Recommendations for trips/sightseeing out of Los Angeles
January 19, 2014 7:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in Los Angeles from June 6 to June 11. I'll be hiring a car to get around L.A. - though we'll mostly be sticking to Central LA and Santa Monica over that weekend (7/8 June). I've been to L.A. before and done most of the touristy things - relying on both local buses and hop on/hop off tourist buses. Because I'll have a car this time, I was wondering what recommendations people have for things to see and places to go that are tricky to get to without a car. Anything within a couple of hours drive of Los Angeles. Thanks.
posted by crossoverman to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Recently, I had a nice time showing someone around and we went to Getty, Bergamot Station (highly recommended), hiked the hollywood sign, hung out in Venice/Abbot Kinney. Also fun, Huntington Gardens, LA arts district, SB wine region/Solvang, is Joshua Tree too far? Hang around some of the ethnic food hoods, (Little Ethiopia, Koreatown, Little Tokyo) for cool shops and good food.
posted by namesarehard at 7:49 PM on January 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've always liked the Devil's Punchbowl. It's so close to the city, but you feel you are out in a desert wilderness. The trail down into the punchbowl geological formation is quite dramatic, in a gentle, oasis sort of way.

There's a monastery very nearby you can visit too -- St. Andrew's Abbey -- if that's appealing. It's not architecturally wondrous, but very peaceful. They have a shop where they sell ceramics and books, and are quite welcoming if you come during visiting times.
posted by bertran at 8:45 PM on January 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Getty Villa (which is not the same as the Getty Museum off the 405) in Malibu is technically reachable by transit, but much more convenient by car. And in general hikes out near Malibu can command sweeping vistas of the LA basin/Pacific Ocean but are best reached by car.

I'm a fan of Little Tokyo, LA Arts District, Hollywood too but if you've been to LA before and you're especially looking for places that are only accessible by car I'd look toward more of the nature-type stuff out on the edges -- many of the great trailheads in the surrounding mountains are really only practically reachable by car. (I suppose Disneyland is also much faster by car but I don't get the sense that that's what you're looking for.)
posted by andrewesque at 8:55 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely check out the mountain parks and hikes. There's some spectacular views, and its impossible to reach most of them using transit. My favourites are the Nike Missile Base, and Franklin Canyon. My previous answer here has links to both.

I love both the Getty Center and Villa, definitely worth visiting, although my preference is for the Getty Center due to the views and the architecture.

There are a bunch of lovely dries you can take to see some of LA - I would drive up PCH to see some beach views and stop at any beach that appeals. I like Zuma and Paradise Cove.

If you enjoy driving and seeing views, then just driving into the hills can get you some fun views of canyons and city lights. Drive along Mulholland (between the 405 and 101) in the late afternoon, and stop off at the various view points. Further west, drive along one of the canyon roads to see some very un-LA mountain scenery - Topanga Canyon or Malibu Canyon are both pretty.
posted by Joh at 9:32 PM on January 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

Laguna Beach for restaurants, art galleries, beach, and people-watching.

Second Street in Belmont Shore (Long Beach) for restaurants and shops (there are other numbered streets you might want to visit too but I'm not as familiar with those).

Huntington Beach pier (and Main Street right across from it).

Pasadena for restaurants and shops.

The Great Park Balloon in Irvine.

Little Saigon in Orange County (I suggest the section of Bolsa Ave. between Magnolia and Brookhurst)

The mission in San Juan Capistrano

Ventura and Santa Barbara
posted by Dansaman at 9:57 PM on January 19, 2014

Seconding the suggestion to get up the coast to the Santa Ynez wine country. It's about a two hour drive up from LA, and a very relaxing area to visit (with the bonus of having Santa Barbara on the way to stop at).

If you enjoy wine tasting, there are plenty of great places to do it! Plus, lots of good little restaurants. Solvang is a very kitschy faux-Danish town that has its own bizarre charm. Santa Ynez and Los Olivos both have plenty of places to shop, and lots of vintners and wine shops.

If you had a little more time, I would suggest Joshua Tree, but depending on traffic, that can be upwards of 2-3 hours. A fantastic place to visit when you have a longer visit would be San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach, but that's 3 hours.

As a fairly mellow, shorter drive, I would second Joh's suggestion. Topanga Canyon is a great drive from the Valley up over the hills to the coast, as are Kanan Dume, the 23, and Malibu Canyon Rd/Las Virgenes. And, in Malibu, there are some fun places to stop and eat that are right on the beach, like Malibu Seafood (a pretty classic Southern California fish shack kind of place).

If you're into exploring LA's ethnic neighborhoods, Torrance and Gardena have some awesome Japanese and Korean neighborhoods with some great restaurants (some really good izakayas and sumibiyaki places in particular). And there are tremendous dim sum and Chinese places in El Monte and Alhambra!
posted by Old Man McKay at 9:58 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

We happened to visit the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum during our last trip and we enjoyed it immensely. I'm not sure if it's a common tour bus stop, but it's in Yorba Linda and it should be within 1-2 hours drive. I'd never visited a U.S. presidential library before, and I'm not much of a history buff, but I thought the library was excellent - particularly the Watergate exhibit, where you could listen to the infamous 18 minute gap (... well, we didn't listen to *all* of it; we listened to some of the static and then punched the track markers to get to the various "clicks" that suggested tape erasure.)

If you're interested in US history or getting a fuller perspective of one of America's most disgraced presidents, you might consider visiting it. The gardens are lovely, too.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 11:26 PM on January 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend the high desert (Hesperia, Apple Valley, Lucerne Valley, etc - that area), maybe the Mojave (it's about 3 hours from LA, though, a bit over a couple of hours), San Diego maybe (La Jolla has some of the most beautiful coast in CA, IMHO), Salton Sea/Joshua Tree... all those are places that are away from the city, though, but worth checking out.

As for places IN the city... dunno. I'm a NorCal boy, only did passing throughs of LA :)
posted by dubious_dude at 4:26 AM on January 20, 2014

I just love driving on PCH. I usually head over on Santa Monica and turn right. It's a gorgeous drive, and on a pretty day, a heap of fun. It's a nice drive if you turn left too.

Now is a great time for whale watching. So keep an eye peeled for pods of whales.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:09 AM on January 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Watts Towers

Donut Man in Glendora

Skid Row tent city

Din Tai Fung for soup dumplings

East side of Yosemite off the 395

And yeah get on a boat and see some grey whales up close.
posted by hamsterdam at 9:27 PM on January 20, 2014

Yeah, all of the Alhambra/Monterey Park Chinese restaurants mean that it's worth a trip out that way. I might also head to a place like Golden Road to get some beers, and a trip on the 210 out of Pasadena is absolutely gorgeous, one of the prettiest ways to see LA. Pasadena, as a whole, is also worth a look. Lots of great Craftsman architecture.
posted by klangklangston at 1:53 PM on January 21, 2014

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