How do I West Coast?
January 15, 2014 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm from the UK, and I've got a work trip coming up to Seattle and LA. Most of that time is going to be spent doing work stuff (naturally), but I've got a free Saturday night and Sunday in Seattle and a free Saturday and Sunday morning in LA (staying in Pasadena). What should I do with my Seattle and LA/Pasadena weekends? More details under the cut.

- I've been to the US once before, but that was the midwest and I was staying with family friends and doing their thing the whole time. I'm a fairly confident, independent traveller and very happy to do my own thing - and the chance to get some alone time either end of a trip which will be pretty socially intense (meeting customers and lots of debriefing with colleagues - I tend towards introversion) will be very welcome.

- I'm staying around 6th Avenue in Seattle (near Freeway Park, according to the map) and in Old Pasadena for the LA part of the trip.

- I'm interested in eating some cool food (within a price range I could reasonably expense - let's say up to $30 per non-breakfast meal). Dietary snowflakes: vegetarian, allergic to bell peppers, currently not eating wheat due to IBS-type issues, no alcohol. I tend to really like interesting vegan/vegetarian places, plus Asian food in general and exciting cheeses.

- Stuff I really like when I'm travelling includes poking around local supermarkets, using public transport (preferably subway/light rail rather than the bus), seeing anything of interest locally, boat trips, amusement parks and generally hanging out and getting the feel of a place.

- I don't have a lot of interest in art galleries. Museums will really depend on what kind of museum it is. I like Doing Things, but I'd be equally happy sitting with a hot chocolate in a nice place, maybe reading my book and taking in the atmosphere.

- I'm happy to walk up to 30mins in any direction as long as it's not a bad neighbourhood/at night, or to figure out how to get there using public transport if that's a non-terrible option (I get that the quality and availability varies a lot from city to city).

- I don't want to spend a lot of my own money on entertaining myself. Work are paying for flights, food, hotels and transport, and I'd prefer not to spend more than, say, $50-100 of my own money over the whole trip, and most of that on gifts for friends & family/small souvenirs.

This is quite a specific list, but I'm totally open to off-the-wall ideas - and if Ask MeFi has taught me anything, it's that you guys are really great at this kind of thing.

posted by terretu to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on where architecture falls on your art/museum spectrum, the Gamble house is an amazing example of Greene & Greene's Arts and Crafts architecture and well worth a tour if you're remotely interested in Arts and Crafts architecture, design or furniture.

Right around the corner from the Gamble house is Frank Lloyd Wright's Millard House, "La Miniatura"... not open to the public but viewable from the street.

You would unfortunately need to take the bus to get there, but as far as local supermarkets go there's Galco's Old World Grocery in Eagle Rock, not too far from Pasadena. They carry an astonishing selection of soda pop, with a lot of hard to find regional classics from around the country.
posted by usonian at 9:01 AM on January 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

I meant to add: it looks like about a 20 minute walk from Old Pasadena to the Gamble House.
posted by usonian at 9:02 AM on January 15, 2014

If you like gardens go to the Huntington in San Marino.
Vroman's bookstore has an onsite cafe.
posted by brujita at 9:06 AM on January 15, 2014

I like the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and the Huntington Library and gardens in San Marino.
posted by cecic at 9:08 AM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Pasadena is wonderful. If you're going to be there on a second Sunday, the Rose Bowl Flea market happens every second Sunday and it is quite fun if you're into that kind of thing. Your hotel likely has a shuttle if you're there on the right weekend.

Otherwise, I highly recommend spending some time at the Huntington Library. They have a lovely tea room that you'll need reservations for, but entirely worth it. Your hotel may have a shuttle there but public transportation is almost certainly available.

Also nthing the Gamble House or an architecture tour. The Craftsman style architecture throughout Pasadena is wonderful.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:12 AM on January 15, 2014

Pasadena isn't LA. It's the equivalent of staying in Croydon and taking a trip to see Big Ben for the day. A massive public transit nightmare. But worse, because there is no tube. So either plan on renting a car or scratch proper LA off your list this trip, unfortunately. :-(
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:15 AM on January 15, 2014

If you're not renting a car, you're in luck, because Old Town Pasadena is really walkable. It's very cute and traditional, and to my eye has a somewhat mall-ish vibe, but the ease of navigation outweighs the sterility. There's also a very specific sort of bourgie early-mid 20th century SoCal aesthetic there which is hard to see in other parts of the area.

You should be able to find vegetarian and gluten free food easily. Those are both very common dietary quirks in LA, which is a city very intent on facilitating everybody's dietary quirks.

Old Town Pasadena is definitely good for wandering, browsing, and nursing a cocoa in a cute coffee shop. There's an Intelligentsia on E. Colorado which I highly recommend. In addition to the usual coffees and teas and cocoa they also serve wine and beer.

Pasadena is on the Gold Line in the Metro System, which makes it easy enough to get to either Downtown LA (great Asian food in Little Tokyo, also a good museum about the Asian-American experience if you're curious about that sort of thing, Olvera Street near Union Station is also worth checking out, as is the main hall of Union Station itself) or Hollywood (do I need to explain?), both of which are walkable enough to enjoy.

There's a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's that might be in walking distance depending on where in Old Town you're staying. Both are American institutions, and Trader Joe's is very much a West Coast/SoCal thing.
posted by Sara C. at 9:20 AM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Pasadena: Adding to the list of museums, there is the Pacific Asia Museum and Pasadena Museum of California Art, both small but nice, and easily walkable from Old Town. There is a cheese shop on the east side of Lake Ave between Cordova and Green, in a little shopping area called The Commons. And there's a vegan restaurant (which I cannot personally vouch for) on the north side of Del Mar just east of Lake. In general you will find a lot of fun shopping and restaurants in Old Town, in the Paseo Colorado complex, and on Lake Ave south of Colorado Blvd. There are two very nice indie-ish coffee shops in Old Town, Intelligentsia and Copa Vida (since you mentioned hot chocolate, it's great at Copa Vida). The whole area is safe and walkable.
posted by karbonokapi at 9:21 AM on January 15, 2014

Oh, also with respect to public transport: you can take the Metro Gold Line to downtown LA from Pasadena without a problem. So you can see "real" LA if you want to! (On preview, what Sara C. said :))
posted by karbonokapi at 9:23 AM on January 15, 2014

It's the equivalent of staying in Croydon and taking a trip to see Big Ben for the day. A massive public transit nightmare.

Not really, since there's a Metro station right in Old Town which will take you to Union Station, from which you can transfer to other lines. Not all of Los Angeles is easily accessible by public transit, but a lot of things are, and you're perfectly situated to take advantage of it.

Just don't make plans to go to the beach, and you're fine.
posted by Sara C. at 9:38 AM on January 15, 2014

Yes. You can get to Los Angeles from Pasadena via the metro......but "seeing" LA without a car is......not a good plan. It just isn't. LA is not walkable and the charm I imagine the OP is seeking can't reasonably be found using the transit system. I mean it can, but it's not like London, Rome or NYC. You have to seriously plan and map out your route and your day will be 75% public transit.

Can it be done? Yes. Should a tourist look forward to it? No. Not without a car.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:49 AM on January 15, 2014

but "seeing" LA without a car is......not a good plan. It just isn't. LA is not walkable and the charm I imagine the OP is seeking can't reasonably be found using the transit system.

This is completely bizarre and untrue.

Especially for someone from overseas who has one day to do a little sightseeing. The recommendations mentioned so far, just by themselves, are more than the OP could reasonably do in a day, and are all either walkable from where they're staying or easily accessible via convenient public transit.

I wouldn't tell someone to move to LA without access to a car, and I wouldn't tell someone who wanted to spend 2 weeks vacationing in SoCal to rely on public transit, but in this situation I think the OP will have a great time just seeing what's in walking distance or using public transit to check out a few choice sights.

And even if Pasadena is "Not Really LA" in some kind of weird purist sense, for someone from Britain, it's LA enough.
posted by Sara C. at 10:05 AM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

I used to live in Pasadena and took public transit all the time. The Gold Line trip to downtown is above-ground and pretty interesting, and once you're downtown Hollywood is easily accessible by the Red Line.

I can second the Norton Simon, Huntington Gardens, and the Gamble House, and I will add stopping in South Pasadena (Gold Line gets you there) at the Fair Oaks Pharmacy for delicious old timey milkshakes. There is a little store in the back with all sorts of weird, interesting stuff.
posted by something something at 10:11 AM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

In Seattle seconding a ferry ride. The Chittenden Locks are fun on a sunny afternoon in the spring. The Pike Place market is worth a walk through. A walk up Queen Ann hill gets you a view as good as the Space Needle. The UW Arboretum is really nice, probably a half hour bus ride.
posted by sammyo at 10:13 AM on January 15, 2014

Foodwise: There's a vegan thai (with other stuff too) restaurant in Pasadena called My Vegan that I'd definitely recommend. Maybe half a mile south of the heart of Old Pasadena on Arroyo Parkway. All India Cafe on Fair Oaks has a bunch of vegetarian options and my non-wheat-eating coworker has also been happy there.

If you want to go to the Huntington (which I'll nth the recommendation for) look into the Pasadena ARTS buses. They run in loops around the city and are cheap but don't run late into the evening. And as everyone else said the Gold Line to downtown LA is very easy as well.
posted by kbuxton at 10:17 AM on January 15, 2014

"And even if Pasadena is "Not Really LA" in some kind of weird purist sense, for someone from Britain, it's LA enough."

We'll this is an AskMe so I'm not going to argue with you about what pure LA is, but telling a tourist from the UK that they can see Los Angeles through public transit from Pasadena isn't good advice. It just isn't.

It's the equivalent of saying take the train from Croydon to Clapham Junction and wander up the high street. While technically London it's not Big Ben/Covent Garden, which I imagine the op is looking for, not 'I technically visited Los Angeles'

The charm of LA for a tourist is the Venice canals. The boardwalk. Main Street Santa Monica. Hollywood and vine. The hills. Not union station and the 20 minute walking radius around it.

So. Op. Rental cars in Pasadena are super cheap for a day. If you really want to get a sense of LA, ditch the idea of public transport, get a car, drive to Venice. Go on a tour us of celebrity homes.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 10:26 AM on January 15, 2014

Totally Real LA Stuff that is easily accessible via public transit from Old Town Pasadena

Metro Gold Line:

Highland Park is an up and coming neighborhood with some interesting stuff accessible on foot from the Highland Park metro stop. The abovementioned Galco's is an option, as are some nice cafes, shops, bars, a cheap movie theater, etc.

The Autry Center/Southwest Museum has a Mount Washington campus with its own stop. Have not been, but if you're from outside the US and have never been to the West Coast or Southwest at all, it basically can't fail to interest you. (Though I see you say you're not a huge museum person, I'm listing this for posterity.) The Mount Washington campus is free and open only on Saturdays.

There's a stop in Chinatown, where you can eat great Chinese food and do plenty of exploring on foot. People in LA are sort of self-deprecating about LA Chinatown, to the point that I was really not expecting much. But as Chinatowns go, it's fine.

As I said above, Union Station is worth exploring on its own, and it's also convenient to the historic Pueblo De Los Angeles, various historic buildings, and Olvera Street. Also nearby is Phillipe's, which is one of the classic old timey LA restaurants.

If you keep going on the Gold Line past Union Station, you'll get to Little Tokyo and Mariachi Plaza.

Little Tokyo is great for Japanese food and there are tons of little shops full of silly Japanese novelties. I love Kinokuniya Bookstore for browsing, but you've mentioned that you don't want to spend a lot of money, and, well that place is a total paycheck suck. (Pretty paper! Hello Kitty! Japanese fashion magazines! Washi tape! Art books! Manga! Kurosawa movies on DVD! etc.) There are also a few Japanese groceries in the area which are great for exploring. There's also the Japanese-American National Museum, which I mentioned upthread.

Mariachi Plaza is a great jumping off point to check out East LA. There are tons of great Mexican restaurants and food stands nearby (as well as a cute wine bar), and the plaza itself is a meeting point for Mariachi bands, so there's often interesting live music. Mariachi Plaza is also home to one of my favorite Los Angeles bookshops, Libros Schmibros, and there's an interesting local art gallery/community radio station in easy walking distance called Espacio 1839. There's a huge flowering of Chicano youth culture going on right now, and Mariachi Plaza is in a lot of ways the epicenter/showpiece of that particular scene.

You can ride the Gold Line all the way out to Monterey Park, but after Mariachi Plaza there is less accessible on foot from the Metro stations themselves, and in general less of tourist interest. But if you want to see what is possibly the realest Los Angeles, that's where it is. (I live equidistant between the Soto and Indiana stations, and am partial to the East LA Civic Center station for random This Is Los Angeles people watching fun.)

But let's say that you just want to change trains at Union Station and stick to cute, manicured, white/anglo parts of town. No problem with that.

Red Line:

Civic Center/Grand Park is close to the Los Angeles Music Center, home of the Walt Disney Concert Hall (that big silvery Frank Gehry building you'll notice if you see any of Downtown LA) and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. There's also the Center Theatre Group. I'm not sure how expensive tickets are or whether there are rush discounts or anything like that, but maybe worth checking out?

Pershing Square is close to Angel's Flight (which might actually be closed right now), Grand Central Market, MOCA, and The Last Bookstore, which I just recently found out about and am dying to visit.

For great Korean food, head to the Wilshire/Vermont station.

From here, the Red Line swoops up into Hollywood, which, seriously, um, Hollywood. I find Hollywood to be really walkable and full of weird old movie/pop culture history and just general freaky LA atmosphere. You can find out about all the typical sights in any travel guide, which should also include information about which metro stops are convenient. There are probably other questions on AskMetafilter about what to do in Hollywood. It's well-trodden territory.

It is also apparently possible to take the Red Line into the valley. There's a stop for Universal City, which implies that it might be possible to access Universal Studios via public transit, but I have never looked into this and can't advise.

There's also a "Laurel Canyon" station on what I suppose is technically the "Orange Line" metro bus system. This is apparently located in Valley Village. YMMV if there is any reason you'd want to actually go there. Do not be confused by the name: it does not go to the Laurel Canyon neighborhood, or the intersection of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Blvd which is a popular Valley shopping district (and another good view of "The Seriously Actually Real Los Angeles").

Metro Purple Line:

Mostly serves Koreatown, which is also accessible via the Red Line. But maybe you just really love K-Town and want to explore further? Try the Purple Line!

Metro Expo Line:

I would be remiss not to mention L.A. Live. It is way not my cup of tea, but it's a Thing and accessible via the metro, so I don't know. Maybe you'll like it.

Exposition park is the home of the California Science Center (which is where the Space Shuttle lives!) and the LA Natural History Museum, as well as several other museums that might be of interest. It's also, you know, a pretty nice park, with a rose garden and a bunch of stuff left over from the 1932 Olympics.

There is apparently some solid hiking and a great bike trail near the La Cienaga/Jefferson station? Maybe someone else can chime in with more about this.

Near the Culver City station is that venerable Metafilter Favorite, the Museum Of Jurassic Technology.

I'm leaving off the Blue, Green, and Silver lines as being of less tourist interest. But maybe someone else can add in some good ideas of stuff near there? Redondo Beach is the terminus of the Green Line, and Long Beach is the terminus of the Blue Line, but to tell you the truth I have no idea if the actual waterfront is accessible from the metro stations at all.
posted by Sara C. at 12:17 PM on January 15, 2014 [9 favorites]

Keep in mind, too, that all the things I listed above are things that are super easy and convenient to the Metro, from Pasadena specifically. There are TONS of other non-car-centric things to do in Los Angeles, by bus, bike, foot, etc. I also left off the NoHo Arts District for lack of real serious tourist interest (though I could be wrong about that), and might have missed some things in Siverlake/Los Feliz that are Metro Accessible.
posted by Sara C. at 12:19 PM on January 15, 2014

You can access Universal Studios from the Universal Studios station. Warning: there's a long uphill walk involved. But you'll be doing it with a crowd!

If I could favorite Sara C.'s "Totally Real LA Stuff" comment 100 times I would. I live here and these are all great options. The stuff that BlerpityBloop suggests is what I think of as "Plastic LA" - it's the reasons that everyone makes fun of LA. But Hollywood and Vine is totally accessible by Metro - there's a Red Line stop there! And there's a Trader Joe's right there, which allows you to get your grocery shopping done.

Might I suggest Crossroads? It is spendy, but it is extremely fancy tasty white-tablecloth vegan fine dining. You're nigh-guaranteed to spot a celebrity there. Would definitely require an auto rental, however.
posted by rednikki at 4:00 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

Highland park, Civic Center, Koreatown and Exposition Park are the equivalent of Dulwich Park in London. Are they in Los Angeles? Yes. Are they 'L.A."? No. Not even close.

Plastic LA? Perhaps. But would you suggest a visitor to London spend the day in Tooting Bec? No. Rent a car and go to Venice Beach.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 4:07 PM on January 15, 2014


-One night walk up to Capitol Hill and check out the scene around Elliott Bay Bookstore and Oddfellows Cafe (great place to grab a coffee or snack and people-watch). For great vegetarian food on Cap Hill, check out Plum Bistro. Or you could head to Ba Bar if you'd rather have Vietnamese food. If you want to check out some music or events, check out the calendar in The Stranger (the local alt-weekly - quite good, and very Cap Hill-centric).

-The other day I'd walk down to Pike Place Market. While you're there, check out DeLaurenti's Market, the fish throwing, the cheese shops, and Rachel's Ginger Beer. After that, walk down to the waterfront and either catch a ferry to Bainbridge Island and back, or head down to wander through the Sculpture Park. That evening you could head to the International District (read: Chinatown or Japantown) and have your choice of good Asian food. Maneki is the classic choice for sushi (though I prefer Tsukushinbo). Green Leaf and Tamarind Tree are the best choices for Vietnamese food. In that neighborhood, I think you'd quite enjoy the local, large Asian supermarket - Uwajimaya. If you're in the I.D., try to also stop by the Panama Hotel Teahouse to relax and soak up some of the local history.

-If you happen to have a nice afternoon free, I'd highly recommend kayaking on Lake Union. My British husband, who's lived in Seattle for several years, recommends going up the Space Needle (though I think the free view from Kerry Park is just as nice). Enjoy!
posted by leitmotif at 5:52 PM on January 15, 2014 [2 favorites]

your day will be 75% public transit.

If the OP opts to rent a car in Pasadena and drive to Venice Beach on a warm weekend day, they will be subjecting themselves to some of L.A.'s shittiest traffic/parking, AND will be thrown into the white-knuckle meat grinder that is the 110 to/from Pasadena. (The 110 "freeway" is one of the worst-engineered roads I've ever driven, and I would hate to ask someone who has professed a strong preference for public transit to enter into its madness just to see Venice Beach.)

I suggest taking the choochoo from Pas to DTLA and exploring the area on foot.
posted by nacho fries at 5:56 PM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another reason to come to DTLA: It's the next great city in America, as per GQ. It's an amazing example of a neighborhood in transition. See it before it jumps the shark!
posted by rednikki at 7:41 PM on January 15, 2014

In Seattle, I bet you'd like the Asian things around Uwajimaya!
posted by oceanjesse at 8:10 PM on January 15, 2014

To move off the whole "defending LA" argument that this has devolved into and back onto responding to the specific points in your question:

- I'm interested in eating some cool food (within a price range I could reasonably expense - let's say up to $30 per non-breakfast meal). Dietary snowflakes: vegetarian, allergic to bell peppers, currently not eating wheat due to IBS-type issues, no alcohol. I tend to really like interesting vegan/vegetarian places, plus Asian food in general and exciting cheeses.

Downtown LA has both Little Tokyo, which is as the name indicates a Japanese neighborhood, and Chinatown (what it says on the tin). Both are on the Gold Line, same as Old Town Pasadena, and from personal experience both are about 20 minutes from Old Town Pasadena. Both have very authentic cuisine for their regions. If you like long walks, they're within walking distance of each other although depending on which way you walk you may hit a few shady blocks.

If you like Thai food, Thai Town is in East Hollywood. The Metro station at the center of Thai Town is the Red Line station Hollywood/Western. It's probably a 45 minute ride by Metro from where you are, depending how long the change from the Gold to Red line takes.

I am personally a fan of K-town (Haus + spas!) but Korean food is not a cuisine for vegetarians.

For all of the above, I strongly suggest using to steer you toward a couple of restaurants that will have the kind of food you're looking for. We can all give you recommendations, but your dietary needs are very specific. Yelp will allow you to see how things were reviewed and also allow you to look at the menus. I too have food allergies and while I find that Yelp reviews aren't always right, they're really useful at allowing me to target stuff related to my dietary needs.

Stuff I really like when I'm travelling includes poking around local supermarkets, using public transport (preferably subway/light rail rather than the bus), seeing anything of interest locally, boat trips, amusement parks and generally hanging out and getting the feel of a place.

I too adore grocery stores and public transit! You'll be spoilt for choice in Old Town so far as grocery stores are concerned. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are certainly a short bus ride away if not a walk. That particular Trader Joe's (610 S Arroyo Pkwy) is the first one in the nation so it's a bit of a landmark. Those two chains in particular have the most distinct personalities of all the chains in the US, so they're both worth visiting.

Public transport! You are lucky in that you are right near the Gold Line, which is a light rail line here in LA. There's the old joke that "nobody walks in LA" but it is no longer true. We have a rapidly expanding transit system that is gaining riders by the week and can get you to a lot of places. I ride it all the time. Many places are Metrorail-accessible, the big gaps being Santa Monica, Venice and Beverly Hills. (Santa Monica and Venice will be accessible in 2016; Beverly Hills is fighting tooth and nail to keep from ever becoming accessible.)

Things of interest locally: Sara C. covered that in SPADES. :-)

Boat trips: You would really have to go down to Long Beach for that. You can do it via public transit - the Blue Line goes there - but it's a haul and you may not get enough ROI.

Amusement park: Universal Studios is on the Red Line (the station is named after the park, although there is a walk up the hill involved to get there). When my coworkers come over the pond, they always want to go and it never disappoints.

Generally hanging out and getting the feel of a place: Well, as you've seen from the argument in this thread, there's a lot of LA to get a feel of! LA has a lot of neighborhoods that are very distinct from each other. I've lived and worked in several as has my partner and honestly each one is like a completely different city. People tend to stick to a neighborhood or a set of neighborhoods in their downtime and can be very strong-voiced in their opinions on which neighborhood is better than another!

If you are thinking of stereotypical "El Lay," with palm trees, streets that are six lanes wide, and lots of people in convertibles and sunglasses, then Beverly Hills and Santa Monica are where you would want to go (notably, they're only auto-accessible, another way they fit the old LA stereotype). To me, Pasadena is also very similar; I think of it as Santa Monica with public transit and without a beach. Ever since I moved here I have conflated which of the two towns has certain restaurants or shops. I know BlerpityBloop will not agree on the similarity between the two, so please take this as one person's opinion.

For a more new-urbanist-LA vibe, there's Los Feliz, Silverlake, Koreatown and the aforementioned downtown LA (abbreviated DTLA), just to name a few. These areas are much more pedestrian-friendly and have a younger vibe. In keeping with the zeitgeist, this generation's version of Friends, The New Girl, is set in DTLA; the exterior shot is of a building in the Arts District section of DTLA. (From the way I've described them you can probably tell which one I prefer, but it is a matter of preference - I know some people just really love that beachy vibe.)

DTLA has some bad blocks (I would avoid anything that is both south of 2nd and east of Main unless you really like fabric, in which case we can point you at the Fashion District), but so does Venice and Santa Monica and, well, a lot of other neighborhoods. (This is the thing that most shocked me about LA when I moved here - how fast the neighborhoods change.)

As far as free stuff to do, LA Weekly has a huge list (available online) - and a great thing about Los Angeles is that there's always some great free thing to do.

I think you're going to have a great time in LA, no matter what you do. You sound like you like exploring places and experiencing them for what they are - and LA has SO MANY places that you can go to and experience! You could go to different neighborhoods every day for a week, at the very least, and find something unique.
posted by rednikki at 9:33 PM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks to everyone for the suggestions! You've given me some interesting food for thought on the Pasadena vs DTLA debate - hiring a car is probably out of the question for cost and driving-in-America-sounds-terrifying-where-the-hell-are-the-roundabouts reasons, but there are plenty of great ideas here and it sounds like I've got public transport options. Universal Studios and Trader Joe's are both places I've wanted to go to for a long time (and totally forgot about the existence of), so thanks to the people who suggested those.

Feel free to keep the ideas coming if anyone else wants to weigh in!
posted by terretu at 2:21 AM on January 16, 2014

So, I'm a vegetarian, and you're in luck: LA has crazy good vegetarian and vegan joints, including crazy good veggie Asian. If you can swing it, you can hang down to Happy Family, an all vegetarian Chinese place that's really great, off in Monterrey Park. It's about half an hour on the 260 bus. In Downtown LA, just off the Little Tokyo stop, there's Shojin, a vegan Japanese joint that's crazy delicious.

It's a bit of a hike from public transit — trains to busses to walking — but Crossroads in WeHo is some of the best fancy vegetarian food I've ever had. Mediterranean and just mind-blowing delicious. I thought I hated okra until I tried some of theirs, all spicy and fried like popcorn.

As for Venice boardwalk and canals being the soul of LA, or Pasadena being off in the provinces, all due respect but BlerpityBlerp doesn't know what the fuck they're talking about. They don't know what the fuck they're talking about in terms of transit, they don't know what the fuck they're talking about in terms of LA — it's like everything they've got is cobbled together from old Woody Allen and Steve Martin routines.

Sara C.'s on it. LA's public transit doesn't go EVERYWHERE, but where it goes is pretty vital.

In Pasadena, the Ambassador Gardens on Green at Orange are gorgeous, and if you walk up from there on Colorado, you can see the gorgeous Old Colorado Bridge. It's got great nouveau architecture, and is also famous as one of America's iconic suicide bridges — it's where stockbrokers swarmed to jump after the Great Crash in 1929. It's also connected to one of the first paved streets in America, which went from downtown LA to Pasadena in 1899, and was paved for bicycle traffic.

You might also enjoy LA Bizarro or Hidden Los Angeles for other suggestions. Hidden LA is run by a MeFite; LA Bizarro is just good fun, full of crazy dive bars, curios and murder sites.

Speaking of other erstwhile MeFites: Esotouric can be a fun way to see another side of LA.
posted by klangklangston at 3:30 PM on January 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

If, once you're here, you find yourself in any given neighborhood and need a veggie/vegan recommendation, lemme know; I've eaten at the vast majority of them. Even the cloned vegan Thai joints all over (which are OK in a pinch, but not something you should seek out if you're more than five feet away from one).
posted by klangklangston at 5:21 PM on January 21, 2014

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