Going to California
August 18, 2009 11:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to Los Angeles later this week. I've never been there, what should I do/see/eat? Details inside.

* I've already done some looking and I know that I want to try and get to joshua tree national park (which parts of the park are worth seeing?), but I'm wondering what other things there are in the L.A. area that are outdoorsy? Good hikes? Cool Beaches? Something else?

* Also, photography is a hobby of mine, anything I shouldn't miss?

* Foodwise, what's a good Vietnamese restaurant? Other food recommendations would be good too (cheaper is better, but not required).

* Anything else in L.A. that I shouldn't miss?

Sorry to be all over the place with this, and thanks for any help you can render.
posted by pwicks to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, LA (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Zankou chicken is my god. It's the next In 'n Out. Be cool and get it while it's still just local to LA.
posted by paultopia at 12:01 AM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

What part of town will you be staying in? There's tons of great Vietnamese food in LA, so if you give us a general neighborhood you'll get much better suggestions. Joshua Tree is pretty far out there, I wouldn't say it's a day trip. How long will you be staying? Will you have a car? Will you be by your lonesome or sightseeing/traveling with a friend?
posted by pazazygeek at 12:08 AM on August 19, 2009

You can go to Santa Monica beach and walk around. It's touristy, but it's fun to do once. As for photography, you must go to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It's an amazing building, architecturally. If you can, try to get in on a tour. If you enjoy music, you have to hear a concert in the hall. It's renowned for being acoustically amazing.

I don't know if you're into studio tours, but you can tour Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, and Paramount Pictures. That is definitely unique to LA.

If you're into art, the Getty is one of the world's best art museums.

I personally also enjoyed seeing the La Brea Tar Pits. If you go, definitely take a guided tour of the grounds.

Foodwise, you should definitely do Korean since LA has the largest Koreatown in the US. I'm not a good person to ask for specific restaurants. Maybe you can do a search on Yelp. There are also numerous karaoke places in Koreatown.
posted by qmechanic at 12:29 AM on August 19, 2009

How much time do you have? Joshua Tree is 2-2.5 hours away, and is probably only pleasant as an overnight trip, unless you love love love to drive...
posted by mr_roboto at 12:46 AM on August 19, 2009

If you're into art, the Getty is one of the world's best art museums.

Hrm. The Getty is a top-notch conservatory foundation with lots of money and and interestingly designed public facility. As an "art museum" it's quite idiosyncratic.

If you're into art, LACMA's collection will probably be much more interesting. MOCA if you're into contemporary art. If you like antiquities, the Getty Villa is probably where you want to be.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:55 AM on August 19, 2009

previously (well, for some bits of your question, anyhow :)
posted by jzed at 12:57 AM on August 19, 2009

And, of course, the best museum in Los Angeles is the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

This is actually a one-of-a-kind can't-miss attraction. It's unique.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:57 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

"The L.A. area" is VERY LARGE. Even those of us who have lived here our whole lives haven't seen everything in the entire city, so if you can give us any more specifics about where you will actually be, that would help us help you. There are tons of places to hike, and several dozens/hundreds of miles of beach.

You will find great Vietnamese food in the San Gabriel Valley area (I'm thinking Alhambra, Arcadia, Rosemead, San Gabriel, Temple City... look on Yelp for specifics, I would say), and I'm told the Westminster/Garden Grove areas are also good (which is not L.A., but Orange County). And yeah, get Zankou Chicken AND In-N-Out.

I liked Joshua Tree a lot for photography, actually... Santa Monica and Venice beaches are nice for people-photography, too. (Yes, take the above advice to stay at least overnight in Joshua Tree, as it is honestly a long, sedate drive.)

My favorite place in all of Los Angeles is Griffith Observatory. The Getty, LACMA, and MOCA are the best for art museum viewing, in my opinion. There are also lots of unique types of museums like the Museum of Jurassic Technology (on preview, mr_roboto is spot on about these last few things, so I will say that I second those recs) and silly things like Ripley's Believe It or Not museum and lots of wax museums. If you want to see the whole "Hollywood" thing, you can go to Grauman's Chinese Theater and see the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd., and you can see tv show tapings for free (there are often audience-hunter people outside Grauman's Chinese, waiting to get you into stuff like the Jimmy Kimmel show, which tapes just across the street, but you can just google for websites with info on specific shows, like Conan or Bill Maher or Jeopardy or whatever you personally like). If you like music, the Troubadour, Spaceland, and the Echo are some of the cool smaller venues to see bands, if one happens to pique your interest.
posted by so_gracefully at 1:00 AM on August 19, 2009

Other food recommendations would be good too (cheaper is better, but not required).

The red-hot cheap food sensation in LA right now is Korean Tacos. I was just talking to a friend tonight, a long-time Angeleno who has recently returned to his native Seoul, and the very idea blew his mind. And rightly so.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:01 AM on August 19, 2009

I'm wondering what other things there are in the L.A. area that are outdoorsy?

Well... It's a big place. You might want to be more specific, but to give you an idea of what's available, we have a whole frikkin' National Forest (mostly) in LA County....
posted by mr_roboto at 1:07 AM on August 19, 2009

Get a copy of City of Quartz to read.
posted by i_cola at 3:23 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I second The Museum of Jurassic Technology. Don't be fooled by its location or storefront look. It's one of the best museums around.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 4:57 AM on August 19, 2009

Umami Burger on Labrea. Get the truffle burger.
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:58 AM on August 19, 2009

Venice beach is a good destination; it's touristy and past its prime, but I find that visiting relatives always felt like they'd seen LA only after we went to Venice on a Saturday afternoon.

I also like sushi in Little Tokyo. Try East.
posted by reverend cuttle at 7:14 AM on August 19, 2009

L.A. Farmers Market for the food win.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 7:27 AM on August 19, 2009

Here's a list of local hikes. You can put the zip code of your hotel in to get an idea of how far each of them is from you.

If you're going to try hiking in Malibu, there's a restaurant up in Topanga Canyon called The Inn of the Seventh Ray. I've only eaten there once several years ago, but it's kind of interesting. You're kind of eating out in nature and they have a lot of vegetarian/raw food made with local ingredients. It might be worth a try.
posted by willnot at 7:52 AM on August 19, 2009

I don't know a whole lot about LA but I do know that the Watts Towers are pretty damn cool, both in story and in execution.
posted by pdb at 7:54 AM on August 19, 2009

Tito's Tacos.
posted by Danf at 8:14 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tommy's Hamburgers, your gut will hate you, your mouth will love you. LA food blogging
posted by zengargoyle at 8:15 AM on August 19, 2009

The Getty Collection offers some fabulous views of the city and mountains in addition to being a real pretty example of modern design and architecture. The gardens in particularly well-done. I had a blast there.

The Observatory may be chock-full of school groups at any particular time, but it's an excuse to go up into Griffith park, which is lovely.
posted by The Whelk at 8:49 AM on August 19, 2009

as a bonafied "LA hater" (used to live there) one thing i did really love was the chinease theater, it's actually a pretty awesome theater and it's surrounded by touristy kitch: celebrity footprints, guys dressed up like famous movie characters, etc.
posted by swbarrett at 8:49 AM on August 19, 2009

Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles is fun.
posted by owls at 8:58 AM on August 19, 2009

Where are you staying? As others have noted, L.A. is huge.

Joshua Tree NP is a couple of hours away - doable as a day trip, but better overnight, and in my opinion it's a can't-miss, especially if you are into photography. It's unlike anything else. I've been exploring the park for years and it's hard to pick just one area worth seeing - but a couple of my favorite hikes are Ryan Mountain (kind of strenuous) and Barker Dam (super easy but really scenic). Watch out for rattlesnakes though!

Seconding Watts Towers - another "unlike anything else" attraction that so often gets overlooked.

Another good day trip would be the beaches of Malibu, and a hike at La Jolla Canyon - one of my favorite hikes in SoCal.

Real Vietnamese food is plentiful in the San Gabriel Valley. Americanized Vietnamese food seems to be the thing in Silver Lake/Atwater/Echo Park. I like Lee Kam Kee in Alhambra, but I'm not sure I'd make a destination of it unless in the area to do other things too.
posted by chez shoes at 9:05 AM on August 19, 2009

I second the cautions that LA is huge and Joshua Tree is quite a drive.  

For outdoorsy, hike through Griffith park from the horse stables in Bubank over to the Observatory and back. Also Sandstone Peak in Santa Monica mountains is beautiful. Bring water, sunscreen and a snack. California is hot and dry. 

If you've never been, Disneyland is worth a day. 

In the movie industry vein do see a movie in the main auditorium at the Chinese theater or at the El Capitan. The back lot at Universal Studios is fun too. 

Gardens of Taxco is an amazing, unique Mexican food restaurant that is worthy of a visit.  

One morning, drive across town on Sunset to the beach. That's the end of Route 66. Have brunch at Gladstone's.

Go to the Getty Villa though both of the Getty museums, LACMA, and Huntington Gardens are worth seeing if you have time.

3rd Street and the pier in Santa Monica for people watching.    
posted by deanj at 9:27 AM on August 19, 2009

Also, Hollywood Forever cemetery, cause it has peacocks roaming the grounds. Guaranteed good photo op.
posted by The Whelk at 9:28 AM on August 19, 2009

Don't forget the HMS Bounty in Koreatown. That is a good bar and if you want a Monte Cristo, well, the Bouny is the place to get one.

Ditto Watts Towers and Museum of Jurassic Technology.
posted by kensington314 at 9:38 AM on August 19, 2009

Also, Hollywood Forever cemetery, cause it has peacocks roaming the grounds. Guaranteed good photo op.

Every time I've been there, the peacocks have been caged up, so they may only roam the grounds at certain times. BUT Hollywood Forever is still a great spot to visit - for the Buddhist section if nothing else.

Seconding Zankou, Tommy's, Kogi and pretty much everything else listed above. Also - if you can find it, there's an abandoned zoo somewhere in the depths of Griffith Park. No animals. Just empty old cages and caves. This is a bit out of the way and not a typical tourist thing, but if you're into photography (and urban exploration at all), see if you can get into the derelict Linda Vista hospital. The caretaker is really cool about people going in and wandering around, and the doors are often unlocked. It's pretty safe in there and has been used for a lot of film shoots, so there's fake blood and other horrors left behind all over the place along with genuinely forgotten medical records, furniture, etc.
posted by katillathehun at 9:58 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're going to be in town for a weekend, try and catch one of the outdoor movie screenings at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Hint: get there early, bring a picnic.

Also good for picnic + entertainment: the Hollywood Bowl.
posted by np312 at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2009

I am seconding going to Little Tokyo, but instead of East, try Hama. It is around the corner form my house and I go there about once a week, if not more. Super, super delicious.

Another great place for pictures is the Observatory. Also bonus if you want that "HOLLYWOOD" sign picture.

And for hiking, I can't believe no one has suggested Runyon Canyon yet. Not really high intensity, but it's a great place for a very active run/jog/hike. If you've seen Funny People, it's the place Jonah Hill/Jason Schwartzman/Seth Rogan go and have their little "going through the flames" joke. Hell, I think that's even in the trailer. Beautiful area, absolutely beautiful surroundings - even great for photos. One downside, however, it is pretty popular there, so you might have to dodge a B-List celebrity trying to get the attention of the photogs. Oh, speaking of which, if you're not into the whole super-touristy stuff, stay away from Hollywood/Sunset.
posted by banannafish at 11:05 AM on August 19, 2009

There is so much that hasn't been mentioned!

Agreed that Runyon is a good place to hike but lately Fryman Canyon has been pretty popular as well.

As for the museum of jurassic technology, look it up before you go. If you aren't prepared, as some tourists aren't, they are heavily disappointed and just generally confused. The Huntington Library and Descanso Gardens are wonderful outdoor spaces.

Also - this weekend is the wonderful 69th annual Nisei Festival in Little Tokyo and the Sunset Junction Street fair - you'll go from some amazing photos of traditional Japan to leathermen mixing with Latino families in Silverlake in the middle of August! Both of these are really wonderful events.

posted by Sophie1 at 11:33 AM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Check out the fast-food-ish banh mi at Lee's - probably not the best out there, but heaps of locations.
posted by mdonley at 11:54 AM on August 19, 2009

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