Summer in the City of Angels: A Top 10 List for August in LA
By Catherine Streeter
There’s a lot to be said for visiting Los Angeles in the winter. For those of us living in such seasonally unpleasant places as Toronto or New York, it’s an escape to sunshine. You won’t exactly find yourself sporting a bikini in January, but it’s a heck of a lot better than six inches of snow and temperatures that make your eyelashes freeze.
But as much as I enjoy a mid-winter getaway, it turns out that there are plenty of reasons to head to Los Angeles in the summer, too. For one thing, you actually can sport that bikini. For another, well, see below for a list of LA attractions that are best enjoyed during the sizzling days and balmy nights of August.
1. Catch a movie at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Saturday nights from May through September, Cinespia screens classic and contemporary films against a massive mausoleum wall within the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Gates open at 7:00, but locals of all ages line up early, picnic blankets in hand, to claim their patch of lawn. It’s a bit of a free-for-all, but a friendly enough one (and the good news is, if you forget your corkscrew, your neighbor will undoubtedly have one). Soon, everyone is settled, the pre-show DJ is spinning, drinks are flowing and extravagant picnics are laid out. Now in its 10th year, Cinespia is quintessential summertime LA. For details and the full schedule of August screenings, see www.cinespia.org.
2. Dine in the courtyard at Château Marmont
The legendary Château Marmont merits a visit at any time of year. The Sunset Boulevard folly (it was modeled after a Loire Valley castle) was constructed in 1927 and hasn’t been out of fashion—or the spotlight—since. Guests have included everyone from Greta Garbo and F. Scott Fitzgerald to John Belushi (who died in one of the bungalows) and Lindsay Lohan (who is said to have stayed for more than two years). Much more than just a celebrity haunt, the Château is timeless, as famous for its discretion as for its dramas, with cozy public spaces and Old Hollywood glamour. In summertime, the idyllic courtyard is the place to be. Framed by palm trees dripping with lights, it’s the perfect venue for both romantic dinners and impromptu parties. Don’t worry about misbehaving; there’s nothing you can do that these walls haven’t seen.
3. See a concert at the Hollywood Bowl
Listening to music under a blanket of stars is always a pleasure, but enjoying a concert at the Hollywood Bowl is truly magical. The largest natural outdoor amphitheatre in the country, the venue is the summer home for the LA Philharmonic. It also hosts numerous rock and pop concerts during its short season, which runs mid-June through late September. A range of options for purchasing food and alcohol can be found inside the grounds but, even better, for many events it’s possible to bring your own. Like Cinespia, there’s a great community vibe in the air. For details and a calendar of events, see www.hollywoodbowl.com.
4. Eat fish tacos at Paradise Cove
There are fancier places to eat fish tacos in LA, but none feels more authentic than the Paradise Cove Beach Café in Malibu. If you can get here during the week, it should be easy enough to secure a table outside, where your toes sink into the sand and you gaze toward the ocean as you contemplate the relative merits of fish, shrimp, Kobe beef, and spicy calamari tacos. I highly recommend the “Mix & Match” option, with a margarita to ease things down. Be sure to leave yourself time afterwards to lie on the beach and rate the surfers. www.paradisecovemalibu.com
5. Hang poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel
There are a number of painfully chic hotels in LA, and many more luxurious than the 240-room Roosevelt. But the Hollywood icon—originally opened for business in 1927 and host to the 1st Academy Awards two years later—is experiencing something of a hipster Renaissance at the moment. Furthermore, for a truly LA summertime experience—i.e. hanging poolside with impossibly beautiful people—it doesn’t get better. The David Hockney-painted pool plays host to plenty of private parties, but most of the time it’s possible to just catch some rays, grab lunch, and watch the scene.
6. Visit a Farmers’ Market
It’s true that Farmers’ Markets take place all year round in LA, but in summertime they really come alive—not just because of the mounds of bounty, but because locals tend to make it a proper event, thus encouraging the legion of prepared food vendors to set up shop. That means that in addition to beautiful fruits and veggies, there are stalls selling tamales, omelettes, grilled corn, crêpes, tacos, homemade mojito popsicles, and the like—perfect for a tourist to break bread with the locals (or to stock up on ingredients for a picnic at the Getty Center…see below). Almost every neighborhood has its own market on a designated day, but the best scene can be found at the Sunday morning market in Santa Monica. From 9:30 am to 1 pm.
7. Picnic at the Getty Center
Architect Richard Meier’s modernist marvel sits atop a hillside overlooking all of Los Angeles—plus the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The exhibits are often wonderful, but I recommend the Museum here for its grounds as much as for its collection. The buildings themselves are made of a warm, honey-colored Italian travertine, all positioned to showcase the spectacular setting and surrounded by a series of gardens ideal for picnicking. You’d be hard pressed to find better views of the city. Parking is $15, but admission to the Museum and grounds are free. From the parking lot at the bottom of the hill, you’ll take a tram up to the top.
8. Take a hike in Runyon Canyon
Giving the Getty a run for its money in offering panoramic views, Runyon Canyon is also a Hollywood institution. You might recognize it from TV; pretty much any time any character on any show takes a hike in LA, it’s in Runyon. That said, it’s more of a walk than a hike, depending on which route you take, and won’t take you more than an hour. And what a walk it is…especially early morning or at dusk, when things are a little quieter (this is no well-kept secret; seemingly everyone in LA—and their dog—hikes at Runyon). Views change over the course of the hike, alternately taking in the Hollywood sign, more or less the entire city, and, on a clear day, all the way to the ocean. The park is open from dawn until dusk, and the easiest place to park is near the south gate, just north on Fuller Avenue from Hollywood Boulevard.
9. Have lunch at the Blue Plate Oysterette
For me, rosé is reserved for hot summer days, ideally consumed over a long, leisurely lunch of seasonal goodies. Located in an unassuming little space on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica is the two-year-old Blue Plate Oysterette—a perfectly simple spot boasting superb oysters, clams, ceviche, and other seafood treats. Arrive by noon and you should be able to nab one of the outdoor tables, which enjoy both views of the ocean and its refreshing breezes. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations. www. blueplatesantamonica.com
10. Watch the sunset at the beach
Nothing beats watching the sun sink into the ocean at the end of a great day. Do it in Malibu, do it in Santa Monica, do it in Venice—the view’s the same. Do it fancy, if you like; try the patio at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, or at Geoffrey’s or Moonshadows in Malibu. Or do it simple—from the end of the fishing pier in Venice, or seated in the sand after you’ve crossed the street from the Blue Plate Oysterette (you’re on holiday—nothing wrong with a four-hour lunch). If you hear people clapping, join in.
Catherine Streeter spent more than a decade guiding and researching luxury cycling and walking trips for Butterfield & Robinson. She applies that experience to her work as a brand and marketing consultant for travel companies, and has penned travel and lifestyle articles for the likes of SKY, Aspen Magazine, Indagare, and Vogue (Brazil). A film aficionado, Streeter has also written numerous screenplays, with an option under her belt and more on the horizon.