Los Angeles has long been a popular destination for Canadian travellers. This California cultural centre is a hub for all things glitz and glam. The sun, the surf, the sand, the celebrity…you can’t beat it. That said, for the first time traveler, Los Angeles can be a tough city to crack. Many of the city’s finest finds are spread out and hidden to the uninitiated. There are also so many neighborhoods in LA, it’s hard to know where to start your visit. There are the hipster hangouts of Silverlake, the converted lofts turned artsy gastropubs of Downtown and the high-end shops of Beverly Hills 90210 fame., just to name a few. Here are a few of the best local hangouts to put on your radar for your next trip to Los Angeles.

Having spent the past four years as a Canadian living in Los Angeles I don’t need travel insurance to visit but I wanted to give my fellow Canucks a quickie glimpse into my favorite neighborhoods on the West Side. Over the next few days, I’ll post three blogs about some of my fave spots across Santa Monica and Venice.

When most foreigners visit Santa Monica, they head to the very touristy 3rd Street Promenade. Just blocks away from the beach and the iconic Santa Monica Pier, 3rd Street is a pedestrian only boulevard of brand name shops and touristy restaurants. It’s certainly an awesome place to go, but to tap into a more local, neighhood vibe, Main Street is the place to be.

Start your stroll by moving south along Main St. from Pico Blvd. Grab an espresso at Dogtown Coffee (2003 Main St.), a coffee shop with a surfer/skater vibe that serves vegan burritos and killer chai lattes.

Follow it up with brunch at the ever popular M Street Kitchen (2000 Main St.) This laid-back restaurant serves traditional American fare like Orange Chocoloate Chip pancakes and the classic omelette. Try to score a seat on the dog-friendly outdoor patio to interact with some new furry four-legged friends.

Hopefully you’ll have a little room left in yo’ belly for some of the best ice cream in Santa Monica. Three Twins Ice Cream (2726 Main St) serves up organic ice cream with flavors like lemon cookie in funfetti waffle cones. Indulge in one of their “California Cliché” Sundaes (a mix of pistachios, olive oil, sea salt, burnt caramel sauce and whipped cream) or if you’re feeling extra naughty, go for the Twinasaurus, a 20 scoop sundae served in a pot that will set you back $45!

Now that you’re sufficiently stuffed, burn off those calories with a little retail therapy. If you’re looking for cheap and cheerful fashions, pop into Varga (2714 Main St.) for some fun and flirty women’s clothes. Beneath the Marilyn Monroe posters and crystal chandeliers you’ll find bright, funky jewellery, dresses with a vintage flair and accessories at an extremely affordable price.  For higher end fashions, visit Hip’tique (2727 Main St.), my favorite clothing shop along Main St. This stylized store sells curated books, locally made accessories, fragrant candles and beautiful clothes for every occasion.

For some of the area’s best happy hours, check out these hot spots but don’t over indulge, I bet your travel insurance doesn’t cover a hang over!:

Manchego (2518 Main St.), a BYOB Spanish tapas restaurant with delicious small plates and a cozy atmosphere. Chaya Venice (110 Navy St.), a bussling Venice bar with well-priced sliders and sushi from 5pm onwards. Brick + Mortar gastropub offers a fun frat boy atmosphere and affordable happy hour, 12-7pm daily. Feast on truffle pizzas, charcuterie plates, chicken wings and crabs cakes all while keeping within budget.

If time allows, plan your visit to Main Street on a Sunday morning. This way you’ll catch the Farmer’s Market (2640 Main St.), a weekend gathering spot from 8am-1pm boasting farm-fresh produce, free range organic meats/dairy, flowers and artisanal goods. It’s a family friendly good time, with live music, balloon-making clowns, pony rides and a mini petting zoo. In addition to produce, there are food kiosks serving all types of cuisines: from delicious savory French crepes, to Mexican burritos, Greek wraps and freshly squeezed California-grown blood orange juice. Visiting the Farmer’s Market along Main St. is a lovely way to spend a morning, just like a local in Santa Monica.

*Don’t Forget: Beyond packing sunscreen and a stack of glossy headshots (in case you’re discovered by a famous Hollywood producer…haha), one of the most important things Canadians traveling to the US should take with them is travel insurance. I’m a huge advocate of travel insurance for any international trip. Travel medical insurance could be a lifesaver if (god forbid) anything should happen to you during your trip. Health care costs in the US can be extremely expensive for those who are uninsured so make sure you wherever you go you’ve got travel insurance with you! Note: This post is Sponsored by Sun Life Financial  and intended for your information only.