L.A. Mefites, I have a only couple of hours in your city. What should I do?
April 2, 2012 7:11 AM   Subscribe

L.A. Mefites, I have only a couple of hours in your city. What should I do?

My brother and I (and significant others) are taking a trip to the Santa Barbara region of California in early April. This will be our third similar trip in recent years. We always fly into Los Angeles, and then immediately drive up the coast to Santa Barbara.

This year we'd like to at least feel as if we've done more than see LAX. We arrive at LAX on April the 10th, a Tuesday, at 11 AM. We'd like to do something that screams LA (think NYC = Statue of Liberty). I normally shy away from overly touristy stuff, but this time that's exactly what I want.

So we land at 11 AM, and we'd like to start heading up the coast by 3 PM. I know that's not much time. We were thinking of taking a trip to the Griffith Observatory and take in the views. Just looking at google maps it looks doable. We'll have GPS, so we're okay with finding our way.

However, I know distances can be misleading, and I know nothing of LA traffic and how it might affect our little side trip.

So is our plan workable? If not, is their another suggestion? A famous area we can walk? The Hollywood sign? Famous beach? Or is this simply not a good idea?

Any suggestions/ideas/warnings would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
posted by justgary to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If it's 11am, you can probably drive from LAX to Grauman's Chinese Theatre in about 45 minutes to an hour, which is the ultimate in LA tourist cheese, if that's what you're looking for. You'll see stars and handprints and a bunch of sad people in tattered costumes who want you to take their pictures for a couple of bucks.
posted by xingcat at 7:16 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just a few miles north of LAX is Santa Monica with its Third Street Promenade, the beach and the Santa Monica Pier. The later being something you've undoubtedly seen in dozens of tv shows, commercials and movies. It also has the advantage of not being too hard to get to and is generally in the direction of your final destination.
posted by mmascolino at 7:22 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a once-or-twice tourist to LA, I got a very "neat, I'm in LA" feeling from Santa Monica and Venice Beach, which are right next to one another, an easy drive from the airport in the same direction you are eventually heading, and both fairly pleasant places to stroll around. You can easily go to Hollywood and see the famous things too, though to me that's less pleasant and more of a thing to check off on a list. I haven't been to the observatory, but personally I would spend those hours strolling rather than driving, and that looks like a lot more driving. (Though wow, those views look impressive.)
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:36 AM on April 2, 2012

I always took people to Griffith Observatory when I lived in LA. There are good views of the Hollywood sign up there.

If it's not a clear day, I'd do Hollywood Blvd. or Venice Beach.

I'm sure you know this, having been there before, but you really can't rely on Google Maps for a reasonable idea of how long it will take to drive places. Wherever you go, do be sure to leave by 3:00 p.m. - rush hour starts ramping up earlier than most places.
posted by something something at 7:49 AM on April 2, 2012

In that short span of time, I'd stick to Griffith Observatory. Maybe on the way to Santa Barbara, instead of going by freeway, you can head west on I-10 until the end, and take the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica through Malibu instead. Nice and scenic with the ocean on one side and neighborhoods of the rich and famous on the other. It extends onto Ventura county where it meets back up with the 101 freeway to SB.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:52 AM on April 2, 2012

Nthing the Griffith Observatory, unless weather does not permit.
posted by thomas j wise at 8:06 AM on April 2, 2012

25 year LA ex NYer

I wouldnt spend the time going to Griffith, even though the freeway time is TRUE LA experience. How about this:

Head to Abbott Kinney Bl, recently voted the trendiest street in the US by GQ. Have some lunch, get coffee at Intelligensia, drive up to Temescal Canyon hiking trail and take a hike to an even better view than Griffith, then head back down to PCH to Santa Barbara (PCH to SB is the only way to go)
posted by silsurf at 8:31 AM on April 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

I would definitely say that Griffith Park Observatory is tourist equivalent of the Statue of Liberty. You don't really have time to hike to the Hollywood sign, but you will have a great view of it from the observatory. Hollywood Blvd btw Highland and Vine would be the equivalent of Times Square (though not as cleaned up as Times Square now is). You're headed up the coast, so you'll get plenty of ocean views. I say head inland for the afternoon!

For tasty (non-touristy) lunch, you could stop at Trails Cafe on your way through Griffith Park.

For a different Hollywood experience, get Thai noodles from Pa Ord or Sapp.

I also like Angels for straight forward and fairly cheap diner food, but it may be gone by the time you visit.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:47 AM on April 2, 2012

I lived in L.A. for 13 years, and I’m out there fairly regularly, and I’ve never been to the Griffith Park Observatory. I didn’t know it was such a thing.

The problem with going into Hollywood is getting back out and on your way before the traffic gets crazy. You’d have less chance getting caught with the Santa Monica suggestions, then you could go up PCH as suggested.
posted by bongo_x at 9:56 AM on April 2, 2012

If you're landing at LAX at 11 and want to drive up the coast to Santa Barbara at 3, I don't think I'd do the Observatory -- it feels really out of the way to me and you'll spent a lot of time in traffic. I WOULD, however , do exactly what sulsurf recommended. It'll be gorgeous AND that's all basically on your way to SB.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:43 AM on April 2, 2012

Yeah, do Venice (beach! modernist architecture! shopping!) and save Griffith Observatory for another trip.
posted by mirepoix at 12:23 PM on April 2, 2012

IMHO, Griffith Observatory is to far out of the way and full of nasty traffic.

You should go to Venice and walk around the boardwalk.

Have fun.
posted by Argyle at 1:28 PM on April 2, 2012

Thanks everyone! Such great advice. If we have enough time I'm hoping to eat on Abbot Kinney Blvd, and then take a stroll on the Venice Beach boardwalk. If we end up not having much time, going straight to the beach.

Again, thanks so much.
posted by justgary at 5:26 PM on April 2, 2012

Oh, and hopefully I'm back to try out the other suggestions soon. :)
posted by justgary at 5:26 PM on April 2, 2012

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