must see los angeles

A WWdN reader from the UK sent me the following e-mail:

Hi Wil

I’m coming to Los Angeles in a week’s time with my wife and two kids. Is there, in your humble opinion, one place / event / attraction that we should make sure that we visit? We’re “middle-aged” parents with two boys, 16 and 13.

So,, what would you say is “The” Los Angeles attraction that must not be missed? Is it the Long Beach Aquarium? Is it Hollywood Boluevard? Is it the reservoir in Silverlake? How about the roof of The Standard at sunset? Maybe there’s something on the West Side?

I have no idea, but I bet some of you guys do.

26 thoughts on “must see los angeles”

  1. be honest…I am coming to LA this summer too ;-)….So as UK reader I am also waiting for your tips…but for me you can write more than one ..but please less then for a week of stay ;-)))

    Thanks in advance.

    ps: in return I can give you recommendations for Prague (that is the capital city of Czech republic ;-))

  2. One attraction? ONE???

    Okay, here’s a quick family-friendly daylong itinerary centered in/around H’wood and the beach:

    – Venice boardwalk in the morning – rent bikes or skates and watch the parade of humanity

    – Lunch at Versailles on Venice at Motor (garlic chicken, baybee)

    – Afterward, take the kids to Meltdown in WeHo and get lost in the aisles yourself, then over to Amoeba – rinse and repeat

    – Matinee at Mann’s Chinese (of course, it’s always better with a Friday opening night crowd for a monster summer blockbuster, though the requisite linesitting cuts into your fun time)

    – Dinner at Musso’s (I’m partial to opening with a little carafe of martinis, chowing on lambchops medium-rare and wolfing apple pie a la mode for dessert)

    – Buzz down to Melrose for people-watching and shopping or – if you’re still jonesing for books and toys, Wacko/SoapPlant/La Luz de Jesus in east H’wood – or a Thursday night concert at the SM pier or Friday/Saturday night on the SM promenade to watch Los Pinguos, the bucket-drummers or that 14-year-old kid with the Stratocaster and the mad skillz or …

    One thing. The very idea. (grumblegrumble)

  3. Two boys, 16 and 13? Um, nowhere else to go but Magic Mountain! I suppose it’s really not a great choice for two middle-aged parents if they’re not roller coaster fans, but if I were able to go to Magic Mountain when I was 13 I would’ve been head over heels. British kids may be a different animal.

    Really, Venice is a great suggestion. It’s such a bizarre encapsulation of a lot of LA, and people from out of town seem to love it. If they’re from a non-ocean-adjoining area of the UK, then Leo Carillo would be a great place, especially if they can get there during low tide to scour the tide pools.

    I’ll put some more thought into it.

  4. I think Third Street in Santa Monica is uniquely LA, between the large chains, the small independants, the street performers, and the beach. Similarly, if they’re looking to come down to OC, the Block at Orange and the Irvine Spectrum both have a similar, if not more sterile, feel. Still, they’re the kind of place the rainier parts of the world can’t maintain.

  5. I’d say that they should try to make it out to the San Bardu/Riverside area in late July early August. If they are from the UK they won’t complain about their wet winters anymore. They will welcome them and all will be right with the world.

  6. Lived here all my life and I never fail to blank when someone asks me what an out-of-towner should do in this town to nutshell the L.A. experience.

    But then the gears start turning, and I’m with Mack: ONE thing? Pfffft. Instead, here’s a way to fill (probably too much so) a day with a few landmarks starting downtown up into Hollywood, using the Red Line as a backbone and boomerang:

    ï A morning stroll through Chinatown segues to breakfast at Philippe’s (Alameda Ave, north of Sunset/Cesar Chavez) followed by a walk through Olvera Street before heading over to explore Union Station and hopping the Red Line ($3 per person for an all-day pass)

    ï Exit the Civic Center station (first stop) for a short walk to visit to check out the Disney Concert Hall and maybe MOCA across the street then head south on Grand to 5th for a looksee at the Central Library and then the Biltmore on your way to Broadway to marvel at the historic Bradbury Building (304 S. Broadway).

    ï Head south on Broadway to 7th Street passing the facades of several of the district’s grand old theater palaces and even more bootleg DVD/three-card/shell game vendors. If you need a bite there’s camp/kitchy Clifton’s Cafeteria on Broadway north of 7th, then head west a couple blocks to the 7th Street Red Line station and go underground to get back on a train marked either Wilshire/Vermont or North Hollywood.

    ï Get off at the next stop (Westlake station) and do a walkabout around the revitalized MacArthur Park (maybe take a couple paddle boats out on the water?). When you reboard the Red Line at the Westlake station make sure your train is labeled “North Hollywood.”

    ï Exit at the Hollywood/Vine station and you’ll soon be across the street from the Pantages Theater where you can then head west along Hollywood Boulevard’s “Walk of Fame” all the way to Mann’s Chinese Theater with various touristy points of interest in between. Perhaps lunch at Musso & Frank’s.

    ï From the Chinese Theater you’re only a couple blocks away from Mashti Malone’s Ice Cream shop on La Brea, which has excellent exotic flavors such as rosewater (and their butter pecan is the bomb).

    ï If your beat, you can head back up to Hollywood and Highland to catch the downtown Red Line train that’ll take you all the way to Union Station

    ï Or if you’ve still got some energy left, a walk from Mashti’s south on La Brea to Sunset Boulevard then east, while not loaded with sights, will eventually bring you past Amoeba Records and the Cinerama Dome / Arclight Theaters. From there if a movie’s not in order, then head north up Vine Street to Hollywood Boulevard to get back to the Hollywood/Vine Red Line station for the downtown-bound train that ends at Union Station.

  7. Definately cruise up to Mulholland Drive for a twilight drive to see our fair city. Get a map and figure out where to start and stop, but I definately recomend the area between Cahuenga pass and Laurel Canyon Blvd. for great city & valley views. Throw together a picnic and go to either Franklin Canyon or Will Rogers State park for a hike through the sycamores. Grab a hot dog at Pinks on La Brea….you and the kids will love it! Hit the beach in malibu….try Zuma or Pt. Dume (USE SUNSCREEN AND GET AN UMBRELLA!!) Make sure your hotel has a pool and a good bar. Go to the Disney Hall just before sunset, walk around and check out the garden and the cool architecture and then have a drink at Patina. (Expahnsivvve…but worth a drink and little snackee to start the evening….park on the street adjacent or at the lot down the street if you want to save parking money…patina does validate if you choose to stop there, but it’s still $10)

  8. Will, that’s amazing. I think I want to take that journey!

    The subway is really a wonderful way for out-of-towners to get around without the fuss of worrying about driving or parking. It would be ideal if it also went to Venice, but I think there might be rapid buses that do?

  9. One man’s bacchanalia is another man’s snore-fest, so it’s particularly difficult to give someone advice about what is “indispensable.” This is especially true when it comes to Los Angeles, as it is made up of many disparate elements spread over a huge area. That’s what makes the place so interesting. To get a feel for the vastness and diversity of the place, you need to… (1) Rent a car and drive all over the area. This is not necessarily a delight, but it’s an essential part of life here. (2) Get out of your car and mingle with the locals in all their variety. Three recommended stops–from west to east: Venice Beach (Forget Santa Monica!), Hollywood Boulevard and Pink’s World Famous Chili Dogs on near-by LaBrea, and downtown and it’s various neighborhoods. (3) Get high! That is, seek higher elevations that will give you panoramic views of the city. There are several good ones, but the most comprehensive is probably from the top of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. Drive up to the Observatory and park. The Observatoy is closed for renovations, but from there you can hike up to the top of Mount Hollywood in about 20-30 minutes. Just follow the other hikers and joggers up the fairly easy hiking road (You don’t need special shoes, but don’t wear your Manolo Blahnik’s either.) From the top, you’ll get a fantastic view of the entire Los Angeles basin as well as a good portion of the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. Go either early in the morning or in later afternoon, as the haze and/or smog are more intense at mid-day. This is a great way to get a look at the geography of the region. As a matter of fact, this is probably the first thing to do, as it will give you a better feel for the area over which you will be driving. This is always the first thing I do when I have visitors. We take a bottle of Champagne with us and thereby kill two birds with one stone: we celebrate life and the wonders of friendship and travel while violating the ordinance prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in public places. California has more rules and regulations than anywhere I have travelled in the western world, but it’s a great place and I really enjoy living here. You’re in for a treat!

  10. Ignore all of the above crap. What, go to a mall (3rd st Promenade)? Or go to a mall (Hollywood / Highland)? Or go to a mall? (Rodeo)? Hey people, maybe you should consume a little less.

    Take the goddamned train? Are you kidding me?

    All of the above suggestions are bullshit.

    There is but one thing to do for out of towners in Los Angeles.

    Learn to fucking surf.

  11. I think LA has some of the best museums. I work for the California Science Center and we have an incredible exhibit that just open called “Body Worlds”. This exhibit explores bodily performance at a depth never before possible. Thanks to the breakthrough process of plastination, more than 200 real human specimens are displayed to reveal an extraordinary new look inside the human body. (sorry for my shameless plug) The Science Center also as hundreds of other exhibits and an IMAX. It is a fun place for kids.

    USC is across the way and downtown is about 10 minutes away.

    Also another place in LA that many out-of-towners enjoy is “The Grove” on third street in Los Angeles. A movie theater, shops, the historic Farmers Market, great restaurants, and a wierd singing water fountain…In the summer, they have some interesting free concerts.

  12. Taking the train is perfect for the anti-consuming lifestyle, Mark. While a splendid sentiment, it’s a little hard to learn how to surf in a day (especially when you’re a clumsy-ass like myself)!

    I do agree that spending some time by the ocean is a must, and it’s unfortunate that the train doesn’t easily go there. Otherwise, I think the train is simply the best, least frustrating way of getting around.

  13. I vote for the beach! Particularly the southbay beaches, like Manhattan Beach.
    Venice Beach? Third Street Promenade? Architecture? I think those two boys would be bored. Honestly, the only thing those two teenage boys want to check out are hot southern california chicks in bikinis. They can have that at Hermosa or Manhattan Beach – those beaches are prettier and cleaner than Santa Monica or Venice. Besides, the whole family can ride bikes on the boardwalk or play in the surf too. If shopping is important to them there’s more than enough tchotchkes to be had at the quintessential beach town shops.

  14. I can’t imagine the Brits, who have the Tube, thinking any good thoughts about our subway system. Not that the Tube is super-fantastic, but at least it’s much more comprehensive.

    Let’s face it: it’s rare that parents and teenage kids will ever agree on what to do. As an adult, the most important thing for me is to explore as much as I can. And it doesn’t have to be the sights – I just want to absorb as much of the culture as I can in what little time I have (too bad LA isn’t a pedestrian-friendly city). That might be interesting for adults, but I don’t think there are too many kids who could stand it.

    But the best thing to do in LA? Go to Santa Barbara. :D Haha.

  15. Will Campbell – your list is perfect. Those activities would show someone the really wonderful and unique things about LA, unlike the sterile 3rd street promenade or other shopping-centric destinations. Well done!

  16. Fogarty! Thanks, man. I say we should make it a field trip.

    Emily! Wow, thank you!

    “Mark!” That rancid antagonistic smegma you’re spewing is a puss-oozing boil on all that is the grace and zen of wave riding. With you pushing it, why would anyone want to give surfing a try?

  17. Oh man Will! That ROCKS! Mmmmmm… Phillippes! We should totally do this day. I think we need to end it at the Arclight for dinner and a movie though. I think after paddling boats and walking around all day and eating french dips a relaxing movie is in order. When should we do it!?

  18. I’m gonna give a plug for the San Gabriel Valley, East LA area. If you’re looking for lots of good Asian or Mexican food or otherwise very cheap and yummy food stop by there on your way to everywhere else. Look in the archives of LA Weekly if you want to plan where to go. I personally recommend Savoy in Alhambra (Valley Blvd) who’s specialty is hainan chicken and a nice cozy italian bistro setting. Admittedly there is not much to do here since it’s kind of a suburban area, but it’s not like any suburb you’ll find in most places…

  19. The Getty
    Everything else takes time to appreciate or can be seen in another city.

    (PB, let me know your Prague ideas- I’ll be there is September with some friends.)

  20. Mr. Cambpell, I believe your mother is calling. She’d like her copy of Fodors back. What a joke. Seriously – you’re suggesting that some Brits walk around the festering cesspool that are Downtown and Hollywood. Have you been downtown on a weekend? Did you like sharing your lunch with the 20 homeless guys sitting next to you?

    On the other hand, rather than showing the Brits just how dreary and depressing and smog-filled the sprawl of the city can be, I’m suggesting that they do the one thing that they by and large can’t do in their home country. Get in a lineup and surf. Warm water, warm sand, great scenery. Nobody cares if they don’t know how. They’ll be doing something that you don’t find just anywhere on this planet, unlike your oh-so-spiff suggestion that a couple of Brits check out an American record store. Or wait! Bootleg DVDs! Because nobody uses Bittorrent! How so kitschy and hip!

    You tell me, dude. If you lived in a country where it rained and/or was gloomy a good five days out of the week, what would be your first choice? I gotta tell you, La Brea wouldn’t be on my list.

  21. Yeah Mark. Because there are no homeless people at the beach… Get out of the fucking sun more often and look around a little more and you might just learn there is more to life than surfing and hanging out at the beach. Which in itself is a fine suggestion but to bag on everyone else’s is just asinine and narrow minded. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to send them to hang out with you if you’re trying to say that you’re the voice of reason. Heed the bio-hazard warnings in the bay. They’re fucking with your mind.

  22. La Brea Tar Pits is unique to Los Angeles and the Page Museum is wonderful for children.

  23. Hey “Mark” (your phoney [email protected] email address is SO you), about that Fodor’s guide? Gave it back to your mom last night. She said you were suddenly wanting it back. Mentioned something about you wanting to go check out downtown. She said it was about time you got your head outta the sand and took a look around. She also said she’d wish you’d quit tracking kelp into your room. The shit’s a bitch to clean up after it dries. Work on it.

    But since you’re so sure that SoCal’s surf culture is all wide open and nobody cares and everybody loves everybody (so well-embodied by you) there’s a great point you should righteously hit on the north end of Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes. There’s a wonderful group of locals down there known as the Bay Boys so make sure and walk up to ’em and say “Howdy Fellas!” If they’re not there, then try to introduce yourself to someone from a rival “club” known as the Dirty Underwear Gang. Sure they all act a little bit territorial (kinda like you act a little bit asshole) but I swear they’ll give you a welcome you won’t soon recover from ó I mean “forget.” Or perhaps they’ll just jump you in because you totally fit their profile.

    Sure, those and other surfnazis up and down the shores represent but a small fraction blemishing the heart and soul of surfing (just like your agit vibe is in the vast minority here at, but the churn they make is loud ugly.

    So you go goondoggie, paddle on!

    You know what the sad thing is? If you had left all the slamming out of your original post and just offered that learning to surf might be a great way for tourists to spend a day in L.A., I’d be all for it. It’s an excellent idea! I’d have even come back with info on the Manhattan Beach surf class that’s available. But again, with you as the sport’s spokesperson? You make surfing as desirable as bungie jumping without the bungie. The water’s all yours.

    And to answer your question: Yeah, I’d rather eat lunch with 20 homeless people than be anywhere around the waters your pissing in. And if you’ve got anything else to say, howsabout you email me directly and let’s get this smackback thread outta here.

  24. Hahaha, “Get out of the fucking sun more often” – seriously, that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard this week. Down with nature! hahahaha…

  25. Will Campbell is one of my most favorite writers, ever. That Jason D. ain’t bad, neither!

    But Mark? Criminy. I guess he’s my favorite surfer. Think he’ll wipe out on a rock outcrop soon?

    It pains the heeeeed!

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