Last week I detailed a handful of Los Angeles activities (and snack spots!) east of La Brea…this week, the west! When I first moved to L.A., I lived in Hollywood, as did most of my friends. I now live in Highland Park near Pasadena, so while I have definitely moved easterly, I still try my best to make it to the west side at least once a year. Jokes! But really, traffic is a nightmare, so try to plan your day accordingly. I like to try to get to that side of the city early (get up, have a coffee, then make it there by 9 for breakfast!) and then have two to three activities slated close-ish to each other for the day. It makes the inevitable lengthy drive home worth it and once you’ve been walking around a bunch, the car ride won’t feel so miserable.
Here are some of my favorite parent and family-friendly activities on the West Side of L.A. (I draw the line right around La Brea for east/west, but some of these are right around that line):
- An obvious pick, LACMA can actually be quite an adventure. Definitely snap your quintessential “I’m in LA!” photos at the lamps out front, but then venture around back of the museum to see the giant rock, peak inside at the many revolving exhibits, and be sure to stop by my favorite: “Metropolis,” where every hour thousands of toy cars race around a two story track and city installation. LACMA is super close to Little Ethiopia, and if you’ve never tried Ethiopian food I can’t recommend it enough! Call ahead to get a reservation at Meals by Genet, or if you’re stopping by Messob and Merkato are great spots, too!
- Another artsy stop that shouldn’t be missed is The Getty. Perched high in the hills of Brentwood, the museum offers sweeping views of the city, an intense collection of paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts, and lovely terraces and gardens throughout the space. As a total freebie (except the $15 parking fee), I’d highly recommend at least half a day spent wandering and taking it all in. If you’re appetite is wheted by seeing all that art, check out Lemonade just a short drive away. There are Lemonade locations throughout the city and it’s one of my favorites for visitors looking for a “taste of L.A.”
- Think you’ve had enough Getty in your stay? Think again, and check out The Getty Villa! Right off the PCH, the Villa is inspired by ancient Rome and has so many beautiful spots to take in. The collection itself is the “overflow” from J. Paul Getty’s first gallery, but you would never know as the caliber of art located here is fantastic. Feeling peckish by the water? Stop by Duke’s or Malibu Seafood for some tasty snacks!
- Another obvious pick that sometimes I talk myself out of recommending (the crowds are baffling) is the Santa Monica Promenade and Pier. I’m keeping it on this list because I think if it’s a visitor’s first time out, there are sights to be seen and this is one of them. The Promenade is home to many, many, MANY(!) shops and restaurants and can easily distract you from the beautiful neighboring ocean… but don’t let it overwhelm you! The Pier is just as populated and both are filled with street performers and artists. I like to cap visits to this area to 2 or 3 hours, othwerise the crowds just get to be too much. Take a break and walk the beach 🙂
- Driving the PCH is hands down one of my favorite activities. Similar to last week’s recommendation of driving through Angeles National Forest, I love a good road trip and PCH is one of the best in the country. PCH in LA is close to the start of California Route 1, that ends up making its way all the way north to Mendocino. I like to start in Santa Monica and take a few hours to get up to Point Mugu (but if you have some extra time to kill…or some extra days, the drive up through Oxnard, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo is just amazing).
- Similar in description, but very different in diversion, driving Mullholland was one thing that I actually learned about because of my parents! My father has read countless books that have made mention of Mulholland Drive, so on his first visit, when I had only lived here for about a month, he requested we drive it. It was a blast (so. many. curves! If you like driving, this is a treat!) but also gave me so many more views of the city. Also, the house peaking up in the hills gets to be pretty ritzy!
- This may only resonate with the nerds, but another favorite only-in-L.A. activity is to attend a Jeopardy! taping. The tickets are always easy to get, and it’s one of the few live-audience shows that I actually watch at home. It’s very cool to drive on to the lot and see some behind-the-scenes in action!
This is by far not an exhaustive list. I already feel like I could write an entire follow up post detailing my favorite spots in Venice, the can’t-miss Malibu, beautiful Skirball, and the best trails in Will Rogers State Park that lead straight to the beach! But hopefully that has at least sparked your imagination for the next time you have Los Angeles-bound visitors (or if you are one, yourself!).
Let me know if there are any other spots you think are must-dos for L.A. visitors! And be sure to check out Part 1: the East Side!