Bikes: The New Rental Cars

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Exploring a new neighborhood? Riding bicycles is easier than using cars to get the lay of the land. Here's how two smart companies are helping the cause, along with tips for hitting L.A.'s Westwood on two wheels

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When I visit a new destination, I like to pretend I’m a local and try to immerse myself in the fabric of a city. One way I achieve this is by staying in the thick of the action, like an in-town hotel or a rental condo found on AirBNB. Another way is to skip the rental car and get around on a bicycle.

Two-wheeled travel allows for easy exploration and can take you places faster than walking and without the headache and cost of city parking lots and meters. With maps and the internet a smartphone away, there really isn’t a need to do much research either. Just Google a bike rental place, put down some cash and pedal off.

Kimpton Hotels makes it even easier with a partnership it recently launched with PUBLIC bikes. The program allows Kimpton, the largest chain of boutique hotels in the world, to give its guests complimentary access to bikes. I recently had the opportunity to try it out at Hotel Palomar in Los Angeles. I popped over in the late afternoon, grabbed the complimentary bike, helmet and lock from the front desk and set off on the following two-hour excursion of lovely Westwood:

First stop: UCLA campus

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Few things compare to the energy of a college campus. Throw in world-class athletics facilities, stately architecture, expansive landscaping, soak it all in sunshine and voila—the University of California at mother-effin’ Los Angeles. I dodged tank-topped frat bros and short-shorted sorority sisters on my way to the famed Pauley Pavilion, where a statue of John Wooden stands sentry. Later, I hit the massive UCLA Store—run by students—to grab a souvenir.

Second stop: Fat Sal’s

Burning extra calories to get there makes it completely worth the splurge on the gut-busting fare at this local deli. Part-owner Jerry Ferrara (Turtle from Entourage) draws a crowd with his signature Fat sandwiches, which combine fried fare like chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks or onion rings with traditional deli offerings. The result is delicious, not for the calorie-counter and perfect for the post-bar college crowd (it stays open til 3 a.m. six nights a week).

Third stop: In-N-Out

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In-N-Outs are ubiquitous in California, but the Westwood Village location is one of a kind. Designed by the late Stephen Kanner, the whimsical modern architecture stands out in a good way and makes a great Instagram to make your non-traveling friends jealous. On my trip, I parked my bike, grabbed a shake (Neopolitan-style, because I know the secret menu) and wandered one block over to sip it while I strolled the weekly farmers market.

Fourth stop: Hammer Museum

With a belly full of food and a camera full of shots, I needed a quiet place to lounge and edit my pictures. Hammer has a beautifully serene courtyard, flanked by towering bamboo and other foliage that provides nice shade from the sunlight that pours down in all seasons. It also has free wifi and ample seating, so I set up a little workspace and got cranking. Hey, these posts don’t write themselves.

Here’s a map of the bike route. Any questions? Hit me up.

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