10 Tips for the Second Time LA Tourist, Calif.

It’s inevitable that, as a first time visitor to Los Angeles, you will be drawn to its better known sights like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and Venice’s Muscle Beach. I am all for it; the media and motion picture industries are part of Los Angeles’ DNA, and what we might read about, watch on TV, or see in the movies can greatly influence our itinerary choice. It’s on the second trip that you may want to reconsider the Star Line bus tour and tourist-friendly draws however, and explore the layers beneath LA’s celluloid surface.  What you’ll find is a patchwork of cities and neighborhoods that enrich the county’s culture and communities.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you sidestep the well trodden tourist path:

1. Mulholland Drive – Perhaps one of the most appealing things about LA, aside from its warm climate, is its proximity to the ocean and mountains. To see it from top to tail, rent a car and cruise along the 21-mile stretch of winding Mulholland Drive. The road will take you through the Hollywood Hills, over the Valley, and to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Tip: GPS is essential in navigating this road as it is broken up in parts.

An overlook on Mulholland Drive - looking at LA's downtown

From Mulholland Drive, looking over LA’s downtown

2. Hollywood – LA looks different when you look at it through the letters of the Hollywood sign. To get to the top of Mt. Lee, Google: Beachwood Drive and Hollyridge Trail. There’s room for parking and it’s about a 40 minute walk, one way. Tip: Keep on track by staying left of the trail.

My sis and me peeking over the fence at "that" sign

My sis and me peeking over the fence at “that” sign

3. Griffith Park – Los Angeles is home to a variety of architecture; Moby even has a blog dedicated to it: Moby Los Angeles Architecture Blog. A beautiful example is The Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. At once futuristic and historic, the details of its precast building blocks harken to Mayan times; you may also remember the house from the 1980’s movie Bladerunner. Tip: Address is 2607 Glendower Ave, Loz Feliz.

Part of the Ennis House

Part of the Ennis House

4. Echo Park – Echo Park Avenue has the artisan feel. Street art colours the hilly neighbourhood; cafes offer pour over coffees for $5 a cup. Located close to downtown LA, the area feels like it’s on the cusp of something big. Tip: Go to FIX for a pour over coffee – order anything from the “Handsome Coffee Roasters” line. Pazzo Gelato on Sunset Blvd offers $1 scoops during its 4-6pm Happy Hour. The Pear Sorbetto is highly recommended.

Top: European Yoghurt, Strawberry Custard Gelato; Bottom: Pear Sorbetto, Espresso Gelaro

Top: European Yoghurt, and Strawberry Custard Gelatos; Bottom: Pear Sorbetto, Espresso Gelato

5. Silver Lake – More than 500 staircases around Los Angeles used to serve its public transportation system; now they are a good excuse to stairwalk and see a neighbourhood up close. An excellent starting point for the novice is the Music Box Stair Loop in burgeoning Silver Lake, made famous by the movie starring Laurel and Hardy. Tip: Check out Walks @ Secret Stairs-LA for more routes. The website counts the Music Box set to have 133 steps across multiple landings as part of a 2.5 mile loop.

The shaky looking "Music Box" Steps

The shaky looking “Music Box” Steps

6. Downtown LA – Newly built condos in the area have attracted a young entrepreneurial community. The Art District has injected a creative vibe in this part of town, and galleries can be found along Spring and Main Sts between 2nd and 9th. Tip: Check out a couple of the laid back eating spots: go to Urth Caffe on Hewitt St for a Moroccan Mint Latte, or a Belgian Beer at Wurtskuche on East 3rd.

Arts District

Arts District

7. Westwood – In the midst of a cluster of office buildings rests Westwood Village Park Memorial Cemetery. Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, and other stars are buried here. Tip: Located at 1218 Glendon Avenue, the narrow street looks like the entrance to a parking lot – it’s easy to overlook.

Marilyn Monroe is buried in the site at the top right

Marilyn Monroe is buried in the site at the top right

8. Pacific Palisades – For a panoramic scene that spans downtown LA to the ocean, hike to the top of the Los Liones trail. It’s 2 miles each way and not too strenuous but wear your sneakers. Tip: Go on a sunny day for a clear view.

At the top of the Los Liones trail - Pacific to the right, and downtown to left (not seen in this photo)

At the top of the Los Liones trail – Pacific to the right, and downtown to left (not seen in this photo)

9. Malibu – Perhaps one of the loveliest museums in LA is The Getty Villa. High up in the mountains, with the Pacific as the backdrop, it feels Mediterranean – manicured gardens, fountains, and a herb garden surround a villa that houses antiquities and sculpture collections. Tip: Allocate some time to lunch on wine and cheese in the courtyard, but don’t forget to reserve your entry free tickets on http://www.getty.edu prior to visiting.

The grand pool at The Getty Villa

The grand pool at The Getty Villa

10. Venice Beach – The Pacific is alluring, the boardwalk is not. Navigate the Venice Canal Walk in the direction of Abbot Kinney – a retail stretch of road where you’ll build up an appetite as you window shop. Tip: Go to Gjelina for an excellent modern Italian meal, or stop at TOMS for a pair of shoes. Browse as you sip on an espresso made to order from their in-store coffee bar.

Inside the TOMS store

Inside the TOMS store

28 thoughts on “10 Tips for the Second Time LA Tourist, Calif.

  1. There are a lot of stairwalks not only in Silver Lake, but also in Echo Park, Hollywood Hills, Franklin Hills, Pacific Palisades just to name a few areas. You can also see stairwalks at http://www.stairwalkinginLA.wordpress.com. Also check out Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to Historical Staircases in Los Angeles.” The author Charles Fleming leads a stairwalk the first Sunday of every month. You can find him on face book.

  2. Fabulous images Marina and an interesting post. I always avoid the tourist traps and go looking for whatever I might find away from the main throng. I think you get such a better feel for a place doing that. 🙂

    • Thanks Adrian! I agree – the main part is always good to know about, and see, but the beauty is in the depths of a city. That said, passing through a city and visiting the main attractions when time is scarce is what II generally like to do, but not for too long 🙂

  3. amazing again! I agree – I am all for being a tourist and love checking things off my list when I travel, but there is also something exciting about exploring parts of cities that you may not have normally known about and discovering neighbourhoods, bars, restaurants and the likes off the “beaten” track… great pictures, great words can’t wait to read more and more 🙂

  4. Marina, we’d hoped to make it to Los Angeles this summer during our American road trip, but ran out of time. Perhaps next year?

    That Pear Sorbetto is certainly calling my name. Yum. Love the cheery red backdrop 🙂

  5. Thank you Marina, you tought me some sites to go see in L.A. As you know I am A San Clemente resident and I go a lot for business to L.A. but never have time to see more what I want to go to see. I always wanted to go up to the Hollywood sign and I will do it, thanks to your inspiration.

  6. Yes! Abbott Kinney is the best place to window shop.. i end up there every time I head to LA to visit my sister and lust after the beautiful stuff. I think riding/renting a bike from Venice Beach to Santa Monica is also a great touristy thing to do….

    • A lot of people don’t realize that there are canals in Venice with beautiful homes on either side.I love the canals. Venice was built to look like Venice Italy, thus the name. You can see photos and read post about Venice on my blog http://www.stairwalkinginLA.wordpress.com. Also google Venice Beach canals to see some vintage photos. Lots of history.

    • Ohh, I have a fear of bikes after falling off one more than a decade ago. BUT it is a great to-do for tourists! Glad to share the love for Abbott Kinney with you 🙂 Thanks!

  7. Pingback: From the tops of the Hollywood Hills, LA | Marina Chetner

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