Designer boutiques and high-end housewares stores dominate the western end of Melrose Avenue as it runs through West Hollywood. As you continue exploring Melrose heading east from Fairfax Avenue, the glossy boutiques give way to a funkier, eclectic vibe before it ends at Lucille Avenue in Silver Lake.
Kick off a shopping expedition with a visit to Melrose Trading Post, a flea market held every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the parking lot of Fairfax High School. You can find just about anything: Southwestern style blankets, old comic books, vintage lawn furniture, gilded mirrors, 1980s t-shirts (not just ones that look like they were made in the 80s) and more.
The nearby stretch of Fairfax has become a streetwear mecca and that extends to Melrose, where you've got your pick of t-shirts, hoodies, beanies, wallets and jewelry at SoCal rapper Tyga's Egyptian-themed flagship store Last Kings and the entrepreneurially focused Generation Hustle. Finish your outfit with kicks from Sportie LA, which has two stores (one for adults, one for kids) located a couple of doors apart. You can choose from Nike, Puma, Vans, Reebok, Adidas, Toms and PF Flyers, among plenty of other brands.
No shopping district would be complete without an American Apparel or an Urban Outfitters, and Melrose has both. For a flashier, more one-of-a-kind look, try Wild Style. If designers could be spirit animals, Vivienne Westwood and Jeremy Scott would be the reigning fauna here. Mixing pop culture with high style, the large store features an eclectic mix of designers. It's the brainchild of the duo behind Joyrich, which sells its own colorful leggings and designs in a smaller boutique on the south side of the street.
Melrose is also a haven for vintage stores like American Vintage, Wasteland, Slow and Crossroads Trading Co., which are spread out between Curson and Fuller. They're less focused on grandma's-attic-stuff and more interested in cool, modern threads (mini-dresses, leather jackets) so you don't have to spend hours scanning eBay or picking through Goodwill. Hopefully, they'll go well with a pair of zany shoes from John Fluevog, a brand that seems to cater to a unique demographic of metrosexuals, pinup queens and elves.
If you need a quick bite, there are burgers at faux retro diner Johnny Rockets, grilled cheese sandwiches at Greenspan's Grilled Cheese and shrimp dumplings, spring rolls and ramen at Pingtung Eat-In Market - they're all within a block of each other. For a sit-down meal on a lovely patio, chef Eric Greenspan debuted the semi-hidden Maré, a seafood-centric restaurant you can only get to via his grilled cheese restaurant. One of the best joints in this area is Smoke.Oil.Salt, a seasonal Spanish restaurant which, as its name implies, features bold flavors (wood fired eggplant, blood sausage, salt-cured tuna), often cooked in its wood-fired oven. The atmosphere is upscale but rustic and it's perfect for date night.
Stop in for a beer at nearby Snake Pit Alehouse, the sort of grubby watering hole every neighborhood needs. For amazing cocktails and chic but homey ambiance, there's Melrose Umbrella Co. There's more drinking to be done farther east at the vaguely British-themed Village Idiot, a gastropub where the food is as much a draw as the bar scene. Farther east you'll find The Darkroom, a bar that's jampacked on weekend evenings but mellow most other times.
There are several tattoo parlors along Melrose, but perhaps you want a less permanent souvenir of your excursion. The cards, figurines, mugs, socks, jewelry and decorative tchotchkes at Spitfire Girl (not to be confused with the aeronautically themed café Spitfire Grill) are one of a kind. Japan LA, with its mix of kawaii, anime-centric clothes and wares, is another must.
For a few laughs, visit The Groundlings, the legendary improv troupe that launched the careers of everyone from Will Ferrell to Kristen Wiig. There are shows almost every night of the week; on Fridays and Saturdays, you definitely want to buy tickets in advance and show up early to get a good seat.
If you're still hungry, you'll have plenty of options as you head toward La Brea. Summer Buffalo serves hip, modern Thai food while Lala's Argentine Grill is all about steaks, sangria and empanadas. Located in the same strip mall, these three restaurants couldn't be more different: M Café de Chaya offers healthy vegetarian fare, All About The Bread serves Italian sandwiches and meatball subs on thick, chewy bread, and Tatsu Ramen is all about the rich, Japanese noodle soup. On the south side of the street, sports bar The Parlor has a large indoor/outdoor space where you can watch whatever game strikes your fancy.
As you cross La Brea, don't miss Golden Apple Comics, which mixes the latest and greatest releases with indie offerings, rare back issues, graphic novels, collectibles and more.
Need to outfit your home? There's also a block filled with furniture and design shops, which mix modern minimalism, classic midcentury and Art Deco style: The Window, Reform, Lawson-Fenning and Pegaso Gallery Design.
For a jolt of java, there's Grounded Coffee, a newish café tucked with all sorts of cozy nooks – and a pool table. Plus, it stays open until 2 a.m. For something a little boozier, Jill Bernheimer has put together a great selection of diverse, offbeat and affordable wines at her bottle shop Domaine LA. She and her staff are helpful and unpretentious, and you’re likely to walk out knowing a little more about wine than you did when you came in.
With no less than three Mozza outposts, the corner of Melrose and Highland is a fine dining oasis. There's the louder, more casual Pizzeria Mozza where you definitely don’t want to miss the pie; the formal Osteria Mozza where it's more about pasta; and the Mozza2Go takeout shop. Next door, meaty Chi Spacca is tiny but much loved and its massive tomahawk pork chop is famous. On the northeast corner, you'll find Trois Mec, a collaboration between three of L.A.'s most celebrated chefs: Ludovic Lefebvre, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. It’s hard to get a reservation there but the French-inspired Petit Trois, next door, is easier to get into and serves the perfect steak frites as well as a terrific omelet at brunch.
For the next few blocks Melrose is mostly residential but you can get all your streamers, balloons and festive décor at Vine American Party Store. If you’re hungry, pop into Tere's Mexican Grill for delicious enchiladas covered in red sauce and melted cheese or visit Providence, one of the most lauded restaurants in Los Angeles. As high-end dining goes, chef Michael Cimarusti is hard to beat and there's a reason his restaurant, which is famed for its tasting menu, is still going strong after 10 years. The quality of his seafood is top notch. If you’re a fan of fish but want a simpler dining experience, Mario's Peruvian Seafood, located a couple blocks east, offers hearty, stir fries served over rice or French fries.
The eats don't stop as you go east and hit Osteria Momma, where the fresh pasta is divine. You're right near Larchmont, a charming shopping district of cafes, boutiques and eateries located amid the leafy, upscale neighborhood of Hancock Park. You could easily spend an afternoon there, sipping lattes and eating Salt & Straw ice cream or just people-watching. Astro Burger is the area's classic greasy spoon, offering burgers, burritos, BLTs, zucchini fried and the like. If you head north on Gower you can eat at the famous Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles, where the signature dish is in the name. A few blocks farther east you'll find Osteria La Buca, a hip, Italian restaurant that specializes in housemade pastas. (Yeah, there's sort of a rivalry between the two Osterias.) Colombian restaurant La Fonda Antioquena is popular for its arepas, arroz con pollo and fresh juices.
You're in the shadow of Paramount Studios and what better way to explore its history than with a studio tour? Offered every day, the tours last two hours and give visitors a chance to learn about Hollywood history while peeking into soundstages and backlots. On Friday and Saturday nights, the After Dark tours, which kick off with a champagne toast, are a fun and slightly spooky way to explore the 63-acre lot.
It's the perfect warm-up for a visit to Pour Vous, one of L.A.'s best cocktail lounges. You can sip creative, carefully mixed libations, watch the occasional burlesque dancer (it's theatrical, not raunchy) or nosh on crepes in the old trolley car that serves as a patio. Don't show up in jeans and an old t-shirt; the theme is Belle Époque France, so dress to impress.