Los Angeles Things to Do Tips by Dabs Top 5 Page for this destination
Los Angeles Things to Do: 1,392 reviews and 2,380 photos
The second LA Conservancy tour I took was the art deco tour which you do not have to reserve in advance. Los Angeles has many fine examples of this style of architecture as the city experienced a building boom during it's heyday.
The list of buildings visited include (those with a star means an interior visit is possible):
Southern California Edison Company Building*
Title Guarantee & Trust Building
William Fox Building*
Sun Realty Building
Harris and Frank Building
Ninth and Broadway Building*
Eastern Columbia Building
Tours are $10 and last for approximately 2 1/2 hours. Parking at Pershing Square is discounted with validation.
I love taking walking tours of historic areas so I was glad to hear of the LA Conservancy which offers a variety of walking tours in Los Angeles. I picked the Historic Core tour which started in Pershing Square in downtown LA and covered the highlights of the downtown area including the Bradbury Building, the LA Central Library, the Million Dollar Theater, the Subway Transit station to name a few. We ended the visit at the Grand Central Market which is a nice place to grab some lunch.
If you want to do a walking tour on your own, this the Angels Walk website has a walking tour of the Bunker Hill/Historic Core.
2nd visit November 2012
The Getty Villa and ranch house was built by oil magnate J. Paul Getty who, according to our guide, never actually saw the Getty Villa as he was afraid to fly from his home in London. It was modeled after the Villa dei Papiri, an ancient Roman villa partially uncovered in Herculaneum. The J. Paul Getty Museum was opened here in 1974 but was closed in 1997 when that collection was moved to the Getty Center. It was reopened in 2006 as the Getty Villa with it's current collection of art and culture from ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.
Admission is free, there is an $15 charge per car. Reservations are MANDATORY and can be made on the attached website, you must have your timed ticket with you. Check out the various talks and events that are scheduled before you reserve or pick up a guide to the day's events when you arrive, there are several guided tours during the day, an architecture tour, a garden tour, a collection highlight tour, focus tours and spotlight talks given at various times during the day. We took the garden tour and were the only two on it, it was an interesting look at the layout and functionality of an Italian garden.
We enjoyed the current exhibit that runs through January 7, 2013, The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, Resurrection. There are also lots of special events throughout the year, if you live near Los Angeles, you might want to get on their mailing list.
There a cafeteria if you need to get a bite to eat and a museum gift shop with some interesting gift items although like most museum shops tending to run to the expensive side.
Address: 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades
Directions: Pacific Coast Hwy, 1 mile north of Sunset Boulevard. You must enter from the northbound right hand lane. I almost missed the entrance, it is just slightly before the stoplight.
Union Station (Nov 2012)
After visiting Olvera Street, be sure to also pay a visit to Union Station about a block away.
Union Station was built in 1939, it's Spanish/mission style architecture has a much different feel than the grand main rail stations in other cities like New York's Grand Central Terminal built in 1913 or the Chicago's neoclassical Union Station built in 1913-25.
Since the station is in Los Angeles, it's not surprising that it has been used in many films including The Way We Were, Blade Runner and Guilty By Suspicion. It was also used in the film Union Station which was set in Union Station in Chicago, Mission Style is definitely not an architectural style used in Chicago!
Address: 800 N. Alameda
Directions: within walking distance of Olvera Street in downtown LA
Last visit November 2012
Although a bit of a tourist trap, Olvera Street is still a lovely place to stop for a short visit if you find yourself in downtown LA. Olvera Street is a pedestrian only street that is only about a block long, stuffed full with Mexican eateries, both sit down and take out, and Mexican craft stores. You can't walk down the street smelling that delicious food and not stop to have a taste. On my last visit in November 2012, I sat down at La Golondrina, a popular restaurant about midway on the street.
In November 2012, Olvera Street was decorated for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is celebrated November 1-2, with some family shrines in the plaza area, the stores selling items with skulls and skeletons, many people with life-death makeup, half of the face covered in skeleton makeup.
Olvera Street is home to the Avila Home, built in 1818, considered the oldest building in LA. Admission to the house, decorated as it might have been in the 1840s, is free.
There are several parking lots in the area, I didn't feel like trying to drive around and find a free space so I used one of the lots, the lot I found was a flat fee of $6 on a Saturday (April 2007). You can also take the metro to Union Station and Olvera Street is a very short walk from there.
Please see my travelogue for a few more photos of the area.
Directions: El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historic Park, 845 N. Alameda Street
I headed over to Hollywood late on a Monday morning, the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater was crawling with tourists mixed in characters such as Spiderman (we had a nice little chat about the Chicago Bears), Batman and a very scary transvestite alien that I failed to recognize and people trying to give away tickets to sit in the audience of various TV and talk shows.
Graumann's opened in May 1927 with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings. The guidebooks say that it was at that premiere that actress Norma Talmadge stepped in concrete, giving birth to the tradition of celebrities making hand and footprints that people flock here to see although the first prints are listed to be Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks on this list of the celebrities currently immortalized in concrete.
If you want to see the interior, you need to buy a ticket as this is still an active movie theater.
I suppose Grauman's could easily qualify as a tourist trap but it's so well known that you almost have to go see it and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Address: 6925 Hollywood Blvd.
Directions: Hollywood, between LaBrea and Highland
Phone: (213) 464-8111
Although I would recommend spending quite a bit more time than a day in San Diego, I suppose it would be feasible if you are on a short time frame to visit San Diego on a daytrip if you timed it right and didn't get stuck in rush hour traffic. In good traffic, the trip to San Diego is only about 2 hours, I was able to do it in 2 hours leaving at 6:30 pm, the trip back took me closer to 3 hours during the middle of the day.
Still, I'd highly encourage anyone visiting LA for an extended period of time to consider spending a few days down in San Diego, there's the San Diego Zoo, of course, Sea World plus lots of other museums and attractions worth a visit. I spent 2 1/2 days there and didn't hit any of the major attractions, just spent my time visiting Old Town, the Gaslamp Quarter, La Jolla, Cabrillo National Monument and Coronado.
Old Town Pasadena
Of the places I've visited in and around LA, Pasadena is one of my favorite places. If you are spending more than a couple of days in LA, you will want to make the trip up to Pasadena for at least a day if not two.
The highlights of Pasadena include the Huntington Library, Art Collection and Garden, the Norton Simon Art Museum, Old Town Pasadena and the Gamble House
If you are visiting on the 2nd Sunday of the month, you can check out the huge flea market held at the Rose Bowl or if you are visiting around New Year's Day, you may want to check out the Tournament of Roses Parade. There's a terrific Bungalow Heaven tour every year in April should you enjoy architecture or you can drive through the neighborhood on your own.
Please see my Pasadena page for more information
Directions: northeast of downtown LA
Maybe it's because of "Baywatch" but there's this perception that people actually go into the Pacific Ocean when they are in California. In all of my trips there, I've not ventured more than my toes into the Pacific and although I've occasionally seen someone wade in, gasp as the 1st wave hits them and run back out, you just don't see a lot of people in the water with the exception of surfers wearing wetsuits and small children who haven't developed cold sensors yet.
When I asked at my LAX hotel about beaches nearby, they sent me to the section of beaches south of LAX, said that Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach were all nice. I really liked Redondo Beach once I was away from the Pier, they have a terrific ocean path for bikers and joggers/walkers. Many of the beaches have long biking and walking paths, I walked on the Redondo Beach path for at least 2 hours round trip so they are pretty extensive.
You will see people dotting the beach, reading, sunbathing, being buried up to their necks in the sand, building sand castles. If you are near a pier like the one in Redondo or Manhattan Beaches with shops and restaurants you can expect to pay to park, although they may validate if you eat or shop there, I found a free street spot near Redondo Beach, parked my car and walked down a short street to get to the beach.
I saw one of the coolest things I've ever seen at Redondo Beach. While I was watching the surfers, I saw a fin and of course the 1st think I think of is Jaws. But then I saw another fin and another fin and discovered that it was a pod of dolphins playing in the water and as they headed down the coastline, you could see them "surfing" the waves. I was so mesmerized that you are just going to have to imagine it because I couldn't tear my eyes away to get my camera out.
LA Central Library
I visited the Central Library, renamed for LA mayor Richard Riordan in 2001, on the LA Conservancy Historic Core tour but if you want a more in depth look at the history and architecture, our guide highly recommended the library's free one hour library tour. Our guide wasn't allowed to do any part of his tour inside the library but did give us the opportunity to walk through it and gave us a nice history of the library.
The library was slated for demolition in the 1970s, the LA Conservancy was formed to save the building and help preserve other historic buildings in danger of the wrecking ball. Before restoration began, two major fires in 1986 damaged much of the interior, along with part of the library's book collection, so much of the interior is new.
The library was built in 1926, the last work of American architect Bertram Goodhue, the building has Egyptian, Roman, Byzantine, Spanish and Islamic influences. Of particular interest is colored tile pyramid topping the building, you can see the same sunburst motif on the street leading south from the library. The exterior also features art deco limestone sculptures of literary figures and academic disciplines.
When the library was expanded after the fires, it went outward, not upward since the Library had sold it's air rights to US Bank across the street. This move probably saved the library for eternity as whomever bought this land would never be able to expand up.
Also make sure you take a look at the steps and pools leading to the entrance on the west side of the building, you can read a very detailed description of the art project called Spine here
Address: 630 W. 5th Street
Directions: 5th at Flower
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