Escape TO L.A.
November 13, 2006 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in/around L.A. for a family reunion this December 22 - 27. Help me with my reverse-Snake Plisken(sequel) mission: I need to escape from my relatives and finding cool things to do in the L.A. area...

Museums, good restaurants, shopping - I am taking all possible suggestions here, as I will definitely need to escape from the family often. Extra bonus points if you know that any of your favorite attractions will be open sometime during my Xmas stay.

My wife and I are into all kinds of food, but ESPECIALLY love cheapish Mexican, Vietnamese, and Thai places - so any favorite taquerias or other spots would be appreciated. We also would love to see any non-touristy old-school LA places (diners, random weird museums, etc). Comic book stores? Cool neighborhoods? Crazy landmarks? We will be renting a car (so we can drive to random places in the vicinity), and have little-to-no advance knowledge of anything fun to do in Los Angeles.
posted by sluggo to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: And by "finding", of course I meant "find".
posted by sluggo at 9:48 AM on November 13, 2006

When I lived in LA, I used to love to go to the camera obscura by the Santa Monica pier.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:05 AM on November 13, 2006

I always recommend the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Hard to describe what it really is but the experience always makes me feel like I've inadvertently stepped into a performance art piece.

More about it here.

Also, the LA Conservancy has some really good tours. They have weekly walking tours that are mostly in downtown LA but other special tours as well.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:05 AM on November 13, 2006

I lived in Venice Beach for a long time and here are a couple of my favorites from that area.

I honestly can't remember the name of this place, but it is a hole in the wall Mexican place that has the best chicken mole. It is basic Mexican the way they make it at home. The rest of the stuff on the menu is decent, but the shrimp cocktail and ceviche are delicioso!

Map of
Rose Ave At 5th Ave
Venice, CA 90291

A favorite for breakfast is just down Rose Avenue, heading west toward the beach. You can't miss it. It's just before main street. It's called The Rose Cafe. The Eggs Benedict is delicious, and you can have it with either salmon or spinach instead of the ham. YUMMY.

If you are the type who want to go star watching (of the movie type) stop into Hal's Bar and Grill one night on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice.

Map of
Hal's Bar & Grill
1349 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291-3739

Also, a fun place to eat that is ALWAYS packed, and has some delicious food is The C&O Trattoria. It's definitely local but also touristy because of it reputation. If it's your birthday the staff sings to you in Italian, and every night they sing That's Amore along with all the guests while they walk around toasting you. Your table is covered in white butcher paper so you can doodle if you'd like, but it's also practical, as the server and you (if you're honest) use it to keep track of your serve-yourself chianti intake. You can even take the paper home with you if you want, as a silly bit of memory. This restaurant is on the street that ends at the Venice Pier. It can be hard to find parking in the summer but winter shouldn't be bad. It is metered parking, though, and they will ticket you, so be sure to have plenty of quarters with you. You can walk across the street to The Cow's End to have coffee after dinner or lunch.

If you like Indian food, then you should definitely try Dhaba Cuisine on Main street in Santa Monica. Their Mango ice cream is the most heavenly thing I've ever eaten, and I LOVE food! Their naan is fabulous, their atmosphere is lovely and the rest of the food is pure delight. Definitely stop here if you like Indian.

Map of
Dhaba Cuisine Of India
2104 Main St
Santa Monica CA 90405

Another very yummy place for Mexican that is a local favorite (especially with the Mexicans!) is a walk-up building where you order at a window, and take the food wherever you want to eat it. If you head East on Rose Avenue from The Rose Cafe area, make a left onto Lincoln (see the map of that area) and you'll see the place on your left. I can't remember the name, but their burritos are great and so are their shrimp cocktail and tacos. You can even get tongue tacos, and I think you can get brains, too. Not that you'd want to, but it just goes to show how authentic the place is. Once you make the left onto Lincoln, watch for it, as it's not that big. I think that it's just after a billboard. If you get to the next street/light, you've gone too far.

If you like soul food, go to Aunt Kizzy's Back Porch. Great food. It's in Marina del Rey. I'm not going to map this one because I'm running out of time.

If you can make it to Pasadena to see Huntington Gardens, do! It's beautiful and the estate has an impressive book collection along with antiques. Be sure to have tea in the Rose Garden Tea House. You're wife will love it (if she's like me). Most things are open over the Christmas season. It's California! The sun shines their 99 % of the year! :)

Go to The Ghetty if you can, as well. It's at the top of the hill and has an amazing collection and fabulous gardens. They used to require parking reservations in order to park there, so you may want to try their website to get more info. . Also, LACMA is incredible (moreso than The Ghetty, I think). That's the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It is also right next to the La Brea Tarpits, which is really interesting. They have archaeologists uncovering bones all the time and you may even see them cleaning or uncovering something when you visit.

I hope this helps....I could write a book, as I grew up in So. Calif. Oh, if you have a whole day or two to drive up Highway 1, you should. It's an incredible drive, and if you can make it to Hearst Castle, take a tour, the one they recommend to people who've never been to the castle. You won't regret it. You've never, and never will again, see anything as lavish and excessive as this former home of newspaper magnate Joseph Randolph Hearst. I'd seen pictures and was interested in the castle, but actually seeing it was quite an experience.

Enjoy your trip. Come back and report if you went to any of these places and what you thought.

(Oh, and if you want to treat yourselves to a stay at a nice hotel in Santa Monica and see Malibu, Venice Beach (and Muscle Beach), etc... try Leows or Casa del Mar.
posted by Paleoindian at 10:54 AM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I mention this every time there's a thread on L.A. because I just think it's cool and very "local":

why not stop by the beach at David Geffen's house?
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:58 AM on November 13, 2006

Ditto the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

Watts Towers

Wander around the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Hollywood Blvd. (see a movie at Mann's Chinese Theatre), Westwood. See some live theatre, stand-up or improv -- I really enjoyed the Groundlings show I saw last time I was there.

Here's a similar question I asked a while ago. Several of the recommendations were time-sensitive; some weren't.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 11:03 AM on November 13, 2006

Oh, and you as far as 'weird' landmarks, the strangest thing in Venice (other than some of the locals) is the ballerina with the clown head sculpture that stands on Main street, North of Rose.
posted by Paleoindian at 11:05 AM on November 13, 2006

I stepped in here to reccomend the Museum of Jurassic Technology as well.

If you're of the nerdy persuasion, perhaps the prospect of watching basically any TV show in history appeals to you? You can do that at the Museum of Television & Radio.
posted by YoungAmerican at 11:21 AM on November 13, 2006

El Tepeyac in East LA is my favorite Mexican restaurant and I always make a point to swing by whenever I'm in LA. Plan on standing in line for a while, it's always crowded but worth the wait.
posted by buggzzee23 at 11:36 AM on November 13, 2006

Din Tae Fung sounds like it would be up your alley.

LA is also the home to several excellent Rocky Horror Picture Shows -- one in the fabled Nuart theater in LA just north of Santa Monica, and one on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. The Nuart show has been going on for something like 25 years.

Just outside of LA is Disneyland.

The Getty (not Ghetty) is an amazing museum.
posted by felix at 11:46 AM on November 13, 2006

This is completely random, but I read last year in the online LA Times that Bellflower, 90706, is America's most linguistically diverse postal district, with thirty-nine languages spoken in the zip code.

It might be the dullest place in the world, but if it was me, I might check it out.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 12:18 PM on November 13, 2006

Also, if you're into that kind of thing, you might do the Donut Route. Massive larger-than-life donuts seem to proliferate in the LA area. Randy's is easy to get to but the drive-through donut in La Puente really is worth a pilgrimage.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 12:57 PM on November 13, 2006

This recent question about free/cheap in El Lay had some good offbeat suggestions. And since you'll be in town over the holiday, embrace Yuletide Cali-style in all its shorts&sunscreen&sandy surrealism: check out one of the many light displays.
posted by rob511 at 1:40 PM on November 13, 2006

Scoops ice cream on Melrose at Heliotrope is one of the best and cheapest gourment experiences in town.

For trash-but-good, Pink's hot dogs on La Brea nr Melrose despite (or perhaps because of) the line.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theater always has great and cheap improv shows, and there are great little cafes and shops nearby.
posted by tristanshout at 2:09 PM on November 13, 2006

Are you gonna be closer to downtown LA or the beach? Two different worlds, and a long-ass drive away from each other.

If you're on the eastside, go downtown and see Frank Gehry's Disney concert hall. Take a tour, take a walk around, or see a concert. You'll be glad you did. There's also the Staples center farther downtown (Lakers/Kings), and the Pantry -- oldest (some say) restaurant in LA, amazing flannel cakes in the AM, open 24 hrs. Or Phillippe's French Dip. Or Chinatown, where the Vietnamese food is better than the Chinese. Also tons of amazing food in Little Tokyo, etc., etc., etc.

If you want cool neighborhoods, head for Silver Lake, Echo Park, or Eagle Rock -- which now has 2 comic book stores on Colorado Blvd, its main drag.
posted by turducken at 10:49 PM on November 13, 2006

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