Some people say they don't like Los Angeles because of its traffic, smog, urban and suburban sprawl, and its numerous wannabe actors and actresses, but Angelenos don't really focus on those things. They're too busy having a good time at the beach, hiking in the hills, visiting top-notch galleries and museums, checking out bands, watching obscure films that no one else in the country gets to see, shopping at cool local boutiques, and eating delicious, healthy food. That's the Los Angeles that visitors should experience when they visit.
In addition to the laidback lifestyle that comes with living in a city on the beach that sees sun most of the year, Los Angeles has a surprising number of cultural goings-on outside of the film industry. Although the bonus of living in the center of movie land is that you get to see films before anyone else in the country sees them, and there are dozens of theaters and other venues devoted to various genre of film, so you're never just limited to the Hollywood blockbuster.
The Museum of Contemporary Art consistently showcases top-shelf exhibits as does the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Los Angeles Natural History Museum is one of the best in the country and a fabulous place to take the kiddies. And, you'll find loads of great galleries in West Hollywood and Silver Lake, which was also the center of LA's music resurgence a few years back. In fact, it's still home to several music venues where you can see (mostly indie rock) live shows most days of the week.
And, for a city infamous for its pollution and traffic as anything else, Los Angeles also offers a surprising number of outdoor activities above and beyond the beach. People tend to be healthy and into fitness here, and there are plenty of bike trails, hikes, and climbs to keep outdoor enthusiasts happy. For visitors, hikes in Malibu's Temescal Canyon are great for nice views and crisp, cool walks through the woods on a hot LA day. The rest of the Santa Monica Mountains offer dozens of hikes within more than 300 public parks spanning over 65,000 acres.
So pack your bathing suit, your hiking shoes, and your hippest out-on-the-town clothes, then rent a car and experience LA as the Angelenos do.
The Best of Los Angeles
Home to one the world's busiest amusement parks (Disneyland), Los Angeles is a highly entertaining city, with several distinct neighborhoods offering a wide range of experiences. In fact, Los Angeles has often been described as more of a collection of small towns connected by a freeway than a proper city.
LA's 60-mile-long western border is created by one long string of beaches and their accompanying charming beach towns, such as the super posh movie-star haven of Malibu, great shopping offerings of Santa Monica, bright and lively Venice Beach, casual eateries and energized nightlife of Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, the sleepy town atmosphere of Redondo Beach and the incredible coastline and city views of Palos Verdes.
Beverly Hills and Hollywood, two of LA's most famous neighborhoods, are on the west side of the city, slightly inland from the beaches. Beverly Hills is worth a visit just to gawk at the houses and stroll along Rodeo Drive -- sure it's a cliche, but it's also a lot of fun.
Similarly, you can't go to LA and not see Hollywood. With all the studios long-since moved to larger lots in outlying areas like Burbank and Studio City, Hollywood is experiencing a rebirth with a few buildings being refurbished, thanks to a recent investment from the city. West Hollywood is also great during the day for both shopping and browsing through the area's handful of great art galleries.
Unlike most cities, the downtown in Los Angeles isn't the central part of the city, it's really just another neighborhood, and despite a lot of recent investment, it's still a slightly worn neighborhood. There are, however, some sights worth seeing downtown, especially in the Historic District, where the buildings are fun to check out.
In Chinatown, you can find some pretty decent dim sum and inexpensive souvenirs. In Little Tokyo, you can find very good, traditional Japanese food, hang out in one of the Japanese Gardens, or check out the Geffen Contemporary Museum, an extension of the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Silver Lake -- with its art galleries, music venues, and hip bars -- is a great place to hang out, day or night. Just north of downtown and adjacent to Los Feliz, which is where the Griffith Park Observatory and the Los Angeles Zoo are located, it's also one of the precious few LA neighborhoods well suited for walking and bar hopping.
Pasadena, site of the annual Tournament of Roses Parade, is worth a visit for its architecture and pleasant setting. The Old Town is a pedestrian mall, similar to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and adjacent streets are dotted with great neighborhood restaurants and a handful of local boutiques.
Fast Facts & Information
Fast Facts & Information
Geography and landscape: Los Angeles comprises 469 square miles, which includes beaches, dunes, wetlands, hills, mountains, and rivers. The area contains a number of important biological communities and a wide variety of native plants, including the California poppy, Matilija poppy, Toyon, Coast Live Oak, and hundreds of others. Exotic flowers and flowering trees like Jacaranda, Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, and Bird of Paradise bloom year-round in LA's temperate climate.
General orientation: There's no doubt about it -- LA is really spread out. That line from the movie Clueless is pretty true, though; except at rush hour, "everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes!" Unless of course you get lost, which is easy to do in this city of huge freeways and sprawling neighborhoods. Getting a map and acquainting yourself with the city's freeway system before driving in LA is an absolute must.
In addition to major freeways and highways like the 101, the 405, the 5, the 10, etc., there are several major surface streets that act as arteries moving traffic from downtown to the beaches and vice versa: Sunset, Santa Monica, Wilshire, Olympic, Pico, and Venice boulevards.
Safety: As in any big city, you should always have your wits about you in LA. There are certain neighborhoods that even locals wouldn't particularly want to venture into at night -- East LA and South Central. The area around Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) also isn't the best after dark either. It's not advisable to wander these streets unless you know where you're going.
Downtown Los Angeles has been getting progressively nicer through the last few years, but it's still not the greatest place to be at night, unless you're going straight to your destination and then straight back to your hotel; the same goes for Hollywood.
Population: With a population of more than 3.8 million, Los Angeles is the largest city in California and the second largest city in the country according to the last census (2005). Los Angeles is an extremely diverse place, with people from all over the world setting up their homes, businesses, and communities throughout its various neighborhoods. A cultural melting pot, people from 140 countries speaking 96 different languages have settled in LA, which means you'll see signs in various languages and be treated to a huge variety of cuisines and cultures.
Climate/weather: You can expect sun, sun, and more sun when you visit Los Angeles. It used to be that the temperature didn't fluctuate all that much, except when it became really hot in August and rained a bit in January. In the last couple of years, though, the weather patterns have shifted a bit. In recent years the heat waves are higher and longer, and the scattered winter showers have turned into full-blown storms that run well into spring.
It's difficult to tell if this is just a fluke or a permanent shift, but either way, it's a good idea to bring an umbrella if you're visiting LA from December to April, and tank tops and shorts if you're here in the summertime. The average temperature in January ranges between 49 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, in April from 54 and 71 degrees Fahrenheit, in July from 63 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit, and in October from 59 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.
The prospect of getting around in Los Angeles is daunting to many. On the next page, we'll give you our transportation tips.
Getting In, Getting Around Los Angeles
Finding your way around Los Angeles seems like a Herculean task, but it's not as bad as you might think. There are plenty of options for navigating LA, from taxis and rental cars to buses and trains. Here's a transportation primer:
From the Airport
There are several airport options for Los Angeles -- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX); Bob Hope Airport in Burbank (BUR, northeast of LAX, closer to Downtown and Hollywood); John Wayne Airport in Orange County, 40 miles south of LA (SNA); Ontario Airport, in the Inland Empire, 35 miles east of LA (ONT); and Long Beach Airport (LGB). LAX, Burbank, or Long Beach airports could be the closest ones to your destination, depending on what part of the city you're in (LAX is west, Burbank is east, and Long Beach is south). John Wayne Airport is about 40 miles south of LA in Orange County.
Rental Cars From the Airport
At Los Angeles International Airport, Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, Fox/Payless, National, and Thrifty offer car rentals. Rental centers are all off-site, and each company has their own shuttle to take passengers from the airport to the rental center.
At Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Alamo, Avis, Hertz, and National have counters in the terminals. Budget, Advantage, Enterprise, Discovery, AllRite, and Rent4Less have rental centers off-site and provide shuttles to and from the airport.
At the Ontario Airport, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Thrifty are on-site at the airport's Ground Transportation Center. Advantage is the only off-site rental car company. Airport shuttles transport all rental car customers between the passenger terminals and the consolidated rental car facility, and ONT's Ground Transportation Center (GTC), where the on-site rental car counters are located. Advantage provides transportation to customers between the GTC and their business location.
Airport, Alamo, National, Enterprise, Fox, and Hertz rent cars from the Long Beach Airport. The Rental Car Center is located a few miles away from the airport, and a rental car shuttle makes regular trips between the two.
At John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, National, and Thrifty all have rental counters inside the arrivals terminal at John Wayne Airport.
Public Transportation From the Airport
Buses, trains, and shuttles are public transportation options depending on which airport you decide to use for your visit. A majority of hotels in the area provide free airport shuttles for their guests (within reason), so be sure to ask about it when you make your reservation. Door-to-door shuttles are a good option when you're traveling longer distances.
From Los Angeles International Airport: Free shuttle bus service is provided from the Aviation Metro Rail Station. Passengers wishing to use this shuttle bus service should wait under the LAX Shuttle & Airline Connections sign on the Lower/Arrival Level islands in front of each terminal, and board the "G" Shuttle. Passengers also can take the "C" Shuttle from the same pick-up point to get to the Metro Bus Center, where they can board city buses serving the Los Angeles area.
Information on city bus services is available on the Information Display Board in the baggage claim area in each terminal. In addition, passengers can obtain local transit information by calling (800) 266-6883.
Two shared ride van companies, PrimeTime Shuttle and SuperShuttle, operate out of LAX and are authorized to serve all Southern California counties. Prices run $20 to $55 per person, depending on your destination.
From Burbank Airport: Metrolink (Mon-Fri only) and Amtrak have a combined station within walking distance of the main terminal (free shuttle also is available). The airport is a stop on MTA (www.mta.net) bus lines and the Burbank Bus, which connects with Downtown Burbank and the Metro Red Line in North Hollywood.
SuperShuttle also operates out of Burbank Airport, as does Primetime and Road Runner, all for $20 to $55 per person depending on destination.
From Ontario Airport: You can pick up an OmniTrans bus to eventually make it downtown or to a MetroLink station, but it's fairly time-consuming.
SuperShuttle, Primetime and LA Xpress Shuttle all operate out of Ontario, with the same $20 to $55 per person fare, although Xpress Shuttle's prices are consistently a few dollars cheaper.
From Long Beach Airport: Long Beach Transit's Route 111 runs between Long Beach Airport and downtown Long Beach and connects with the Metro Blue Line, which will take you into Los Angeles and at the Transit Mall in downtown Long Beach.
Primetime and Roadrunner shuttle companies serve the Long Beach Airport for a cost of $20 to $55 per person.
From Orange County Airport: Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) buses, Routes 76 and 212, service John Wayne Airport. The OCTA bus stop is located on the arrival (lower) level outside of Terminal B.
A number of door-to-door shuttles operate out of John Wayne Airport, including ABC Shuttle, Primetime and SuperShuttle.
Taxis From the Airport
Most cab companies charge flat fees for getting you from the airport to certain locations in and around Los Angeles. Knowing ahead of time how you can get out of the airport and to your destination can make your trip more relaxing. Cabs are a fairly reasonable option when you're traveling short distances.
From Los Angeles International Airport: There are always cabs available at the taxi stand right out in front of the terminal. Typical fares cost about $35 to Hollywood and Downtown LA, $25 to Beverly Hills, $20 to Santa Monica, and $45 to $60 to the Valley and Pasadena, including a $2.50 service charge for rides originating at LAX.
From Burbank Airport: City Cab (818-848-1000) and Yellow Cab (800-305-8294) service Burbank, but there may not always be cabs waiting so you may need to call them. Fares cost about $25 to Hollywood and Downtown, $30 to Beverly Hills, and $35 to Santa Monica.
From Ontario Airport: Travelers can find taxicab service at the curbs outside of the baggage claim areas. All taxicabs must be equipped with a dashboard meter or rate card, which is plainly visible to all passengers in the front and back seats of the vehicle. Service is available on a walk up basis from Bell Cab Company (800-340-8294) and Yellow Cab Company (800-305-8294).
From Long Beach Airport: Long Beach Yellow Cab (562-435-6111) services the airport, with flat fees from the airport to downtown, area hotels, or the Long Beach Convention Center ($19), Long Beach Queen Mary Hotel/Carnival Cruise Terminal ($24), Disneyland or Anaheim Convention Center ($36), San Pedro/Cruise Ships ($36), Los Angeles International Aiport ($49), and Orange County/John Wayne Airport ($49).
From Orange County Airport: John Wayne Airport Yellow Cab Service (800- 535-2211) services the airport. The company charges a metered rate of $2.40 for the first 1/6 mile, plus 40 cents for each additional 1/6 mile, with a 46 cent per minute wait fee.
Rush hour: Whether you rent a car from the airport or drive in to Los Angeles in your own car, make sure you have a map with you, and try to study it a bit before you get behind the wheel. A word to the wise -- the 405 Freeway is notoriously backed up, as is Santa Monica Boulevard, so try to avoid them if you can. Also try to avoid driving during rush hours (7 to 9 am and 4 to 7 pm) if possible.
There are several routes into Los Angeles for those who are taking a road trip. Interstate 5 enters the state from the north, Interstate 10 enters from the east (it begins across the country in Jacksonville, Florida, and ends in Los Angeles), and U.S. 101 is a scenic route that follows the west coast from Los Angeles to the Oregon state line. The California 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) is also an option, but it's the slowest possible route from the north. The advantage, however, is it's an incredibly beautiful drive that hugs the coast and offers plenty of scenic photo ops.
The majority of flights land at Los Angeles International Airport. From the airport, take Sepulveda Boulevard north, and follow the signs to California 1 (Pacific Coast Highway) for Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Malibu.
Take Sepulveda south to California 1 south for Redondo, Hermosa, and Newport Beach. For Beverly Hills or Hollywood, take Century Boulevard out of the airport and get on the 405 north, then exit on Santa Monica Boulevard. East, for Downtown or Pasadena, take Sepulveda Boulevard south, then the 105 East to the 110 North.
Rules of the road: It's really difficult to get around Los Angeles without a car (hence all that traffic and smog). We highly recommend you rent one, unless you're on a very tight budget or have plenty of time and don't mind meandering routes. Unfortunately, as much as the city has been built with the car in mind, driving here is a hassle. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have a map. It's very easy to get twisted around and lost.
Getting Around Town
Public transportation: Public transportation isn't exactly LA's strong suit, but there are a few bright spots. Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus is a great way to get around the beach towns, and taking the MTA Metro to downtown is a fairly smooth process.
The MetroLink trains are also clean, reasonable, and easy ways to get from outlying areas into LA. The city is now pumping much-needed funding into the citywide light-rail system, so there may be a day of smooth public transport in LA yet.
Taxis, on foot, or by bike: Destinations are spread out in Los Angeles, which makes taxis impractical and expensive unless you're going a short distance. Taxis aren't typically circling the block the way they are in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. Unless you're at an airport or a hotel, you'll probably have to call a cab. Some good options are Yellow Cab (562-435-6111) or LA Taxi (213-627-7000).
Within neighborhoods like Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Hermosa, Manhattan, Redondo, and Silver Lake, the best way to discover all the area has to offer is to wander around on foot, or bike between neighborhoods (from Hermosa to Manhattan or Venice to Santa Monica is no big deal). Ambitious bicyclists can stick to the oceanfront routes for a long and pretty ride.
Los Angeles is famous for its attractions and special events, including the ever-popular Disneyland. On the next page, read about the things to see and do while visiting Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Special Events & Attractions
Between its multicultural population, its history as a center of entertainment, and its natural surroundings, Los Angeles has special events and attractions for everyone. Outdoor enthusiasts can walk, run, bike, or skate along the waterfront, hike in the hills, and kayak or swim in the ocean.
There are dozens of sporting events going on all the time in Los Angeles, including the university teams and the pro teams. Everyone can enjoy the city's revolving schedule of cultural events, from the dozens of TV screenings scheduled daily to LA's fashion week to neighborhood events like the Cherry Blossom Festival each spring in Little Tokyo. For younger visitors, or the young at heart, there are also two of the country's most iconic amusement parks -- Disneyland and Hollywood Studios.
Chances are, you're not going to have time to cram it all in, but with a little planning and a good map, you should be able to catch a glimpse of why so many people put up with that traffic.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Los Angeles
Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Los Angeles
Most visitors to Los Angeles are at least mildly intrigued by its celebrity quotient, if not totally obsessed. For some, it's enough to be part of the live studio audience at The Tonight Show, others can hang out at the Mobil Three-Star Chateau Marmont (8221 Sunset Blvd) hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the hotel's revolving list of celebrity guests. This is the go-to place for celebrity interviews (pay attention next time you're reading one of those celebrity profiles -- 8 out of 10 include a reference to meeting at the Chateau), and even those not staying here like to hang out at the bar or pool.
Disneyland (1313 Harbor Blvd) is still a magical place, even after all these years, in fact, maybe because of all these years. There's a charming nostalgia to it that you just don't get at Disney World in Florida. Be sure to check out Pirates of the Caribbean, the only amusement park ride to ever inspire a movie and not the other way around.
Universal Studios Hollywood (100 Universal City Plaza, just north of downtown Los Angeles) is also good fun, especially if you're at all interested in seeing how a movie set operates. For a bit more realistic view, try the two-hour tour of Paramount Studios (5555 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood). Although other studios offer tours as well, Paramount is the only studio still operating in Hollywood, and it's been at the same location for several decades, so it's has a more historical vibe than the others. Just $35, they really do take you behind the scenes, so the tour changes daily depending on what's taping. If you haven't spotted a celebrity on the tour, head to the studio's commissary for lunch -- actually, head there anyway for its historical value and good food, the celebrities are just icing on the cake.
There are plenty of cheesy tourist attractions along Hollywood Boulevard, but the only two really worth checking out, mostly for their history, are Grauman's Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Blvd) and the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Ave). Even for locals it's hard to resist doing the tourist thing and seeing which star's hands are most similar to yours.
Other fun spots for a lively afternoon include Chinatown (900 N Broadway), especially during Chinese New Year, which usually begins in late January and lasts a month and Little Tokyo (1st St between Main and San Pedro Sts, Los Angeles) during the Cherry Blossom Festival.
Finally, every kid who grew up within a 100-mile radius of LA remembers field trips to the Los Angeles Zoo (5333 Zoo Drive), the Griffith Observatory (2800 E Observatory Rd), and the La Brea Tar Pits (5801 Wilshire Blvd). The zoo is a nice place to wander around, even if you're not so into zoos. They've done a good job making the animals comfortable in as close to their natural habitat as possible, and the zoo is full of big wide shade trees that keep it relatively cool.
Griffith Park (4730 Crystal Springs Dr) itself is worth seeing, especially for hikers, who will appreciate its 53 miles of hiking trails, streams, and sweeping views of the city. The Griffith Park Observatory, housed in a cool 1930s dome-shaped building, is a perfect spot to head at sunset for great views followed by star-gazing (hard to come by in smoggy LA).
The La Brea Tar Pits are a bizarre and interesting phenomenon -- these pools of hot tar bubbling up from the Earth's surface have been trapping thirsty animals (bubbling in the sun, they look like water) for thousands of years, making them the world's best known site for Ice Age fossils. Through windows at the onsite Page Museum Laboratory, visitors can watch bones being cleaned and repaired. Outside the museum and next to the tar pits in Hancock Park, life-size replicas of several extinct mammals are featured.
Blinded by all the glitz and glamour LA has to offer, you might forget to look for the city's arts-and-culture scene. Keep reading for our guide to arts and culture in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Arts & Culture
Given its reputation as a fame-obsessed beach town, Los Angeles has a surprising number of quality art museums and galleries. In order to beef up attendance and give the area's thousands of struggling actors, artists, writers, musicians, and students a break, many of them offer free admission all the time or on certain days of the week or month. West Hollywood and Silver Lake are home to quite a few local galleries, and others, like the Brewery Project, are scattered throughout the city.
The large supply of actors in Los Angeles means a packed theater schedule of top-quality performances run throughout the city's theaters, including both up-and-coming actors and very well-known film stars. Theaters run the gamut from old and established like the Pasadena Playhouse to newer and modern like the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.
The world-class Los Angeles Philharmonic plays in the stunning new Frank-Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Los Angeles Opera performs inventive takes on the classics at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Los Angeles
Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Los Angeles
This city is fantastic for museum lovers, with several great museums at bargain prices. The Museum of Contemporary Art always has something interesting for modern art fans at one of its three locations (250 South Grand Ave and 152 North Central Ave downtown, and the Pacific Design Center at 8687 Melrose Ave in West Hollywood). Admission is free from 5 to 8pm Thursdays.
With more than 100,000 works, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Blvd) is the largest encyclopedic museum west of Chicago. The museum's exhibits run the gamut from European masterpieces to a major Islamic art collection to cutting-edge contemporary art from around the world. Admission is always free after 5 pm. The museum is open until 8 pm every day except Friday, when they're open until 9 pm, and Wednesday, when the museum is closed. The museum is open all day on the second Tuesday of each month.
Admission to the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (1200 Getty Center Dr) is always free. It's worth paying the $7 parking fee, though, to see the Getty collection and the stunning center.
The Hammer Museum at UCLA is free throughout the summer, and on Thursdays the rest of the year, making it one of the best deals going in LA. Admission is $5 for adults the rest of the time. Their permanent collection houses a little bit of everything from art's past like Picasso drawings, Impressionist paintings, and a 19th century sculpture. Their exhibitions range from post-Impressionist paintings to graffiti murals.
The Norton Simon Museum of Art (411 W Colorado Blvd, Pasadena) displays a wide selection of European, American, and Asian art. Make sure to visit its 14th to 16th century European paintings, 19th century impressionists, and 20th century American artists. If you have time, check out the showcase of recent gifts in the New Acquisitions exhibit.
In addition to the museums, galleries like the Institute of Contemporary Art (5514 Wilshire Blvd), Brewery Arts Complex (676 South Ave 21, No. 33), Kiyo Higashi Gallery (8332 Melrose Ave), La Luz de Jesus (4633 Hollywood Blvd), Louis Stern Fine Arts (9002 Melrose Ave), and the Silver Lake Society of Authentic Arts (1085 N Manzanita St) exhibit quality art from both the masters and emerging local talents.
There are also some excellent theaters in Los Angeles, some of which double as architectural landmarks, like the Pantages Theater (6233 Hollywood Blvd) in Hollywood, the Orpheum Theater (842 S Broadway) downtown, and the Pasadena Playhouse (39 S. El Molino Ave). Other theaters known for their great productions include the Geffen Playhouse (10886 Le Conte Ave) in Westwood, and the Ahmanson Theater and the Mark Taper Forum (both located at 135 North Grand Ave,) in downtown.
Los Angeles is a city with some daring and forward-thinking architecture, including historical landmarks and buildings designed by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry. On the next page, learn more about LA's architecture and landmarks.
Los Angeles Architecture & Landmarks
Despite all those ugly strip malls, Los Angeles is an architectural gold mine. With films and TV shows shooting daily in the city's streets, LA has always been open to making its urban landscape more interesting. And it doesn't hurt that there are a whole lot of people with serious cash to throw at the design of their homes.
Los Angeles is all over the map architecturally, which makes it a very fun place for architecture and design fans to explore. You can spot Mission-style homes, Art Deco theaters, high-rises downtown, mid-century modern homes in the hills, and huge post-modern architectural icons like the Getty Center and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Los Angeles
Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles' El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument (125 Paseo de la Plaza) features several Spanish Mission-style historical buildings around a plaza. The focal point of the area, which is now officially a protected State Park, is the Avila Adobe, the city's oldest building, off of which runs Olvera Street, a pedestrian street full of mariachi bands, Mexican food and craft stands, and folk dancing.
In typical LA fashion, just around the corner from El Pueblo are some of the city's well-known examples of Art Deco architecture -- the movie palaces of Broadway, including the classic Orpheum Theater (842 S Broadway). And of course, just a few blocks away is the new Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Center (111 South Grand Ave), a building that managed to satisfy its seemingly unreachable expectations.
Hollywood is home to several more classic movie palaces, including the infamous Grauman's Chinese Theater (6925 Hollywood Blvd), the Egyptian Theater (6712 Hollywood Blvd), and the groovy Pantages Theater (6233 Hollywood Blvd).
Several homes in LA are architectural landmarks, including gems designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Eero Saarinen, and R.M. Schindler. The MAK Center for Art and Architecture (835 N Kings Rd, West Hollywood) is housed in the home Schindler designed for himself, making it a great place to start getting acquainted with modern LA architecture. There are also a handful of tour companies that run architectural tours of Los Angeles, including tours of the classic Neutra, Geary, Wright, et al homes.
Avila Adobe (10 Olvera St) is the oldest existing house in Los Angeles. The home, built in 1820, was damaged in an earthquake in 1971, then restored to become an example to honor Los Angeles' Hispanic heritage. Having been built in 1884, The Old Plaza Firehouse (134 Paseo de la Plaza) was the city's first firehouse and has recently been restored and turned into a museum of photographs and firefighting equipment from the 19th century.
And of course, you can't forget the 1950s-era Southern California beach-boardwalk-meets-diner kitsch. Los Angeles is full of these little gems, most notably the Tail o' the Pup (329 North San Vicente Blvd) hot dog-shaped hot dog stand in Beverly Hills, and Randy's Donuts (805 West Manchester) with its huge doughnut-shaped sign in Inglewood near the Los Angeles International Airport.
Of course, you can't visit Los Angeles without a trip to Rodeo Drive. Keep reading to learn more about LA's upscale shopping scene.
Los Angeles Shopping
From local boutiques to the country's best known upscale shopping district -- Rodeo Drive -- Los Angeles has something for every type of shopper. As the local Fashion Week gains more credibility, local designers are sticking around instead of running off to New York, which has made for an increase in local designer boutiques over the last few years. Of course, LA is known best for its casual wear and you can still find plenty of it, from hundreds of jean brands to swimsuits all year-round.
The Silver Lake and Echo Park kids find their hip threads at any number of thrift, vintage, and cutting-edge boutiques throughout the city, and many a squeal-worthy treasure can be found at some of LA's best flea markets. Like everything else in LA, it's a good idea to plan your shopping trip by neighborhood. Each neighborhood tends to offer a different sort of shopping experience, and luckily there are several neighborhoods with dozens of boutiques to choose from, so you don't have to spend half the day in your car getting from one shop to another.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Los Angeles
Beverly Hills is not all Rodeo Drive (between Santa Monica and Wilshire Blvds) and the Beverly Center (8500 Beverly Blvd). Those spots are there for people who have money to burn and, to be honest, for the people who want to brag about shopping there. Most people in LA, if they have mega-Rodeo-Drive-bucks, cruise a couple blocks north to Robertson Boulevard and shop at Madison (115 South Robertson Blvd), Lisa Kline (136 South Robertson Blvd), Kitson (115 South Robertson Blvd) and Curve (154 North Robertson Blvd).
Meanwhile, just a few blocks east, West LA's Third Street Shopping District (not to be confused with the Third Street Promenade, we'll get to that in a minute), has enough shops to keep even the biggest shopaholic busy for an entire day. From unusual shoes at Inago (8364 West 3rd St) to beautiful housewares at OK (8303 West 3rd St) to a handful of designer boutiques like Meg (8362 West 3rd St) and catch-all boutiques like Milk (8209 West 3rd St), Third Street is one-stop shopping for all things cool and tasteful.
When you're done with the boutiques, head to the Original Los Angeles Farmer's Market (6333 West 3rd St) for excellent souvenirs, food, and people watching. In addition to the produce, meat, and cheese vendors, there are a number of dining options, a couple of bars, and dozens of specialty shops. Usually packed with people (but in a good way), this is an excellent place to spend an afternoon soaking in the friendly chatter of LA.
Head north from 3rd Street to reach the shopping Mecca of West Hollywood. In between all the galleries on Melrose Avenue, you'll find some of the city's best vintage clothing (Decades 1 & 2 -- 8214 Melrose Ave; Resurrection Vintage -- 8006 Melrose Ave; Cherry West -- 8250 Santa Monica Blvd; and Wasteland -- 7428 Melrose Ave) bordered by small boutiques selling everything from unique, cutting-edge fashions to skate gear (Supreme -- 439 Fairfax Ave) to really cool stationery (Soolip Paperie and Press, 8646 Melrose Ave).
East of Beverly Hills and south of Hollywood, La Brea offers more than just their famous tar pits. The area's central street, La Brea Avenue, is dotted with some of LA's best home design stores, including Rewire (442 N La Brea Ave), which sells super-cool refurbished vintage lighting fixtures.
To the east, the hipster triumvirate comprised of Los Feliz, Silver Lake and Echo Park is loaded with stores, and probably the best place to get something a little edgy in Los Angeles. Lots of local designers set up shop here, because what the cool kids wear here tends to dictate fashion in the rest of the city. Not to be missed in this area are Steinberg & Sons (4712 Franklin Ave, Los Feliz), Show Pony (1543 Echo Park Ave, Echo Park), and The Circle (2395 Glendale Blvd, Silver Lake).
Near the beaches, Santa Monica and Venice Beach have plenty of shopping between them to eat up a day. Fred Segal (500 Broadway) is a must-see, as much for the layout and the scene as the actual stock, although that's all good too -- nationally and internationally known labels, and some great up-and-coming designers as well.
They also have a West Hollywood location on Melrose. In Santa Monica, shopping is on and around Third Street, Ocean Park Boulevard, and Montana. In Venice, most of the shops are on Abbot Kinney. Manhattan Beach also has some small quiet boutiques worth checking out if you've got time and energy left at the end of the day.
As you might expect, Los Angeles nightlife is incredibly diverse and offers something for everyone, from orchestra and ballet performances to classy clubs where you might spot a celebrity or two. Keep reading to learn more about LA's nightlife and entertainment.
Los Angeles Nightlife & Entertainment
Los Angeles nightlife runs the gamut from bars to the most exclusive velvet rope experience available. Bar hopping is best in West Hollywood, Silver Lake, Venice Beach, and the Manhattan/Hermosa Beach area, as these are the only areas where there are multiple bars within walking distance of each other. On the club front, there's a huge variety, from the big, but sometimes cheesy clubs on Sunset to casual, sleek clubs like celeb-favorite Element (1642 Las Palmas Ave) in Hollywood.
On the music front, LA has a long and storied musical past, and is still regarded as a major music hub on the West Coast. From live local bands in the bars around Silver Lake to internationally renowned orchestras, ballets, and pop acts at UCLA's Royce Hall, and big-name acts at the Hollywood Bowl and the Greek Theatre, you can catch a wide variety of live music any night of the week in LA.
For a different kind of night out, this is also a great city for catching a comedy show. You can visit one of the clubs where some of the country's best comics got their starts and heckle the next Belushi.
The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Los Angeles
The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Los Angeles
The latest "it" (read: celebrity) hangout changes every six months or so in LA, but it also really depends on the night -- different nights are put together and promoted by different people, which means your favorite club one night could be your worst nightmare the next.
Nights also change fairly regularly, and some promoters float between a few different venues, so it gets pretty hard to keep track of after awhile.
For the moment, young Hollywood likes to stage their dance-offs at Element (1642 Las Palmas Ave) in Hollywood, be seen at LAX (1714 Las Palmas Ave), Privilege (8117 W Sunset Blvd), or Mood (6623 Hollywood Blvd), lounge and swill at Hyde Lounge (8029 W Sunset Blvd), pretend they hate being famous at the Golden Gopher (417 W 8th St) and Holly's West (2460 Wilshire Blvd), and watch burlesque at Ivan Kane's Forty Deuce (5574 Melrose Ave).
These are all fun places when and if you get in, but they require a lot of effort that some people just aren't willing to put into a night out. The other 3 million-plus folks in the city check out cool up-and-coming bands at Spaceland (1717 Silver Lake Blvd) in Silver Lake. They also attend the bigger music shows at the Hollywood Bowl (2301 N Highland Ave), The Greek Theatre (2700 N Vermont Ave), or Royce Hall (100 Royce Hall).
Experience some great stand-up acts at The Comedy Store (8433 W Sunset Blvd) or sketch comedy at The Groundlings Theater (7303 Melrose Ave).
Check out one of the city's popular burlesque clubs or the Mexican-wrestling-match-meets-cabaret extravaganza that is Lucha Va-Voom at The Mayan (1038 South Hill St).
Between its beaches, golf courses, and elegant spas, Los Angeles is a great place to get away from it all. On the next page, read our guide to relaxing and unwinding in Los Angeles.
Relaxing and Unwinding in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is big, busy, sprawling and crowded -- the only way people here deal with it is their ability to kick back and relax. For some "relax" means spa time, and there's plenty of opportunity for that here in the land of beautiful people.
For others, a day on the beach or out on the water is more than enough to soothe nerves riled up by traffic jams. And through it all, there's plenty of cafes, beachfront towns, and lounges to submerse yourself in LA's famous casual vibe.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Los Angeles
Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Los Angeles
Unlike a lot of cities on beaches, some of Los Angeles' finest stretches of sand aren't outside the city at all. Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach are great, Venice Beach is a good bet for both relaxing and people watching, and there are dozens of beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu that are ideally suited to a lazy beach day. One caveat with Malibu: traffic and parking can sometimes be a nightmare if you don't get an early start.
For the rejuvenating effects of a spa without the star prices, locals head south toward Orange County to hit the hot springs at Glen Ivy Natural Outdoor Hotsprings and Day Spa (25000 Glen Ivy Rd, Corona). For just $35, you have access to all of the hot springs pools, sauna, steam rooms, Roman baths, red clay mud bath, and Wafa. Additional services (facials, scrubs, and massage are highly recommended after a soak in the hot springs) are available for additional fees ($55 - $145). Bring towels and an old bathing suit if you plan on doing the red clay mud bath, and just relax.
For a more upscale spa experience, you should visit the Mobil Four-Star Spa at the Peninsula Beverly Hills (9882 South Santa Monica Blvd). On the garden retreat rooftop surrounded by ten private cabanas, a Jacuzzi, and a 60-foot lap pool, the spa at the Peninsula offers a wide range of wraps, scrubs, massages, and facials in a beautiful setting at one of the best hotels in the city.
In addition to its beaches, most out-of-towners forget that Los Angeles also has quite a few parks that are excellent places to wile away an afternoon. The 160-acre Descanso Gardens (1418 Descanso Dr) is a great place to relax and unwind, strolling along wooded paths bordered by streams, a bird sanctuary, and acre after acre of beautiful flowers, including more than 100,000 camellias. The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens (301 N Baldwin Ave), though slightly less subtle and tranquil, is similarly relaxing.
As a fitting end to a relaxing day, grab afternoon tea on the terrace of the Greystone Mansion (905 Loma Vista Dr). The grand dame of Beverly Hills mansions and the site of many a film and TV screening, the Greystone is worth a visit just to take a wander around the amazing house and grounds, but the tea on the terrace is a luxurious bonus. Served one Saturday per month from May to August at 4 pm at a cost of $43 for non-Beverly-Hills-residents, it's actually a steal for what you get; live musical entertainment, a tour of the first floor, and an unbeatable ambience.
Those interested in losing themselves on the links can head to the Tijeras Creek Golf Club (29082 Tijeras Creek, Rancho Santa Margarita) for a 16-hole, 172-yard, par-three course that requires a quick shot over water to a green guarded by bunkers. The Tustin Ranch Golf Club (12442 Tustin Ranch Rd, Tustin) is an 18-hole public course that offers caddies and a helpful staff that will fetch you food or drinks during a round on a hot day.
LA is a big town with an awful lot of sights and attractions to pack into your visit. If you'd rather not strike out on your own in Los Angeles, keep reading for our guide to organized tours.
Los Angeles Organized Tours Overview
So much land to cover, so little time…and too much driving! Let someone else deal with traffic on a tour of Los Angeles. Because there's so much ground to cover, the best tours are those that focus on a specific aspect of the city. Architecture Tours LA does a great job of showing off LA's architectural gems.
The Los Angeles Conservancy (523 W Sixth St) provides a wide variety and some of the best downtown walking tours of historic buildings, streets (like Olvera St), and old movie palaces.
Starline Tours will offer peeks at celebrity homes and hangouts, which is its specialty. The company started the star tours with the very first movie star tours, which is still available. Los Angeles Tours is a great guide for those who want to see as much of the city as possible in a short amount of time.
Not sure where to stay while visiting LA? Keep reading for our guide to Los Angeles hotels and lodging.
Los Angeles Hotels Guide
The best places to stay in Los Angeles are in Santa Monica, West Hollywood, on the West Side (Beverly Hills), and in the West 3rd Street area.
Downtown Los Angeles has a few great hotels as well. The Standard (550 South Flower), The Hotel Figueroa (939 S. Figueroa), the Mobil Three-Star Chateau Marmont (8221 W Sunset Blvd), the Mobil Five-Star Beverly Hills Hotel (9641 Sunset Blvd), the Mobil Five-Star Peninsula Beverly Hills (9882 South Santa Monica Blvd), and the Mobil Five-Star Hotel Bel Air (701 Stone Canyon Rd) are all superb examples and worth every penny.
The Farmer's Daughter Hotel (115 S Fairfax Ave) is an excellent option in the 3rd St./Miracle Mile part of town. In notoriously expensive Santa Monica, Cal Mar (220 California Ave) offers an alternative to the pricey hotels of the area: a garden apartment. Further south in Venice, the Inn at Venice Beach (327 Washington Blvd) offers clean, affordable rooms in a quiet residential area.
Los Angeles is famous for its fine dining, and you can find plenty of great burger joints there, too. Keep reading to learn more about Los Angeles restaurants.
Los Angeles Restaurants Guide
Though it lacks the culinary cred of San Francisco or New York, Los Angeles has plenty of good eats to offer. The city's ethnic and cultural mix makes for a great variety of cuisines, plus there's the ever-present chance that you'll end up eating dinner next to someone you just read about in a magazine.
For the best-known restaurants (especially those that celebrities are known to eat at), be sure to reserve a table well in advance (at least two weeks). Otherwise, there are hundreds of fantastic neighborhood restaurants and charming joints waiting to feed you. Just remember that, apart from the all-night diners, restaurants in LA stop serving by 9:30 or 10 pm.
Mobil Three-Star Koi (730 N La Cienega Blvd) is an infamous celeb favorite, serving up terrific sushi and Asian fusion cuisine in a zen-inspired dining room. Reservations are required well in advance. If you go, the sushi and sashimi are amazing, as are the tuna tartar appetizer and the grilled tiger prawns. A few meat and vegetarian dishes are available for those who aren't into seafood.
Happy hour tapas and margarita deals are two great reasons to make your way to the Mobil Two-Star Border Grill (1445 4th St) in Santa Monica. Try the poblano quesadilla, any of the ceviches. If you're a fan of tamales, they're also great here.
Father's Office (1018 Montana Ave) is rumored to have the best burger in Los Angeles. Most people love their sweet fries and many agree on the "best burger" status, but some find their insistence on that fact a little pretentious (they're so certain they've got the perfect combination of ingredients that there's no ketchup allowed, and they put blue cheese on every burger). Many prefer The Counter's (2901 Ocean Park Blvd) burger (or burger salad, if you're doing the no-carb thing), which they can top with their own choice of four items.
In the lobby of the Farmer's Daughter Hotel (115 S Fairfax Ave), TART serves up an excellent brunch (Crab Mac 'n' Cheese -- plus an outstanding Bloody Mary if you're so inclined), as well as lunch and dinner daily in a hip setting. Their bar is also very popular with locals.
Cheap, tasty Cuban food at the Mobil One-Star Versailles (1415 S La Cienega Blvd) is a local favorite, which explains the usual wait for a table. Their portions (and their menu) are huge, and everything comes with black beans, rice, onions, and fried plantains. The roasted pork and roasted chicken are the specialties of the house, but they also do a mean Cubano (a grilled sub sandwich stuffed with ham, roast pork, cheese, and pickle).
Mobil Three-Star Spago Beverly Hills (176 N Canon Dr) is a great place to watch celebrities as you dine on sophisticated American cuisine prepared with European and Asian influences. For an appetizer, try the foie gras three ways -- with a crawfish salad, savory duck, or Cantonese style with a citrus tang. For a main course, try the slow-roasted Sonoma lamb with braised greens or the spicy beef goulash.
Weekend brunch at Mobil Two-Star The Raymond Restaurant (1250 S Fair Oaks Ave) in Pasadena is a must. Housed in the caretaker's cottage of what was once the Raymond Hotel, the restaurant is as charming as the brunch menu is delicious (homemade apple fritters!). If you can't make it over for brunch, dinner is equally as tasty (try the lobster crepes), and the dining room takes on a romantic feel at night.
If you're looking for breakfast in Pasadena on a weekday, try Marston's (151 E Walnut St), a charming little breakfast cottage and local favorite, serving up delicious Macadamia nut pancakes and inventive omelets.
In the West 3rd Street area, try BLD (7450 Beverly Blvd) for an inventive and tasty breakfast, lunch, or dinner (see where they got their name?), in a warm yet modern space. Where else can you get a perfect pork shank and poached eggs for breakfast? Started by the couple responsible for the terrific foodie-favorite Mobil Three-Star Grace, just up a block on Beverly (7360 Beverly Blvd), BLD offers the same approach to food, but in a more casual setting, for more reasonable prices.
With so much to do in Los Angeles, you'll want to manage your time there well. On the next page, we've created several suggested itineraries to help you get the most out of your visit to Los Angeles.
Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Los Angeles
With so many things to do in Los Angeles, from the famous Grauman's Chinese Theater to Rodeo Drive and Disneyland, you might have a hard time fitting in everything. In this section, we've put together suggested itineraries that will help you hit the highlights in your areas of interest, including special events and attractions, arts and culture, architecture and landmarks, shopping, nightife and entertainment, and relaxing and unwinding.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Los Angeles
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Los Angeles
Los Angeles' attractions are world-famous -- who could visit LA without a trip to Disneyland or the Hollywood Walk of Fame? Here are some ideas for taking in LA's must-see attractions:
1 day: Narrowing it all down to one day is going to be tough, but we'll have to start in Hollywood. Wander around Grauman's Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Blvd) and the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Ave) in the morning before heading to Paramount Studios (5555 Melrose Ave) for their studio tour. After the tour, have lunch in the studio's commissary.
In the afternoon, you can head over to Venice Beach (Pacific and Windward Aves, Venice) for some beach time and primo people watching. You may even spot an Arnold Schwarzenegger look-alike pumping iron on the beach.
In the evening, head down to Santa Monica for a little shopping, dinner at one of a dozen great restaurants and a walk on the classic Santa Monica Pier (Ocean and Colorado Aves). Built in 1908, the pier still has an old-time feel, helped along by its 1950s-ish amusement park (with a solar-powered Ferris wheel that reveals its modern roots). During the summer there are live concerts most nights, but this is a great spot for a stroll any night of the year.
2 days: Head to the Mobil One-Star Uncle Bill's Pancake House (1305 Highland Ave) in Manhattan Beach for breakfast, and walk off the blueberry pancakes or bacon-cheddar waffle on the beachside path between Manhattan and Hermosa Beach. When you get to Hermosa, relax and lounge on the beach for awhile, then hop in the car and head downtown to check out El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument and Olvera Street (125 Paseo de la Plaza). At night, you should visit the Standard Hotel (550 South Flower at 6th St) for dinner and stay for drinks at their hip rooftop bar.
3 days: Start off at Griffith Park (4730 Crystal Springs Dr) for a morning hike and beautiful views of the city, then make your way to Disneyland (1313 Harbor Blvd) to celebrate your inner child. If you're not exhausted by evening, head to West Hollywood for dinner at the Mobil Three-Star Koi (730 N La Cienega Blvd), which serves up excellent Asian fusion cuisine and a good chance of spotting celebrities. If you still have energy after that, spend the rest of the evening checking out the West Hollywood bar scene.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Los Angeles
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Los Angeles
Los Angeles has many museums and music venues you won't want to miss, if that's your cup of tea. Here are a few suggested itineraries for checking out LA's arts-and-culture scene.
1 day: Begin the day at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and hit both downtown locations (250 South Grand Ave and 152 North Central Ave), then head to the Brewery Arts Complex (676 South Ave 21, No. 33), pausing at the Mobil One-Star Philippe the Original (1001 N Alameda St) for a tasty lunch. You should try the French dipped sandwich or tomato bisque, if the specialty soup is offered on the menu.
Catch the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (111 S Grand Ave). If classical music isn't your bag, opt for a show at the Orpheum Theater (842 S Broadway), or the Ahmanson Theater or the Mark Taper Forum (both located at 135 North Grand Ave). If you have time before or after, grab a drink at the Mountain Bar (475 Gin Ling Way) in Chinatown, a hip little bar whose mosaic floor was designed by renowned local artist Jorge Pardo.
2 days: Grab coffee and head to the Hollywood Bowl (2301 N Highland Ave), where you can catch that week's act rehearsing live for free, then head over to West Hollywood to check out Kiyo Higashi Gallery (8332 Melrose Ave) and Louis Stern Fine Arts (9002 Melrose Ave) as well as several other galleries on Melrose.
When it's time for lunch, you should go to the Mobil Two-Star Musso & Frank Grill (6667 Hollywood Blvd), Hollywood's oldest restaurant, which is equal parts restaurant and museum. William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and Orson Welles all used to swill their legendary bone-dry martinis there. Act like a regular by ordering the flannel cakes, crepe-thin pancakes flipped to order, and either sit at the counter or request Table 1 in the West Room, which was actor Charlie Chaplin's regular table. After lunch hit the galleries in Silver Lake, but don't forget La Luz de Jesus (4633 Hollywood Blvd) for entertaining, counter-culture gifts and art.
3 days: Make it a Getty Day. Start out at the Getty Villa in Malibu in the morning (17985 Pacific Coast Highway) for amazing views, stunning architecture, and Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. Admission is free, but you'll need to schedule a ticket online.
In the afternoon, head to the Getty Center (1200 Getty Center Dr) to check out both the Richard Meier-designed building and the huge J. Paul Getty collection of Impressionist paintings, preserved ancient manuscripts, antique French furniture, contemporary photography, and graphic arts. If you get hungry, request a table at the Mobil Two-Star Restaurant Getty Center located on the property. Amid the property's marble and limestone courtyards, the restaurant's sleek and modern dining room is a good place to order the creamy lobster risotto or chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and shiitake mushrooms. The restaurant's glass walls and high ceilings make this a prime location for a panoramic view of Los Angeles and the Santa Monica mountains as you enjoy your meal.
In the evening, head over to Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Blvd) for their "Free after Five" program and spend the last few hours of a busy day wandering through their expansive galleries.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries
for Architecture & Landmarks in Los Angeles
for Architecture & Landmarks in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a town of diverse architecture, from historic landmarks and Art Deco buildings to the unusual Walt Disney Concert Hall. Here are some itineraries to consider if you're interested in LA's landmarks and architecture:
1 day: Take a free tour of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument (125 Paseo de la Plaza) in the morning, then spend some time downtown scoping out Art Deco high-rises like the famed Bradbury Building (304 S Broadway), the Orpheum Theater (842 S Broadway), the Walt Disney Concert Hall (111 South Grand Ave), and Poet's Walk (7th and Figueroa). Developers in downtown Los Angeles are required to give 1 percent of the cost of any new building to fund public art, and Poet's Walk -- a collection of public sculptures and poems -- is a result of that requirement.
While in town, check out one of the city's latest additions to the architectural treasure trove, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels (555 West Temple St), a contemporary masterpiece that opened in 2002. In the afternoon, make your way to Hollywood to check out the Egyptian Theater (6712 Hollywood Blvd) and the Pantages Theater (6233 Hollywood Blvd). While in Hollywood you'll see the Capitol Records Tower (1750 N Vine St) looming overhead -- apparently the light on the tower spells out Hollywood in Morse code.
A quick sunset drive up into the Hollywood Hills will take you to Frank Lloyd Wright's famed Freeman House (1962 Glencoe Way), a 1924 experiment in mass-produced affordable housing (though ironically nothing with Wright's name on it is anywhere near affordable now). An interesting fact: The Freeman House was the first ever to use glass-to-glass corner windows.
2 days: In the morning, hop in the car for a drive over to Pasadena to check out The Gamble House (4 Westmoreland Place), a meticulously restored 1908 example of Arts and Crafts architecture, designed by Greene and Greene. Tours through the house are available for $10; they last one hour and depart every 15 minutes, Thursday through Sunday from noon to 3 pm. Tickets for the tour go on sale the day of, starting at 10 am at the bookstore. We highly recommend you get there at 10 am sharp to book your tour as tickets go quickly.
Once you've secured your ticket, browse through the bookstore, and grab breakfast before the tour. If you're there on the weekend, brunch at the Mobil Two-Star Raymond (1250 S Fair Oaks Ave) is a must. It's housed in the caretaker's cottage of what was once the Raymond Hotel and the restaurant is as charming as the brunch menu is delicious (be sure to try the homemade apple fritters).
If you're in the area on a weekday, try Marston's (151 E Walnut St), a charming little breakfast cottage and local favorite that serves up delicious Macadamia nut pancakes and inventive omelets.
After the tour, make your way over to West Hollywood, and straight to the MAK Center for Art and Architecture (835 N Kings Rd, West Hollywood) to ooh and aah at the house, scope out its current exhibition, and browse through their bookstore.
Next stop is the Pacific Design Center (8687 Melrose Ave), which is affiliated with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). The Pacific Design Center is a huge complex of furniture and design showrooms for interior designers. Unfortunately, the public cannot access the showrooms, however, there's also a free MoCA gallery in the center with a great bookstore.
It's worth a visit just to see the building, designed by architect Cesar Pelli, and to have lunch at Astra West, renowned chef Charlie Palmer's beautiful restaurant and event space on the third floor. It's open only for lunch and private parties, and the space is as well regarded for its interiors and its food. The restaurant's interior is so trendy that it's been used as a backdrop for a few music videos. The turkey and Brie on walnut raisin bread sandwich is good, and the farfalle with shrimp, mascarpone, prosciutto, and sugar snap peas is sensational.
3 days: Arrange a tour with Architecture Tours LA for the morning (morning tours depart at 9:30 am). It offers several neighborhood tours, each highlights from 50 up to 90 sites, including homes and buildings designed by IM Pei, Frank Gehry, RM Schindler, Richard Neutra, Richard Meier, and Frank Lloyd Wright. They also offer a special Frank Gehry tour that lasts four to five hours and covers a whole lot of ground.
When the tour is finished, head over to Santa Monica to check out the classic Santa Monica Pier (Ocean and Colorado aves) and its solar-powered Ferris wheel. The "Walk on LA," a giant stamp that makes interesting imprints in the sand on the beach next to the pier, is available thanks to Carl Cheng, who created it as a public art installation in 1988.
While you're in Santa Monica, check out Hennessy & Ingalls Bookstore (214 Wilshire Blvd) for a fantastic collection of architecture books. By now you're probably hungry again, so head to Frank Gehry's favorite lunch spot, Delicious Cafe (12531 Beatrice St), recently opened in the bottom corner of his office building in West LA. Gehry asked his favorite caterer to open and man the cafe to give his employees and others in the area a healthy place to eat during the day. You should try the barbecued brisket of beef with a roll or the spicy peanut lo mein salad served over charred green beans.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Shopping in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is famous for its ritzy shopping, but there's more to LA shopping than just Rodeo Drive. Consider these itineraries to get the most out of your shopping time while visiting Los Angeles:
1 day: Do your best Julia Roberts impression and cruise down Rodeo Drive just for laughs, then head north to Robertson and shop where the stars do. Madison (115 South Robertson Blvd) is filled with row after row of top quality, high-end clothes, cashmere and shoes. Worth trying on, even if you can't afford them.
If Madison is old Hollywood money, Kitson (115 South Robertson Blvd) is all about the new, Jessica Simpson-style of Hollywood. The store carries several variations on this week's must-have jeans, plus Juicy Couture sweats in every color, the latest trendy bags and T-shirts, and of course, kitten heels.
Another young Hollywood favorite, Lisa Kline (136 South Robertson Blvd) stocks every "it" item of the moment, but is slightly less bubbly and garish than Kitson. Next, head east to Third Street to check out home accessories at OK (8303 West 3rd St), new and vintage fashions at Polka Dots and Moonbeams (8381 West 3rd St) and Hillary Rush (8222 W. 3rd St), super cool and hard-to-find shoes at Inago (8364 West 3rd St), a variety of local and international designer clothes at Milk (8209 West 3rd St), impeccable menswear at Douglas Fir (8311 West 3rd St), or whimsical elegant designs of Meghan Kinney at Meg (8362 West 3rd St).
At the end of the day, head to Loehmann's (333 South La Cienega), and score that fabulous dress you just saw in Madison for half the price.
In the evening, refuel after shopping at the Original Los Angeles Farmer's Market (6333 West 3rd St), where you can choose from dozens of great local eateries and take home a few specialty items for souvenirs. It's open every day of the week.
2 days: Head to the coast, start at Santa Monica and work your way toward Venice and Manhattan Beach. Grab your morning coffee at the Fred Segal Cafe (500 Broadway) and then revel in the LA-ness of the eponymous story. Lots of celebrities shop here, so keep an eye out; the store's layout is unique, and they have been known to "make" more than one up-and-coming designer. Every year in late September/early October they have a huge blow-out sale.
Wander a few blocks west to the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian shopping district, and check out the quirky high-end toys at Kid Robot (1407 3rd St Promenade), beautiful art and photography books at Arcana Books on the Arts (1229 3rd St Promenade), the uber-cool mod furniture at Shelter (1433 5th St), and the vintage wonderland that is Wasteland (1338 4th St).
Head north a block to dig through a jumble of high-end lingerie at Footsie (1105 Montana Ave), and lose yourself in row after row of miracle creams at Palmetto (1034 Montana Ave), a fantastic beauty store on Montana, or pick up your favorite Kiehl's products down the street (1516 Montana Ave). Head south to ogle the limited edition kicks at Undefeated (264-B Main St) and the groovy handbags and T-shirts at vintage fave Snap (3211 Pico Blvd) before making the trek (or drive) to Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is home to an eclectic assortment of boutiques, ranging from a cool organic-punk clothing store, A. Mason, (1211 Abbot Kinney Blvd) to a modern furniture store that steers clear of plastic and won't break the bank, Digs, (1340 Abbot Kinney Blvd).
For those willing to splurge on vintage modern classics, Johnny B. Woode (1108 Abbott Kinney) carries Eames Chairs, Noguchi lamps, and similar sorts of iconic modern household items. Other Venice stores worth checking out include Minnie T's (1355 Abbot Kinney Blvd) for their New York boutique vibe and selection, Tortoise (1208 Abbot Kinney Blvd) for beautiful and well-made Japanese kitchenware and tchotchkes, and Brick Lane (1132 Abbot Kinney Blvd) for all things British and mod.
3 days: Fuel up on strong coffee and outstanding pastries and egg dishes on the leafy patio of the Alcove Cafe and Bakery (1929 Hillhurst Ave) in Los Feliz in the morning, then head south half a block to Franklin Avenue, Los Feliz's main shopping drag.
Walk breakfast off on the six-block trek south from the Alcove to the quirky and cool Soap Plant/Wacko Gallery (4633 Hollywood Blvd) -- part gallery, part carnival, part curiosity shop, it's one of the best places to browse in the whole city. Walking back up Hollywood Boulevard, north toward Vermont Avenue, step into Camille Hudson (4685 Hollywood Blvd), where dozens of shoes are hung off metal rods on the wall, and Y Que (1770 North Vermont Ave) for cute and clever T-shirts. Continue north on Vermont and make a left on Franklin to find Steinberg & Sons (4712 Franklin Ave), where all the local kids get their cool threads.
Hop in the car and head east a few miles to Silver Lake, where yet another group of unique and interesting stores is waiting. A+R (1716 Silver Lake Blvd) sells a small but terrific selection of home gadgets, witty vases (one is shaped like three pistols), wooden purses, and cuff bracelets made from recycled beer cans. The Circle (2395 Glendale Blvd) sells the lines of a variety of local designers at sample sale prices. Patty Faye (2910 Rowena Ave) stocks an assortment of eclectic women's clothing brands difficult to find anywhere else. A handful of vintage furniture shops, like Rubbish (1628 Silver Lake Blvd) and Now/Again (3815 West Sunset Blvd), stock affordable, restored furniture from a variety of design periods.
Echo Park and Silver Lake are so close, some people run them together as one neighborhood. But you've got a limited amount of time, and it's LA after all so hop in your car and head several blocks south. Los Feliz and Silver Lake are hip in a sort of square way -- nothing is really "out there." Echo Park, on the other hand, has only recently begun the process of gentrification, so there's a bit more grit and edge there, and the stores reflect that. Sirens & Sailors (1104 Mohawk St) stocks the wares of several up-and-coming local designers. Show Pony (1543 Echo Park Ave) adds artwork and accessories to the mix. Han Cholo (1549 Echo Park Ave) sells their own line of street-influenced men's and women's T-shirts and jewelry accented with boom boxes. The Kids Are Alright (2201 Sunset Blvd) sells original threads for both men and women, along with jewelry and shoes.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries
Nightlife & Entertainment in Los Angeles
Nightlife & Entertainment in Los Angeles
Whether you're interested in celebrity watching, catching an obscure film, or seeing the lastest band perform live, Los Angeles has it all. These suggested itineraries will keep you entertained during your LA visit.
1 day: Wake up at a reasonable hour, grab a cup of coffee and something portable for breakfast and head to the Hollywood Bowl (2301 N Highland Ave), where you can hear that night's act warming up for free. Spend the day on a tour of Sony Pictures Studio (10202 W Washington Blvd), where you can see eye-opening behind-the-scenes looks at the sets, wardrobe department, and other areas. It's the home of popular TV shows like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, as well as Columbia Pictures and Columbia Tri Star.
Make reservations for dinner at Koi (730 N LaCienega Blvd) in West Hollywood, where you can enjoy baked crab rolls in soy paper, crispy fried rice, or a variety of sushi. The restaurant balances the elegance of a sleek Zen garden with the whimsy of a cocktail party. Then hit the area's trendy lounges like the classic Formosa Cafe (7156 Santa Monica Blvd) or head over to Element (1642 Las Palmas Ave) in Hollywood.
2 days: Sleep in, then head over to the late (1pm) Gospel Brunch at House of Blues (8430 W Sunset Blvd) on the infamous Sunset Strip. You're in the center of the film industry after all, so after brunch head to the Sunset Ranch/Hollyridge Trail (3400 Beachwood Dr, Hollywood), where you can rent a horse and the ranch will provide a guide to take you up into the trails that weave through the hills of Griffith Park. You'll feel like you stepped back in time onto a Hollywood movie set. Afterward, grab a table at El Carmen Restaurant (8138 West 3rd St) for tasty Mexican snacks, complete with luchadores and "perfect" margaritas (they stock more than 400 types of tequila).
Keep the fun flowing and head to either Lucha VaVoom (1038 South Hill St), or Ivan Kane's Forty Deuce (5574 Melrose Ave) for a highly acclaimed burlesque show.
3 days: Wake up late and roll into TART (8781 Cross St) for brunch and an outstanding Bloody Mary (if you're so inclined) in a hip setting at the Farmer's Daughter Hotel (115 S Fairfax Ave). Then see if you can make it into a screening before you leave town, and buy a ticket to The Groundlings Theater (7303 Melrose Ave) for the evening. This is where many a Saturday Night Live cast member got their start. It's sketch comedy and improv at its finest, guaranteed to make you chuckle.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Los Angeles
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Los Angeles
With its beaches, golf courses, spas, and gardens, Los Angeles is a great place to take it easy for a few days. These suggested itineraries will help you get away from it all while visiting LA.
1 day: Start the day with brunch at local establishment Mobil Two-Star Joe's (1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd) in Venice, then head to Venice Beach. Since you've only got one day in Los Angeles, Venice Beach is the best place to both relax and get an "only in LA" experience at the same time.
Book a spa treatment at the Mobil Four-Star Spa at the Peninsula Beverly Hills (9882 South Santa Monica Blvd) for the evening, and finish the night with a healthy, restorative dinner at M Cafe de Chaya (7119 Melrose Ave), a macrobiotic cafe that manages to be exceedingly healthy and absolutely delicious at the same time.
2 days: Start the day off right with the amazing jazz brunch at El Cid in Silver Lake (4212 Sunset Blvd), a Spanish-style supper club that was originally built in the early 1900s as a silent film set.
Walk off brunch in nearby Griffith Park, where you'll be rewarded with great views of the city and might catch a glimpse of the reservoir that gives Silver Lake its name. After a nice stroll, hop in the car and head to Glen Ivy Natural Outdoor Hotsprings and Day Spa (25000 Glen Ivy Rd, Corona). In the evening, golfers can get in a cool round at the Los Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes (7000 W Los Verdes Dr, Rancho Palos Verdes) a wonderful, challenging 18-hole public course with fantastic views from nearly every hole.
3 days: Sleep in, and then roll over to Urth Caffe (8565 Melrose, West Hollywood) for LA style coffee and breakfast -- organic and free trade everything, with plenty of celebrities in sight. Take a stroll down Melrose to window shop and browse through dozens of art galleries, then hop in the car and head over to Descanso Gardens (1418 Descanso Dr). Wander around the gardens, have tea in the Japanese Tea Garden, and, if you're lucky to be there on a Thursday in the summertime, attend a fantastic evening wine tasting put on by the Mobil Four-Star Patina ($35 to $45/person).
The sprawling city of Los Angeles encompasses natural beauty and urban attractions, and it's wrapped up in Hollywood glamour. Simply put, there's no other city like it.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Amy Westervelt is a freelance writer who grew up in Southern California and now divides her time between San Francisco and the rest of the world, writing about travel, food, and entertainment for publications like Travel + Leisure, Modern Bride, and The San Francisco Chronicle.