Need advice for trip to Palm Springs and maybe Los Angeles.
October 13, 2011 4:28 PM   Subscribe

Need advice for trip to Los Angeles and Palm Springs, CA.

My wife and I are going to Palm Springs for a few days in December. Our hotel in Palm Springs is already booked, but we have some questions about plans before and after.

About us: mid 30s, into cultural stuff (but not lots of museums), diversity, interesting neighborhoods. I like to take photos, she likes to shop. We both like to eat... Jewish delis, Indian food, sushi, occasional upscale restaurants.

1. We live in St. Louis but we are going to be in Phoenix for a few days before Palm Springs. Better to drive through the desert or fly? We will have rental cars either way.

2. I've been to Los Angeles only for a day when I was a teenager, and my wife has never been. We're considering going either for a day trip from Palm Springs, for just one night (flying home next day from LAX) or for 2 nights (flying home on last day from LAX).

Is it feasible to do a day trip to LA from Palm Springs? Or would we spend more time getting in and out of the city to make it worth it? Same question about one night - maybe it's more trouble than it's worth.

Here's what I imagine I'd be interested in doing in LA:
- Some of the typical touristy things (Rodeo drive, studio tour, etc.) Maybe a bus tour to get them all over with at once.
- Pick a cool neighborhood to explore (Melrose Avenue? Malibu? Venice Beach?)
- Pink's?
- Great ethnic food? In n Out? Taco trucks? Sushi?
- Getty museum?
- If we stayed long enough, see a taping of a show?

I know LA is a big city and it's hard to know what we'd enjoy, but I can tell you that on our last trip to NY, we spent all of three days in SOHO, Village, Lower East Side and Chelsea. Only went above 23rd street once to see a show.

Or... is it possible that LA really isn't that exciting and we should just spend more time chilling in Phoenix and Palm Springs?

Thanks for any advice!
posted by kdern to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
LA is a 2 hour drive from Palm Springs, if you're very lucky with traffic. 4 hours if not. A day trip is possible but that's a long day.

- Pick a cool neighborhood to explore (Melrose Avenue? Malibu? Venice Beach?)
- Venice is a blast, Santa Monica Pier is close by too
Malibu is nice beaches but not much for tourists
Melrose is fun if you're into shopping / the scene
Hollywood is fun to walk around too.
- Pink's?
- overrated, worth doing but not if you only have one day.

- Great ethnic food? In n Out? Taco trucks? Sushi?
- there's an in and out just north of Palm Springs, take Ramon Road till it crosses the 10 freeway.
- can get all these in Palm Springs really

- Getty museum?
WINNER! this is worth the drive

- If we stayed long enough, see a taping of a show?
- need to sign up LONG before, not really worth it.
posted by oblio_one at 4:35 PM on October 13, 2011

We like Ruby's.
posted by notned at 4:45 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Absolutely, positively DO NOT do a day trip from Palm Springs to L.A. It's "only" 120 miles but it's 120 miles along some of the most congested freeway routes in the nation. If you absolutely, positively are set on this, you must do it on a weekend, but even then I'd budget 3-4 hours each way.

Only you can decide -- but Los Angeles is a world-class, gigantic city that has the highs and lows of all the greatest cities of the world. You can search previous threads for tons and tons of stuff to do and thousands of recommendations. But it's the exact opposite of a vacation in Palm Springs. You'll be driving, you'll be traversing the city (if you want to). Do you want to do that, or do you want to chill by the pool instead?

But to counter oblio_one: If you go along Hollywood Blvd. at Hollywood & Highland and the Chinese Theater you will find lots of dudes desperately trying to give you tix for television tapings that day or the next. Talk shows, game shows, three-camera sitcoms -- they all need audiences and they mostly count on tourists to fill the seats. If you want something more "prestigious" like Leno you might have to get tix in advance, but check online.
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:52 PM on October 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

The things you list are all great things to do in L.A., but it's not possible to do to all of the big items (tourist stuff, explore a neighborhood, get to the Getty, and attend the taping of a show) in a single day, even without taking into account the drive from Palm Springs; you could possibly do it in a full weekend, though you'd be pretty busy. The thing to keep in mind about L.A. is how extraordinarily sprawling it is and how much driving you would have to do between each thing. The Getty, for example, is about 12 miles from CBS Studios (where you might see a show), which would take anywhere from 30 to 60 mins. to drive, depending on traffic and time of day (and not factoring in parking).

For a super-quick trip, I would suggest the Getty and exploring of one of the nearby beach neighborhoods, either Santa Monica or Venice. That will keep you plenty busy for a day trip, or even an overnight trip. Keep in mind that if you do this, when you reach L.A. from Palm Springs, you'll still have another 20+ miles to go -- the Getty is on the far west side of the city.

Honestly, I don't think it's worth it just for a single day -- you're going to be spending at least 2-3 hours in the car each way just to get from Palm Springs to LA (but possibly more), plus all the driving in LA you'll have to do once you get here. If you do want to do it, spend the night or make an entire weekend out of it. It will be way too exhausting and stressful to try to do it in a day trip.
posted by scody at 4:55 PM on October 13, 2011

I wouldn't do a day trip from LA to Palm Springs. An overnight.. maybe. How about you fly in to Phoenix, fly out of LA, and drive between? Spend a night or two in LA that way. (Santa Monica is my first recommendation in LA).

I've never driven from Phoenix to Palm Springs but I've flown over that territory a few times. There ain't much on that route. Easy drive, nice mellow desert, but nothing much to see.

Palm Springs is a bit lacking in the glamorous culture and fashionable neighborhood department. It's not a bad town, but it's solidly retired middle America bland in the main parts. Maybe there's some cool part, I'd love to know myself. When I've visited I've enjoyed getting out to Joshua Tree or down to the Salton Sea / Salvation Mountain.
posted by Nelson at 4:56 PM on October 13, 2011

Here's another vote of 'no' on a day trip.

I'll only speak to the food. If you want to eat world class sushi, and you're willing to spend the money on it, LA is one of only a couple cities in the US where you can do so. Urasawa (in Beverly Hills) is generally considered on of the best sushi restaurants in the country. Sasabune and Echigo, both on the Westside, are less expensive and less formal and offer a quality and style that you'll have a hard time finding elsewhere.

If you want pretty good sushi, you can get it in Palm Springs.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:08 PM on October 13, 2011

- Pick a cool neighborhood to explore (Melrose Avenue? Malibu? Venice Beach?)
Based on the NYC 'hoods you listed, I would suggested checking out Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Echo Park and Downtown's historic core (Spring/Main Sts around 4th-6th Sts).

- Pink's?
Is an experience. It depends on what you enjoy, but for classic LA food, I'll take a steakburger from the Apple Pan over Pinks any day. Since you mentioned Jewish delis, you may want to try Langer's.

- Great ethnic food? In n Out? Taco trucks? Sushi?
If you want slightly less of a schlep from Palm Springs, check out the San Gabriel Valley for good cheap Chinese food. It's LA's real Chinatown. There are other threads with taco truck recommendations that you can check out. It really depends on your location, but there are plenty to be had. One of the awesome things about LA is the massive variety of tasty cheap ethnic food, so maybe narrow down what you want.

Museums: The super awesome Pacific Standard Time show is all over town and if you dig southern California's contributions to post-war art and design (they've got a whole Eames living room set up at LACMA!), you should check it out:

I've done the LA-Phoenix drive (~5 hours). If you are up for some beautiful desert scenery, then I recommend doing it. We stopped along the way to hike in Joshua Tree.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:11 PM on October 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Deli's--Langer's is a good deli, but check the hours before you go, because they are a bit odd. Jerry's Famous Deli is famous, but that's about all I can say, personally. I haven't been there for years and then I thought it was overpriced and mediocre. Take a chance on this place Chili Addiction. While not a deli, Johnny makes the best damn pastrami my husband and I have ever tasted. Call ahead to make sure they have it. Their chili is incredible, and don't get me started on the creme brulee, red velvet, violet (made with crushed violets!) or Breakfast at Tiffany's ice creams! Everything at this place is made by hand! Pink's, sure it is an icon, but I love Chili Addiction's hotdogs.

seriously, I don't work there. the hubby and I stumbled upon the place about 18 mo. ago and it's our favorite place to eat!

I realize you may not be much of a museum fan, but The Museum of Tolerance may be of interest, it was for us.
posted by 6:1 at 5:34 PM on October 13, 2011

"Overpriced and mediocre" is exactly how I would describe Jerry's Famous Deli as well. However, I saw a famous person pretty much every time I went in there (both the Westwood and Sherman Oaks locations), so if you want a star sighting that might be a good place to drop in. Century City Mall is also good for celebrity spotting, and is not touristy at all.

I will also go against the grain and say I was never very impressed with the Getty. The setting and views are amazing, but the art collection is not so great. I also wouldn't bother with In & Out in LA - you can get that in Phoenix.

The walk along the beach from Santa Monica to Venice is a fun touristy thing to go - the neighborhoods are very different and the people watching is fantastic. I also took my parents on one of those cheesy star homes bus tours once and had a surprisingly fun time. You can find these all over Hollywood Blvd. near the Chinese Theatre.
posted by something something at 6:08 PM on October 13, 2011

I know L.A., but Palm Springs notsomuch. I've done the day trip to Palm Springs from L.A., and I haven't run into traffic if it is on the weekend and timed correctly. It is a hike, but not bad if you're coming form St. Louis and are used to making long road trips in order to get anywhere besides St. Louis.

Palm Spring has a couple of In-N-Outs (as does Phoenix for that matter). Palm Springs a small town by L.A. standards, but I'm not sure how it compares to the nice burgs around St. Louis. The only reason I really visited it last time I was there was to see the Midcentury homes (El Rancho Vista, Racquet Club Estates, etc.). It seems like a nice quiet place, and it has potential for a nice night life.

If you're flying out of LAX anyways, you might as well make the drive between Palm Springs and LA. Can you get flights into Palm Springs, or do you have to fly into Ontario, or LAX to Ontario?

I think that targeting neighborhoods is the best way to day-tour L.A. It's too expansive to really hit every corner.

I'm kind of a downtown guy, so if I wanted to do it in about a day, I might leave Palm Springs and try to make it to downtown L.A. for brunch at Bottega Louie. Then I would what's going on at MOCA that day. For early dinner, Cole's or Church & State. Maybe catch a show at Disney Concert Hall or the the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Then I'd find a good watering hole; Seven Grand, or The Varnish, or The Edison, or the bar at your hotel.

I can think of other day-long tours of the Venice Beach - Culver City (Museum of Jurassic Technology) - Santa Monica area, and the Hollywood - Beverly Hills - Mid-Wilshire (LACMA) area.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:24 PM on October 13, 2011

If you care about this sort of thing, I think the Grove has the best star-sighting in the city, especially on the weekend, and you could eat some good, interesting stuff at the attached Farmer's Market. The Loteria there is fantastic. (Although the Grove itself is just a mall, the Farmer's Market is very LA and fun.)

I love Palm Springs, but it's definitely a Drive Down and Lie By the Pool for the Weekend place as far as I'm concerned. If you guys are foodies at all, you will feel a bit deprived, I think. With a few exceptions, I think the food in Palm Springs is kind of mediocre. But it sure is nice for a really quite R&R type thing. DEFINITELY not a day trip.

Personally, I think show tapings are only fun for like the first hour -- being on the lot is really fun and interesting, and then watching a sit-com tape is fascinating...until you've been there for like two hours and they're nowhere near done and you're still sitting there and you've heard all the jokes 100 times. It might be more fun to do something like the Warner Brothers studio tour. I've never done that tour, but I've heard it's fun and you always see someone interesting on the lot (a couple of years ago, I was meeting someone at the commissary and Shia Le Beauf was loitering outside, smoking, in full Indiana Jones 4 costume and makeup, including a bunch of fake cuts and bruises. That was amusing).

If your wife likes to shop, you guys could go to Barneys in Bev Hills and then eat at Barney Greengrass on the roof.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 6:29 PM on October 13, 2011

I was just about to suggest the Warner Bros. studio tour! Yes, do that. Come hang out in Silver Lake -- if you're coffee afficianadoes, get coffee at Intelligentsia, browse at comic book shop Secret Headquarters, duck into Matrushka and buy your wife a handmade dress, get some ice cream at Pazzo Gelato, buy a set of tumblers and small-batch booze at Barkeeper. Yes, the place is lousy with hipsters, but they don't bite.

Check out the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs -- great brunch.
posted by incessant at 7:41 PM on October 13, 2011

I would definitely drive from Phoenix and stop and hike in the desert. Go into Joshua Tree, it's one of the more car touring friendly parks because it's desert so you see a long ways and because the Park Service has gone mad paving the old dirt roads in recent years and you can drive all over now. Joshua Tree is super cool, highly recommend it.
posted by fshgrl at 9:17 PM on October 13, 2011

I'd skip the day trip to LA - potentially a big pain, and to me not worth it for a half day or day. I'd also much rather fly out of PSP than out of LAX (even factoring in almost certainly having to change planes somewhere, and I am in love with nonstop flights).

Depending on how much time you have, maybe fly into PHX and drive to Palm Springs (4.5 hours or so), spend a few days, then drive over to LA (plan to travel when you'd expect less traffic, although you should be resigned to having to sit in it anyway) and spend your two nights and fly out of LAX. That gives you a broad bunch of experiences but to me doesn't seem too hectic.

I really like Palm Springs (in winter), but there's not a ton of really exciting things to do. It's relaxing more than anything. Are you in town December 3rd and 4th by chance? You could check out the Indio Tamale Festival - obviously, it would help if you like tamales and/or festivals. You can get the In n Out right by Palm Springs. Go to see Joshua Tree - it's cooler than i thought it would be, and the transition to high desert is interesting. You can do it fairly quickly or spend some time. The tramway is interesting too - you can skip the restaurant there, I'd do the trip up, look around some, then back down.
posted by mrs. taters at 7:35 AM on October 14, 2011

If you want to do a taping, I recommend the Late Late Show if they're shooting at the time. They do two shows a day, 3-4 days a week, and it's fast and there's no retakes. Plus the studio is tiny - I think it seats like 103, the audience seating is probably larger than the set - so you can see everything that's going on.

That'll put you in the general West Hollywood area where there's lots of dinner options, and the CBS Studios are just down the block from the Grove and the Farmer's Market (the tacos at Loteria are a MeFi Meetup favorite). We sometimes stay in that area at the Farmer's Daughter hotel.

There's shows pretty much every night at the UCB Theatre, all of which are cheap or free.

We've made various 1-2 night LA trips over the past few years, and it's too hard for a day trip from anywhere (including San Diego; my husband has class in LA every weekend but if I go I get a hotel) if you want to get more than one or two things done.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:57 AM on October 14, 2011

I can totally understand the allure of a "day trip" to LA while you're in the vicinity, but as a city kid from the Midwest I can tell you that I hated LA based on all my short jaunts there for business meetings. It wasn't until I spent TIME there that I got to know and appreciate what LA had to offer. I still don't love it, but I no longer hate it.

If I were going just for a day I would hit the Getty and Venice Beach. A little high brow/low brow action, as it were.

If you're willing to go for an overnight then I would change that up and say hit the neighborhoods mandymanwasregistered suggests. Be sure to stop by the Time Travel Mart and drop some tourist dollars on silly things there. And if you want to be really touristy take the stroll down Hollywood Blvd for kicks. Stop into the Library Bar at the Roosevelt. With any luck Matt B. is behind the bar. It's a spendy cocktail, but you're unlikely to have anything better while you're traveling.

And while I still have a membership I'll make the offer: If you enjoy magic or have an interest in old Victorian mansions or just want something most people don't get a chance to do, I can invite you to dine at the Magic Castle and see some of great and/or kitschy magic acts. Reservations and proper attire would be required (jacket and tie for him and cocktail dress for her).
posted by FlamingBore at 9:21 AM on October 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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