The Classic Los Angeles Guide
Los Angeles is a city of stories. Whether you’ve grown up amongst the palms, packed up the trunk and moved bright-eyed to have your coming of age, or, learned to love the cityscape through the movie screen—certain visions reign supreme. The Hollywood Sign, the pink palace façade of the Beverly Hills Hotel, and the panoramic views from the Griffith Observatory are iconic sights long sealed in to our collective consciousness. Los Angelenos think of their sunny metropolis as a triangle made up of the East Side, the West Side, and the Valley, while we’ve found that when our New York friends come to visit they abide by a very specific Hollywood itinerary. Newcomers can rest assured that within the immense city sprawl there is a neighborhood, and a tribe waiting for every personality. But, for those trying to find their way, our classic L.A. guide leaves no room for curveballs
The Broad221 S. Grand St., Downtown | 213.232.6200
The Broad suffered some significant delays in opening, but when the doors did finally swing open, Angelenos found an entirely columnless, sky-lit gallery by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. And all the impatience was soon forgotten (the free admission helps). The museum houses and continually exhibits Eli and Edythe (aka Edye) Broad’s collection of contemporary art, which is one of the largest and most significant worldwide. Plus, they’ve got great taste and have amassed large collections of works by artists like Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, and Christopher Wool. The fact that restaurateur Bill Chait of Bestia and Republique fame and Tim Hollingsworth of The French Laundry are teaming up on the restaurant next door should provide LA residents with even more incentive to head downtown. Meanwhile, tickets are hard to come by but so worth trying to snag. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy The Broad.
Toyota Symphonies for Youth111 S. Grand Ave., Downtown | 323.850.2000
Designated for the 5-11 set, this LA Phil concert series at Walt Disney Hall touches on everything from Tchaikovsky to the incidence of repetition in minimalist music. When school is out, don’t miss Summer Sounds for kids at The Hollywood Bowl, which pairs world music with art.
Arclight Cinema Hollywood6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood | 323.464.1478
It always blows visitors minds that at most of the city’s movie theaters, you can pre-book specific seats, meaning that you can eat dinner and wander around until minutes before the show starts, and not have to jockey and jostle for position. We love the Arclight in particular because there’s an on-site bar and during 21+ screenings you can sip your wine while you watch. Locations in Culver City, Hollywood, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Sherman Oaks.
The Hollywood Bowl2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood | 323.850.2000
Though parking (and the accompanying traffic) can be a total nightmare, it’s well worth it, because once you’ve settled into your seat, and busted out your picnic dinner and wine, you’re in for one of the more special outdoor concert experiences in the country.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood | 323.469.1181
As the name suggests, a lot of glamorous silver-screen stars are buried here—but the cemetery has a second life. The beautiful grounds play host to outdoor movie screenings and some of the city’s best concerts.
Huntington Botanical Gardens31151 Oxford Rd., Pasadena | 626.405.2100
At 120 acres, almost every iteration of plant life is represented at this San Marino resource: Fortunately, it's broken out by themes. There's a Rose Garden, a Palm Garden, a Chinese Garden, a Japanese Garden, and so forth—but what really stands out is The Desert Garden, where you can see some 5,000 species of cacti and other succulents.
The Getty1200 Getty Center Dr., Brentwood | 310.440.7300
Offering some of the city’s best views, you can spend a good half-day picnicking on the lawn above the central gardens, or wandering around the Richard Meier-designed exterior (construction employed about 1,200,000 square feet of travertine) before you even head inside. The exhibitions are always varied and interesting, the permanent collection is important, and there are excellent hands-on activities for kids. You only pay for parking at the bottom; admittance is otherwise free.
LACMA5905 Wilshire Blvd., West Hollywood | 323.857.6000
Undeniably, LACMA pulls LA's biggest art exhibits—and many of them. The campus is huge, the permanent exhibits are great, and it's all kid-friendly, too. If you have little ones in tow, definitely head to the Boone Gallery, which is located on the second floor of the Hammer Building. There, you'll find a space where little ones can actually put brush to paper and make art. While on-site, sign them up for a free LACMA youth membership—they can visit the museum for free whenever they want (and bring one adult guest along).
The Getty Villa17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades | 310.440.7330
Modeled after a first-century Roman country house, J. Paul Getty originally built the Getty Villa to house an art collection that was quickly outgrowing his house. Now, beyond touring the exquisite home and gardens, you can see his collection of 44,000 antiquities, with treasures that range from 6,500 B.C. to A.D. 400.
Hammer Museum10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood | 310.443.7000
There’s always something excellent on display at this UCLA museum—it’s also nicely manageable, making it the perfect way to spend a few idle hours. The adjacent museum store is one of the best in the city: The bookstore is gigantic, and they have some great gifts from L.A.-based designers, but they win the biggest points for their kids room in the back, where you’ll find art and design-specific tomes for little ones, along with a handful of well-conceived toys.
Gagosian Gallery456 N. Camden Dr., Beverly Hills | 310.271.9400
Any artist shown at this particular Gagosian has to compete with the clean, sleek architecture of this four-room space. Its opening parties are particularly wonderful.
The Arboretum301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia | 626.821.3222
The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens—The Arboretum for short—is one of those magical LA gems that feels worlds away from the craziness of the city, but takes under an hour to get to (unless you get caught in a freak traffic jam, so planning off-hours trips is best). Before you even step inside to explore the 127 acres-worth of lush, immaculately manicured grounds, you're likely to be greeted by a member of the resident peacock family, who much to the delight of visitors young and old, roam the property freely. It may seem like a lot of ground to cover at first, but the main sites—a tropical greenhouse, the famed rose garden (the fragrant, romantic Edward Huntsmen Trout-designed landscape makes for the perfect wedding ceremony site), herb garden, the allegedly haunted Queen Anne Cottage, and '50s-era library—are situated within strolling distance of each other. There's also a duck-filled lake, a packed events calendar, and several cafes on-site, meaning you can easily stay opening to closing.