Headed to California in the future? I traveled to Los Angeles recently for the holidays and found some great spots to add to your travel list. I explored 3 areas over the course of 3 days: Malibu, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. I used a combination of recommendations from locals, Instagrammers, and reviews I found via Google searches to determine where to go. Here’s my 72-hour La-La Land itinerary!
DAY 1 – MALIBU
I mapped out our day by planning activities up and down the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) in Malibu. This was Karl’s first trip to California, and I wanted him to experience the scenic mountain and beach views that made me fall in love with SoCal.
EAT: Geoffrey’s Malibu
I looked up reviews for several ocean-view restaurants and Geoffrey’s Malibu had a 4.6 rating on Open Table. I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint. We made reservations through the Open Table app for a 12:30 lunch.
*** My only regret is not scheduling it for 12:00, when it opened, because we may have gotten an even better table. It was surprisingly already pretty busy by the time we got there at 12:30. But hey, I can’t complain. Our view was still awesome!
What we ordered and loved:
If you visit any place near the ocean, you have to order seafood!
Karl got the Seafood Paella, which consisted of prawns, mussels, manila clams, scallops, pork chorizo, chicken, and saffron rice in a seafood broth. It was so good that when I showed him the video I edited of our trip, he started craving it again.
I ordered Geoffrey’s Crab Benedicts, because well, I have this thing for benedicts. When I see benedicts on a menu, I usually can’t resist ordering it. This dish consisted of a toasted croissant, lump crab cake, rosemary potatoes, fresh fruit, and hollandaise sauce.
Geoffrey’s Malibu Location: 27400 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
SEE: Malibu Pier
You can either pay to park in the lot by the pier or get lucky and score a street parking spot. If you’re scared of birds, just know that there will probably be a few flying around. I happen to like them, so they didn’t bother me at all. Malibu Pier is a very chill spot and we enjoyed walking around and taking in the views of the ocean.
Malibu Pier Location: 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, California 90265
EAT: Malibu Farm Pier Café
Located right on the pier is Malibu Farm Pier Café. It actually wasn’t even our intention to eat there. Before leaving for our next activity, Karl wanted a snack and I wanted something to drink, so in we walked, and we’re so glad we did! We both often try to eat fresh, organic food and this café delivers just that. The food they serve comes from a combination of small farmers, the Santa Monica farmers market, and the owner’s very own backyard farm. Helene, the woman who started the café, is very transparent on Malibu Farm’s website about where the food comes from.
What we ordered and loved:
I just wanted something to drink so I ordered one of their fresh squeezed organic juices (I chose watermelon). But then…Karl ordered something that caused me to do something I rarely do when I travel: come back again. He ordered a salted caramel ice cream sandwich, which sounded simple and innocent. We got it to-go and walked to the car to go off to our next destination. Karl sunk his teeth into it as we were driving and before I knew it, the car was coming to a screeching halt on the side of the road. His inner fat kid was suddenly doing somersaults and he couldn’t concentrate on driving and eating at the same time. So we sat there, parked on the side of the PCH until he could finish devouring his new favorite dessert in peace.
*** We wound up going back a SECOND time on our way to the airport a few days later. This time, we ordered breakfast and sat down by the ocean to eat. I am unashamed to say, we ended up ordering THREE salted caramel ice cream sandwiches that morning.
Malibu Farm Pier Café Location: 23000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265
DO: Hike Point Dume at Sunset
After Malibu Pier, we headed to Point Dume (read my full review about our hike: “Secret Malibu Gem Too Good Not to Share”). A kind stranger we randomly met on the side of the road recommended this little gem to us. Although my plan was to end our day at El Matador State Beach, we never made it because we were enjoying our hike so much at Point Dume. This hike is perfect for anyone looking for something that isn’t too strenuous. It doesn’t take very long to reach the top, and since it’s autumn/winter, it wasn’t crowded at all. Point Dume ended up being a wonderful place to watch the sun setting into the ocean.
Point Dume State Beach Location: Navigate to Westward Beach Road. Turn toward the ocean, go beyond the fee collection station to the very end of the road.
DAY 2 – SANTA MONICA
DO: Go Skating or Cycling Along the Beach
My sister and her children live in California, so I wanted to find a kid-friendly activity that would allow me to spend some time with my toddler niece and baby nephew. We found the perfect activity to make that happen in Santa Monica. We headed over to Perry’s Café and Rentals to rent some skates for us ladies and bikes for the fellas. Although my sister and I hadn’t skated in YEARS, we gave the wheels a spin and surprisingly nailed it without any clumsy mishaps. She skated with her baby stroller while her husband rode a bike with their toddler secured behind him. It was a great bonding activity for all of us.
Perry’s Café and Rentals Location: 2600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90405
SEE: Venice Beach
You can easily ride your wheels all the way to Venice Beach from Santa Monica beach. While there, check out all the iconic walls of graffiti and street art sprinkled throughout the area. Earlier this year, I flew to LA to do a photoshoot for Shop Childish and their clothing launch, where I photographed the cutest kids EVER posing in front of various Venice Beach street murals. For art lovers, and cool people in general, you’ll appreciate the Venice Beach scene.
DRINK: A Coconut from Perry’s Café
By the time we rolled back over to Perry’s Café and Rentals to return our skates and bicycles, needless to say, I was in need of something to quench my growing thirst. My eyes twinkled when I saw a coconut advertised on a sign by the café. Who doesn’t love drinking water right out of a coconut? After skating around, it was the perfect refreshment to go sit down on the beach with and enjoy. It can take awhile for food to come out, so I recommend getting a drink but not bothering with ordering food if you’re in a hurry.
SEE: Santa Monica Pier
While you’re at the beach, you might as well make your way over to Santa Monica Pier. You can’t miss it—just look for the pier’s looming nine-storey Ferris wheel and five-storey roller coaster. If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll go nuts over all the attractions at the pier’s amusement park, including an arcade with over 200 games. If you get hungry, there are 7 restaurants to pick from, with choices that range from fine seafood to classic American food. After the sun dips into the ocean and the sky turns black, the whole pier is beaming with bright lights for your enjoyment.
DAY 3 – WEST HOLLYWOOD
DO: Walk down Melrose Ave.
Whether you’re a shopaholic or just looking for a few rad places to take selfies, Melrose Avenue is the place for you. As fancy as some might imagine it to be, it really isn’t. It’s a diverse district that actually has something for everyone. It’s a crazy mix of quirky, mainstream, upscale, affordable, grungy, and glam. Make sense? It’s a place where you can spend your entire life savings on a pair of shoes or a couple bucks on a great find at the flea market (Melrose Trading Post). Or you could just be like me and not spend anything, but rather walk up and down the street admiring the eccentricity of the district.
EAT: The Roof on Wilshire
While Karl was driving, I Googled nearby rooftop restaurants with a good view, and The Roof on Wilshire popped up. The reviews seemed pretty good, so we decided to give it a try. We were happy to discover that this restaurant choice ended up being one of the most affordable throughout our whole trip. We loved the intimate atmosphere, the vibe was super chill, and the view of the Hollywood sign was exactly what we were looking for (although it was pretty far away). As the afternoon turned into evening, and it started to get chillier, they turned on the rooftop heaters, which only added to the romantic ambiance.
What we ordered and loved:
I ate their spicy Bowl of Goodness, which consisted of quinoa, broccoli, squash, sriracha, and hoisin. Karl made the mistake of ordering the Pancake Lasagna, which would have been fine for most people, but he seemed to miss the part on the menu that stated it had cheddar cheese (which he’s not a fan of). The restaurant was nice enough to let him change his order, so he settled on something he knew he’d like—a chicken club.
Location of The Roof on Wilshire: 6317 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048
DO: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
This place is so freakin’ cool! Even if you don’t want to enter the LA County Museum of Art or if you show up after it closes, you can still come here to see LACMA’s Urban Light sculpture; it embodies 202 restored street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s and serves as the museum’s famed entrance. If you can, get advanced tickets to their incredibly popular (and always sold out) Rain Room, an exhibit with rainfall that pauses whenever a human body is detected. It offers visitors the ability to essentially walk through rain without ever feeling a drop.
Location of LACMA: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036