Summer’s here, which means tourists are descending on some of Socal’s favorite spots like the La Brea tar pits, the Hollywood sign and the Venice pier. There are some places you should not stay away from!
L.A.'s public transportation may be a sore subject, but we do have one thing that other cities do not: the world's shortest railway, Angels Flight. Built in 1901, the funicular railway carries passengers 298 feet between Hill and Olive streets in Bunker Hill for a fee of just 50 cents. It's a short ride, but being ferried by Olivet or Sinai should be experienced by locals and tourists alike. California Plaza sits adjacent to the orange and black cars and is the perfect next stop for eats and Grand Performances.
Angels Flight is located at 351 South Hill Street in Los Angeles, (213) MA6-1901
Tourists could probably spend their entire vacations exploring Griffith Park's activities and attractions, and the expected crowds of hikers and stargazers hardly deter locals from enjoying the area. Sprawling over 4,200 acres, the parks offers hiking trails, bike paths and pony rides, as well as the Greek Theatre, Autry National Center, Travel Town, Equestrian Center and L.A. Zoo. Basically, park visitors can abandon their vehicles and embrace the power of two wheels, two legs or even four. Here's how to plan the perfect weekend in the park.
Griffith Park is located at 4730 Crystal Springs Drive in Los Angeles, (323) 913-4688
Sabato "Simon" Rodia's famous Watts Towers are hardly the first stop on a tourists' itinerary in L.A., but they should be high on the list for those looking to escape the Hollywood hustle and bustle. An Italian immigrant construction worker, Rodia built the 17 interconnected structures in his spare time over the course of 33 years, from 1912 to 1954. A mesmerizing example of vernacular architecture, the steel towers—two which rise to nearly 100 feet—are coated in mortar and adorned with found objects, like bottles, sea shells and ceramic tiles. Tours of the masterpiece take place every half hour Thursday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. General admission costs $7. Also worth exploring are the Watts Towers Arts Center and Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center.
Watts Towers are located at 1765 East 107th Street in Los Angeles, (213) 847-4646
THE ORIGINAL FARMERS MARKET
When it comes to farmers' markets, Los Angeles is certainly not impaired. A convenient option for local produce exists in numerous 'hoods and serves as the go-to market for many Angelenos, but the original Los Angeles farmers' market on Third and Fairfax should not be avoided just because tourists shop its fresh fare and flowers. It's been feeding Los Angeles since 1934 with its many stalls, and today market-goers can sample, buy and savor anything from Farm Fresh Produce's pomegranates to Gill's Old Fashioned Ice Cream to daily catches at Tusquellas Seafoods. A complete list of what "the best grocery store in Los Angeles" has to offer is availablehere, not to mention the highly anticipated free summer music and family fun events.
The Original Farmers Market is located at 6333 West Third Street in Los Angeles, (323) 933-9211
SANTA MONICA PIER
Most Los Angeles beachfront towns embrace their prime locations with the inclusion of a pier, and the Santa Monica Pier never fails to entertain, no matter the day or night. Aside from the always eclectic street performers (Arthur Nakane) and calming view of the Pacific and L.A. shoreline, the pier offers something for everyone. There's the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium for those searching for a little ocean knowledge; Trapeze School for the fearless; the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel, awarding riders with a 130-foot-high panoramic view of the city and the sea; and the annual free Twilight Concerts. Also, it's generally amazing that the pier dates all the way back to 1909. Our favorite new addition to the pier is ROGA, the free running and yoga (get it?) class that helped whip Angelenos into shape for a brief stint on Saturday mornings in February and March. And it'sreturning this summer from July 13 through August 31.
The Santa Monica Pier is located at 200 Santa Monica Pier (Colorado and Ocean) in Santa Monica, (310) 458-8901
We know, we know. Beware the freak show! But Angelenos cannot deny the fun fact that Venice Beach is one of their go-to spots to take out-of-towners. Some of the best buskers in town entertain here, and it's one of if not the best meccas for people watching. While Muscle Beach is usually muscle-deficient, it's still worth a glance, and the skate park makes visitors feel like there's no place like Venice. (Because there isn't.) Sure, visitors may be encouraged to seek herbal treatment for their ailments, listen to a rapper's new album, pay a man for insults, have their fortunes told by a gypsy and pose as a street performer's jumping prop, and it's all in good fun on theVenice Beach Boardwalk. There really are some gems charming the bustling strip, including musicians, artists and a dog wearing sunglasses. Don't be afraid, L.A. In Venice, it's usually OK to talk to strangers.
LA BREA TAR PITS
The La Brea Tar Pits have been featured in numerous films, and the trio of struggling mammoths are one of L.A.'s most iconic scenes. It was even the scene of a Los Angeles Police Department investigation. Angelenos looking to brush up on their Ice Age creatures and excavation knowledge can head to the pits and adjoining Page Museum and Pleistocene Garden any day of the week, and it's a great choice for entertaining and educating the kiddos. Watching gas bubbles slowly emerge from the pits might help relax tired minds, and Hancock Park is just a stone's throw away.
The La Brea Tar Pits are located at 5801 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, (323) 934-7243
The iconic sign sits high and proud in the Hollywood Hills, safe from the embrace of Tinseltowners and the Hollywood-obsessed. The sight of the 45-foot-tall white letters magically possesses the power of awakening the butterflies in the stomachs of residents whose honeymoon periods have long since expired. Photo opportunities with the sign are abundant around town, and Beachwood Drive along with Griffith Park offer some beautifully unobstructed shots at varying angles. We recommend braving one of the hikes up to the sign, which position hikers directly behind the letters, as well as a protective chain-link fence. Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream?
Locals and tourists alike flock to this 'hood for not only the fabulous food, but also to soak in the culture and history of L.A.'s Chinatown, which has been paying homage to Chinese Americans since 1938. Known for its elaborate parades and celebrations, Chinatown's events calendar includes Chinatown Summer Nights, walking tours, gallery openings, a farmers' market every Thursday and festivals. But you need not craft an itinerary when visiting this residential neighborhood. The sites are aplenty and stand as enough entertainment for wandering eyes, including the picturesque main plaza and its hanging red lanterns, Sun Yat-sen sculpture, Thien Hau Temple, Chinatown Wishing Well and the architecture throughout. Though smaller than its San Francisco sister, L.A.'s Chinatown holds its own and is hardly lacking when it comes to small specialty stores.
While there aren't many things more displeasing as overpriced food and floral prints, a trip to The Ivy should be on every willing Angeleno's list—if not for the likely celebrity spotting, for the chance to feel really stylish no matter what fashion horror plagues their appearance that day. Seated among industry professionals and famous faces, Ivy diners can nibble on $22 huevos rancheros, $22 buttermilk pancakes, $13 guacamole or $28 fried chicken while taking in the French-Provincial, shabby chic sites, including the waitstaff's crisp white getup and flower-adorned ties. True, Ivy-goers may have to save up to brunch here, but the chances of spotting a celeb, witnessing a paparazzi rush and feeling oh-so-Beverly Hills and Hollywood for a couple hours is worth it at least once (if that's your cup of tea). You're right in the thick of it on Robertson Boulevard.
The Ivy is located at 113 North Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills, (310) 274-8303