Many adventures were had in the West this year.

Meal on Beach
A crab boil at Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast. Photo by Thomas J. Story.

It was another great year for adventures in the West. And like every year, Sunset editors did a lot of exploring—heading to new and familiar locales, sampling different dishes, sipping drinks, and just generally enjoying the best of the West. We know how lucky we are to live in this amazing region, but our explorations this year quite literally drove home the point.

To recap 2023, we’re sharing the best things we ate, drank, saw, and did during the year. Take a look at our highlights below and maybe it will inspire you on your next adventure!

Best Things We Ate and Drank

Monday Nights at Damian in Los Angeles

Pollito from Damian
Pollito at Damian.

Araceli Paz

“In-the-know food folks believe Wednesday is the new Friday (and that a 6 o’clock dinner is the new 8 o’clock), but after going to mod Mex DTLA hotspot Damian’s new Monday Industry Nights I’m going to call it: Monday is the new Friday. The indoor/outdoor arts district restaurant from global culinary superstar Enrique Olvera and his talented team has launched a new weekly Monday-night series featuring DJs and live music, cocktail residencies, and the grooviest arty crew of people vibing on stellar cocktails and a thrilling new menu. Standouts include the boquerone-topped Caesar salad tostadas and the best chicken dish I’ve had all year: The pollito (boned, hammered, and wood grilled), served with pineapple butter and house-made heirloom corn tortillas, is savory, sweet, spicy, smoky, and transcendent.” —Hugh Garvey, editor in chief

Dungeness Oregon Crab Boil in Cape Lookout, Oregon

Meal on Beach
A crab boil at Cape Lookout State Park on the Oregon Coast.

Photo by Thomas J. Story.

“The shoot location for a story on regenerative travel in Oregon was originally meant to be foraging in the forest, but due to incredibly inclement weather (hello frozen rain!) we had to call an audible and move it to the Oregon coast for crabbing. What a blessing in disguise that was. The wines from Antica Terra paired with fresh crab pulled from the sea were truly mind blowing. What really made it special were the new friends photographer Tom Story and I made with the Willamette winery’s team. Now I’m a firm believer that bibs are the new friendship bracelet.” —Krista Simmons, travel editor

Bar Le Côte in Los Olivos, California

Bar Le Cote Overhead Seafood Pork Chop
The spread at Bar Le Côte.

Photo by Thomas J. Story

“Everything on the menu is a win, but I’ve been dreaming of the Day Boat Scallop Crudo with Pickled Mighty Cap Black Pearl Mushrooms for months.”—Kristin Guy, editor

Kato in Los Angeles

Milk Bread and Caviar at Kato
Milk bread and caviar at Kato.

Sarah Yang

“In one of those ‘I’m the luckiest girl in the world’ moments, my friend treated me to dinner at Kato in downtown Los Angeles as a birthday present in January. After that meal, I probably owe him my first child. From the amuse bouche to the dessert, it was one of the most memorable meals of my life. Seeing the different spins on classic Taiwanese dishes was such a delight—from the caviar and milk bread to the abalone in egg custard to the A5 wagyu (reminded me of Tawainese beef noodle soup). At $275 per person, it is a splurge, but definitely worth it for a special occasion! Now I’m just trying to think of what ‘special occasion’ will get me there for my next visit…” —Sarah Yang, digital director

Flower Child in Las Vegas

Flower Child Grain Bowl
A dish at Flower Child in Las Vegas.

Flower Child

“For healthy, tasteful eats, including gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options, try Flower Child. This chain has a decent presence out west (Arizona and Texas in particular) and plans to open a Henderson location for south of The Strip access ease.  Their Las Vegas location is a short 15-minute drive west of the Ahern. I ordered salmon with roasted Brussels sprouts and maple-glazed squash and finished with the gluten-free lemon olive oil cake. All partook on the outdoor patio to revel in the mild, early November weather.” —Christine Bobbish, photo editor

The Pizza Risotto at Gucci Osteria in Beverly Hills

Pizza Risotto from Gucci Osteria
The pizza risotto at Gucci Osteria.

Thomas J. Story

“Yes, the Gucci Osteria above the Gucci store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is an exquisite jewel box of a restaurant with whimsical decor and handbag stools and world-class service, Michelin-worthy culinary execution, and a smart wine list of obscure Italian finds. But the thing that will stay with me forever is its mind-bending mashup of all that’s wonderful about two of the greatest Italian exports: the flavors of a perfect Neapolitan pizza in unctuous spoonable risotto form: tangy tomato sauce, basil puree/oil, molten mozzarella, creamy rice, and, the brilliant flourish of burnt capers to replicate the exquisite bitter counterpoint of charred pizza crust. This is the unforgettable pinnacle of a luxurious culinary experience.” —Garvey

Breakfast at Tributary Hotel in the Willamette Valley, Oregon

Tributary Breakfast
The breakfast spread at Tributary Hotel.

Thomas J. Story

“The new Tributary Hotel is located in a 100-year-old historic building, and includes an incredibly ambitious restaurant called ōkta which owns and operates its own fully regenerative farm. Chef Matthew Lightner, an alum of Atera, has literal boots on the ground overseeing the operation from seed to fork. Each morning, a massive breakfast utilizing elements from the farm arrives at your door, and it is nothing short of life-changing. Smoky house-cured rashers of bacon, breads, pastries that rival the finest French boulangerie, and stewed white beans with local chanterelles are just a few of the gems that made up the best breakfast of my entire life. It would be all too easy to stay inside by the fire while grazing over the spread, especially in these cold winter months.” —Simmons

Capri Club in Eagle Rock, California

“A favorite neighborhood happy hour spot (in Eagle Rock, Calfifornia), slide into a dark leather booth or grab a sunny sidewalk two-seater and enjoy the Tuna Stuffed Sweet Piquante Peppers with a negroni and a side of great people watching.” —Guy

Pijja Palace in Los Angeles

Dosa Onion Rings from Pijja Palace
The dosa onion rings at Pijja Palace.

Sarah Yang

“Resy informed me that Pijja Palace was my top restaurant of 2023 and I’m thinking it will be another top on for me in 2024, too. Even though its whole ‘thing’ is an Indian sports bar, it definitely does not have that generic sports bar vibe, both in decor and food. Instead of a dark sports bar, visitors will be treated to a bright space with light woods and green and blush color accents. The food is an inventive mashup of the usual sports bar food with an Indian twist—think dosa onion rings (quite possibly the best onion rings you will ever have in your life), achaari buffalo chicken tenders (so juicy and get it with the curry leaf ranch!), and pijjas (aka pizza) with toppings like green chutney, chicken tikka, and peri peri vindaloo sauce. Bring a group of friends (if you can snag a reservation) and try everything on the menu, and don’t forget to get the soft serve (my favorite is the cookies and cardamom).” —Yang

The Matcha Pistachio Latte at Suá in Los Angeles

Matcha Pistachio Latte from Sua
The matcha pistachio latte at Suá Superette.

Hugh Garvey

“Earthy, deeply flavored premium matcha, hand-whisked, then topped with frothed pistachio milk is a green-on-green delight and the must-order hot beverage at the sweet and stylish Suá Superette on L.A.’s happening Larchmont Boulevard. Be sure to pick up some of the Sichuan-inspired grab-and-go salads, noodles, or proteins made with cult-fave Fly by Jing seasonings and sauces.” —Garvey

Shuck Shack in Avila Beach, California

“Hidden on a very sleepy stretch of Avila Beach there’s a tasting room offering shuck-your-own oysters—grab a dozen and make sure to request a bottle of Morro Bay Oyster Co’s fermented 24 Carrot Hot Sauce alongside the standard mignonette. It’s so good, you’ll want to purchase a bottle to-go.” —Guy

La Dolce Vita in Beverly Hills

A dirty vodka martini at La Dolce Vita.

Sarah Yang

“I finally snagged a reservation at this recently revamped Beverly Hills restaurant, which originally opened in 1966 and counted Frank Sinatra as an investor. Let me tell you, what a glamorous experience all around! The interior is dark and mysterious, with maximalist decor and cozy leather booths. (We sat in Frank Sinatra’s!) It’s equally a fun date-night idea and a spot to go with a group of friends. Get the shrimp fra diavolo, arancino (only available on Sundays), tableside Caesar, tiramisu, and the LDV Gibson martini!” —Yang

The Lucenachon at Kuya Lord in Los Angeles

Lucenachon from Kuya Lord
The lucenachon plate at Kuya Lord.

Hugh Garvey

“I grew up eating many delicious versions of the Filipino pork roast known as lechon, but chef Lord Maynard Llera’s version is a standout: With crackling skin, lemongrass-scented cured pork, and served with anatto-hued garlic rice, tomato salad, and spicy vinegar, it’s the plate lunch of your Filipino food dreams.” —Garvey

Kinoko Nigiri at Uchi LA

Kinoko Nigiri at Uchi Los Angeles
Kinoko nigiri at Uchi LA.

Sarah Yang

“Famed Austin sushi restaurant Uchi has landed in L.A. and in a city full of impressive sushi spots, it’s here to make a statement. I tried the chef’s tasting menu with a few additions recommended by our waiter. The dishes and cocktails were all so fresh and tasty, but two things stuck out to me: the kinoko nigiri (mushroom!) and the dirty dashi martini. The mushroom nigiri was our waiter’s favorite and as a mushroom lover myself, I was not disappointed—meaty and buttery, it almost melted in my mouth. And the dirty dashi martini was an exceptional cocktail that made me wish all martinis had an umami twist.” —Yang

Best Things We Saw

Bob Moses at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Alex Mertz/Unsplash

“I’ve spent a lot of time in Denver this year, but my favorite memory was seeing a show at Red Rocks for the first time. I’m convinced this location, situated in a canyon of ochre geological formations, is one of the most beautiful venues in the entire world. I can’t wait to go back next season.” —Simmons

U2 at The Sphere in Las Vegas

The Sphere in Las Vegas.

Getty Images

“My first Las Vegas visit purposefully synced up with U2’s residency at The Sphere.  Ready for next-wave technology, my ticket was in the uppermost 400 section where the sweeping vantage made for a supreme sensory experience. It was a prime social capture spot too. Tip: Enter and exit using The Venetian walkway to bypass smokers lingering outside the venue. Tickets for U2 are still available for shows between January 26 and March 2.” —Bobbish

Desert X in the Coachella Valley

Sleeping Figure by Matt Johnson at Desert X 2023
“Sleeping Figure” by Matt Johnson at Desert X.

Sarah Yang

“I got to visit Desert X, the immersive art exhibition produced by The Desert Biennial, for the first time this year with Hennessy. It was a fun few days previewing the awe-inspiring art pieces all over the Coachella Valley. And yes, the installations are thought-provoking and powerful, but it’s also such a fun activity driving to the locations throughout the desert and seeing the pieces in different environments—like near railroad tracks or at the iconic Sunnylands. The Palm Springs area is one of my favorite places on the planet, so I definitely will be back to enjoy more art next year!” —Yang

The Annular Solar Eclipse in Moab, Utah

Moab Arch

Pierre Leclerc Photography/Getty Images

“I ventured out to Moab to catch a glimpse of the annular solar eclipse in the path of totality, and it was absolutely breathtaking. We don’t really get a chance to see many stars here in L.A., so I’ve been taking every chance I can get to participate in these types of astrotourism, including heading out to Autocamp Joshua Tree last week for the Gemenids meteor shower. More of this in 2024, please.” —Simmons

The Superbloom in California

Superbloom at Diamond Valley Lake
The superbloom view at Diamond Valley Lake.

Sarah Yang

“The incessant rain this winter and spring left a lot of us wondering what happened to that beautiful SoCal weather. But the reward for dealing with the rain, slippery road conditions, and numerous potholes was the gorgeous superbloom we experienced in the spring! I got to spend an afternoon at Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet with Sunset’s esteemed photographer, Tom Story, to scout potential cover shots. While we didn’t use any of the photos we took, it was one of those afternoons that didn’t feel real—the blooms were so vibrant, it looked like a painting!” —Yang

Best Things We Did

Spearfishing in Costas Palmas, Mexico

“I was so inspired by my interview with Mitsuki Hara that I had to try spearfishing it the first chance I got, so when I saw that the Four Seasons Costa Palmas partnered with Spear Mex, I was all in! I had so much fun learning about sustainability with my guide, and the water in Baja couldn’t been more magical, even on a rough day. The seas were super choppy and our spots for big pelagic fishes were bare, but we didn’t give up and I got one on the last try! Love how nature teaches presence and perseverance. No bad days.” —Simmons

A Stay at the Ahern Hotel in Las Vegas

Ahern Hotel Mountain View Room
“View from a Mountain View room—there is a pink film on the windows which I assume is used to block the strong sun,” Bobbish says.

Christine Bobbish

“If you want a quieter, non-smoking and no-resort-fees property near The Strip with free parking to boot, check out the Ahern. I overdosed on cappuccinos at their Aroma Bistro Bar then caffeine-buzz-walked to nearby public transportation options. Closest to the hotel is The Deuce bus stop which services The Strip. Walk a bit further and you can hop on the LV Monorail at the Sahara Las Vegas stop.” —Bobbish

Shopping at Olive Ateliers in Los Angeles

“Known for their Instagram hype and product drops with lines around the corner, Olive Ateliers now offers more casual drop-ins with an impressive collection of imported and curated objects from Turkey, India, Indonesia, Greece, France, and China. Unlike other showrooms, I love how friendly the staff is and that you can even find one-of-a-kind home décor for under $40.” —Guy

Living the #VanLife with PeaceVans in Baja California Sur, Mexico

Thomas J. Story

“This was by far one the most transformative trips I’ve had while working at Sunset. Photographer Tom Story and I joined Harley Sitner and his gang from Seattle-based Peace Vans to venture around the unexplored towns of Baja in restored vintage VW Vanagons. From surfing at Cerritos beach to noshing on the most incredible fish tacos at Barracudas to connecting with some of the movers and shakers that make this region so special, it was a trip to remember. I can’t wait for you all to read the feature in an upcoming print issue!” —Simmons

Exploring Valley of Fire State Park in Moapa Valley, Nevada

Valley of Fire State Park
Fire Wave at Valley of Fire State Park.

Peter Unger/Getty Images

“Easy access to I-15 from the Ahern had me road tripping on my day of departure.  Under cirrus clouds I headed 55 miles northeast to Valley of Fire State Park. There was no time for hikes before my flight so I took in its bright red sandstone outcrops from the car. I looped to the airport via Northshore Road which runs parallel to Lake Mead. Stunning long views and an uncrowded roadway made for a meditative drive. Total drive time: approximately 3 hours. Definitely budget more time for hiking and photo opp stops.” —Bobbish