FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Lure of Los Angeles

by Ron Bernthal

Sep 1, 2019
Destinations / North America

AS TEMPERATURES BEGIN to cool in Los Angeles (average September high temperature is a beautiful 83 degrees), the city hums with activities. The arts scene buzzes with new exhibits at The Broad, The Getty Center, the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA and at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where a new $659 building proposal by the award-winning Swiss architect Peter Zumthor is moving forward.

For sports fans, Los Angeles offers more sports franchises, events and venues than any other city in the world and will host the 2028 Summer Olympics, the third summer Olympics for the City of Angels.

For all leisure and business visitors to Los Angeles County (about 50 million domestic and international visitors annually), there are 88 incorporated cities to explore; dozens of new hotels; dining venues; attractions; new architecturally savvy, mixed-use developments; and perhaps best of all, a terrain that boasts ocean beaches, mountain parks, a famous valley crisscrossed by freeways, fog-shrouded coastal towns under a canopy of palms, and an urban core that boggles the mind with fascinating only-in-L.A. juxtapositions. For me, I listen to Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” or 1970s Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young as I drive anywhere within L.A. County’s 4,084 square miles, loving it all.

All the new building projects in Los Angeles — and there are hundreds — shape the city in better and sometimes not-so-good ways. Google is transforming Howard Hughes’ historic Spruce Goose hangar in Playa Vista into a state-of-the-art office and production facility, and Apple continues to lease additional office space — just two signs of how tech firms are expanding their presence in Hollywood’s backyard.

Artists’ renderings of San Pedro Public Market

Artists’ renderings of San Pedro Public Market © RAPT STUDIOS

Foreign investments pour into greater L.A.’s industrial and real estate markets. Several billion-dollar developments across Los Angeles have already broken ground, and others wait on deck. The Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park is one of the more highly anticipated mega-developments in L.A. The 298-acre, mixed-use district will include a 70,000-seat, open-air stadium; a 6,000-seat performing arts venue; more than 1.5 million square feet of retail and office space; a 300-room hotel; 2,500 residences; and more than 25 acres of park space.

These massive mixed-use projects will add thousands of new residential units and tens of thousands of square feet of retail and office space. The Grand, a Frank Gehry-designed $1 billion mixed-use project, will remake a section of downtown into a cultural epicenter. It sits across the street from the Disney Concert Hall and The Broad Museum. The Grand will feature two skyscrapers housing 200,000-plus square feet of retail; a 430-seat luxury movie theater; and a 314-room Equinox Hotel.

The $1.2 billion Angels Landing development will open in 2028 as a city-within-a-city featuring two hotels, 425 apartments, 250 condominiums, a school, retail space and a food hall. The 889-room InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown opened last year with 100,000 square feet of meeting space in the Wilshire Grand Center, a 73-story mixed-use complex that will be the tallest U.S. building west of Chicago until the 77-story skyscraper at 333 South Figueroa is completed.

Architect Gehry also designed a pair of office buildings for Warner Bros. Entertainment to resemble “icebergs floating along the freeway.” Gehry Partners’ plans for the 800,000-square-foot complex will extend the entertainment company’s current building in the Burbank Media District, a hub for major media and entertainment companies. And the Los Angeles Convention Center is displaying the largest public art project in the country. The mural, measuring more than 400 yards long, was hand-painted by more than 7,000 people in Los Angeles County. Called Shaping LA, the work was created by the national nonprofit organization Portraits of Hope.

In a sizzling L.A. hotel scene, the 250-room NoMad Hotel opened in 2018 in a 1920s building once home to the headquarters of the Bank of Italy. It offers a lovely rooftop pool deck available for private events. West Hollywood boasts a number of relatively new properties, many with rooftop pools or event space with views. The 1 Hotel West Hollywood brings health and wellness amenities to Sunset Boulevard. On the west side of L.A., the 170-room Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and the 394-room Fairmont Century Plaza opened last summer in Century City.

In L.A.’s beach cities, new hotels include a dualbranded Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn in Marina del Rey, and the 271-room Santa Monica Proper Hotel emerges as an architectural wonder just seven blocks from the ocean. The property, opened in June, offers an indoor-outdoor rooftop playground with a pool, cabanas and the Calabra bar/bistro. Downstairs, guests enjoy Onda restaurant, serving innovative California- and Mexico-inspired cuisine, and a large Ayurvedic spa. In nearby Malibu, the pricey Nobu Ryokan Malibu opened its stunning, 16-room beachfront property in 2017.

Marriott’s first AC Hotel in Los Angeles opened earlier this year in Beverly Hills. The 142-room property lies close to Rodeo Drive, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Beverly Center shopping mall. The AC Hotel South Bay also opened this summer near Los Angeles International Airport, offering 180 rooms; a rooftop restaurant and bar; and 2,000 square feet of meeting space.

Outdoor dining is an institution in Los Angeles, and hundreds of sun-splashed venues offer the intoxicating combination of excellent cuisine and exceptional views. At Nobu Malibu, every table boasts an unobstructed view of the ocean, and Sorra opened this year with a rooftop bar in the heart of Hollywood. Head to Sawyer on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake for a table on the tiled patio and an order of lobster rolls, or reserve a table at the busy NoMad Hotel rooftop with its great food, cocktails and views of downtown L.A.

SCENIC DRIVES

About an hour before sunset, drive north from Beverly Hills on Benedict Canyon Drive to Mulholland Drive, then go east. At 7701 Mulholland you can stop at the Universal City overlook, and then continue eastward toward the Hollywood Hills. The road rises, dips and curves, passing serene residential real estate and additional overlooks. The day drive is easy; after dark it’s more adventurous but unforgettable.

For beautiful ocean and mountain views take the Pacific Coast Highway — known locally as PCH or Route 1 — north along the coast from Santa Monica to Sycamore Cove Beach at Point Mugu State Park, a 33-mile drive. Along the way stop at the fascinating Getty Villa (reserve tickets online) and have lunch at Malibu’s Marmalade Café before continuing to Sycamore Cove or into the mountainous hiking areas above the beach.

Take the 110 Freeway south to San Pedro, known as the Port of Los Angeles, and an undiscovered gem of L.A. County (about 25 miles, 35–50 minutes). Visit its historic downtown and the interesting AltSea project on the main shipping channel, offering aquaculture, underwater robotics and more. Tour the restored World War II battleship USS Iowa and eat fresh fish and seafood at San Pedro Fish Market, part of the revitalized San Pedro Public Market project.

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