Report from Los Angeles Trip

Old Feb 5th, 2002, 01:13 PM
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Report from Los Angeles Trip

Hello all. This is a little report back after my trip to Los Angeles this past weekend. If you are not interested in this sort of thing, please stop reading now.

DAY ONE - Saturday

We only spent one night in LA, but I live in Berkeley so the flight isn't long at all. We flew Southwest from Oakland to Burbank. Now, I've flown out of OAK before, and it's a great airport. It's smaller than SFO, but has all the amenities (jetways, etc). I kind of expected BUR to be the same way. So, when we land and we're taxiing, I assume the stairs are for the little propeller planes. WRONG!!! That's right, no jetways at BUR. I thought that was a little funny. Getting off the plane, I felt like it was the 40s or something. Very fun. Anyway, that having been said, i would HIGHLY recommend BUR to anyone staying in downtown LA, the near west side (Mid-City, Hollywood, WeHo, Beverly Hills, etc). It's easier than LAX and actually closer (12 miles to WeHo vs. 14 miles).

We stayed at the Ramada Inn West Hollywood on Santa Monica, in WeHo. It's a very convenient hotel. You can walk west along SM to a bunch of coffee shops, restaurants and bars (gay bars on SM). It's also fairly close to the Sunset Strip.

Ok, now for the fun part of the trip. I'd planned a little bit out from some ideas from Fodors posters on a previous thread (thanks again to all). But mostly, we just kind of drove around and took in the city. The weather was SOOOO perfect. Sunny, warm, a nice little breeze... Mmmmm.

We had lunch on the Sat on SM in WeHo at a place called Skewers. For just picking something off the street, it was quite good. We then headed out to drive.

We headed along Sunset, past the "Strip" and up to Greystone Park. It used to be private property of some rich guy (shows how well I read the information) and now it's a city park, just up into the hills, with some nice views, gorgeous landscaping and a mansion that you can look into (but can't go in). Then we drove along Sunset and up Beverly/Coldwater Canyon, past some Beverly Hills mansions and up towards Mulholland Drive.

Heading east along Mulholland Drive, you get some great views of the San Fernando Valley. As you get farther east, you get some nice views of downtown LA.

Old Feb 5th, 2002, 01:14 PM
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Then we took a drive through Angelino Heights, an historic neighborhood, considered LA's first suburb. There are some gorgeous Victorian masions is various stages of renovation. The area is sandwiched between the Hollywood Fwy (US-101) and Sunset Blvd, just east of Echo Park.

The we drove along Sunset, westbound, through the Echo Park and Silver Lake neighborhoods. There is an interesting little retail area along Sunset, around Hyperion. There are especially a lot of stores with cheap "cool" furniture. We stopped for coffee at the Sunset Junction cafe (that might not be the name) which is filled with "Supremes" memorabilia.

We headed further along Sunset and up Vermont through Los Feliz, which seems to be a very trendy neighborhood. I'll be sure to walk around Vermont and Hillhurst next time to check it out.

We drove up Vermont to the Griffith Park Obervatory (the grounds are closing fairly soon for a 3 year renovation). It was twilight, so the views were spectacular. Great sunset over the Ocean, and the twinkling lights of LA are a sight unto themselves. The observatory building is pretty spectacular, created in the art deco style, and featured in James Deam's "Rebel Without a Cause".

From there we decided to head back to the hotel to meet up with some friends for dinner. We cruised along Hollwoood Blvd, which has begun its "Times Square" style revival with the opening of the Hollywood/Highland complex. Driving along H'wood Blvd at night, with all the neon, is a total trip.

Dinner was at Mark's, a popular restaurant with the WeHo crowd, located on La Ceinega just south of Santa Monica. It's a typical "California cuisine" restaurant, at a fairly decent price point.

continued... Day Two
Old Feb 5th, 2002, 01:15 PM
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DAY TWO -Sunday

We began the day with coffee at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on SM in WeHo, near San Vincente. It was the perfect day for sitting out in the sun on the wide sidewalks. We met different friends for brunch at "The Abbey", on San Vincente just south of SM. (So much within walking distance of the hotel). It's a cute brunch place, with outdoor seating. There are no waiters, just order at the counter. The food was good, and fairly cheap. Plus, sitting outside in the sun in the cute patio/courtyard was wonderful.

After brunch, we decided that a warm day like this required a trip to the ocean. The drive took us down Santa Monica through Beverly Hills, and the wonderfully exotic BH City Hall. We also saw the Mormon Temple (the one in Oakland is WAY better). Then we detoured up Westwood, through Westwood Village (easy to walk area filled with tons of stores, though slightly chain filled) and did a drivbing tour of the UCLA campus (some nice buildings, but didn't seem very cohesive).

The drive along San Vincente through Brentwood and Santa Monica is pure LA. Wide street, planted median, people joggin down the median, palms above you. I love coming to the ocean from that direction and then heading down Ocean Blvd.

We parked and walked along the park and onto the Pier. The pier itself is tacky, but alive with people. The Palisades park is wonderful. Big palms above you, the ocean to one side and coastside hotels and apartments to the other. Then we headed up to the Third Street Promenade. It's basically an outdoor mall, but I can't help but like it even if it is. There are so many people, all just walking and enjoying the day. It's a great environment.

Back to the car, and on to more driving. We drove south on Main street, through a funky retail area (Ocean Park, I believe) and on to Venice. The best drive is Venice is to take the one street that goes over the four little canals. It's called Dell Ave, and it's one-way westbound and accessible from Washington Blvd. The little lanes are so interesting and the canals are well landscaped and fairly clean. We didn't stop at Venice Beach this time, but I highly recommend that for anyone who's never been to LA before. An experience not like many others in the world. Lots of people, of ALL backgrounds, doing all sorts of things. Has to be seen to be understood.

Old Feb 5th, 2002, 01:16 PM
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I decided to check out some of the "historic" districts of LA. Many of them are centred around I-10 (Santa Monica Fwy) and Western Ave. Check out for more info. The first area we looked around was the Adams-Normandie area, especially Van Buren Place, one of LA's first historic protection areas. The next area we checked out was between Normandie and Western, just north of I-10 (Harvard Heights). In these areas, most of the houses have not yet been restored, although there is definitely a feeling on a "community" atmosphere. In general, the area is somewhat run down, though it didn't feel very unsafe.

By now we were hungry and decided to search for coffee and snacks. We headed up to Wilshire and drove west, through the Miracle Mile area. This area has to have the highest concentration of Art Deco architecture I've ever seen. Absolutely incredible. There are a few museums along Wilshire around Fairfax as well. We went north on Fairfax and stopped at Mani's bakery, a bakery/coffee shop on Fairfax between Wilshire and 3rd. It was busy even though it wasn't surrounded by much else that would attract a crowd. We found out why. The baked goods are AMAZING.

We were running out of time, so we just drove around the Fairfax/3rd/Beverly area and I certainly want to come back and check it out. The drive back to BUR was hassle free and from the time we entered the airport property with the rental car to the time we were at the gate for the flight, including dropping off the car, checking in and going through security was like 15 mins, MAX.


With a short trip like this, it's hard to do anywhere close to everything you want to do. I'd definitely like to check out Los Feliz, along Vermont and Hillhurst. I'd like to head to Pasadena/Highland Park to check out the architecture. I'd like to walk trhough the Farmer's Market at 3rd/Fairfax. I'd like to explore the Hancock Park neighborhood. 3rd Street between Fairfax and San Vincente is high on my list. As is Melrose, near Fairfax. Well, I can't do everything, can I?

Anyway, hope this was anywhere close to interesting and/or useful to someone out there. I know I tend to babble... Hehe. Let me know if you think I missed something that I should see next time (I'd really like to know if there is anything else in the Silver Lake/Echo Park area in terms of stuff to see and do (like, coffee shops, bars, stores).
Old Feb 5th, 2002, 01:21 PM
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Old Feb 5th, 2002, 01:30 PM
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Thanks for the report, James! I enjoyed reading it, especially the part about your drive down San Vicente, it really brought me back to my old home. You definitely hit some great spots.
Old Feb 5th, 2002, 01:42 PM
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Also just got back from L.A. this past weekend. Spent most of two weekends there, actually. We stayed downtown one weekend and in Santa Monica another. I recommend downtown. Broadway is a very lively street; the streets downtown seem to be more ped. friendly than those in other parts of town - not so wide or filled with cars.(An advantage of Broadway is that it is not littered with the usual chain stores as you will find on Third in Sta. Monica or in downtown Pasadena.) Enjoyed the Grand Central Marketon Broadway - several places for a good, inexpensive bite to eat and people watching. Also enjoyed the Museum of Contemporary Art (two locations downtown). The L.A. Conservancy art deco walking tour downtown was pretty good, although it didn't seem that the level of expertise of the docent was at as high a level as, say, the architecture tours in downtown Chicago. There are other L.A. Conservancy walking tours, but I think all are conducted only on Saturday, so it wasn't possible to do more.
The Bradbury Building is worth an extended look. Union Station is one of the most beautful train stations in the country and there is a decent restaurant there. You can get there by light rail/subway from the LAX but you do need to transfer three times, a bit of a hassle. The downtown subway stations have some interesting works of art.
If you are in town when a concert is scheduled don't miss the L.A. Philharmonic, a very good orchestra indeed.
Finally, the Watts Tower was even more amazing than I had expected.(You can get there on light rail from downtown - quick and easy.)

Old Feb 5th, 2002, 01:48 PM
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Hey James,
That was a great trip report. Very cool how you weren't put off by the distance of places and drove around according to what you wanted to see, traffic and miles be damned. I live in LA and a lot of people don't understand why some of us love such a city, but you put it all together beautifully. Thanks.

Next time you're in the area, definitely check out the eastern areas such as Pasadena for beautiful homes, architecture, and museums. Also, the Chinese enclave in San Gabriel/Monterey Park is a sight to behold. 3rd Street between La Cienega and La Brea is definitely awesome to walk/drive through because of the restaurants and stores. And do stop by Farmer's Market on 3rd/Fairfax for lunch, it's a hoot to see the different types of people there on a Sat.
Old Feb 5th, 2002, 02:30 PM
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We didn't check out downtown this time, but I have in the past. It was better than i expected, but also more deserted. I hadn't done any research, so I wasn't really sure where to go. We rode the Angels Flight (is it working again?) and went to the library too. I'd love to know more about downtown. Maybe I'll check out Broadway next time.

In terms of distance, I'm never really too put off by things being far apart. Especially when I'm just vactioning, I don't mind going all over. And in LA, I just stay off the freeways for the most part. Driving around on surface streets, you get to see much more. I'm always amazed at people who freak out when I tell them where I'm staying in NYC. They always wonder why I'm not staying at Times Sq. But I don't have a problem with travelling around to see stuff.

Someone in a previous thread told me that a great area was on Beverly between La Brea and Fairfax (the LA Times dubbed it "where the hip meets the holy"). We drove that stretch, and it didn't seem there was much along there (this was on a Sunday). I'm wondering if perhaps they meant Melrose btw La Brea and Fairfax? Or maybe Beverly west of Fairfax? Does anyone know? Maybe it was just because we didn't get out of the car there and it was a Sunday?
Old Feb 5th, 2002, 02:44 PM
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OK James.... did ya have to go and mention Mani's???? Now it will be even more crowded!!!
Anyway, so glad you enjoyed our city. Please feel free to stop by anytime. You gave me ideas for the next batch of visitors that come a'calling.
Feel free to stop in anytime.
Old Feb 5th, 2002, 03:45 PM
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I live in the San Fernando Valley and will ALWAYS choose Burbank over LAX.

I was hesitant at first, b/c the prices can be higher out of there, but the convenience is worth it.

We flew two days before Christmas. My husband dropped me at the curb and I got in the HUGE Southwest Airlines line while he parked the car. I was up at the counter before he even came in. Total time from getting in line to getting to the gate? 15 minutes. AT CHRISTMAS!!

Then we flew out of LAX in January to go to Hawaii. Oh, how I longed for the small halls of Burbank! We were in line FOREVER to check in (over an hour) then we had to walk a mile and wait in line to go through security. It was not a fun experience, although our trip to Hawaii was great.

So, I will always choose Burbank over LAX if I can afford it!

Glad you had a great time in LA. I love driving down San Vincente to go to the beach. And the weather is just fabulous lately!

Next time, check out Urth Caffe on Melrose. I think it's somewhere near La Cienega. Not sure cuz I'm usually not driving. But I think I'll have to check out The Abbey. Sounds good.
Old Feb 5th, 2002, 04:04 PM
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It is Beverly west of Labrea and east of Fairfax, but you do have to get out of the car and walk around. There's not much in way of architecture, but there are some good shops,(clothes, shoes, antiques,modern, stationery) a new spa,and old spa,good restaurants. Nice area to browse. Personally, I hate Melrose unless it's west of Fairfax--it's gotten too commercial.

Good report. Glad you enjoyed the city.

PS Urth cafe serves great food..always crowded, another interesting little stretch to browse, too ..that's Melrose west of La Cienega.
Old Feb 5th, 2002, 04:35 PM
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A funny thing about Burbank. We only looked at Burbank because the Southwest flights we wanted from OAK-LAX (and back) were no available at the cheap fare. So, I check out if there were other closer airports. I checked and we could get the OAK-BUR flights on the cheap fare. (By the way, we booked only 2 weeks in advance and got a roundtrip fare of $105, including taxes). Thank god for Southwest.

On touchdown back in OAK, our VERY giddy flight attendant had this to say, among other amusing songs and tidbits: "If you enjoyed this flight, we thank you for flying Southwest. If you didn't, it was United Shuttle". I almost peed my pants.

I'm looking forward to my next trip to LA. I'm not sure if I could live there, but it's sure fun to visit.

One more thing. We were going to go up the coast from Santa Monica (just up as far as Malibu and up some of the canyon roads), I've done it before. But traffic on PCH was literally stop and go. Is there a way to bypass PCH through Santa Monica? And if so, would it still be insanely backed up further north?

Thanks so much all...
Old Feb 5th, 2002, 07:10 PM
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Old Feb 5th, 2002, 10:06 PM
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The traffic on PCH right now between Santa Monica and Malibu is a nightmare. They are doing sewer repairs so the normal 3 lanes are down to 2 in each direction. The way to bypass most of the traffic is to exit on Lincoln in Santa Monica, get to 7th (Lincoln is 8th) and take 7th through Santa Monica canyon to West Channel. This is where Pacific Palisades starts. If you get back onto PCH there (at West Channel), you've missed most of the merging/traffic.

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