Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that my relationship with the City of Angels has been a slow burn. I was pretty unenthused when my dad first relocated there, finding the city to be spread out, stressful, grimy and quite frankly charmless upon my first visit.
Then I came back again. And again. And again. And again! (One “again” I still have to blog about, natch.) And each of those trips found me warming to the city a little more than the previous one. I started to find my favorite neighborhoods, enjoy the time in the car with the top down, and realize what an amazing networks of friends I have at my new West Coast HQ.
So for my sixth trip out to see my dad, I cashed in all my chips for a full two weeks stay in Koreatown.
To be honest, I wasn’t originally planning to stay a whole half a month. It had been a long summer, and I was eager to return to Asia. But then my sister announced she’d be in town the weekend after I intended to depart, and my dad suggested another week of family time. While I waffled a bit at first, I’m so glad I finally came to my senses. A week is a drop in the bucket when it comes to my normal routine back in Thailand, but a whole week alone with my dad and a few days with my sister sprinkled in? With the crazy lives we lead, that’s a seriously precious commodity.
And turned out, my calendar actually was quite full. Between getting my Thai visa, shopping up a storm before my return to the land of no Amazon Prime, curing the worst flu I’ve had in years, and catching up on work after a week offline for my cavern diving adventures, there’s no way I could have snuck away for all these adventures in half the time!
1. A Downtown Dip
After a few days of feeling like I was quite possibly going to die of the flu I contracted in Las Vegas and carried over to my dad’s house, I had another kind of illness: cabin fever. One evening, hopped up on ibuprofen and caffeine, I decided I was up for a short jaunt to downtown for a drink with my bartender friends Amy and Jordan at Jordan’s new bar at The Freehand Los Angeles followed by a showing of Casablanca at Rooftop Cinema Club with my friend Amanda.
Now I’m not kidding you when I say that I literally hit the Los Angeles lotto for this outing: both events were around the corner from each other. As in, on two sides of the same city block. To make it an even greater victory against the injustice that is driving and parking in Los Angeles, when I pulled up in front of The Freehand I was confused to find an ambiguous, unmarked parking spot wide open in front of the door. I pulled into it then headed over to valet, apologetically asking if they knew if it was a legal spot or not.
“They haven’t put in the new meter yet — you scored free parking!” they winked, as I marveled at my luck. It was great to have a short catch up with Amy and Jordan, recently relocated New York friends, and check out The Freehand rooftop, which I absolutely plan to return to for a swim and sun session someday in the future. These two always find the best places!
Popping over to meet Amanda, a Bangkok blogging friend who also recently moved to LA, we both marveled that as two travel addicts, we’d never seen Casablanca! To be honest, I often struggle to focus on old black-and-white movies but this one was a winner — I loved it and couldn’t believe how many classic lines I recognized. By September Los Angeles is quite chilly at night, so we snuggled into our seats with popcorn, headphones, and blankets.
I’m also now a major fan of Rooftop Cinema Club and look forward to checking out their Hollywood screenings on a future visit — I’ve actually been trying to go for a while now, but they sell out quick. One of my favorite things about LA has been finding somewhere that takes movie-going as seriously as I do. From the dog-friendly Street Food Cinema to the glamorous Rooftop Cinema Club to the plethora of vintage, neon-signed one screen theaters, I’m in love.
2. Downing Dodger Dogs
Weeks before my arrival, my dad warned me to clear my calendar: we were going to a Dodger’s game. Admittedly, I felt neutral about this turn of events. The last time I’d been to a baseball game was Father’s Day of 2013 in Philadelphia — you could say I’m not exactly an enormous sports fan.
That said, I loved it! While I must admit I haven’t seen many, Dodger Stadium is far and away the most charming place of sport I’ve laid eyes on. And yes, you can laugh at “place of sport.” Built in 1962, Dodger Stadium is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball west of the Mississippi River, and the third oldest overall, beat only by Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
One of my dad’s colleagues, a lifelong Angeleno, had treated us to right behind-the-dugout seats on his season tickets — such a treat! But on a mission to grab Dodger Dogs for the whole crew, I found myself tempted to seek out a higher view.
From the top floor, I could really absorb how enormous the stadium was — the largest in Major League Baseball by seat capacity. While it was the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset from, the real action was back down at our seats.
I had so much fun at the ‘ol ball game! I was super impressed with the food on offer (far beyond just hot dogs), giggled at the kiss cam (gets me every time), enjoyed chatting to my dad’s friends about life in Los Angeles (one of them surprised me with a Dodgers hat, so sweet!) and most of all, of course, just soaked up sitting next to my favorite guy (my dad, of course!)
Whether you’re a huge sports fan or just love classic design and Los Angeles nostalgia, a night at Dodger Stadium should be on your list.
3. Awards Night in Marina del Rey
Another big night for us was an award dinner in Marina del Rey, where my dad was honored by the Achievable Foundation on behalf of his healthcare company.
The Achievable Foundation is a non-profit organization that works to assist those with developmental disabilities in Los Angeles lead independent, healthy lives — the perfect match, I couldn’t help but think, for my dad, who has dedicated his life to bring quality health care to the most under-served populations in the US. I was super proud to hear his speech and thrilled to spend time with his colleagues who he adores and vice versa. My sincerest apologies to all of them for my dad forcing them to read my blog — he’s really keen on keeping that #1 fan title rolling.
Bonus! It was fun to watch a beautiful sunset in Marina del Rey, which was actually my very first, very brief taste of LA, several years before my dad moved there.
4. Back-to-Back Birthdays
What are the chances that two of my friends in LA — keep in mind I don’t have that many friends in LA — would have birthdays the same day?
I was super excited to cruise over to Hollywood for a day droning by the pool, eating donut cake, and drinking boozy slushies at my girl Lindsay’s house. Lindsay is another friend I met in Thailand who’s now back in her Los Angeles happy place, and has actually recently launched an exciting product I’m going to be sharing with y’all soon!
Later that evening, I swapped my bikini for high-heeled booties and met up with Amanda’s crew for 90’s night at The Lash in DTLA! First, we had a few drinks at her apartment, where I experienced apartment envy for the third time on this trip (every friend in this post has an incredible pad.) Seriously, when I think what’s considered a “spacious apartment” in New York versus the absolute gluttony of space enjoyed by those in Los Angeles, well, I understand urban sprawl.
Anyway, we danced until we were literally pouring sweat from every pore, our throats scratchy from singing along to songs that topped the charts when we were but babes. Bars and clubs in LA close strictly at 2am (I’m sure there are some after-hours places I’m not cool enough to know) which is super appealing when you’re trying to drag yourself out to a night you’re not sure you’re up for, and then a big thumbs down when you’re high on Barbie Girl by Aqua and don’t want to accept last call.
I’d definitely come back to The Lash — two rooms with different music styles playing, no cover, a great location downtown, an unpretentious door guys and bartenders. Win, win, win.
5. Bring Your Daughter to Work Day
Confession: I kind of love when my dad leaves for work on Monday morning, because it’s the first time our pup Tucker pays attention to me after a weekend of basking in his favorite human’s attention. Traitor! But on this particular Monday, we
taught Tucker a lesson about playing favorites left Tuck to guard the house while I joined my dad at work for the day. It was fun to blog the day away at his conference table and learn a little bit more about how his days go out of the corner of my eye.
We both signed off early for once in order to catch a post-work drink around the corner at Spire 73, America’s tallest open-air bar on the 73rd story of the InterContinental hotel in DTLA.
Getting to the bar required multiple elevators and escalators, but once we got there, the view was epic. On an early Monday evening, it was easy to score seats by the window and, on this exceptionally clear day, point out landmarks far in the distance. This was kind of the sweeping view I was craving when I did a rooftop bar crawl a few years prior and wasn’t overly impressed with the vistas.
While the view was incredible and the design bubbly and hip, the service was a bit slow and the menu wasn’t so appealing to my particular tastes. (Though I see they now have tableside s’mores on the menu?! Touché, Spire 73. Touché.) Still, for this view? I’ll take a glass of rosé and sip it slowly while I gaze out the window, thank you very much. My dad and his friend and colleague Noah also stuck to scotch, so we can’t comment on the cocktails.
It was a lovely after-work adventure — let our tour of the rooftop watering holes of Downtown LA continue!
6. Sweat Sessions at my Favorite Studios
With my exit from the US imminent and my access to weird and wonderful fitness classes closing waning, I started hitting my ClassPass membership hard. And I found some new favorite studios in the process that I can’t recommend more highly to my fellow fitness fiends heading to Los Angeles.
Much to my excitement, I found that Y7 Studio, my beloved New York addiction for hip hop hot yoga has a Hollywood location — and will soon be opening in Silverlake! I was surprised that I had to drive all the way to BootyWorks to find a POUND class in LA, but I loved it so much I drove to Sherman Oaks twice — also a good excuse to go to real grocery stores you can’t find in Koreatown — and if it was closer I’d go daily!
I also hit up a few classic BodyPump sessions at Gold’s Gym Hollywood, which was an absolutely hilarious scene straight out of a movie, tried out a new Buti Yoga teacher at Aeriform Arts, where I stressed over the lack of parking, and made it to a hip hop spin at YAS Silverlake — not my favorite class, but I’m pretty sure Kathryn Hahn was in it, which is just so very LA.
7. Bring Your Sister to Work Day
I was pretty thrilled when I heard that the work event that was bringing my sister to Los Angeles was a fundraiser at the super stunning Soho House West Hollywood, and my dad and could tag along. I was less thrilled when I remembered no cameras are allowed inside and so I wouldn’t be sharing the amazing views, fabulous decor and beautifully presented food but hey, you’ll just have to take my word for it. I loved seeing my sister back in action on another campaign!
We very rarely make our way over to West Hollywood — I pretty much have only ever been there to visit my friend Lindsay or go to yoga at Y7 — so we took advantage of being over in that direction to have dinner outside at Estrella with a perfectly cobbled together crew of family and friends; mostly human. Just don’t tell Tucker about this one, okay?
8. Family Time
As my time in Los Angeles wound down, so too did my desire to leave the house. With my sister Olivia in town and our almost-sister Ashlee coincidentally also in LA for work, the three of us spent as much quality time as we could kicking it by the pool.
My dad has poured a lot of love and energy into renovating his bungalow-style house, and we spend loads of time there as a result — hosting casual barbecues, having friends over for movie night, and generally fawning over Tucker and every adorable thing he does. (Tucker has a thing or two to say about that in an upcoming edition of Tucker’s Tales!) These might not be the most blog-able adventures, but they sure are memorable. I love this crew.
Here’s to another year learning to love the complicated, strangely addictive city of Los Angeles. I’m already looking forward to my return.
Okay LA fans, what should I add to my list for next trip?