What to Eat, See, Drink, and Do in Los Angeles

Author: David McMillin       

Los Angeles

Two Bit Circus, an interactive playground just three miles from the Los Angeles Convention Center, is a virtual reality oasis with old-school charms. (Courtesy Two Bit Circus)

When the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board hosted me for a media trip in mid-April, my top priority was exploring the latest and greatest additions for meetings and conventions. There has been an explosion of downtown hotel development and ambitious expansion plans are in the works for the L.A. Convention Center, so the agenda was packed with updates on why southern California stands out as a destination for attendees to learn, network — and soak up the sun. However, I still managed to see some of the lesser-known but worth-discovering places around the city. If you’re going to L.A. for Education Conference from June 25–28, take a look at some of my favorite spots.

Stay tuned for another look at Los Angeles’ convention happenings in the June issue of Convene, and check out the complete EduCon program.

Best Place for Lunch

The Highlight Room

6417 Selma Avenue — 20-minute, 9-mile ride from the convention center

Located at the Dream Hollywood Hotel, this appropriately named rooftop restaurant will have you pinching yourself to make sure you’re still awake. Rest easy. You’ve actually just taken an elevator away from the realities of the ground to a place where 360-degree views of L.A. and the surrounding region are meant to be savored — along with a delicious menu with the kind of fresh fare designed to satisfy Hollywood celebrities. Or, everyday people like me looking for something healthy, like English pea hummus and a light beet salad.

Los Angeles

If you eat in the Highlight Room, which opens up to the rooftop pool of the Dream Hollywood Hotel, remember to wait 30 minutes before you take a dip. (Discover Los Angeles)

Best Place for Dinner

Nightshade

923 E. 3rd Street in L.A.’s Arts District — 12-minute ride from the convention center. If you can’t spot it immediately, you’re not lost. Look in the alley between 2nd and 3rd for the entrance.

If you’re a fan of “Top Chef,” you’re going to love this spot from the winner of season 12, Mei Lin. The most widely accepted classification for the cuisine is Asian-American fusion, but Lin isn’t a fan of dividing food into genres. Instead, she calls it “modern L.A.” Contemporary cuisine in the City of Angels includes Szechuan hot quail, sunchokes with strawberry molé (a must-order; the best dish I had in my three-day extravaganza of delicious dishes), and a pork schnitzel that introduced me to my first-ever gooseberry. There’s a lot of spice on the menu, but the cocktail list can help offset the heat. I recommend the no. 914 mezcal concoction with an extra infusion of pineapple.

Los Angeles

The sunchokes with strawberry molé are a must-order at Nightshade. (Wonho Frank Lee)

Best Place for Drinks

Hotel Figueroa

939 S. Figueroa Street — three blocks from the L.A. Convention Center.

At the Hotel Figueroa lobby bar, you will find the best Old Fashioned. Ever. There are no other comparisons. And what better way to sip the classic cocktail than in the 1920s ambience of the bar, a throwback to when the property first opened? If you don’t want to sit indoors, head to the back of the hotel to snag a seat on the rooftop at Rick’s where you can soak in some of the best views of the downtown skyline. You may have trouble settling on what to order, though. The menu is created by Dushan Zaric, a renowned mixologist who wrote Speakeasy: Classic Cocktails Reimagined. I’ll go ahead and make a tough decision easier for you: Have two.

Los Angeles

The Hotel Figueroa lobby bar serves classic drinks in a relaxed atmosphere. (Discover Los Angeles)

Best Place to Preview of the Future

Two Bit Circus

634 Mateo Street — 10-minute, 3-mile ride from the L.A. Convention Center.

You’ve heard a lot about virtual reality and robots. But have you spent much time with goggles on? Have you ever tipped a robot? Well, you can do both at Two Bit Circus, an interactive playground with an arcade, escape rooms, a virtual-reality maze, and a robot that pours drinks. It combines the old-school, analog vibe of traditional carnival games with the next-generation of gaming.

Los Angeles

The arcade at Two Bit Circus has old school and newer games, as well as Two Bit exclusives like Danger Danger, Hexacade, and Super Thunder Bloxx. (Courtesy Two Bit Circus)

Best Places to Experience the Now

If you’re looking to escape the world of graphics and controllers and what’s next, Los Angeles has plenty of places where you’ll just want to power off your phone and fall in love with the outdoors. So many, in fact, that I cannot narrow it down to one. I did not hike these during my media trip, but I have spent time on these trails on past visits. Nine miles from the convention center sits the 4,000-plus acres of jaw-dropping beauty of Griffith Park. If you’re looking for something a bit more manageable, Runyon Canyon Park’s 160 acres of trails etch their way through the Hollywood Hills. And of course, if you’re looking for a different terrain, Los Angeles has you covered. Head west to find opportunities to explore the beaches of Malibu, Santa Monica, and Venice.

Los Angeles

The Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles had a starring role in the film “La La Land.” If you don’t want to dance there, you can trek through the hiking trails of Griffith Park below it. (Discover Los Angeles)