I'm posting this list because this is a question I hear all the time, and people seem to want something they can print out and bring with them when they visit. And hey, who am I to say no? I have the info. If you already live here and don't care about this kind of thing, maybe you should go back and revisit some other hilarious lists, like the ever-popular Bad Halloween Candy post from 2006.
You’re planning a trip to Los Angeles—maybe for the weather (almost always nice), the food (plentiful and delicious), or the shopping (don’t even get me started). Thinking it might be nice to see some celebrities in their natural habitats, but don’t know where to go? Don’t bother with the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Mann’s Chinese Theater, or Star Tours, unless what you want is to see other tourists. Not that those places aren’t fun—they are! But they’re not the place to see Toby Maguire, if that’s what you’re after.
Here’s the deal—if you’re planning a trip to Los Angeles, you want to maximize your time hanging out in places where celebrities actually go.
First, though, a few rough guidelines:
1. Hide the camera. You want to actually see the celebrities, not have them run away from you. Having a camera around your neck will make them think you’re a paparazzo (or worse, a TOURIST!), which is the quickest method to get them to walk (or run) the other way.
2. Don’t acknowledge them. There is a little game we like to play in Los Angeles and New York—it’s called “ignore the celebrity.” You are too cool to talk to them, anyway! If you catch Mel Gibson’s eye, feel free to smile and nod, but definitely don’t ask for an autograph. That is the surest way to get booted out of a place like The Ivy.
3. Dress casually. Most of these places are “errand running” or “casual eating,” so if you’re wearing your finest attire, you’re probably going to stick out like a sore thumb. Also, you might be doing a lot of waiting and/ or walking, and you don’t want to have on uncomfortable shoes.
Now that we’ve done the rules, here’s the list of the best places in Los Angeles to see celebrities in their natural habitats. Hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times!
1. Your first stop should really be Robertson Boulevard, especially the 100 – 200 blocks (North and South). In a few short blocks, you can find stores like Kitson, Lisa Kline, Madison, Tory Burch, Ghost, Intermix, and Diavolina, and restaurants like The Ivy, Newsroom Café, and Michael Richard Patisserie. Oh, and about 100 paparazzi, and whoever they’re chasing at the moment. Spotted here (a mere sampling, not a complete list): Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Tori Spelling, Paris Hilton, Halle Berry, Lauren Conrad, Jessica Alba and many, many more. Make a day of it! If you must take celebrity photos, Robertson is probably the best place to do it, since they’re already being snapped by the paparazzi. What’s one more camera phone?
Slightly further up the road in West Hollywood (a key city for celeb-spotting), you’ll find eateries King’s Road Café and Toast, the next two on the list.
2. King’s Road Café, at 8361 Beverly Blvd (right down the street from the Beverly Center). Excellent chopped chicken salad, frittatas, and coffee. Spotted: Famke Janssen, Kirsten Dunst, Jessica Alba, Salma Hayek, Brody Jenner, Jeremy Piven, John Mayer.
3. Toast Café, at 8221 W Third St. is also an excellent brunch choice, and is absolutely crawling with celebrities, especially at lunchtime on weekdays. Great salad and sandwiches, and they also make a really good cupcake (though don’t expect to catch any starlets eating one). Spotted: Eva Longoria and Tony Parker, Nicky Hilton, Katie Holmes, Kelis & Nas.
4. The Chateau Marmont, at 8221 Sunset Blvd, is probably the place where you’re most guaranteed to see at least one celebrity. Hang out on the patio (be sure to order something so you don’t look like you’re just there for the stars). Spotted: everyone!
5. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, at Sunset/ Fairfax Plaza. Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton made a name for himself sitting at this very location every day, and although he works from an undisclosed location now, he can still be seen here occasionally, as well as everyone else who’s “trying to avoid the paparazzi.” Spotted: Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton, Carmen Electra, Vanessa Hudgens, too many others to list.
Note: if you're going to do all (or any) of these things, the hotels in that area that I would recommend are as follows: The London West Hollywood, The Four Seasons (if you're splurging), and Le Parc Suite. I am also a big fan of the Sofitel, which is right across from the Beverly Center and gives you good access to La Cienega in case you have to go right back to the aiport. Please try to stay away from hotels in Hollywood itself.
The quiet town of Santa Monica is also a good place to spot celebrities doing their thing. I love the Oceana Hotel, which is near the beach without being obnoxiously close to the pier or too touristy, and I actually really like the Best Western Gateway Hotel (make sure you ask for a room in the back, NOT on Santa Monica Blvd), or the LA Sky Boutique Hotel, which is not actually in Santa Monica, but gives you way better freeway access in case you are trying to do something in another part of town and don't want to have to drive all the way west every day. If you will take my advice (and I'm not trying to smack-talk anyone here, but I do want you to be safe when you travel), I would avoid any hotel or tourist destination south of Pico, because then you're in Venice, and Venice is one of those places that you need to know really well in order to stay safe and comfortable. Not that you can't GO to Venice-- I just wouldn't recommend booking a hotel there sight-unseen.
Back to Santa Monica! While you're there, here are some things you'll want to check out (in addition to the Santa Monica Pier, of course, but I would only recommend a short outing there).
6. Whole Foods. If you need groceries while you’re in Los Angeles, you might want to get them at the Whole Foods on Wilshire and 18th in Santa Monica. They have a great selection, and you can maybe also see Meg Ryan, Benjamin Bratt and Talisa Soto, and the guy from Napoleon Dynamite. I’m just saying.
7. The Viceroy Hotel, at 1819 Ocean Avenue, has a pool in the back where you can order a club sandwich and hang out. They also have a good bar and some amazing architecture and interior design. Remember the Viceroy from Christopher’s trip to Los Angeles on the Sopranos? Spotted: Kardashian family, Owen Wilson, Katherine McPhee, Orlando Bloom, Mila Kunis. Do I think you should spring for a room? Yes I do.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Brentwood, where celebrities can also be seen doing “Stars Are Just Like Us!” things like shopping and getting coffee. If you want to go up in that direction, there is really no good hotel until you get to Westwood, so I think I would recommend just staying at the Oceana and driving (or taking a long, long walk) up San Vicente.
8. The Brentwood Country Mart, at 225 26th Street, is a group of family-friendly stores where moms like Jennifer Garner, Brooke Shields, Marcia Cross, Kate Beckinsale, and Naomi Watts can often be seen. Incidentally, the BCW also has a rotisserie chicken place called “Reddi Chic” that makes the best chicken and fries basket in the area.
9. Didn’t get enough celebs at the Brentwood Country Mart? Head up San Vicente to Bundy and sit at the Starbucks for awhile. Spotted: Diane Keaton, Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Naomi Watts, Jim Belushi, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, Fergie. If you're in that area, you can usually find a celebrity or two working out on or near the Santa Monica Stairs. The stairs are free and they are a kick-ass workout (literally).
If it’s Old Hollywood you’re after, head up the road a bit to Malibu, where you can almost always find a celebrity or two in one of the following places:
10. Malibu Country Mart, at 3835 Cross Creek Road, known as the “center of Malibu,” has hosted everyone from Steven Spielberg to Mel Gibson, Ali McGraw to Pamela Anderson, Courtney Cox and David Arquette to the entire Baldwin Family. If that’s not enough, they even have a Ben & Jerry’s.
11. Geoffrey's of Malibu, 27400 Pacific Coast Highway. I like Geoffrey's because they have good food, and because you will absolutely not believe the angle of the restaurant's driveway. Please linger a little longer in the valet line so you can observe the absolute ninja-like skills of the valet parking guys, who are parking Bentleys and Ferraris at crazy angles and not sweating it at all. I would recommend Geoffrey's over Gladstone's because it's less touristy, and because you can walk a little on the beach after brunch.
Note: Malibu is kind of a hike, and there is only PCH to get you in and out. If you love it and want to make a weekend out of just Malibu, I would recommend the Malibu Beach Inn. This is also a good place for you to stay if you are visiting Pepperdine University.