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If Santa Monica is jammed up, try Pico or Olympic Boulevard, which run roughly parallel a bit farther south. Westwood Village and Brentwood's commercial district on San Vicente Boulevard come alive at night and on weekends, and the afternoon rush hour can be maddening—another good reason to plan museum trips early in the day or on Sunday.
For street parking, bring plenty of quarters; parking on residential streets is by permit only.
Finding parking along Wilshire Boulevard can present a challenge any time of the day; you can find advice on the information phone lines of most attractions.
In Beverly Hills, park your car in one of several municipal lots (the first one or two hours are free at most of them), and spend as long as you like strolling along Rodeo Drive.
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