Having fun at night in LA used to be a bit of a tricky one. Because of the city's size and not-all-that-great public transportation network, you either had to stay in one spot, refrain from alcohol, or deal with the jail time/fines/vehicular manslaughters that come as a result of drunk driving.
But thanks to ride-sharing services and a couple of public transport improvements, the city is now your oyster. Which is great, because LA is the best city in the country. Whereas Chicago's weather is so shitty they have to invent new words to describe it, and New York pretty much only makes the news these days when a rat eats something weird, LA has the beach and mountains and movie stars and 500 days of perfect weather a year.
Here's our guide on how to have a perfect 12 hours overnight in the city.
ART AND SUNLIGHT AT LACMA
Start out at LACMA with a stroll beneath Levitated Mass, a 340-ton boulder suspended above a concrete trench that allows you to walk under it. Michael Heizer, a pioneering environmental artist, had the giant rock transported from a quarry 60 miles away while wrapped in deluxe Egyptian cotton sheets.
The spectacle of its journey spawned plenty of block parties, not to mention art-world controversy over the exorbitant costs, making the rock quite possibly Los Angeles's most gossip-worthy work of art. As night falls, wander over to Chris Burden's Urban Light, an installation of 202 cast iron antique lamps. (No admission fee required for either.)
SNACKS AND DRINKS AT THE PRINCE
Slide into a booth at this historic Koreatown holdout and settle into the enveloping darkness for a plate of their legendary spicy fried chicken wings and several rounds of stiff drinks. (FYI: head here on the early side for half-off drinks during the daily happy hour till 8 PM.) The cocktail menu lists pretty much every old-school, normcore drink you could dream of, from blue Hawaiians to Long Island iced teas. The decor is devastatingly gaudy, and doesn't seem to have been updated since at least 1964. Best of all, each table comes equipped with a buzzer for ordering drinks, so all you need to do for instant attention is lift a finger.
More to do nearby: Wi Spa, a palatial retreat laced with saunas made of ice, jade, clay, and salt, is open 24 hours, so you could technically check in and check out when it's time to head to the beach for sunrise. Then again, you could grace the premises of the Venue, a swanky karaoke bar with exotic cocktails and epicurean delights like bluefin tuna tacos.
DINNER AND MORE DRINKS AT NIGHT + MARKET SONG
Head to Silver Lake to up the spiciness ante inside this super colorful Thai haunt. Head chef Kris Yenbamroong has no formal training, instead making amazing Thai dishes with the specific intention "to facilitate drinking and fun-having amongst friends."
Not to be missed: Yenbamroong's signature Thai-Burmese panang curry, with hunks of beef steeped in a peanut broth and accompanied by fried rotis. But pretty much everything on this menu is a safe bet.
More to do nearby: Foodie-wise, Ludo Lefebvre's French-Mexican mash-up, Trois Familia, is just down the street, although you'll have to come early or save it for tomorrow—they're only open for lunch, 9 AM–2 PM (btw you owe it to yourself to splurge on a Nutella malt and the Tres Leches cake). Yuca's, a tiny taco hut in a parking lot on Hillhurst in nearby Los Feliz, is a family-run labor of love and a feat of authenticity.
11 PM–1 AM
PRE-PARTY AROUND THE EAST SIDE
Though it just opened at the start of the year, The Friend has already become a neighborhood staple. The inside looks like a really pleasing cross between The Peach Pit from 90210 and that fancy candy store Ralph Lauren's daughter owns, and at about $10 each, the cocktails are pretty affordable (for LA, anyway—probably not if you're from somewhere normal). The last time we went, the place got super crowded around 11 PM and we had to line up for the bathroom for what felt like two months. So if you're a fan of peeing, maybe head here on the earlier side.
Next, stop in at Zebulon. The newly relaunched venue used to be based in Brooklyn, where it had a reputation for helping to launch the careers of some pretty big acts. The bookings here are consistently killer, and it's one of the few places on the East Side you can get a drink without being surrounded by insufferable people.
Finish things up at Smog Cutter. It's cash only, the two drink minimum is aggressively enforced, the bathrooms look like Silent Hill, and the bar staff are among the rudest in LA (possibly the world), but it somehow manages to be one of the most consistently fun bars in the city.
DANCING AND MORE DANCING AT LOS GLOBOS
Smack-dab in the heart of Silver Lake on Sunset Boulevard, this grimy den, initially a 1930s American Legion Hall, is one of LA's oldest nightclubs. It was also (rumor has it) among the city's first openly gay clubs to host a rave, earning it institution status in LA nightlife lore. Granted, it's not unheard of to bump into Kiefer Sutherland, who's been known to tear his shirt off late-night on the dance floor. But then, it's not rare to run into, well, basically anyone and everyone here. The crowd is nothing if not eclectic.
More to do nearby: On nights when Los Globos closes at 2 AM (Mon–Wed), people flock to Bamboo House, an intimate Thai restaurant open until 4 AM and a five minute Lyft ride away, for chrysanthemum tea and egg rolls.
COME DOWN AND BREAKFAST AT THE PANTRY
Head downtown for greasy goods at the Original Pantry Cafe, LA's all-night go-to for comfort food since 1924. Don't fret: The line out front may look depressingly long but it's dependably fast-moving, and the wait is worth it. It's kinda touristy and the food isn't the best, but the portions are beyond generous: piles of fluffy pancakes, slabs of ham that flop over plates, and piping hot fried eggs swimming in butter. The French toast is a thing of wonder. The milkshakes are frosty. The coffee isn't necessarily strong, but it's legendarily cheap. And by now, you could probably use that bottomless mug.
SUNRISE AND SHUT-EYE ON THE BEACH VIA METRO
Yes, LA has a metro. And yes, as of 2016, that metro runs from Downtown LA to the beach in Santa Monica. It's a long ride, so you can get a little shut-eye before stepping off at the Santa Monica Pier for a laze on the beach, which is quiet at this hour in the eerie glow of the illuminated ferris wheel.
Pacific Park, the amusement park on the pier, doesn't open until 11 AM, which means you've got plenty of time to chill before teenagers and tourists descend. Take a seat in the sand and drink it all in: the lapping ocean, the roving seagulls, and the hordes of rollerbladers whizzing past, belting out songs. God knows you've been drinking enough of everything else—you owe yourself a dose of the refreshing Pacific.
All photos by Cristina Dunlap unless otherwise noted.