The Quick Guide To Los Angeles for Visitors

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Often people come to town, and they ask, what should I do?  So, here’s a quickie list – a menu if you will, of my favorite suggestions.

Since the list is rather long, here’s my top recommendations:

  • Downtown LA along Grand Ave – see the Broad, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Music Hall Complex (Ahmanson Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler Pavillion), LA DWP building, Grand Park and City Hall.  Although it sounds like a lot, it’s really 5 blocks or so.  Grab a bite at Grand Central Market.
  • Santa Monica – 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica Pier, and Mains Street if there is time.
  • Venice Beach at Windward – check out the Venice V, public art walls, skate park and muscle beach.
  • Griffith Park Observatory
  • The Getty Center
  • Pasadena Old Town and City Hall.  

Downtown Los Angeles – Walk Along Grand Avenue

This area has some of Los Angeles’ most iconic buildings, and all can be seen through a nice walk along Grand Avenue.  Some parts, especially the area between 1st Street and Temple, are best visited at night when all the lights are on.  Starting from North to South:

  • Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 West Temple Street.  This may be one of the most beautiful and impressive modern churches that you will see, especially at night when all the lights are lit.  For my photos of the Cathedral, click here
  • The Ahmanson Theater, The Mark Taper Forum, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave.  These three buildings are in the same complex and are home to major theater and music performances in Los Angeles.  Note the door which faces City Hall to the South.    
  • LA Department of Water and Power, 111 Hope St.  After visiting the complex above, take a short walk across Hope Street to the northwest and you’ll see the Department of Water and Power.  Though often not mentioned as a place to go, it has two beautiful pools of water and a great view of downtown, especially at night.  And there’s always photographers there.  
  • Grand Park and City Hall.  Afterwards, go south, back across the complex with the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion, and you’ll see Grand Park.  The Park descends for a couple blocks to Los Angeles City Hall.  At night the fountains light up and rotate colors.  Don’t have to walk all the way to City Hall, just take in the view.  
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave.  Back at Grand Ave., walk south and you’ll see the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall.  Be sure to take the stairs to the top of the building and wander through the walkways that wind through the reflective metal exterior.  
  • The Broad Museum, 221 S. Grand Ave.  On the next block, you’ll see the new Broad Museum.  Another beautiful building with free exhibits, although you’ll have to check online for tickets.  You can just show up and try to get in, but no guarantees about how long the line will be.  
  • Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway.  You could continue on south, but if you want a break and some grub, head two blocks east and 1 block south to Grand Central Market, a collection of shops, or perhaps stations, with some of the best food in LA.
  • The Bradbury Building, 304 S. Broadway Ave.  After chowing down, head right across the street to The Bradbury Building, one of the most unique victorian buildings you will ever see, a landmark that was also featured in Blade Runner as well as many other films.
  • The Anthony Quinn Mural.  Right across the street from the Bradbury Building to the north, across W 3rd Street is the Anthony Quinn Mural, an elegant homage to the actor that is several stories high.    
  • Perch, 448 Hill Street.  If you like a drink after your meal at Grand Central Market, you can imbibe at Perch.  The best part – the rooftop setting with a grand view of the city.  Again, very nice at night.  
  • Pershing Square, between 5th and 6th and Olive and Hill Streets.  Diagonally across from Perch you’ll find Pershing Square, the much maligned and soon to be revamped square serves as a venue for downtown events and an ice rink in the winter.  
  • The Millennium Biltmore Hotel.  Go north on 6th, across the street from Pershing Square, you’ll find the Millenium Biltmore Hotel, a grand and ornate 1923 building filled with visitors snapping pictures.  
  • The Los Angeles Public Library, 630 W 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071.  On the next block is the LA Public Library, where you can check out the globe in the ceiling, a beautiful rotunda, and the soothing green lawn to the north. 
  • The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, 404 S. Figueroa St.  While this building is an homage to a time gone by, I still find the open interior space quite impressive.  The elevators were featured in the final scenes of Clint Eastwood’s In the Line of Fire.  
  • The Standard, 550 S. Flower Street.  By now, it might be time for another drink, and luckily, the Standard, with roof top views, is only a block away.  

The Westside – Santa Monica

You can’t be in LA and not check out the westside beach area.  

  • Third Street Promenade, 3rd Street between Wilshire and Broadway.  This pedestrian walkway with a must go for any Los Angeles newbies.  There’s a ridiculous amount of food and shopping options in the area, and great people watching as well.  
  • The Huntley Hotel, 1111 2nd Street.  About 1.5 blocks north past the end of the promenade, the Huntley is known for it’s swanky penthouse restaurant / bar. 
  • Ocean Front Walk.  The beach is only a few blocks away from the Promenade.  Walk a few blocks west, cross Ocean Avenue, and you’ll see a strip of greenery that stands above Santa Monica beach.  A great view of the beach and the shoreline. 
  • Santa Monica Pier, Ocean and Colorado Ave.  Walk South on Ocean Front Walk, and you can’t miss Santa Monica Pier.  You can walk down the pier to the iconic ferris wheel and then to the end of the pier, or take the steps down to the beach on either side.  
  • Original Muscle Beach Site and Ring Sets.  After visiting the Pier, if you walk south along Ocean Front Walk – this is the walkway on the beach – you’ll see, at about Ocean Front Walk and Arcadia Terrace, the original muscle beach site.  Now, it’s a small square grassy area where gymnasts and circus performers practice, it’s kinda fun to watch them do their stuff.  Best times to see them are afternoons, especially on weekends.  Also, there are ring sets, one just north and one just south of the original muscle beach site, you can watch some pretty skilled people swing the rings.   
  • Shutters Hotel at 1 Pico Blvd and Hotel Casa del Mar at 1910 Ocean Way.  These are two of my favorite hotels on the beach and they are right next to each other.  Shutters has a very northeast seacoast flavor to it, and Casa del Mar is very popular for weddings.  
  • Main Street from Strand Street to Rose Avenue.  After Casa del Mar, you can walk inland two blocks until you get to Main Street and walk south.  This short, 7-10 block area if filled with food and shopping on both sides of the street.  Urth Cafe at 2327 Main St. is really popular.  

The Westside – Venice, Venice Canals and Abbot Kinney

The Westside is also famous for iconic Venice, just south of Santa Monica.  From Main Street, you can keep walking south and head back to the beach to see Venice, or go inland to the Abbot Kinney Area.  Venice, the Venice Canals and Abbot Kinney form a triangle, with Venice on the left, Abbot Kinney on the right, and the Venice Canals at the bottom.  

For a photo tour of Venice, click here for my photos of Venice.

  • Venice – Ocean Front Walk from Westminster to Venice Blvd.  This area is heart of Venice, just take a nice stroll along the beach here.  
  • Venice Skate Park, 1800 Ocean Front Walk at Horizon.  Always fun to watch the skateboarders at work. 
  • Public Art Walls and the Venice V at Windward Ave.  Check out the graffiti-filled walls and the towering Venice “V”.  
  • Venice Murals.  If you a mural fan, there are murals everywhere in Venice, you can just google “Venice Murals” and they’ll pop up.  If you are at Windward Ave., the vintage “Touch of Venice” mural is at 21 Windward Ave.  
  • Eggslut, 1611 Pacific Ave.  Eggslut first opened downtown at Grand Central Market, and the lines were impossible.  They finally opened a Venice location one block south of Windward at Pacific, and the lines are more reasonable. 
  • Hotel Erwin, 1697 Pacific Ave.  Time for another break, have a drink on the rooftop of the Hotel Erwin.  
  • Muscle Beach, Ocean Front Walk at 18th Place.  Just a few blocks south of Windward is the iconic muscle beach.  At the right time, there will be bodybuilders working out, and they’re usually happy to pose for pictures.  The area also has basketball courts and other activities.  
  • Venice Canals.  Continuing south on Ocean Front Walk, the stores and shops start to fade at North Venice.  Walk another two short blocks to South Venice, turn left and head east.  You’ll pass Pacific Ave., and two short blocks after you’ll hit the Venice Canals, built way back in 1905.  
  • Abbot Kinney.  After the canals, you can go back to Venice Blvd. and walk East about .4 miles and you’ll run into Abbot Kinney Blvd.  Walk north / northwest on Abbot Kinney and check out the shops, stores and murals.  

The Westside – The Getty, 1200 Getty Center Drive.  The Getty is pretty impressive, and worth the trip if you’re in LA.  Entrance is free, but parking is $15.

Griffith Park Observatory, 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, northwest of downtown Los Angeles.  Another LA icon with great views of the Hollywood Sign and all of LA.  Here’s my post on Griffith Park Observatory.  

Pasedena Area

  • Old Town Pasedena, W Colorado Blvd from North Los Robles Ave to South Pasedena Ave.  Old Town is another great section of town for shopping and tasty eats.  Usually packed on weekends.  
  • Pasadena City Hall, 100 Garfield Ave., CA 91101.  About two blocks north of W Colorado at Garfield Ave., toward the eastern end of Old Town, is the stately and gracefully beautiful Pasadena City Hall.  On weekends, it’s filled with photographers shooting wedding parties.    
  • Norton Simon Museum, 411 W Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91105.  Just west of Old Town, a smaller but well curated museum.  
  • The Huntingdon Library, 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, CA 91108.  The Huntingdon Library houses art collections and botanical gardens not far from Old Town Pasadena. 
  • Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Dr., La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011.  Northwest of Pasadena lie 150 acres of botanical gardens.  

 

 

 

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