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Trip Report Trip report--Los Angeles, mostly without a car

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Went to Los Angeles recently, and here's the trip report. The original suggested itinerary was posted here:

http://www.fodors.com/community/united-states/proposed-los-angeles-itinerary-almost-exclusively-without-a-car.cfm

and it was adhered to with a few tweaks. Going to Los Angeles was a must given that I have family there (my nephew and his wife moved there a couple years ago), and they went along on several of the sightseeing days.

Day one:

Spent the first day for the most part at Expo Park to see the museums. Got there a little early and was able to enjoy the large central fountain as well as the rose garden in this little park (some were in bloom). Went first to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, housed in a lovely turn-of-the-last-century building. The collection is very good, eclipsed only in my experience by similar museums in New York, Chicago, and Washington DC. There were loads of fossils, encompassing dinosaurs (Triceratops, three Tyrannosaurus rexes of different ages, Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Corythosaurus, Camarasaurus, plus eggs and a T Rex and Triceratops set up in fight mode), dinosaur relatives (Pteranodon, Pleisosaur, Mosasaur), and early mammals (dire wolf, Smilodon, ground sloth, mastodon). There were large dioramas (two for North American mammals and one for African mammals), lots of stuffed birds, shells, and minerals/gemstones (this last much more interesting than in most similar museums). There were also poorly lit marsh and rain forest environments, a section on Los Angeles history, and relics from Mayan, Aztec, and Incan civilizations. There were scads of noisy children here and at the next destination, the California Science Center. This latter was definitely geared for the pre-teen set, with hands-on exhibits encompassing biology, ecosystems, and creativity that proved of minimal interest. Best was the air and space section, containing originals and replicas of planes, space capsules, satellites, rockets, space suits, and a moon rock fragment. Fortunately, the California African-American Museum was both child-free and enjoyable. One section was given over to segregation issues in Los Angeles and information about major 20th-century riots there (Rodney King, 1960s Watts, Zoot Suit), while the rest focused on artwork. In the "works on paper" gallery were various nuggets, including brand name stuff by Picasso, Miro, Vasalery, and Albers. The ink/paint on canvas work by Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle was only fair, but the television-inspired mixed-media fancies by Derrick Adams were terrific, very clever, often funny, and occasionally chilling. Given that the Pacific Asia Museum is currently closed for earthquake retrofitting, decided to head next to the nearby USC campus (brick and charming) and the Doheny Library, where a small gallery holds what is currently in town from that museum. There were about 60 ceramic pieces, mostly Chinese and Japanese with a few Thai and Korean items of generally high quality. Had time to visit El Pueblo de Los Angeles, home to a large outdoor Mexican style market, a couple small historic homes (the Avila Adobe, which is the oldest house in LA, and the Sepulveda House, both with recreated rooms containing furniture and artifacts), and several tiny museums: Italian-American (deals with famous Italians, as well as prejudice against Italians in the US), Chinese-American (deals with the Asian-American Movement, as well as old and new LA Chinatown), and a tiny Fire Museum (with a few helmets and couple pieces of vintage apparatus), as well as an old church (Our Lady Queen of Angels Church) and a mural, “American Tropical," by David Alfaro Siqueiros.

Day two:

Because of an uncharacteristically late start and misinformation about the size of the museum, was only able to do two things today, but both were very good. Went first to the Hammer Museum, which was nowhere near as large as the person I called there led me to believe. This place contains several small galleries, mostly given over to recent art. One had a respectable clutch of 20th century art, including a piece by Ruscha. Others were devoted to a single cutting-edge artist (mostly video-based and forgettable). Best by far was the small permanent collection of pre-20th-century masters: two works each by Rembrandt, Moreau, Van Gogh, Corot, and Toulouse-Lautrec, plus individual items by Cassatt, Degas, Rodin, Rubens, Sargent, Manet, Cezanne, Eakins, Gaugin, and Gericault. The courtyard was also full of funny wobble chairs that museum patrons seemed to be enjoying thoroughly. Short, but well worth the visit. Continued on to the bottom of the Venice Beach Boardwalk and strolled up to the Santa Monica Pier. Arguably, this is the best spot ever for people watching: everyone from bodybuilders (at Muscle Beach), artists, preachers, itinerant musicians, homeless, skateboarders, bicyclists, surfer dudes, families, and tourists (guilty as charged for this last). The Boardwalk is crammed with cheap eateries, souvenir shops, "medical" marijuana dispensaries, tattoo parlors, fortune tellers, and plenty more. The shops end in Santa Monica, though there's a huge stretch of beach volleyball courts and a few hotels and restaurants. The Santa Monica Pier (now officially designated as the terminus of Route 66) contains all the tacky shops, food stalls, and street musicians at this end of the Boardwalk. The Pier also has an amusement park and little aquarium, plus the expected hordes of people. Lots of fun.

Day three:

Plenty of excellent experiences today. Begin at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, a huge church that unlike most modernist examples is very well done. The main chapel is large and tasteful, with alabaster panels (instead of stained glass) and modernist tapestries. There are several niches (including one each for John Paul II and Mother Teresa) and two smaller chapels, all with modernist art and both old and newer icons. A huge reredos from the 17th century sits near the back. There's a large basement burial crypt which does have nice stained-glass panels throughout. The whole thing is lead into by huge bronze doors echoing those of Florence’s Baptistry. Outside is a large courtyard plus gardens, sculpture, and a waterfall. Very nicely done. Toured two nice historic houses in Pasadena next. The Fenyes Mansion looks rather like The Mount in Lenox, MA and was probably built at about the same time. There's a shaggy but pleasing garden area. Inside is a good bit of original furnishing and effects, including a set of dining room carved chairs produced by Tiffany Senior. Besides the usual rooms is one which served as the local Finnish Embassy (the owner's second husband was the country's ambassador) and a large art studio with a small stage for performing. The tour was a little chatty at first but generally very good, heavily emphasizing the family that owned the house. Very close by is the Gamble House, a picture-perfect example of Arts and Crafts style architecture, here with strong Oriental influences. It's strikingly detailed, in a style I'd never encountered before. The architects used expensive foreign wood (teak, mahogany, cypress, ebony, and maple) and even designed furniture a la Frank Lloyd Wright. It's very dark in feel (in deference to the owner's wife, who had eye problems), but warm and pleasant. There's stained glass on the front door, and no sharp edges on any of the wood (it's all rounded and smoothed). Gorgeous and unique, a real find. The nearby Norton Simon Museum is in the running for the best small art museum I've ever been to. The quality to quantity ratio is astonishingly good. Practically every Impressionist French artist of note is found here, along with later masters like Picasso, Braque, Van Gogh, Gaugin, Matisse, Vuilliard, Modigliani, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rousseau, Nolde, Marc, Kirchner, Klee, Kandinsky, and Rivera. There are also old masters such as Rembrandt, Hals, Fragonard, Corot, Courbet, Daumier, Rubens, El Greco, Zurbaran, Cranach, Goya, Raphael, Lippi, Tiepolo, and Botticelli. Amazingly, many of these artists are represented multiple times. There are also some Asian artifacts as well as a nice outdoor sculpture garden (containing items by folks like Moore and Rodin) with a large lily pond.

Day four:

Spent the day visiting the two Gettys. Headed first to the Getty Villa in Malibu, perched atop a high bluff overlooking the ocean. The museum is undergoing some upper floor renovation and some of the collection is away on loan. But there was plenty enough to see, all very enjoyable. The collection consists of Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and Parthian artifacts, including statues, urns, silver, wall frescoes, glass, pottery, mosaics, and sarcophagi. There are some sumptuous gardens studded with statuary as well as a big atrium with fountains and plants. And the building itself is nice, a copy of an Italian villa. Worthwhile even in an abbreviated mode. The Getty Center is large and world-class, arguably the best art museum in the city. They have an excellent collection of paintings, including work by Ensor, Van Gogh, every major Impressionist, Millet, Corot, Courbet, Manet, Turner, Goya, Friedrich, Gericault, Rousseau, Sorolla, Munch, David, Gainsborough, Hals (an unusually serious portrait), Rembrandt, Titian, Veronese, El Greco, and Fra Angelico. There's also a wealth of decorative art, including stained glass, sculpture, glassware, porcelain, furniture, illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, mosaics, silver, even an early microscope complete with carrying case – not to mention several whole rooms. An absolute must.

Day five:

Spent most of the day at the Huntington Library, Museum, and Gardens. This was very much an all-day affair and most enjoyable. The art collection here is quite good. Their European gallery was almost all devoted to English works, including their two most famous paintings, Gainsborough's "Blue Boy" and Lawrence's “Pinky.” There were other canvases by these artists as well as by Turner, Constable, Romney, Reynolds, Hogarth, Van Dyck, Fuseli, Watteau, and David. Several decorative art pieces were found in the European gallery, as well as a number of sumptuous rooms. The American gallery had a lot of folk art and decorative art pieces (metalwork, pottery, rugs, quilts, glassware, silver, and everyday items) with an especially nice holding of Greene and Greene Arts and Crafts style furniture, windows, a staircase, even a whole room. There was also art by Hopper, Stuart, Copley, Benton, West, Bierstadt, Cassatt, Warhol, Prendergast, Rauschenberg, Inness, Ruscha, Hassam, Eakins, Bellowes, and Sargent. The library had an exhibit containing a Gutenberg Bible as well as old editions by Chaucer, Twain, and Shakespeare, plus scientific work by Audubon, Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, Darwin, Franklin, Einstein, Aristotle, Lamarck, and Mendel. Surprisingly, there was also a large collection of vintage light bulbs. The gardens were extensive and excellent -- desert, rose, palm, jungle, Chinese, and Japanese were all seen. Finished up with a jaunt to the Griffith Observatory, which proved to be a short visit. Its best features: the spectacular view of downtown Los Angeles, the building itself, a large slow rotating pendulum like at Boston's Museum of Science, seeing the Tesla coil being run (shades of old Frankenstein movies!), and the artwork on the dome near the front entrance. The exhibits were perfunctory and best suited for kids.

Day six:

Headed down to Long Beach today, beginning at the Aquarium of the Pacific. There are three main sections here: Baja, Central Coast Pacific, and Arctic. There were scads of fish, frogs, salamanders, and such -- most notably seahorses, sea dragons, sharks, and rays – as well as a passel of lorikeets, penguins, seals and sea lions, and sea otters. Lots of fun and well done. Took the shuttle from there to the Queen Mary, the last of its kind of mid-20th century ocean liners -- one gigantic boat! There was an especially fine tour, by a guide both knowledgeable and able to out-shout the whiniest baby with ease (which it turns out he had to do). The ship itself is a mix of luxury and faded glory. The large salon room, complete with large floor lamps, wood and carpeted floor, stage, three fancy fireplaces, and large artworks was especially nice. There's a plethora of fancy tropical hardwoods used throughout the first class common areas and the cabins in the floor below, not mention then-luxurious bakelite plastic handrails. There were also lots of photos of celebrities who rode the vessel, as well as an open area to walk along inside the engine room (huge motors, pumps, and such). Quite good, and worth the trip.

Day seven:

Two things today, and given the slowness of the bus connection, that was a good thing. First took the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, which as it turned out was quite good. Rode around in a tram for much of it, getting off at a couple of locations along the way. Got an extensive look at the various backlots, all small enclaves of storefronts or house fronts except for the jungle backlot, which has a lot of dense growth, a few cabin-like buildings, and a lagoon area. The backlots suggested Anytown USA (complete with bandstand), New York, Chicago, a 30s urban scene, and an East Coast USA residential development. Were shown areas where things like Big Bang Theory, Batman (1960s), Drew Carey Show, Friends, The Music Man, Casablanca, and East of Eden had exterior scenes shot. Got off at the Archives, full of recent Batman and Harry Potter costumes and such (no thanks) and a building where cars were kept (most from recent Batman films). Did see one sound stage, which fortunately was that for the Big Bang Theory (shows Penny’s apartment, Sheldon and Leonard’s flat, and the hallway with broken elevator). Fascinating to see, though it was all notably smaller and less well lit than what one views on the screen. They let us off at a small museum with memorabilia as well as information on the effects and aspects of creating movies and TV shows, plus sets for the living room of “Two and a Half Men” and the Central Perk coffee shop from “Friends.” Very much enjoyed in sum. Later on, reached the Autry Museum of the American West. This was just okay -- the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City is notably better. There was a good bit of forgettable artwork (the few brand name folks included Bierstadt, O’Keeffe, Catlin, Remington, Henri, and N.C. Wyeth), plus Native American artifacts (totems, rugs, clothing, baskets, blankets). There was Western movie and TV memorabilia, some showcasing Gene Autry and Monte Hale (the museum’s founders), Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and John Wayne, plus information on Buffalo Bill's live Wild West Shows. Downstairs were cowboy artifacts (clothing, spurs, guns, saddles, barbed wire) and information about famous wild west characters like Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, Black Bart, the Dalton gang, and Annie Oakley. There was a stagecoach, a piece of antique fire apparatus, and mockups of a saloon and gambling hall, plus a good bit of Native American artifacts, especially baskets and pottery.

More to come.

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    Day eight:

    Spent today visiting Hollywood and the surrounding area. The guidebooks say it’s seedier than one might expect, if not as bad as it has been, and that appears to be true. It's also overrun with tourist trap stuff (as well as tourists), which I guess kind of makes it similar to Times Square in New York. Still fun to experience, though. Began with a studio tour at Paramount, which in some ways was better than the one at Warner Brothers. Was able to see one backlot (their New York set area), as well as two sound stages, one for the Dr. Phil Show, the other for a long-running kids series, the latter of which was most impressive (this is sometimes referred to as the "lucky soundstage" because long-running series like “Cheers” and “Frasier” called this home when filming). Got to see the original Paramount archway, the one Gloria Swanson famously motored through in “Sunset Boulevard,” the big outdoor water-effect area complete with huge fake sky behind, and the courtyard with multiple offices that often doubled as a college campus or some such and was also where Alfred Hitchcock had his office space (the one with the bay window), in addition to the outside of the dressing rooms for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Paramount's prop room was great, full of all kinds of interesting things used in past films, notably a Star Trek “Beam me up, Scotty” module. And the tour guide, an eager young woman with a great sense of humor, was top notch. Headed next to the Hollywood Museum, housed in the old Art Deco Max Factor Building. There are three floors of props here, though interest varied depending on what one knew and liked. The first floor had makeup tables for Lucille Ball, Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, and Elizabeth Taylor as well as lots of Max Factor memorabilia and old Hollywood photos. There's a good bit of information and personal effects for stars like Monroe, Jean Harlow, Shirley Temple, Mr. Blackwell, Pee-Wee Herman, and Elvira (including cars owned by this last, Monroe, Harlow, and Cary Grant). Other artifacts of interest included the bottle from "I Dream of Jeannie," a pair of ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz,” and the old truck from “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Fun stuff. Also took a movie stars home tour from Starline Tours that ran through Mulholland Drive, Beverly Hills (including Rodeo Drive), and the Sunset Strip (home to places like the Viper Club and Whisky a Go Go). Though to be fair, most of the stars homes were obscured by hedges and gates and many were “formerly owned by.” Along the way, got to see various regional icons such as the Hollywood sign, Egyptian Theatre, Grauman's Chinese Theater, and the Capitol Records Building. Also saw a good stretch of the Hollywood Walk of Fame as well as the cement impressions outside Grauman’s.

    Day nine:

    Plenty of stuff to see today downtown. Began at City Hall, an Art Deco masonry building with a pyramid rooftop (has been seen on TV as the Daily Planet Building from the ‘50s “Superman” show). There's a worthy observation deck on the top floor with a great view of the city. There are also nice old elevators, and on the third floor an attractive rotunda, mosaics and decorative tiling, and similar ornament one usually finds in state capitol buildings. Even better was the Bradbury Building, brick and masonry outside and a stunning Art Nouveau lobby inside, the latter loaded with ironwork, marble, wood, masonry, and tile throughout, plus two striking elevators -- all staggeringly intricate and absolutely beautiful. Across from there is the entrance to Central Market, a food stall place much like Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market, featuring eateries, a butcher, candy shop, coffee stand, grocer, pasta maker, and the like. Walked up the flight of stairs alongside the currently inoperable Angel’s Flight, a small funicular up the hill. Then headed off to two contemporary art museums. The Museum of Contemporary Los Angeles Grand Avenue is a modest collection whose best part is its brand name artists, with items by Ernst, Rothko, Kline, Guston, Rauschenberg, Warhol, Johns, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Gorky, Giacometti, Pollock, Nevelson, Cornell, and Ray; the rest was forgettable. There was also a large exhibit of work by a Black painter, Kenny James Marshall, which was very inventive, turning Western traditions on their head African-American style, often to fine effect – most were paintings, but there were also blow-up excerpts from comic book art. Quite good. The Broad is newly open and very popular, as a timed free ticket is necessary for entry. Much here was not so good, though -- largely monumental sized art by minor artists. But some stuff stood out, especially work by Lichtenstein, Johns, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Kelly, Ruscha, Close, Twombly, Kara Walker, a hugely oversized table and chair set by Robert Therrien, and several pieces by Jeff Koons (a droll wood sculpture of Buster Keaton, several hugely oversized “balloon animals” actually made of metal, and a porcelain likeness of Michael Jackson and his chimp pet Bubbles which has a twin at the San Francisco Modern Art Museum). Toured the Walt Disney Concert Hall next, a gorgeous modern performance space covered in bent metal “sails” to great effect. There are a couple small ancillary performance spaces, one indoors and one outdoors, a pleasant garden with trees and a large modernist fountain, and a video showing the main concert hall (which you don't see on the tour). Frank Geary designed it and it's marvelous. The self-guided audio tour was narrated by John Lithgow and nicely done. The US Bank Tower is very imposing (the tallest building in the city) but unless you spring for the hefty admission fee to visit the observation deck, there's not much to experience here (having gotten a good view for free at City Hall, I declined). Across the street is the Central Library Building, a nice old edifice with a mosaic pyramid roof. The second floor rotunda has good fresco work with a large chandelier, and the mural art below on the walls is fine. There's more mural work and large lights in the Children's Literature Department and International Languages Department areas. The elevators are old and charming. There's impressive statuary on this floor, as well as a small gallery which showcased a few examples of movie posters and lobby cards from old films, courtesy of the library’s special collections department. A large modernist atrium sits to one side with huge chandeliers and floor lighting. The first floor is more modest, but has a decent modern style rotunda of its own. Outside is a pleasant garden with several fountains, some not working, unfortunately. The outside of the building has statuary scattered along its sides. Very nice. Finished at the Grammy Museum, part of the big LA Live complex. Not large, but quite good. There were exhibits showing old guitars and mandolins and ukuleles, short presentations with memorabilia from all genres of music (Latin, jazz, classical, pop, country, gospel, folk/blues) with more sizable exhibits on Ella Fitzgerald, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Michael Jackson, and Bob Newhart. There was also a pleasant exhibit on the Monterey Pop Festival, as well as lots of interactive stations (passed on the latter). Better than expected. Also enjoyed the old buildings located along Sixth and Seventh Street.

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    Thanks for the very interesting report. I would love to hear more about how much time you spent on the bus and metro and whether or not you also took some $10 Uber-pool rides to get here and there.

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    LA. native here.... It's nice to read a report of a visitor who utilized our public transportation system which is not great compared to some cities but vastly improved and getting better every year... especially as we prepare for the '24 (or '28) Olympics.

    And you certainly ventured into the far corners in your sightseeing. I especially like the fact that you spent time in the Central Library which is one of my favorite L.A. buildings.

    But do visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next time you come. The encyclopedic breadth and depth its collection dwarfs the Getty.

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    Sorry, should have said "more to come” after my last post.

    Day ten:

    Spent the day at Museum Row, home to four such establishments. Decided to visit them more or less in the order that they open. Wasn't sure if I could see all four of these places in a day, but with two museums being small, that wasn't a problem. Started off at the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. This was one of the small museums, full of tar-stained fossils (dire wolf, sabertooth cat, mammoth, two mastodons, camel, ground sloths, horses, antique bison, short-faced bear, giant jaguar, several bird species which were mostly condors and eagles, plants, various invertebrates -- even 400 dire wolf skulls!). A few modern critters have also gotten caught there, such as coyotes and golden eagles. There's some good historical perspective presented as well. Mock-up models of sabertooth cats, a ground sloth, and a mammoth (this last moves around in animatronic fashion) appear. In the center is a serene atrium with tropical plants and a little waterfall. There's still a tar pit located outside the front entrance, looking like a small pond with the surface covered in oily ooze. And the smell is atrocious, like construction road asphalt on steroids, very noxious (had to cover my face with a jacket to avoid the odor). One wonders how desperate these animals must have been for a drink of water. Went next to the Petersen Automotive Museum, a fairly interesting example of its kind. There were famous cars from media like "Christine" from the film of the same name, "Herbie" from "The Love Bug," a De Lorean actually used in "Back to the Future," a bat-cycle from the 1960's "Batman" TV series, a large batmobile from the 1990's films and more. A lot of the other cars were prototypes, modified hot rod jalopies, and race cars. There were large exhibits comparing Indian and Harley-Davidson motorcycles through the years (showing many parallels, as they were close competitors), racing Ferraris spanning several decades, and many Bugatti examples alongside artwork created by that family. There were also prototypes of alternative fuel cars, some surprisingly very old, as well as various automotive accessories and a mural called "Los Angeles: The Living City" by Sandra Drinning. It would've been good to include older classics in the collection, but that's apparently not their focus. Quite good. The Craft and Folk Art Museum, however, was nothing special. They apparently have no permanent collection, so how good it is depends on what they happen to have on hand. One floor was dedicated to unusual works made from fabric or vinyl mixed with found material, generally not much to write home about. The second floor had folk art by Betya Saar, who takes old washboards or ironing boards and doctors them with images of Aunt Jemimas carrying guns. Odd but thought provoking, and better than what was upstairs. The place could also badly use a working air conditioner. Again, a short visit. By far the most time was spent at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a huge place covering a wide range of subject and media. Their American wing unfortunately was kind of humdrum, interspersing decorative art and furniture with paintings, though it included nuggets by Whistler, Hockney, Henri, Sargent, Hassam, Eakins, Homer, Bierstadt, Copley, and West, plus furnishings by Frank Lloyd Wright and ironwork by Louis Sullivan. The European wing used the same intermingling technique to better effect with paintings by folks like Rembrandt, Rubens, Hals, Matisse, Nolde, Dix, Kirchner, Leger, Grosz, Picasso, Braque, Klee, Kandinsky, Degas, Soutine, Giacometti, Tanguy, Mondrian, Rouault, Modigliani, Dubuffet, Magritte, Miro, Duchamp, Tiepolo, David, Lawrence, Fuseli, Delacroix, Millet, Corot, Renoir, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, Gaugin, Vasari, Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese, and Canaletto. There were also some American 20th century masters included, specifically folks like Pollock, Rothko, Kline, Johns, De Kooning, Stella, Warhol, Ruscha, Oldenburg, Lichtenstein, and Calder. Elsewhere in the building, one found Greek urns and Roman sculpture, as well as Egyptian and Mesopotamian and Assyrian artifacts, plus items from ancient Iran, Syria, India, Indonesia, Tibet, Nepal, and Southeast Asia. Separate buildings housed artifacts, mostly pottery, from China and Korea (including a large collection of Chinese snuff bottles) and Japanese art (lots of ink and paint on scrolls and screens, as well as plenty of pottery, samurai implements, and such). Most of the 20th century cutting-edge wing was between exhibits, but two huge pieces remained: a large curving wall shape (Richard Serra’s “Band”) and a big complex Rube Goldberg-like city full of zooming toy cars (Chris Burden's "Metropolis II"). There was plenty of good art to see here, though the museum's large size unfortunately meant a lot of more pedestrian work to get through as well. Still, was very glad to come here.

    Day eleven:

    Today was the planned driving trip to see two presidential libraries. I take a strictly nonpartisan view when it comes to visiting such places, having been to those honoring Adams, Lincoln, Coolidge, Hoover, Truman, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton over the years and was interested in these as well. It turned out both places were very interesting to visit. Headed first to the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. This was good, the best part being a chance to see Air Force One, housed in a corner of the complex. There was also an extensive timeline showing Reagan's early life, governorship of California, presidency, and later life. There's an Oval Office reproduction, a presidential helicopter, and a tomb for Reagan and his wife. Bonus points here for having a gorgeous setting with terrific views. However, the temporary Titanic exhibit wound up being of minimal interest. Drove down from Simi Valley to Loma Linda next, the site of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. This was smaller and less impressive overall, but still not bad. There was a similar tomb for Nixon and his wife, life and career timeline, an Oval Office replica (though you can sit in the chair and pose for pictures at the desk -- much less stuffy here) and White House Sitting Room mock-up. Give them major credit here for not shying away from the Watergate issue and Checkers speech, as in my experience most presidential libraries gloss over the negative issues of the honoree’s administration. There was an older presidential helicopter on site and a nice reflecting pool and garden in the courtyard. Nixon's birth house is also located here, a humble little place lacking electricity and indoor plumbing, which you can tour.

    Day twelve:

    Caught up on various odds and ends today. Went first to the Lummis House (El Alisal), an eccentric dwelling built by an eccentric man. It's one of the city’s oldest houses, which he built himself out of boulders, telegraph poles, and similar odds and ends; the place looks a little like a small castle. It's a bit underwhelming, but not bad, featuring a curious carved fireplace created by Gutzon Borglum (whose magnum opus is Mount Rushmore). There are a few personal effects: china, a typewriter, books, and minimal furniture. Outside is a thirsty "garden" based on citrus and desert plants, dusty but okay. Much better was the Hollyhock House, a gorgeous Prairie School style home by Frank Lloyd Wright. Beautiful and tasteful, as his stuff usually is. There are patterns echoed throughout the house (in rugs, furniture, metal work, ornament, etc.), very clever and nicely tied together. There's a modest music room featuring an old Victrola; a wonderful living room with a fine mantelpiece area and two symmetrical couch/table/lighting/desktop conglomerates, plus a moat area around the fireplace floor edge; a dining room with a nice table and chair set; and several places that open onto the outside into garden areas. The front doors are heavy concrete but hung so they swing with ease. Could only get a glimpse of the 1940's style kitchen and the bedroom from afar -- wish one could visit more of these areas. In short, a nice mix of Asian and Mayan thinking melded into vintage Wright. There's a nice view from here as well, with the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory easily visible from the front lawn. It sits in Barnsdall Art Park, which is a little hard to find from the south near the Metro stop -- and once you do find the entrance, be prepared for serious stair climbing. Fully worth it, though. Finished up with an extended wander through Little Tokyo, home to loads of little shops and restaurants, and a visit to the Japanese American National Museum. This institution tells the story of Japanese immigrants and first-born generations in the western US, with particularly strong emphasis on World War II internment camps. There are lots of wall photos and some artifacts. There's a definite need for this museum, too; there are several fine places in the US that tell stories of African-American and Jewish injustices, but as far as I know this is the only one that deals with similar Japanese-American issues. And the hardships these internment camp folks had to endure was absolutely awful – really eye-opening. There's also historical information going back into the 19th century, spotlighting the rampant racism experienced by Japanese Americans, plus an internment camp barracks building and a small model of the Manzenour camp. There was also a special exhibit on George Takei of "Star Trek" fame, full of memorabilia from early days through his media career; surprisingly, he spent his childhood in an internment camp. Outside is a small garden area with a tea room, plants, and falling water. Thought-provoking and excellent.

    Day thirteen:

    Spent the final day of vacation at Disneyland. Because of physical limitations, only five rides could be considered, and two of these (the train and monorail) were not running today. So, went first to the Jungle Cruise. This consisted of a small open-air flat boat going down a river course, heading past all manner of animatronic animals (hippos, crocodiles, lions, elephants, etc.) and stereotypical natives. The tour guide was a fountain of bad puns. A little cheesy, but still kind of fun. It's a Small World had tunnel-of-love style boats running along a wealth and a half of animatronic people and animals depicting cultures from all around the globe while the ride’s eponymous song played incessantly in the background. Again, corny and cheesy, but the animatronics were so numerous and involved that it sort of worked in spite of itself, actually coming off as kind of cute. And the message of tolerance was of course timeless and still relevant today. The final ride was the Haunted Mansion. You start off being herded on foot in almost pitch darkness through some humorously ghoulish effects, then are put in a two-seat pod running assembly-line fashion. This rotates as it goes up or down on a conveyor track while all manner of “scary” stuff happens. Kind of chucklesome and fun in its odd way. Saw a few shows also, including an extremely silly Enchanted Tiki Room presentation featuring animatronic birds, flowers, and tiki gods singing and drumming in several back-to-back musical numbers. The Main Street Cinema ran six early silent Mickey Mouse cartoons simultaneously; might have stayed longer if there had been a place to sit. By far the best of these was Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, an homage to our 16th president that featured a surprisingly good animatronic Abe that rose from a chair, spoke, gestured, and sat back down. Veering close to patriotic jingo at times, this still worked really well. Walked through all the different areas of the main park: Main Street USA (an idealized late 1800s small-town main drag), Fantasyland (mostly Peter Pan rides and the intricate Small World building), Tomorrowland (mainly space age themed rides), Mickey’s Toontown (filled with funny misshapen cartoon style buildings), Frontierland (a sanitized wild west spot), Adventureland (jungle themed stuff galore), New Orleans Square (an idealized French Quarter mock-up), and Critter Country (mostly Winnie-the-Pooh things). In the middle is a bronze statue of Walt and Mickey called “Partners” standing in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (there’s a quick walkthrough here with scenes from that film). Got there fairly early, and was glad to have done so, as the park became really crowded after noon (did all the rides first). Is this the happiest place on earth? I say no, but is likely is the corniest. Still, given that I’ve never been to a major name-brand theme park besides Tampa’s Busch Gardens and San Diego’s Seaworld, this was quite the experience.

    Some further general commentary to follow.

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    Some additional thoughts:

    --went to two baseball games, one each for the LA Dodgers and LA Angels. Both games were good -- Dodgers beat the Cubs 4-0 with homers by Chase Utley and Adrian Gonzalez, while the Angels beat the Twins 7-2, highlighted by Albert Pujols's 600th career home run, a grand slam. Dodger Stadium is now the third oldest park currently in use and doesn't look any the worse for wear. A piece of advice, though: if you sit in the bleachers, bring earplugs as there are stacks of loudspeakers here and the noise can be deafening; improvising with wadded up Kleenex in the ears was a must. Lots of folks here had their ears plugged up. Angels Stadium is much newer, with pretty boulders and a waterfall behind the center field fence, though the seats in foul territory towards the left field foul pole don't face home plate and you have to crane your neck to see the action there. Games were well attended. Both parks are easily reached via public transit. The Dodgers have a dedicated shuttle to and from Union Station on game days, while the Angels park is an easy walk from the Anaheim train station.

    --like San Diego and San Francisco, Los Angeles is absolutely loaded with homeless people. As in San Diego, they tend to keep to themselves, though sometimes cause issues on public transit.

    --for the most part, public transportation was indeed used on this trip, and generally ran reliably; the 7-day Metro pass, renewed an additional time, paid for itself in short order since transfers aren't offered. The presidential libraries day was planned as a car day, and both were seen with ease this way -- about 2-1/2 hours spent at each library and about 2 hours driving between, as I had figured. Given the relative proximity of the Nixon Library and Angels Stadium, a drive and drop off at the latter proved easy. Took the train from Anaheim to Union Station after this game. Got rides from family on two other days that weren't planned. One was to and from the Huntington Library, which is a doable but long hike from the Allen Metro stop area otherwise, something my nephew and his wife preferred not to do. Given how much walking was done at the Huntington, this was a good decision. The other unplanned car day was the jaunt to Long Beach. My nephew and his wife came along here as well, and while they normally like taking the Metro and bus (I guess it runs in the family), they were definitely not keen to ride the Blue Line (this also decided whether or not a visit to the Watts Towers would occur -- it didn't -- the Hollyhock House was seen that day instead); we did take the shuttle bus between Long Beach attractions, though. Taxis were used only four times total: three times from Union Station (twice after the late night baseball games and once after getting into LA late on Amtrak), plus once going to the airport (to catch a red eye flight home) -- public transport does not run 24 hours in LA like in NYC. Otherwise, the trains, buses, Metro, and walking were used exclusively, and mostly as listed in the original itinerary proposed (used the 720 bus on the Museum Row day instead of the slower 20 bus, but otherwise as listed). Google maps timings actually proved pretty accurate and useful here. Buses don't run as often as would be nice at times, especially on weekends, but that's the way it goes -- nothing that can't be tolerated. The slowest connection was the one between the Warner Brothers Studio tour and the Autry (two buses involved, plus just missed the bus pulling out of the stop each time), though Google maps had rightly suggested this would take a while. So be it. The Metro ran smoothly, frequently, and consistently, though the Red and Purple Line cars were pretty grotty (buses, Gold Line cars, and Expo Line cars were surprisingly clean). There were a few characters, homeless, mentally ill, and hustler types on the Metro and buses at times, but nothing that couldn't be ignored easily enough. In fact, there was a funny incident on the Metro Red Line on one trip: a woman who clearly hadn't bathed in ages walked through and stunk the car out, followed shortly after by someone trying to sell incense -- whose wares wiped the earlier bad smell out of the car completely.

    --there's lots to do here, but given how spread out this city is, it's important to plan your itinerary with care. Clumping attractions that are close by each other and not including too much in a day is crucial.

    --LA wasn't my favorite city in some ways. It's dirty, smoggy, unbelievably sprawling, and not the most distinctive city visually. But there's plenty of good food here and excellent attractions, including several must-see art museums and other things. Glad to have come, by and large -- and great to see family again.

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