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Los Angeles See And Do

Ahmanson Theatre & Mark Taper Forum
The Music Center
135 N. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles , California
90012
Tel: 213 628 2772
www.centertheatregroup.org

The 2,000-seat Ahmanson Theatre and 750-seat Mark Taper Forum are two of L.A.'s most important performing venues. Both are affiliated with the Center Theatre Group. The Ahmanson has featured everything from the ballets of Matthew Bourne to restoration comedies to avant-garde productions by Robert Wilson. The smaller Mark Taper Forum has a thrust stage that's surrounded by audience on three sides, and specializes in more experimental work (it was, for instance, the place where  Angels in America made its debut).

Architecture
Los Angeles , California

The Los Angeles Conservancy, a preservation society founded in 1978, operates weekly walking tours of downtown L.A.'s architectural landmarks, from the much-filmed 1893 Bradbury Building to the elaborately gilded twenties and thirties movie theaters on Broadway (213-430-4219; www.laconservancy.org; $10 for non-members). The L.A. chapter of the American Institute of Architects also conducts tours of architecturally significant houses at least twice a year (213-639-0777; www.aialosangeles.org). At the downtown Visitors' Center, you can pick up free itineraries guiding you on 30-minute walking tours, which include Rafael Moneo's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Frank Gehry's stainless-steel Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the museums and California Science Center in Exposition Park (www.seemyla.com). If you're interested in modernism, CA Boom Design Expositions offers tours series, visiting case houses and other significant homes (310-394-8600; www.caboomshow.com).

Notable buildings that are worth making specific pilgrimages to see are the MAK Center for Art + Architecture, the former West Hollywood home of famed modernist Rudolf Schindler; tours are held midday on weekends (323-651-1510; www.makcenter.org). Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House in Barnsdall Park in the Hollywood/Los Feliz area can once again be visited after extensive restoration (323-644-6269; www.hollyhockhouse.net), as can his Ennis House, in Los Feliz (323-660-0607; www.ennishouse.org). Of Pasadena's many craftsman bungalows, the most famous is the Gamble House, designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 (626-793-3334; www.gamblehouse.org).

Beaches
Los Angeles , California

The Beach Boys weren't lying: this part of California is all about the sun, sand, and surf. Venice Beach, with its street performers, outdoor cafés, and pedestrian traffic, still has that quintessential Californian combination of liveliness and laid-backness. You can grab a bike at one of the many rental stands; there's a bike path that heads all the way south to Redondo Beach. Santa Monica has Surfrider Beach, one of the best breaks long the coast, and also a pier with an amusement park that's lots of fun for kids. Malibu is a bit on the impenetrable side (a wall of houses lines the beach), but just up the Pacific Coast Highway at Zuma Beach there's plenty of parking and lots of sand. Walk north, and you'll pass the celebrity-owned houses of Broad Beach. Drive a bit farther up the Pacific Coast Highway and you'll find Neptune's Net, the famed fish-shack with a parking lot full of motorcycles.

Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills , California

Beverly Hills is famous for the designer-driven shops of Rodeo Drive and the Golden Triangle, and the recent upsurge of teardowns in favor of mega-mansions. It's a great place for strolling and window-shopping (if you can't afford the stores), and there's excellent people-watching to be had from the many sidewalk cafés. Landmarks include City Hall and the Post Office, as well as the I.M. Pei–designed Creative Artists Agency (CAA). The well-manicured public gardens along Santa Monica Boulevard are a lovely oasis, as well as a popular place to jog.

Downtown Los Angeles
Los Angeles , California

Downtown Los Angeles has been reputedly making a comeback for 25 years now, but the loft explosion over the past few years has made that notion seem truer than ever. There's lots of sightseeing to be done here, neighborhood landmarks include MOCA, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, ornate former movie palaces on Broadway, and the kitschy Mexican tourist attraction known as Olvera Street. There's also Chinatown—which is becoming an avant-garde multiculti art destination—and Little Tokyo.

Geffen Playhouse
10886 Le Conte Avenue
Los Angeles , California
90024
Tel: 310 208 5454
www.geffenplayhouse.com

Housed in a beautiful old stone building with a shrub-lined courtyard, the 522-seat Geffen Playhouse celebrated its tenth anniversary last year with a $19 million renovation that included upgraded seats in a gentle stadium slope, state-of-the-art acoustics, and an additional new 120-seat theater for more intimate productions. The offerings range from the classics to the debut of new works, and in the past have included such names as Sam Shepard, David Mamet, and Steve Martin.

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Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles , California
90049
Tel: 310 440 7300
www.getty.edu

This is architect Richard Meier's masterwork, a stunning 110-acre modernist complex in the Santa Monica Mountains housing the Getty Museum and other foundation buildings. When it was commissioned in 1984, the white travertine came from a quarry near Rome, and a special guillotine method for slicing it had to be developed for the construction. The Getty Museum is a symphony of light, with pools, fountains, and walls of glass bricks. The painting galleries are entirely illuminated by natural light filtered to protect the art. The Getty has had some financial and identity problems in recent years, but finally hired Australian Michael Brand in August 2005 as its new director and is at work shoring up its image. As you'd expect from an institution with a $5 billion endowment, the Getty has some big-ticket pieces, including works by Titian and Rubens, Cezanne's Still Life with Apples, and Van Gogh's Irises. The collection of decorative arts is wonderful, and now that the Getty Villa (see below) has reopened, the area once occupied by antiquities has been remodeled to house the renowned photography collection. Guests can choose from a self-service café, the sandwiches and salads of the Garden Terrace Cafe, or the Restaurant, which is open for lunch daily, but for dinner only on Friday and Saturday nights (reservations are advisable: 310-440-6810).

Closed Mondays.

Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu , California
90049
Tel: 310 440 7300
www.getty.edu

After nine years of renovations and additions, the Getty Villa, the hilltop Malibu site of the original Getty Museum, reopened in January of 2006. The museum's antiquities collection—some 44,000 different works, concentrating on the ancient Greeks, the Etruscans, and the Romans—is housed in a reproduction of the Villa dei Papiri, one of the most lavish houses in Herculaneum, destroyed in A.D. 79 by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. The villa and gardens are actually quite lovely, in spite of the obvious kitsch factor. Among the additions is a 450-seat amphitheater, where in summer audiences can enjoy open-air productions of Greek and Roman masterpieces. The Villa Theater Lab also presents experimental interpretations of the classics by local groups like the Latino comedy ensemble Culture Clash. Tickets are free, but must be booked in advance by calling ahead or visiting the website.

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Griffith Observatory
2800 E. Observatory Road
Los Angeles , California
90027
Tel: 213 473 0800
www.griffithobs.org

This 72-year-old Greek Revival landmark on a hilltop in Griffith Park is one of L.A.'s most recognizable icons, forever enshrined in the zeitgeist by the movie Rebel Without a Cause. The observatory finally reopened in fall of 2006, after an extensive $93 million renovation, including an addition and repairs to the façade. Most of the 40,000 square-foot addition is underground, and includes the new 200-seat Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater. The Samuel Oschain Planetarium has added all the latest digital bells and whistles, including a state-of-the-art new projector; astronomy shows are held in the planetarium every hour. The Observatory is also known for its hiking trails. However, trails to the north and east of the Observatory remain closed because of damage from wildfires. Only the trail from Fern Dell to the Observatory, which offers sweeping views past the Hollywood sign to the ocean, remains open.

Hiking
Los Angeles , California

Nobody walks in L.A., but they do hike. There are great trails along the Santa Monica Mountain bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the forested Angeles Crest. Or you can head uphill into Hollywood's Runyon Canyon, where somewhat disheveled celebrities can often be glimpsed walking their dogs off-leash. In Beverly Hills, there's Franklin Canyon. For information and maps of these and other trails, check out www.latrails.com/hike, or contact the Sierra Club (213-387-4287; www.angeles.sierraclub.org) for information about its organized walks.

Hollywood
Los Angeles , California

Hollywood is the same sun-blasted mecca for celebrity worshippers it's always been, but trees now line the main drag, Hollywood Boulevard. At night, the club-crawlers come out to play, even though the A-list spots come and go at warp speed (see our Nightlife section for help). The Kodak Theatre hosts the Academy Awards and other splashy events, which means that several blocks of the Boulevard near Highland Avenue are perpetually closed off to traffic. There's still no great shopping (unless you're looking for T-shirts or platform sandals in men's sizes), but lots of hip restaurants and bars. Hollywood is filled with ornate Mediterranean and Art Deco buildings, all gradually getting face-lifts. Thai Town and Little Armenia occupy the eastern end, with great ethnic markets and restaurants, like the famed Palms Thai, where a Thai Elvis-imitator performs nightly.

Hollywood Bowl
2301 N. Highland Avenue
Los Angeles , California
90068
Tel: 323 850 2000
www.hollywoodbowl.org

Open from late May through early October, this famed outdoor venue hosts jazz, rock, and country performers, along with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The shell was originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and later updated by Frank Gehry. There are 18,000 seats—the boxes are jealously reserved, but (shhh, don't tell the A-listers) the acoustics are actually better in some of the cheap seats.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery
6000 Santa Monica Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
90038
Tel: 323 469 1181
www.hollywoodforever.com

The "resting place of Hollywood's immortals" is L.A.'s answer to Père Lachaise in Paris; here, loyal fans can visit the tombstones of everyone from Rudolph Valentino to Johnny Ramone. Among the palm trees and mausoleums, there are even video screens that show Life Stories (like mini bio-pics put together by the families of the deceased). Occasionally in the summer, the public is invited to charity screenings: You can take a picnic dinner and a blanket and watch a movie in the graveyard. Hey, that's showbiz!

Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino , California
91108
Tel: 626 405 2100
www.huntington.org

Aside from its renowned art collection and rare antique books—which include one of the two earliest-known editions of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales —the main draw of this property is its magnificent botanical gardens. There's a three-acre rose garden with more than 1,200 varieties of bloom (as well as a lovely tea room), a remarkable 12-acre desert garden, English gardens, and Japanese gardens. A new Chinese garden, which due to be completed in 2008, will include a lake with carved-stone bridges, and pavilions and walkways set among rock gardens and native Chinese flora.

Closed Mondays.

Kids' Stuff
Los Angeles , California

Aside from—obviously—Disneyland, there are lots of other sights and activities in L.A. that are geared toward kids. They'll be wowed by the La Brea Tar Pits, in mid-Wilshire, a site where asphalt bubbled up out of the earth about 40,000 years ago during the Pleistocene epoch—the last of four Ice Ages—trapping mammoths, giant sloths, and sabre-toothed tigers (way post-dinosaur-age). The remains of these animals have been retrieved since 1906 and are now on display. The adjacent George C. Page Museum has one of the world's most famous collections of fossils and bones, and during summer months there is an observation deck from which visitors can watch paleontogists carefully digging through the black muck (5801 Wilshire Blvd.; 323-934-7243; www.tarpits.org).

Universal Studios adds to its tour and park attractions whenever a blockbuster warrants it. Right now the tours are narrated by Whoopi Goldberg and include TV-show sets from Crossing Jordan and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (how scintillating is that lineup?). Some of the park attractions are "The Fast and the Furious: Extreme Closeup," and a Fear Factor audience-participation attraction. A recent fire destroyed the 20-foot high King Kong as well as the studios New York streets, but Universal says it will rebuild the Big Apple and add a new attraction to replace the giant ape (100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City; 800-864-8377; www.universalstudios.com). More subdued is the Warner Bros. VIP tour, better for older children who love the movies and who are interested in visiting the sets and soundstages of the studio (4000 Warner Blvd., Burbank; www2.warnerbros.com/vipstudiotour/). Another venue best for older children is Six Flags Magic Mountain, which has the Guinness World Record for the most roller coasters in one place (26101 Magic Mountain Parkway, Valencia; 818-367-5965; www.sixflags.com/parks/magicmountain).

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles , California
90036
Tel: 323 857 6000
www.lacma.org

LACMA's permanent collection of over 100,000 works includes everything from extraordinary Asian antiquities to period costumes to contemporary artworks. It also hosts a steady series of temporary exhibitions, some so popular the museum has been forced to stay open into the late night. The various buildings on the museum's 20-acre campus have gone up at different times, in disparate styles; Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano won the commission (over Rem Koolhaas) to unify the museum, adding a 20,000-square-foot glass entrance pavilion, as well as a covered concourse linking the open spaces between buildings. The renovation included an expansion of the Ahmanson Building with a skylighted hall for music and art performances, lectures, and other public events.

Mountain Biking
Los Angeles , California

Mountain-biking trails run through the Santa Monica Mountains from Griffith Park to the Pacific. On any given day, you'll see purple-faced actors with washboard abs pumping furiously up canyons as if starring roles were being handed out on the peaks. Check www.labikepaths.com or www.latrails.com for routes. Two of many bike-rental companies are Hollywood Pro Bicycles (323-466-5890) and Spokes 'n Stuff Rental in Santa Monica (310-395-4748).

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Museum of Latin American Art
628 Alamitos Avenue
Long Beach , California
90802
Tel: 562 437 1689
www.molaa.org

This plucky new museum has big ambitions. Dedicated in 2003 with an initial gift of 60 pieces, its permanent collection has already expanded to some 850 pieces, making it the largest museum in the United States devoted to Latin American art. That art ranges from works by David Alfaro Siqueiros to contemporary artists like Claudio Bravo and Alejandro Otero. The sculpture garden now houses live performances as well.

Norton Simon Museum
411 W. Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena , California
91105
Tel: 626 449 6840
www.nortonsimon.org

Amid beautiful gardens inspired by Monet's Giverny, this somewhat drab, boxy museum (built in 1969) had its interior spruced up by Frank Gehry in the late '90s. Inside, there's a treasure trove of European paintings from the 14th to the 20th century and a dazzling collection of Asian art. Degas is well represented, as is Picasso, and there's a fantastic series of French Impressionist galleries. The café, like so many others in Los Angeles, is run by Chef Joachim Splichal's Patina Group, and serves salads and sandwiches.

Pasadena
Pasadena , California

Pasadena is famous for the Rose Bowl and Parade, and for the remarkably beautiful architecture, including landmark Greene and Greene houses. Old Pasadena once was a bohemian mecca, but though it's evolved into a collection of chain stores, it does still have Vroman's, the largest independent bookstore in town (695 E. Colorado Blvd.; 626-449-5320; www.vromansbookstore.com). The Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel & Spa (626-568-3900; www.ritzcarlton.com/hotels/huntington/) is a landmark with a great high tea. Not far away is the beautiful Santa Anita Race Track, as well as the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Don't miss the Huntington Library + Gardens (see above); the generous-sized cactus garden, formal Japanese gardens, and English landscaped gardens are wonderful.

Pasadena Playhouse
39 S. El Molino Avenue
Pasadena , California
91101
Tel: 626 356 7529
www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

This Spanish-colonial landmark with its welcoming tiled central patio was built in 1917, and some of filmdom's most highly regarded actors, including Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman, trained here in the theater's heyday. Closed and nearly destroyed in the seventies, it was revived in 1986 following extensive renovations, and it now offers well-regarded productions ranging from the classics to musicals to new plays, starring an array of well-known faces from film and television.

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Santa Monica
Santa Monica , California

Santa Monica has its famous pier, the Third Street Promenade (now mostly chain stores, but still with a kid-friendly amusement park), and the famed Wednesday Farmers' Market where local chefs shop for produce. Main Street and Montana Avenue have great shopping in small, upscale boutiques. If you're a surfer, Surfrider Beach is a must; if you're an art-hound don't miss Bergamot Station, a former trolley station taken over by art galleries. It's part of the Santa Monica Museum of Art (2525 Michigan Ave.; 310-586-6488; www.smmoa.org).

Scenic Drives
Los Angeles , California

One of the most dramatic driving routes in Los Angeles is Mulholland Drive, which follows the peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains from the Cahuenga Pass almost to Topanga National Park. The road is lined with mansions, and has spots where both the Los Angeles Basin and the San Fernando Valley are visible.

The Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) from the Santa Monica Freeway north through Malibu and all the way to Oxnard provides fantastic views of the Pacific, the Santa Monica Bay, and all the famed surfing spots to the north of Malibu. There are also lots of restaurants, from the hokey Gladstone's (where Sunset Boulevard meets the highway) all the way up to Neptune's Net, a shack with a parking lot jammed with motorcycles north of Trancas. At sunset, the PCH is glorious. To plan your driving trip, check out www.us-101.com.

The Angeles Crest Highway (Route 2) climbs 66 miles through the Angeles National Forest from La Canada-Flintridge into the San Gabriel Mountains, ending at Mountain Top Junction near Wrightwood, a popular ski area. The two-lane highway is a bit perilous, especially in bad weather (check the road conditions at www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo), but it's better patrolled than in the past. Drive carefully and you'll have a beautiful mountain journey, with shaded picnic stops, campgrounds, and views. At points the highway reaches nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. Check out www.byways.org/browse/byways/10245/travel.html for a map and more information.

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Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles , California

Drive its length, from downtown to the Pacific Ocean. You'll pass Echo Park, where lotuses bloom in the lake; the funky shops of Silver Lake; Hollywood High School; Sunset Plaza and the Sunset Strip; residential Beverly Hills and Brentwood; Will Rogers State Historic Park, where you can catch celebrity-studded polo matches; the Pacific Palisades; Mandeville Canyon; and the new-agey Self-Realization Center. It all comes to an end at the Pacific Coast Highway opposite Gladstone's, where the food isn't all that great, but they'll wrap your leftovers in aluminum foil shaped like a swan.

Surfing
Los Angeles , California

There are surf spots all along the southern part of the California coast; among the best and best-known are Surf Rider Beach in Malibu and Huntington Beach in Orange County You can check the surf conditions at these and many other breaks on www.watchthewater.org and www.wavewatch.com.

If you're just learning, you can get lessons here that range from three-hour group classes to week-long surf camps. Try Learn to Surf L.A., which has locations in both Malibu and Santa Monica (310-663-2479; www.learntosurfla.com), or Malibu Longboards (310-467-6898; www.malibulongboards.com).

Venice Beach
Los Angeles , California

Venice Beach is more interesting and bohemian than next-door Santa Monica. Abbot Kinney Boulevard has one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants, Beyond Baroque remains the best poetry venue in town (681 Venice Blvd.; 310-822-3006; www.beyondbaroque.org), and the boardwalk is still covered with street performers, freaks, and places that sell eight-dollar sunglasses.

Virginia Robinson Gardens
1008 Elder Way
Beverly Hills , California
90210
Tel: 310 276 5367
www.robinson-gardens.com

This was the first Beverly Hills mansion (completed in 1911), built by the department store family on a hill overlooking the bean fields—an area that eventually became 90210. The five gardens—from the Italian Terrace Garden to the Kitchen Garden—include a stunning palm grove. The pool area is a Roman fantasy. Guided tours are by appointment only, and cost $10.

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West Hollywood
West Hollywood , California

West Hollywood is known as Boy's Town—on account of the big, vocally political gay population—but it's also home to a huge Russian community (and their delicious delis) and lots of great areas for shopping. Among these are Melrose Avenue (west from Fairfax Avenue) and Melrose Place, both home to upscale boutiques, antiques, and shelter shops. Third Street between Crescent Heights and La Cienega is packed with funky and of-the-moment chic boutiques, and lots of sidewalk cafés. Robertson below Melrose has antique and houseware shops; below Beverly there's an ever-growing number of cool clothing stores. Up on Sunset Boulevard, Sunset Plaza is a shopping and outdoor café haven popular with Europeans.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.