Advice about Visiting Los Angeles

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Visiting LA - hidden gems - arts & architecture

June 2016

We're looking for recommendations for places to see and walk in LA that are off the beaten path. We'll be in LA for one day on the way to visit our son at camp. We've been there many times, done the usual museum and tourist stuff, but now we like to visit out-of-the-way hidden gems. On recent trips we took the Metro to the Watts Towers (incredible), walked the Music Box stairs in Silver Lake, checked out the architecture in the Hayden Tract at Culver City, visited the Museum of Jurassic Technology (so weird). We love public art and interesting architecture. Thanks for the recs!

Urban Explorers

Check out The Brewery in Los Angeles. They have an Art Walk twice a year, but it looks like this outfit, LA Art Tours, also does private tours. former Brewery resident

If you haven't seen the modern art collection of the Frederick R Weisman Foundation you will be thrilled by this intimate and exciting tour. Go to and make an appointment for a private tour (that's the only way). M-F only, 2 tours / day. Housed on an estate in Holmby Hills are more than 400 works of on display. The collection includes works by European Modernists including Cezanne, Picasso, and Kandinsky and Surrealist works by Ernst, Miro, and Magritte. The holdings in postwar art include works by Giacometti, Noguchi, Calder, Rauschenberg, and Johns; Abstract Expressionist paintings by de Kooning, Francis, Still, and Rothko; Color-Field paintings by Frankenthaler, Louis, and Noland; and Pop Art by Warhol, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, and Rosenquist. Contemporary California works include those by Ruscha and Goode, and Super Realist sculptures by Hanson and de Andrea. Art Seeker

Some people consider this a commonly known tourist attraction, others have never heard of it, so forgive me if you've already been there, but we really enjoyed our day at Griffith Observatory. Well-done exhibits, pleasant grounds, lovely views (including the Hollywood sign), and some hikes from there if you want them. It's FREE (they charge only for planetarium shows), and on weekends (ONLY) it can be accessed easily by public transit - the LADOT DASH Observatory Shuttle departs from the corner outside the Vermont/Sunset Metro station (Red Line) every 20 minutes, and costs only 50 cents (35 cents if you use a TAP stored-value card). The main downside is the food - long lines for a meager selection of mediocre food. Bring your own (officially not permitted, so hide it well and eat outside the building area). RK

The Center for Land Use Interpretation in Culver City--Small exhibit and bookstore. Expo Line light rail to Culver City station. Hollyhock House/Barnsdall Art Park , Los Feliz--Frank Lloyd Wright designed house & art gallery. Red Line subway to Vermont/Sunset (Rudolph) Schindler House/MAK Center (art and architecture museum), West Hollywood. 704 Santa Monica Blvd. Rapid bus to Sweetzer Ave. Downtown Long Beach--LA region's second largest historic city center (1920's buildings) with new urban apartments. Strong emphasis on improving bicycle friendliness. Museum of Latin American Art (see walking tour 2) is the only museum focusing on Latin American art in the LA region. Eating and drinking places, particularly along Pine St. between roughly 1st & 5th St. There are a number of hotels to stay at. Blue Line light rail to Downtown Long Beach station, approximately one hour ride from Downtown LA. Have fun! Carol

Places to visit with kids in LA

Oct 2013

My brother and his family will be visiting from London in December His kids are 7 and 10yrs old. We are going to Universal Studios and I would like more ideas of places to visit in LA and here in the Bay Area. Suggestions for budget friendly hotels to stay in, in LA also appreciated. All ideas appreciated. Planning ahead

Hi, I just moved up from Los Angeles. I don't really know of places to stay, since I lived there. But in addition to Universal of course is Disneyland (also rainforest cafe in Downtown Disney), Knotts, Lego Land (further south but good for his kids' ages). Santa Monica pier & 3d street promenade are fun. Of course the beach - renting bicycles and riding along the beach in Santa Monica - we used to pull our son in a cool cart that was screened in and the 'older' ones can ride in a seat on back of dad's bike. Possibly a concert at Hollywood bowl geared toward kids. ONe of the best restaurants ever - Sol Y luna in Tarzana (shh, don't tell anyone, the line is long enough already). The LA zoo is fun but hilly (should be no problem in the cooler weather). There is also a planetarium (sp?)pony ride and train ride in Griffith park and something called train town or something like that with tons of old cool trains and inside a huge running model train track Have a great time. Good luck finding a place to stay. -K

In LA for 3 days with kids - suggestions?

Nov 2011

Hi - we will be in LA for three days early December (husband at a conference). I had a look through the archives, but was wondering if anybody could give more recent advice. Our girls are 7 and 3. Hubby suggested Disneyland, but I guess you need 2 days there, and I would rather see something more special. i.e. something you can't see anywhere else. Has anybody been to any of the film studios? Is that fun for kids, too? Anything else we girls would love? And where would be a good area to stay in?

Thanks for any good ideas! exploring LA

Around those ages, my kids loved the La Brea Tarpits and the Getty Museum (really the garden and the tram ride more than the museum itself, but it's a beautiful spot). My NorCal kids also get a kick out of going to SoCal beaches, because they're so different (not cold and windy!) than our local beaches. JP

Your husband is right! If you never took your girls to Disneyland, you should. Forget the studios and such. Stay by or at Disneyland and take them there. Every little girl should go, most of all around Xmas. Just make sure that you do not go when vacation for students started. If you go in the 1st 2 weeks of December you should be fine. I was like you, no Disneyland for me until I took my 2 girls. Have fun and even only one day is fun. LT mom of 2 girls and lived in Southern Cal most of my life

We go to the LA every year to visit family with our 5-year-old and have found lots of things to do. Near downtown are the California Science Center, a great interactive science museum which is FREE, and the Natural History Museum. In Griffith Park there is Travel Town, a train museum with train rides (and there is a pony ride nearby). There is also the La Brea Tar Pits and the LA County Museum, which I hear has great sculpture gardens. These are all in the central LA area A bit further afield in Pasadena is Kidspace, an interactive kids' museum, and the Huntington Gardens, which is home to the famous Blue Boy Painting, the Fantasy Island house (hidden away) -- it has fabulous gardens and greenhouses that are kid-friendly and fun.

I think you are right to avoid Disneyland--we have. It is a marathon venture and tough for small kids. It has been years since I have been to Universal Studios, but I would also suggest for older kids. Also, you didn't say where your husband's conference is, but LA is very spread out and Anaheim (home to Disneyland) is a good hour away from central LA. It might be best for everyone's sanity to stay near your husband's conference (especially if it is central) and then choose destinations that are relatively close. You really don't want to be stuck in LA gridlock with your little ones. Marie

we like the La Brea Tar Pits. if your kid is into dinosaurs and other fossils this is a great place. and not so expensive either! anon

Things to do in LA with a 10-year-old

Dec 2009

My 10-year old son and I are going to LA in December and we're looking for recommendations of places to go and things to see. I checked the archive info and it's pretty dated. Other than the Tar Pits, Griffith Park and Santa Monica Pier, any other recs? We plan to check out the LA County Museum of Art too. We'll be there about 3 days. Thanks! Rebecca

I'm transplanting from L.A. to the E. Bay in a month. I love L.A. Here are some things I love to do in December: -the LADWP Holiday Light Festival. You walk from the LA Zoo parking lot along a road decorated on both sides with wonderful light scenes. It's a reasonable walk (not too long--just enough), you go at your own pace and buy churros along the way. If you can make it, go between 12/4-17 when it is ''vehicle free''--open only to pedestrians. Definitely a better experience to walk.

-As for Griffith Park itself, after the big burns of last year, hiking trails are pretty exposed, dusty, and without much vegetation. Same goes for walking/hiking opportunities in the San Gabriel mountains... much more recent and devastating burns.

-At the California Science Center, they have an interesting-sounding exhibit called ''America I Am. The African American Imprint''. Of note, it has an original copy of the Declaration of Independence on display, among other things, I'm sure... I haven't been, but if that doesn't interest you, the rest of the Science Center is pretty fun, with plenty of things to do, and free (except for the IMAX, and sometimes you need to make reservations for exhibits) am/america-i-am.php-

-For a glimpse into the entertainment industry, you can always go to Universal Studios, but also see tapings of shows. I've been to tapings of the Tonight Show. It's fun, you get to be a part of the audience, and it doesn't take all day...

I have recommendations for places to eat and other things... gardens, parks, lots more. email me if you want more... Jeanne

The Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire is lots of fun: as

My sons spent a week in LA with their my mother for over 10 years and she took them to just about every museum and amusement park in LA. Here's a list of the museums I can recall off the top of my head that my sons enjoyed (in no particular order)

Peterson Automobile Museum (

Autry Museum of Western Heritage ( which is next to the LA zoo (

The Getty Museums ( The Getty Center complex is quite impressive and has some great views on a clear day.

California Science Center (

The Griffith Park Observatory (

Travel Town ( I went there as a kid. Great if you like trains. It is located in Griffith Park has some good info. LA native

I was born in LA and my 4-y.o. son and I still fly down there all the time. One of my fave eating spots is Toi on Sunset ... it's a Thai restaurant all done up in full-on punk/rock-n-roll style and our entire family (including my 73-year-old mom!) just loves it. You will really know you're in L.A. when you eat at Toi! I also recommend Pizzeria Mozza, founded by Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton. The pizzas are the best I've ever had, and they treat kids like royalty there. Of course the Santa Monica Pier is a fun visit, as well as Griffith Park, where I believe you can rent horses to ride. Oh and be sure to get a Pinkberry frozen yogurt while you're in L.A. We always do! Lisa in Oakland

Fun cheap things to do in LA area?

March 2009

I'm temporarily working in Torrance (just south of LA) and am looking for suggestions on fun, relatively inexpensive, things to do and places to go. This is my first time down here. I know about the Getty museum, beaches, studio tours, but am wondering what other suggestions do you all have? Music venues, theatres, museums, other stuff? Or is there a book or website that could help me? The area is so large it is overwhelming! new to LA

There are lots of things to do but tend to be wide spread. Check out the following: all of which are in the San Gabriel Valley area. Thought these would be worth noting since they might be off your radar but worth the effort to see. Rick

One of my favorite places in LA is the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), which is a world-class museum with exhibits which run the gamut from classical art to a small but wonderful collection of American Art, from the colonial period to arts and crafts furniture and pottery. (There is an awesome forty-foot long David Hockney painting, Mulholland Drive, which is the first thing to greet you as you get off the elevator to the American galleries). The museum is easily accessible by mass transit on Wilshire Boulevard (a main east-west street), and you can also park (this is what I usually do) in the parking lot for the La Brea Tar Pits, which is right next door to the museum. This latter is a wonderful place, especially for children, since you can see the actual tar pits, bubbling with gases out front, and inside the museum they have giant mammoth skeletons, skulls of prehistoric predators, etc.

Another personal favorite is the Gamble House in Pasadena (easily accessible by freeway), near the Rose Bowl, which is one of the most famous examples of Craftsman architecture in the United States. They have excellent tours of the house, beautiful gardens, and a wonderful gift shop. Parking is easy right in front of the Museum. Pasadena itself is also really worth exploring; there is an original 50s style cafeteria right on the main street.

Enjoy LA! It is a fabulous city, full of things to do, and it would take a lifetime to see them all.

P.S. The pier in Santa Monica is also a fun thing to do with kids, since it has a ferris wheel, a pier with many shops, and is right on the beach. It would be easy to combine a visit to the Pier with a visit to the Getty Museum, since the Getty is just a short drive up the coast on Hwy. 1 (for the Getty, you have to reserve ahead, which is easy to do online). Jim

The Nuart theater is a cool place for catching indie film. It is in West L.A.

Also, if you're star struck, you can watch for celebs on Robertson Blvd., especially at Ivy's. Check on You Tube for a preview - recently Sharon Stone was filmed there. You'll get a good taste of the scene. Robertson also has a lot of cool boutiques and antique stores.

L.A. Access is a good guidebook. Has a good variety of architecture, restaurants, significant buildings, and history. Grew Up There

Oh yes, I grew up in LA, and whenever I go, we head to the Museum of Natural History, the LaBrea tarpits, and the Museum of Science and Industry. We rent bikes at the Santa Monica pier, and ride to Venice beach. jj

Here are a few more ideas: walking along Hollywood Boulevard, trying to figure out who on earth those people with stars in the sidewalk are. Not to mention looking at some genuinely freaky people and some lavishly restored old movie palaces.

The Farmers Market is free, though one is likely to spend money on food there. If you like shopping mall as spectacle, you can go to The Grove shopping center adjacent, ride the 1/5 mile trolley, watch the dancing fountains etc. (The fountains are pretty spectacular -- my daughter could spend an hour watching them and walking through the water area when she was in preschool.)

For people interested in contemporary art, there are clumps of galleries in Chinatown on (pedestrian!) Chung King Road, in Downtown in various places in the historic core, and in Culver City on Washington Blvd. centering around La Cienega Blvd.

I recently went to the Getty Villa near Santa Monica which is free to enter, you just need to reserve the ticket and parking online. The concept of a reproduction Roman villa is fascinating to older kids and the setting is spectacular. They have one of the best children's activities rooms I've ever seen, plus the museum itself has some really stunning stuff, nicely explained. The cafe seemed slow and expensive (we didn't try it) but I don't think they'd stop you bringing your own picnic. Fiona

Hi- I grew up in LA and there are many cheap things to do with kids. I have a almost 6 year old girl and almost 3 year old boy. We like to visit La Brea Tar Pits(my father is a docent at the Page Museum), The Grove/Farmers Market(they have story time during the week on the grass, plus a water show and koi in the pond), Griffith Park has pony rides and train rides for a couple $$. A day at the beach is always so gratifying to the kids as well- hit up carbon beach, nicer, not as crowded and you will spot some celebs. good parks..look at beverly hills, the one on comstock, across from Aaron Spelling mansion is great. have fun! jill b

Earlier Recommendations

Where to Stay in LA Area

Aug 2005

We are going to see the King Tut exhibt at the LA County Museum of Art on Wilshire Blvd. in LA. The zip code is 90036. Pls. recommend a place to stay. The places very close to the Museum are fairly cheap but had really scary reviews, like people hearing gun shots outside their windows and almost being mugged. I can't afford to pay more than $100-$115 per night, but definately want to be safe. I'm worried about LA traffic too, so need something within a decent distance, but in a safe neighborhood. Pls give hotel name and address if possible. Thanks Sarah

I would book a hotel near LAX through expedia or orbitz. The traffic in LA isn't nearly as bar as it is rumored to be. The comfort of your hotel room will more than make up for the 20 mins it may take you to drive to the museum. The area around the museum (Miracle Mile/Beverly Hills ajacent) is alright if you live there but a decent hotel is going to cost you. I booked the LAX Raddisson for the first time this spring and loved it! Feel free to email if you have questions. tia

If I were you, I'd go onto a website like Expedia or Priceline to look for a motel in Santa Monica as close to Wilshire Blvd as you can get. Then I'd take the Rapid Bus down Wilshire to the museum. You could take your rental car and it would be easy, too. The museum is in a neighborhood that has nice apartments and homes, but horrible temporary accomodations. Wilshire can be dangerous very late at night, but it isn't so bad in the evening that you couldn't take the bus back to Santa Monica at 9 PM. Santa Monica is a nice, touristy beach town that will give you plenty to do when you get out of the museum. It is about 45 minutes away from the museum in traffic. It could be more or less depending on the time of day you are traveling and what is going on at any given moment on Wilshire. Santa Monica is adjacent to Westwood (UCLA's neighborhood), then you'd travel through Beverly Hills, then you'd reach La Cienega and the museum. The La Brea Tar Pits are there, too. I'm from LA, and if I was going to see King Tut, this is what I'd do to save myself aggravation. Contact me if you want to discuss what the area is like. Take care, Christina

Regarding your post about wanting to go visit the King Tut exhibit in Los Angeles - the area that you are staying in is pretty safe. I'm very familiar with it. If you stay within walking distance of that museum, you should be fine. I'm sorry I don't have any hotels to recommend but the Wilshire/La Brea area is safe, I can't picture who would be shooting guns. Anonymous

Try the Farmer's Daughter on Fairfax.It's a short drive from the County Museum and across the street from the farmer's market, which is a great place to get a meal (sort of like a very good, ethnic food court) plus you can pick up fruit, etc.

There's also the Ramada Inn in West Hollywood. The neighborhood is gay and friendly. It is across the street from a Whole Foods and two blocks away from a nice playground. (Most of the kids there seem to have Russian immigrant parents/grandparents.) Another short drive from the County Museum. When you go to LA, be sure to ask about parking charges, because that can add a substantial amount to your costs.

Have you looked at Trip Advisor? That's a good place to check out hotels. Crime is not a big problem in these parts of LA, but walking is pretty unpleasant outside of West Hollywood, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. carol

I have stayed at the Del Capri on Wilshire. Its been a couple of years since I've been there so I don't know the latest rates. The neighborhood is lovely and the facility has a tray of breakfast foods brought to your room each morning. The pool/courtyard is lovely too. Always ask about AAA rates or other group rates if you are a member.

In April, my kids and hubby and I stayed at the Best Western in Marina Del Rey. Beautiful, homey rooms and right on the beach. It was around $115 a night for a second floor room on the street vs beach side. Don't know what the rates are this time of year. It is a little drive to Wilshire but not too bad! It is very close to Venice beach. Here is a link to peek at that place I know there are lots of decent and even nice places around. Mary

May 2005

Re: 10th Anniversary romantic getaway
The Beverly Hills Hotel has beautiful rooms, views, a nice pool, and, in December, a shot a nice weather. If I were in your shoes, I'd pick the Beverly Hills Hotel, given the time of year. anon

Beach Vacation in So. Cal

June 2003

We are looking for a place for a family holiday in So. Cal for one week (July 28-August 4). Anyone with a recommendation for a rental (hotel suite) near the beach (e.g., Venice, Santa Monica)? Or, a friend wanting to do a house exchange (to Berkeley)? Our children are 2 and 4 y. Jed

I stayed at the CalMar Suites in Santa Monica last December. I believe it used to be a '50s era apartment building at one time. My unit consisted of 2 bedrooms, bath, livingroom, and full kitchen, with pots, pans, dishes, etc., all very clean and tidy.It has a pool, and the managers on duty for the 3 days I was there were very friendly and attentive. The rates at that time were approx. $120/night. When I made the reservation I told them that I would be arriving late (after 11 p.m.) They had a safe, hidden place where they stashed a key for me to pick up, and I ''officially'' checked in the next morning. It is located 1 block from the 3rd St. promenade, which has nonstop street entertainment of every kind, restaurants, and movie theatres. It's approx. 2 blocks to the beach and pier (carnival-type rides and atmosphere.) I parked my car (off-street parking)and didn't drive it again until it was time to drive back to the Bay Area. I really enjoyed my stay there and would definitely go back. Their web site is Mari

Things to do with kids in Downtown LA

11/99 Any suggestions for good places to go with kids in and around LA? I'm specifically interested in anything in the downtown area, as my husband and I will be at a conference and will be switching off to do things with the kids (well, actually a 4.5 year old and an infant). But, we're happy to hear about anything that's fun! Thanks!

If you're going to be in the Downtown area, don't miss Travel Town in the great outdoors of Griffith Park!! It's a fairly short drive from downtown (I assume you''ll have a car) and has been a huge hit with all the kiddies we know. There are lots of trains for kids to climb on and explore and it's basically open every day. It's located on the back side (Burbank side) of the park, and the closest freeway exit is Forest Lawn, but ask the hotel staff exactly how to get there. Griffith Park itself is akin to Golden Gate Park in S.F. i.e huge, urban and basically safe.The L.A. Zoo and the Griffith Park Observatory are also there. There are playgrounds and lots of other activities for kids, but I don't know specifics. Again, ask the hotel staff for more info. Have fun!!!

In downtown you should make sure you get to Angel's Flight. It's an old trolley-like ride (short and cheap). At the bottom is what I call the Mercado Central - not sure what it's real name is but it's a Latino market place, just like you would find in Mexico or Central America. Horchata is highly recommended on any visit to the Mercado Central. At the top of Angel's Flight is the Water Court (again my name for it - not sure what its official name is). It's on the top of the structure across from the top of Angel's Flight. There used to be excellent concerts on Fridays at Noon.

There is a wonderful (or highly wasteful considering this is the desert) fountain by the Music Center. It's got perhaps 60-120 spouts set in the pavement. The height of the water varies from off to 20 feet. It's really fun for the kids. If you take a suit you can try to get through the fountain without getting wet (good luck :).

Olvera Street (Mexican town) + El Pueblo de Los Angeles, 125 Paseo de la Plaza
Japantown + Japanese Am. Musuem, 369 E. First St.
Children's Museum, 310 N. Main St.

Various Other Areas


Venice Boardwalk Santa Monica Pier (amusement park) Santa Monica Beach playgrounds Travel Town in Griffith Park Venice Canals (slow and leisurely - great for a walk) LA County Museum of Art has kids stuff - check with them Museum of Science and Tech Museum of Nat History La Brea Tar Pits (my 4 year old loved this - your mileage will vary) and Some place with a big mouse running around everywhere(?). Sounds weird.


If you're near Pasadena, there's a wonderful children's museum there called Kidspace. My son loved it at that age.

Santa Monica

Linda (6/99)

  Santa Monica is a wonderful place for a child.  We moved to East Bay after several years in West LA.  Just off the top of my head: 1.  The beach.  This can be a big outing with sunshades and equipment or just a nice walk with a stroller.  If the weather is nice your child will not tire of this outing even after several days of the same thing. 2.  The tot lot in the middle of the canals (Venice).  This is a fabulous place to meet other toddlers.  It is a small, neighborhood park and most kids know each other. 3.  The 3rd Street Promenade.  My son was always wild for this outing. Lots of activity to look at.  3rd Street is just a shopping street like Solano Ave or College Ave--but a million times better. 4.  UCLA.  There are lots of big green lawns and easy uphill walks with rather safe stairs.  Excellent for getting a kid so tired he'll sleep when you pop him into his stroller so that you can sit under a tree and read your handy book 5.  Will Rogers Park in Pacific Palisades.  I don't remember the busline but the park is free if you walk in.  A huge park with polo horses on some weekend days.  If your child is a good walker there is a 1 mile walk with wonderful views that has a short patch of moderately-steep walking at the very beginning.  After that, the walk is fairly easy--but it is a circle without a short-cut off of the mile. 6.  A zillion more things--others will mention some I'm sure.  Have fun.  Sojeila 

9/99 Can anyone recommend any nice but inexpensive places to stay in Santa Monica, Pacific Palasides or Topanga (all California) for two adults and a 2 1/2 and 5 year old. We need something for 2-3 nights over Thanksgiving weekend and if a dog was welcome too well that would be a major bonus.

In Santa Monica, we stayed at the SangriLa (?sp) Hotel (?Motel) on the road along the ocean. I don't remember the cost; but It was not much different from a regular hotel room in that area. The building is done in an art deco style, and must have been an apartment building at one time. Many of the rooms are suites with full kitchen. We had a bedroom, living room and kitchen. There is no restaurant, or room service, but they do serve a fairly full continental breakfast in a room on the first floor. We stayed there when my sons were 1 and 2 1/2 years old; everyone was friendly and helpful. It's a short walk to the beach and a short walk to the shopping street - ? 4th street. I will definitely stay there again with young children. Having the kithchen was very convenient and the two rooms worked very well. You can take some breakfast to your room, or go down for a quiet cup of coffee in the am. We ate most of our other meals with family. I think they may even take pets.