Visiting LA
May 19, 2004 8:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to LA for the first week of June to visit a friend. Unfortunately she wasn't able to get any time off that week so it looks like I am going to most of my sight seeing solo. I have a basic itinerary (Getty, Disney Concert Hall, Studio Tours, etc.) but is there anything off the beaten path that I shouldn't miss? Is there anything on the beaten path that I am better off avoiding?
posted by lilboo to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, LA (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would definitely make time to visit the Museum of Jurrasic Technology. Also the other major museums like LACMA, MOCA, etc.

I say do one less studio tour and more stuff like exploring beaches up by Malibu (and a nice fish dinner at Malibu Seafood) or a nice drive on Mullholland Drive.

A cheap and fun meal is Versailles, a Cuban tradition in LA on both La Cienega Blvd. and Venice Blvd. The garlic chicken is famous there. Big portions.
posted by gen at 8:28 PM on May 19, 2004

As a native of Pasadena, I would recommend the following:

1. Norton Simon Museum

2. Oldtown Pasadena - literally a stone's throw away from the Norton Simon, which makes it the perfect place to stroll around a bit & get something to eat.
posted by invisible ink at 8:33 PM on May 19, 2004

If your "friend" can't make any time for you, when you're travelling cross-continent to see them, then I would suggest you go somewhere else instead. I can't see why anyone would want to spend any time in LA at all unless it was a) for work or b) to spend time with a close friend or family. Not to offend anyone who is unfortunate enough to have to live there, but LA really does epitomise most of what is wrong with America.
posted by cbrody at 8:41 PM on May 19, 2004

I am a New Yorker, born and bred. I love pizza by the slice, fresh bagels, pastrami on rye, egg creams. I love Central Park, West Broadway on a sunny afternoon, shopping in SoHo, and my home in Murray Hill (even though I am currently in Tokyo, a city I enjoy as much as I enjoy NYC.)

That said, I lived in LA for 4 years, and found that there are many good reasons to visit LA and Southern California. You ought to experience a place for yourself.

There is a lot bad about LA. There is a lot bad about NYC, or DC, or Miami, or Chicago too.

"LA really does epitomise most of what is wrong with America," seems a bit over-the-top to me.
posted by gen at 8:48 PM on May 19, 2004

I will also call cbrody out by pointing out that that kind of answer at ask.mefi is exactly the kind of answer no one wants. lilboo is already committed to going. If you can't make any positive recommendations, why not just keep your keyboard silent?
posted by gen at 8:51 PM on May 19, 2004

La Brea Tar Pits. It's near LACMA, and it's a gooey fun time.

If you'll be there on a Friday evening, check out Jon Brion's show at Largo. Seriously. Consider calling *now* for reservations, or take your chances at the door. There's often a surprise special guest, like Robyn Hitchcock or Jack Black or perhaps someone you've never heard of but who is amazingly talented. Enjoy!
posted by ambrosia at 9:05 PM on May 19, 2004

Go to the beach. Go north of Malibu, north of Zuma to one of the pocket beaches along the side of PCH. Spend the day, bring lunch, do nothing.
posted by rdr at 9:09 PM on May 19, 2004

The Bradbury Building.
posted by bingo at 9:10 PM on May 19, 2004

Response by poster: Whoa cbrody, relax. The tickets are a last minute deal that I got on the cheap. I can't change the schedule of the tickets, and according to her boss, she can't change her hours, so that's that. Our friendship remains solid - but really, it was kind of you to jump to conclusions about it.

but LA really does epitomise most of what is wrong with America.

Haven't you been watching the news lately? Washington D.C. baby, that's where the action is these days.
posted by lilboo at 9:12 PM on May 19, 2004

Check out It's a great resource for things to do.

The Venice Beach Boardwalk is a great place to have an early breakfast at the Sidewalk Cafe and people watch.
posted by lola at 9:36 PM on May 19, 2004

Sorry lilboo, my rant was out of order. Definitely go to LA for a day or two, and form your own opinion of the place, but I would personally consider it a wasted holiday to limit yourself just to LA, as huge a "city" as it is. The new Disney Hall definitely looks interesting, and I'm sure there are plenty of other worthwhile sights and activities (Universal Studios was fun, if a bit tacky and lame.) I just wouldn't dream of spending a whole week there, even if it was with my best friend on earth. ;)

There is just so much to see in that part of the world. For example, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Zion, Bryce and Grand Canyons, pueblo mesas, etc. etc. are all very reachable in short order. Not to mention San Diego, SF, Big Sur, Yosemite... I say abduct your friend for a few days, and blame the aliens.
posted by cbrody at 9:49 PM on May 19, 2004

If you're going to Pasadena, also think about checking out the Huntington Library and Gardens. The gardens are pretty spectacular.

Might help though to know what kinds of things you're into.
posted by willnot at 10:23 PM on May 19, 2004

On the beaten path that's not unique:

- Old Town Pasadena. Sorry, but it's not unique and every city in the region thinks they can recreate the experience. Try the Santa Monica Promenade instead.
- Malls in LA are basically the same everywhere else, so if you are doing shopping, go someplace unique. Melrose Ave. is good in this regard, but take a stroll and see if that's what you are interested in.
posted by calwatch at 10:56 PM on May 19, 2004

People give LA a raw deal but it's really not that bad - especially if you consider it as a place to travel from. In an hour or two's drive you've got some fabulous desert, mountains etc.

I second booking up Largo. If it's the same system as before, you have to leave a message on the answerphone and hope the moody Irish owner gets back to you. But it's worth it.

Leave Universal Studios - it's (in my opinion) not very good. Or use my favourite technique, which is to go in the morning, do all the best shows/ rides (which you can do in the first two hours) and then go to Guest Services and demand a refund. Go to Disneyland instead.
posted by skylar at 11:33 PM on May 19, 2004

What area does your friend live in? Will you have access to a car? Here's what I'd do:

Take a hike through Griffith Park. Rent a horse at Sunset Ranch and take a guided ride through the Hollywood hills on a Friday Night. The Bradbury Building is nice but the guards won't let you above the ground floor and they kind of rush you out. But just across the street is the Grand Central Market for some cool picture taking and good eats. And if you're going to be downtown, you should also check out what's going on at the main LA Public Library.

Of course, you gotta eat too, right? Might I suggest the tasty vittles of Roscoe's Chicken 'N Waffles (try the 'Scoe's special with a side of smothered potatoes). Or if you're on the Westside, definately hit up Tito's Tacos, The Apple Pan, and/or Hurry Curry.

And of course, you HAVE to be able to get your MeFi, AskMe, MeTa, fix. Take a day and hit up Redondo Beach. It's got great WiFi coverage as well as a pier.
posted by inviolable at 2:21 AM on May 20, 2004

If you're any kind of a music fan, go to Amoeba Records on Sunset. It is the promised land of near infinite selection combined with prices that give Sam Goody a hernia.
posted by LionIndex at 7:15 AM on May 20, 2004

My recommendations (lived in LA for a few years):

Graystone Mansion It's probably more fun to go there with someone than alone. It's just a huge HUGE mansion that you can't really go in most of the time and a tremendous ground that you can wander around. A picnic there on a sunny afternoon is nice. Might not be the cup of tea for solo tourism.

I second Venice Beach. It's good people watching. The whole area is good for that. Often quite crowded though.

I gotta be honest and say I didn't do any studio tours or anything like that. If you've got time, there are daybreak hikes through the grand canyon. There's some good scuba diving availble north west of LA.
Can't think of what else is fun off the top of my head. I actually did not do a lot of sightseeing until my long distance GF started being able to visit regularly. Having someone come visit you always helps you explore your home city.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:35 AM on May 20, 2004

Olivera street .

LA conservancy tours

LA eats n stuff
posted by stuartmm at 8:46 AM on May 20, 2004

The Getty can eat up a whole day. The view is great from there and just wandering around the grounds is a blast. The cafeteria there is really quite good.

The tar pits are a must. And they don't take long. The LACMOA is right next door, and it can also eat up a whole day.

The LA Natural History Museum is small but very good.
posted by y6y6y6 at 9:10 AM on May 20, 2004

Inviolable's suggestions are all great for a non-touristy visit to the city. Those are all near downtown, so if you're over that way I also suggest taking a walk through Chinatown (just north of downtown).

Another non-touristy thing to do would be take in an event that a local would attend, say, a Dodger's game.

Before you eat at Roscoe's you can take a drive up Beachwood to get a really close view of the Hollywood sign, as well as a great view of the city. Other great views can be had from the lookout point on Mulholland just west of the 101, or from Yamashiro restaurant, which is just about in the same vicinity. Yamashiro has been used in a lot of films that were set in Japan. Really great sushi there, by the way, but not so great that it's worth the price, IMO.

If you're going to go to the beach, for a locals experience avoid Venice, Malibu, etc, and head down to Hermosa Beach. But don't count on too much sun; from about mid-May (as it happens this year, beginning literally today) until about the 3rd week in June we have a local phenomenon called June Gloom, a marine layer over the coastal area that keeps the beaches a bit chilly. People, don't EVER come to California in June for the beach!

If you're in the vicinity of Pasadena, you might consider taking a tour of the Huntington Library gardens. The gardens include a rose garden, culinary herbs garden, Japanese garden, and a desert rock garden. The Huntington also displays a Gutenberg Bible.

I also second the La Brea Tarpits as something unique in the city.

If you're going to do a studio tour, you might try to get in to one of the shows that's being taped. People will just walk up to you and ask you if you want to participate, say, at Universal Studios, or if you happen to visit the Mann's Chinese Theatre (which is just down the block from the Kodak Theatre, where they're doing the Oscars now). It will give you a more "real-world" idea of how shows are created. But be warned, it will take many hours of one of your precious-few vacation days. And the shows that people try to coax you in to are not the big name shows, they are often pilots or shows that have less of a following.

You could also try to get tickets for something like the Tonight Show taping, but I think you have to request those in advance. If you want to catch Leno in a more intimate space, try to get tickets for his Sunday night show at the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach. He tests all of his jokes for the upcoming week there.
posted by vignettist at 9:28 AM on May 20, 2004

If you like to try different food, you can find ANY type of cuisine here. Really, there is a whole neighborhood of Ethiopian restaurants. Try posting on or reading the Los Angeles Chowhound boards. I would discourage you from going to the studio tours, it's not that enlightening.

Of course, be prepared for traffic and driving. As long as you expect it, it's not as discouraging as it sounds. There is great people watching at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Melrose, Venice, and The Grove. The Farmer's Market at Third and Fairfax is cool to eat at, I reccomend Loteria grill for some great authentic Mexican food.

You can see a lot in a week. Keep in mind that Los Angeles is not one city, it is a collection of unique neighborhoods tied together under one name. It is impossible to sum it all up in one MeFi post. As someone who lives in Los Angeles, I'm used to people telling me how much the city sucks, mostly by people who have either never been here or only spent a few days here. Fine by me, don't come, there are plenty of people here already.

For nightlife, you can see any kind of music you like. You might as well cruise down Sunset just to see the scene. Santa Monica blvd in West Hollywood is the place to see the boys out at play. For places that you really want to hang out at though, I would avoid the Sunset strip.

Here is a short list of some of my favorites around town (some already mentioned):
  • The Getty (the grounds are better than the galleries)
  • Santa Monica (The Promenade and Main Street, two separate areas)
  • Venice Beach on the weekends
  • The Grove
  • Hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains
  • Malibu's Surfrider Beach
  • Famer's Market at Third and Fairfax
  • Santa Monica Farmer's Market on Wednesdays or Saturdays
  • The Japanese Restaurants near Sawtelle on the Westside
  • Old Town Pasadena (for Italian food, try Mi Piaci)
  • Huntington and Descanso Gardens in Pasadena
  • Biking on the beach path through the South Bay
  • Jogging down San Vicente
  • Walking from Westwood into UCLA (Sculpture Garden is cool)

posted by jonah at 9:52 AM on May 20, 2004

Wow, something like 3 people in this thread recommended the tar pits, and everytime I've been there (on my way to LACMA), I've never been able to figure out what the appeal is. I must be missing something. Isn't it just a bog or something with like a plastic sculpture dumped in the middle?
posted by willnot at 11:16 AM on May 20, 2004

I've lived in LA since 1986 and I still couldn't tell you everything about it. Probably more than the average Angeleno, though, since I've lived in Downtown, Mid-Wilshire, Hollywood, BHA/Miracle Mile, West LA, and Koreatown.

Westside (West LA, Santa Monica, Venice Beach):
Places to go:
  • The Getty Museum
  • Museum of Jurassic Technology
  • UCLA (especially pretty this time of year, also sports the Fowler Museum)
  • Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade
  • bike path from Venice Beach up to Malibu
  • Santa Monica airport museum
  • Hawthorne airport museum (Northrop military projects)
Places to eat:
  • In N Out burger (if you've never had it)
  • Tito's Tacos
  • Nanbankan Japanese yakitori et al.
  • Billingsley's (classic steak house, been there since the 70s)
  • Curry House or Hurry Curry (Japanese curry)
  • Cafe 50s
Beverly Hills/Beverly Hills Adjacent/Miracle Mile/Hollywood
Places to go:
  • LACMA and George C. Page Museum (Museum Square)
  • 3rd Street Farmer's Market (avoid the Grove Mall)
  • Melrose Avenue boutique shops
  • catch a movie at the Cineramadome/Arclight Cinemas Hollywood
  • Graumann Chinese and Kodak Theatre
  • Drive through old Hancock Park for a view of old LA money, great architecture
Places to eat:
  • Pink's Hotdog
  • Canter's Deli
  • Doughboys
  • Electric Lotus
  • Sweet Lady Jane bakery
  • Virtually any of the cafes on Melrose or 3rd Street
Koreatown/Downtown/Mid-Wilshire/Los Feliz
Places to go:
  • Natural History Museum/Museum of Science and Industry
  • Any sufficiently seedy/smoky Korean karaoke
  • Little Tokyo tourist traps, they're still fun, also a Japanese-American History Museum
  • The Bradbury Building
  • The Los Angeles Public Library Tower(tallest building in LA)
  • Olvera Street
  • Chinatown
  • Angel's Flight (and yes, it's running)
  • Griffith Park/Griffith Observatory
Places to at:
  • Hodori after midnight
  • Dong Il Jang for roast gui
  • Corner Place for kalbi/bulgogi
  • Langer's Deli
  • King Taco
  • Tams Burger
  • Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles
  • Tommy's Original Burger Stand
Monterey Park/Alhambra/Rosemead
Places to go:
  • any sufficiently glitzy and over-the-top karaoke
Places to eat:
  • Ocean Star for dimsum
  • NBC Seafood for dimsum
Places to go:
  • Old Town Promenade
  • CalTech/JPL
  • Norton Simon Museum
Places to eat:
  • Old Town Promenade
The San Fernando Valley

posted by linux at 12:17 PM on May 20, 2004

Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance.
posted by cyniczny at 10:39 PM on May 20, 2004

In N Out Burger - seconded! The best fries ON EARTH.
posted by skylar at 2:52 AM on May 21, 2004

but LA really does epitomise most of what is wrong with America.
LA use to be a desert not too long ago...USA is 50 states that are wrong.
posted by thomcatspike at 10:46 AM on May 21, 2004

"Angel's Flight (and yes, it's running)"

Just for the record, no, it's not running. I was there last week. I asked around, as I really wanted to ride it. Zero. Nope. Notta.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:11 PM on May 25, 2004

« Older what's the best way to get my stuff from Japan to...   |   Identify Plants Online Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.