Archive for the Category »Los Angeles «

  Hotel of the Week: Where Rock and Roll Royalty Stay

The Sunset Marquis in Hollywood, CA has quite a storied past – It has always been the hotel for rock and roll stars, possibly by a stroke of luck: Just as the nearby Sunset Strip clubs were getting going 50 some years ago, the Sunset Marquis opened its doors.

The musicians finishing at the clubs in the wee hours liked the proximity, yet also the privacy. It is located in a cu-de-sac away from traffic, set in a lush garden.

Today it is still a hotel where the “who’s who” go to get away from groupies. Not only is it a private sanctuary, but there is one of the best recording studios in the country in the basement – According to reports this year alone, 21 of the Grammy nominated artists have recorded at the hotel’s below-house studio, NightBird.

In honor of the hotel’s 50th anniversary, the hotel got a little nip and tuck Hollywood style… and hotel management published the book, “If These Walls Could Rock.”

I had a fun visit to the place where many rock star photo shoots take place… and where rock and roll fantasies come true. Check it out:

  Music Lovers: Can’t Make the Grammys? Try the Grammy Museum and Others….

What’s your favorite song nominated in this year’s Grammy awards – winners to be announced Sunday?

Perhaps your favorites songs were those of years gone by…. well, if so feel free to wax nostalgic at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles!

Grammy Museum

Grammy Museum

The 30,000 sq ft complex is part of LA Live in downtown.



It boasts interactive and educational displays devoted to past Grammy winners, and Grammy history.

Example: “In the Studio” gives a peek into recording a sound track… with all sorts of audio visual enhancements.



And there is plenty of memorabilia for which to get excited. For more info, go here:

Other museums devoted to the seduction of song:

The Hollywood Bowl concert venue in Los Angeles has a museum – Free too. in Carlsbad, CA in Seattle, WA

and MoMA in New York has a whole section devoted to musical instruments – more than 5,000 examples.

As for the show this Sunday? Enjoy all the live performances- something you DON’T get at a museum. I’m lovin the lyrics to nominated “When I Was Your Man” and “Roar,”… hoping Bruno Mars and Katy Perry perform them.


  Hotels Displaying Christmas Spirit!

If you are looking for a place to have a holiday dinner with good friends…. share the spirit of the season with children… 0r grab a drink with a special someone… hotels are a fantastic place to capture some holiday spirit. Some of the displays are absolutely over the top…and most are gorgeous.

Here are some to consider:

1) The Bellagio, Las Vegas, NV:





The Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens has an extravagant holiday display..complete with flying reindeer.

2) The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, AZ:

Tree-fairmont-scottsdale-princessThe Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has carolers, outdoor light displays, and even a visit from Santa!


3) Coeur d’Alene Resort, ID -

idaho-lights-santaI’ve written about this resort before – a phenomenal light show, with more than 1.5 million lights sparkling above the picturesque lake…and of course, one of the world’s largest living Christmas trees.

4) The Drake, Chicago, IL:

large_PalmCourtKnown for it’s wonderful spirit… and also the gingerbread houses – the winners of a local contest are  displayed here.

13-pc-gb-header5155) The Four Seasons Beverly Hills, CA

IMG_5340Of course, there is the tree… but this hotel has so many cozy different rooms off the lobby that are decorated with only the classiest of touches.  Just look at this bar….

IMG_5349IMG_5350Intimate. Not the kind of place you’d bring a business associate, if you know what I mean.

IMG_5352 IMG_5355But a great place for a date…or a holiday celebration with old friends.

Merry Merry to you and yours!

  Space Shuttle Endeavour’s New Home is a Great Family Outing

Space Shuttle Endeavour’s Final Journey

Over here on the West Coast, Shuttle Endeavour’s final flight to Los Angeles is, well, almost astronomical. Everyone is excited to see it fly above on the back of a 747… and ultimately arrive at it’s new home at the California Science Center in the next couple of weeks. We So Cal residents are lucky to receive such a significant part of our country’s space program.

California Science Center

For now, the retired shuttle will be housed in a temporary location at the California Science Center: the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion, in Exposition Park, which opens October 30, 2012. It’s permanent home at the museum is still being built.

Along with the orbiter, the pavilion will feature video experiences and significant artifacts from Endeavour’s flights. Guests will also learn about the building of the space shuttles right here in California.

Buying timed tickets is required – you can go on the ticket information page right now and reserve your date and time.

Prices are cheap – $2 for a service charge.  Admission to the permanent exhibits in the Science Center are FREE!

Families – it is a worthwhile day-long outing. Also at the Science Center right now is a special 13,000 foot exhibit displays artifacts from Cleopatra’s life, organized by the same producers who brought us the King Tut exhibit.  Really keep the Egypt theme going by then walking 20 yards to the IMAX theater, where “The Mysteries of Egypt” is playing!

TIP: If you are coming this fall, or any autumn for that matter, make sure you look at USC’s football calendar. Memorial Coliseum is right at Exposition Park, and it is crazy crowded when there is a game – not to mention parking becomes a nightmare.

Get your science on and check it out!

By the way – Social media users are encouraged to share their Endeavour sightings using the hashtags #spottheshuttle and #OV105, Endeavour’s orbiter vehicle designation.

Please share any great photos here or on my Facebook page if you take them!

  Hotel of the Week: Beach Chic with Awesome Location in Southern California

I had lunch recently with an old college friend who drove up to LA for business. Coincidentally we dined at an old college haunt (Toppers) that has been turned into one of Los Angeles’s hippest restaurants and hotels: The Penthouse in the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica.

For design-crazed travelers like me, you will appreciate the eye candy this hotel offers. The restaurant is ethereal… a lot of sheer white, with private booth seating overlooking a tremendous view from the top floor of the hotel.

Penthouse Restaurant, Huntley Hotel

California’s coastline here  is always mesmerizing.

The bar is sexy, and always hopping. The Penthouse got voted best decor in the 2010 Zagat Guide… so you be the judge.

Huntely Hotel, Santa Monica CA

The lobby greets you with panache – you are excited to be there right away. It is an eclectic mix of organic woods, with whites and textures – contemporary elegance.

Huntley Hotel

The rooms are more toned down, and some offer views.

Besides the cool design, the location of the Huntley is a strong point. Tucked away in a quiet residential street of Santa Monica,  guests are just walking distance from the beach, shops, and great dining – without the traffic or hubbub that usually accompanies the beach on a summer day.

Right now the Huntley is running some specials – Book two nights and get a third night free… or stay a weekend (one night has to be Sunday) and get 25% off. I always try to stay mid-week or Sunday nights in general for  a better deal.

On that note -  I leave you with one last glance of our Santa Monica coastline. Doesn’t it just scream SUMMER???

  If You Can Get a Reservation, Don’t Miss This Foodie Haven

So I may be sealing LA’s reputation to the rest of the world as casual, carefree, and at times a bit wacky, but this is what I encountered while out and about Santa Monica recently.

Yes, Christmas carolers in bikinis and Speedos, ironically singing about a White Christmas. I wouldn’t have it any other way – even the most rushed and stressed out shoppers began to smile. Great spirit. Loving life.

In that same vein, I recently dined at one of my favorite restaurants, just down the road in a similarly spirited part of L.A.- it is Gjelina on Abbot Kinney in the artsy town of Venice Beach. (pronounced Juh-leena)

I dream about coming here. If you’ve ever had the caramel butterscotch salted pudding, you know exactly what I am talking about. Foodies – back me up.

The menu is seasonal, and robust – there are so many choices, even the pickiest of eaters are satisfied. And I’ve been here with my share of vegetarians, dairy-free friends, etc.

The idea is to order a bunch of small plates and share – There are a mess of plates on every table. The brussel sprouts with balsamic and bacon and kale salad are staples for me.

If the food isn’t enough to wow you, the other elements of Gjelina will – buzzy, high energy atmosphere… cool design… outdoor patio…and our Ashton-Kutcher look alike waiter provided good service.

The downer is it’s a bit loud…  and the LA Dept of Public Health recently rated it –  a “C”!  The Huffington Post wrote about it, as foodies were skeptical. It may be irresponsible of me to say, but if I can get a reservation easier now, I am all over it. Gjelina is THAT good.

Book your dinner way in advance, or else you’ll be left with only 5:30 or 10PM . …oh, and DO NOT forget to order the caramel butterscotch salted pudding for dessert. I am trying to replicate it for Christmas dinner…Santa? The recipe would fit in my stocking…

I hope you enjoy this special time of year of great food, family, and friends.

  Hotel of the Week: A Rare Gem Re-opens and Dazzles

When you are on the road a lot, many hotels start to seem the same. Then, there are those special ones that leave a mark on your soul. I can’t say that about very many hotels, but Hotel Bel Air is one of them. It is a spiritual and romantic retreat hidden high in the leafy streets of the Bel Air neighborhood in Los Angeles, which is part of its non-chain-hotel charm.

Now, after a two year remodel, (which it did need by the way) it will re-open this month with even more class and exclusivity. The iconic swans in the hotel’s lake are still there, as well as the signature Spanish Colonial buildings in “Bel Air pink,” but beyond the deliberate scene stealers, there are other new charms to disarm you.

The new design is amazing- Hotel Bel Air with a fresh, glamorous, and youthful face-lift in public spaces…

…and rooms.

There are 12 new accommodations, built into the hillside offering sweeping canyon views, expansive sliding glass walls, outdoor fireplaces and spacious decks with private spa pools.

Also new to the hotel:  a 12,000 square foot Spanish mission style structure featuring a new bell tower, fitness studio, three unique “Loft guestrooms” with open floor plans, double sided fireplaces and dramatically high ceilings as well as the brand new 4,134-square-foot Spa by La Prairie, the luxury Swiss beauty company.

I have always enjoyed the restaurants, or late night drinks at the hotel, and now there are expanded dining and drinking options, as well as famed Hollywood chef Wolfgang Puck taking over the restaurant services. Room rates start at $565, with a $100 food credit through the end of the year… If you can’t swing a full stay at the hotel, try to get there for lunch or dinner to experience something so special to LA, it doesn’t feel like LA at all.

If you don’t take my word, just check out the reviews on TripAdvisor. Have you ever seen more 5-star, rave reviews?

The legendary hotel is officially reopening October 14- but it is accepting dinner and room reservations now. I look forward to the return of something special…don’t we all? Life is too short. Enjoy it and have a great weekend wherever you are.

  Hotel of the Week: A Picture Perfect Setting for Romance… or Rug Rats

View from Terrenea Resort

This was the ocean view from my room at Terranea resort in Ranch Palos Verdes, CA… about 30 miles from downtown Los Angeles. That’s one of the things that makes this Mediterranean style 582 room resort special – all of the rooms offer private balconies, and most have ocean views. I could have stayed there all night and watched the sun set on this gorgeous only in So Cal summer night.

The setting for this huge-but-doesn’t-feel-too-big resort is spectacular – on one of the most gorgeous parts of the California coast… and it really is secluded from major developments or traffic, as it sits right at land’s edge on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Although it is along the coast, the stretch of beach for guests is not that large, but pretty.

At certain times of year you can see the sun both rise and set thanks to it’s location…. you have views from the pools as well as the guest rooms.

My favorite place to catch the view is at one of the restaurants: Nelsons, which sits right on the cliff. It is a casual environment… with an outdoor deck that also boasts a fire pit.

We went at sunset – the best time – but you really do need to get there early as it fills up fast. We were told it was a two hour wait to eat… but it ended up only being 30 minutes.

Like most of the restaurants at Terranea, Nelson’s has a children’s menu. The upscale resort could easily have catered more to an elite, adults only crowd, but the management was smart enough to realize more adults are traveling with their young children.

They have a number of activities for kids – My kids spent all day at the family pool with a 140 foot water slide and a water play area…. they barely came up to our lounge chairs for a break.

There is also a kids camp where you can drop in,  a family-friendly Par 3, 9 hole ocean front golf course, and a s’more party at night by the pool. (By the way for you golfers – the 9 hole course is brilliant in my opinion. When traveling, golf can eat up a big chunk of your day – 9 holes allows you to have a great round, then leave some time for relaxing too. If you want a longer course, Trump National Golf Club is a public course about three miles away.)

As a critic, I often see hotels that try to do too much – Terranea gracefully can accommodate and satisfy couples as well as families – There is an adult only pool that is quiet and has ocean views, and also a spa pool near the 50,000 sq foot very-adult indulging spa.

Another nice touch for adults and couples: You are welcomed at check in with a glass of champagne. They won me over right there – a really nice touch.

Another nice touch was a bottle of Paraiso Pinot noir and incredible chocolate covered strawberries in our room!! (Note: sorry – but that was a personal touch from the manager.) But you can order the Pinot in the restaurants and although I’m not a huge Pinot fan, it was darn good.

If you rent one of Terranea’s two, three, or four bedroom villas, you can keep the wine in your kitchen. These rooms are great options for families, or groups traveling together.

There were a lot of locals at Terranea – especially for dinner- and with good reason.

If you are visiting Los Angeles, and want to take in all the sights of Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Universal Studios, Santa Monica and Malibu beaches, Getty museums – Terranea is not the most convenient location, especially since  – shocker – Los Angeles has a little traffic problem.

But what I always do when booking a trip to a big city is find a relaxing resort or waterfront hotel that provides a balance in your trip. If your budget allows, I would add a few days here to stay planted, unwind, and enjoy the golden sunshine on our stunning coastline.

Why can’t summer last forever?

  A Way to Experience Ultimate Summer Before it is Gone: Carefree and California.

I’m a summer girl through and through. So it pains me to realize we only have half of the best season ever left.

Had to maximize the summer fun this weekend and do quintessential So Cal summer stuff… the LA Times wrote a good article about the very same thing in Sunday’s Travel section.,0,1394619.story A nice primer for out of town visitors.

First, my summer fling: my favorite thing to do along the beaches of Los Angeles: ride bikes on the 8 miles of trails along the sand from Temescal Canyon in Santa Monica to Venice Beach. The sun kissing your cheeks… and the sea breeze blowing your hair. Carefree and California.

Great for kids, or go with a friend. Park your car in one of the public lots along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)  in Santa Monica. Parking will cost you about $8.00.

If you park close to California St incline, there are bike rentals a short walk away on the beach-side bike path. Perry’s in Santa Monica carries everything from tandem bikes to the kiddy carts. I would recommend carts for any child under 7 – they get tired and If you head south, you are riding against the wind on the way back. Perry’s has eight locations along Santa Monica and Venice.

Perry’s is also a cafe – music playing and a buzzy environment with a kids’ menu. TIP: It is cash only.

**TIP:f you stay in a hotel, get a map of Santa Monica because there are often bike rental coupons in the tourist map.

Once you are set with wheels and a meal, the adventure begins. The Ferris wheel of the Santa Monica pier is always in your view, (background of above photo) so chances are if you are with kids, they will beg you to stop there. Pacific Park Amusement Park has rides and arcade games. Personally, I find it crowded and trashy – especially in summer, so limit your time. But the kids like it and It is a pretty setting right on the pier.

Farther down the road you will come to Venice Beach – always an entertaining area. There’s never a shortage of people watching – from musicians to muscles to magicians – Venice Beach’s street performers attract many. Nearby Abbot Kinney Blvd is one of the only strolling streets in LA that isn’t inhabited by chain stores and still maintains it’s unique character.

The LA Times article briefly mentions the new Santa Monica Place… it is a three-story outdoor mall of sorts with a view of the ocean. The top floor has many restaurants – check which ones have kids menus.

The Market is an exciting new addition – 45,000 square feet with a French chocolatier, a wine shop, and a cooking school for starters. It is helping turn this local into a foodie destination.

True Food Kitchen, Santa Monica

True Food Kitchen has a nice kids menu, and for the total over the top healthy Cali meal, you can’t beat this. The kids’ pizza has a whole wheat crust, and I had an organic glass of chardonnay from Mendocino.

Movie theaters nearby and lots of fun shops makes this a bustling place to stroll.

Live from So Cal… The weather is beautiful and I wish you were here.

  Tuesday Travel Tip: Fly to Vegas for $9

Yep. Nine bucks. In writing anyway…. once you add all the taxes and baggage fees, it could be more like $98 round trip.

Spirit Airlines is offering this $9 one way fare on their new Los Angeles-Las Vegas route… good if you fly on a Tues or Wed between May 10 and June 15. Sounds like an AMAZING deal  – and it is pretty darn good..I just don’t like the misleading advertising. After you add taxes and fees it is more like $39 one way.

And baggage?  Luggage that fits under the seat is free… a carry on bag that goes in the over head bin is another $20 each way..bringing the total to $98 round trip.

I don’t like when airlines waste people’s time getting them to go to their website to learn the fare isn’t really what they are promising. Yet, if you can pack lightly, $78 might be less than what you spend at craps.