What to do with one free day in LA?
November 21, 2010 12:11 PM   Subscribe

I'm visiting extended family in LA for american thanksgiving (i'm from toronto). I'll have one day (either friday or saturday) to go off on my own and do stuff. What should i do? (Level of difficulty: No drivers license.)

I am pretty independent and good with public transport. The cousin i'm staying with lives in North Hills, not far from a bus stop. There's also a bike i can borrow (i'm an experienced urban cyclist).

I'm not really looking for the ultimate tourist experience. (ie: i don't need to see the hollywood sign, or to see where Lindsay Lohan last ate lunch). Really, i'd love to go for some good shopping, walk around a cool/pretty/interesting neighbourhoods, have a nice lunch, grab a good coffee etc. I'm totally happy to do things that are super cliche'd, since i've never been there before, and sometimes the popular places are popular for a reason. No 'designated tourist attractions' though, please, unless they're AWESOME.

Oh, yeah: i'm a early-30s female, since those demographics seem to be helpful.

So: what area(s) should i head to? And what should i do while there?
posted by Kololo to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
For music shopping, I highly recommend Amoeba: http://www.amoeba.com/
posted by germdisco at 12:17 PM on November 21, 2010

Amoeba Music, now in link form.
posted by germdisco at 12:18 PM on November 21, 2010

Okay, North Hills is way the hell out in the back of the valley. (I'm a valley girl myself, so I don't mean to be disparaging, just realistic.) Coming into L.A. will mean coming "over the hill" and a bus will most likely take forever. Ask your cousin or check out the Metro website to see if you're near a train station, which would speed things up considerably.

Basically there are 1001 things to do in L.A., so it's hard to give you a "right" answer. But if I was in your place, with a single day and no transpo, I'd probably take a train (perhaps taking a bus first to the train line) to downtown L.A and get off at Union Station. Within easy walking distance you have the Mexican kitsch of Olevera Street (yes, very touristy, but the world's best taquitos at Cielito Lindo.)

You're also a few blocks away from L.A.'s Chinatown.

And you're a short walk or bus hop away from the main part of downtown L.A., which is nowadays starting to burst with shops, galleries, museums, theaters and restaurants.

Or maybe you just want to go to the beach? The good news is that weather is likely to be lovely.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:33 PM on November 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding get yourself to the metro (there's a couple of stops in Van Nuys, a bus should get you there, or beg a ride from your cousin!). Downtown is your best bet-- Blahlala has that covered, I'd add the Fashion District and have a look at the museums which are pretty good, here is a nice wiki guide.

It's not your only option, you could wander around Los Feliz, a hipster-type neighbourhood at the Sunset/Vermont stop (have a milkshake at Fred62!), though that might be too much like being in Toronto. Or do the Hollywood thing and get off at Hollywood and Vine and walk to Hollywood and Highland which has a swanky mall. The nicest walking/shopping neighbourhoods unfortunately would take so long to get to by public transport you'd have to start back as soon as you got there.. it's JUST possible for you to get to West Hollywood from the last stop on the Red Line and have a quick look around Melrose/Santa Monica Blvd, but I'd stick with places around a metro stop.
posted by Erasmouse at 2:22 PM on November 21, 2010

For my money, I would see if your cousin would be willing to shuttle you to and from the North Hollywood (aka NoHo) Red Line subway station. (Otherwise I'm pretty sure you'd be spending a lot of extra time on a series of buses just to get to NoHo in the first place.) North Hollywood is about 8 miles from North Hills and just a couple of miles over the hill from Hollywood, and the Red Line/Purple Line is a pretty efficient way to get into Hollywood/Los Feliz/downtown.
posted by scody at 2:31 PM on November 21, 2010

Best answer: I would head to Santa Monica/Venice.

Getting there (actually anywhere) is going to be a drag from North Hills without a car, but once you are there, you have pretty much everything you asked for. Shopping - 3rd street promenade or main street/venice. Beach access at Santa Monica (right by the promenade) or in Venice. Lots of places to eat in both areas. REALLY good coffee at Intelligentsia in Venice, or a million Starbucks/Coffee Beans for a quick boost. You can take your bike on the bus in Santa Monica (not sure about the bus from North Hills to the westside, look into that) so once you're in the area you can get around easily - Santa Monica tries very hard to be cyclist-friendly. Well OK, by LA standards anyway. You can cycle along the beach on the cycle path, stop at one of the cafes in Venice for a quick lunch, or rent rollerblades.

Use google maps to help plan your route, the public transport option is great to get an idea of the feasiblity and distances.
posted by Joh at 3:01 PM on November 21, 2010

If you are up for an adventure and have a bike lock, ride your bike to the orange line, take that to the red line, get out at Hollywood and Highland and check the dingy weird touristy area of Hollywood. If you head east on Hollywood, you will hit Thai Town and Little Armenia eventually.

Or keep going on the red line to the Vermont/Santa Monica stop and either 1. head a few blocks south to the the intersection of Heliotrope and Melrose for tasty coffee and food at Cafecito Organico, ice cream at Scoops, vegan junk food and beer at Pure Luck. You'll notice there are a lot of people on bikes in that area, or 2 . head east on Santa Monica (from Vermont/Santa Monica red line stop) until it ends at Sunset where you will find Sunset Junction. Get from coffee from Intelligentsia, locally sourced noms from Forage, Pazzo Gelato, and assorted other stores. There's way more retail in that area than the Heliotrope/Melrose area and it's way more hipster yuppified. You could continue on your bike to Silver Lake Blvd and check out the area north of Sunset. Coffee at LA Mill is certainly an experience. There are a few stores along that stretch of Silver Lake Blvd as well. You're near the Silver Lake reservoir which is kinda nice to go around.

You could also plot our a bike route from Hollywood and Highland to the #1 and #2 spots mentioned using google maps bike directions to avoid busier streets. I find riding the side streets of Hollywood fairly interesting.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:13 PM on November 21, 2010

plot *out*
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:13 PM on November 21, 2010

A thought just occurred to me. This Friday is "Black Friday" - the most hellish day on earth to shop, or the day with the best bargains, depending on your point of view. Do consider that when making your plans!
posted by Joh at 9:32 PM on November 21, 2010

Also, if you are so inclined, check out farmer's market schedules. There is one in Sunset Junction on Saturday mornings.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:23 AM on November 22, 2010

So what did you do?
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:09 PM on November 27, 2010

Response by poster: An update for the curious!

Okay, so, as often happens with big family events, i had much less control over my time than i'd anticipated. So, when my another cousin and her kids went to the santa monica pier, i went and did a stroll from venice beach through to santa monica's promenade. It was decent three hours, with some nicely cliched 'local colour' and a bit of shopping.

Thanks for the all the advice - hopefully i'll get to use more of it another time!
posted by Kololo at 10:16 PM on November 28, 2010

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