issue under the headline L.A. Confidential. Subscribe to the magazine.