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Los Angeles

Must sees + bar & restaurant ideas for first timers in LA?

I will be visiting Los Angeles the first time with a group of 14 of us (ages 22 to 55).   We only have 5 days, so what's a must see?   And any suggestions on roof top bars/lounges?  Restaurants?   Thank you.

11 Answers

top answer by
Amy from Tucker

I've been to L.A. I think 10 times, so I have many places to recommend.  Another restaurant that has been around since the 40's in Burbank is Smoke House Restaurant, the servers have been there forever, there is half priced happy hour food and drink, and you have to have the grilled artichoke.... sooooo good. 

If you want a little more throwback, Barney's Beaneryis where Jim Morrison used to hang out.  I heard the best karaoke singers ever there.  

Venice Beachused to be cool, but the vibe has changed, so I would stay Santa Monica Beach along with looking around Third Street Promenade, since there is a lot going on there.  I agree to check out Bar Marmontand Formosa Cafewhere many stars used to hang out including Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis.

I would also hike Hollywood Sign, great views and good little workout.  If you want cheap shopping It's A Wrap! Westside, where you will find inexpensive clothes from movies and tv shows.  I could go on, but I think those are my faves that I can remember.  Driving around is not hard, esp with gps and I did it by myself last time.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Smoke House Restaurant (attraction)
  2. Barney's Beanery (restaurant)
  3. Venice Beach (attraction)
  4. Santa Monica Beach (attraction)
  5. Bar Marmont (attraction)
  6. Formosa Cafe (restaurant)
  7. Hollywood Sign (attraction)
  8. It's A Wrap! Westside (attraction)
  9. Third Street Promenade (attraction)
8 thankscomments (5)

answered by
Courtney from Los Angeles

If you're up for an adventure, I would try the The Dresden Room. Almost untouched since the 60s it's a piano bar/restaurant that features a super-campy husband and wife singing team called Marty & Elayne (see below) who are sort of local legends. Last weekend I took a musician friend there who is from New York and he absolutely loved it. I'm also a huge fan of Bar Marmont at the Chateau Marmont. It's a fabulous people-watching place and actually has a pretty normal vibe for being such a hip place. Also, you can make reservations for the bar so you can skip the enormous line outside. 
The Good Luck Bar is another favorite of mine and is a pretty easy place to go with a lot of people. My only complaint about it is that it's exceptionally dark. Great drinks, though and a lot of fun. My all-time most favorite place in L.A. is the Hollywood Bowl and the reason I'm mentioning it here is because in addition to being a fabulous concert venue (with some very cheap seats and great performers) there's a fabulous bar there (not cheap, but great) as well as a lot of dining options. You can also bring your own picnic as well and it's the perfect place for a large group. Most people arrive at the bowl at least an hour or so before the show starts so they can grab tables (otherwise you kind of have to find a patch of grass somewhere which isn't always easy) so plan to leave early. Also, parking there is a nightmare so ask your hotel concierge how to take the shuttle there--it's very, very easy. This isn't my thing, but if you really want to try an L.A. institution, check out Roscoe's House Of Chicken & Waffles. Yes, chicken and waffles. There are looooong lines, though, so be prepared! You might want to try Yamashiro which is a sushi restaurant with amazing views of the city and is a very easy place to take a group (in fact, I think I've only been there with groups). The sushi here is good, not spectacular, but the bar is phenomenal and the view is beyond good. Personally, I would come here for a drink and then go to dinner somewhere else.Another of my favorite places to go with a big group is the Farmers Market. Even though they've built a mall next door, they've kept the market in tact (it's been there since the 30s) and has just about every kind of food stand/restaurant you can imagine so everyone can have what they want. The food here is also pretty inexpensive which is nice. Just keep in mind that it's essentially an outdoor market so it can get a bit hot. I would also check out the Red Lion Tavern which is a funny little beer garden you would never even know is there if someone didn't tell you. It's a sentimental favorite in the area and a perfect place to take a big group. Great cheap German comfort food--try the fried pickles (or the weiner in pea soup shown below). 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Dresden Room (attraction)
  2. Bar Marmont at the Chateau Marmont (attraction)
  3. Good Luck Bar (attraction)
  4. Hollywood Bowl (attraction)
  5. Roscoe's House Of Chicken & Waffles (restaurant)
  6. Yamashiro (restaurant)
  7. Farmers Market (attraction)
  8. Red Lion Tavern (restaurant)
7 thankscomments (3)

answered by
JR from Manhattan Beach

Since it's your first time here, I think you should take in a classic. Skybar at the Mondrian Hotel. The scene is very sunset strip, views are great, and now that it's not the hottest place in town, you can probably just walk in relax and have a drink. I really liked the restaurant they had there, Asia de Cuba (even took my grandparents once and they loved it!) but it's closed now and apparently the new place it called Herringbone Los Angeles which i'm sure would be nice for an early bite, then grab a drink after at skybar. Would be a fun night for the wide age range you're rocking.  

If you're looking for celeb sightings, i always recommend Madeo Restaurant on a fri/sat night. High likelihood you're be dining next to Al Pacino or the like. But a party of 14 could be trouble there. 

I second the Hotel Erwin if you're making to the beach, and the Standard hotels are easy too. If you make it downtown LA you can get a big party in at Bottega Louie for breakfast/lunch/dinner and it's beautiful space. 

Have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Skybar (attraction)
  2. Mondrian Hotel (hotel)
  3. Herringbone Los Angeles (restaurant)
  4. Madeo Restaurant (restaurant)
  5. Hotel Erwin (hotel)
  6. Bottega Louie (restaurant)
6 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Jillian from Los Angeles


Do brunch in Venice at Axe. Sit outside in the back and order the best pancake you'll ever have (only served on Saturdays and Sundays).

(update: Axe is now closed - I know, bummer, but I have another place that recently opened- go to Gjusta Bakery - it is AMAZING.)


Do early afternoon cocktails and appetizers at Perch. Saturdays are the best as the "California Feet Warmers" play until 3pm. Yes, that is a washboard!

Grand Central Market has a variety of tasty order and eat options for the group. My favorite--the sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich from Eggslut. There is usually a line, but I mean it's worth it. Be prepared to wait a little.Last, but not least, Bar Ama. Make reservations ahead of time and order off the menu puffy tacos!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Axe (restaurant)
  2. Gjusta Bakery (restaurant)
  3. Perch (restaurant)
  4. Grand Central Market (restaurant)
  5. Eggslut (restaurant)
  6. Bar Ama (attraction)
6 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Jacqueline from Los Angeles

For the fine dining experience, definitely worth it to check out Fig & Olive, The BazaarNobu Malibu in the evening.

For the sit-down and trendy - try ForageGjelina, Tar and Roses,  BestiaConnie and Ted's Seafood.

Brunch - The Roof On Wilshire (it's a rooftop, you can do your lounging laying out rooftop thing). Oh and Sqirl Kitchen in Silverlake.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Fig & Olive (restaurant)
  2. The Bazaar (restaurant)
  3. Nobu Malibu (restaurant)
  4. Forage (restaurant)
  5. Gjelina (restaurant)
  6. Bestia (restaurant)
  7. Connie and Ted's Seafood (restaurant)
  8. The Roof On Wilshire (restaurant)
  9. Sqirl Kitchen (restaurant)
  10. Tar and Roses (restaurant)
6 thankscomments (5)

answered by
Breanna from Los Angeles

Hey Joanne! Must sees definitely include hiking at Beachwood Canyon to the Hollywood Sign and seeing a movie in the park (look up Eat|See|Hear for locations). Best rooftop bar/lounges include Perch and the Ace Hotel Los Angeles downtown, and The London West Hollywood Hotel and The Standard, Hollywood. I also personally really like The Hotel Wilshire for sunset lounging. Other restaurants/things to check out are the Sprinkles ATM/Ice Cream in Beverly Hills, East Borough Fraîche Vietnamese restaurant in Culver City and Palms Thai Restaurant in Hollywood (there's a Thai Elvis impersonator, and it's the best Thai food in LA). Hope that helps! Enjoy :) 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Beachwood Canyon (attraction)
  2. Hollywood Sign (attraction)
  3. Perch (restaurant)
  4. Ace Hotel Los Angeles (hotel)
  5. The London West Hollywood Hotel (hotel)
  6. The Standard, Hollywood (hotel)
  7. The Hotel Wilshire (hotel)
  8. Sprinkles (restaurant)
  9. East Borough Fraîche Vietnamese (attraction)
  10. Palms Thai Restaurant (restaurant)
6 thankscomments (2)

answered first by
Stephen from Venice Beach

A lot depends on where you're staying and how mobile you are. For rooftop bars, there's The Standard Downtown LA and The Standard, Hollywood; and the Hotel Erwin on Venice Beach. If you're going to Disneyland, there's Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge in CA Adventure. Also in Hollywood, try Yamashiro for great food, atmosphere and views.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Standard Downtown LA (hotel)
  2. The Standard, Hollywood (hotel)
  3. Hotel Erwin (hotel)
  4. Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge (restaurant)
  5. Yamashiro (restaurant)
  6. Disneyland (attraction)
6 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Larry from Los Angeles

Perch and Ace Hotel Los Angeles best roof top bar in downtown right. The Penthouse has a great atmosphere and will accommodate a wide age range. Hotel Shangri La Rooftop Bar is close to that also. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Perch (restaurant)
  2. Ace Hotel Los Angeles (hotel)
  3. The Penthouse (restaurant)
  4. Hotel Shangri La Rooftop Bar (attraction)
5 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Megan from Los Angeles

I would definitely second JR's suggestion of Bottega Louie. I just went there the other night and it was very good! I split one of their pizzas with a friend. We were both really hungry and I couldn't finish my half. But, I did save enough room for one of their lemon macaroons! Yum! 

And Courtney's suggestion of Farmers Market is a great place for a big group especially if you are all wanting different things and can't come to one unanimous decision.

If you are on the westside at all I would definitely suggest C&O Trattoria in Venice. It is right down by the beach. I love going there at night because it is light up so cute. They have amazing endless garlic knots and you can choose your own dishes or also do family style which is a nice and cheap option for a big group. 

Also on the Westside for brunch I would suggest 26 Beach Cafe. I went there with a big group and it is best to pair up with someone and have one person order a savory breakfast option and the other order a sweet. I split the Peach Croissant French Toast and one of their Mexican Egg dishes with a friend. Both were so amazing. The sweet is just too much to eat by yourself though. They also have amazing Recess French Toast! 26 Beach is located in Marina del Rey but close to Santa Monica. I would suggest fueling up here before hitting the Santa Monica Pier/ 3rd Street Promenade

Wurstküche is a fun late night spot. They have great German sausages and German styled Fries. Definitely try the chipotle aioli dipping sauce for the fries. They have many craft beers and has such a cool atmosphere at night. You order at the counter up front and then they have large picnic style type seating in the back with lots of mood lighting and good music. 

Malibu Cafe Is kind of a far drive from the city but if you happen to be up that direction definitely check this place out. Set back in a wooded, nature type setting is Malibu Cafe. Very much a family, southern styled type place. They have all kinds of games and activities scattered around the yard, ping pong, pool tables, corn hole and others. They have great seating for large groups and a large bar. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bottega Louie (restaurant)
  2. Farmers Market (attraction)
  3. C&O Trattoria (restaurant)
  4. 26 Beach Cafe (restaurant)
  5. Santa Monica Pier/ 3rd Street Promenade (attraction)
  6. Wurstküche (restaurant)
  7. Malibu Cafe (attraction)
5 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Valerie from Los Angeles

Check out Louie's of Mar Vista and get ready to indulge. It's the best of both worlds regarding a restaurant and bar. The drinks are superb and the food is to DIE for. I recommend getting everything on the menu. They even have an adorable outside patio that is perfect for your big group. The staff/owners are awesome, they provide a fun and lively atmosphere that I think you will all enjoy. 

Make sure to leave room for dessert (always), I can eat their bread pudding for the rest of my life and die happy. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Louie's of Mar Vista (restaurant)
1 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Emi from San Francisco

Fun! Hike the Hollywood Sign, it's amazing! Also eat cookie ice cream sandwiches at Diddy Riese, go down to Laguna Beach / Newport Beach, and eat at Lemonade for sure! You can see a few more tips here!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Hollywood Sign (attraction)
  2. Diddy Riese (restaurant)
  3. Laguna Beach (city)
  4. Newport Beach (city)
  5. Lemonade (restaurant)

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