LA in Three Days

This girl is no stranger to Los Angeles. Ever since my oldest brother moved there to pursue his music career (and succeed in it), I had spent many a spring break soaking up the sun on the West Coast. But over the past two or so years, I've had to skip out on the annual LA trip because, well, life got in the way. So while my parents took one for the team and continued to visit my brother each spring, I, sadly, missed out. 

Until this year. The annual Olia Family vacation took a dramatic turn, and we ended up heading West instead of to Europe, like we normally do. It makes things easier for my oldest brother, who has little time to take off of work, and makes it so that we can stay in the country (albeit a 6 hour flight away) for our vacation. Cue jetlag. 

And while I've been to LA countless times before (okay, I can actually probably count them after all), I find there's always something to new to see every time I touch down there. I might say that about every city I visit time after time, but it couldn't be more true in LA- and that's because it's always changing! At the forefront of the food, music, and arts scene, LA is a key player in trendsetting across the US. So no matter how many times you go, you'll always find something fresh to discover- Los Angeles definitely isn't stuck in the past. 

Even so, there are still plenty of landmarks to bring you back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. One of those landmarks? Well, it's actually the hotel that we stayed in. The Millennium Biltmore located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles oozes old Hollywood glam. From the gilded ceilings to the grandest of ballrooms- they don't make hotels quite like this anymore. But that doesn't mean that you're not without the modern amenities here; there's the stunning indoor pool likened to a Roman bath and updated rooms that are the definition of of comfort. We were lucky enough to be offered club lounge access at the Biltmore, which meant that we were treated to drinks and appetizers every evening.   

After relaxing at the hotel for a few hours, our first night was spent taking in the wonders of the Magic Castle. Never heard of the Magic Castle before? Well, that's because it's a members-only magic club. Luckily, my mom was able to pull a few strings and we were able to gain entry for dinner and a show. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take any photos while there, but trust me when I say that we had a fantastic dinner in a posh setting, followed by some unfathomable magic tricks. If you ever get the chance to go to the Magic Castle, remember to dress up!

Our first full day in the city of Angels was spent at none other than Universal Studios, Hollywood. We always claim that we're not a "theme park" family. But the second we get on a ride that attitude has done a complete 180. What I love about Universal is that while it doesn't quite have the same level (or amount) of rides that Disney has, it's a lot less overwhelming, and you can easily fit all the rides into one day! From the classic Jurassic Park boat ride to the adventure bus tour, there's something for everyone. But the highlight of the park? Harry Potter World! We're not huge Potterheads in my family (although us kids have pretty much read all the books and seen all the movies), but this part of the Park definitely had the best ride. We all agreed that the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Ride took the cake.

For our second night's dinner, we went somewhere that was more to my dad's tastes. Since my dad is from Iran, and LA arguably has some of the best Iranian food in the country, there was no question that we'd be going out for Iranian food. We met some of our oldest family-friends at Raffi's, and totally over-ordered. I must warn you if you've never had Iranian food before: the portions are huge. My mom and I split a plate of steak kabob and we couldn't even finish.

Modern art is a must in LA. Their galleries are phenomenal, rivaling that of  even New York City. LA's newest hot spot for art lovers is The Broad. A free art gallery open to the public, The Broad is about as hard to get into as a celebrity-ridden restaurant. You can try your luck with booking tickets in advance, but that's hard enough as it is. And the general admission line? Well, that stretches for blocks. I told you this place wasn't messing around. Thank god for my travel-writer mom, though, who was able to get us a press pass, meaning we could jump the line. Still, I think it's well worth it to wait- this gallery is really that good!

From surreal paintings from lesser-known artists to recognizable sculptures by household names, The Broad packs a lot into a small space. I'm not the most well-versed in art (I did struggle through one year of History of Art though), but I felt really comfortable in this gallery. It was also incredibly interactive, with people engaging with the art in so many different ways.

A must see for the next month? Yayoi Kusama's infinity mirrored room. This is a one in, one out situation, so you'll have to wait in line for a bit. But once you're in, you'll step out onto a platform by yourself, in sheer silence, taking in this cosmic view. It was breathtaking. I think the picture speaks for itself.  

After our visit to The Broad, we headed back closer to our hotel where we grabbed lunch at the Grand Central Market. My love affair with food markets continues here, where you can get the best burger ever from Belcampo, an indulgent egg sandwich from Eggslut, or really anything your heart desires. For me, that was a fresh salad from Prawn. With loads of fermented and pickled vegetables piled high on a bed of crunchy cabbage, and paired with spicy shrimp, this was the perfect light, but filling lunch. I also had a refreshing Korean Moscow Mule, and a side of the best fries/chips I've ever tasted. I wish I had saved room for dessert, but unfortunately I just couldn't muster up the hunger. 

Our final "night out" was spent enjoying the music of Herbie Hancock and Kamasi Washington at the Hollywood Bowl. My brothers and I all took a jazz class in high school, so we're pretty familiar with Herbie Hancock, and we were excited to see him live! We brought a picnic dinner from Pitchoun, a few bottles of wine, and an extra sweater for the chill of the night. It was pretty incredible to be around so much energy- both in terms of the musicians and the crowd. If you ever get the chance to go to the Hollywood Bowl (to see anyone perform), I'd highly recommend it!

On our final morning in LA we packed up our things and headed on the road to Santa Barbara. Not without a quick stop at In-n-Out of course! Located all throughout California (and the West Coast in general), In-n-Out is one of the best spots for quick, cheap, quality food. I totally wish we had In-n-Out on the East coast! I hate to say it, but Shake Shack doesn't quite compare when it comes to the burgers... I mean, just look at 'em!

And while the next part of our trip brought us to Santa Barbara (which I'll be writing about next week), I thought I'd add in a little bonus spot in the greater LA area that is a must if you're ever in Santa Monica! We first heard about Huckleberry while watching a PBS show we had DVR-ed (do I sound old or what?) And it totally lives up to the hype! They have such a wide-ranging menu, from huevos rancheros (my personal favorite) to a farmers breakfast to quinoa bowls. And that's not even including the baked goods! Pictured below is (half) a cookies and cream donut. Pure. Heaven.

Next week, I'll be back (hopefully on time... it's such a hectic time of year!) to recap my trip to Santa Barbara. Think: beaches, wine, history, and more wine.

In the meantime, I'll be savoring these last bits of sunshine before I head back to cloudy Scotland!

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