1. Angels Flight

To the top we go. #AngelsFlight #angelsflightrailway #losangeles #sharpen #instapic #lines #california

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Public transportation is a super sore subject in the City of Angels. The 405, the 605, the 10, the 110, the 101 — seriously don’t even get us started. But hidden in-between all those winding and weaving highway overpasses is an itty-bitty funicular railway near Bunker Hill.

For decades, it’s carried uber-lazy travelers from Hill to Olive Street — a total of 298 feet — for a mere half a buck. It is the world’s shortest railway, is over a 100 years old (built in 1901), and may just be the most time-efficient ride you’ll ever take in your life. Plus the iconic little orange-and-black cars save about 2 minutes of cumbersome stair climbing. They pair quite nicely with the massive skyscrapers, cheap eats, and Grand Performances you’ll find at the nearby California Plaza. Added bonuses? The MOCA and the Omni Hotel.

2. The San Gabriel Valley

If you’re craving Chinese in LA, forget Chinatown. This SoCal “ethnoburb” may be unknown to most, but really, it’s the ultimate ethnic enclave — and has been known as such since before I was born. This area is a whole lot cleaner too. (At least in some areas like San Marino and Arcadia.)

On any given day of the week, locals and tourists alike flock to this ‘hood for food, obviously, but Asian culture too. Valley Blvd. alone is filled with a sea of signs with complex Chinese characters, as well as specialty shops that are hard to find anyplace else. Dim Sum to your heart’s desire at Lunasia, or sip on boba bubbles while munching on fresh-out-of-the-oven egg tarts from Kee Wah Bakery. Red and gold line the busy streets in this hub of a Chinese town, especially during holidays like Chinese New Year and the Moon Festival — when you’ll find dangerously packed restaurants, incredibly crazy drivers, and no parking spaces whatsoever.

3. Old Town Pasadena

Even when it’s not New Year’s Day or the site of a rival Trojans vs. Bruins match, you’ll find packs of people crowded all along Colorado Blvd. Plus, those super friendly diagonal pedestrian “scrambles” make traveling on foot safer and a little more fun. Forget about walking in L.A. Do it here, there’s rad architecture, shopping, dining, arts, culture and of course, football.

4. Griffith Park

Iris and Ivan’s engagement session now on the blog! Link in profile | www.elmerescobar.com

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Some people call it the West Coast version of Central Park. But for us L.A. locals, it’s really just an all-around massive 4,000-plus acre space of untamed land. There’s hiking trails, bike paths, and merry-go-round rides, but also live gigs thanks to the Greek Theatre. And, there’s a barn full of mouse-shaped memorabilia courtesy of Walt Disney himself. This is also the best place to cuddle up and stargaze.

5. The Varnish Bar

Tucked discreetly away in the historic core of downtown L.A. is a speakeasy lounge that contains everything from a classically refined five-star-Depression-era atmosphere, to a full vintage-style bar, wood-paneled booths, soft candle lighting, not to mention immaculately handcrafted drinks and spirits made from the finest of well-chosen ingredients: think real juices, berries, and herbs. Cocktail culture definitely reaches new heights here.

6. The Original Farmers’ Market

Only on West 3rd and Fairfax will you find the one and only original farmers’ market. It’s a convenient option for fresh produce and it’s the go-to grocery and goodies store for us city Angels. It’s also one of the only outdoor markets that’s been feeding L.A. since 1934 with its rows and rows of cute little stalls peddling things like juicy pomegranates, old-fashioned ice creams, and fresh daily catches — courtesy of Gill’s and Tusquellas Seafoods, respectively.

Sample, buy, nab, grab, and savor, all while hopping around to some free summer music.

7. Exposition Park Rose Garden

Squad ❤️👌🏻 #familyfirst #cousins #losangeles #expositionpark

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Just outside the Coliseum, in the heart of a traffic-rigged concrete jungle, USC fans and foes have the pleasure of breathing in the scent of freshly-budded roses, as well as feeling the violent sting of smog-congested fumes against their skin. It may not be the breeziest of paradises, per se, but bad air quality aside, this one’s really a botanical haven that far too many Angelenos are (still) unaware of.

Think 200 varieties of roses and 200,000 bushes, a stunning water fountain, and just enough grassy space to have yourself some nice and natural photoshoot fun.

8. The Basement Tavern

Whiskey makes you frisky.💃🏻 #santamonica #barlife PC:@ladyyclarissa

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Hidden in the basement of the old Victorian and one of America’s No. 1 sellers of whiskey — need more be said? No one does it better than the Tavern.

9. A’Float Sushi

First time here… not bad… #AFloatSushi #Sushi #SushiTime #Pasadena #OldTownPasadena

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Sushi and little boats unite in this all-too-underrated Old Town Pasadena shop. Sure, it may be geographically hidden — all tucked away under a green-colored canopy near the corner of Colorado Blvd. and Fair Oaks — but it manages to serve up a ripe array of Japanese dishes that are prepped with the utmost of care, as well as a creative flair. From classic California and spicy tuna rolls to deep-fried popcorn lobster and a banana tempura dessert, it’s sushi heaven on earth.

10. Vineland Drive-In Theater

Just a hop, skip, and a jump from DTLA, in the City of Industry, this funky drive-in always has awesome throwback film showings to enjoy right from the comfort of your own plush leather seats. All seven days of the week. Shows start when the sun goes down, and for nine bucks, you can always catch a double-feature.

11. The Tea Room at the Huntington Library

Celebrating 6 months at the #HuntingtonLibraryTeaRoom. @deneenmelody

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Nobody’s too old for a tea party. The buffet-style array of savory finger sandwiches, gourmet cheeses, just-toasted scones, and fresh-from-the-pot teas are definitely too hard to resist here. There’s a 3-acre rose garden that’s just around the corner and some traditional Chinese and Japanese botanical gardens on site, so you can go for a walk after partying it up with your pinky finger.

12. The Last Bookstore

Here’s a different way of looking things! 👍📚 #Repost @28th__ ・・・ Library vibes w/ @assistedsilence

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Bookshop plus art show equals this cool L.A. baby. There’s an ample array of unique decorations and pleasing aesthetics hanging around, as well as an all-around chill-to-the-core vibe.

Get funky in the hole-filled science fiction stacks, or bring out your inner Sherlock while exploring a real-life crime-book-filled bank vault. There’s even a maze of paperbacks and hard-bounds to get lost in on floor number two. There’s also a quality bargain section where books and vinyl records can be dug for and discovered for under a buck. You can even sell or trade in used books, CDs and DVDs for something from the store.

13. It’s A Wrap Thrift Store

So where do old sets, costumes, and props go after they’ve had their 15 minutes of fame? Right here. It’s the only store of its kind anywhere, where you can peruse through and nab a whole bunch of gently-used but still nice and nifty movie studio hand-me-downs. Forget your sister’s frumpy old sweater. This is so much better.

14. Wacko Soap Plant

Wacko Soap Plant. Love this store. Awesome new find in Hollywood. Vintage collectables and toys, memorabilia, comics, books and an art gallery all in one. #wackos#wakosoapplant#memorabilia#vintage#collectables#art

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This Los Feliz shop opened modestly enough in 1971 as a small family-owned biz doling out soaps, leather, and pottery goods. A little later on, the FAM BAM made a move to Melrose Ave. and became known as “a pop culture toy shop with punk-rock attitude.” Now, it sits proudly on Hollywood Blvd. and houses everything from lava lamps to wacky knickknacks in more than 6,500-square feet of kitschy space. If you want cheese, check this place out, please. It’ll blow your mind. It truly is the “2nd happiest place on Earth.”

15. L.A. River Murals

What was once a hideous and horrendous San Fernando Valley ditch now shows off emblems of Cali’s diverse past. It really is something every Angeleno should mandatorily see, whether they’ve been a native since birth or are fresh-off-the-plane from LAX.

Celebrated Chicana artist Judy Baca described it as “a tattoo on the scar where the river once ran.” Enough said.

16. The Ivy

Everything’s better at The Ivy. Sure, there may be some way-overpriced food and all-too-displeasing floral prints (i.e. $22 buttermilk pancakes, $13 guacamole, $22 huevos rancheros, and $28 fried chicken, or shabby chic French Provincial-styled waiters in white getup and flower-adorned ties). But it really is a must-go-to-at-least-once spot on every willing Angeleno’s list — if not just for the likely celebrity spotting, or the chance to feel super classy and stylish for a whole two hours or so.

You’ll be sipping freshly squeezed OJ and nibbling on eggs benedict while seated among industry professionals and famous faces. You’ll witness (with your own two eyes) what a true paparazzi rush feels like — it really is just ‘like in the movies.’ Feel oh-so-Hollywood and ‘90210’ right in the thick of Robertson Boulevard. It’s totally worth the splurge at least once in a lifetime.

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