This past summer, I sold my first novel: a thriller set in New York, where I've lived for ten years. New York, I knew. New York, I could write a murder scene (or two) in. But when it came to my second novel—a standalone thriller set in Los Angeles—I knew I needed to do my research. And by "research," I mean, "scout out the bars, restaurants, and hotels my protagonist would frequent" (she's significantly cooler than me, by the way; I'm barely cool enough for suburban Brooklyn). So I grabbed my friend Elizabeth—also significantly cooler than me—and we flew to West Hollywood, LA for the weekend, where we conducted the difficult, labor-intensive work of visiting WeHo hotspots old and new in the name of "research." Without further ado, allow me to present: our hard-worn guide to West Hollywood, LA.
Where to Stay
For laid-back luxury—think modern art, friendly bartenders, kombucha on tap, and a cool, relaxed energy—we loved the Kimpton La Peer hotel. The dangerous combination of daily wine happy hours in the lobby and unfailingly warm and welcoming staff led to Elizabeth and I darting around the hotel like sugared-up five-year-olds, exuberantly greeting all of our new friends. What was the point, we tipsily agreed every night, of going out to eat when everything we wanted was here? We spent our evenings drinking cocktails on oversized couches, staging Instagram shoots by the pool, and enjoying some of the best fries I've ever eaten at the bar—and every night, just before drifting off in our king-size beds after our respective baths, we'd mumble to each other, "This is great."
Two unique features of the Kimpton La Peer we especially loved: The luxury concept store adjacent to the lobby, GBK Brand Bar, which regularly provides gift bags for A-list events; and "The Drawing Room," a gallery/studio space within the hotel hosted by in-house artist James Peter Henry and his objectively perfect poodle, Charlie. By day three of our trip, we were visiting several times a day (to Henry's credit, he was generous with his time on every occasion, even when we came just to say goodnight to Charlie. Twice).
After the Kimpton, we hit up Sunset Boulevard and its upscale, sumptuous West Hollywood EDITION. Boasting a world-class rooftop complete with a pool, a made-for-Instagram fire pit and bar, and in-house restaurant ARDOR—all artfully designed and perfectly lit—the EDITION is breathtaking, and designed to impress.
When Elizabeth and I weren't obsessing over the EDITION's luxurious beds and rainforest shower (bigger than my entire New York City bathroom), we were downstairs at ARDOR, which creates gorgeous cocktails and vegetable-driven dishes more delicious, frankly, than healthy food has any right to be.
Speaking of healthy (but delicious) food...
Where to Eat and Drink
At the top of our WeHo restaurants list was Strings of Life, the relaxed, Melbourne-inspired brunch spot that catered to both Elizabeth's dietary requirements (vegan) and mine (heavily into cheese). Tucked away inside Melrose Avenue, Strings of Life is the perfect spot for a little people-watching and a whole lot of incredible food: pan-roasted salmon, cacio e pepe fries, and a freshly-made Impossible sausage roll I demolished in five seconds flat. This was followed by some restorative tea and coffee and a glum conversation about how we probably shouldn't return to Strings of Life every day of the trip, since the point of the trip was, theoretically, researching new things.
Next on our list was The Butcher's Daughter—and, look, this is hardly a novel observation, but have I mentioned how good LA is at making vegetables delicious? I'm still thinking about the carbonara pizza with vegan bacon, the leftovers of which I insisted on boxing up and bringing back to our hotel "for later." Plus, The Butcher's Daughter sits prettily on the edge of Melrose Avenue, making it the perfect stop-off for a lazy afternoon in the sun. (In November. I'm never going back to New York.)
Finally, our go-to breakfast—well, our go-to after the croissants, coffee, and kombucha we picked up from the lobby at Kimpton—became Dayglow, the cozy vintage-inspired coffeehouse that moonlights as a subscription coffee service. While Dayglow is known for said coffee, Elizabeth and I got hooked on its vegan donuts and protein bites that single-handedly got me through a day of hiking (more on that in a moment).
What to Do
Considered one of the best hikes in LA, Runyon Canyon Trail is nestled into the Hollywood Hills, a short cab ride away from West Hollywood. Just short of three miles, this trail hit all of our requirements: not too arduous (mine) but arduous enough to satisfy a seasoned hiker (Elizabeth's), and boasting breathtaking views of LA.
One of the best parts about this hike? It's extremely dog-friendly, meaning that if you hike it on a gorgeous Saturday, like we did, you're destined to run into dozens of excellent dogs. One of them even took pity on me during a particularly challenging moment, right.
(I should point out here that this is not a particularly challenging hike, so please don't be scared off by the photo. I'm just particularly uncoordinated.)
Other must-sees in West Hollywood: The Comedy Store, Book Soup, the Troubadour, Pacific Design Center, and the Abbey. We also loved Stardogs Clubhouse, an adorable dog "clubhouse" where you can drop off your dog for a day of enrichment and health treatments (hydromassages! balance gyms! puzzle toys!) while you bask in any of the above.
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Jenny is the Digital Director at Marie Claire. Originally from London, she moved to New York in 2012 to attend the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and never left. Prior to Marie Claire, she spent five years at Bustle building out its news and politics coverage. She loves, in order: her dog, goldfish crackers, and arguing about why umbrellas are fundamentally useless. Her first novel, EVERYONE WHO CAN FORGIVE ME IS DEAD, will be published by Minotaur Books on February 6, 2024.
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