Things to do in Los Angeles

My wife and I plus another couple are heading to L.A. (none of us have ever been there before) for a few days in early July, but we haven’t planned anything to do yet. I know we have a few people from the area on Qt3, so I’m hoping for some advice on where we should go and what we should see. We’re open to pretty much anything.

Also, where should we eat? Price isn’t really an issue – we’d like to sample some of the finest restaurants in the city.

You might take some time to stroll around the Santa Monica Promenade and the adjacent beach and pier, as well as Main Street in Venice. There are lots of good beaches around L.A.; one I’m fond of is called El Matador, up in Malibu, just off the Pacific Coast Highway. I don’t know what the very best restaurants in L.A. are, but Musso & Frank’s (in Hollywood) is a nice slice of movieland culture – it’s been around for some 90 years and was frequented by movie industry hotshots over the decades. LACMA (LA County Museum of Art) and the Getty Center are both worth visiting, and I’m told Griffith Park/Griffith Observatory is great – amazingly I’ve never been there myself despite living here for years. If you want to tour a studio lot, I’d recommend Warner Brothers; it has the most “old world movie lot” feel, to my mind. In truth, I don’t know much of the tourist-friendly side of the town, but I’m sure plenty of other Qt3 Angelenos can help.

Don’t go to Santa Monica… I heard there was an alien invasion.

— Alan

Don’t worry, most of them are legal immigrants. The rest are just hard workers looking to find a better home for their families.

Los Angeles the city, or the greater LA/Orange county area?

The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana is a hidden gem, museum wise, and no trip to Southern California is complete without a trip to Disneyland.

Don’t leave anything in your car that you don’t mind getting stolen this includes shit in the trunk. You have been warned.

Y’all need to at least go here. It’s awesome. I’d also recommend visiting Malibu for the lovely beaches and Venice Beach for the fun weirdness. I’d also recommend Old Town Pasadena and the Heritage Square Museum nearby.

Best restaurants in the city, IMHO, are The Bazaar at the SLS, Providence, Urasawa (may test the boundaries of “price isn’t really an issue” though), Melisse, and others that come highly recommended to me, but I haven’t personally tried them (Osteria Mozza, Fig, Red Medicine). In LA it is sometimes hard to separate the places that are highly rated for the food, from places that are highly rated for the scene.

In terms of things to see, my favourite has to be the Getty Center. Even if you don’t visit the exhibits, the architecture and views are amazing. In terms of what not to do, personally I can’t stand Hollywood Blvd and the handprints/footprints/stars outside the Chinese Theater - it’s a grubby tourist hellhole.

What sort of things do you want to do?

If you get sick of fancy expensive food be sure eat at an In & Out Burger.

Still my favorite restaurant. If you enjoy fine dining make a night of it and do the tasting menu. Melisse is on my hit list.

If you want to get in some beach time, I prefer to go to Manhattan Beach or Hermosa Beach. They are less touristy than Santa Monica and much less of a hellhole than Venice. Dockweiler State Beach is nice too, just face the ocean & pay no attention to the adjacent sewage treatment plant, 950MW gas-fired electricity plant, oil refinery, and flights departing LAX.

Art Museums: LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) in west LA, Norton Simon museum in Pasadena, Getty museum (never been to the new location - always went to the original Roman villa in Malibu).

Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles - I keep meaning to get some photos of it. Also, zillions of little art houses if you know where to look in the downtown area. Griffith Park (Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles Zoo). Attend a movie at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood (now Disney owned - a beautiful theater that still maintains a stage). It’s right across from the historic Grauman’s Chinese theater (and yes, the whole area is kinda grubby and cheesy, but the interior of the El Capitan is gorgeous). The Hollywood Bowl is a pleasant place for an outdoor concert on a summer’s evening, though acoustically it sucks (and sometimes the coyotes give counterpoint). The Greek Theater in Griffith Park is the better venue for outdoor concerts (though now that I think of it, didn’t they just renovate the Hollywood Bowl)?

Santa Monica beach, though I prefer the south facing beaches for actually being in the water (Huntington, Bolsa Chica - forget those west facing beaches like Manhattan and Hermosa beaches). Never saw a riptide there in my life - and the mean and nasty Wedge in Newport for the high art of body surfing (up to 20 foot waves on a wild day breaking in one foot of water - surf boards not allowed).

The Hat in Pasadena for Pastrami - but it is on Lake just north of the 210 Freeway, not in Old Town Pasadena, a shopping/eating district that is kind of fun to walk up and down on a summer evening. Never understood the attraction of In & Out - Fatburger has a much better burger. Another distinctive L.A. burger is Tommies old-fashioned chili-burger, though likewise, I’ve never understood the attraction of the greasy thing, and the number of copies is frightening and confusing (Timmies, Timmy’s, Tommy’s, Tammies, etc. etc. on and on, every one trying to cash in on the cache of Tommies).

One other important thing: Los Angeles is a sprawl. It is rather a large geographic area with lots of miles between all the various locations every one has been mentioning. It’s not nice and compact like Manhattan, for instance.

I say head on down to San Diego and visit Legoland. But that’s mainly because I’ve always wanted to go and never made time for it.

Tommy’s is the actual place. “Original Tommy’s World Famous Hamburgers™” I tell people to go to the first location on Beverly & Rampart, but it’s a filthy craphole since it has been there for 75 years. I think they are an acquired taste, because objectively they’re bad. Flavorless patties, drowned in the “chili” sauce. You have to start eating it as a drunk college student, or as a kid with a group on its way to see the Dodgers, for it to earn a place in your heart (next to the plaque it causes). However, many of the copies are very close. I sometimes eat at the “Tomboy’s World Famous Chili Hamburgers” in Manhattan Beach, and it is pretty much identical to Tommy’s.

The south-facing beaches are better for surfing, but if you aren’t surfing, it is hard to beat the pier area, the Strand, and the wide beach around the sand volleyball courts at Hermosa.

We have an excellent airport. I recommend getting on a plane and flying somewhere nice. ;-)

I’d say either:

  1. Bar and restaurant hopping. LA (and the surrounding area) does have a very nice selection of both. I have a few faves in Santa Monica (here or here which is right across the street from here) and I highly recommend Seal Beach (a bit of a drive) as a great little beach town with some world class restaurant/bars (here for the second best beer restaurant in the US and here for well-crafted, pre-prohibition era cocktails).

  2. Drive south and hit the beach. The beach in LA county itself is pretty shitty (I live a block away from one of the shittier ones) but there are some really excellent beaches around the Laguna Beach area and in San Diego.

WTF Tommys is gross I do not suggest it.

I’m not a big fan of Tommy’s either, but a lot of folks like it so it wouldn’t hurt to try it once. Also don’t forget Pink’s Hot Dog’s on La Brea. Amazing stuff.

Brian, why haven’t you invited them to your movie night yet?

I’m not having a movie day in early July.

I illustrated the confusing, didn’t I? lol