L.A.’s New Act

This hip artists’ colony has risen from its Hollywood studio ashes

In its heyday, Culver City was the home of MGM and Hal Roach studios. Its streets were once lined with nightclubs, such as the Cotton Club and (later, during Prohibition) speakeasies. But, in the mid-20th century, studio sets became abandoned lots, and the city lost its sparkle. Driven by the relocation of Sony Pictures Studios to the former MGM headquarters, Culver City has once again become hip. Its main roads are packed with galleries, architecture firms and wine bars. It’s also become L.A.’s hottest restaurant row. The only problem these days? Where to park.

Day One:

Catch an early morning flight to LAX, where you’ll want to rent a car and, this being L.A. (you are what you drive), the swankier the better. A Bentley GT convertible will set you back $999 a day, and while you’re splurging you might as well have Olympic (olympicrentacar.com) deliver your wheels directly to the airport. From there, it’s a 10-mile drive to Culver City, bordered by Santa Monica to the west and Beverly Hills to the north.  Book a room at the historic Culver Hotel, which dates back to 1924, when it was the place for visiting actors (including the entire cast of The Wizard of Oz). In 2007, the hotel came under new ownership and underwent a major overhaul, including renovations of the lobby, restaurant and rooms. If you’re looking for something a bit less vintage, the two-year-old Hotel Palomar is a modern take on Hollywood glam in nearby Westwood. 

Order a veal Muenster burger at Father’s Office II, a Santa Monica import in the historic Helms Bakery building, before driving to La Cienega for gallery hopping. It’s not a particularly scenic stretch of real estate, but the majority of the city’s artists have set up shop here (you can walk, but if you want to act like a true Angeleno, this is strictly verboten). Stop in at Taylor de Cordoba for San Francisco artist Danielle Nelson Mourning’s series of self-portraits, in which she portrays the evolution of woman in settings of ancestral significance.

You’ll need a reservation if you want to score a table at Ford’s Filling Station (yes, it’s helmed by Harrison’s son Ben), a gastropub that’s always packed with celebs and foodies—though the laid-back, dark-wood-and-leather feel is decidedly un-Hollywood.

If you’re looking for a night out, skip the nightclubs (Vegas has those in spades) and grab a chrome bar stool at BottleRock, a wine bar in a wine store. After two glasses ($5-$14), you can ask to open and sample any bottle of wine in the shop.

Day Two:

Wake up with a cup of joe from the Conservatory for Coffee, Tea & Cocoa, where beans are roasted on the premises, then head to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which, it turns out, is not all about technology in the Jurassic age. We can’t say more or we’d ruin the experience.

Architect Gregg Fleishman’s studio is a must for his geometric pieces, which double as works of art and ergonomically functional furniture. For less-modern wares, try Jefferson West, which stocks relics ranging from 18th-century English chests to 20th-century Americana. Break for brunch at Royal/T, a café cum gallery where waitresses dress as maids, Japanese comfort food is on the menu, and there’s Hello Kitty aplenty.

Culver City is the heart of screenland, and if you only take one studio tour it should be Sony Pictures, which includes its backstory as well as the ins and outs of modern film and television production.

Before heading to the airport, stop in for bento box with soba noodle salad and miso salmon at the macrobiotic M Café (Jessica Alba and Anne Hathaway are fans).

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