Insta Gratification: L.A. Travel Tips

After salivating over the sun, fun and fried dough infiltrating our Instagram feed during a colleague’s recent trip to Los Angeles, we had to ask him for some insights on traveling to Southern Cali in style. “I hadn’t been to L.A. before as an adult,” says Donovan Nguyen, a web designer at Nordstrom HQ. “There’s a huge difference between seeing a city with your parents at age 8 and seeing it now as a grown-up. It’s so much better.”

Keep reading for highlights from Donovan’s visually arresting L.A. photo journal, complete with tips on where to go and what to pack.


1) Hit the Ground Running. “We landed Saturday at about 9:00am, but check-in wasn’t until 3:00, so we headed out to Venice Beach. We took in the sights, checked out the beach, and found this awesome ape graffiti by Isabelle Alford-Lago. While we were there, we went over to Abbot Kinney and checked out a bunch of shops, including The Piece Collective, which had a rad triangle on the front. Then lunch at The Tasting Kitchen, which had an amazing patio and exposed interior. The croque-madame was awesome.”


2) Location is Everything. “After that, we checked in to the Best Western Hollywood Hills, napped, and cleaned up before heading out again. We chose this place because it was close to everything—a couple blocks from Hollywood Boulevard, a 15-minute walk to the Hollywood Bowl and right by Capitol Records. Then, we headed out to Santa Monica and checked out the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Pier.”

3) Learn the Customs. “On Sunday, we decided to play tourist and started by walking down Hollywood Boulevard. We did some shopping and pretended to be locals; I think we succeeded, because we didn’t once get asked to take a tour of celebrity homes. (Win.) Once we’d seen enough sights, we took the Metro train back to the hotel. It was too hot to walk back, and this saved us a solid 15 minutes.”

4) Local Flavor. “On the way back to the hotel, I found this awesome place called Kettle Glazed Doughnuts. It was hidden away behind some cars in an unmarked strip of generic-looking shops next to a bodega. But let me tell you, everything we had was amazing—AND it was right next to the hotel.”


5) Fashion & French Fries. “After stopping off at the hotel, we went out on a mission to pick up some Umami Burger. If you haven’t been, you should definitely check it out. They’re only found in California, and each location has a different aesthetic and specialty burger. After Google-Mapping the directions and arriving at our destination, we discovered it was at The Grove and took the opportunity to do a little Topman shopping before picking up the burgers. After eating, we took a drive through Beverly Hills and checked out Rodeo Drive. This leg of the trip was inspired by the ’90s classic Pretty Woman.”


6) The Happiest Place on Earth. “On Monday, we went to Disneyland for the day. I did almost every ride with no more than a 20-minute wait at the longest and did Splash Mountain for the first time. Also had my first Dole Whip, smoked turkey leg and churro. Pure magic.”

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Donovan’s travel picks for a trip to L.A.:

A Well-Designed Carry-On: “This one’s great for short trips or as a weekend bag. It’s the perfect size to stow overhead, it turns into a backpack, and it even has a separate compartment for an extra pair of shoes.”
[Shop: Herschel Supply Co. Duffel Bag | All Bags & Wallets]

Short Story: “Embrace the shorter short. This pair is great for a beginner; the nine-inch inseam is on the longer side of short, but you can easily cuff it up to your preferred length.”
[Shop: Topman Chino Shorts | All Shorts]

Instant Memories: “I post almost all my photos on social media, but sometimes a moment becomes more meaningful when it’s just between you and those who were there. I have a board covered in Polaroids at home, and I love being the only one that knows what’s going on in them.”
[Shop: Polaroid Instant Photo Paper | Polaroid Digital Camera with Integrated Printer]

A James Dean Tee: “I’m learning to edit down instead of adding more. This classic crewneck is great on its own, under a denim jacket or layered with a cardigan after sunset on the beach. Best part: You don’t have to worry about getting it dirty. It comes in a three-pack.”
[Shop: Calvin Klein T-Shirts | All T-Shirts]

Great Whites: “I get a fresh pair of these every summer. They go well with pants or shorts, and you can easily dress them up or down (while they’re still clean). Wearing them while traveling covers you for most occasions, and slipping them off for security is a breeze.”
[Shop: Vans Slip-Ons | All Sneakers]

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Nothing’s better than airplane coffee + the satisfaction of a long weekend well-spent.
Check out more from Donovan on Instagram and Tumblr.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Jeffois August 1, 2014, 2:06 pm


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