Things To Do

20 Fun Things To Do In Pasadena If You Happen To Be in The Neighborhood

March 4, 2015 by Jeannette Swanson

When you hear Pasadena you probably instantly think ‘Rose Parade’ but The City of Roses has plenty more to offer than just that. With a unique history and culture all its own, there are plenty of attractions in Pasadena that make it one of the most intriguing parts of L.A. county to explore.

From Old Town to South Lake, shopping to museums to botanical gardens, there’s probably more things to do in Pasadena that you realized at first blush (and yeah, we snuck in a few ideas from nearby cities like Arcadia and Altadena too).

So whether you’re new in town, or just passing through, here’s a fun list to get you started (in no particular order).


Gamble House Exterior

The Gamble House exterior. Credit: Kirsten via flickr

The Gamble House

A California and National Historic Landmark can be found mixed in with other well to do suburban homes on Westmoreland Place in Pasadena. Build in 1908, the Gamble House belonged to the on screen Dr. Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy. Off screen this three-story architect’s dream was included in the top 10 houses list of all time by the Los Angeles Times in 2008 and has a yearly rotating occupancy of architecture students from USC. Drop in on a Tuesday when the rear lawn and terrace are open for Brown Bag lunch carriers or for daily architect based tours.

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Jet Propulsion Lab

The city of Pasadena can proudly boast that they host the leading robotic exploration of the solar system in the country. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab offers numerous public educational events throughout the year including a March event that will share stories of field campaigns and research efforts and an April event that will showcase two new sibling robots. General purpose tours are offered year-round for visitors who would like to learn about the laboratory as a whole. Visit the website for more information about the tours.

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Pasadena Playhouse

The 686-seat historic performing arts venue is an influential medium for the American Theatre. The Pasadena Playhouse was the first American theatre to produce all of  Shakespeareis plays and they showcase at least 300 performances annually. Their College of Theatre Arts cranked out legendary actors including Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and box office heartthrob William Holden. Today, The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez is onstage until March 1st and Pygmalion and Waterfall debut later this spring and summer.

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Arlington Garden

The city’s only dedicated public garden features plants that fair extremely well in the Southern California climate. The Garden facilitates inspiration and guidance for anyone looking to start or improve an existing garden with drought tolerant plants. Even if you’re not visiting for personal gardening purposes, the three acre lot offers tranquility for any and all visitors. Admission is free and the Garden is open year-round, rain or shine.

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Huntington Library

The Huntington Library serves as a dual purpose establishment by showcasing educational and research based collections and 120 acres of landscaped gardens. There is an admission fee to visit, but they do offer “Free Days” for non-member visitors the first Thursday of each month. You’ll have to request your ticket in advance online or by phone to avoid a sellout. There are four dining options here for when your feet need a rest including the Rose Garden Tea Room where you’ll delicately eat finger sandwiches and chilled salads of The Cafe for a family friendly option with simple, yet satisfying options such as sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, and a kid approved children’s menu.

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Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library

Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library. Credit: Deborah Schander via flickr

iPic Theater

This theater creates such a fun, unique movie viewing experience with their recliner sofas, provided blankets & pillows and free popcorn. That’s not all though, guests can order a full meal up to 30 minutes prior to the movie showing and have it delivered to their reserved seat. With you meal you’ll have the option to accompany it with a glass of wine or cocktail from Salt Lounge. This sounds like a movie night at home, but even better because other people are doing the work for you.

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Ice House Comedy Club

Open since 1960, this vintage-esque comedy club has been Pasadena’s go to for music and comedy. Renowned comedians have graced this club including Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and the late Robin Williams. Today, there are two showrooms, a courtyard and approximately 7,000 guests each month. Upcoming performers include Harry Basil and Kevin Smith with Jason Mewes. I would try looking at Groupon for the latest and greatest deals for entry into this comedy club.

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Eaton Canyon

There’s many things to do at Eaton Canyon that at least one aspect is bound to appeal to whomever you might be traveling with. Whether you like to hike, go horseback riding or like watching running water, you can find it here. The trail to Eaton Canyon Falls is a popular and often crowded hike that starts off as a fairly easy walking experience, but progresses in difficulty as you approach the falls. If you’re not as into physical activity there’s still much opportunity to view wildflowers in the spring and an abundance of birds during the crowning of migration (April-May.)

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Eaton Canyon Watefall

Le Petit Vendome Wine Tasting

This wine and spirits shop recently moved to a new location between Smitty’s Restaurant and Wells Fargo Mortgage. Always go online to confirm the wine tasting schedule, but wine tasting at the Pasadena location usually occurs every Friday and Saturday between 6:30 and 8p.m. Each weekly wine tasting will focus on either a particular region or category of wine. What’s really neat are all sampled wines are offered to samplers at or below retail prices.

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Old Town Pasadena

The real downtown of Pasadena hosts many activities and establishments for those looking for fun in the City of Roses. Take a walk along Colorado Blvd. in old town to enjoy a myriad of shopping and dining options, plus there’s the Farmer’s Market every Sunday with free kids’ activities. And, of course, every year folks camp out along Colorado the day before the turn of the new year so they can stake out their real estate to watch the annual Rose Parade.

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Rose Bowl

Speaking of roses… The Rose Bowl might be most famously known for the annual college football game of the same name, but regular flea markets, concerts and special events draw in the crowds year-round. Also of note, stadium tours are made available for those who are really just interested where visitors can see the original 1922 locker room, the Loge Lounge and all the famous history that has occurred here.

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Rose Bowl Stadium

Credit: Daniel Hartwig via flickr

Kidspace Children’s Museum

This is the place to visit if your family has little ones in it because really, sometimes kids need an outing that is all about them. There are a ton of hands-on exhibits for our little ones who are used to hearing, “don’t touch!” and plenty of outdoor activities and programs. The outdoor Robert & Mary Galvin Physics Forest looks like a fantastic place to let kids use their wholes bodies and mind to see just how things work. Check out their website for current programs geared for all age ranges.

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626 Night Market

Ok, so Arcadia isn’t technically in Pasadena but since it’s literally just a stone’s throw away we have to mention the 626 Night Market, the original, and largest, Asian themed night market in the United States. With food options ranging from ramen burgers to lobster rolls, Sriracha inspired creations to more traditional fare such as stinky tofu or dragon candy, it’s no wonder that 626 is one of the signature food events of the San Gabriel Valley (and all of Los Angeles, really).

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Santa Anita Park

I remember a time when all I used to hear about on the radio and television was the Santa Anita Park. The park which is best known for its thoroughbred racing is in season right now until June. You can catch a race and a free tour of the stables weekends during the season at 8:45 and 9:45 a.m. They’ve got more than just horses though, if you like beer they’ve got a beer festival coming up early March and the Winner’s Circle BBQ Championship at the end of March. You’re bound to have a busy spring and summer if you stay current with the events this venue hosts.

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Free Concerts at Levitt Pavilion

The Levitt Pavillion Pasadena is a non-profit arts organization which hosts a Music Festival of some 50 free concerts over the course of each and every summer.  Performances include past grammy winners, and a variety of genres, from Latin to Jazz to contemporary alternative and indie acts. There are even food vendors and children’s activities set up to entertain the little ones. Just be sure to get there early to stake out a good spot to enjoy the show.

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San Gabriel Mission District

If you went to elementary school in California there’s a good chance you toured one of the 21 missions that line the state. Although not directly inside Pasadena city limits, this mission is too close not to visit if you’ll be in the area. Take a walk through the “city with a mission” and explore what was first rooted over 200 years ago. You’ll get a small taste of early California life, eat some good food and most importantly, learn about the Franciscan’s fourth established mission.

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Norton Simon Museum

One of the most impressive private collections in the world resides at the Norton Simon Museum, just a few blocks west of the heart of Old Town Pasadena, with works ranging from a 2,000 year period that include paintings from the European Renaissance, 20th century European masters, and incredible sculptures from South and Southeast Asia made more than a millennia ago. Standard admission is $12 but the Museum is free for all visitors the first Friday of every month from 5pm to 8pm.

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Norton Simon Sculpture Garden

Credit: Parker Knight via flickr

Pasadena City College Flea Market

If the Rose Bowl Flea Market seems too pricy or too overwhelming, consider this a great alternative. The PCC Flea Market takes place the first Sunday of every month from 8am to 3pm, features tons of great vendors and is FREE to enter. Just as important, parking is just $2.

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South Lake Ave

If you’ve exhausted your capacity for shopping on Colorado Blvd, then take a stroll down Lake Ave. A few miles east of Old Town proper, this 12 block strip along South Lake Ave features shops, markets, restaurants, and retailers. Recommended: Abricott for breakfast, Mediterranean Cafe for lunch, and Euro Pane Bakery (just a block east) for macarons.

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Vroman’s Bookstore

Pasadena’s oldest bookstore, and also one of L.A.’s finest.  This is the perfect spot to spend a rainy afternoon perusing, reading, or just hanging out, and they also have plenty of signings, readings, and other community oriented events on their calendar to keep you coming back week in and week out. Two locations for your convenience, one on Colorado Blvd and the other on Foothill.

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We know there’s plenty of things to do in Pasadena, more than just this above list, so let us know your favorites in the comments below!


10 Spots for The Best Bagels in Los Angeles

February 18, 2015 by Jeannette Swanson

Los Angeles isn’t often recognized as being a bagel town. Truth is most of us eat our bagels along with our coffee at Starbucks or with a smoothie from a neighborhood shop and go about our day never realizing that there is something better out there.

Of course east coast transplants with discerning taste buds will instantly recognize that the bagels out west pale in comparison to what they might find, in say, New York city. Some say it’s the quality and/or the alkaline level of the water, but whatever the reason, bagels in Los Angeles don’t have the reputation of measuring up.

That said, not all L.A. bagel makers are created equal, and some truly stand out from the pack.

[RELATED: 17 Spots To Get the Best Donuts in Los Angeles]

So with that in mind, we’ve sought to find the absolute best bagels in Los Angeles, whether at bagel shops, delis, cafes, or pretty much anywhere a bagel might be served. And some might even be good enough to meet the discriminating tastes of our east coast friends…. maybe.

Here’s what we came up with.

Brooklyn Bagel Company

Credit: Brooklyn Bagel Company on Facebook

New York Bagel Company

The walls here are lined with photographs taken by Richard E. Aaron, a photographer whose images have made front cover of at least 20 thousand magazines. Because of its Brentwood location the prices tend to be a bit higher, but the location offers a space for a more sophisticated bagel feasting experience. Their ring shaped concoctions are perfectly crunchy on the outside while maintaining a soft center. With 15 varieties to selectively nosh on and some good coffee, this is the place to be in Brentwood for a delish bagel.

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Sam’s Bagel

Many in Los Angeles will concur that these are some of the tastiest bagels outside of New York. The pleasant no nonsense attitude of its staff is another asset that will make East Coast transplants at home on the West Coast. All bagels here have a welcome chewy texture and the flavors are impeccable no matter what type you order.

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Western Bagel

Western Bagel holds true to tradition while being bold with new flavors. The number of ways you can order a bagel here are almost endless and they even have options for people who usually cut bread products out of their diets. For instance, order their bagelettes on days when you can’t justify going all out with a bagel loaded with tons of baked in flavors and added toppings.

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Western Bagel

Photo Credit: Western Bagel via Facebook

Bagel Broker

For nearly 28 years, the Bagel Broker have been attracting bread-lovers to Los Angeles’ Fairfax District. The doughnut shaped rolls here come in an assortment of flavors, but they also offer seven flavors of whipped cream cheese. Sometimes I think cream cheese is the perfect bagel topping, so it’s quite wonderful that you can lather a strawberry or cheddar jalapeno cream cheese to the top. But, the fact that these firm textured rolls have been handmade since 1987 is enough to land them a spot on our list.

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Brooklyn Bagel Company

Family owned and operated since 1953, the Friedman clan boils their bagels before they’re backed as they are in New York. This traditional method may be more time consuming, but it gives a bagel its classic shine and chewy crust. Over 30 varieties are baked fresh every day of the week including their tasty onion cheddar bagel that combines the right amount of onion with a slice of mild cheddar cheese.

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[RELATED: 10 Spots for the Best Brunch in Los Angeles]

Bagelworks Cafe

The prices here are really affordable considering you can order a single for 95 cents or a half dozen for $5.25. A portion of the menu is even dedicated to bagel sandwiches where you can order a delicious, crispy BLT or an albacore tuna with the works- lettuce, tomato, onion, sprouts and cheese.

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The Bagel Factory

Three locations serve New York style kosher bagels to the Angeleno population. The name of this business might be plain, but its name supports its no to-do atmosphere that promotes a laid-back cafe experience. These bagels are perfectly soft with a well-textured circumference, giving eaters the perfect bite.

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Bueller’s Bagels

This bite-sized bakery stays true to most hole in the wall characteristics by running out of their bagel products early and accepting only cash. If you arrive early enough you’ll be able to try a bagel that’s lightly coated and small, yet with plenty flavorful. If you’re not used to carrying cash, an ATM is conveniently located next door.

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The Shack in the Back

This little gem could be missed if you blink, but it’s there right near the Chevron gas station on Sepulveda. There seem to be lots of rave reviews about their menu items, coffee and especially their bagels. There’s just something about a restaurant with a convenient location and especially one that serves all sorts of bagels and bagels with enough add-ons to be considered a meal.

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Marie’s Deli & Cafe

If you’re only going to try one veggie bagel in the entire city, Marie’s might be the one. Also of note: the ample size of their breakfast sandwiches means you never have to worry about getting under-portioned. Keep in mind because they’re a downtown business they’re closed on Sundays.

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Where do you find the best bagels in Los Angeles? Let us know your picks in the comments below!


10 Spots to Get the Best Margaritas in Los Angeles

February 6, 2015 by Jeannette Swanson

The origin of the margarita has never been pinpointed, but whoever thought to combine tequila, cointreau, lime juice and salt and should be given a hearty slap on the back.

For me, margaritas always offer a reason to escape from the grind of everyday life. Many nights of memories have been formed on margarita Monday’s, hanging out with the girls, sipping on drinks, and ending it all with a round of sing-your-heart-out karaoke. But that’s another story.

Let’s be honest though, margarita lovers could have one of these delicious drinks every day of the week and still be craving more. And thankfully, in recent years the trend towards custom margaritas with fresh juice blends and high quality ingredients has been on the rise in Los Angeles. That said, here’s 10 of the best spots in L.A.  to check out next time you’re feeling maniacal for a margarita.


Casa Vega Margarita

Credit: Casa Vega on Facebook

El Cholo Downtown

I love dining at El Cholo and I make sure I visit this restaurant in my hometown every time I’m back for a visit. I prepare myself to gain at least three pounds because I’ll eat a ton of chips and salsa, order a two-item combination plate and order a margarita, of course. The classic El Cholo Margarita is always a hit, but so are all the others, so it makes it a little hard to decide on just one. Times like this are when you designate a driver so you can have a couple; I’m much of a lightweight now.

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With several locations proudly serving Los Angeles’ need for a salt rimmed drink, Mercado indulges us one margarita glass at a time. I like what they’ve done with the New Fashioned, which is a twist on the bourbon cocktail. I don’t have a bourbon based drink each time I go out, maybe it’s because they think the drink is for my husband, but probably because margaritas are so darn tasty, so this won is a winner.

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Gracias Madre

Did you know that the team behind Cafe Gratitude opened a south-of-the-border style restaurant right here in Los Angeles off Melrose? And guess what, they make killer Margaritas. Of special note, try the “Purista Margarita” made with organic reposado tequila, fresh-pressed lime juice and organic agave nectar. You can “thank us” later. 😉

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Gracias Madre Margarita

Credit: Gracias Madre on Facebook

El Cid

For those whose ideal margarita-drinking occasion would include flamenco dancers, El Cid is where you want to be. If I had to choose only one of their margaritas it would be the Strawberry Vanilla Bean Margarita because artisanal preserves mixed with lime and agave nectar sounds like a sweet alcoholic treat, with salt.

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Border Grill

You know those old lyrics that sing, “I was country when country wasn’t cool?” Well, some might argue that Border Grill was crafting superior margaritas before Los Angeles entered the “mixology” scene. I don’t think you could be let down by their margaritas especially when four of them are between $5 and $7 during happy hour.

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Ortega 120

In years best, LA Weekly has proclaimed Ortega 120 as having the best classic margarita in Los Angeles, and it’s no wonder. You won’t find any generic sweet and sour mix here, as all blends are made from scratch with fresh juices. For value your best bet is getting a pitcher of their classic house margaritas.

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Las Perlas

A best of margarita list would be incomplete without the inclusion of Las Perlas. This bar sources mezcal only from family distilleries because of their ability to produce small-batch artisan-crafted mezcals. Between $9 and $11, margarita seekers can order a mezcal based drink with a super cool name and an even better taste.

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Las Perlas Margarita

Credit: Las Perlas on Facebook

Red O

The man from PBS’ Mexico: One Plate At A Time made noise when he debuted the $100 margarita. I would never pay that much for a margarita, but we should commend Rick Bayless for such a daring move. The more affordable option would be the $14 Champagne Margarita that incorporates cabo wabo silver tequila and homemade limonada. All other margaritas range from $15-100, so while the drinks here are great, this might be the place you splurge after a bigger paycheck.

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Casa Vega

This San Fernando Valley family-owned Mexican restaurant serves all their margaritas in pint-sized glasses. Their margaritas pack a punch so one Casa Vega Cadillac Margarita or Margaritade Naranja should do the trick.

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El Carmen

This cantina serves a handful of margaritas including fresh fruit margaritas where you can choose from one of six fruits. For a flavorful kick I would suggest ordering their Spicy Margarita, which is their El Carmen Classic Margarita, but with fresh jalapenos mixed in. For a $5 El Carmen Classic Margarita, come in Monday through Friday between 5pm-7pm to have your fill.

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Honorable Mentions

Petty Cash
Yxta Cocina Mexicana
Velvet Margarita

Where do you get the best margarita’s in Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below!


10 Spots to Get the Best Macarons in Los Angeles

January 24, 2015 by Jeannette Swanson

For such a small and delicate creation, the macaron cookie sure does generate its share of confusion. Of course the one thing that most have in common is this: they’re really, really tasty! And we’re fortunate to live in a city such as Los Angeles that offers a vast array of options for macaron lovers to choose from.

But before we get to locations, let’s talk some history.

Although there are some conflicting stories of the origin of macarons, the most popular version is that the cookies were first honed in Italy back sometime around the Renaissance,  then got imported into France when Catherine de’ Medici married Henry II in 1533.

[RELATED: 13 Spots for the Best Pancakes in Los Angeles]

The first macarons were simple creations, made of the basics of almond powder, sugar and egg whites, but have evolved over time into multiple forms. One of these variations  is the  ‘macacroon’ cookie, which is a close cousin of the French style one we focus on in this article. The macaroon was purportedly developed in Europe by Jewish bakers who used coconut in their recipe and served these guys as a special goody around Passover.

However, the double-decker sandwich style that we know as a macaron today was created by Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée  in the early 20th century. Here we find two delicious meringues joined in sweet artisan matrimony and then filled with a ganache. The cookies are characterized by being light in density, but never light in flavor.

Ok, so now that the history lesson is over and you’re all ready to eat, let’s answer the question: Where can you find the best macarons in Los Angeles?

List starts below (in no particular order).

Lette Macarons

Credit: ‘Lette Macarons on Facebook

Bouchon Bakery

This Beverly Hills bakery serves vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, caramel and other seasonal flavored macarons. Pastry chef Thomas Keller creates a memorable macaron and he may be even more memorable now by the Gingerbread House tribute a man named Oliver Bernardino created in his honor.

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‘Lette Macarons

Collaboration often gives birth to great concepts and businesses. That’s exactly what happened in 2007 when owner Paulette Koumet and French pastry chef Christophe Michalak decided to collaborate. Since 2007 they’ve grown seven locations strong and serve 13 macarons. Try the Columbian coffee or the earl grey tea macaron for an extremely sweet treat.

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Bottega Louie

The raspberry macaron made with a dark chocolate ganache and raspberry jam and the strawberry macaron infused with a strawberry buttercream sound just a tad decadent, which makes them all the more appetizing. You can get a selection of four for $10 or a selection of eight for $20 if you feel compelled to share.

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Bottega Louie Macarons

Credit: Bottega Louie on Facebook

The Little Next Door

If nothing else, the name of this tri-location restaurant and bar is nothing short of amazing, to me at least. The Little Next Door Brasserie and Wine Bar feature seasonal fare and wine from around the world, but macaron lovers probably know them for their $1.75 French macarons. Flavors include but are not limited to passion fruit, pistachio and hazelnut and truffle.

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The Larder at Tavern

This Brentwood establishment has been named for having some of the best macarons around the city by many Los Angeles media. Taste the vanilla, lemon or pistachio and tell us what you think.

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DoLy’s Delectables

After Julie Do and Son Ly (hence, Do-Ly’s) opened their cafe some 5 years ago, they quickly established themselves as a local Long Beach gem serving up some of the best dessert bakery items in the area. French macarons are a speciality  and are prepared fresh each morning with tons of flavors to choose from. Highly recommended if you’re in the DTLB area.

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Dolys Delectables Macarons

Credit: DoLys Delectables on Facebook

Caffe Concerto

This family-owned restaurant has 30 matchless macaron flavors. All flavors are made in-house and great care is exercised to ensure the macarons are not too sweet or dense. Pastry Chef Keith Lee, who has since moved on to other ventures, developed Caffe Concerto’s macarons, but each new staff member adds his or her contribution to this dessert.

[RELATED: 17 Spots to Get the Best Donuts in Los Angeles]

Their offerings include classic flavors such as rose, salted caramel, pistachio, chocolate, and espresso, as well as more experimental ones such as black sesame, lemon yuzu, matcha, mango and ginseng.

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La Provence Patisserie & Café

Los Angeles’ first French pastry restaurant to carry French macarons has been in operation for over 17 years. You’ll find their artisan bakery in Beverly Hills and American Airlines at LAX is lucky to have had the City Council in 2011 select La Provence to be the primary sweet treats provider in Terminal 4. This artisan bakery by Farshid Hakim offers 11 French Macarons, but the Patisserie suggests trying the Caramel Fleur de sel.

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Napoleon’s Macarons

Razmig Tchoboian, a self-taught baker, perfected his macaron recipe before selling his confections online in 2010. Razmig has numerous locations across California where French macarons filled with buttercream or a rich ganache beautifully line display cases. These gluten-free, organically made cookies are sold in flavors such as champagne strawberry, lemon meringue pie, rose water and blueberry lavender.

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Euro Pane Bakery

This bakery is an elusive little gem, let’s say it’s a special treat for anyone lucky enough to stumble upon it, because the macarons here are absolutely massive!. For a larger than usual macaron, try either of the Euro Pane Bakery locations on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena. Bigger sometimes is better!

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Are you a macaron lover with a favorite spot in Los Angeles? Let us know which you think is the best in the comments below!


10 Food Trucks in Los Angeles Every Local Foodie Needs to Put on Their Hit List

January 12, 2015 by Jeannette Swanson

It’s almost lunchtime on yet another Monday and you don’t know what to eat. You need to grab some grub before going bar hopping in Hollywood. It’s around midnight and you’ve just gotten out from a show at The Echo and you’re absolutely starving…

What do each of these dilemmas have in common? They can all be solved by finding a delicious L.A. food truck.

Food trucks are a fantastic way to find great food on the fly, satisfy cravings, or maybe just indulge in something totally unique and unexpected that would normally be completely out of your comfort zone.

Whatever your aim, we decided to inspire your curiosity with a list of 10 of the finest and most unique food trucks around Los Angeles including options that vary from comfort food to healthy eats, sweet indulgences to dishes with more of an exotic flair.

Regardless of your disposition I promise only one thing after reading (and seeing photos of) this list: prepare to be hungry!

Rundown starts after the jump, in no particular order.

Pork Belly Bun at Carb & Nation

Credit: Carb & Nation on Facebook

Carb & Nation

Artisan sandwiches and craft sodas are created within Carb & Nation by former sous chefs from Church & State in downtown LA. Fata Wijaya, one of the two chefs from this truck suggests trying their Pork Belly Bun, made with Mizo glazed pork belly, Yuzu pickle, homemade aioli and crispy pork skins. For a refreshing sip in between bites try the Ginger Lemon Thyme Soda.

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The Pudding Truck

If you’re going to order from The Pudding Truck you’ve got to order their classic: Chocolate Pudding. While the name sounds familiar their version is anything but, filled with a rich and creamy goodness with flavors that blend a lovely balance of milk and dark chocolate. Should chocolate simply not be your thing, try their Southern-Style Banana Pudding. This pudding uses their Vanilla Bean Pudding and they layer it with homemade brown butter vanilla wafers, banana slices and whipped cream.

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Chocolate Pudding from the Pudding Truck

Credit: The Pudding Truck on Facebook

Border Grill Truck

I really don’t know what gets any better than a margarita and mojito bus on wheels. Food wise, the people behind this truck suggest trying their sustainable seasonal ceviche cones. Made with shrimp, lime marinated seasonal sustainable fish, tomato, and jalapeno aioli in a corn tortilla cone, this cone is much more fulfilling and tasty than any snow cone.

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The Grilled Cheese Truck

The team behind The Grilled Cheese Truck introduced the city of Los Angeles to its wondrous cheesy melts in 2009. Not only do they produce tasty sandwiches, they’ve committed their first 100 trucks to be run by qualified Veterans.

Two favorites you may want to try: the southern mac and cheese, pulled BBQ pork (smoked in house), with caramelized onions and sharp cheddar on buttery French bread, or the fried chicken and waffle melt, which features spicy fried chicken with sharp cheddar melted between two waffles and served with maple syrup or country sausage gravy on the side.

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Grilled Cheese Truck Rib

The Southern Mac and Cheese. Credit: The Grilled Cheese Truck on Facebook

The Gastrobus

The menu here changes weekly and is influenced by the seasons. Almost all menu items include some sort of vegetable that’s paired with meat and appropriate seasonings. You’re sure not to strike out with any of their sandwiches.

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Rico’s Mar Azul Mariscos Truck

Hands down some of the freshest, most delicious seafood tostadas you’ll find anywhere on wheels. And they’re easy on the wallet too, making them one of the best value food trucks in the entire city.

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This dual County (LA and Orange) Korean Mexican Taco Truck rolled onto the scene Thanksgiving of 2008. Kogi sells Korean barbecue tacos from four trucks: Roja, Naranja, Verde and Rosita. The first three service different cities/areas and Rosita caters to special occasions. The signature taco is made with two crisply griddled tortillas, double caramelized Korean barbecue short rib, Kogi secret salsa roja, cilantro onion lime relish and a special Napa romaine and green onion slaw tossed in a chili soy vinaigrette.

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Kogi Taco Truck

Up close and personal with a Kogi taco. Credit: Eric Shin

Seoul Sausage Company

The winners of season three’s The Great Food Truck Race now have a retail store in Little Osaka in West LA in addition to their famed food truck. Rumor is their food truck might make an appearance at this year’s Super Bowl in Arizona, but until that rumor is proven true try their Man Salad brought back by popular demand. Just imagine Korean nachos characterized by Kimchi cheese sauce and pickled jalapenos.

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This Asian fusion food company has a restaurant on Pico, one in Venice and a food truck that weekly visits El Segundo, Santa Monica and Miracle Mile. You can get a flavorful taste of Asian fusion food in a taco, burrito or rice bowl. Think of Chipotle in terms of how you want it prepared, but with a more inventive flair and taste.

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Cousins Maine Lobster Truck

This “delivered fresh shore to door” food truck has a truck in Phoenix and yours truly and has eight coming soon to other states. The lobster you eat is pulled from the sea in Maine a day before it reaches your mouth somewhere in Los Angeles. This food truck is great for New Englanders who can’t make it home every year.

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Bonus: The Buttermilk Truck

Have you wondered what happened to the Buttermilk Truck? Gigi Pascual from Buttermilk Inc told us that November was their last month operating the truck so they could focus on their Red Velvet Pancake Mix and Ube or Purple Yam baking mix product line. However, they’re still serving some of their most popular menu items at Willie Jane in Venice for Brunch Saturdays and Sundays. You’ll still be able to eat their Red Velvet Pancakes, Fried Chicken and Chorizo Gravy Sandwich with Rosemary Garlic Hashbrowns and their Hawaiian Bread French Toast Sticks at 1031 Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice.

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Obviously there dozens and dozens of food trucks to choose from in Los Angeles, and these are some of our favorites. But which ones do you like? Let us know in the comments below!


13 Spots For the Best Pancakes in Los Angeles Every L.A. Foodie Ought to Try Once

January 7, 2015 by Jeannette Swanson

There’s a common misconception floating around that there’s no such thing as a bad pancake. I think most people order pancakes off the menu for breakfast because they believe there’s no way you can mess it up. This is especially true if someone has enough syrup to drown the cake in a flood of sweetness.

There are so many ways a pancake can be mixed, embellished and served (thin, fluffy, crisp around the edges,) butI think aficionados appreciate a pancake for its quality, texture and its overall taste without the need for drenching each piece in rivers of syrup.

Some of the places mentioned below serve pancakes that are simple yet classic with recipes that should never be tampered with, others are a tribute to experimentation with resulting masterpieces you never would’ve expected.

[RELATED: 13 Spots For The Best Waffles in Los Angeles Every L.A. Foodie Ought to Try Once]

As always it’s hard to please everyone with a list like this, so if you have some input on where you think someone can get the best pancakes in Los Angeles, let us know in the comments section at the end.

Rundown starts after the jump!

Blu Jam Cafe Pancakes

Credit: Blu Jam Cafe on Facebook

Blu Jam Café

This cafe started out in Hollywood and has now expanded to include three locations. Breakfast is served all day and you get an easy choice of Blueberry Pancakes or Three Pancakes topped with powdered sugar. The rest of the menu is excellent as well, and we’ve heartilly endorsed them before as one of the best brunches in Los Angeles.

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Aloha Food Factory

If you’ll be dining at this mom and pop inspired Hawaiian restaurant you’ll have to try their namesake macadamia nut crème pancakes. If you do order the macadamia nut crème pancakes the kitchen in this little brick building will whip up a fluffy pancake and top it with a vanilla cream sauce and a dusting of macadamia nuts. Don’t come here expecting frills, but do expect a great meal. Aloha!

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John O’Groats

Opened in 1982, John O’Groats offers eight varieties of hotcakes. Try the O’Groats Lemon Pancakes or O’Groats Applesauce Pancakes with a side of fresh fruit and a piping hot cup of coffee. This eatery gives off a friendly homey vibe and has been named Best Breakfast by many in the media.

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Uncle Bill’s Pancake House

If you live in Manhattan Beach or need a reason to go to Manhattan Beach, Uncle Bill’s Pancake House is motivation enough. The restaurant building was originally constructed as a home and went through a number of owners before Uncle Bill McElroy moved in and started serving pancakes in 1961. Uncle Bill offers 12 varieties of pancakes and the Cake & Eggs, two buttermilk pancakes with two eggs any style. The Strawberry sounds really great right now with its fresh strawberries and whipped cream or maybe you can try something more season like the pumpkin spice.

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Uncle Bill's Pancake House

Credit: Uncle Bill’s Pancake House on Facebook

The Original Pantry

Serving Los Angeles since 1924 and open all day and night, every single day of the year. This restaurant draws an eclectic crowd and serves an unpretentious menu. This is the place to go when you don’t feel like getting especially dressed up in the early morning to get a quality pancake.

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Pacific Dining Car

Open all morning and all night you’ll be eating your pancakes in a 1920s railcar. Have your choice of fluffy blueberry, buttermilk, or banana-pecan pancakes with either New Hampshire maple or boysenberry syrup.

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Rae’s in Santa Monica is an old-school diner almost reminiscent of the diner in Seinfeld. The pancakes here are light and the prices are easy on the pockets.

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Square One Dining

Organic ingredients are prominent in Fountain Valley at Square One Dining. Order your pancakes with a bacon-enriched caramel sauce or a bourbon-pecan topping with vanilla whipped cream. Diners should take advantage of the bourbon-pecan topping before restaurants catch wind of the supposed bourbon drought.

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Being open for over 70 years, Du-par’s has woven itself into the Los Angeles coffee shop tradition. This is the place to dine if you like thick and fluffy pancakes. You won’t get anything fancy here, just a choice of the Stack (5 hot cakes) or Short Stack (3 hot cakes). However, simple often equates to the fact that these pancakes stand well enough on their own to not need to be topped with powdered sugar or infused with any fruit under the sun.

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The Griddle

This Los Angeles hipster cafe draws huge crowds and serves eccentric pancakes. The Hear Me Roar combines Frosted Flakes and strawberries while Saturday Morning Fever swirls Bailey’s and Kahlua into the buttermilk batter. The pancake menu is extensive, so maybe try a new one each visit unless you find one you’re absolutely in love with.

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The Griddle Pancakes

Credit: The Griddle on Facebook

More Than Waffles

This family owned restaurant in Encino stays true to its name by offering scrumptious pancakes for order in a full stack of three or a short stack for smaller appetites. If the Chocolate Chip Pumpkin pancakes are available when dining in I suggest taking a fork to that or the Ultima garnished with strawberries, blueberries, kiwi and nuts for a finishing crunch.

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Jacks N Joe

Breakfast is served all day at the South Figueroa restaurant that places a strong emphasis on pancakes. Jacks N Joes is conveniently located just a few blocks from the University of Southern California; perfect for students on a break between classes. The owners wanted this restaurant to have an “at home” feel, which is great for students away from home for the first time. They also work with a student budget with five pancakes for $4.75 and seven pancakes for $6.75. Try their Totally L.A. pancakes for those of us on a diet- three thin pancakes served with fresh fruit and sweet lemon butter.

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This Tarzana staple is renowned for their green tea pancakes, and they never disappoint (try the Tiramisu version as well!). For about $12 you can get a triple stack big enough to fill even the biggest pancake appetite. If you happen to be If you happen to be in the Valley near the 101, make sure to stop by!

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Did we miss your favorite pancake spot in L.A.? Let us know where you get the best pancakes in the comments section below!

Things To Do

14 Fun Things to Do in Orange County That Are Worth The Drive if You Live in Los Angeles

December 27, 2014 by Jeannette Swanson

Many might hear Orange County and think of shows like Laguna Beach, The O.C., and The Real Housewives of Orange County, but I remember life in Orange County before all the hype. I remember watching all those reality shows (or junk television as my husband calls them) and asking myself, “is that really how it is here?” Well, kind of, but not really.

I’ve gained many memories from spending nearly 20 years in Orange County, so this list may be personal, but I think the items here signify some of the greatest things to do in the area, including some landmarks you’ve probably all heard of, mixed in with a few hidden gems from my own experience.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many activities and attractions that are worth the drive to Orange County, but I think the area may be best experienced by beginning with the following.

List starts after the jump!

Disneyland Adventure Park

Credit: Michael Saechang via flickr


The happiest place on earth has gotten crazy expensive, but it is one landmark that draws hoards into Orange County every year. Many of my friends from high school had passes to Disneyland, somehow I didn’t join the masses. This place can be very magical especially when you have a child to share it with. I’m sure the majority of us know how busy this place can get, so it might be wise to plan a visit when school is in session. Make sure to go on It’s A Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion.

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Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park was a favorite amongst my friends and I growing up. I loved the park’s large wooden roller coaster (GhostRider); one of the world’s longest and tallest wooden roller coasters. The kids can enjoy Camp Snoopy and lovers of the West can stroll through Ghost Town. Make time for a meal at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant or a quick, sweet treat at Cinnabon.

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Bowers Museum

The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana offers first class exhibits, lectures, art classes and other community events. Growing up I remember family outings to this museum followed by lunch at any one of the numerous nearby restaurants. Since opening in 1991, the Bowers Museum has hosted over 80 exhibits including Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt and Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur, Secret World of the Forbidden City. Try checking out the museum for first Sunday of each month courtesy of TARGET Free First Sunday.

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Balboa Island

Balboa Island is home to many fine restaurants, shops, real estate and more. If you’d like your day in Balboa to begin on an extremely leisurely note, catch the Balboa Island Ferry from either the Newport peninsula side or the Island itself. Try whale watching and then choose from any of the Island’s boutique restaurants before you head back to Los Angeles.

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Balboa Island Sunset

A Balboa Island Sunset. Credit: Guwashi999 via flickr

Downtown Fullerton

Downtown Fullerton was a favorite hot spot for my friends and I on any given Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. It’s been at least six years since I’ve been to any of the bars in DTF, but I gathered many fun memories from bars such as Slidebar (owned by Lit’s guitarist.) If the bar scene isn’t your thing there are many great area restaurants including Knowlwood and Rutabegorz. Knowlwood is always great for burgers, chili and salads and Rutabegorz is great for large portions of healthy food with an abundance of vegetarian options.

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Fashion Island

Fashion Island in Newport Beach offers an upscale shopping experience with fantastic panoramic views of the ocean and palm trees. I never did much shopping whenever my family and I went to Fashion Island, but I did enjoy looking at the koi pond that was added in 1968, a year after this outdoor shopping center made its debut and buying caramel corn.

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Irvine Spectrum

This outdoor shopping center in Irvine is a great place to catch a movie, a good meal and some ice time. The Spectrum on Ice, located in Giant Wheel Court is open until February 16, 2015. You can catch a ride on the Ferris Wheel before you put your skates on and whish away inside the ice-covered tent.

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Irvine Spectrum

Irvine Spectrum. Credit: demxx via flickr

Adventure City

Adventure City might be the best kept secret in Orange County. Everyone knows about Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, but few widely recognize the small amusement park in Anaheim. In all honesty, I would take my two-year-old son to Adventure City over Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm any day. At just $16.95 per person you could spend all day in this amusement park that won’t have parents running for the hills. This place rarely gets busy, so your child won’t have the frustration of waiting too long in line for their turn. We’ve been twice and each time has been a complete joy.

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Medieval Times

One of the first dates with my now husband took place at Medieval Times in Buena Park. The only disappointment was that I wasn’t old enough to drink a beer. The experience is really fun especially the part about eating with your hands and watching knights joust in an arena that’s small enough to be considered intimate.

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Fullerton Arboretum

On the corner of California State University, Fullerton is a 26-acre botanical garden featuring plants from around the world. The arboretum features community gardens where 26 plots are leased on a yearly basis. This won’t benefit Los Angeles County residents, but it’s nice to see what people have done with a limited amount of space. Other interesting features are the bamboo garden, large orange trees, lake and really any of the pathways that lead to horticultural wonder.

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Fullerton Arboretum

Fullerton Arboretum. Credit: Jeannette Swanson

Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney is the place to go when you can’t afford entry into Disneyland, but still want a part of the Disney experience. This outdoor promenade features many dining, shopping and entertainment options. I suggest trying Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen for some Louisiana cooking including dishes that include duck.

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San Juan Capistrano

Visit this southern Orange County city for attractions such as Mission San Juan Capistrano and the Los Rios District for small businesses and an atmosphere that capture the simpler times of life. Visit Zoomers Petting Zoo for pony rides and then the Hummingbird Cottage for a collectable.

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Old Town Orange

This one-mile square area of Orange is like stepping upon Main Street USA. “The Antique Capital of Southern California” is centered around the historic Orange Plaza and is dotted with many restaurants and modern businesses such as Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Starbucks. If you’d like to have an old-fashioned dining experience try Watson’s where you can order a banana split or malt from the soda fountain.

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Orange County Zoo

This has to be one of the cheapest zoos in the county. This particular zoo is incomparable to the San Diego Zoo and zoos of similar size, but this zoo is a perfect trip for small children who might get bored easily. On the ground’s of the 477-acre Irvine Regional Park, you’ll be met by animals native to the southwestern United States and a peacock that just might follow you to your car.

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Anything you like to do down in Orange County that’s not on our list? Let us know in the comments below!

Things To Do

16 Mini Adventures Every L.A. Local (And Visitor!) Ought to Embark on At Least Once

December 20, 2014 by Jeannette Swanson

Even if you can’t get out of town due to time or cost, it’s always fun to have some mini-adventures right here in Los Angeles. See, the thing is there’s more stuff to do in the city of angels than you probably ever imagined, so much so that even figuring out where to start can be a bit overwhelming. Hence, we created this list.

Perhaps you’ve been to a majority of these places at least once, but even so, perhaps reading about them again here is just a reminder that it’s time to go out and explore.

Either, enjoy the rundown, and hopefully you’ll be planning soon on how to get started on your (mini) adventures throughout the city!

[RELATED: 40 Fun & Free Things to Do in Los Angeles Every Angeleno Should Try Once]

Olvera Street

Olvera Street is a Mexican Marketplace in one of the oldest parts of Los Angeles. Coming to Olvera Street as a child was always a special treat; a delicious adventure one might say. I’d save my appetite for some of the best enchiladas and tacos around; I’ve always had quite the appetite for Mexican food. The block-long marketplace attracts around two million visitors a year and it’s easy to see why. You get the best food, entertainment from mariachi players and folkloric dancers and handcrafted items. Take a free tour courtesy of Las Angelitas del Pueblo or join in on celebration days.

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Venice Beach

No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a trip to Venice Beach, specifically Muscle Beach. Dating back to the 1930s, Muscle Beach is the locale for bodybuilding and anyone with an interest in outdoor workout equipment. If you’re not into outdoor fitness, don’t worry; you can be a spectator in between shopping spurts to Venice Beach’s wide collection of shops. Keep in mind that people watching may be the best sport you may engage in on this stretch of land.

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Hollywood Sign

Perhaps one of the most famous signs in the world, the Hollywood Sign has been an American cultural icon since its creation in 1923. You can view the sign from the street or take one of three hiking trails that will lead you behind the sign or the fourth that only offers views, any closer could get you arrested. If you don’t feel like hiking you can also see it from Hollywood and Highland, Griffith Observatory and Mulholland Drive.

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View from Mt. Lee

A view from the top of Mt. Lee. Credit: James Gubera via flickr

Rodeo Drive

A majority of my out-of-state friends will ask when is the last time I’ve been to Rodeo Drive. It’s hard to break their star struck hearts, but I tell them I’ve been only once that I can remember. This two-mile long street is not the place I’d go to just because or because I was in the neighborhood, but it’s a kind of place that you should see at least once, especially for out of towners. I suggest window-shopping and people watching unless you have some serious cash to drop. Maybe even take a selfie so you can say, “I was there.”

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La Brea Tar Pits

Visit the La Brea Tar Pits at Hancock Park where fossils were formed because of oil seeping through rock. On display at the Page Museum are reconstructed fossils of prehistoric animals found in the tar pits and replicas of extinct animals. Drop in now if you’re interested in Ice Age fossil excavation sites or gift shops that have big plush dinosaurs for the little ones.

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Getty Villa

This architectural masterpiece in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood really leads you to believe you’re in a Roman Villa. Go for the art, exhibits, gardens or go to just say you’ve been. Entry into the Villa is always free; the only thing you’ll have to pay for is parking and lunch at the Café at the Getty Villa or Coffee Kiosk if you’re trying to make your day at the Villa stretch as much as you can.

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Getty Villa Los Angeles

Getty Villa. Credit: Amatullah Guyot

Universal City Walk

If you have a large family and can’t afford or justify entrance into Universal City, try strolling the Universal City Walk instead. Eat at the Hard Rock Café Hollywood or Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and end your night at Howl at the Moon (if you’re visiting without the family.) I haven’t yet been to this Howl at the Moon location, but if it’s anything like the one in Destin, FL you’re in for an awesome night. This place does dueling pianos, on-stage performances and is just laid back in general. Universal City Walk really has it all, check out their website for all happenings.

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Home of the famous French Dipped Sandwich, Philippe the Original was one of my favorites, especially after seeing a show at the Pantages Theatre. This historic deli knows how to pack a crowd, so be prepared to wait a bit in line before you get to order your sandwich and a serving of potato or macaroni salad. You will get a fantastic meal here and if you’re lucky enough you may get a quiet seat in the back room.

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Original Farmers Market

Since 1934 the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market has offered a wide variety of produce, restaurants, and specialty shops. Of course the farmers market has evolved over the years, but it’s still remained one of Los Angeles’ historic sites that should be checked off your list.

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Los Angeles Original Farmers Market

A produce stand at The L.A. Farmers Market. Credit: k lachshand via flickr

Griffith Observatory

If your school didn’t take you here on a field trip, now is the time to visit. Check out the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, use their free public telescopes in the evening or join a star party one Saturday a month. The views here are spectacular and it has been the backdrop for many films and television shows.

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The Queen Mary

I’m sure many of us have had their Prom at the Queen Mary or have been to for their Halloween events. If you haven’t been yet you’ve got to check out this floating legend. It acts as a full-service hotel and entertainment venue and also has a rich, paranormal history. The Queen Mary is said to have around 150 spirits aboard, with a heavy concentration in the engine room. If ghosts isn’t your thing, that’s okay, because this liner has a variety of year-round activities including New Year’s Eve under the stars, ScotsFestival and the Queen Mary Golf Classic.

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Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier can be more family friendly than Venice Beach with its aquarium, arcade, amusement park and carousel. Treat yourself to a milkshake or sundae at Soda Jerk, Santa Monica Pier’s classic soda fountain. If you’d rather have a margarita go to Mariasol Cocina Mexicana at the Pier’s west end. And what the heck, end the day with a funnel cake! Have fun and don’t count calories when you spend the day at this pier.

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My first traditional Chinese dress was purchased in Chinatown many years ago. I remember putting on the beautiful red dress and securing nylon stockings to the top of my head so I could pretend I had beautiful long black hair. Chinatown may have some of the area’s most delicious dim sum and markets where hard-to-find ingredients are prominent. You should also check out the Thien Hau Temple and The Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour the first Saturday of every  month. For $20 you’ll be shown the temple, herbal shop, antique stores, art galleries and much more.

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KCRW Summer Nights in Chinatown

KCRW Summer Nights in Chinatown

Urban Adventure West

Embark upon a big kid scavenger hunt where points of interest include Olvera Street, Union Station, Disney Hall and L.A. Cathedral. Think of this as a one city Amazing Race where you’re presented with 20 questions that will lead you to historic sites around the city. The race is 49 bucks and you’ll need to purchase a round trip Metro ticket, but what a unique way to explore Los Angeles.

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Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary

Find the Veterans Administration campus in Westwood and then let the sound of parrots lead you to the open-air facility where the sanctuary’s parrots are ready to carry out a conversation or two with you. Best thing about this is it’s FREE.

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Venice Canals

For year-round fun check out the Venice Canals, conveniently located near the Venice Pier and Muscle Beach. This is a great place to go on a morning walk or for a first date since it gives you lots of space to take a leisurely stroll (lots of space means lots of time to get to know your date.) The bridges are really cool too and if you’re bringing children it gives them a spot to run back and forth on, perfect before nap time.

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15 Bars for the Best Cocktails in L.A. Made by Real-Deal Mixologists

December 11, 2014 by Jeannette Swanson

What’s the difference between a bartender and a mixologist?

Well, the former just serves you drinks, while the latter is a craft artist who innovates, refines, and perfects their techniques to make the best potables possible.

It takes something special to be a called a true mixologist, but we’ve found 15 establishments in Los Angeles where the cocktail drinking experience is elevated to a truly exceptional level, combining elite levels of skill, ingredients and creativity.

So check out below our picks (in no particular order) for where to get the best cocktails in L.A. made by some of the city’s finest bartenders mixologists.

And of course most importantly after you read the list, go try ’em! 🙂

Thirsty Crow Cocktail

Credit: Thirsty Crow on Facebook

Blue Collar

Vinny Laresca recently opened a bar on Fairfax that’s an ode to the “Golden Age” of cocktail programs. You won’t find a cocktail list here; instead the cocktail program that’s run by Aaron Stepka is based on memory and personalization. The bartenders here will remember your favorite drink just like a restaurant will remember your favorite order.

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The Thirsty Crow

Head bartender Cooper Gillespie’s cocktail program includes homemade shrubs, sherbets, jams and in-house fusions. Check out the cocktail menu on their website and pick a drink based on your favorite bartender from The Thirsty Crow. Try the Ernesto Hemingway by Geoffrey Smyser or the Grapescape courtesy of Rahad Coulter-Stevenson.

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The Exhibition Room

The best-kept secret in Long Beach is connected to Roxanne’s Lounge through a 1940s-era phone booth. David Valiante, Bar Director of The Exhibition Room and owner of Elevated Mixology, brings 20 years of industry experience to the bar’s cocktail program. Stay turned to their social feed for updates on Liquid Lessons from experts in the field.

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Exhibition Room Cocktail

Credit: The Exhibition Room on Facebook

Black Market Liquor Bar

The Black Market Liquor Bar opening in 2011 gives people an escape from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. The Valley’s premier destination for cocktails has a menu that changes weekly and a group of the area’s top mixologists to create creative change.

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1886 Bar

Mixologists showcase their creativity in a cool space behind a South Pasadena restaurant. A 100-year-old house holds the Raymond restaurant in the front and 1886 Bar in the rear. Head barman Brady Wiese brings expertise from his time bartending in the Bay Area and Tangier in Los Feliz. Only open since 2010, expect the cocktail list to change with the seasons. And in celebration of their four year anniversary they’ve introduced a Greatest Hits cocktail list that includes 13 of the tastiest cocktails ever created on Fair Oaks Ave.

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The Edison

This underground architects dream sets the stage for artisanal cocktails and a new drought-friendly cocktail list. They’re also in their 5th year of partnering with The Midnight Mission’s toy drive. The scoop- bring a toy and receive a complimentary cocktail between now and the 20th of this month.

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Cocktail at The Edison

Credit: The Edison on Facebook

Bar Centro

Located inside Beverly Hills’ SLS hotel is a lounge that was the first in Los Angeles to offer liquid nitrogen. The open lounge is a forum for superb mixologists to craft exceptional modern creations. Expect a playground of cocktails, all molecular-inspired and the appearance of cotton candy.

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Harvard and Stone

Come in for Asian-flavored cocktails at the cocktail bar that was a finalist in the Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar at Tales of the Cocktail, the world’s most well known cocktail conference. Jill Webster, Harvard and Stone’s current bar manager, has won two Speed Rack regional competitions in San Diego and San Francisco. This is the place to visit for speed cocktails.

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The Roger Room

Matt Wise from the bar on La Cienega told me it’s “a collaborative effort at the Roger Room.” The Roger Room’s three main creative mixologists Jason Porter, Tai Bennett, and Bruce Hood create a “very well balanced menu that appeals to a variety of palates,” Matt adds. From the recently released Winter Menu Matt suggests trying the Straw Man and The Long Goodbye:

Straw Man

Twelve Five Overproof Rye, Pumpkin & Spice, Old Fashioned Bitters, Rosemary, Orange Peel, rocks

 The Long Goodbye

Vida Mezcal Rinse, Herradura Blanco, Ancho Reyes Liqueur, Fresh Carrot Juice, Fresh Lime Juice, Agave Nectar, Lime Zest, up

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Roger Room Cocktail

Photo Credit: The Roger Room

Library Bar

Not to be confused with the book-lined indoor lounge at The Redbury or the one at the Roosevelt Hotel, mixologists from the Library Bar in Downtown Los Angeles craft their own bitters, foam and garnishes.

Having just celebrated their 8th year anniversary, Library Bar still provides a beautifully lit ambiance with a genuine bookcase that customers just adore.

The cocktail menu was developed by Andrew All, Makeda Teachout and Dylan Synder. If Dylan Synder rings a bell it’s because he’s the Beverage Director for Acme Hospitality. Andrew All suggests trying the Big Bad Wolf, a cocktail developed by Makeda Rose. “It is a raspberry tequila sour with a stenciled paw print sprayed on with bitters,” Andrew All explains.

Says Andrew:

“We have an elevated cocktail program and still get our cocktails out fast, we have an excellent cocktail hour from 3-7p.m. Monday through Friday that brings in a lot of business men and women from all over the Financial District.”

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The Varnish

There’s a lot to be expected from one of Los Angeles’ original cocktail bars and The Varnish consistently puts out classic cocktails with loads of style. Eric Alperin, lead bartender and owner of The Varnish is kind of a big deal and he places a strong emphasis on historical accuracy. One might call their rotating cocktail list a boutique list since it includes about five or six drinks. If you’d like to be daring, go with the bartender’s choice cocktail, after all they did earn the title of Best American Cocktail Bar at Tales of the Cocktail in 2012.

Insider seasonal tip: The Varnish offers an off-menu (request only) Warm Milk Punch- prepared with dark rum, a full-bodied cognac, oleo-saccharum, whole milk, simple syrup and lemon juice-throughout the winter months.

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Caña Rum Bar

To become a member of the Caña Rum Society you’ll need to pay a $20 membership fee, but it’s worth it. Caña’s mixologist Allan Katz doubles as general manager and cleverly calls himself “The Hank Moody of Mixology.”

On style:

“I’m an expatriated lifelong New Yorker. I got lucky to start out when there was such a wealth of talent behind the town’s cocktail bars. It informed how I work, and as a result there isn’t anything I do that doesn’t share DNA with a tried and true classic. Respect for your roots is a very NY thing,” Allan shares.

On a perfect cocktail:

“I have many colleagues that will make a drink 30-100 times before it’s just right. I think that’s ridiculous. Imagine having sex with someone 100 times before it’s worth an orgasm. Exactly,” Allan tells me. I don’t think anymore could have put it more eloquently than that.”

Allan believes a cocktail should be the result of harmony and arithmetic: “If the flavors involved aren’t off the bat delicious, then it’s a pointless exercise. If they are, it only takes a little math to ensure they’re optimally balanced.”

On a seasonal note:

“Danielle Crouch [my partner and acting GM at Caña while I await neurosurgery] is a big fan of old cookbooks when we’re seeking some seasonal inspiration. If it works in a pie then it’ll make a great cocktail. That’s where the Joy Ride came from. When she highlighted pears and granny smith apples with rosemary in a tart recipe it made me think of Karen Grill’s [Sassafras GM] Granita Applebum cocktail that paired Tequila & green apple soda at Bestia. Since we knew everything would sing together, the Joy Ride was raring to go in one take:”

Here’s the recipe:

1.5oz Blanco Tequila

.5 pear puree

.5 fresh granny smith juice (it’ll brown quickly, but still awesome taste)

.5 rosemary syrup

.75 lemon j.

Shake all ingredients w/ a few pellets of crushed ice or a cracked cube until ice is dissolved. Then pour over crushed ice in a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with a rosemary sprig.

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Cana Rum Bar Cocktail

Credit: Cana Rum Bar on Facebook

Copa D’ Oro

Lead by Head Barman Vincenzo Marianella, guests are encouraged to create their own cocktails from premium ingredients and are reminded to “keep it simple and keep it fresh.” Vincenzo tailors his cocktail list to what’s fresh at the Farmer’s Market.

You’ll get your choice of spirit, herbs, fruits, organic juices and nectars, vegetables and jams and marmalades. If you’re feeling especially daring and most importantly if your pockets are lined with cash, try a cocktail from the “Because You Can” menu. For $85 you can sip the Gold Plated Sidecar, made with Hennessey XO Cognac, Grand Marnier Cinquantenarie and fresh lemon juice.

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Providence may be one of the area’s premier dining spots, but they’re also known for their amazing cocktail program. This is place to be to for a superb cocktail drinking experience that doesn’t attract the typical bar crowd. Recommendation: try the Angry Angeleno, a a combination of blanco tequila, Fernet Branca, ginger, lime and jalapeño bitters.

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Where do you get your favorite cocktails in Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below!

Cool Spots

14 Amazing Wedding Venues in Los Angeles Even the Pickiest Bride is Sure to Love

December 4, 2014 by Jeannette Swanson

You’ve found the guy, you have the ring, you’re deeply in love… now there’s just one last thing to do-find that perfect wedding venue.

Los Angeles has an abundance of wedding venues, but which one is right for you and your dream wedding? Something with architectural bragging rights, a historical building, wide open garden spaces or an unconventional venue? No matter your preference, the City of Angels has the wedding venue you’ve been seeking.

I was lucky enough to locate the venue for my 2009 wedding in just under a week. We were wed at the Condor’s Nest Ranch in Pala, CA, the venue was spectacular, but it’s in San Diego County, so you won’t find it on this list. When myself and my then fiancee stepped foot onto the ground’s we knew right away this is where we’d be getting married. From that point on we knew the search for that perfect venue was over.

I hope that moment happens for you too and to help we’ve collected 12 of the most amazing wedding venues that should inspire just about every type of bride.

List starts after the jump!

Smog Shoppe Wedding Placecard

Photo Credit: Amy via flickr

Carondelet House

For fans of Downton Abbey we’ve found an Italian Villa built in 1928 that offers many European amenities including country chic tables, European café chairs, French round side chairs and a Chesterfield tufted leather seating surrounding the fireplace. Yes, we know Downton Abbey takes place in England, but this property could be a modern Italian Yorkshire with its high exposed beam ceilings, exposed brick walls and two exterior courtyards.  With plenty of spaces to give the bride ample room to breath, this may be your chance to be Lady Mary Crawley for the day.

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The Smog Shoppe

Brides with a love for the vintage inspired facet of life should consider booking the Smog Shoppe for their nuptials. The unconventional and unique unite at one of the top sustainably urban spaces in the United States. Brides will be surrounded by 6,500 square feet of indoor/outdoor desert plants, vertical gardens and vintage furnishings. This venue is becoming one of the most sought over wedding locations in Los Angeles.

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Huron Substation

Los Angeles’ second oldest surviving substation has been featured in films such as “Date Night” and “Must Love Dogs” and in print in GQ magazine and The Los Angeles Times. Built in 1906, this media haven could be yours for the taking. Your ceremony will take place just outside the building’s large barn doors in the garden where you’ll be draped by willowly trees. The reception to follow will be held through those barn doors and into an expansive exposed brick room with an upper tier for guests’ to look down and marvel the East Coast architecture below.

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Park Plaza Hotel

Gotham City meets a venue with a ballroom for just about every type of bride. Try the Grand Ballroom with its twin colonnades that extend the length of the room or the Bronze Ballroom with the adjoining Tuscan Patio. This location is nothing short of legendary and you will have many luxurious and glamorous options at your fingertips.

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Heritage Square Museum

With wedding packages starting at $1,000 brides will be surrounded by stunning architecture and gardens for a price that won’t break the honeymoon budget. Intimate weddings could be held inside the largest home on the property, the Perry Mansion. Built in 1876, this Mansion is characterized by hardwood floors, a marble fireplace and an outward sweeping entrance stairway. They’ll also stage outdoor weddings among their 19th century historic home neighborhood.

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Middle Ranch Lodge

Situated on a 650-acre horse ranch and dotted with Live Oak and Redwood trees is a location offering country elegance. Surrounded by the National Forest on three sides, this venue is for the bride who wants her wedding to be an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday Los Angeles. The Lodge’s frown lawns offer the perfect rural ceremony site, while inside offers guests the feel of a rented house far away from home.

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Calamigos Ranch

Since 1947, Calamigos Ranch has offered up its 130 acres of Malibu Wine Country for brides who wish to wed in grand country wedding fashion. The ranch is comprised of four unique locations that can accommodate between 75 and 500 guests. Take the Pavillion at North Point where 500 of your closest friends will watch you and your groom recite your vows under the 100 year old Oak tree. After you’re officially Mr. and Mrs., you’ll walk arm in arm with your groom along a sycamore lined pathway illuminated by candles. Finish off the night with dancing and dining in the ground’s Pavillion as you overlook the meadows and vineyard from your grand white tent.

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Vibiana Cathedral

Located in the Historic Core of Downtown Los Angeles is a wedding venue rich with history and charm. Brides will have 35,000 square feet of the former Cathedral of Saint Vibiana at their disposal. Old Hollywood Charm is clearly present here with this venue dripping in luxury and grace. The lighting here available for weddings is spectacular on its own, it’s enough to make you feel like you’re underground in a super exclusive ballroom.

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Descanso Gardens

This 160-acre public garden offers seven garden venues that will please just about any bride. The bride who favors an intimate affair can select the Japanese Garden, while the over-the-top bride can opt for the Boddy House. The Boddy House resembles a Southern country manor complete a modern day built-in stereo music system.

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Oviatt Penthouse

Built in 1928, the Oviatt Penthouse is a historical Art Deco venue that radiates Old Hollywood style. The venue possesses quite the character with its three-faced clock tower, black and white checked dance floor and 360-degree views of the downtown L.A. skyline. Guests will have three exquisite spaces to enjoy that skyline- the penthouse, outdoor rooftop and upper lounge.

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Chateau Marmont

This 68-room hotel constructed in 1927 offers European elegance and Old World charm. The Chateau Marmont that’s perched on a steep West Hollywood hill is respected for their privacy policy, since it’s very often frequented by Hollywood A-listers. You too can be an A-lister for the day as you wed among cottages and bungalows modeled after a royal estate in France’s Loire Valley.

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The Langham Huntington Hotel

This luxury Pasadena hotel offers brides 23 acres of cultivated gardens and three historic ballrooms. The set for Charlie Wilson’s War, the Georgian Ballroom is adorned with stained glass windows and gold-gilded vaulted ceilings. Then there’s the Horseshoe Garden where you can make your grand entrance in a horse-drawn carriage or glide down the stone staircase to your guests. No matter which space you choose, your wedding day here will be luxurious and tailored to you by the Langham’s wedding team.

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Shutters on the Beach

Shutters on the Beach offers fantasy Santa Monica weddings with six unique venues. Shutters prides themselves in not offering that boring ballroom, but instead a 2015 Extraordinary Weddings package at either the Grand Salon or Hotel Casa Del Mar Colannade Ballroom with a customized wedding cake and a 1-bedroom suite for the night of. Visit their website to see what type of magical beach wedding could be created for you.

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Lobo Castle

Los Angeles’s most authentic castle offers a magical experience for brides and guests alike. East of Calabasas brides will have their own private medieval-inspired harbor and a venue that will be a photographer’s dream. That means your photos will be dreamy and plenty share worthy!

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Did you get married in Los Angeles? How was your experience? What venue did you choose? Let us know in the comments below!


12 Shops to Find the Best Cakes in Los Angeles

November 28, 2014 by Jeannette Swanson

Not all of us are blessed enough to be that gal or guy everyone asks to bring their specialty carrot/chocolate/pound/layer cake to every family gathering, potluck, work function, bake sale or fundraiser. You know, it’s that that one person who playfully complains to their friend or spouse that they were asked to make yet another cake, but happily puts on that apron and mixes the batter with a grin?

Well not everyone has the energy or skill to double as Betty Crocker in the kitchen. We’re still too busy putting effort into home cooked meals to worry about what’s for dessert, let alone a superb, moist cake.

So for those of us who need to provide a cake for a family gathering, potluck, work function, bake sale or fundraiser we’ve rounded up some unique bake and cake shops in the Los Angeles area for your viewing pleasure. And just a fair warning, you may not want to read this on an empty stomach.

That said, listed below (in no particular order) are 12 Los Angeles cake shops you absolutely need to know about.

Rundown starts after the jump!

Portos Bakery

Ports Bakery. Credit: Marco Antonio Torres via flickr

Sweet Lady Jane

Open since 1988, the woman behind Sweet Lady Jane’s began her baking career by selling her desserts to Los Angeles area restaurants. Jane has been widely recognized by the media including Oprah, Country Home, Entertainment Weekly and Bon Apetit. We love that Sweet Lady Jane’s always uses the freshest ingredients and produces a moist and just the right amount of sweet cake every time.

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Porto’s Bakery

Porto’s Bakery & Café might be the best place in Los Angeles for Cuban-style family baked goods and cakes. A small family business that has grown so that it now employs hundreds in their Glendale, Burbank and Downey stores. Their cakes are incredibly festive and look just as festively fun to eat. If you’re in the market for a cake that will blow the minds of everyone at your next holiday gathering I would suggest picking up either a Christmas Log or Christmas Mango Mousse Cake. The Christmas Log looks like a neatly lobbed off thick tree branch, but with a frosted pine cone, peppermints, poinsettia flower, cranberries and sprinkles of snow. The Christmas Mango Mousse with two layers of white sponge cake and fresh mango mousse, might just make up for not putting up your Christmas tree village this year. With a small snow covered house, Christmas trees, cranberries and snow frosting the cake’s top, I’ll say it’s better than any seasonal decoration.

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Phoenix Bakery

The largest and oldest bakery in Chinatown is a family operation ran by the Chan’s, made famous by churning out “not so Chinese” cakes. If you try only one cake from Phoenix Bakery, the Strawberry Whipped Cream Cake is it: it’s delicately created with layers of sponge cake, fresh whipped cream, sliced berries encased in more fresh whipped cream and rounded off with an almond slice circumference.

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Sycamore Kitchen

A culinary couple operation just south of Beverly Blvd, Sycamore Kitchen has given a new definition to the urban-bakery eatery. With a wide assortment of baked goods and loaves and cakes, it’s really hard to choose just one. Any one of their cakes would be fitting for a holiday office party or an in-house lunch with some bubbly or suds. The size of the cakes are not over the top, how are we going to finish this huge, so you could call this cake eating experience a guilt free one as well.

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Lark Cake Shop

Credit: Lark Cake Shop on Facebook

Susina Bakery & Cafe

Steps away from the corner of La Brea is a bakery and café that just might have the most decadently prepared cakes in the city. I would love to share the entire cake menu on this page, but I’m afraid that if I do my fingers will be too covered in frosting to continue writing this piece. With that out of the way let me recommend either the Chocolate Raspberry Cake or the Raspberry Lemon Dream. The Chocolate Raspberry cake includes layers of chocolate devil’s food cake glazed with berry liqueur, infused with chocolate mousse and fresh raspberries and topped off with dark chocolate curls. The Raspberry Lemon Dream truly is a dream for our senses with its layers of vanilla sponge cake, lemon curd and fresh seedless raspberry jam.

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Susie Cakes

Chicago native Susan Sarich moved to the West Coast with 4×6 cards of her grandmothers’ prized baking recipes. Susan takes her dedication to family baking traditions and infuses that passion into each cake her and her in-house bakers create. Order a specialty layer cake such as the Old-Fashioned 6-Layer Chocolate Cake or the Tropical Coconut Cake or get creative by designing your own custom layer cake. Choose a chocolate, vanilla or confetti vanilla base, throw in your favorite buttercream frosting and then ask for a special decoration if you’re in the mood. Also keep in mind that for the month of November Susie Cakes will be featuring their Cranberry-Orange Layer Cake, made with moist vanilla cake, cranberries and a fresh orange zest buttercream.

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Magnolia Bakery

What should be called the passport of all bakeries, Magnolia Bakery can be found in Chicago, Moscow City, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Beirut, Kuwait City and yours truly Los Angeles. Any of Magnolia’s specialty cakes can be ordered by the slice or in 6 or 9” for kindly sharing with others. Holiday gatherings seem to be a time when calories don’t count so why not let everyone splurge with a German Chocolate cake made with a rich and sweet German chocolate cake and a layer of coconut caramel pecan icing. But if your friends are health nuts, order the Hummingbird and tell them it has lots of fresh fruit including bananas and pineapples.

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Doughboys Cafe & Bakery

Beloved for it’s Red Velvet Cake, Dough Boys has earned its five minutes of fame on Oprah, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and other Los Angeles media. Since its Red Velvet has experienced so much fame, the folks at Dough Boys have introduced the white velvet and the black velvet. These two sister cakes have the same sweet cream cheese frosting and white chocolate drizzle, but with a different velvet base depending on your mood.

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Valerie Confections

Los Angeles Magazine named Valerie’s Confections Best Chocolatier in a blind taste test; I think that’s real good for the city of Los Angeles. This chocolatier leader has several chocolate-based cakes to satisfy the sweetest of tooth in the area. Who loves white chocolate? I certainly do. If you’re like me and crave all things white chocolate, try their White Chocolate Coconut Cake, made with an interior layer of passion fruit buttercream and balanced out with a white chocolate buttercream exterior and of course made complete with coconut.

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Valerie Confections

Credit: Valerie Confections on Facebook

Jamaica’s Cakes

Let’s first clear any possible confusion, this is a not a Jamaican-style bakery in any shape or form. Its owner who was named after a song entitled “Oh Jamaica” has been featured on TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off, Ultimate Cake Boss and the hysterically funny Curb Your Enthusiasm. Try Jamaica’s Raspberry Champagne Cake for an extra does of champagne or Cookies-n-Cream Cake where cookies are baked into the vanilla butter cake. Anyone have a bachelor or bachelorette party coming up? This cake shop doubles as a great place to order the perfect gag cake and you can make it as clean or dirty as you’d like.

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Lark Cake Shop

Opening in 2007, Lark Cake Shop took stake on Sunset Blvd with hopes of providing Angelenos with stylized, yet simple baked goods. All their cakes are aesthetically pleasing by being decorated with the less is more attitude. The Banana Cake, made with a vanilla cake base, layered with whipped cream and bananas, iced with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate is a moist, light and flavorsome cake perfect for any occasion. Or let’s let caramel lovers unite with Colleen’s Caramel Cake that is splendidly topped and filled with caramel icing.

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The Butter End Cakery

The cake shop that was asked to create a cake in celebration of the 200th episode of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother is laced with an inspiring story of perseverance and creativity. Kimberly Bailey, owner of The Butter End Cakery, moved to Los Angeles for a change of pace and a year later found out she had cancer. She ended up using the kitchen as a creative outlet and well, now her cake shop produces some of the most sought after cakes in Los Angeles. Baily creates many delectable Dessert Bars with fabulous presentation including Wine Country Mini Cakes, Painted Black and White Mini Cakes and the Harry Winston.

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Cool Spots

The 20 Best Speakeasy Style Bars in Los Angeles

November 24, 2014 by Jeannette Swanson

Farewell to the 18th Amendment, but not to the bars that act as though we’re still in the prohibition era!

Speakeasies originated during the 1920’s when alcohol was then illegal but the demand was still so high that establishments were driven underground to service the needs of John Q. Public.

To gain entrance to a speakeasy one would have to provide the correct password to the doorman so as to protect the integrity of the secret (and illegal) operation. Speakeasy was a term bartenders used to remind their patrons to “speak easy,” so that unwarranted suspicion would not be brought upon theme and essentially foil the ruse.

[RELATED: The 14 Best Craft Beer Bars in Los Angeles]

The Varnish

Credit: The Varnish

For purposes of this article I’m qualifying a speakeasy as a bar that aspires to maintain the secretive spirit that harkens back to this bygone age. Optimally, there should high quality cocktails, a secret entrance, an unmarked building, a required password and decor fitting to the prohibition era.

The bars listed below have many of these qualities (some more, some less) but I especially wanted to locate joints that required a password, just like back in the day!

So if you’re feeling a little adventurous and want something a bit different for your next cocktail night out, be sure to check out one of these awesome spots.


Basement Tavern at the Victorian

Located beneath a 19th century home is a speakeasy inspired bourbon bar. For entry, you’ll need to trail to the house’s rear, spryly duck down a flight of stairs before reaching a subterranean space with taxidermy and exposed piping. Drinks here aren’t as mixology-driven as the other speakeasies, so visitors should feel at ease ordering a beer, vodka cranberry, or something from their bourbon-focused menu.

2640 Main St
Santa Monica, CA 90405
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The Basement Tavern in Los Angeles

Credit: The Basement Tavern on Facebook

Blind Barber

A vintage-inspired barbershop precedes this two-year-old speakeasy on Washington Street in East Village. From the storefront it doesn’t look too out of the ordinary, with its plain white door and spinning barber pole. However, after 6p.m., head to the back of the barbershop where you’ll find a characterless door that serves as a passageway to a dark, but active bar. Inside you’ll find a parlor complete with brass taps, a worn checkered floor and grandpa’s den. Pair any one of their gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches with one of their daring and unique beverages.

10797 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 841-6679
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Crane’s Downtown

Carefully hidden inside an underground bank vault in the Historic Core is a vintage inspired bar with red vinyl booths. Extract some liquid assets from this dark neighborhood bar with an intimate space called the Boot Nugget Room, where thumping speakers won’t interrupt your private conversation. This intimate bar that holds only about 80 or so will truly make you feel as if you’re one of the privileged to have entry to this vintage speakeasy inspired bar.

801 S Spring St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 239-0047
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Dirty Laundry

This New York style speakeasy is directly beneath the Houston Brothers’ other bar, No Vacancy. Rumor has it that this space used to be Rudolph Valentino’s speakeasy, where he’d escape with a bevy of beauties. True or not, the myth makes for an even more alluring speakeasy inspired Los Angeles bar. Make sure you know the password and be prepared to see the word “SEX” in large font as you enter. It shouldn’t be that entirely surprising, since Dirty Laundry has now earned the status of one of the city’s sexiest bars.

1725 North Hudson Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 462-6531
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The Del Monte Speakeasy at Townhouse

Underground catacombs and caves leading from the former Abbott Kinney Pier to the basement of the Townhouse transported illegal shipments of whiskey and rum to its equally illegal Del Monte Speakeasy. A stairway in the Townhouse will lead you downstairs to a classy vintage room with low ceilings. They’ve got a boutique list of seven cocktails, all $12, ranging from a Moscow Mule to a Fiery Paloma, made with jalapeno infused Arette Blanco, tequila, lime, grapefruit, giffard pamplemousse and salt.

52 Windward Ave
Venice, CA 90291
(310) 392-4040
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The Edison

Los Angeles’ first private power plant has been transformed into a hip bar characterized by dark and eccentric features. No password is required at this back alley bar, but reservations are recommended and they do enforce a dress code. Yet another hostess in flapper attire will escort you and your cocktail clad friends down a grand staircase enforced with iron banisters into a nightclub that fuses the 1920s with industrialism. The space here is vast with enough features to entertain you as you sip the night away in the historical Higgins Building.

108 W 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 613-0000
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The Edison Los Angeles

Credit: The Edison on Facebook

Good Times at Davey Waynes

The Houston Brothers have done it again with their refrigerator tribute to Narnia. If you love That 70s Show, dive bars and a speakeasy feel to a bar then Good Times at Davey Waynes has to be added to your bar to-do list. It all starts with a garage sale and a group of you piling into a garage among a line of dapper-dressed people. Then through a refrigerator you’ll enter a 70s living room with retro beer cans, candy and a ton more and then the main bar where beer taps are coming out of antique refrigerators. They even have an Airstream with alcoholic snow cones. I think it’s safe to say this place is pretty rad.

1611 N El Centro Ave
Hollywood, CA 90028
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La Descarga

This Cuban-themed reservation-only bar on Western Ave operates in typical speakeasy fashion. Expected guests are led up a narrow stairway into an office, inspected for on-point attire and then are admitted entry through a secret armoire closet into the heart of the Havana-inspired speakeasy. Once you’ve entered the Cuban Narnia you’ll be treated to live music, sexy burlesque shows every hour and great drinks. If that’s not enough, a hallway resembling a back alley just behind the bar will lead you to a cigar bar where quality Dominican leaf cigars are rolled. Choose one with full bodied smoke or one with a medium flavor.

1159 North Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 466-1324
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Lock and Key

Find the illuminated key and unassuming red door on Vermont Ave to explore one of the most cleverly designed speakeasy entries in Los Angeles. Behind that red door is a black wall with hundreds of locks and doorknobs; one of them actually will allow entry. A kind hostess will play the you’re getting warmer game as you try to decipher which door lets you in. When you’ve finally chosen the correct one you will be whisked away into a bar with top-notch cocktails and smooth jazz. Oh and don’t look up if you’re not accustomed to mirrored ceilings.

239 S Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(213) 389-5625
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Lock  and Key

Credit: The Lock & Key

Next Door Lounge

A dapper doorman dressed to the nine’s in a three piece suit and top hat will politely greet you before requesting a password in exchange for entry. If allowed entry, you’ll see waitresses dressed in red flapper dresses sashaying past you, plush sofas and black and white movies projected on the wall. Expect classy drinks such as champagne cocktails, snazzy fizzes, and nifty sours.

1154 North Highland Ave
Hollywood, CA 90038
(323) 465-5505
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No Vacancy

This Hollywood bar in the historic Hotel Juniper offers 3400 square feet of pre-prohibition fun. Built within the Janes House, you’ll travel upstairs and through a dimly lit corridor and past some locked rooms before you’re put through a series of tests that will determine your eligibility for entry. If allowed entry into this hotel inspired bar from the men of La Descarga you’ll be privy to a lot of gin, garters, phonographs and old fashioned bar stools.

1727 N Hudson Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 465-1902
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The Parlor Lounge Inside the Federal Bar (Long Beach)

If you ask a server at the Federal Bar in Long Beach, they’ll hook you up with a password for the speakeasy that resides beneath. Just past the upstairs bathrooms you’ll find a nondescript staircase leading to down to a richly decorated, intimate space, perfect for a late night cocktail.

And coolest of all? Because the bar is built inside what used to be a bank, they’ve actually reconstituted the old vault as a VIP area where you can get bottle service.

102 Pine Ave
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 435-2000
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Pour Vous

Located across from Paramount Studios, Pour Vous offers Angelenos a Parisian prohibition speakeasy parlor complete with aerial dancers and fire-throwing/eating acts. There won’t be any sign out front and it might look a bit eerie at night, but that changes once you pass through the thick velvet curtains. When inside you’ll admire the theatrical lighting as it highlights certain sections of the room as you claim a spot by the focal fireplace. If there’s a certain day of the month you’re not looking to hit up another dive bar, this is place to go for sophistication and elegance.

5574 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 871-8699
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Pour Vous Monte Carol Cocktail

Credit: Frank Ishman via Pour Vous on Facebook

R Bar

This establishment in Koreatown doubles as a dive bar and speakeasy. The building is not entirely unmarked, but the upside is that the password changes every few weeks instead of daily. Often overlooked, this unpretentious bar offers the basics, but has an atmosphere quirky enough to be worthy of a spot on your bar hopping Saturday evening.

3331 W. 8th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
(213) 387-7227
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Seventy 7

If you just happen to stumble upon a red neon “Cocktails” sign in a dark alley in the heart of Culver City, you’ve somehow navigated yourself to Seventy 7. The owners of Rocco’s Tavern have tucked their new alley-speakeasy behind their Italian eatery. A new password is required daily by a man who gives you the once over through a sliding window in the entry door. Once inside, the design is reminiscent of the Prohibition era, including the 1920s era drinks.

3843 Main St
Culver City, CA
(310) 559-7707
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The Sayers Club

This bar’s existence may often go unknown simply because its entrance is through the back of a Hollywood Papaya King. Who would have thought a classy lounge’s entryway would be via a hot dog shack? At a yellow door next to Papaya King’s counter you won’t be asked for a password, but your name will have to be on the list. Upon entry you’ll step foot inside a large room with leather sofas, dim lighting and a stage that might descend from the ceiling sometime during your visit.

1645 Wilcox Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 871-8223
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The Speakeasy

This trendy bar in Pasadena is most recognizable for its superb drinks including a roster of 250 beers. During the day people might think this is just a New York style deli, but at night it becomes unrecognizable. A number 25 above the entryway is the only indicator that you’re actually at this speakeasy inspired bar in Old Town Pasadena. Red dim lighting softy floods the space where you must correctly answer either a question or riddle on their Facebook page for entry. When answered correctly you’ll find bartenders dressed as flappers, candles lining the walls and speakeasy decor throughout the bar.

25 N Raymond Ave
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 578-9156
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The Speakeasy in Pasadena

Credit: The Speakeasy on Facebook

The Varnish

Tucked away in an old storage room of the “Originators of the French dip,” lies an intimate, laid-back speakeasy only accessible by a top-secret door. In speakeasy fashion the only give away of its existence is a cocktail etching on the door. A throwback to “Boardwalk Empire,” the location is quite fitting and welcoming of intimate conservations with a small group of friends or a new beau.

118 East 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 622-9999
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The Wellesbourne

A 19th Century English inspired speakeasy named after a village not far from Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford Upon-Avon invites you for an evening of elegance and style. All decorative pieces, reminiscent of an English manor, have been shipped directly from England for an authentic experience. Expect to see the staff wearing bowties, skinny suspenders, rolled-up sleeves and guests who dress similar to that era. Guests can choose from one of three rooms to occupy themselves in and for kicks we suggest hanging out in the Sidecar.

1029 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 474-0102
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The Writer’s Room

Launched by the self-important literary genius James Franco, this hangout encourages attendance from a creative crowd. What was once the ‘back room’ of Musso & Frank’s until the 1950s when the Vogue Theater acquired it, lies a vintage-inspired cocktail bar. Legends like Fitzgerald and Faulkner used to occupy this space between rewrites and now you can too even if you aren’t some legendary screenwriter or author of some sort. The hidden entrance between Las Palmas and Cherokee Avenue will lead you to a wooden staircase that takes you down to a narrow interior filled with vintage furniture and antique chandeliers. Get your name on the list and for an evening you can pretend you’ve been transported back to Old Hollywood.

6685 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90028
(323) 491-4148
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Do you know of a secret bar or speakeasy in L.A. we omitted in our list? Have tips on any of the above establishments? Let us know in the comments below!