The Cool Kid's Guide to L.A.

April 11, 2016

The City of Angels has a lot more to offer than overcrowded tourist spots. It’s also home to flourishing underground dance, art and music scenes, delicious off-the-beaten-path restaurants and unique places to shop. We asked four pros who call the city home for their top picks—so you can do L.A. like the indie kids. —Courtney Bowers

Aglaë Kounkou, freelance dancer

Born in France and raised in Montreal, Canada, Kounkou headed to the states to pursue her dance career. Right after moving to L.A. in 2014, she appeared in Katy Perry’s “This Is How We Do” music video and has since danced with Carly Rae Jepsen, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj. She’s also appeared in Disney’s Descendants and the recent film remake of Annie.

Home Turf:
“Like many dancers, I live in North Hollywood [between Hollywood Fwy. and Clybourn Ave.] because it’s very convenient. I’m literally five minutes away from several dance studios, Republic of Pie and Pitfire Pizza—all the dancer essentials!”

Favorite Coffee Shop:
“I discovered the lovely Sunset Junction Coffee Shop [3916 Sunset Blvd.] during my first year in L.A., and I simply fell in love with it. I love to go there and enjoy a delicious breakfast while listening to some good music.”

Best Spot for Class:
“Out of all the studios in the neighborhood, Movement Lifestyle [11105 Weddington St.] is the one I enjoy the most. Their studio is spacious and the vibe is refreshing. For a good hip-hop class, Tatiana Parker is the way to go. Melanie Mah also offers a free yoga class every Monday at 11 am.”

Go-To Restaurant
: “Last year I had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, and I fell in love with the delicious localfood. Poke-Poke [1827 Ocean Front Walk] offers authentic Hawaiian food at affordable prices. Their plates are original and colorful, and the tastes will bring you right into the heart of Hawaii.”

Best Place to See Art:
“Being away from Montreal too long can be difficult. I like to walk around Silver Lake [between Hyperion Ave. and Glendale Fwy.] and take pictures of the neighborhood’s street art and interesting architecture—it reminds me a lot of back home.”

Lounging in North Hollywood Park (courtesy Kounkou)

Cleo Magill, company member, American Contemporary Ballet

Magill, an L.A. native, grew up training at the Colburn School and the Joffrey Academy of Dance. She was a member of Tulsa Ballet II before heading back home to L.A. in the summer of 2013 to join American Contemporary Ballet, where she’s now in her fourth season.

Magill in ACB’s studios (courtesy Magill)

Home Turf:
“I live in Studio City [between Coldwater Canyon Ave. and Lankershim Blvd.]. It’s been my home since I was a little girl. It has the best shops and restaurants, and gets its name from all the Hollywood studios that have used it for filming since the 1920s.”

Best Weekend Haunt:
“ArcLight [6360 Sunset Blvd.] is definitely my go-to movie theater. They always play great movies, the seats are super-comfy and the popcorn is delicious.”

Go-To Restaurant:
“MidiCi [14612 Ventura Blvd.] is hands-down my favorite pizza joint. All the pizza is made right in front of you and then cooked in a wood-burning oven. If you go, you have to try the truffle mushroom!”

Best Retail Therapy:
“Wasteland [12144 Ventura Blvd.] is a terrific vintage and indie label clothes-shopping destination. I’ve scored so many great pieces for a bargain.”

Go-To Dance Shop:
“I’ve been going to The Red Shoes [1018 Mission St.] ever since I was a little girl—it’s the best dance shop in L.A. I even got fitted for my first pointe shoes there. I love to hang out with Alice, the owner. She’s always helpful and really funny.”

Magill and Oliver in Fryman Canyon (courtesy Magill)

Favorite Post-Performance Spots:
“Ledlow [400 S. Main St.] is across the street from the Farmers & Merchants Bank [401 S. Main St.] downtown, where ACB performs. The food is phenomenal. I have so many wonderful Ledlow dinner memories! I also love hanging out at The Roof on Wilshire [6317 Wilshire Blvd.]. Not only is the restaurant really good, but they also have a great pool and a spectacular view of the city.”

Best Place to See Art:
“The Broad [221 S. Grand Ave.] is a new museum that specializes in contemporary art. Once you’re there, you’re also close to so many other L.A. cultural icons, like the Museum of Contemporary Art [250 S. Grand Ave.] and Grand Central Market [317 S. Broadway]—an old-style Mexican/South American street market with stall after stall of amazing foods and crafts.”

Favorite Place to Dance:
“I truly love our ACB studios at The Bloc [700 S. Flower St.]—every time I go I’m inspired to accomplish something new. Also, our view of the city is breathtaking!”

Denna Thomsen, freelance dancer

After receiving her BA from Colorado State University, the Nebraska native moved to L.A.

in 2007. A classically trained ballerina and jazz dancer, Thomsen performed with Madonna during the Super Bowl in 2012, and is best known for her performances with Sia on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Saturday Night Live.” She also co-founded the Axiom Dance Theatre company.

At Echo Park Lake (courtesy Thomsen)

Home Turf:
“I live in Echo Park [between Hollywood Fwy. and Riverside Dr.], just a few blocks away from Echo Park Lake. It allows me to stay close to the city, but also feel removed from the industry when I need a break.”

Favorite Place to Get Inspired:
“When it’s challenging to find inspiration, diving into Stories Books and Cafe [1716 Sunset Blvd.] is the smartest move. I find that my mind explores parameters I never thought of while I’m there.”

Favorite Place to See a Show:
“Performances at the Bootleg Theater [2220 Beverly Blvd.] are never disappointments. I like to pop in here every once in a while to catch up on the latest underground comedy acts, improv shows and dance exhibitions.”

Best Spot to Relax:
“I go to Exposition Park Rose Garden [701 State Dr.]. There are hundreds of roses in every color all around you—perfect for daydreaming!”

At The Sweat Spot for class (courtesy Thomsen)

Favorite Late-Night Spot:
“The Virgil [4519 Santa Monica Blvd.] is the best place to go listen to house music on Thursday nights. Since I usually work with pop or alternative artists, it’s relaxing to hear something completely different.”

Go-To Restaurant:
“I love eating at The Castaway [1250 E. Harvard Rd.] because it overlooks the whole city of L.A. What could be better than having a gourmet brunch while staring at the city where dreams are made?”

Best Place for Class:
“Some studios are all about followers and YouTube posts. But every teacher at The Sweat Spot [3327 Sunset Blvd.] is there because of passion. Non-dancers and dancers join in a class where no judgment is passed, and everyone gets to be their own artist.”

Stephanie Amurao, company member, L.A. Dance Project

Amurao was born in Vancouver, Canada, and trained at the Richmond Academy of Dance before earning a BFA in dance from The Juilliard School. She danced with TAKE Dance, MOVE: the company, Konzert Theater Bern: Ballett and Batsheva Dance Company, before moving to L.A. in 2014 to join L.A. Dance Project.

Amurao in William Forsythe’s Quintett, with L.A. Dance Project (photo by Rose Eichenbaum, courtesy L.A. Dance Project)

Home Turf:
“I live in Playa Del Rey [between the coast and Pershing Dr.]. It’s on the west side, close to the airport. We travel so much that being near the airport is the best part of the location. I also love that it’s a quiet neighborhood close to the beach—the perfect contrast to downtown L.A., where I work every day.”

Best Place to Relax:
“On my days off, I go to Trilogy Spa [451 Manhattan Beach Blvd.] for a massage and some R&R. Afterward, I refuel at Lemonade, which is right next door. With so many tasty and healthy options, it’s always a win.”

Go-To Restaurant:
“I consider Petit Trois [718 Highland Ave.] a hidden L.A. hotspot. It’s a little French restaurant tucked between a Yum Yum Donuts and a gas station—you’d never think it’d be there. It’s perfect when I’m feeling fancy and want to spoil myself. I crave the escargot!”

Refueling at Lemonade (courtesy Amurao)

Best Retail Therapy:
“I’ve always loved flea markets. Melrose Trading Post [7850 Melrose Ave.] is a huge flea that happens every Sunday, and it’s an ideal way to spend an afternoon.”

Best Spot to See Dance:
“REDCAT [631 W. 2nd St.] is an intimate space that’s always presenting interesting and talented artists. There’s also a good chance you’ll run into other local dancers, which is a great way to stay connected.”

Best Place for Satisfying a Sweet Tooth:
“I always hit up Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream truck when it’s parked on Abbott Kinney Blvd., a street full of restaurants and shops. I’m lactose intolerant, so finding it was like finding gold. They have vegan dairy-free options made with cashews, coconut and cocoa butter. My favorite flavors are Sicilian pistachio and salted caramel.”

Favorite Nature Escape:
“Our studios downtown are very close to The Original Flower Market [754 Wall St.]. It has a huge variety of flowers, which you can buy at wholesale prices.”

Best Spot for Sunset Watching:
“A California sunset is beautiful no matter what, but even better when you have a view of the whole city. One hike I definitely recommend is Point Mugu [9000 Pacific Coast Hwy.]. I recently trekked up with a friend just in time for golden hour and captured some really great movement shots.”