Los Angeles Area for Dummy
October 28, 2019 9:01 AM   Subscribe

So... what should I do when I'm in LA next month?

I kind of put the cart before the horse on deciding to visit Los Angeles and surrounding environs Nov 22nd to 26th without having a coherent idea of what I would actually do when I got there. I've got some promising leads thanks to tourism websites and these questions, but I'm looking for some of that personalized Ask Metafilter magic and seeing if there's any changes since those questions were asked.

Some information that may help. I'm a mid-30s man from the midwest. I can handle mild to moderate physical activity. This will be a solo trip and I will probably be constantly self-conscious about that, but this trip was partly to get out of my comfort zone and do things I wouldn't normally do. I'm willing to drive out of LA up to a few hours if there's something interesting to go to. Good food is a plus. I like movies and tv so I think it would be cool to see some famous film locations or Hollywood history. On the other hand, a celebrity focused, see-where-the-stars-live tour wouldn't interest me.
posted by Green With You to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Drive up the PCH to Malibu, climb up to Point Dume and see if you can spot any whales, keep driving north a little and stop at Neptune’s Net (which you might recognize from Point Break) for some good fast seafood, then walk across the highway and watch the surfers. There are a bunch of surfing beaches along that part of the PCH that you can find on a map of public Malibu beaches but are tough to spot from the highway. It won’t be weird to do solo and might be a nice break from city activities.
posted by sallybrown at 10:23 AM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: If you want to see many famous film locations all at once, then check out the Griffith Observatory and see how many movie shots you can see in your head.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:26 AM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Native Angeleno here.

Museum recs: definitely LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits (next to each other). The Norton Simon if you're interested in painting. If you want to see gardens, the Huntington Library (they also have an art collection and a rotating book exhibit, but the gardens are the highlights; bonus points for now having surprisingly good food after several years of terrible catering). Of the two Getty museums, I would plump for the Villa in Malibu, which hosts the classical antiquities, over the new one--and besides, that gets you out to Malibu. Griffith Park Observatory.

The Bowers Museum is smaller than the others and farther out, but it's worth checking to see if they've got an interesting traveling exhibit in.

San Diego is doable as a day trip (leave late morning to avoid rush hour; it may still take about 2-3 hrs, 90 min. as the absolute best-case scenario). I've generally done it as an overnight, though.

Food: food, food everywhere. All sorts of food. Canter's, certainly.

When you plan, take traffic into account. As in, there will be traffic, and you will be stuck in it.

Also, depending on how close to the coast you are, mornings may look cloudy and overcast thanks to the marine layer. Ignore that--it will leave by late morning. Good to have a light jacket on hand, though.
posted by thomas j wise at 11:37 AM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Best answer: In terms of movie/TV stuff, I can personally recommend Universal Studios, in particular the backlot tour - totally worth the cost and long lines.

It's really great to have a local be your personal tour guide -- AirBnB offers some interesting options, including food walks, the Walk of Fame, bike tours, etc.

As for good food, you're in luck: LA has an awesome food scene. Have fun!
posted by acridrabbit at 11:38 AM on October 28, 2019

Best answer: All the previous threads still have good suggestions. The thing about LA is that pretty much everything is good or it goes out of business because real estate is so expensive, so aside from checking Yelp or Google reviews just to make sure you haven't chosen something that just closed or caught on fire or something, you're probably going to like it at least okay.

I would say be careful of the big big tourist attractions (including, probably, seeing the space shuttle, but if you want to do that get tickets now), because a lot of schools get the whole week of Thanksgiving off and that weekend will kick off a major tourist week. Traffic will be completely weird - not so predictably rush-houry because a lot of people will be off work, but lots of shoppers and tourists on the road.

Depending on weather, I'd say pick a half-day to do a city hike (no need to leave town, we have a bunch of nature), but do search hiking ratings because all the canyon hikes potentially include wild elevation changes that you may not be prepared for. I'm not a fan. I do really like Franklin Canyon, where I've gone birding before, and you can walk all the way around the lake with no real hills, but there are a couple of trails on the side with some oomph on them. It's also a good excuse to go to Beverly Hills. (Also check Audobon's website, they do bird walks several times a month at nice walkable locations around town.)

My usual strategy for open-itinerary trips like that is first check ticketed stuff you might want to see, concerts/plays/sports/events, so you know which times you need to block off for that, and then pick other components to fill out the days and parts of town you'll need to be in. You might review the Time's Out event listing for November. Check the events calendars at Largo, UCB, Pantages, Ahmanson, and Disney Hall to see if there's any shows there you want to see.

LA is a good place to do wish list/minor bucket list stuff - you can find an outlet for just about any food you want to try, art you want to consume, hobby you have. Go to a movie at an Arclight or the Cinerama or New Beverly. I think TV shows start to go into holiday hiatus around that time, but see if there's a live taping opportunity you want to go to - also google shows you might be interested in as they all have their own slightly different method for audience seats; I have enjoyed going to Late Late Show tapings.

You're going to want alternate/backup plans for pretty much everything. Outdoors is a crapshoot in November - hell, right now there are a lot of things on fire next to freeways so you can't get places and the wind is gusting to 40+mph and so being outdoors is just unpleasant and you can't really open your eyes because of blowing dirt and ash and extremely pointy/heavy shit is flying off the palm trees. Today would be a museum day, followed by some movies, eating indoors, and not really doing any shopping because all our malls are outdoors. But you could also score a perfect 74/58 crystal blue skies and sunglasses necessary to drive safely (that's a thing here, the sun bouncing off other cars on a clear day is a menace), so plan for all possible outcomes.

It can be intimidating going out to eat alone, but it's actually an advantage here sometimes because you can get a tiny table nobody else wants, or sit at the bar (which sometimes means paying less for essentially the same menu), or it's not a huge hassle to get something takeout or order delivery (if you don't mind using grubhub etc, you will likely be spoiled for choice wherever you are staying). Being alone makes it easier to eat at odd hours, too. Take a book, regular or electronic, everywhere you go.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:40 AM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Eat Korean BBQ. A co-worker who's a big KPop fan suggested we go to Eight BBQ, which we did, and it was very good. You will probably also want to go to Zankou Chicken.
posted by matildaben at 12:13 PM on October 28, 2019

Best answer: Seconding the drive up PCH (assuming things aren't on fire, ugh). If you want to spend less time driving, it's also possible to take the Expo Line out to Santa Monica and rent a bike and ride up the coast. Walking around the canals at Venice Beach is fun, too.

My favorite restaurants in LA tend to be cheap, whether it's burritos or Thai food. Yelp is a pretty good guide.
posted by pinochiette at 12:41 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: While I think Universal Studios is pretty fun and worth a visit if you're into tv/movies, if you're not interested in going on any rides, it might not be worth the price of admission. (I do have a deep and genuine love of the tram ride, so I do actually recommend Universal Studios if you're not averse to theme parks, plus there's the Wizarding World of Harry Potter if that's your thing.) If you want a studio tour without the theme park, Sony offers a two-hour tour for $50 (Universal Studios is $100+), and Paramount has one for $60. You can get tickets in advance on their websites.
posted by yasaman at 12:51 PM on October 28, 2019

Best answer: I love LACMA but wouldn't recommend it right now as a large portion of it is closed for renovations.
posted by Uncle at 1:02 PM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Find taco trucks every night and eat their tacos.

I am not certain what your lodging situation will be, but if I were you I'd consider spending one or two nights on the west side or near the ocean, and one or two of the nights somewhere between Vermont and downtown.

The westside will give you an HQ for some of the PCH / ocean-related things, and will be close to some wonderful food options (Little Ethiopia, in particular, and the previously mentioned Canter's), as well as a few truly delightful charming LA things like the Museum of Jurassic Technology (seriously, go to this), the Culver City steps, the Getty Museum, the Hammer Museum, UCLA's meteorite collection, etc.

Closer to downtown will give you an HQ for prime Korean food, taco trucks, heading over the river into the eastside (you must go to Mariscos Jalisco on Olympic east of Soto), and going into the San Gabriel Valley for a million distinct Chinese places (I would really recommend the Uighur restaurant Omar in San Gabriel). The neighborhoods straddling either side of the river--Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Echo Park, Silver Lake, Koreatown, Boyle Heights / East LA--are all gentrifying very rapidly and so this will either be interesting or horrifying or both, depending on your preferences, but there are much worse ways to spend your time than going to Mariachi Plaza on a nice evening, or just sort of walking through a couple miles of the northern edge of Koreatown in a rambling way. This side of town also has its share of film/tv locations; for example, the Echo Park area has the house where many scenes in the Fast and Furious movies were shot, and down the block from there is the Thriller house. There are lots more to google. This area is also right off the 110 and so gives you access to places in South LA like Watts Towers, the Endeavor shuttle, California African American Museum, and a great seafood place called Mi Lindo Nayarit just off Florence and Central.

My bigger point here is just that LA is big and if I were you, I'd spend a couple nights in different sides of town so as to make the trip less about driving all over the place and more about seeing things.

God, I haven't even mentioned the Valley. Lots to do there, too. LA's big - have fun!
posted by kensington314 at 1:43 PM on October 28, 2019

Best answer: I live in San Diego and love it, but it's not worth driving down here for such a short time. There's plenty to do in LA!

I recommend the Getty Center (art, views, architecture), the Griffith Observatory (science, views, famous filming location, architecture), and the Museum of Jurassic Technology (quirky stuff that's hard to explain).

Many of Jonathan Gold's top 101 restaurants are still around and awesome--all budgets and cuisines are represented!
posted by exceptinsects at 1:44 PM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you like quirky things, The Museum of Jurrasic Technology should be on your list. (Atlas Obscura has a list of quirky LA things). If you like books, The Last Bookstore is something worth visiting, in old downtown LA kinda near the funny Angel funicular, Biltmore Hotel, that Bladerunner set, & The Grand Central Market, which is a really swell food court.

Driving around in a car is the LA thing for tourists. We drove around Mullholland Drive, Sunset Strip, Rodeo Drive, Hollywood Hillls, Venice, Topanga, Griffith, Echo Park, etc. If we had more time, we would have liked to drive out to the desert, which is not that far away.
posted by ovvl at 5:49 PM on October 28, 2019 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, I love you all!
posted by Green With You at 7:03 PM on October 28, 2019

Seconding the Point Dume suggestion, except I would try to be there for sunset—it is truly incredible, and also the seals seem to come out en masse around that time.
posted by nancynickerson at 8:44 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I love handmade architecture, and one of the classic examples is Watts Towers. It's in the Watts area, people will get all freaked out. I went, daytime, not even a spark of anything untoward. Not that far out of your comfort zone.

LA has amazing beaches. Maybe it was Mulholland Drive we took to the beach?

I like Time Out's guides.
posted by theora55 at 4:53 AM on October 29, 2019

Something maybe nobody has mentioned yet is music. LA is, of course, a music town. If you're interested in seeing live music, maybe check out some of these local venues and see what they have going on:

The Satellite



The Smell

The Echo

The Echoplex

The Greek Theatre

The Palladium

The El Rey

The Wiltern

The Mayan

The Regent

The Fonda

The Hi Hat

The Mint


posted by kensington314 at 11:24 AM on October 29, 2019

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