One of the reasons I hesitate going to Los Angeles is its tangle of traffic. But recently I stayed a weekend in the City of Angels without spending hours on the freeway or cursing the stop-and-go congestion. The secret? Choose a destination hotel near the areas you want to explore, head down early before the freeways clog up, park your vehicle at the hotel, and then explore on foot or by bike.
My wife and I drove south to the Westwood/Beverly Hills area to enjoy one of the “car-free” packages offered by the Kimpton Hotel chain, which owns Santa Barbara’s Canary Hotel. We arrived at 10 a.m. at Hotel Palomar (hotelpalomar-lawestwood.com), just two blocks from downtown Westwood. The Palomar provided us with complimentary bikes, jogging and walking maps, and a pedometer, which, if you tally up 10,000 steps or more, provides a 20 percent discount for your next stay.
It was a warm, sunny day — perfect for a walk to Westwood for lunch, which is five minutes away on foot. For lunch, we choose 800 Degrees, a cool Neapolitan-style pizzeria that was hopping. There’s only one pizza size available (medium), but you can choose from a dazzling choice of toppings. If you like thin-crust pizza, 800 Degrees is an excellent choice, but the nearby Napa Valley Grille and sushi-centric Yamato Westwood also offer delicious menus. We then toured the UCLA campus, taking a peek at paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, and other masters at the university’s Hammer Museum (hammer.ucla.edu). It was a perfect way to discover this part of L.A., and the three-mile walk provided great exercise, as well.
All of the Kimpton hotels offer a wine hour from 5 to 6 p.m., which is especially nice after an afternoon out and about. That evening we enjoyed a risotto and seared salmon dinner at the Palomar’s signature restaurant, BLVD 16, which was excellent. And the views out over the L.A. basin were fantastic from our 18th-floor room.
The following day we made a quick visit to the Santa Monica Pier and a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk to Venice and then around the town’s absolutely stunning canals before heading a bit east on Wilshire Boulevard for a second night at the Kimpton’s Hotel Wilshire (hotelwilshire.com), located near Museum Row. Both hotels offer a clean, modern style that is simple and elegant, with the Palomar offering citywide views from the southern rooms and the Wilshire a spectacular panorama of the Sunset Strip and Hollywood Hills. The Roof, as the restaurant on the top of the Hotel Wilshire is called, is one of the best spots for an evening dinner or relaxed breakfast that I’ve ever experienced, with outdoor tables surrounding a small pool and views in all directions.
Though not quite as elegant a neighborhood as Westwood, Wilshire has plenty to explore on foot. The L.A. County Museum of Art (lacma.org) and La Brea Tar Pits (tarpits.org) complex are just two blocks away, and a loop walk up Fairfax Avenue to the city’s original Farmers Market (farmersmarketla.com) and the The Grove (thegrovela.com) shopping center makes for a great outing. The Grove is a captivating twist on what a shopping mall should look like, and lunch at the Cheesecake Factory was the perfect topping to the afternoon. In the evening, if you want to venture out, the Sunset Strip, Melrose Avenue, and Hollywood Boulevard are just a few miles away.
After a quiet breakfast at The Roof on the last day of our three-day trip, we spent the morning exploring Rodeo Drive and its beyond-the-pale elegance, Sunset Boulevard from the 405 to the beach, and then a relaxed drive home along Highway 1. Thanks to the Kimpton car-free packages and the slow pace that exploring an area on foot brings with it, we not only found our L.A. experience fun but are looking forward to doing it again.
For more information about the car-free packages offered by the Kimpton hotels in L.A., call the Hotel Palomar at (800) 472-8556 or the Hotel Wilshire at (866) 650-2154.