Seven iconic LA experiences

By Maxwell Williams, LA-based journalist.

Photography by Gary Weathers

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January 2018

While there’s plenty to keep you entertained in Los Angeles, there are some classic sights you shouldn’t miss. Local writer Maxwell Williams rounds up seven of the best.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame

The lowdown: Getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the film industry’s equivalent to getting inducted into a hall of fame. Since director Stanley Kramer received the first one in 1960, there have been more than 2,600 terrazzo and brass stars installed on the 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street in the middle of Hollywood. It’s estimated that 10 million people walk over the stars a year, many of them tourists on their way to Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, or any of the other attractions on the strip.

In the know… A good place to start is at the corner of Hollywood and Highland, where buskers dressed up in superhero costumes set up shop.

Don’t miss: Shop for vinyl and CDs at one of the biggest record stores in the USA, Amoeba Records just a few blocks away on Sunset Boulevard.

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If you head up the hill before the sun goes down and the stars come out, the Observatory’s deck is one of the best places to peep views of the Hollywood Sign.

The Getty Center

The lowdown: The jewel in the crown of The Getty organization is The Getty Center, a Richard Meier-designed campus that opened in 1997 and serves as home to masterpieces from nearly every world culture. From ancient collections to modern works by artists like Robert Mapplethorpe, this is an eclectic experience that can’t be missed.

In the know… The Getty Center is pretty isolated, but the best bet is to eat at the restaurant, where you can get steaks, risotto, or scallops, and enjoy a beautiful view of the West Side of Los Angeles.

Don’t miss: Spend a few hours in the Central Garden, built by California conceptual artist Robert Irwin, with more than 500 plant specimens and a giant pool with an azalea maze floating on top.

  • Enjoy films and fireworks at Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

    A California celebration

    The Hollywood Forever Cemetery holds the resting places of some of classic Hollywood’s biggest icons, from the voice actor of Bugs Bunny to director Cecil B. DeMille.£316 return

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  • Stand before the mighty woolly mammoth skeleton at La Brea Tar Pits © Dustin Downing.

    A mammoth task

    Thousands of animals from last ice age found themselves stuck in LA in the La Brea tar pits, including Zed, the site’s near-intact woolly mammoth.

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  • Take a day to explore the fascinating art inside the famous Getty Center © J Paul Getty Trust.

    Gallery hopping

    Closed on Mondays, the Getty Center hosts an array of permeant art exhibitions, with over 300 paintings and 700 sculptures, photographs and illustrations on display.£580 pp

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Griffith Observatory

The lowdown: Roosting atop Mount Hollywood in the middle of Griffith Park is the Griffith Observatory named for Griffith J. Griffith, a philanthropist with a keen interest in the ‘heavenly bodies’ of the skies. Griffith – whose gift to the city made the Observatory possible – died before the iconic art deco structure opened to the public in 1935, but his legacy lives on in the form of exhibit halls (one houses a spectacular Tesla coil), a planetarium, the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theatre, and the 12-inch Zeiss telescope located on the roof deck.

In the know… If you head up the hill before the sun goes down and the stars come out, the Observatory’s deck is one of the best places to peep views of the Hollywood Sign.

Don’t miss: The Morrison in nearby Atwater Village serves up top-notch burgers for a perfect post-stargazing snack.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The lowdown: An antidote to the star tours of Hollywood, the real stars are inside the gates of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery – and the best part is it’s free. Stroll the peaceful grounds at your own pace, and come across the graves and mausoleums of superstars from Hollywood’s golden age: Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille, Douglas Fairbanks, and Judy Garland, to name just a few. Adding to the oddball fun are peacocks, stray cats, and several reflecting pools.

In the know… Baroo, a hip counter specializing in fermented food is a local fave.

Don’t miss: People dress up in costume and put down picnic blankets for Cinespia’s summer screening series of classic films like Chinatown, Clueless, and Stand By Me.

  • Take a hike up to LA’s iconic Griffith Observatory © Lena Wagner.

    Neon nights

    On the southern slope of Mount Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory allows you to roam the grounds, peruse the exhibits and use the telescopes all free of charge.

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La Brea Tar Pits

The lowdown: Tens of thousands of years ago, in what is now the Miracle Mile neighbourhood of Los Angeles, giant mammals and other fauna would get stuck in the sticky tar pits. Still gurgling with natural asphalt, the La Brea Tar Pits are epic, but the real pre-historic magic is behind the Tar Pits in the Page Museum. You’ll find exhibits on brilliantly preserved skeletons of Pleistocene mammoths, giant ground sloths, and sabre-toothed cats, plus a host of other fossils from the Pits.

In the know… The myriad food trucks that line up across the street from Tar Pits on Wilshire serve everything from Mexican to Korean street food fare.

Don’t miss: The wonderful Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is next door, and puts on blockbuster shows by contemporary art superstars like James Turrell, plus ha encyclopaedic exhibitions of Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern art.

Dodger Stadium

The lowdown: All around LA, locals can be seen rocking the blue cap of the Los Angeles baseball team, the Dodgers. Since they controversially moved from Brooklyn to their new home in 1958, the Dodgers have been the sporting embodiment of LA, winning five World Series and launching the legendary careers of Sandy Koafax, Don Drysdale, and most recently Clayton Kershaw. If baseball’s not your thing, or you’re visiting in winter, Dodger Stadium holds concerts and events during the offseason –Beyoncé performed in 2016 and Cirque du Soleil held a string of shows there in 2017.

In the know… There is a spectacular fireworks show after games on a Friday.

Don’t miss: You have to eat a Dodger Dog – a 10-inch wiener in a steamed bun served up at any of the stadium’s concession stands.

Santa Monica Pier

The lowdown: Bustling with activity from morning to night, the Santa Monica Pier is a favourite for locals and tourists. Built in 1909, it’s home to Pacific Park, a theme park with a rollercoaster and a solar-powered Ferris wheel. Check out Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, which features sharks and California Moray eels, as well as educational activities by Heal the Bay, a non-profit dedicated to LA’s coastline and waterways. And there’s an old carousel in the historic Looff Hippodrome building, and of course, Zoltar, the fortune-telling machine made famous for turning Tom Hanks into an adult in the movie Big.

In the know: The entrance to the Pier spills you directly out onto the ‘original’ Muscle Beach (not to be confused with the outdoor gym where champion bodybuilders flex their pecs on the Venice Boardwalk), a popular sliver of beach home to acrobats, gymnasts, and other fitness guru types who bounce around on the plentiful ropes, swings, rings, and parallel bars.

Don’t miss: Santa Monica is flush with great food, but Coast, inside the high-end hotel Shutters, is a particularly nice spot for oysters and burgers.

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