Need to Get Away? Plan a Rock 'n' Roll Weekend in L.A.
So you've got a weekend to spend in Los Angeles, but you've so "been there, done that" as far as seeing all the big Hollywood film landmarks. Perhaps you'd like another angle on this entertainment juggernaut? Then get ready to rock 'n' roll. A music industry capital of the world, L.A. is legendry for everything from rocker antics to world-class concerts. If music is what moves you, read on for a weekend plan that'll rock your socks off.
After you've touched down at LAX (and rented a rock-star-worthy convertible, of course), make your way to the Andaz West Hollywood. The former "Riot Hyatt" of 1970s-rock-stars-throwing-TVs-out-of-windows fame went under the knife and reemerged in January 2009 as an ultra hip, sexy young thing. That’s not to say that its burying the past: Subtle tongue-in-cheek references to rock star tantrums are hidden all over the property, and the former balconies-cum-TV-launch-pads have been converted to plush sunrooms with stellar Sunset Strip views (be sure to ask for a room with one when you book).
Because it's so hip, there’s no "check-in" at this hotel. Instead, you enjoy a complimentary drink in the lounge with an "Andaz Host" (sort of like a concierge), who checks you in on a laptop and offers insider tips about L.A. Rockin’!
For a casual dinner with rock credentials, take a quick drive down to Canter's Deli, a kitschy landmark that's a local fave for legendary pastrami sandwiches and good-as-grandma's matzo ball soup (plus cheesecake or apple strudel from the onsite bakery for dessert). Bands like The Doors first made this a hangout for rock-star schmoozing, and you can still spot industry celebs there on any given night.
After dinner, poke your head into the lounge at the adjoining Kibitz Room, which features live music. A-list musicians have been known to drop by and jam—Joni Mitchell, Rick James, Slash and members of Guns N' Roses, The Wallflowers, and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to name a few.
We know, you're a bit tired from your travels, but do you want to rock or not? Wrap up the evening with a nightcap at Bar 1200 in the Sunset Marquis hotel. This used to be the Whiskey Bar, a haunt of big-haired rockers who made it their own with bottle smashing and guitar jamming antics galore. Now completely refurbished and decidedly posh, there are still sophisticated references to its rock pedigree—artsy black and white portraits of Ozzy Osbourne and his cohorts adorn the walls and exclusive jam session recordings blast on the stereo.
For a breakfast with staying power, start your day at The Griddle Café. The hubcap-sized pancakes here take a note from the music biz—“Saturday Morning Fever” pancakes anyone? (They're spiked with Kahlua and Baileys—not a bad hangover cure.) The restaurant is equally famous for its gargantuan sound system and head-banging soundtrack. In fact, you may notice that other patrons around you have rolled in from all-night parties.
Walk off your calorific breakfast with a stroll along Sunset Boulevard. The stretch between La Brea and Fairfax is known as "Guitar Row" for its concentration of guitar stores and recording studios. Make your way east toward Cahuenga and pick up new tunes at Amoeba Music, the country’s largest independent record store. The cavernous, warehouse-like space is decked out in vintage posters of album art and bursting with music stock—digital and vinyl, studio and indie, contemporary and classical, popular and obscure, new and used, homegrown and imported (and from every corner of the globe!). If you time it right, you can check out one of the free in-store indie band performances (visit the website for the schedule). Stop at a nearby café (the cult burger joint Umami Burger is a good choice) to refuel before the walk back.
If you've ever coveted a spot on American Idol, then you'll relish the chance to unleash your voice in a real recording studio. Yes, you can book your very own session in NightBird Studios, a state-of-the-art professional facility in the basement of the Sunset Marquis hotel. Legends from Elton John to Jeff Beck and current crooners from John Legend to Cee-Lo Green have logged time here. A touch better than singing in the shower!
If it's summertime, pack a picnic and catch a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, open June through September. Tucked into the Hollywood Hills, it's the nation's largest natural outdoor amphitheater and regularly hosts a variety of big names from rock to R&B to reggae (and even the LA Philharmonic). Alternatively, if you've come fall through spring, take the chance to dine on smashing pub food and gorgeous cocktails at Bar Marmont, adjacent to the storied Chateau Marmont hotel (a celeb magnet). Make sure to swing by the lobby—Led Zeppelin once rode motorbikes through it!
The crowning glory of your rock-inspired weekend has to be the Sunset Strip. It's littered with legendary rock clubs from The Roxy to the Whiskey A Go Go and The Viper Room. Anyone who's anyone in classic rock has played this triumvirate, and the clubs remain relevant today by breaking the latest indie acts. Check their websites beforehand to see who's playing and be sure to snag advance tickets.
For a late-night snack to close the evening, stop in at the Rainbow Bar and Grill—it's a rocker institution (the Guns N' Roses video for "November Rain" was filmed here—need we say more?).
After a late night of head banging, you'll want to make breakfast as easy as possible, so make like a rock star and order breakfast via room service at the Andaz before you check out. Then, head toward downtown to hit The Grammy Museum, where interactive exhibits explore everything from rock and hip-hop to country, classical, Latin, R&B, and jazz.
Lunch nearby at The Original Pantry Café—a vintage 1920s greasy spoon that slings serious steaks and chops—to fuel up for your flight. And yes, given how steeped in classic rock your weekend has been, we'll forgive you if you're singing the chorus of REO Speedwagon's "Time For Me To Fly" as you depart!
Ready to plan your trip? The Purple Passport has all the details at Weekend Passport: Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles.
Photos courtesy of The Purple Passport.
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