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LA Trip Report: Art Deco, Dinosaurs and our self-directed Asian Food Tour

LA Trip Report: Art Deco, Dinosaurs and our self-directed Asian Food Tour

Old Apr 13th, 2023, 09:07 AM
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LA Trip Report: Art Deco, Dinosaurs and our self-directed Asian Food Tour

PART 1 of 3
We had the opportunity to visit our daughter in LA for an all too short but super fun and super packed weekend. Living in Northern CA we were able to fly down using our Southwest Companion Pass. As a disclaimer – we have traveled to the LA area multiple times – visiting Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Universal Studios, Santa Monica, the Disney Concert Hall, the Broad, LACMA, the Petersen Auto Museum, the Getty Museum, the Getty Villa, Griffith Park Observatory, Huntington Gardens…so this trip report is not about any of those places.
Also - my apologies in advance - I cannot figure out how to resize the photos - they are so huge. Maybe I can figure this out by the time I post Part 2 and Part 3.

Logistics
We flew down Friday AM and landed at Burbank (BUR) (formerly Bob Hope Airport). Compared to LAX, this airport feels like a throwback in time, but it is so much easier to negotiate. Our daughter was able to take the day off and picked us up to start our weekend of fun. Fortunately, she has her own car, so we didn’t have to deal with the hassle of renting one.

I needed to find a place to stay since my daughter doesn’t have the space in her 1 bedroom apartment. I am always kind of horrified and shocked by how much it costs to find decent accommodations for what I consider a reasonable price. This time I used Booking.com and found Aventura Hotel – located in Koreatown. It turned out to fit our needs – reasonably priced, clean room, free parking and close enough to both my daughter’s apartment and our activities.

The Fun Stuff:
Friday (18,000 steps!)


We drove from the airport to Pine & Crane – a Taiwanese restaurant located in the Silver Lake area. After leaving the cold and rain of NorCal, we blissfully soaked in the SoCal sunshine in the plaza located just outside the restaurant as we waited for it to open. Fifteen minutes later, the door opened to a line-up of hungry customers. Of course we ordered too much, but my daughter was more than happy to bag up the leftovers to take home for the following week’s lunches.

Lunch at Pine & Crane

We then walked off our filling lunch – well, at least some of our calories – by visiting one of the “Hidden Staircases” in Silver Lake. We “just” went up the Micheltorena Stairs – reportedly 205 steps. After feeling the burn in our thighs, we decided that was enough for the day and came back down. We decided that we would save the 15 other staircases located in the Silver Lake and Echo Park districts for another day. Unfortunately, returning to the car we realized we had not looked at the cryptic streets signs carefully enough and had been rewarded with a parking ticket. ☹ Our daughter was particularly mad at herself that she had made the mistake. Oh well, what was done was done.

Next we drove over to Hollyhock House. Located in East Hollywood in Barnsdall Art Park, it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the “20th-Century Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.” Though work is ongoing, the house, built in the Art Deco style, has been beautifully restored. Tickets need to be purchased in advance online and you walk through on a self-tour. There are docents present who are more than happy to answer questions, provide context and to point out additional features. This fascinating house is built atop Olive Hill with the surrounding grounds providing a city park with gorgeous views. By the time we finished walking through the house, the grounds were filling up with Angelenos setting up blankets to start their weekend off with a nice relaxing nap in the warm sun. (Remember, they too had just been hammered by weeks of unseasonable wind and rain and cold temperatures.)




Living Room - Hollyhock House

After all that walking and stair climbing, we stopped at the newly opened Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice store. This is the first branch that opened on the mainland. If you have never tried Hawaiian shave ice then this is the place to check it out! The ice is very finely shaved to a light and fluffy texture. Ordering can be a somewhat involved process - we ordered 2 servings. First we added macadamia nut ice cream - which goes on the bottom. Then they add the shave ice. Then for one order we chose “No Ka Oi” (“The Best”) which combines Mango, Coconut and Passion Fruit syrups. We wanted to top it with the Snow Cap - sweetened condensed milk, but alas, they were already out of it. Our daughter chose “Tiger’s Blood” (a combination of strawberry/watermelon/coconut), Li Hing Mui (pickled plum) and Passionfruit syrups. The staff asked if she had already been to one of the Hawaii locations since she chose some of the more exotic flavors. The shave ice was delicious - refreshing after walking in the hot sunshine.

Ululani's Hawaiian Shave ice

We checked into our hotel, took a brief nap and then off to dinner at HanEuem by Chef Kang. Serving Korean food with a bit of an elevated twist, we again pigged out – this time on Pork Belly Kimchi Stew (my personal favorite), Spicy Mackerel Radish Stew (definitely our least favorite as the mackerel was a bit dry) and No Dum Joon (which means “all the pancakes”). Pa jun (or pajeon) is a common Korean pancake in which scallions are combined with eggs, spices and a mix of flours. At HanEuem, the No Dum Joon comes out as a tray of assorted Korean pancakes – meat, vegetable, seafood. Described as a “great appetizer” good for 2 or more, it really could be a meal in itself since it is huge. Even with a large and delicious bottle of Won Mae Plum Liqueur (premium soju) to accompany our meal, we again had leftovers for my daughter to bring home.


Pork Belly and Kimchee Stew

No Dum Joon - HanEuem by Chef Kang

Thankfully, we were going to again walk off the meal as we next arrived at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles for a First Fridays event. Open late (11PM? Midnight?) The museum selected an overarching 2023 theme of Fandom and Fantasy and more specifically for April: Space, Time, and Beyond. With live music, talks, pop-up events, cos-play and food trucks against the background of a pretty cool museum we managed to occupy ourselves for about 4-5 hours. I have to admit the final hour was spent sitting outside while listening to the ethereal music of Luna Li and realizing as the temperature began dropping, that my husband and I were clearly at least 20 years older than everyone else around us. Anyway, I highly recommend the Gem and Mineral Hall, the dinosaurs, and the Becoming Los Angeles exhibit and if you can make it to a First Friday night so much the better. Our daughter was impressed that we were alert and awake through all the activities. Of course we collapsed into bed once we got back to the hotel!

First Fridays at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
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Old Apr 13th, 2023, 10:43 PM
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Already a great weekend and it's not finished.
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Old Apr 14th, 2023, 06:07 AM
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Fantastic! More please.
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Old Apr 14th, 2023, 06:07 AM
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LA Trip Report: Day 2

Saturday (15,000 steps)
(Sorry - cannot figure out how to upload smaller versions of the photos )
We were admittedly a bit tired when we woke up. My husband went out to buy a real cup of coffee and some donuts to fortify ourselves. Our daughter picked us up and off we went to downtown LA to start our LA Conservancy Art Deco Tour. For 2 1/2 hours we walked around downtown LA while our docent pointed out the architectural features of the buildings surrounding Pershing Square. Again the beautiful blue sky provided an amazing backdrop to the buildings as we scrutinized the Art Deco elements highlighted by our guide. The tour provided a great combination of information not only about the architecture, but also about the history and culture of LA. (I am sure some of you are smirking at the thought of “LA” and “culture” in the same sentence.). We were surprised to discover that there are many beautiful and stylish Art Deco elements to appreciate - some hidden away (the remodeled Apple store) and some in plain sight (Eastern Columbia Lofts).


Eastern Columbia Building

Interior of Con Edison building

Interior of the Apple store

Afterward we walked down the street to Grand Central Market, snagged a table and pigged out…again. This time we had a Pork Katsu sandwich and Sea Salt Cream boba tea from Moon Rabbit (Vietnamese) and a Pork Belly Rice Bowl from SariSari (Filipino). Of course that wasn’t enough so we had round #2 with Fried Clams and chips from Broad Street Oyster Company. Packing up our leftover chips we then headed over to Little Tokyo. Since our daughter works in this area, we did a little walking tour of the area. I was surprised by the crowds of people with large lines outside the Sanrio store, as well as the many restaurants. We had wanted to visit the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) which for some reason is located in Little Tokyo. However, they were closed – they have been preparing for a new exhibit. Just next door, the Japanese American National Museum was open but we decided to save a visit for our next trip to LA as we didn’t have enough energy to do it justice. So what did we do instead? We got in line at Fugetsu-Do Bakery Shop to try their scrumptious mochi! Mochi are Japanese rice cakes made from rice that is hand made - pounded into paste and molded into shapes. They can be incredibly beautiful and intricately designed. Typically I haven’t really liked eating them – especially the ones filled with red bean. However, OMG, the mochi from this 150 year old shop is amazing – so soft and delicate and tasty! We only bought a 6-pack – mango, blueberry, strawberry and then had to negotiate who could eat which ones. In fact, we were so intent on eating them that we didn't take any photos of them! I think they must pound the crap out of the rice to be able to produce such a light, soft consistency. We told our daughter that from now on she has to bring up gift packs any time she comes up to visit us.

Lunch at Grand Central Market

Japanese American National Museum

Amazing mochi!

So we snacked on mochi as we drove back to our hotel. We all took naps and then went out again for…you guessed it! Dinner. We had a reservation at KINN which serves a delicious elegant tasting menu which draws from Korean cuisine. While Korean food can be extremely hearty with bold, exploding flavors, the dishes at KINN were more on the delicate side. The omakase menu paired seafood or meat with vegetables in a way that highlighted the fresh flavors of the produce. So often, the protein overpowers the vegetables reducing them almost to an afterthought. At KINN, you could really taste and appreciate every element of each dish. The portions seem relatively small but we realized that by the end of the meal we were satisfied and not overly stuffed. The restaurant is tiny so you definitely need reservations for a Saturday night.


KINN - 1st course: Eat Your Kimchi!

KINN - penultimate course - Spring Bibimbap

We then drove off for our final Saturday night activity – the Black Rabbit Rose Magic Show. Located in East Hollywood, we found a $20 parking lot where the attendant reminded us that the lot closed at 4AM. I was taken aback because of course WE wouldn’t be out that late. But my daughter pointed out that there were lots of clubs and, of course, we could hear them as we walked over to the venue. The Black Rabbit Rose Magic Show is located on the first floor of the Hudson Hollywood Apartments building. After you enter the building, they pull aside a bookcase to allow you to enter the section where the magic show takes place. It used to be a speakeasy and they have definitely retained that vibe. The magic show was fun and interesting though don’t expect Vegas level magic, more a mix of comedy and a fun, participatory magic show in an intimate setting. Again, my husband and I were about 20-30 years older than everyone else. When I pointed this out to my daughter and noted that we were getting old, she responded with “Well, maybe you’re older but you guys are still pretty cool.” It was a nice compliment. Sadly, we didn't take any photos inside the club which really recreated that Prohibition-style atmosphere. Of course, after the show we did NOT stay out to go clubbing. Our daughter dropped us off at the hotel and we collapsed into bed immediately.
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Old Apr 14th, 2023, 06:18 AM
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LA Trip Report - Final Day 3

Sunday (12,000 steps, count is going down, but still a lot of walking)

I had originally wanted to visit the Hammer Museum which just finished a $90 million expansion and renovation. However, since it is located at UCLA, we thought the driving was more than what we wanted to tackle this time around. So instead we went to Descanso Gardens. Located north in La Canada-Flintridge it was more realistic to get us back to the airport later that day.

We checked out, our daughter picked us up and then we tried to figure out what to do about brunch. We hadn’t really planned out this day and by the time we got going it was too late to make reservations. We also decided that at this point we didn’t want more Asian food so we went back to an old standby – Foxy’s Restaurant in Glendale. We have been going to this place for brunch for years – they serve everything – omelets, pancakes, French toast, waffles, etc. No reservations, but fast and attentive service. We filled up and then off we went to Descanso Gardens. I bought the tickets online that morning before we left the hotel which I would highly recommend to avoid the lines at the gate.

OK – the decision to go to the gardens instead of the museum was spot on. My daughter had seen the Instagram photos and was wondering if it was going to be as amazing as what was posted. The timing for this visit was perfect and the Gardens definitely delivered. The cherry blossoms in the Japanese garden and the tulips were breath-taking. We wandered around the extensive grounds, just enjoying the sunshine, the vibrant colors and the opportunity to relax at our own pace. We could not help but take a ton of photos (as you can see below). Though there were many visitors, I was happy to see people frequently offer to take photos for others so that a couple or a family could all have a photo of themselves with the beautiful backdrop of the flowers. By the end of our visit we were again pretty tired and though it was a bit early we had our daughter drop us off at the airport. I was happy that she would be able to go home to take a nice nap before she started back to the stress and busyness of work. She posted a fun Instagram collection highlighting our visit and commenting how nice it was to have the time to spend with her parents.

Descanso Garden - Japanese Garden

Descanso Garden - Japanese Garden

Descanso Garden - Tulip Garden

Descanso Garden - Tulip Garden

Descanso Garden - Tulip Garden

Descanso Garden - Tulip Garden

Descanso Garden - Tulip Garden

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Old Apr 14th, 2023, 06:36 AM
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LA Trip - Final Thoughts

Having visited most of the major US cities, I would characterize Los Angeles as a vibrant, but s-p-r-a-w-l-i-n-g city. Offering a wide array of sights, activities and cuisine, but without a good public transit option, LA definitely requires access to a car. It is tough to just get to the different areas and my daughter and I planned this trip extensively beforehand. We really had to think about how much time it might take to get from one place to the next, the availability and the cost for parking. Yes, you can use the rideshare apps, but even then if you are trying to get from one end of this vast city to another it will really cost you a fortune. Fortunately, since my daughter has a car and because we enjoy many of the same activities, we were able to come up with an itinerary that worked. Also, I would caution that if you can commit and purchase tickets in advance or make that restaurant reservation - do it. If you wait until the last minute you can be easily shut out or have to wait in a long line. As I mentioned before, we had more possibilities in our plan, but we knew to be flexible (aka time for naps!) and didn't schedule every single minute. While this type of packed itinerary wouldn’t appeal to everyone, we enjoyed every minute and, hopefully, it might give you an idea of some alternative fun and interesting activities to explore in LA.

Future Sites/Things to Do: we also kept a running list for our next LA visit! Please reply to this post if you have a cool recommendation to add to this list as I am always looking for more ideas.

Hammer Museum
Geffen at MOCA
Japanese American National Museum
Watts Towers
Judson Art Studios - fine art studio specializing in stained glass, closed for tours and I am hoping that someday they will reopen for tours
Sushi Gen (Little Tokyo)
Charlie James Gallery (Chinatown)
Magic Castle (we might have a way to get in through a friend)
...And of course, many, many more restaurants than we will ever have to time to try!
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Old Apr 14th, 2023, 09:14 AM
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Thanks for all the new tips for things to do in LA. I keep trying to get my family to visit downtown when we're there, and I copied your info and photos about it, because they just might get my people interested!

Also love flying in and out of Burbank. Luckily our son lives near there. It's such a breeze, compared to LAX or to our home airport in Denver.


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Old Apr 14th, 2023, 09:46 AM
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It's so nice to see a visitor to L.A. hitting the (somewhat) lesser-known spots. Yes, L.A. is vast, so best to plot the sightseeing within areas/neighborhoods (which you did well this trip).

Your choice of Descanso over the Hammer was obviously good. The Hammer will be there next time, but the spring flowers at Descanso are fleeting.

A few things to consider for future visits:

Hammer Museum paired with Mathias Gardens on UCLA campus or Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills (reservations required)

Japanese Amer. Nat'l Museum paired with the James Irvine Japanese Garden nearby and maybe The Last Bookstore (largest in Calif.) and/or the Grammy Museum, all in DTLA

Watts Towers paired with lunch/wander in Leimert Park (Art Walk is last Sunday of the month)

Gamble House (Pasadena) paired with two nearby gardens, Storrier Stearns and Arlington. Or for something different, try to tour JPL.

A day in Exposition Park (besides Natural History Museum which you saw this time): George Lucas Museum (opening 2025), Science Center, African American Museum, tour the Colisseum (Mondays, Tuesdays), Rose Garden (best from May to October)

Tour of Hollywood Bowl (better yet, attend an event) paired with a walk/hike in Fern Dell or Runyon Canyon

If you're bookworms, the free Festival of Books on the USC campus (April 22-23 this year). This is the largest book fair in the U.S.

Day trip to see spring wildflowers. You missed the "super bloom" this year...

Look for maitaitom's many local restaurant reviews on Fodors and on his website... https://travelswithmaitaitom.com/toms-dining/
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Old Apr 14th, 2023, 11:23 AM
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Thank you for this trip report. You indeed lucked out on the weather! Your photos are great and come out just fine, I think they resize to fit the viewer's own device.

I worked downtown LA for 15 years so it's great seeing some of these spots (like Fugetsu-do). There used to be some good access to many of the special interior spaces downtown. Some are no longer possible and others are a bit of a hassle. Taking one of the Conservancy Tours is a good way to get into them.

Believe it or not I have never been to Descanso Gardens.
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Old Apr 14th, 2023, 01:12 PM
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“Well, maybe you’re older but you guys are still pretty cool.”....Your daughter was quite right, 61luv2travel! The ConEd interior is gorgeous... and your photos came across fine.


Last edited by TDudette; Apr 14th, 2023 at 01:15 PM.
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Old Apr 15th, 2023, 07:44 AM
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Thanks for the comments and replies.
MoBro - Yes, it's amazing how much more convenient Burbank is to fly into. Though I think it can be really confusing for a first time visitor to LA. We watched as a father and daughter tried to board our Southwest flight and were gently directed to the simultaneously boarding gate next door that was flying into LAX.
Jean - thanks for the pairing suggestions for future visits! Will keep the list. I have to admit that it took us 3 visits to LA before we could get our act together to even visit the Broad Museum. We have taken in a concert with the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl. That was a magical evening- enjoying a picnic dinner, wine (I think the LA Phil performances are the one exception to bringing in your own alcohol), excellent music and the stars above.
mlgb - I even have friends who live in La Canada-Flintridge and I still hadn't ever heard of Descanso Gardens before. Even up until the day before we were debating whether to go. Once my daughter checked out Instagram she wanted to see if it was truly as beautiful as it looked on social media. It was the perfect end to the trip - very soul satisfying.
TDudette - I'm glad the photos came out well. I am fortunate in that my husband and my daughter take all the photos (mine always come out blurry). I get to enjoy the moment and then relive it looking at the photos. It's like having your cake and eating it too!
Now on to Washington DC! - like many others we are trying our best to use our SW Companion Pass as much as possible.
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Old Apr 15th, 2023, 01:31 PM
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There are quite a few DC area Fodor's folks, 61 luv2travel. Looking forward to reading about your trip there.
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Old Apr 19th, 2023, 08:15 AM
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What a fantastic write-up and an even more fantastic-er trip! I loved every word and picture, I just want to eat it all up, including the flowers. Great to have some new ideas, too. Simply awesome.
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Old Jun 5th, 2023, 09:09 AM
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I grew up in Silverlake (long ago) and it was cool then and still cool now. I walked up and down those hidden staircases to go to school and visit friends. What a great trip report and I love where you ate and what you ate!
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Old Jun 5th, 2023, 01:31 PM
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Love Descanso. Been members for years. Sounds like a fun trip.
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