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from July/August 2005


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Insider's Los Angeles
Text by Andrew Nelson    Photograph by Susan Seubert
Insider's Los Angeles
The Standard Hotel's rooftop bar draws a hip happy hour crowd.

Acting as only-the-most-fun-will-do location scout, we look to the locals for favorite places and pastimes worthy of the spotlight—from Hollywood to Santa Monica.

Los Angeles is a perception waiting to be altered. The world's film capital as well as the backdrop for countless TV shows, L.A. has, on any given day, some 150 productions in play on its streets. Since we see so much of it, L.A. is a city we think we know: the Venice Boardwalk and valet parking, Hollywood and Vine, Universal Studios and Melrose Avenue, Ashton and Demi. But we're wrong. The truth is there are as many L.A. realities as there exist dreams in the world. This amalgamation of 3.8 million people is a modern Alexandria—a babble of races, tongues, and tastes, in a seductive climate of sun and sumptuousness where it's hard not to feel like a star.

While cultural outlets abound (the city has well over 300 museums—more than any city on the planet), culture is found just about everywhere—from the city's wealth of colorful alfresco murals to Bergamot Station Arts Center's mall with cutting-edge art on Michigan Avenue.

Stop in at L.A.'s favorite bookstore, Book Soup, on Sunset Boulevard. Hike the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area—154,095 acres of mountains, brush, and ravines. Shop star-filled Santa Monica's collection of swanky boutiques along Montana Avenue. Sample L.A.'s most cherished restaurant moments—from the counter banter at the Apple Pan on West Pico Boulevard (revered for burgers and pie) to the murmur of film industry gossip and the clink of silver at Lucques on Melrose Avenue.

There's entertainment, of course. Head to the Valley to buy the stars' old glad rags at It's a Wrap on Magnolia Boulevard before slipping in a concert at the newly redone Hollywood Bowl on North Highland Avenue. The Whisky a Go Go is still going strong on Sunset Strip, but if the rock isn't rolling, head downtown to the Standard Hotel, where the rooftop bar comes stocked with wine and attitude.

But wherever you end up going, make sure to catch the sunset from atop the Getty Center's café—the museum stays open late on Friday and Saturday. There, gazing at the Pacific Ocean and the city at your feet, you might feel the City of Angels take wing. Here's hoping you enjoy the flight.

30 Entertaining Ways to Experience the Best of Los Angeles

1. Get a front-row seat for a world of time-honored entertainment

"For interaction and really being 'a part' of your [Hollywood] fantasies, there's no better place in the world than the Hollywood Entertainment Museum [7021 Hollywood Blvd., +1 323 465 7900]," says producer Phil Savenick, who has created segments for the Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys. "There are great film clips and revolving exhibitions of cinema treasures. You'll always find Whoopi's dress from Ghost, the robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still, and props from Forrest Gump. And where else can you sit in Captain Picard's chair on the bridge of the Star Trek: The Next Generation set or wander through Mulder's office from the X-Files?"

2. Head to Abbot Kinney Boulevard to shop the unique
"Abbot Kinney was the guy who built Venice [California]. Today there are fun stores on the street named for him," says Wayne Gunther, who with wife, Donna, owns Surfing Cowboys, a retro furniture store. "The shops really mix it up: vintage surfboards, Italian film posters, mid-century European furniture and collectibles, and more. Park for free in the lot on California Street."

3. Bliss out at the Inn of the Seventh Ray
"Topanga Canyon is L.A., yet it's the polar opposite of what you'd expect," says artist Amy Womack. "Drive up into the canyon, and the city's noise and energy is replaced by a feeling of recovery as the oaks and hills close in around you. Stop to eat at the Inn of the Seventh Ray [128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd.; +1 310 455 1311] in the 1960s and '70s, the haunt of Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, and other legends. At the inn, you'll hear the sound of running water and chimes. They never rush you here. You feel like you're in an ethereal spa."

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