Travelogue: Los Angeles (Spring Break)

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We so enjoyed spending spring break in Los Angeles last year, we decided to do it again. We rented a house on AirBnB for a week just up the block from Sunset Junction in Silverlake—almost directly across the street from the last one we stayed in. We started our mornings with Intelligentsia coffee runs… again. And though it was tempting to repeat everything else just as much, we did our best to try some new things, too.

Here’s a look at what we saw…

Sanborn house

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Silverlake

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After setting out on Highway 5 in PJs, we arrived in Silverlake in the early afternoon—early enough to get settled in with baths, some provisions from the local markets, and early enough to walk down Sunset to dinner.

Silverlake Junction

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I think the kids would have been happy to play on the “secret stairs” all evening, but we were pretty excited about indulging in the wonderful (spicy) Thai street food at Night + Market Song. We basically asked the waiter to order for us; the kids loved the sweet and salty “party wings” and fresh roti, while we couldn’t get over the Larb and beef panang. The kids had serious cases of the wiggles after the long drive, but the fun, noisy atmosphere made us feel right at home.

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We kept intending to go out for breakfast on this trip. Los Angeles could easily call claim to any title relating to its amazing breakfast options (many of which go all-day). But we just found it far simpler to stock up on yogurt, bananas, and peanut butter, and supplement that with the occasional pastry from down the block. One could do worse…

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Hollywood Market

I mentioned in a previous post that we hadn’t really made any specific plans before the trip, and were relieved when Journy—a new online concierge service—offered to make us an itinerary. We used lots of their plans, adding or amending as we saw fit. They suggested the Hollywood Farmer’s Market for Sunday morning, so we said hello to some familiar names on the Walk of Fame on our way over. (Sidenote: Kyra Sedgwick’s is out of line—the only one in the block—so that it can be beside Kevin Bacon’s. Is that romantic or really odd?)

The market was pretty amazing. Our farmer’s market in Davis is outstanding—and California in general gets an incredible array of produce—but the variety of citrus and the abundance of local strawberries in March was incredible. We also bumped into two film crews, two celebrities (one Curtis Stone), and one old neighbor from our old apartment in LA.

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BLD

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It prompted us to think about some of our favorite places in our old neighborhood, so we stopped at BLD on Beverly for lunch (second breakfast, more like) and did a fast swing through one of my favorite shops, Garde. I would take home everything, if I could.

Shopping with the kids isn’t high on my list of things to do, but there are some great spots in this neighborhood—from Heath on Beverly to TenOverSix, The Apartment by the Line, and Creatures of Comforts further west on Melrose. Kelly Wearstler and Clare Vivier also have stores around here. Our itinerary from Journy was especially strong on shop recommendations, and it’s a shame we couldn’t make it to all of them on this trip, but we’ll be back.

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Carousel

I feel like we ask them to do a lot of things that we enjoy, on these city trips in particular, so it’s always nice to work in something just for them. So after a midday break for a nap (Skyler) and quiet-time (Hudson), we drove over to Griffith Park to let the kids ride the ponies. (“I ride neigh!,” had basically been Skyler’s main refrain.) However, the Sunday crowds were crazy the train and pony rides, but we pretended like the carousel was the destination all along and no one was the wiser.

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The Griffith Carousel is pretty special—it was built in 1926 by the Spillman Engineering Company. Its 68 horses spin quickly (very quickly) past a custom-built Stinson 165 Military Band Organ that plays more than 1,500 songs; it’s said to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney to create Disneyland.

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We went directly to dinner from the park. Aron and I wanted to take the kids to Sunday Supper at Lucques, one of Suzanne Goin’s wonderful restaurants that was reserved for special treats when we lived in the city. Hudson took this picture of us outside the ivy-covered stable house—not bad!—just as we happened to run into a good friend from my graduate school program at USC.

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I had hoped we’d make it to LACMA to look at some of the exhibits one day, but we’ll save that for another time. (That’s actually been one of the best parts about coming back to a city we know—and know we’ll see again; low pressure.) We did, however, make it to the Urban Light installation (Chris Burden, 2008), 202 restored street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s that sits outside the museum, on Wilshire.

I couldn’t believe the crowds taking photos there. The place was mobbed! We couldn’t help but join them…

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(More credit to Hudson, who took this photo of us with Skyler.)

LACMA

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Still, it was the kids who really went nuts for the arrangement. They were darting in and out of the rows, weaving wildly, and laughing hysterically. Aron and I were standing vigilantly to make sure neither ran out onto Wilshire or into some stranger’s path, but still Skyler got hurt when she bumped into Hudson and bounced against one of the lightpoles. She barely cried—she’s so tough—but you may notice a bit of a black eye in subsequent photos.

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On Monday we decided to walk around Downtown Los Angeles. The restored Theatre District was a highlight of our last visit to the city, so we made some of the same stops…

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Macarons

… starting with the macaron counter at gorgeous Bottega Louie.

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It’s a splurge for sure (with maybe just a touch of pretense, right down to Himalayan pink salt on every table), but it has to be one of the most beautiful spaces I’ve ever been in.

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We followed it up with coffee at Verve (that green wall!), The Last Bookstore (a total labyrinth in an old bank), and a stop at the photobooth in the Ace Hotel (a favorite tradition).

I should add: they were SO nice to our kids at the Ace. Hudson was asking about the guitars at the front desk and they chatted with him, played him a little Bob Marley, and even brought over a warm chocolate chip cookie (one of the best I’ve had in a long while).

ACEDTLA

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We took a family strip, but this one they did by themselves just slays me. I think I may need to frame it.

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Grand Central

We went back to Grand Central Market for lunch—I had (more) Thai food at Sticky Rice—Thai barbecued chicken served with sticky rice and som tam, a green papaya salad mashed tableside with a giant mortar and pestle—and Aron and the kids shared handmade pasta and a porchetta dip sandwich from the new and highly acclaimed Knead & Co.

Grand Central is really awesome—if you haven’t been, it’s definitely a highlight of the evolving downtown scene. That said, I definitely have mixed feelings about seeing so many longstanding vendors disappear to be replaced with expensive restaurant stands. Those who used to use the market in the truest sense to find affordable food will eventually be priced out. There are so many of these changes faces Los Angeles—particularly downtown—and I wonder how the city is going to continue to change and face change.

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Disney Hall

I’d never climbed the stairs (more “secret stairs”) at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Hudson asked to go back there every day after.

AOC and Republique

That night was our first evening with a babysitter. We were so happy that the woman who had been so lovely with our kids on our last visit was still in town and willing to come over many nights that week!

We went shopping on Third Street (OK is still a favorite) and then used the reservation Journy had made for us at Republique. The modern French restaurant is where Campanile and La Brea Bakery used to be—in Charlie Chaplin’s 1929 film studio—and the space is gorgeous. Everything was delicious!

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I convinced Aron to swing by the Cupcake ATM before heading home. I’d always been curious (but confess I wasn’t wowed by the frosting and prefer ones from nearby Joan’s or Magnolia).

Tar Pits

On Tuesday, we took the kids to see the La Brea Tar Pits on Wilshire. The small (perfectly-sized) museum sits at the site of Ice Age fossil excavation sites—right in the middle of the city! New fossils are continuously being discovered, preserved by the tar that they fell into eons ago, and you can watch volunteers sift for microfossils through windows into the lab. The giant Mastadons and Saber-toothed cats were of course a total hit, as was the tar still visible in the lawn outside the museum.

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Fairfax

It’s also right around the corner from Canter’s Deli and the ever-changing strip of hip stores and Jewish bakeries on Fairfax. We met friends for lunch at Jon & Vinny’s, a relatively new offering from the guys behind Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec, Trois Familia… and so on. And it lived up to the hype. Note Skyler literally crawling over the others to draw on their paper—which is obviously better than the one that was in front of her.

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Afterward, we made it back to our side of town for a second attempt at a pony ride (success! but not for Skyler, who got nervous despite the insistence on riding a “neigh”) and another visit from the babysitter.

Aron and I once again took the opportunity to do a little kidless shopping—this time along the Silverlake reservoir at Lawson-Fenning and Yolk—before some browsing in the Arts district and having dinner downtown at Redbird—which was gorgeous in the former rectory building of Vibiana. The main dining room is a white-walled patio (with a retractable ceiling) with potted trees and views of the cathedral next door.

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Jeni's

We decided we didn’t need fancy restaurant dessert, however, and ended our night out at Jeni’s Ice Cream instead—and then came home to the sweetest, sleepiest Saber-toothed cat.

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Getty

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We did a fair amount of driving on Wednesday, when we headed West to the Getty in the morning. We didn’t spend too much time in any of the galleries, but rather enjoyed the architecture, the landscape, and the views. We all hiked up to the top and then rode the tram back down.

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kiddos

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Skyler literally dives for flowers to smell them if she’s in your arms. It’s quite alarming—but I suppose I should be honored by her trust in my grip?

Point Dume

Afterward we drove up the coast into Malibu—a drive just long enough for Skyler to take a short nap—to go to the beach at Point Dume. Parking is really limited there—only 8 or so spots are available—so if you’re lucky enough to get one you’ll be rewarded with a very uncrowded, beautiful beach. It’s really incredible to find yourself just outside of the city in such a beautiful, natural place.

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With rocks full of sea snails and anemones! We even saw sea lions and dolphins off the coast.

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We hoped that the rigors of the beach would allow us a quieter meal (though it doesn’t always work like that though with kids), so we kept an early reservation at Cassia. We loved the bright, fresh flavors and beautiful light-filled space.

That said, I find I’m really drawn to fancy food in very unfancy places these days and felt ready for more strip-mall divey spots with delicious surprises by the middle of the week. That’s something else that LA seems to excel at.

As we sat in traffic on the way home, we were reminded of why, when we lived there, we so rarely went from the west side to the east side of Los Angeles during rush hour (7:30, in this case) and decided we all needed a Magnolia cupcake to break up the trip.

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We made our way to Exposition Park (right beside USC, where I drove so many days of the week) for a visit to the Natural History Museum and more fossils. I was immediately impressed by how much the park has changed since I used to go there on field trips as a kid. A visit is worthwhile for the gardens alone.

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But it was really these guys we came to see!

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And Hudson loved pointing out all the red precious gems.

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We decided to branch out, despite our love of Soot Bull Jeep, and try Kang Ho-Dong Baekjeong in Chapman Plaza—which had come highly recommended to us. It was clearly, a younger, hipper crowd, with kitschy bright decor and good music, and we had to wait for a table even though it was mid-week and off-hour. Our kids seemed to get a kick out of bbq-ing at the table and were able to find things they liked between the sweet corn, egg soufflé, the meat, and the rice. Still, though I haven’t tried them all, I continue to think that Soot Bull Jeep may be my favorite of L.A.’s 100-odd Korean barbecues. Both are incredibly smoky, so be prepared to wear eau de smoke for a few hours afterward.

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You could spend an entire day shopping right around the house we rented, in Silverlake: favorite spots included Dream Collective, Clare V., Mollusk (a favorite), Reform School (pictured), Sweet William, APC, Aesop, Shinola, and Mohawk General Store.

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That night, Aron and I explored a bit more of downtown Los Angeles—returning to the Arts district and to the new H.D. Buttercup location across from Bestia—and marveled at the new shops opening in previously foresworn areas of the city, before heading back to our neighborhood for a drinks and dinner crawl.

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Date night

We started at Bar Stella and made our way through noodles at Pine & Crane, a lobster roll sandwich at Knuckle & Claw, before returning to Night + Market Song for (yet more) Thai food. There was a wait at Song so we were able to put in our name and sit down with the lobster while we waited for the call.

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The kids loved the beach so much, it was hard not to take them back there again the following day—despite the long drive. So after a stop at Gjelina’s take-away window for some excellent breakfast pizza and pastries, some donuts at Blue Star, and a quick walk down Abbot-Kinney, we made it onto the sand in Venice.

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Venice

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The water was pretty cold for swimming, but the sand would have entertained them for hours if we’d allowed.

Instead, after a couple of hours, we packed up and drove back through Culver City to stop at some shops in the Helm Bakery complex, stopping next at the Old Farmer’s Market and the Grove to check out the trolley and the fountains, before grabbing an early dinner in Chinatown.

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Pok Pok was the perfect cap to what had become a very Thai-heavy trip, and it was amazing. We were once again enthralled with the explosions of taste from the food. We even bought a bag of chili and kaffir lime peanuts for the drive back home, hoping to extend the pleasure.

My mouth waters just thinking about it. Los Angeles, we’ll be back!

Are you a fan of the city? What should be top on our list for next time? 

P.S. More LA content: A mapped Pinboard of LA favorites. Kate Miss’s 5 Things Guide to LA. Our three travelogues: Part one, part two, and the West Side. Visiting The Huntington Gardens. And driving to LA via the 101.

[And thank you again to Journy for help with our itinerary—that was awesome! Anyone can use the code hitherthither25 to get 25% one, if you’d like.]

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