What sounds like the most fun to you?
- Have an apartment downtown, away from home in the burbs, to visit when you can?
- Taking a day or two staycation, spending a night away from home but not far from it?
- Work playtime into a business trip with a day or two before or after work?
However you define a staycation, it’s an easy way to take a break. There’s little to pack and far less planning than for a long term trip. Pets can be handed off for the day or left with what they need for 24 hours. You don’t have to face the security squadrons at the airport, make sure liquids are in the proper sizes or pack a passport.
It’s one reason I love stopping over in Los Angeles whenever I can manage it as part of road trips (business or pleasure) between San Diego and north of the City of Angels. While home is not far from downtown San Diego, when work draws me north to Santa Barbara once each year, I make it an excuse for a little urban exploration. Usually I’ll avoid the long drive and take the train if I can. If I can’t, I pull over to take a break midway in Los Angeles.
Stopping in downtown LA is always an adventure. Experiencing car free Los Angeles is a pleasure. Like most big cities there are unique neighborhoods to explore and lots of cultural events. The hidden gems throughout the urban core are best experienced while walking. So, I jumped at the chance to spend a night in LA’s Westside on a ‘Car free and care-free’ package at the Kimpton, Hotel Wilshire.
The outside is unassuming and sleek; inside the staff seemed determined to ensure that each guest feel welcome and genuinely comfortable. An illuminated goldfish bowl held court over one corner of the entry desk. Its curious inhabitant was a sweet and soothing counterpoint to a stressful drive. The entry area is spacious without being ostentatious. Low, colorful couches and chairs rimmed the small lobby. Just above an open mezzanine and snack area that does double duty serving coffee in the am then a complementary glass of wine in the early evening.
Quiet as it all was, the best surprise waited on the rooftop. The elevator doors opened to the sky and a long walkway leading to the hostess station. Beyond, a genteel crowd was sipping and noshing, scattered around a glittering pool. It could have been a movie set but wasn’t intimidating like some other rooftop bars I’ve sampled in the area. While the cocktails were certainly $$$, they didn’t disappoint and the appetizer / supper menu was filled with tasty descriptions that I’ll have to investigate on my next visit.
Guests are most welcome to step into the bar and beyond are small tables, a row of high backed booths with curtains and a few steps below the pool a low courtyard with a shiny, glass fireplace was home to a sparkling birthday party on the evening I visited.
The girl in me emerged as I giggled and bounced on the bed when we stepped into our room. Again the space was beautifully laid out in soft tones with designerly and discreet splashes of color. The sheets, thick and soft, and the wall-window offered a full view of the Hollywood hills (our angle just missed including the iconic Hollywood sign.)
All well and good as hotels go but, as they say in the real estate business, what’s most important is: location, location, location. The Hotel Wilshire is situated on a moderately busy street with several fast food places nearby and a casual but quiet pub next door. However, should you want more choices, walking is the perfect way to explore a 2+ mile radius with plenty of diversions for everyone.
The LACMA complex is two blocks away with its half dozen galleries, theater and special exhibition spaces. The La Brea Tar Pits are fascinating; bubbling and dark with a scattering of life sized Mastadon statues on the perimeter.
Across from LACMA, the Peterson Car Museum towers and a row of food trucks claim the street on most afternoons. Another ten minute walk and you’d be deep in the historical Farmers Market with food stands, coffee shops and specialty stalls echoing the last century style. If only prices matched.
The seriously well-heeled stroll a bit further east to the Grove complex of shops, bars and movie theaters. Assigned seating makes the movie experience a date night deal if you’re early enough to purchase tickets. A dancing fountain invites selfie-shooters and the rivulets of walkways are overflowing with small cafes and fine dining establishments, niche stores, European and vintage furniture shops. Window shopping was never so much fun.
None of this can be savored from the windows of a car. You have to walk the Westside to really feel like a local and discover things.
We also planned on including bicycle rides in our car free/ care free package but the hotel bikes had been checked out by the time our Sunday morning rendezvous with complementary NY Times editions concluded.
There were few other ruffles in our idyllic stay. Our welcome snacks were generous – twin bottles of Evian, nuts, chocolate, two sunglasses and two pedometers along with an excellent map of the areas highlights. However the pedometers, while encouraging, didn’t work consistently and deterred our resolve to walk 20,000 steps to win a discount on our next hotel stay. It was a minor wrinkle in a lovely overnight rest stop before tackling tackling the crowded, final freeway miles of our trip home.
Perhaps there’s a hotel in your area that would make a relaxing and fun overnight on your next road or business trip?
If you go:
Disclosure: The overnight stay at the Wilshire Hotel was complimentary, but all opinions and descriptions are my own.