In Your Own Backyard: Los Angeles

A list of things to do in Los Angeles' own backyard.
By: Eric Hiss

Most travelers feel a need to venture far from the comforts of their home to enjoy a vacation. But many US cities offer relatively low-cost attractions close to home. It can be as simple as a night out to a place you’ve always wanted to enjoy but never made time for, or a 1-day adventure on horseback. Here are some suggestions for things to do in Los Angeles’ own backyard.

Los Angeles residents don’t need to travel to the South Seas to enjoy a tropical island vibe. They just need to go to LA’s most iconic tiki bar, the venerable Tiki-Ti, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Located near Hollywood in the hip Silver Lake neighborhood, this legendary LA watering hole is no bigger than a suburban living room. And its staying power is legendary. Opened in 1961, Tiki-Ti has outlasted Don the Beachcomber, the Seven Seas, the original Trader Vic’s and other local tiki bars. Among the wickedly potent tropical drinks mixed here is the Ray’s Mistake, named after the bar’s founder, Ray Buhen. If you really want to celebrate the spirit of the place (and knock one back for Ray), stop by on a Wednesday night at 9p.m., when a toast is raised to his memory.
Stand up paddle surfing (SUP) is the fastest growing water sport in the world, and one of the best places to learn it is in the Los Angeles area, thanks to the city’s decades-long love affair with surf culture and easy access to miles of beaches. Take a lesson in the calm waters of Marina del Rey’s Mother’s Beach, where you can learn from the pros at the city’s only surf shop dedicated to the sport, Poseidon Stand Up Paddle Surfing shop. If you’re a beginner, the staff can teach you in calmer, protected areas or in big ocean rollers if you’re more advanced in the sport.
Many people struggle for years to make it to the top in LA, but all it takes is a phone call to gain access to the elevated platform of LA’s coolest rooftop bars. Taking in the city from a rooftop bar as the sun sets in the west turns the viewing experience into magic. LA takes on a hazy mellow glow that can seduce you into falling for the city, no matter how hard you resist. Two choices that are best bets, and which differ greatly in both vibe and locale, are Drai’s Hollywood,a bling-it-on Hollywood staple located on the rooftop level of the W Hotel Hollywood. The more discreet and chill scene takes place at Venice Beach’s Hotel Erwin, where their High Rooftop Lounge overlooks the famous Venice Beach boardwalk.
Most visitors (and even locals) don’t realize that the hills overlooking the city were the original location for filming many old Hollywood’s westerns. That history is still alive at the Sunset Ranch stables, in business since 1929 and located right under the Hollywood sign. The stables still serve as a location for film and television shoots, offer lessons and host special events, but they are best known for evening horseback rides. During the rides, you feel like you’re in a vintage western, and you’ll enjoy stellar nighttime views from the top of Mount Hollywood. The evenings finish off with a private BBQ featuring live entertainment at the stables.
How would you like a Monet with your seasonal mussels? One of LA’s coolest restaurants and dining experiences is the recently opened Ray’s and Stark Bar, located in a chic open space designed by architectural luminary Renzo Piano. Situated in the heart of the rambling grounds of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Ray’s and Stark Bar, with its striking geometries and hip crowd, makes even longtime residents feel as if they have been transported to a foreign capital. Take in a film at the museum’s Bing Theater. Or check out the latest exhibition, such as the Tim Burton retrospective, which has been a big hit. Then head to the al fresco bar for a premium mezcal cocktail before dining on chef Kris Morningstar’s Mediterranean-inspired cuisine.
Veteran travel writer and blogger Eric Hiss has done everything from quaff cobra-infused rice vodka in a Vietnamese village to arm wrestle a Bollywood star in the quest for a great story. Read his blog,
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