rainy LA
November 29, 2012 7:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm visiting LA for the first time. It's raining today and for the rest of the week. I have no car. What should I do and where should I go?

I'm traveling on a tight budget so I can't spend too much money. I love quirky shops and bookstores, would love to explore a neighborhood (but don't know anything about neighborhoods), I usually don't like touristy areas unless there's something really unique/strange to see (I disliked Long Beach). I'm also not a huge fan of museums, so although I know of LACMA and the Museum of Jurassic Technology I would like to hold off of those for now. I want to save The Getty for next week. I've been to Grand Central Market and the grove's farmer's market as well as Little Tokyo.

I could even go for recommendations for favorite cafes to sit in and do some work in for at least a day or two.

Currently based in Cerritos, CA. It takes me about 1.5 hours by bus to get into downtown LA.
posted by bluelight to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend strolling up and down Melrose in Hollywood. Not as cool as it was in the '70's, but nothing is.

That said, it's rather a schlep from where you are now. But it could make for an interesting adventure.

Another option would be Fairfax by the Farmer's Market. With Dupars (is it even there anymore) for pie. An old Jewish neighborhood with kosher shops and stores.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:42 AM on November 29, 2012

If you want to grab the 4 or 704 out of Union Station, you can definitely kill a few hours in Echo Park. I would suggest getting off on Sunset/Alvardo and working your way east. There are tons of nice, inexpensive restaurants, cafes, and shops all along Sunset for several blocks. Ditto for a few blocks north and south on Alvarado, and also north of Sunset on Echo Park Ave (walk toward the Walgreens and keep going a bit).

Or if you're on the 4, get off earlier at Sunset/Douglas and have an inexpensive lunch at The Park (IMO the best restaurant in LA for many reasons and they have wifi so you can work) and then work your way west to about Alvarado...although if you keep going there are a few really cute antique shops around Sunset/Coronado.

A few quick favorites, because I love Echo Park. These are all on Sunset Blvd:

Stories for book browsing/coffee and snacks/working (free wifi)
Sunset Beer if you love beer, and the really decent pizza shop next door will serve you in there. Also has wifi!
Echo Park Time Travel Mart, a must see
Origami Vinyl, eclectic all vinyl shop
The Fretted Frog, guitar and stringed instrument shop, in case you're into cool guitars he carries some rare ones
There's a cute boutique next to the Fretted Frog whose name is escaping me, the owner is crazy but has really nice women's clothes.
For Mexican, skip Barrigans and go to El Compadre. It's more expensive by exponentially better. Order a flaming margarita. Or if the weather clears up grab Burrito King and watch the show on Sunset/Alvarado.

If you get bored, get back on the 4/704 or 2/702 headed west and explore Sunset Junction in Silverlake...cuter, cleaner, but pricier. Then you can grab the red line at Sunset/Vermont and take it back to Union Station.

Sorry if this is rambly, have not had coffee yet (:
posted by justjess at 7:53 AM on November 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh! Echo Park is about a 10-20 minute bus ride from Union Station FYI. Or about a $15 cab with tip.
posted by justjess at 7:54 AM on November 29, 2012

I'm a big proponent of public transportation, but being in Cerritos and getting around is kind of tough as you're probably already aware. Do you have access to a bike with a good lock and helmet, maybe not in the rain, but on other days it will supplement your bus travels and maybe help you take more direct bus lines. That's helped me keep my sanity when dealing with the MTA. That, and a smartphone to use the MTA trip planner to navigate on the fly.

I live in Culver City near the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which is on your list, but when better than a rainy day? It's supposed to rain all weekend in fact. From Union station, take the Red or Purple line to 7th and Metro to connect to the Expo Line train. You'll be able to hop off at USC for the Science Center and Natural History Museums along the way. Be sure to go to Downtown Culver City, which is a nice area for walking and eating. Grand Casino bakery for snacks, patio seating and free wifi, while the Conservatory is the best for coffee.

Closer to your home base, definitely check out Little India in Cerritos, Surati Farsan Mart on 186th and Pioneer, is my favorite for chai and indian snacks of all kinds.

In regards to Long Beach, I hope you just mean the downtown area which isn't that compelling. Consider Belmont Shore or 4th Street Retro Row, both good walking areas with great shops, vintage stores and cheap eats, Number Nine Noodles being my go to restaurant in the area.

Have a great visit, and safe travels!
posted by love is a murderer at 8:38 AM on November 29, 2012

Long Beach is huge, and I'm sure there are things to explore that you missed. Not a huge fan of the LBC myself, but it's a big place.

Can you get to the Port of Los Angeles? San Pedro is really, really weird.

If you can get to Pasadena/San Marino, the Huntington Library and Gardens is a gorgeous place. There might be a faster way, but I'd take the bus to Union Station and take the gold line to Pasadena. I think you have to catch another bus once you get off at Allen, but it's only a mile - mile and a half walk.

Other fun things in Downtown LA:
-Santee Alley
-French dip sandwiches (Phillipe's or Cole's)
-Angel's Flight

If you're coming up to Echo Park, bring your rain gear, grab a copy of Secret Stairs LA and take yourself on a tour.

Maybe I'm a huge weirdo, but rain here is never as big a deal as some people make it out to be. You'll dry.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 8:43 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I actually grew up in Cerritos, so I can empathize with being carless in the Los Angeles burbs. I'm 99% sure you're staying with someone if you're in Cerritos (otherwise, why would you stay there?) but if you want any other local tips on the area, let me know!

If you don't feel like schlepping all the way to LA, I'd definitely check out Little India in Artesia, the stretch of Pioneer Ave from 183rd to South streets, with some patchy coverage north of 183rd, though it shades off into more East Asian-type stores there. It'd be kind of a fun walk if you don't have much exposure to South Asian foods and culture. The architecture's nothing to write home about -- strip malls and mini-malls -- but it's a fun way to get a sampling of samosas, saris and other South Asian food and shopping. Just don't go on a Monday, all the stores are closed that day.

Did you hit up Belmont Shore in Long Beach? The stretch of 2nd Street between Livingston and Bay Shore is good for window-shopping and is pretty cute/walkable. There's some chain stores, but I wouldn't call it too touristy since there's just not too many tourists who make it this far south.

How are you getting to downtown LA, by the way? Just wanted to check you are aware of the 460 bus (PDF) and the Nextbus time predictors for the buses since schedules, especially at rush hour, are pretty much fictional.
posted by andrewesque at 8:58 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Echo Park on a rainy day is a good place to be. With the trees and the hills all around it will have less of a dirty wet concrete feel than other parts of the city.

I would skip the Museum of Jurassic technology for today, because there isn't that much else to do/see right around there (except India Sweets and Spices & the Center for Land Use Interpretation - is that still there?) and you would have to do a lot of walking/busing in the rain. But don't let your lack of enthusiasm for museums generally discourage you from visiting the MJT later. I was just there on Saturday and it is more of an art installation than a museum.

Secret Stairs reminds me - if you have an iPhone, the Know What app has lots of unusual LA attractions.
posted by univac at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2012

If you like the Getty, you'll probably like the Huntington Library (Art Gallery) and Botanical Gardens, in SE Pasadena. I don't know squat about the transit options, though. I used to think it insane that people drive everywhere in LA, and then I visited, and I see why-- the sheer sprawl is amazing.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:29 AM on November 29, 2012

What about downtown LA? I don't know if you're into history at all (and I haven't actually checked this out myself yet), but there's a whole historical plaza type area near Union Station called Olvera Street with a bunch of old buildings, a market, the old Our Lady Queen Of Angels church. I imagine it's touristy, but my guess is that it's touristy in an authentic "hey this is a cool historical thing" rather than in that sort of stereotypical LA way where touristy means something like Disneyland.

In that same general neck of the woods (probably walkable, or accessible via the Gold Line if not), I spent last Saturday wandering around Little Tokyo and had a lovely time. I went looking for washi tape and ended up browsing in a ton of stores, eating the best Japanese style curry I've ever had, and generally gawking at the random Japanese culture of it all. That said, I just got here from the East Coast where there is no significant Japanese minority, so maybe it was exciting for me just because AAAAAH HELLO KITTY EEEEEEEEEEEEEE! But it's walkable, not outrageously touristy compared to other LA stuff*, and there's good food involved. There also is a museum dedicated to the Japanese immigrant experience if you crack and decide you need to go to a museum after all.

*Just for reference, my LA touristometer is based on Santa Monica's Third Street shopping area. Which I feel is plastic and touristy and ugh. No idea what the local standard of "touristyness" actually is.
posted by Sara C. at 10:34 AM on November 29, 2012

Also, I agree with Ablazingsaddle about the rain here. I mean, it's not sunny, and I'm sure parks will be damp and the beach will be boring, but come on.

I've been out here a month, it's "rained" rather a lot since I got here, and I have not once even needed to use my windshield wipers. I remember driving in the "rain" on one of my first days here, getting in a traffic jam, and talking to someone local about it later. They were all, "yeah, the traffic is just terrible when it rains because nobody knows how to drive in it." This was, like, half an inch of a light drizzle. Of the sort I didn't even feel the need to carry an umbrella in.

I don't know that I'd go hiking today, but looking out the window the weather seems fine for wandering around outdoors in a civilized walkable sort of place.
posted by Sara C. at 10:39 AM on November 29, 2012

Are you up for walking in the rain? I'd take the bus downtown and then wander along a street like 7th or Wilshire towards Ktown. Fun for the older architecture in Westlake and Ktown. Take the purple line back to downtown.

Have you been to the stretch of Vermont between Hollywood Blvd and Franklin? There is a good bookstore (Skylight) and a bunch of shops (think ironic vintage tshirts). Easily accessible from the Sunset/Vermont stop on the red line. Further west along Hollywood Blvd is a mix of Armenian and Thai stuff--many tasty things to try!

York Blvd in Highland Park is rapidly gentrifying. I'm not sure what the easiest route to it from downtown is (I take the gold line and walk over on one of the avenues, but there may be a more direct bus). Bars, cafes, a record store and former grocery store full of many many type of soda pop (imported, small batch, etc).

I'm assuming you know to get a $5 metro day pass for all of this, but just in case, I'll mention it.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:43 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

seconding love is a murderer's suggestion to check out Little India. cool row of shops/restaurants and you can even catch a movie at the Naz 8 Cinemas
posted by raihan_ at 10:44 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow I have the perfect suggestions, I just found out about it last week: The Last Bookstore, in downtown LA at the corner of 5th and Spring. It is seriously great (top floor has dollar books!) and also couches you can sit on. Doesn't have every book in existence but definitely enough to find something of interest.

While you are in downtown you could also check out the Bradbury building which will only take a second but is cool to see. Also something I've always wanted to do is have a cocktail in the Bona Vista rotating lounge of the Bonnaventure hotel, looking at the menu drinks are a little more than $10 but I'm assuming you can sit up there for as long as you want to take in the view and it could be cool in the rain.
posted by 12%juicepulp at 11:45 AM on November 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

Spend a day riding the rails on the cheap, via the $5 pass mandymanwasregistered mentioned. Pack a book, some snacks, and hop on and off at stops and wander around in the drizzle.

Cozying up in a coffeeshop with a good book on a rainy L.A. day is delicious.

If you do decide to get some work done, you could sign up for one of the many free co-working days in the metro area via Jelly L.A.
posted by nacho fries at 12:36 PM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd go to Santa Monica. You can walk around the Third Street Promenade, Montana (boutiques and maybe celebrities), and the beach/pier.
posted by Dansaman at 8:57 PM on November 29, 2012

Bring your umbrella and peruse the headstones of the famous and infamous at Hollywood Forever cemetery.
posted by dottiechang at 7:52 PM on November 30, 2012

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