La La Land. You’ve seen the movie and were dazzled by the singing, dancing and the central character: Los Angeles. If you have the urge to discover the highlighted Los Angeles locales, there’s good news: They’re all within lots of other classic greatness that the City of Angels has on offer.
The Light House and Hermosa Beach Pier
The jazz club scenes were shot in the musically historic The Light House that was once considered the premier jazz house of the modern jazz age and hosted a series of heralded musicians of that era. The mostly unchanged building is within footsteps of Hermosa Beach Pier, where Ryan Gosling crooned his way down its wooden walkway while the South Bay of Los Angeles glistened in the background (see in the clip above).
Other stuff: Hermosa is one of three beach communities that are a part of the South Bay of LA. Rent a bike at Hermosa Cyclery and hit the The Strand (boardwalk). Heading south you will get to the Redondo Beach Pier, full of old school fun like crab shacks, ice cream and an amusement hall. If you want a taste of yesteryear while enjoying the views, Old Tony’s on the Pier hasn’t changed since the days of Mad Men. Another favorite and a local hangout on the pier is Naja’s Place, which has live music and a beer selection that runs the gamut of microbrews and old school European imports with a solid variety of bar fare (the chicken kabobs are a big favorite).
Heading north on the strand from Hermosa, you will arrive in Manhattan Beach, which despite its affluence has held on to tried and true places such as Shellback’s, where you can catch the ocean sunset and is popular with the beach volleyball crowd, and Ercole’s, which is the dive bar’s dive bar (don’t wear your good shoes) and home of the best greasy spoon-style burgers you’ll find in the area.
The quaint pink apartment where Emma Stone’s character lives was shot in Long Beach, CA. On the farthest southern edge of LA County, Long Beach has managed to grow and let just enough gentrification in to maintain some of its edgy flavor. There are countless restaurants and dive bars, but a favorite is Crow’s Cocktails on 2nd Street in the Naples area of Long Beach. Here you’ll find a mixed crowd of welcoming locals and local-ish people.
Another great Long Beach standby is Panama Joe’s, which has a light breezy feel to it with the backdrop of mahogany and brass bar of yesteryear and live music. Sunday afternoons are particularly fun, and if you love Mexican food, this is your spot. And there’s so much more to Long Beach. It’s a hidden LA-area gem waiting for travelers to come and explore (here’s a past Johnny Jet story that goes further in depth: 15 Reasons to Stay in Long Beach).
Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market is set in DTLA (downtown Los Angeles) and was once full of Latin and Hispanic vendors offering flavors from Central and South America. The few that remain are peppered between gourmet food stands. It’s now a hipster hangout that is the setting for one of the date scenes in La La Land. The DTLA area is rich with LA culture and history and I highly recommend a tour of its illustrious theaters on Broadway, several of which are being renovated and will take you straight back to the colorful history of the area.
Charles Bukowski, who wrote “Bar Fly” among many other stories and poems, used to frequent the drinking wells of the area, and you are spoiled for choice on dive bars. Start at The King Eddy Saloon, which has been open since 1933. Have a cocktail and ask the clientele where else you should go in the hood. Not your mama’s chain bookstore: The Last Bookstore is also an artist’s loft space and well worth a stop. You’ll not only find used and new books of every kind and timeframe, but also a solid vinyl collection. As much as DTLA has been gentrified, it still shoulders Skid Row, so remain aware of your surroundings as you would in any major city.
The Rialto Theater, where the characters of Mia and Sebastian have their first date, is in South Pasadena—a town rich with vestiges of old, glamorous days of Los Angeles. The Luggage Room is a unique throwback to 1934, when it actually was a luggage room for the Del Mar train station stop. With the new Metro Gold line stopping there now, it’s easy access to pizza and beverages with a touch of nostalgia.
Old Pasadena is home to Gold Bug. Beyond quirky, this family-owned shop will possibly shock you and certainly will offer some LA souvenirs you may never have thought of taking home. In any case, it will certainly bring back fond memories of your La La Land tour.