May 2nd, 2013
This laidback California beach community combines boho chic and an artsy vibe. Here’s our must-see, must-do itinerary.
The newly refurbished Heisler Park winds up above the beach offering pretty views and great picnic spots. Fill your beach basket at nearby Whole Foods.
Want to dress like the locals? Ultra-soft T-shirts, drawstring pajama pants, Isabel Marant booties and baskets of gorgeous, Turkish hammam towels abound at Laguna Supply. 210 Beach St., Laguna Beach, CA, 949-497-8850, http://pinterest.com/lagunasupply
The Pacific Edge Hotel has just renovated its five beachfront cabanas, which can be rented daily for up to 10 people each. Massages, bottle service, pedicures, and even photography are on offer. Each one has been designed by a different creative group or store, with one resembling a surf shop with Hoby surfboard pictures, another with a fan made from sailboat sails, and another stocked with kids books and a chalkboard table. Each has a private deck with loungers and direct beach access. Rates vary by season/day. VIP cabana Host, 949-281-5720, www.pacificedgehotel.com
A refined surf-shack that is part of the California chainlet, Umami Burger is the go-to spot to refuel after surf and sand. Check out the plank walls, folding chairs and vintage surf posters, and order the Umami Burger with shiitake mushrooms and a parmesan crisp. Umami Burger, 620 Pacific Highway, 949-342-1210, www.umami.com
April 25th, 2013
Beach babes, long boards, and bellini bars - it’s all about Huntington Beach, California.
The Shorebreak Hotel’s front desk features a massive wave, there are surf films projected on the walls of the lobby, cruiser bikes and vintage surfboards in the rooms, all done incredibly stylishly. www.jdvhotels.com
Beach volleyball, all year round! And then, of course, there are the surfers (er, we mean the surfing) in and around the famous pier. It’s not called Surf City USA for nothing.
The Huevos Rancheros (pictured, $9) at Zimzala in the Shorebreak Hotel, with excellent coffee and a bellini bar in a breezy room was our idea of brunch heaven. The name of the restaurant means “peace with sand between your toes.”
Order one of the massive longboards from Huntington native Peter Hamborg a firefighter and father of 5 surfing, modelling, lifeguarding boys (why does this sound like a reality TV show in the works)? Cruise The Strand, 10 miles of paved track along the beachfront. www.hamboards.com
Lucky you if you get a sighting of one of the famous surf Woody’s like we did!
April 11th, 2013
One family navigates the happiest place on Earth – and comes up all smiles.
California Adventure Park, the new theme park right beside Disneyland, is less busy and has rides and activities for all ages – including lots that will appeal to older boys (i.e. fewer princesses). Number one pick: Soaring Over California has you swinging on a chair lift, wind in your hair, with a bird’s eye view of the Golden State. If you are not the hang gliding type, be prepared to white knuckle it.
Cars Land has been getting all kinds of press (not least for the two-hour line ups) so either get a FastPass for priority entry or follow our survival tips (see sidebar). The Radiator Springs Racer ride is the highlight, simulating a Formula 1-style race. Recommended for brave kids aged 7 to 47. Luigi’s Flying Tires is fun for the whole family, and is one of the few rides where you can steer (lets crash Daddy!).
The fastest way to get into California Adventure Land is through the private entrance for guests of the Grand California Hotel. That’s just one reason to stay there. The Mickey Mouse shaped waffles, location right in Downtown Disneyland, early entrance to the parks, and the childcare centre are reasons two through five. http://disneyland.disney.go.com
While there is no WiFi in the theme parks, the new, free Disneyland Explorer app is a fun way to pass the time in lineups and plan your next activity or area.
While there are lots of novelty foods (churros and turkey legs everywhere), the most civilized option is Wine Country Trattoria in Disney Adventure Park, where a shaded patio lets you rise above the fray for an hour. Try the Fritto Misto ($9.99) a heaping plate of lightly breaded calamari, mussels, green beans and artichoke hearts, with the Honig Vineyards sauvignon blanc. Kids meals include sustainable fish and come with a free starter of fruit and veggies. Now this how we Disney.
March 21st, 2013
While the “world’s greatest freakshow” still entices tourists to Venice Beach, we prefer to explore the the spots where laid back cool belies some serious sophistication. What’s the heart of Venice Beach these days? The action has shifted to Rose Avenue, a few blocks over, where rents are cheaper, the stores more eclectic and you can breathe in the potential of a neighbourhood that is about to become the new “it.” Get there before the others do.
333 ½ Rose Avenue, an eco-luxe vacation rental remodelled by a local architect, is spacious and private, and close enough to the beach, restaurants and shops. Park the car, rent a cruiser bike, a.k.a. Venice’s de-facto wheels and you will slip into local mode instantly. www.vacationrentals.com
Oscar’s Cerveteca (pictured) is the neighbourhood joint for all occasions, but brunch is a standout with wild salmon tacos that arrive in steaming tortillas; beer battered waffles with caramelized peaches and applewood bacon; and (for those with lighter tastes,) a tasty breakfast salad with greens, avocado and grapefruit. 523 Rose Ave. Venice, CA, www.cervetecala.com
Located in the Archstone, a new Platinum Leed Certified building that cemented Rose Avenue’s gentrification, Café Gratitude’s Venice outpost features the San Francisco-based organic, vegan chain’s signature juices, elixirs, smoothies and delicious southwest inspired vegan cuisine that will entice you no matter what your eating preferences may be. The raw desserts are exceptional. 512 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.cafegratitudevenice.com
Over at Moon Juice (pictured), try the Goodness Greens for a morning boost and a pure ginger shot with raw honey if you need some more immune boosting zing for your California Glow at this cold-pressed organic juice bar flocked by cleansing devotees. 507 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.moonjuiceshop.com
Venice Beach Wines is where you go for your post sunset glass of prosecco, or perhaps a crisp Belgian ale. The tiny patio is also perfect for a post dinner conversation over a bottle of that hard to find zinfandel from Mendocino. Venice Beach Wines, 529 Rose Ave. www.venicebeachwines.com
Yes, Rose Avenue also has the requisite artsy coffee/ breakfast hangout. That would be Flake. Come for the coffee, stay for the decadent Acai bowls with heapings of fresh fruit and granola. 513 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.veniceflake.com
Eclectic lifestyle store The Golden State pays a nostalgia-meets-today homage to Southern California culture. Browse one of a kind art prints by local artists, find a vintage inspired one-piece by cult swimwear lines Salt or Cali Dreaming, and pick up a hand thrown platter by Venice’s own potters Luna Garcia. 564 Rose Ave., Venice, CA, www.thegoldenstatestore.com
Founded by a botanist who views plants as the ultimate art, the Big Red Sun is a dreamy emporium filled with things you will want both inside and outside your “perfect” home. It also moonlights as a setting for invite-only pop up dinners. Leaf through a coffee table book on design diva Vera; covet a vintage French linen upholstered armchair; or lose yourself in the inviting garden out back. If you stay long enough, you may snag an invite to dinner. 560 Rose Ave. Venice, CA, www.bigredsun.com
December 13th, 2012
You’ve been to Santa Monica Pier and dodged the characters on Venice Beach. If you want to see LA without bumping into another tourist, put these not-exactly-hot spots on your must-see list.
Yes, the amenity-free Shelter is kind of in the middle of nowhere. But it’s also smack dab in the middle of the downtown, Silver Lake and West Hollywood triangle, all of which are a few minutes’ drive away. Plus, it’s as cheap as can be. From $96/night, http://shelterhotels.com
Don’t let the smoke in the air, the “B” health rating or the lack of atmosphere turn you off. The marinated steak and spicy tofu stew makes Soot Bull Jeep the kind of place A-listers hide out in when they don’t want to be recognized. 3136 W. Eigth Ave., Los Angeles, 213-387-3865.
Home to designers of all stripes, Silver Lake is considered one of the most hipster neighbourhoods in America. Make a pit stop at the tiny pocket on Silver Lake Boulevard that houses Yolk and Lamill Coffee Boutique.
On Saturday mornings the quaint Silver Lake Farmer’s Market offers organic juices, vintage clothing, artisan jewelry, and if you’re lucky, handmade lavender-flavoured marshmallows by Darren the Chef. www.darrenthechef.com
August 29th, 2012
Our Editor-in-Chief moves some of her favourite things to her new Palm Springs getaway.
The Elephant in the Room
For my girls’ shared bunkroom, this Elephant is the perfect mid-century kids décor. Originally designed by Charles and Ray Eames for their own family in plywood, it’s now reissued in glossy plastic. $320 at EQ3, www.eQ3.com
Other than my Nexus card, these made-in-Italy Roots sandals ($168) were the life-saver of my last trip. Breezy enough for the weather, yet sturdy enough to traipse through succulent nurseries. www.roots.com
Designer Trina Turk owns a home in Palm Springs, and has recently expanded her store there to include a swim boutique. I especially love the Palm Springs Block Towel ($58) in orange, inspired by the decorative “brise soleil” walls you see everywhere.
Most of our décor is coming from the amazing consignment shops in and around Palm Springs, but this stunning poster for my friends’ architecture documentary, Coast Modern, will take pride of place in the Master. $150 at www.coastmodernfilm.com
Keep Calm and Carry On
When the reno stress gets to me, I’ll simply spray on my Dermalogica UltraCalming Mist, which also hydrates and reduces redness from heat, sunburn, waxing, or, I hope, concrete dust. $45, www.dermalogica.ca
August 2nd, 2012
On a recent trip to Southern California, we were blown away by the beachy-chic lifestyle of Santa Monica—so we’ve decided to drop everything and move there.
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the luxury Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows used to be the private mansion belonging to Senator John P. Jones, the founder of Santa Monica. With that history lesson in mind, it’s easy to see that this 123-year old SoCal staple is one lavish and classy stay. Work up a sweat (for real) in a barre class at Exhale Spa, and reward yourself later with a dip in the outdoor hot tub and a nightcap at FIG Restaurant before returning to your elegant suite and freshly turned-down bed. Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-576-7777, www.fairmont.com/santamonica
Apart from the obvious beach appeal, Santa Monica is a bike lover’s paradise, spanning just 8.3 square miles. The city’s new Bike Center is the largest in the U.S., and has two downtown locations for rentals, valet parking, and tours (we did a self-guided exploration of the excellent vintage shops). In the next few years, look for the light rail system that will connect to Los Angeles and Hollywood. Bike Center, Unit A 1555 2nd St., Santa Monica, 310-656-8500, and one other location, www.santamonicabikecenter.com
West Coast hot spot Michael’s Restaurant, just a few blocks up from the Fairmont estate, has a romantic garden patio, mind-blowing seafood dishes, “California Cults” wine list, and another equally successful restaurant New York. (Anna Wintour is rumoured to be a regular, and allegedly likes her steak blue-rare). Michael’s Restaurant, 1147 Third St., Santa Monica, CA, 310-451-0843, http://www.michaelssantamonica.com
In this town, beach is the new black, but that doesn’t mean they’re short on clothing. Stroll Third Street Promenade for classic American retailers and the first West Coast Converse store, where you can customize your own souvenir-pair of kicks à la Santa Monica, complete with palm trees and the infamous pier. At the end of the strip, get lost in Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, and Barneys Co-Op at Santa Monica Place.
… for celebrities. While our brush with fame happened in our hotel lobby with funny man Adam Sandler, the Fairmont Miramar has a history of welcoming celeb guests (Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Kennedys, to name a few). Outside the hotel, the place to see and be seen is Montana Avenue. —Caroline Gault
Booking info at visitcalifornia.com
February 17th, 2012
Head a few hours north of San Francisco and you’ll find yourself smack-dab in the middle of Sonoma’s quaintest, chic-est little town: Healdsburg.
The Hotel Healdsburg is laid-back luxe fit for movie stars and visiting Vancouverites alike.
Barndiva is stylish, its outdoor space is gorgeous, and its chef can turn an heirloom tomato into an experience.
There are a gazillion antique shops in Healdsburg, but a 100-year-old wooden stool is tough to fit in your suitcase. Opt for the gourmet shops and bookstores surrounding the Town Plaza instead.
Wine tours! (Duh.) Chalk Hill Estate offers equestrian tours through the vineyard. And if that isn’t romantic, then, well… have another glass of wine. —Kelsey Dundon
May 11th, 2011
Forget the Orange County stereotype of bottle blondes and plastic surgery; Laguna Beach is the best of California cool. Herewith, our favourite boho beach town spots.
The Surf and Sand Resort defines laid-back luxury. With aqua-inspired decor, all of the spacious rooms have balconies with a spectacular ocean view (our bellboy even pointed out a dolphin on the horizon). After watching the sunset on the beach, head to the pool deck for cocktail hour in a cabana. Do make dinner reservations at Splashes Restaurant and be sure to request a table on the patio–the best spot to nosh on the fresh California fare, like Dungeness crab and apple salad. From $405, www.surfandsandresort.com
Stocked with hard-to-find brands like Rodebjer, Suno and Vena Cava, 11th Moon's mix of ultra-stylish contemporary pieces will have you longing for one of each. But here's a fashionable silver lining: its online shop ships to Canada, so you can get your boho-chic fix any time you like. 1259 S. Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, http://11thmoon.com
Curated to perfection, Laguna Supply carries a great selection of Isabel Marant (and her husband Jerome Dreyfuss' satchels), along with other big names Elizabeth and James, Rag & Bone and Trovata. This summer look for plenty of military pieces, stripes and pops of colour. 210 Beach St., Laguna Beach, 949-497-8850.
One look at the windows of Sound Spectrum record shop and it's clear reggae reigns supreme. A Laguna Beach fixture since 1967, owner Jim Otto has his own Sunday afternoon radio show and Sound Spectrum's sales chart is published weekly in The Laguna Independent. Who knew listening stations and flipping through vinyl could make us feel so young. 1264 S. Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, www.soundspectrumlaguna.com/
February 4th, 2011
The Golden State has been unseasonably warm in the south, so now’s your chance to snag some sun and star-sightings. Herewith, part one of our two-part winter time trip plan:Sup in Santa Monica
After an afternoon arrival at LAX, stop at the Santa Monica Pier and have a quick go-round on the Ferris wheel then watch the sunset over an early dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette. The spot serves up fresh, unfussy seafood. When Christian Bale ate there we imagine he enjoyed the cornmeal crusted calamari too. www.blueplatesantamonica.com
Bed in Beverly Hills
The sexy SLS Hotel is as stylish as quarters come. Award-winning restaurant on the ground floor (The Bazaar by José Andrés), pool tables on every floor and posh pool deck on rooftop, you could be content enough to never leave the building. Staring at all the stunning custom Philippe Starck furnishings is yet another activity to pass the time. From $327, www.kiwicollection.com
Feast in Los Feliz
The weekend before we brunched at Square One, Jake Gyllenhaal did, but if that’s not enough to sell you on the place perhaps brioche French toast topped with bourbon-soaked pecans and vanilla whipped cream will (like Jake, it’s to die for). Its coffee pot brew is some of the best and the sunny outdoor courtyard is the perfect place to read the morning paper (or pretend to read and keep your eye open for you know who). www.squareonedining.com
Empty Your Wallet in Echo Park
Amsterdam modern meets arty L.A. cool at the Mohawk General Store. Carrying Comme des Garcon accessories, Slow and Steady Wins the Race garments, Rachel Comey shoes and vintage homewares, you’ll want to put the whole shop on a flatbed and drive it back to B.C. www.mohawkgeneralstore.net