Published: March, 2018
Book this trip

LOS ANGELES – THE WEST SIDE

Cali or bust!
— Cinda Boomershine
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, Beach, City
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: 3 days minimum

to & from

Fly into LAX and uber from there. Even if you do have a car, it is often cheaper to uber from place to place than pay for parking.

  • Shutters — it is right on the beach so you can’t beat the location.
  • Palihouse Santa Monica -- lots of different room size options and is located in more of a neighborhood area. This is a great options for families and for extended stays.
  • Viceroy -- cool vibe and super close to the beach (without paying a beachside premium)

Where to Eat and Drink

  • Brentwood Country Mart — Go for a casual lunch in the center food court area. We love Fridas Tacos and the salads at Barney’s Burgers. There also happens to be some great shopping there too (and good people watching if you catch my drift :)).
  • Gjelina -- Make reservations well in advance. It is so good it is always packed.
  • Sugar Fish in Brentwood -- This is our favorite sushi. Trust me, just order the Trust Me.
  • Cafe Vida in the Pacific Palisades -- This is our favorite locals spot for fresh California food.

What to Do

  • Be a tourist! We always love visiting the Santa Monica Pier. Take a spin or two on the ferris wheel and soak up the energy and fun of this iconic spot at the very end of Route 66.
  • Go shopping! Abbot Kinney is our favorite shopping spot and has been dubbed the "coolest block in America"
  • Take a hike! One of the unique parts of LA is that even though you are in a big city, you can still take an amazing hike in nature. Temescal Canyon Loop is one of our favorites, but there are so many other good ones too.
  • Hit the beach! Sure you can relax on the sand & play in the surf, but our favorite thing to do is rent a bike at one of the beach side stands and pedal from the Palisades to Venice. You could also pick up a Bird scooter and motor instead of pedal.

inside scoop

  • The farmers market here are amazing! There are so many fruits and veggies here that you don’t find elsewhere and lots of the vendors offer samples to try. We love the one in Santa Monica on Wednesdays and also the one in Pacific Palisades on Sundays.
  • If you do have a car and drive yourself, make sure to take your parking tickets inside with you when you get out of the car. Most stores & restaurants will validate for free or discounted parking.

skip it

Anything inside. The weather here is amazing year round, so skip the indoor activities and play outside.

What to Pack

LOS ANGELES – THE WEST SIDE - Suggestions from the Oliver Community

  • Sabrina Eliasoph Says

    Felix- in Venice, it’s incredibly delicious pastas and cocktails

    Capo- in Santa Monica, old-world charm, packed to the gills with fun people-watching (including occasional celebs) and yummy Italian

  • Caroline Kesmodel Says

    The Rose in Venice- A fantastic spot to sit outside for brunch and bloodies. Two patios, a bar, and bakery serving California fare.
    Caught a great celebrity sighting, too!

To add a suggestion login or join

Published: May, 2018
Book this trip

Newport Beach, Los Angeles, California

If you liked watching The OC in the 90s, you will love Newport Beach.
— Beth Scheer
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Adult, Family, Group getaway, Beach
  • Activity level: easy
  • Ideal length of trip: Weekend, week, or month in summer

to & from

Direct flights to Orange County (SNA) or Long Beach Airport (LBC). Orange County airport is a 10 minute drive to Newport and Long Beach is about 20 minutes (if no traffic). Newport is about an hour drive from Los Angeles depending on traffic.

  • Highly recommend renting a car.
  • Use Uber or Lyft at night. Very easy and reliable for restaurant/bar hopping.

Where to Stay

If you want to rent a house on or near the beach, I would recommend Balboa Island or Peninsula Point. VRBO and AirBNB will be your best options. I recommend renting bikes (see info below) for getting around during the day.

Where to Eat and Drink

Breakfast/Lunch:

Dinner:

  • The Crab Cooker: No reservations. If you like seafood, you must go here. Super casual. Prepare to wait.
  • Mozza: Great Italian. Right across the street from Balboa Bay Club.
  • A Restaurant. If you want a bar scene and a fun restaurant with great people watching, go here.
  • El Cholo: Fun and casual Mexican. Great with kids.
  • Olea: Wine Country inspired cuisine.
  • Nobu. Located in Lido Marina Village. If you can’t get a reservation try the bar.

What to Do

Newport has a low key surfer vibe but you can also find a plethora of high end restaurants and fantastic shopping.

  • Shopping: Lido Marina Village - great stores included Elyse Walker, Clare V, Warby Parker, Jenni Kane, Cynthia Rowley, etc.
  • Shopping: Amarees is not to miss. This store sits on the water and carries incredible brands. The staff is beyond friendly and you can bring your dog.
  • Shopping: Fashion Island. This lovely outdoor mall has big stores (Neiman's and Bloomingdales) and great restaurants (TrueFood, Sushi Roku, R+D Kitchen).
  • Kayaking/SUP: Newport Aquatic Center
  • Bike Rentals: Beach and Bikes. Beach traffic is bad in summer and on weekends so bike vs. drive when you can.
  • Surfing: Endless Surf, Newport Beach Surfing Lessons

inside scoop

  • If you have kids 10 and under, the Balboa Fun Zone is an institution and a good way to spend an hour or 2. There is a ferris wheel, arcade games (they have the same ones since I played on in the 70s), etc.
  • If you want to take a drive down to Laguna and check out the scene there, stop at the Crystal Cove “Shake Shack.” 7703 California 1, Crystal Cove.

skip it

  • The ocean beach boardwalk from 32nd street down is fairly seedy and touristy. Bars open at 6am and the scene can be sketchy at times.
  • Hotel beaches and beaches by the bay versus the ocean may be better for families, girls trips and couples.

What to Pack

more...

Beach traffic is bad in the summer… especially on weekends. Bike when possible.

To add a suggestion login or join

Published: December, 2017
Book this trip

Malibu, Los Angeles, California (Courtney Leary)

We loved the proximity of both the mountains and the ocean— both are RIGHT THERE!
— Courtney Leary
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Adult, Beach
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: 2 NIGHTS, 3 DAYS

to & from

Fly into LAX… UBER. UBER. UBER.

Where to Stay

Malibu Beach Inn: A majorly updated old hotel, the only one in the area that is actually on the water (waves crashing outside your window. Lounge chairs on the beach, towels, drinks and food for guests. Rooms are nice but not particularly spacious, service is good but not at the level you would expect for the price.  You pay for prime oceanfront property and the lack of other options in the area.

Where to Eat and Drink

  • Lunch with rose on the deck at The Carbon Beach Club Restaurant at the hotel is a great way to get into vacation mode.
  • Walking two blocks to dinner at Nobu Malibu is a must. Make reservations well in advance and ask for a table outside on the covered deck (but be warned you may not get it.)
  • Walk in the other direction for brunch or lunch at Malibu Farm where the menu is made up of fresh organic ingredients…. Think everything from turmeric shots to great salads to skirt steak…. all served with a view of the water. (Pick up their cookbook while you are here and bring it home as a thank you gift to your babysitter.)
  • A little further north at the Malibu Country Mart is Café Habana where we settled in for a very casual Cuban (though seemingly Mexican) meal with the best cucumber jalapeno margaritas we’ve ever had.
  • For a dose of healthy any time of day, stop by Sunlife Organics in the Country Mart….acai bowls, smoothies, turmeric shots and everything to make your insides glow. We went twice in two days.

What to Do

  • A long morning hike in Solstice Canyon makes a nap on the beach later on feel well deserved. There are endless trails (with views) nearby and luckily most receive cell reception in case you need to figure out where you are—like we did.
  • Catching a Soul Cycle class at the Country Mart is also a great way to break a sweat.
  • Run on the beach, an ocean swim or the morning yoga offered through the hotel. All the exercise options make sleeping in really hard.
  • Shop! The Country Mart is made up of many great upscale shops, allow a few hours if you plan to hit them all. The shops close early so don’t expect to shop after dinner. And be sure relax on the beach.

inside scoop

The hotel offers massages and facials through their “spa”. We had massages that were great but their spa is actually a converted hotel room leaving much to be desired as far as a spa experience is concerned. If we were to go back, I would look into other spa options– in LA there are sure to be a few around!

more...

For a local (yes local!) guide of Malibu check out another Courtney’s guide here!

To add a suggestion login or join

Published: December, 2017
Book this trip

Malibu, Los Angeles, California (Courtney Murphy)

Lounge on the beach, swim or hike to the top of Point Dume and look for whales!
— Courtney Murphy
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, Group getaway, Beach
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: A WEEKEND OR EVEN BETTER -1 WEEK

to & from

SFO- Virgin. However, if you live in Marin flying To/From Oakland is rarely ever delayed!

Where to Stay

If I’m not staying at my mom’s, VRBO this house. or Malibu Beach Inn. Also our friend’s newly refurbished spot called The Native Hotel is close to Zuma Beach and Point Dume.

Where to Eat and Drink

What to Do

  • Go whale watching perched at the top of Point Dume's picturesque lookout spot. Spot sea lions and watch for the whales to surface or spray.
  • Surf lessons or Surf camp!
  • Hike: La Jolla Canyon
  • Beach: Westward or Zuma

inside scoop

Best beach day: head to Point Dume early and park in the Westward Beach Parking lot. From their you can lounge on the beach, swim or hike to the top of Point Dume and look for whales! In March and April the Mamas and babies are making their migration back from Mexico up to Alaska. Hike down the staircase and check out the tide pools at Big Dume. If you spend a week in the summer the best day camp is the Malibu Makos where the kids safely learn to surf at Zuma Beach. The Malibu Makos also offer private individual and family lessons.

skip it

Don’t go to Nobu on a Friday or Saturday. Yes the food is amazing but the tourist factor is high.

more...

Check out OG co-founder Courtney Leary’s Malibu couples getaway guide here!

To add a suggestion login or join

Published: December, 2017
Book this trip

Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California

So much to do and so little time... a weekend was not enough for our family in Santa Monica but we enjoyed every minute.
— Courtney Leary
  • More about your oliver guide:
  • Trip type: Family, Beach, City
  • Activity level: moderate
  • Ideal length of trip: 5 NIGHTS... WE WERE ONLY THERE 2.

to & from

  • Fly into LAX, Burbank (our favorite because it is SMALL and easy but further from Santa Monica than LAX) or drive.
  • A car is only necessary if you plan to leave Santa Monica. There is plenty to do in the area and Ubers are easy but we wanted to go to Universal and an LA Galaxy game which made a car necessary.

Where to Stay

  • Loews Santa Monica was our home away from home for two nights. It is a mega hotel ON THE BEACH and perfect for families. We opted for a suite instead of two rooms as it was less expensive. Service was great and amenities endless- spa, pool, workout room, multiple restaurant options... We loved that they had towels for the beach by the door and the pool was open until midnight so we could retire to the hot tub after dinner.
  • We did not have a chance to check it out but a friend recommended Oceana Beach Club Hotel-- she raved about the service and the bikes that were available to guests and ready to go at one's request!
  • Other options right on the beach, but may not be as kid-friendly are Shutters and Casa del Mar.

Where to Eat and Drink

  • Blue Plate Taco-- great place for dinner, across the street from the beaches very casual and kid-friendly fun- bustling scene of tourists and non. Great margs.
  • M Street Kitchen-- cool restaurant with good LA vibe, everything and anything on the menu done right, gluten free options, friendly staff. Make a reservation if you want to avoid waiting... and cafe options are great if you want to squeeze onto little table and skip restaurant experience.This spot is inland a couple of blocks, no views but fun none the less.
  • Perrys-- multiple spots on the beach but the one a couple of blocks towards Venice was where we stopped for lunch. Order from the counter and sit and wait at a table watching the volleyball players across the way with your feet in the sand. Everything from pizza to healthy bowls to salads. The closest thing to a beach club without membership.
  • Urth-- was dying to try this hip healthy spot but never got the chance...
  • Drinks at the Viceroy-- didn't do it this time but if you can sneak out without the kids this is a fun spot to check out the hipsters...
  • Hot Dog on a Stick- old school joint at the end of the Santa Monica pier known for their lemonade as much as their hotdogs. We opted to skip the dog and go for the drink and it was delicious.

What to Do

  • Bike to Venice Beach: Venice is just a couple miles down the bike path and is full of entertainment.... artists, musicians and performers line the main path along with a lot of vendors selling souvenirs. There is a skate boarding ramp packed with amazing skaters that will impress anyone and everyone and the famous muscle beach where very big men lift very big weights. There are bike rentals all over, one located on the beach just below Loews (where you can charge rentals to your room) and on the side streets leading down to the beach there are vans parked with bikes for rent as well, usually a little less expensive for nicer bikes. We wished we would have packed a bike lock so that we could have locked our bikes up while we perused.
  • Play on the Santa Monica Pier: This is a mini amusement park with rides, games and fair food. Go early -- it fills up-- but in the morning you can ride the roller coaster over and over with no line.
  • Beach it (and boogie board): The beach is huge and the water is relatively warm in the summer. Boogie boards can be rented at many places along the beach... including the bike shop just below Loews.
  • LA Galaxy Game: The LA Galaxy play at the StubHub center which is about 45min to an hour from Santa Monica depending on traffic.... but for our first pro-soccer event the drive was well worth it. The fans are true and there are plenty of food and beer options for everyone.
  • Universal Studios...and Harry Potter: About 45 minutes to an hour from Santa Monica, this was what brought us to LA in the first place... fulfilling the summer dreams of our children. We spent NINE hours at the park and it was all a grand success including our trip into Hogwarts. Tips for success:
    • Buy tickets online and buy the "front of line" pass. This is well worth it, especially if you go in August as we did.
    • Valet park and enter the main gates at 7:45. Line up to be allowed into the park at 8am. (You must buy tickets online in order to enter at 8am.)
    • When the park opens, start to RUN towards Harry Potter Forbidden Journey ride. If you are lucky, like we were, you will be able to go on the ride a few times before a line starts to form. At the end of the day, the line will be over two hours long.
    • Buy your wand and finish everything Harry Potter and then move on through the rest of the park. Watch the screen for showtimes....we loved the animal show.
  • Shop: Third Street Promenade is full of shops both you and the kids will love... we hit up the Vans store for back-to-school kicks.

inside scoop

  • Pack a bike lock
  • Buy Universal tickets online

What to Pack

more...

Saved for Next Time

  • A trip to Hollywood
  • A taping of a TV show
  • Malibu
  • Surf lessons
  • Adult dinner at The Bungalow
  • More time at the beach and the pool

Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California - Suggestions from the Oliver Community

  • Caroline Kesmodel Says

    Brunch faves-
    Loved Mario Batali’s Rose in Venice Beach, great bike ride there from SMonica and keep eyes peeled for celebrity sightings.
    Cora’s Coffee Shoppe on Ocean Ave, is a short walk from most hotels and the cutest breakfast spot under an ivy covered garden patio.
    Bondi Harvest-is worth the uber North for a healthy, hipster brunch.

  • Courtney Leary Says

    The gorgeous Proper is a new Kelly Wearstler designed hotel worth a look. It is 7 blocks (.5 miles) from the beach but the interior is drool inducing and the rooftop restaurant, Calabra, and service top notch. Especially important, very comfortable beds and cruiser bikes available to get you everywhere including back to your youth. Shop “Permanent Vacation” in nearby Brentwood.

  • Kati Seymore Says

    Just returned from a trip to Santa Monica with my daughters and loved our stay at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows. It’s beautifully updated, but with an old Hollywood feel. The pool and bungalow area in the center of the hotel provide a lush and private oasis and the Oceana Boulevard location is centrally located near the 3rd street promenade and Montana Avenue. Finally, the service from valet to front desk to cleaning crew was best-in-class friendly and helpful! For dining options, we borrowed the hotels cruiser bikes and hit Cora’s Coffee Shop for breakfast — always a favorite — and breakfast at the Fairmont’s Fig restaurant was also delicious. We also drove up to Malibu and had a great dinner at Malibu Farm Restaurant on the pier. Skip it: Tallula’s mexican restaurant in Santa Monica came highly recommended, and clearly has a local following, but we found it to be overpriced and just kinda meh.

To add a suggestion login or join