Rapid Los Angeles trip: What to see?
September 13, 2011 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Rapid Los Angeles trip: What to see? We are nerds, and like art, food, gardens, architecture (I really want to stop by the Bradbury and see downtown). We'll have about 18 hours of free time to use. What can't we miss?

My wife and I are flying to LA sunday morning, and flying out at 6pm Monday night. She's never been, and I've usually only visited for work. At least some of Sunday will be used up with work stuff, but sunday evening (after 4pm) through Monday should be free.
What should we see?

Also, I saw something in the LACMA (I think) about 10 years ago, it was a walkthrough installation of like old garage with an old american car and ventriloquist dummy sitting in it. Can any LA natives tell me if it's still there, and if it was indeed the LACMA? I saw it when the Van Gough exhibit was in town, if that helps.
posted by gofargogo to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (28 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You need to tell us where you're staying and if you will have access to a car.
posted by outlaw of averages at 5:32 PM on September 13, 2011

In the area of the Bradbury, check out the Angels Flight funicular. If you can drive, go to Culver City and see the Museum of Jurassic Technology.
posted by Kafkaesque at 5:36 PM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

After the Bradley Bldg, pop on over to the Grand Central Market.

As for the car exhibit you remember, I don't know about LACMA but it sounds an awful lot like the kind of stuff they have at the Petersen Automotive Museum, which is directly across the street. Could that be what you were thinking of?
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:46 PM on September 13, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry! We'll have a rental car and staying somewhere near Hollywood.
posted by gofargogo at 5:46 PM on September 13, 2011

Museums will be hit-and-miss if you're primarily there on a Monday. LACMA is open, but the Getty, unfortunately, is not. If you go to LACMA, head next door afterwards to the Page Museum/La Brea Tar Pits (which is also open on Mondays); the other museums on the Miracle Mile are shut Mondays. Most of the Museum of Contemporary Art is currently shut down right now for one reason or another, but MOCA Grand Avenue is open. Virtually all of the museums around Olvera Street will also be shut on Monday, but you can still wander around the street itself & check out the shops.

The Grand Central Market?

If you'll be downtown anyway, take the elevator up to the famous revolving lounge in the Bonaventure Hotel.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:47 PM on September 13, 2011

Grab a rattlesnake & rabbit hotdog at Wurstk├╝che.
posted by roger ackroyd at 5:51 PM on September 13, 2011

You like installation art?

The Museum of Jurassic Technology.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:54 PM on September 13, 2011

Response by poster: Re: the auto museum, it was definitely a standard art museum. There were giant bent cypress logs in the hallway next to it. My description sounds prosaic, but it very surreal. I loved it and haven't stopped thinking about it since.
posted by gofargogo at 5:55 PM on September 13, 2011

Really: The Museum of Jurassic Technology.

Here's what you need to know before walking in: the whole museum is an art installation. Genius.
posted by Murray M at 6:04 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Sadly, the MoJT won't be open while you're there, save the 2 hours between 4pm and 6pm Sunday night. It's really too bad, because that place is truly awesome.

Walking around downtown is a favorite pastime of mine. It's hard to walk around the whole thing in a day, but if you stick to a quadrant there's plenty to see. On the North/East side there's Chinatown (look at fruit stands for exotic stuff like dragon fruit and in the medicine shops for ridiculously low prices on excellent teas) and Olvera Street, Union Station and City Hall. City Hall should have an observation deck open on Monday. The Grand Central Market is not too far off, and Angel's Flight makes a good segue to the Financial District.

There you'll find the Walk Disney Concert Hall, MoCA, the lounge at the Bonaventure, and the Central Branch of LAPL. A little further south and you get into LA Live territory, where Staples Center is, etc.

In the other direction, to the East, is the Old Bank District, the Toy District, and the Fabric/Fashion district. This is definitely more 'local flavor' territory, but if you're amazed like I am at huge warehouses of cheap shit from China and a truly bustling street scene you might just like it. Look for Santee Alley. Eat at Cole's (French dip!!!) or Clifton's (kitsch!) or, for the serious foodie The Wood Spoon or The Gorbals. This is also where they do Art Walk, so there's tons of good window dressing down Main St., and lots of sidewalk cafes and tiny bookstores.

I've been to LACMA several times in the past few years, still haven't seen it all, but I don't recall the installation you reference. The MeFite to ask about such things would be scody, though. scody signal, activate!
posted by carsonb at 6:17 PM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also, I saw something in the LACMA (I think) about 10 years ago, it was a walkthrough installation of like old garage with an old american car and ventriloquist dummy sitting in it.

I work at LACMA. Is it possible you're referring to Ed Kienholz's Back Seat Dodge '38? If so, sorry to report that it's not currently on view. (However, the museum is currently showing Kienholz's Five Car Stud, which is being seen publicly for the first time in 40 years. It is a pretty amazing installation, but deeply disturbing, so take that into consideration.)

Alternatively, could it have been Michael McMillen's Central Meridian (The Garage)? Also not currently on view, sorry. But we have other great shows up, I promise!

on preview: scody signal, activate!

posted by scody at 6:21 PM on September 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes! Scody! It was Merdian!! Holy crap! God i loved that piece.

There are a lot of great answers here. We will have an amazing time, thank you so much.

How about the best tacos in town?
posted by gofargogo at 6:46 PM on September 13, 2011

I would highly recommend the Huntington Library. It has the art, gardens, and architecture covered quite easily, plus a lot of other cool things. We love it there.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:48 PM on September 13, 2011

For tacos, go on down to East Los Angeles to grab some King Taco. A car makes it easy, but if you're not feeling like driving and want an excuse to take the light rail, the Metro Gold Line connects from Union Station and drops you off right there on your right-hand side at the Soto stop. It also conveniently connects to Chinatown and Little Tokyo.
posted by zer0render at 6:53 PM on September 13, 2011

How about the best tacos in town?

Them's fightin' words! I'm a couple years out of Echo Park, but if you can find the lady making blue corn tacos/pupusas at a very small cart somewhere just south of Sunset/Echo Park Blvd, I'm of the opinion that those are it. I also like the truck at 3rd St. & Normandy. So pro.
posted by carsonb at 6:54 PM on September 13, 2011

Ooh, yes, them's fightin words. My recommendation is a truck called Mariscos Jalisco, just east of downtown. 3040 E. Olympic near Dakota. Mmmm...I love you, deep fried seafood taco. See here.
posted by hellochula at 7:05 PM on September 13, 2011

It's hilarious that you casually ask for the best tacos. Watch out for WWIII to erupt momentarily.

Then stop at Tito's for old-skool Ameri-Mex on your way back to LAX.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:45 PM on September 13, 2011

In addition to the Kienholz exhibition, Tim Burton has a huge show at LACMA through Halloween.
posted by effluvia at 8:21 PM on September 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I was hoping if I slipped that question in I could get some good leads before the shooting broke out. So far I'm seeing a cart, and a couple of trucks, which is exactly the kind of places I was hoping to hear about. Especially as I'd never find them on my own.
posted by gofargogo at 9:02 PM on September 13, 2011

Oh, if you do go for the blue corn cart, also see around the corner if the Time Travel Mart is open. I recommend the 'Love', also the books in the refrigerator.
posted by carsonb at 9:08 PM on September 13, 2011

What kind of tacos? Currently we are huge fans of the al pastor from Tacos Leo (parked in a gas station parking lot at Le Brea and Venice).
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:34 PM on September 13, 2011

Best answer: Ah! Carsonb, the lady is actually making Oaxacan quesadillas. She's legit. If you're going there, try finding the guy in the food truck nearby making churros. A bag of 8 for $3 and piping hot. Otherwise, it seems like you've gone for the downtown + LACMA plan? I know you say you'll be busy until 4 ish on Sunday, but if plans change, there's a pie contest at LACMA from 12-4 on Sunday! Also, if it's been 10 years since you went there, I hope that means you haven't seen Urban Light yet. It really is a significant addition to the city and is best visited at sunset. I hope the Berlin Wall segments installed in front of the office building across Wilshire are still there; those are also worth a visit.

I second checking out Wurstkuche, which has a really great vibe for the beer and sausage crowd (with vegan options). And although I am of the opinion that it's hard to get bad tacos in LA (except Tito's, sorry BlahLaLa), if you do venture near the Staples Center/LA Live side of downtown, I highly recommend the taco truck that sits at the corner of Grand and Olympic. Simple, classic tacos with a great condiment table and fresh, handmade tortillas. Bring cash.

Expanding on the downtown visit: stop by Little Tokyo (right off Alameda down 1st St and surrounding, a stone's throw from Wurstkuche). Spicy noodles are at Orochon Ramen, get freshly made ice cream mochi at its home base, Miyakawa Mochi. There are lots of fun little shops with fresh pastries and trinkets too.

If you guys don't mind a hike, keep your metered parking spot near there which should be free on Sundays--double-check the signs!--and stroll up 1st St to Disney Hall. There are stairs around the side that lead up to amazing views of downtown. You can also stop by the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (home to the LA Opera and former longtime host of the Oscars), the Mark Taper Forum (sandwiching the two is the Music Center's very well-known fountain), the Courthouse, and even the Mausoleum at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, where during visiting hours you can see Gregory Peck's interment site, among others'. These are all in the same vicinity. If you would prefer to drive from Little Tokyo to the Music Center, be prepared to look for parking for a long time or pay around $8 in a lot. If you're walking, be aware of your surroundings. That part of downtown is innocuous enough at night but you should always keep an eye out.

On preview, holy shit the al pastor at Leo's. Did they take the spit down again? It might be a bit far for OP if he wants to stay in one place. Have fun!
posted by therewolf at 11:00 PM on September 13, 2011

If you're really into architecture, you should definitely check out the Hollyhock House at the Barnsdall Art Park and the Ennis Brown House. Both absolutely stunning and Ennis-Brown is crumbling - don't know if anyone's ever going to get to restore it. See it while you can.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:03 AM on September 14, 2011

As of last month Tacos Leo had the al pastor spit going!

If you're in Echo Park, then I endorse the carnitas from Tacos Arizas. It parks next to the former SavALot at Logan and Sunset. If you were to, say, drive to Hollywood from downtown, you could take Sunset and stop along the way.

If fish and shrimp tacos are your thing and you can make it on the weekend, check out Ricky's on Virgil btw Sunset and Fountain. He tweets his hours.

For a different (and more expensive), but tasty taco experience you can go to Loteria (either at the Farmer's Market on Fairfax or on Hollywood Blvd).

Oh hey and if you're in Little Tokyo, there is a sweet Japanese garden at Kyoto Grand that you can enter via the mall that Orochon is in. It's basically up another flight of stairs from Orochon, if I recall correctly.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 8:16 AM on September 14, 2011

I would highly recommend the Huntington Library.

Yeah but it's out in Pasadena. As for the Bradbury I'm glad the Wikipedia reports that visitors are welcome daily and greeted by a government worker who provides historical facts and information about the building. This was not my experience when I wanted to look around inside sometime in the early 90s -- the security guard at the front desk was not at all welcoming to this tourist, chased me away in fact.
posted by Rash at 8:36 AM on September 14, 2011

Def Museum of Jurrasic Technology. Hollyhock House: beautiful. If you want great Mexican check out El Tepeyac. It's in East L.A. and as authentic as you can get.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 8:42 AM on September 14, 2011

Lots of good recommendations on here, and I'm here to cosign some of the food ones:

* Arizas' carnitas is among the best I've ever had. So good. Their other stuff is good too. It's a truck, if that hasn't been mentioned. Right on the west side of the Wal-Greens parking lot.

* King Taco is good. If you aren't doing the East Side thing, you can also go to El Taurino in Pico-Union, south of Olympic on Hoover. The salsa is almost identical to King Taco, and the food is good.

* Hellochula mentions Mariscos Jaliscos. Best seafood taco in Los Angeles, at least that I have had. The taco dorados are so good.

* The Echo Park cart lady south of Sunset is either posted on LeMoyne or Logan, I forget which. That food is great too, and the vibe is real chill. I think she generally just refers to it them as quesadillas. I suggest the flor de calabaza, and the chicken. You can of course get an authentic Los Angeles style Danger Dog at the same cart. And you should. You only live once.
posted by kensington314 at 3:10 PM on September 14, 2011

Best answer: You are getting a lot of good recommendations on where to go, but I'll advise you of the following:

1) Don't waste a lot of time touristing in Hollywood unless you really want to see a bunch of random stars on the walk of fame. The mall at Hollywood and Highland is only good for its parking structure; there is no memorable food there and the stores are the same ones you'll find everywhere. You can spend about 15 minutes hanging out in front of Mann's Chinese Theater to look at hand prints, and maybe photo with reeking celebrity / superhero / muppet lookalikes, but it's not that fun.

2) Actually, if you do want to do something in Hollywood and you like Thai Food, it might be worth a cheap meal to visit Thai Town. It's a two or three block strip on Hollywood Blvd. It begins at the Hollywood/Western Metro Station (close to a classy Thai joint that was once a hot dog stand, marked by the giant sunwashed fiberglass hot dog on its roof) and ends around a little Russian minimart. Great cheap lunch, authentic, spicy. I like Hollywood Thai and

3) Don't feel a need to stray around downtown "districts" like the toy district or garment district. They are fairly unremarkable. But, you will need to traverse through them in order to get to Little Tokyo if you are in the mood for good Japanese food (ramen, sushi or delicious, delicious Japanese curry) as mentioned above.

4) You might want to consider skipping standalone Mexican taco shops, and maybe find a local gourmet food truck. Kogi has actual good Korean tacos, but I don't think they run on Sunday. Food trucks hang out in front of LACMA, maybe you can ask scody if any of them are any good.

5) You may consider comparing French Dip sandwiches between Philippe's and Cole's. They are fairly close to each other, and both make certain claims about their sandwiches. They are both excellent. Note that Cole's houses a secret little speakeasy bar that is a great place to chill out at, called the Varnish, after hours. Also, Philippe's is pretty much across the street from Union Station, which is a nice old classic train station if you're into that sort of thing. Wurstkuche is near there also.

Good luck, and I hope you don't get too frustrated by traffic and parking.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:27 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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