If you had one day left in Los Angeles, fifty bucks, and a tank full of gas, what would you do?
I moved to L.A. in the early aughts, and each year I consider leaving due to downsizing, stagnation, or wanderlust. I always stay, but only after I plan my last day in town.
I try to use travel guides for inspiration, but they’re all aimed at tourists: Universal Studios, Rodeo Drive, Disneyland, and a laundry list that reads like random points on a map. Places I can't afford, and places I'd rather avoid even if I could afford them.
Instead, I'd go to the places where I lived, worked, and partied. The places that I will remember, even if I forget the names. If I had fifty bucks left, I'd stretch it to the last penny at the places I know and love:
Stroll past the historic theatres on Broadway and the loft buildings of Downtown's core, then juxtapose the grit with Bottega Louie’s elegant interior. The Bottega is both restaurant and gourmet market, and after an obligatory sample, try the mushroom and goat cheese frittata sandwich.
Wake up with an espresso and the clamor of voices bouncing off Bottega's high ceilings and marble floors, then grab a bistro table near the entry and people-watch out the glass walls.
Little Armenia / Griffith Park
For cheap produce outside their doorstep, locals go to Shirak Market. Low on glamour but high on value, this neighborhood market has any berries you want – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries – for two bucks.
Pick up an Armenian pastry at Taron Bakery, then head to the Griffith Park entrance at Fern Dell Drive. Past the sunbathers and nature museum, hike the sandy canyon to Griffith Park Observatory for your first goodbye kiss in L.A.
The view covers Downtown to the Hollywood sign and beyond, with Thai Town and Little Armenia in the foreground.
Berries $2: Shirak International Market, 5235 Hollywood Blvd. Pastry $2: Taron Bakery, 4970 Hollywood Blvd
To have an authentic L.A. experience, like it or not, you drive. And if you must drive, then drive the strip.
Take Hollywood Blvd west to Fairfax, and if you get distracted by the tour buses and Hollywood street performers along the way, channel it into a detour that sticks with you: James Dean's star at Hollywood & Vine.
In its heyday, the Rainbow was the ultimate celebrity-rocker hangout, with regulars like John Lennon, Led Zeppelin, and Guns n' Roses. Chow down on pizza in a red vinyl booth and channel your favorite band through their picture on the wall.
Small Pizza $8: Rainbow Bar & Grill, 9015 Sunset Blvd, rainbowbarandgrill.com
L.A. is a walking (or driving) contradiction, and nothing contradicts better than the Rainbow and Montana Avenue back to back.
Home of spas, exclusive boutiques, and crosswalks on every block, Montana Avenue’s two lanes creep between 7th and 17th streets and end at Santa Monica's north bluff.
Browse the shops on Montana, choose a tap from the wall of beers at Father’s Office before it gets too crowded, and meet your significant other at the bluffs.
With Pacific Coast Highway and the Santa Monica roller coaster at your feet, take in the view that never ends, from Malibu to Catalina Island to twenty miles south of LAX. Bring the rose, say what you feel, imprint the visual.
Start at Windward Circle and walk north through the sand, or start at the Marina Ritz and head west along the boats, but end at the Whaler’s beachfront patio on Washington Pier.
Before the night ends, walk the pier and listen to the waves, then ask yourself why you’d ever leave.
Shot $5, Taco $3: Venice Whaler Bar & Grill, 10 Washington Blvd, venicewhaler.com
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