Sightseeing

Great things to do in Los Angeles

 

From star spotting on Rodeo Drive and at the Griffith Observatory to museum hopping between the Getty and LACMA, your guide to things to do in Los Angeles.

 

The list of things to do in Los Angeles is as long as the city is vast. If your time in town is limited, you could spend days in the museums alone, and never make your way to Hollywood. Hit up Venice Beach, but don't miss out on a hip Eastside 'hood. This LA city guide offers a mix of great things to do and see to get the most from your LA getaway.

 

Get active on Venice Beach

Venice Beach has long been known as the kooky Mecca of California, and while it's been getting more than a fair share of mainstream tourists, the area nurtures its eccentric spirit. Skateboarders, radical pamphleteers and body builders: the visibility is great if you enjoy people-watching. Go for lunch at the local Figtree's Café before scanning the shelves at Small World Books. The bohemian district is welcoming to the gay community.

 

Hotfoot it to Hollywood sights

Hollywood celebrities are never far away in LA. To catch a glimpse of stardust, stroll the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where more than 2,400 figures from the entertainment world are immortalized in pink terrazzo with symbolic gold lettering. If you're a film buff, look out for the famous hand and footprints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Countless premieres and galas have passed through, adding to the renowned pagoda's star quality.

 

Marvel at big budget modern art

The Getty Center is the envy of museums worldwide for its generous endowments. Although it doesn't match the rich collections of Old World galleries, it has some impressive works covering a vast sweep of history, from the Renaissance to present day. Among them are several paintings by Rubens, a couple by Gainsborough, and a sprinkling of Impressionists, including Monet, Renoir, Cézanne and Van Gogh. The French decorative arts and an expanding photography collection are definitely worth visiting. And don't forget to hunt out Miró and Moore in the fine sculpture garden.

 

Shop in style on Rodeo Drive

Many people dream of being Julia Roberts shopping on Rodeo Drive, but few can afford to buy from the array of high-end designers seen in the film Pretty Woman. So window-shopping is the order of the day. Along the $200-million ersatz European cobbled walkway Two Rodeo, browsing tourists mingle with serious spenders. A hop away is Anderson Court, which is the only shopping mall designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. See more in Shopping & Style.

 

Squeeze in the Jurassic experience

Despite the misleading name, this scientific nook has nothing to do with Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. The Museum of Jurassic Technology is home to a repository of curiosities: scientific wonders include a bat that can fly through walls and artistic miracles such as impossibly tiny sculptures. The institute is an intriguing combination of fact and fiction, and much more exciting than chasing CGI dinosaurs.

 

Marvel at Los Angeles museum village

The collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, are housed in a vast 20-acre complex of buildings, expertly renovated in 2008. The focal point is the BP Grand Entrance, which includes the stunning installation of Chris Burden's Urban Light. The Broad Contemporary Art Museum is home to a dazzling selection of modern works.

 

Wise up at the Griffith Observatory

You could happily spend a few hours browsing around the Griffith Observatory, even though you can't see much through the telescope because of the relentless smog that hovers over LA. There's the popular Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, a pair of complementary displays that explores the connections between people and space. The star attraction is the building itself, which was featured in the film Rebel Without a Cause.

 

Draw from towers of strength

Italian-born tile-setter Simon Rodia began building the Watts Towers using nothing but scrap metal in the 1920s. Gradually he progressed upwards, reinforcing them with steel and cement to prevent neighborly interference over the next three decades. Scaling the towers with a window-washer's belt and bucket, he decorated them with consumer objects, such as green glass from bottles of 7-Up or Canada Dry and tiles from Malibu Pottery, as well as jewelry, marble and seashells. There are 17 of these intriguing structures, the tallest stretches nearly 100 feet into the sky. They still exude a kind of spectral beauty years after they were built. For details of tours, call 213-847-4646.

 

Get animated with Mickey and Minnie

You're never too old for Disneyland. This legendary theme park is packed with cool things to do, spread over seven lands. Stroll down Main Street USA to experience turn-of-the 19th century America, head Westwards at Frontierland and tune into the music of New Orleans square, minus the floods and booze. All your favorite cartoon characters come to life in dream-like environments: You can step into the wooded home of Winnie the Pooh at Critter Country, go behind the scenes of Disney films at Fantasyland and chase the iconic mouse, who'll be scurrying around Mickey's Toontown. Great rides include the stomach-churning Space Mountain and the epic Indiana Jones Adventure.

 

Study the dark past of Japanese immigrants

The Japanese American National Museum, one of the city's best, tells the compelling story of Japanese immigration to the United States. It all began in 1882 when employers were barred from importing Chinese labor, so thousands of Japanese flocked to the country instead. Yet they ended up being sent to internment camps during the Second World War and did not become American citizens until 1952. This museum tells their story in a lucid fashion, through documentary and art exhibitions, and a moving display of artifacts from their internment camps.

 

See a concert

Not in the least bit cartoonish, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is the crown jewel of the LA Music Center. Designed by Frank Gehry, the auditorium has wonderful acoustics and an open platform stage. It is home to the internationally acclaimed, Gustavo Dudamel–led LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale, but offers a surprisingly varied program of concerts throughout the year.

 

Raise the drinking bar

The Bar Marmont in Hollywood is fabulously elegant. It has an air of longevity lacking in many other LA hangouts and the décor is exquisite, especially the butterflies pinned to the ceiling. The old-fashioned fixture is livened up with a gastro pub menu, courtesy of Carolynn Spence, former chef de cuisine of New York's fabled Spotted Pig. For an alternative, stylish drinking experience, head Downtown to The Edison, a power-plant-turned-nightspot, with DJs and a weekly burlesque show. Dress up.

 

Load up on CDs at Amoeba

Sure, iTunes is great, but anyone in search of that arcane track off of that mid-'80s Tom Robinson album knows it isn't perfect. Neither is Amoeba, but it is the largest independent record store in the United States, and the variety of music on offer is amazing, the prices are fair and the staff really know their music. It's a great place to find CDs that you can't track down elsewhere.

 

String along to puppet theater

Puppetry is a dying art, but there's one puppeteer who is keeping the tradition alive. Since 1961, Bob Baker has been staging original shows in his own theater. He has entertained theatergoers with sexy Parisian pussycats, space goons and singing watermelons. These whimsical puppets have appeared in many TV shows and films, but you can catch them on stage at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.

 

Tickle your funny bone

The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre lives up to its revolutionary name with cutting-edge comedy. It charts new territory by mingling styles in three to four performances per night. A popular gig remains the acclaimed Asssscat improv show. The locals love this place, even though there's no bar. You can always bring your own drinks from the nearby supermarket.

Go clubbing European-style

If there's one thing that LA knows how to do really well, it's throw a good party. You're welcome to enter into the spirit at Avalon, the city's pre-eminent nightclub, which favors Europe's techno renaissance music. Or you could go street haunting to find warehouse venue The Smell. It has the look of a squat, but once you get inside, you'll discover the latest in indie-noise and political art-punk. It's perfect for bright young hipsters, because it doesn't serve booze. It also serves fine veggie snacks.

 

Double dip your sandwich

Who invented the juicy beefy French dip sandwich? Where's the best place to eat one? The answer may well be Philippe the Original. It's been in business since 1908 and certainly claims to have whipped up the dip (but it's not the only one). Savvy customers opt for the traditional lamb or lighter turkey filling, and then ask the server to double-dip the bread in meaty juice, before adding a splash of house mustard. The wines served by the glass aren't bad either, but the sandwich is king.

 

Taste a trio of art venues

Culture vultures will be spoilt for choice at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. It's an ingenious multi-purpose venue, which hosts an art gallery, a library with substantial holdings and elaborate botanical gardens. A Desert Garden with cacti and old English Shakespeare Garden are among the attractions. Set aside a day to explore the highlights of this fabulous place, but don't expect to see them in depth.

(Excerpted from "Time Out Los Angeles")

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