A Night Out

No-chella: Make the Most of L.A. When Everyone Is in the Desert

Here’s what to do when Los Angeles quiets down during the Coachella mass exodus.

Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Roosevelt/Facebook

For two weekends in April, the big-kid spring break otherwise known as Coachella beckons the masses to a plot of desert land two hours outside of Los Angeles. Back in the metropolis, something miraculous happens. You notice that brunch lines have, poof, disappeared. That table for two at 8 p.m. on Saturday night is shockingly still available. Most stunning of all, the hotel pool scene is devoid of crowds and you can sip your cocktail in peace!

If there was ever a month to celebrate the restorative powers of a staycation, April is it in Los Angeles. The hordes have flocked east to Indio, leaving the rest of us in their desert floor dust and petal detritus from shedding flower crowns and able to enjoy the best of the city—stuff that’s normally so packed with crowds you find yourself not even bothering most of the time. Here’s how to make the most of it!

Go to Brunch

Los Angeles, for better or worse, is internationally recognized for its Brunch Scene. And yes, scene is capitalized for a reason. You are either a tourist, a sadomasochist, or a dedicated wait-in-line hobbyist if you try any of these on a Saturday morning any other time of year. So let yourself, for once, #LiveYourBestLife while everyone else and their #Bae are soaking up the #CoachellaVibes. If #SundaysAreForBrunch, finally, they really are for all of us. 

Kitchen Mouse
A totally gluten-free, ovo-vegetarian breakfast and lunch café, meaning eggs but no dairy—and it’s so delicious there’s regularly a decent line of people who eat anything they want. Go for the breakfast tacos, gomasio rice cakes, and snickerdoodle pancakes. And bring the kiddos—there’s an enclosed children’s play area all the way in the back with a toy kitchen. 5904 North Figueroa Street, Highland Park

Photo by Christine Y/Yelp

Come here for breakfast or lunch or to pick up gourmet food items to bring to a gathering. This dizzyingly sprawling, busy, all-inclusive market-style deli has everything from amazing breads and pizzas to bakery items and sandwiches. It offers first-come, first-served counter seating and an outdoor area that’s perfect for a beautiful, sunny day. 320 Sunset Avenue, Venice

République is the jewel in the crown of L.A.’s restaurant architecture (it is drop-dead gorgeous, with an indoor courtyard of blue tile), history (Charlie Chaplin built it), and talent (it was home to the late Campanile, where Nancy Silverton became a celebrity chef). Locals flock on weekend mornings for a brunch elevated by the pastry department’s spectacular high talent. But its dream of an all-day menu approach will take you from romantic brunches to birthday dinners to drinks with colleagues with striking elegance and superb French-California cuisine. 624 South La Brea Avenue

Photo by Laine C/Yelp

Inventive, iconic breakfast-ish delights are served all day at Sqirl, from perfectly burnt ricotta toast to turmeric tonics. Expect an absolute scene (read: guaranteed line, people-watching) in a design-y, hip sidewalk-seating setting. The sorrel rice bowl is essential, while seasonal specials exalt the brightest of local produce. 720 North Virgil Avenue

Dine Without (Much of) a Line

It’s so exciting to be a foodie in Los Angeles! It’s also an excruciating headache of false starts, broken promises, and desperate Open Table jockeying that can often crush your hungry soul. But not during Coachella weekends! You just might find that last-minute table for Saturday night or snag seats at the bar without a two-hour wait at these hot spots. 

Photo courtesy of Bestia/Facbeook

Bestia is the place everyone wants to go to at least once, which is why the industrial-chic Arts District eatery is nearly impossible to get into. (Tip: Try the bar, or show up before it opens to stand in line). Owners Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis wow diners with their house-made charcuterie, pasta with truffles and sausage, seasonal salads, and a chocolate budino to end all others. Cocktails and excellent wines are a high point. 2121 East 7th Place

Night + Market Song
Crazy-fun Thai street cuisine by the rule of aharn glam lao, which basically translates to “eat, drink, and kick it with your friends.” Night + Market Song comes in at number one for most colorful in town in several categories: decor, clientele, and natural wine list. Order sticky rice and sop up family-style dishes like nam prik krueang jim (tongue-numbing “stinky relish”), spicy salads, and the phenomenal duck curry with Thai eggplant. It’s a popular spot; be prepared to wait. 3322 West Sunset Boulevard

Photo by Eat Sydney/Yelp

Jon & Vinny’s
Jon & Vinny’s is a local legend, with hip hop over the speakers and Italian-American favorites like fried mozzarella sticks, red-sauce pizzas, and spicy fusilli on the table. Once you’ve tried those, come back for the little gem lettuce salad, six-hour Bolognese, polenta…OK, everything. Get it all. Make a reservation in advance if you want a normal dining time. Note that two-person reservations always sit at the counter. There are excellent wines on the menu, plus a great wine shop in the back called Helen’s. 412 North Fairfax Avenue

El Coyote
Fairfax’s festive Tex-Mex mainstay has held it down, in red booth– and Christmas lights–style, since 1931. Every bit of El Coyote, from chuggable margs to melt-y enchiladas, seems like too much, but it’s just the right amount of too much—you know? It’s kitschy and corny and boozy and cheesy, and it all just feels so right. (Hauntingly, it was the last place Sharon Tate was seen alive, if Manson trivia is your thing.) 7312 Beverly Boulevard

Dance the Night Away

How many times have you thought, on a Friday or Saturday night, I wish I could just go out and have a little room on the dance floor?! It’s probable that you will dance in more peace and space during Coachella weekends at these otherwise overcrowded spots for great music and fun DJ nights.

Photo courtesy of Zebulon Café Concert/Facebook

Arguably the coolest newish venue in Los Angeles; on any given night you can go to Zebulon and catch an interesting band, an awesome DJ, or an outsider comedy show, sometimes all at once. There’s a sizable small plates menu, best only if you’re superhungry. Stop by on Sunday for brunch and shopping—it has a surprisingly great weekly flea market. 2478 Fletcher Drive

Upstairs at Ace Hotel
Head up the elevator to Ace’s lush rooftop trifecta: an alfresco dining area featuring fireplaces and cozy two-tops, a chic indoor bar, and the hippest, chillest pool setting in town. The menu focuses on bar bites, and the creative craft cocktail list goes far beyond the predictable poolside beverage service. Check the calendar: DJ nights are held often and can be very cool. 929 South Broadway

The velvet rope is a lot less daunting when there are fewer people lined up behind it. Dress in your best threads and hit the dance floor inside this exclusive West Hollywood hot spot tucked inside the historic Roosevelt Hotel. 7000 Hollywood Boulevard

Pool Scenes

Peak L.A. is day drinking by a hotel pool on a hot Saturday afternoon. But often, the scene can read more rager than relaxation—if you can even snag a spot. Take advantage of some likely peace and quiet at these posh poolside destinations (complete with chaise longue cocktail delivery). 

The Standard DTLA
When you think of Los Angeles rooftop pool party, you think of the Standard, even if you’ve never seen it before—it’s filed in the cultural subconscious as the elected representative of this entire notion. Nightly DJs, pitcher cocktails, heated pools, red Astroturf, firepits, a dance floor, and the city lights help make it so. 550 South Flower

Photo courtesy The Hollywood Roosevelt/Facebook

Tropicana Pool & Cafe at the Hollywood Roosevelt
In a legendary Hollywood hotel stuffed with cool little nooks to grab a drink, the Hollywood Roosevelt’s poolside bar is the undisputed classic. The Tropicana Pool & Cafe is its own little ’60s-tinged oasis within the hotel, a prime spot for lounging under the palms to people-watch. If you’re not lucky enough to spot a celeb or witness a movie deal go down, there’s still plenty to look at: That pattern on the bottom of the pool you’ve been eyeing as you nurse your mai tai is actually a multimillion-dollar David Hockney mural. 7000 Hollywood Boulevard

Shop and Stroll

Despite this town’s reputation, we really do have some of the neatest opportunities for all-day, on-your-feet, pedestrian-friendly shopping days. It’s just that these destinations are so well loved the experience can be pretty overwhelming. It’s a near guarantee that the same kind of people that cram Saturdays on Abbot Kinney and Rose Bowl Sundays are stowed away in the desert, so roam free. 

Photo courtesy of Abbot Kinney Blvd/Facebook

Abbot Kinney, Venice
There’s the Venice sign for the Instagram, Gjelina for brunch, the boardwalk for sunset viewing, and Felix Trattoria for dinner. A picture-perfect Sunday in Venice always seems like such a good idea when you imagine it! Until, that is, you actually commit and go, just to face impossible parking and annoying crowds. This time, enjoy the luxurious surroundings of this shopping district by the sea, where some of L.A.’s best boutiques are strung along the pedestrian-friendly Abbot Kinney strip.

Rose Bowl Flea Market
If you don’t know the Rose Bowl, do you even flea, bro? Jokes aside, this legendary, absolutely sprawling treasure hunt happens every second Sunday of the month, opening at 5 a.m. for the scary-serious stylists, collectors, and resellers out there. But a tamer and more average consumer-friendly hour to go is around 9 a.m., before it gets too hot and regular admission costs $9. There’s simply too much ground to cover, so pick a lane: Will today be for vintage clothes, furniture, collectibles, or decor? Focus, then haggle. Parking is free. 1001 Rose Bowl Drive

Take Care of Business

Between parking and lines and yoga mats within three inches of one another, sometimes we neglect self-care. Take up some space for yourself during this time while popular service businesses have quieted down during the Coachella mass exodus.

Rudy’s Barbershop
Born in Seattle in the ’90s, this barbershop chain carries its punk-rock spirit with it, serving Los Angeles heads with affordable cuts from knowledgeable stylists in simple, casual, but upscale salon environs. Walk-ins are always welcome. Locations throughout Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of ALO Yoga

Alo Yoga
The founders of the newest athleticwear and yoga studio in town say their goals include “spreading mindful movement, inspiring wellness, and creating community.” They should add appearing superfly while you’re doing all of the above. Shop, stretch, and look über–studio-to-street in your cool new yoga gear, then hit the Alo café for some well-earned kombucha. First class is free! The Grove, 189 The Grove Drive

L.A.’s most luxurious health emporium. Erewhon’s shelves are like a glossary of every single health food buzzword in the lexicon: adaptogenic, biodynamic, non-GMO, plant-based, allergen-free…that is to say, it’s a veritable—and pricey—playground for those with specific things to avoid. Complete with a cold-press tonic bar, hot bar, deli, bakery, and beauty and wellness aisles, too. Locations throughout Los Angeles

Get Outside

The great outdoors is such a genuine pastime for Angelenos. But…have you ever tried to hike Runyon on a Sunday morning for a little fresh air? Good luck not tripping over a museum-security-laser–level tangle of dog leashes, or getting in the snapshot line of fire of a gaggle of fitness influencers posing for Instagram. Enjoy the relative peace and quiet on the trails and the beach before the hordes return for the sweaty season. 

Malibu Pier
Surfers! Sand! Sea lions! Malibu Pier, home of Gidget and host to all the planked pier sunset fantasies of Southern California vacation visions. Remember, we’re still in Malibu: This pier forgoes the hot dog and funnel cake fare for Malibu Farm & Cafe (think: turmeric lattes, albacore tacos, cauli-crust pizzas), and swaps traditional shore-style souvenir shops for upscale lifestyle boutiques. 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

hiking in los angeles
Photo by Emergent Property via Wikimedia Commons

Runyon Canyon Park
Situated just above the hustle and bustle of some of the city’s busiest stretches, Runyon provides a quick, easy, and stunningly scenic escape from Hollywood’s urban corridors. Loops of varying difficulty offer something for everyone, and there are even off-leash areas for your fellow canine adventurers. 2000 North Fuller Avenue