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I'm Maura! Welcome to my little area of the internet. Hope you stay a while.

Guide to LaLa Land

Guide to LaLa Land

One of my favorite parts of planning a trip is pouring over City Guides curated by my favorite bloggers. I mean, I follow them for all other bits of life advice (beauty tips, fashion, etc.), why not their favorite finds in a far off land or even better, their hometowns. I've always wanted to write my own city guides in the hopes that someone over the internet would enjoy a hidden gem from my own collection. I'm by no means an LA expert but after a few visits I know a thing or two about some pretty cool spots. Now that my brother lives in Santa Monica (Hi Patrick!), I hope to explore a lot more frequently. 

MauraKeeley.com Santa Monica Pier

Breakfast & Caffeine. First things first, right? For me, that is always coffee. 

~ Philz. {various locations in LA} Philz is a California staple. Give the Gingersnap or Mint Mojito Iced Coffee a try. I always ask for mine a little less sweet than what they consider the "house" version.

~ Blue Daisy. {Santa Monica} A Yelp find, rated #1 for Breakfast & Brunch in the area. This place lives up to the hype. Be sure to get there early on weekends (~9am) otherwise count on waiting in line for a bit.  

~ The Hive (Santa Monica). Almost across the street from Blue Daisy. By far the BEST acai bowl I've ever had. A perfect spot to grab a fresh juice, smoothie, 'booch, or healthy lunch. I am already looking forward to my next visit. 

MauraKeeley.com The Hive Santa Monica

Fun in the sun:

~Why not kick off vacation with a little R&R. I stopped by DryBar on the Third Street Promenade for a glass of champagne and added an extra 10 minute scalp massage (cause why not?). Also a great stop with friends before a night on the town! Cheers!

MauraKeeley.com SM DryBar

~ Beach. In LA you have your choice of a dozens of beaches but I recommend escaping to Manhattan Beach. Not only can you grab some shade under the pier with the rest of the pasty white New Englanders or other health conscious Los Angolans but the sand is gorgeous! There are a few restaurants right off the promenade. Be sure to stop into Diane's for great bathing suit shopping!

MauraKeeley.com SM Pier

~ Want something a little more active? Rent bikes! Yup, saddle up to one of the many Perry's Beach Cafes & rent a cruiser of your own! We made grand plans to pedal from SM to Manhattan Beach, which was...a little ambitious. We made it through Venice, Marina Del Ray, Playa Del Ray, and to Dockweiler before turning around. It's a great way to scope out the surrounding LA area and get some exercise in! Be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen though. 

~ Museums more your speed? LA has lots to offer. This time around, we made our way to LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and yes - you have to stop and take a picture at Urban Light. Also fun fact, the La Brea Tar Pits are right on the grounds of the museum. If you want to indulge your inner Ross Gellar, go check out some dino bones! They've been excavating since 1906 and have collected more than 1 million bones from over 200 animal species. 

MauraKeeley.com Urban Light

~ Shopping. I mean, what is LA without shopping? While I haven't spent much time on Rodeo Drive a la Cher & Dionne, some of my favorite shopping areas are: Santa Monica Place {Santa Monica}, Third Street Promenade, {Santa Monica}, & especially Abbot Kinney {Venice}. The first two are located right near each other are home to mostly larger chain stores with restaurants & street performers sprinkled along the way. They are great open shopping areas that are walkable from the pier when you need a break from the sun! Abbott Kinney almost deserves it's own section altogether because it it is such a homegrown spot. You'll find tons of local vendors including clothing stores, gift shops, cafes, the best donuts ever, and much more! They pride themselves on their eclectic, very "Venice" personalities. On weekend nights, a mix of food trucks park along the street to enhance the whole experience. Caution to avoid if you're not a fan of crowds.  

Refuel:

~ Repeat option: The Hive (see above). Lots of great options.

~ Tocaya Organics {Venice}. Obsessed with this little chain. Fresh, healthy ingredients. To compare this to Chipotle would be a crime but think fast, casual, & healthy! I recently saw the Inglewood location on @katrinascotts instagram (Tone It Up co-founder) and I knew I was onto something!

Gjusta {Venice}. This is little sister bakery to the famed Gjelina restaurant on Abbott Kinney. Enough said. 

Dinner, Drinks & Something Sweet: 

~ Herringbone. (Santa Monica). Decorated as if it was a New England seafood restaurant's trendier cousin. Great ambiance! Easy to get a reservation on the earlier side (i.e. 6:45pm). If you want anything later, would recommend booking a couple days in advance.  

 Blue hues and striped paper straws FTW 

Blue hues and striped paper straws FTW 

~ Mercado. {Mid-City} near The Grove. Awesome spot, decorated with sugar skulls everywhere. Great queso and guac duo. Had the best spicy passionfruit margarita here! 

Viale dei Romani {West Hollywood}. Italian. Extensive wine list. I LOVED how the wine list was separated out by region, heavy on the Italian wines (my fav!) We got a bottle of wine from Piedmonte (where Anthony and I visited last September) and it was perfecto! We split the gnocchi dish & bolognese dish - would order both again in a heart beat.  

~ Carmelas. {Mid-City near The Grove} This place is seriously the cutest ice cream store! I'm a sucker for branding but the product lives up to the initial expectations. I tried tastes of the Brown Sugar Vanilla Bean, Salted Carmel, and Strawberry Buttermilk (definitely the best of the three!) Can't wait to go back and try their Lavender Honey, White Peach Vanilla Bean, and their sorbets! 

 {photo cred: Carmelaicecream.com}

{photo cred: Carmelaicecream.com}

Rest that pretty little head: 

If you're like me, you'll crash at family or friends places (thanks guys!) On other trips, Anthony and I have stayed in AirBNBs in Venice. 

If you're budget is > mine:  

~Shutters on the Beach {Santa Monica} Perfectly situated, luxury hotel minutes from all of the action in Santa Monica but removed enough that you can get R&R away from the many tourists. I found out it was the site of one of my favorite movie scenes - Nancy Meyer's Something's Gotta Give when Diane Keaton goes out with Keanu Reeves. Obsessed with all things Nancy Meyers. 

~ Hotel Shangri-La. {Santa Monica} Art deco stylng with a beautiful pool and rooftop bar. Would highly recommend checking this place out, if only for a drink!

MauraKeeley.com Manhattan Beach

Until next time LA...

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