50th birthday in Los Angeles: Ideas You'll Love
Celebrating your half-century in Southern California? Here’s everything you need to start planning
The City of Dreams may be the home of Hollywood, but there’s a whole lot more to it than showbiz frippery. Los Angeles is surrounded by nature, laden with interesting art and architecture, and its diverse food scene is currently riding the crest of a wave. In short, you've chosen the right place if you'll be toasting your 50th birthday in Los Angeles.
However, it’s huge and sprawling. There’s not even a centre. Los Angeles is made up of multiple neighbourhoods, each with their own personality, so it can be difficult to navigate if you’re new in town and short of ideas. But if you arrive armed with a flexible plan (just like this one) – and book the big-occasion restaurants in advance – the City of Dreams should more than live up to its name.
And the clincher? It’s (nearly) always sunny. Oh, and there are plenty of Plum Guide homes to choose from too...
Marking a 50th birthday in Los Angeles means pulling out the stops when you’re dining out. Sushi may be the city’s finest culinary offering, so here you’ll be sampling the best of the best in the US. On Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Urasawa is one of the most renowned restaurants in LA: here, world-class head chef Hiroyuki Urasawa serves multiple courses of delectable morsels in hand-crafted Japanese tableware. This place has two Michelin stars, and it shows. Meanwhile, over on Santa Monica Boulevard, Yamakase Sushi offers Japanese fusion cuisine that has everyone talking. Look out for dishes such as toro tartare with truffle cheese, or hokkaido taraba crab. The catch? It’s so secretive, you have to apply via its website to be invited to dine there.
If you love surprises, though, consider Trois Mec in Hollywood. This cosy spot offers an experimental five- or six-course tasting menu, loosely based on French cuisine, that changes every night. It’s a favourite spot among Angelenos for special occasions – which is exactly why you’re here, right?
Leave your phone at the door when you head into Old Lightning: this is an old-school speakeasy that’s just perfect for fans of rare spirits who want to unplug from the rest of the world and concentrate on celebrating. Tucked away behind an unmarked door in Scopa, a Venice Beach restaurant, this mid-century-styled bar requires a reservation by email (and be warned – it’s tough to get). But once you’re in, you’ll have access to a huge collection of hard-to-find whiskies and the simple, perfectly executed cocktails you deserve on your 50th birthday in Los Angeles.
For a more extensive cocktail list and a dash of Hollywood glitz, there’s Bibo Ergo Sum (“I drink, therefore I am”) in Beverly Grove. The team behind the Art Deco horseshoe bar pour some seriously sexy cocktails for the well-heeled local crowd. Try the Hotel Nacional, mixing Mount Gay rum, pineapple, lime and apricot. It’s basically one of your five a day...
Off the tourist trail
The prime LA tourist spots have been well-documented, but a special occasion calls for something different. Get a taste of real LA by booking a Melting Pot food tour, which gives you the chance to explore areas of the city you may have overlooked. The East LA Latin Flavors tour, for example, will show you the foodie highlights of East LA and Boyle Heights – namely their excellent street food and markets. Wine fans, however, should consider hiring a car to journey down to Temecula Valley, the hidden gem of California wine country. A world away from the city, but only a one-hour drive, here you can explore the vineyards and historic Old Town, or simply admire the rolling hills and mountains rising in the distance.
Back in Los Angeles, seek out a tour of the city’s architectural gems (or simply do it on your own steam). From Frank Gehry's swooping Walt Disney Concert Hall building to the brutalist angles of Saint Basil Catholic Church and the mid-century modern homes dotting the hills, it’s a landscape rich in bold design. Or, of course, you could just head to Malibu and track down a deserted, sun-kissed cove…
Where to stay
Where do you imagine waking up when you turn 50? Chances are, a disappointingly bland hotel is not top of the list. This is where Plum Guide steps in. Created to gather together a collection of desirable LA homes, whether that means beautifully designed, charmingly quirky or just plain cool, only the best make the grade. Do you want sweeping views of the Hollywood Hills, or the Pacific Ocean? The final decision is up to you. It’s your birthday, after all.