One Weekend In LA (not the extended LA, the central LA)
August 7, 2016 9:29 AM   Subscribe

So, I'm going to be visiting Mr hippybear who has been working in LA for a while. While I'm there we will have about 2 unscheduled days and we might want to explore. Read more inside for details about the advice I'm looking for.

Mr hippybear is living in Marina Del Rey, and I'm eager to see things that are in his area and in areas that are near to where he lives. We don't want to drive a lot. Driving a little is okay, but heading way inland to things is not interesting to us. We are looking at Venice Beach (which is close to him) for part of a day, but there is also Downtown and probably things we don't know much about.

What are some hidden gems or not-to-be-missed things that would be within a non-painful drive (I know distances are not equivalent to drive times in LA) or in each reach by transit from Marina Del Rey? I know that LA has changed a lot in the past 10-15 years, with Downtown becoming a bit of an arts mecca and with a lot of really interesting things happening within the city core and places close to it.

And Mr hippybear hasn't explored much.

So what are things that we might do within, say, a day or a day-and-a-half that would be fun and informative and cultural and might be a bit off the beaten path (or right on the beaten path if they are truly awesome) that we might be able to reach easily and have a fun and awesome weekend experiencing?
posted by hippybear to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
LA Metro Arts You might find something you will enjoy on this site. Metro has a regularly scheduled collaborative music event at Union Station that has very unusual artists, music, performances. I hope you enjoy your visit.
posted by effluvia at 9:36 AM on August 7, 2016

If you are going to be here in the next 8-10 weeks, you want to cling to the coast and its blessed marine layer anyway, because the rest of the city will be paying their yearly dues for the other 9 months of lovely weather.

Check with him to be sure this is still a thing, but Thursdays are historically Food Truck Night at Mother's Beach in MdR. LA does great food truck, it's worth intersecting with one of the gatherings if your paths can reasonably cross (I think there are also 8-10 trucks outside LACMA/Tar Pits 7 days/week at lunch now, and you might want to catch the Guillermo del Toro exhibit at LACMA).

I always check LA Weekly's calendar, since there's so much going on here that's only happening once or a few times.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:51 AM on August 7, 2016

If you have a car, I'd drive to the Expo line and park to get to other places. Marina del Rey is a pain to travel to/from via public transit unless you are near the Venice Blvd bus.

If you're here before August 14, check out the public art exhibit about water. Locations are all over the city.

Curate LA has a comprehensive list of art stuff, but it's not super explanatory.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:09 AM on August 7, 2016

At the end of every week LAist has a "twenty things happening this weekend" feature.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:29 AM on August 7, 2016

Response by poster: What about less transitory things, actual locations, that might not pop up on the regular radar, that we could visit? It's great to look for EVENTS to attend, but what about other stuff?
posted by hippybear at 10:30 AM on August 7, 2016

LACMA is great!
posted by matildaben at 10:42 AM on August 7, 2016

You may already know this, but driving from Marina Del Rey to downtown Los Angeles can take anywhere from 30 mins to around 1 hour and 30 mins, depending on the day/time. LA is a really big city with pretty bad traffic, so if you really don't want to drive much, probably best to stay in the local Venice, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey areas. Or at least west of Fairfax.
posted by mosschief at 10:52 AM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is the actual most magical place on Earth, and it's about a 15-20 minute drive, looks like.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:55 AM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

LA is sort of weird in that all the paths are beaten pretty well. Nothing thrives in obscurity because real estate costs are too high (especially on the Westside, triply so if you're wanting to stay west of the 405, which is the only way to keep a drive (maybe) under 45 minutes on a summer weekend), so everything that exists is fully on a radar, but there's hundreds of radars depending on your interests. (This is why some of the transient events are interesting, they can't afford a full-time thing here. Also, a lot of times the people involved are Industry, so they only have 10 days or 6 weeks or whatever to do this side thing.)

But, I will recommend (if it's not scorching hot, because the house/sculpture is completely open air) Watts Towers. Do the actual guided tour, that's the only way to get inside the sculpture, but also spend some time in the gallery/museum. Spend some money in Watts/Compton while you're there.

If you really love flea markets, there's somewhere between 7-9 large longtime markets on various days/weekends. The one at the Rose Bowl is the legendary one, but outside your desired travel range. Artists & Fleas is in Venice as is the Venice High Flea Market, and there's one at the Santa Monica Airport.

Sticking very close to home, you might do a turn on the Waterbus and/or the Beach Shuttle, which I find particularly interesting since it goes to Playa Vista, which is actually a verrry fancy high-tech office park (Facebook, YouTube, ICANN) with mixed-use residential/commercial on what used to be the Hughes Aircraft factory site. It's got some gorgeous park space (there's several mini-gardens near the bandshell, I used to love walking around there when I visited a client in that office park), but there's not a ton to do there except wander around and maybe shop.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:27 AM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best food truck in SoCal, La Isla Bonita, corner of 4th and Rose in Venice, every day except Thursday, cash only, get the ceviche tostada before they run out.

Other culinary standouts nearby: Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica is the kind of place that takes an hour to make your sandwich, and it's worth every second. Rainbow Acres in Venice (NOT the one on Admiralty Way in MdR) has great deli-counter-style takeout with tasty gluten-free, vegan, etc options. Dinah's Family Restaurant on Sepulveda has the best fried chicken. Rutt's Cafe on Washington has the best Hawaiian food on the Westside. J. Nichols Kitchekn on Glencoe is the best post-diner diner (I don't know of another way to describe it). Irori Sushi nearby is a fun mid-range sushi place with tasty specials. Asaya on Culver is yummy fast-casual authentic Japanese comfort food (cash only).
posted by infinitewindow at 12:22 PM on August 7, 2016

If you're into museums and/or antiquities, The Getty Villa is gorgeous and just a half-hour drive north of Venice Beach. (Even if you're not big on ancient artifacts, the museum might be worth a visit for its lush valley setting and gorgeous Roman-replica gardens.)

One day on a recent trip to LA, my friend and I spent the early afternoon at the Villa, then drove down to Venice Beach and spent the late afternoon/evening strolling along the boardwalk. It was a lovely day.
posted by mekily at 2:00 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I like LA Downtowner to see what's going on in Downtown. You can take the Expo Line to Downtown from the westside; you get a tour of LA along the way and then you don't have to worry about navigating in DTLA (lots of construction and parking is nuts). If you go Downtown, The Last Bookstore is a must.

Los Angeles Magazine does a "unique and interesting things to do this weekend" every week; I've seen pop-up events mentioned there.
posted by mogget at 2:24 PM on August 7, 2016

The Big Blue Bus will get you out of Marina Del Rey and to the metro light rail, which will take you downtown quick enough.

(Not downtown, but) 2nding LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits. Take the 720 metro bus. There are free outdoor jazz concerts there that are well attended and have a great vibe. Another museum cum cultural center closer to the beach is the Hammer. Which also has music, lectures and film events.

If you do get downtown by bus or rail, Union Station (a transit hub), El Pueblo and Chinatown are all very walkably close to each other. The latter two equal parts touristy and authentic. (= much more authentic than Hollywood Blvd. or Santa Monica, these days.) If you are going to walk around downtown, the Main Library is a fun building to explore in, with some breath-taking internal architecture. And there are plenty of other parks, squares and civic areas to give interest.

Not far from downtown and at a subway stop is the hyper-authentic MacArthur Park area., for true off-beaten path experience.
posted by bertran at 3:40 PM on August 7, 2016

Response by poster: the hyper-authentic MacArthur Park area

If it's raining, will someone have left a cake out?
posted by hippybear at 3:42 PM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, also: if you do go to LACMA, you should go to eat in Little Ethiopia, not far from there.
posted by bertran at 3:43 PM on August 7, 2016

Not sure about the cake, specifically; but folk-religious practices are alive and well there. As well as inspired street preachers, et cetera.
posted by bertran at 3:45 PM on August 7, 2016

Better info on Little Ethiopia here.
posted by bertran at 3:52 PM on August 7, 2016

There is a lovely jetty in the Marina - it's on page 5 of this PDF, which also has good info on other walks in the Marina and Venice. I was just there yesterday and took this picture and this one.
posted by ljshapiro at 5:46 PM on August 7, 2016

Across the street on Wilshire from the La Brea Tar Pits is the Craft and Folk Art Museum, which is small and quirky and lovely. Right now there's an exhibit up of objects made from reclaimed wood and a floor + of theater artwork by Gronk, including floor coverings and a stage with masks to handle- just an extravagance of color and symbols; it's very cool. The trucks have migrated closer to the Tar Pits, away from the Wilshire construction zone, but there's still a good selection and you can sit either at the office parks or in Hancock Park. The outside spaces at the Tar Pits are free to enter and wander around and you can see excavators at work during the day even without going into the museum.

Ordinarily, I am a huge fan of the 720. However, there is a lot of construction at Fairfax and Wilshire, so while the worst of the detours is over, the bus stops have moved a block and a half away from the museums west down Fairfax and there are sometimes other complications. This is not to discourage you if you are a fan of buses! But be aware. If driving: while the 10 has its moments, the drive shouldn't be that bad if you time it correctly. Nthing all the recommendations for Little Ethiopia as well. A long wander (or bus, or drive, or Uber) up Fairfax into West Hollywood will also bring you to some restaurants and sites of interest: Canter's Deli, Animal, Cinefamily, and countless little bakeries. If you're into movies, you may also be interested in the New Beverly Cinema.

Also seconding the recommendation for the Museum of Jurassic Technology: difficult to describe, sometimes polarizing, very excellent. Have fun!
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:11 PM on August 7, 2016

If you want more specific recs, I think it helps to have a better idea of what you are looking for, as LA is a wide array of a city.

Based on some of your mefi comments, you might be curious about the Tom of Finland house in Echo Park. Their calendar is sparse, but who knows? It was open for Atlas Obscura day and I regret not going.

If you're into Arrested Development, the banana stand scenes were filmed in Marina del Rey.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 10:58 PM on August 7, 2016

The Westside is nice and all, but a bit antiseptic for me. I realize that this is outside your locus of focus, but...

If you make it to downtown, then checking out the architecture of Union Station should definitely be on your list.

And if you make it to Union Station, hop on the Gold Line into Pasadena and check out the following fantastic cultural landmarks:

*The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens
*The Norton Simon Museum
*Say hi to Bill Nye at the Planetary Society
posted by bluejayway at 1:26 PM on August 8, 2016

Response by poster: So, we did make it out to Union Station. Holy wow! What a beautiful building! Worth a visit from anyone going to LA, really.

We also wandered around downtown for a day, which was full of interesting architectural moments from casual buildings just sitting there full of details of the sort they don't put on buildings anymore to a self-guided tour around Disney Concert Hall that let us see a LOT of the building including stepping into the concert hall while the organ was doing some sort of player piano playing thing where we could feel the bass pipes vibrate our innards. (They also offer guided tours that run the same route, and the self-guided tour has a "listen to John Lithgow narrate your tour" option, but we went for the quick and dirty tour and it was pretty amazing.)

We also visited The Last Bookstore while we were in downtown, which is a fascinating place and well worth a visit even if you aren't that bookish because of simply how it is all laid out. Our walk also included the big park that is right by City Hall (Grand Park?), which is full of beauty and little moments and there are themes of interesting Art Deco / Soviet Realism happening on the buildings with depictions of Moses and Magna Carta and others on courthouses and stuff.

We got into downtown from Marina del Rey by driving to the Culver City train stop and taking the train in, and while I don't know what commuting around LA is like if you live there and want to use transit to get to work, as a tourist it was entirely great. We also took a bus from MdR up to Santa Monica and then walked back along the beach, which was a hike, but not a GIANT hike (we left around 8am and got back around 1pm, including stops along the way).

Also we went to Hollywood for a concert the first night I was there and the Uber we took to get there was strictly following the "fastest route" given to the driver by the overseeing machine, and it was a tour through all kinds of neighborhoods from the sketchy to the opulent, and it took quite a while to get there (I think an hour) but it was an eventful hour for someone like me who was spending the entire drive looking at What LA Is out of the window of the car.

In all it was a good short visit to the LA area, and several of the suggestions in this Ask helped guide us. Thanks for all the answers. I'm sure if we had more time we would have done more of the things listed here. It's a good springboard set of answers for anyone visiting the LA area who doesn't want to drive much and who wants to see some stuff!
posted by hippybear at 10:45 PM on August 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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