original article: https://la.curbed.com/maps/things-to-do-los-angeles-getty
Welcome to Curbed LA’s pocket guide, a map of 26 essential things to do in Los Angeles. Suited for locals and visitors alike and curated by our editors, this map is updated seasonally, focusing on cultural institutions, the outdoors, and beautiful spaces.
This autumn, we’re paying special attention to places where you can glimpse fall colors, as well as new fall exhibitions and impressive architecture. Our picks include well-known classics and under-the-radar spots, from the Getty to a new brewpub in a glorious Art Deco space to the cemetery where Michael Jackson and Walt Disney are buried.
If we missed any cool spots, let us know in the comments.
Looking for more ways to explore the City of Angels this summer?
- If you’re looking specifically for LA’s famous architecture, we’ve mapped the 20 most iconic buildings.
- Got kids in tow? Here’s a list of 26 family-friendly places and activities in LA.
- For the most classic and essential restaurants in Los Angeles, we defer to Eater LA.
- If you’re a bookworm, here’s a map guide to the haunts of legendary authors like Joan Didion and William Faulkner.
1. Descanso Gardens
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
Descanso Gardens’ 160 acres feature roses, camellias, and ginkgo, all of which should be explosions of color over the next few months. The garden also offers shady, peaceful spots to escape the heat on warmer days.
Check the events calendar before heading over; Descanso ($9 admission) offers a range of activities from plant sales to the occasional tea ceremony to guided walks through the grounds. If you’re visiting on a weekend, maybe swing by Descanso’s new brunch restaurant.
2. The Gamble House
Pasadena, CA 91103
The Gamble House is considered one of the “ultimate bungalows” designed by the Greene brothers and an important contributor to the architectural evolution of Los Angeles and the nation. Hour-long, docent-led tours of the house run from Thursdays through Sundays. More in-depth, 2.5-hour tours are offered once a month. Pricing for both is available here.
3. Mulholland Drive
Los Angeles, CA
The backbone of the city snakes 21 miles through the Santa Monica Mountains, from Hollywood to Pacific Coast Highway. It is named for William Mulholland, the scheming civil engineer whose Los Angeles Acqueduct brought enough water to a young LA to make it into a real metropolis.
You can’t drive the entire route (it’s a gated dirt road roughly between West Mandeville Fire Road and Topanga Canyon), but you should definitely wind your way along several miles on a quiet night—the road will alternately reveal endless, twinkling views of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.
4. Forest Lawn Memorial Park
Glendale, CA 91205
If you’re going to get to know Los Angeles, you have to understand its weird relationship with death, for which Forest Lawn Glendale is ground zero. The “memorial park” was founded in the 1910s by “The Builder,” Hubert Eaton, who believed that there could be joy in death and that tombstones were gloomy. Following these tenets, he developed these 300 acres of rolling grounds with copies of famous chapels and artworks, including all of Michelangelo’s statues and a stained glass version of “The Last Supper.”
Today Forest Lawn Glendale (the memorial park is now a chain) is the final resting place of Walt Disney, Michael Jackson, and infamous preacher Aimee Semple McPherson. It also helped inspired Evelyn Waugh’s essential LA book The Loved One and its movie adaptation.
5. Beachwood Canyon Secret Stairs
Los Angeles, CA 90068
Tons of visitors want to see the Hollywood sign (so many that it set off a battle between residents and the city), but the unique neighborhood underneath it, Beachwood Canyon, is also worth a look. See both the sign and the neighborhood on this walk.
One of the city’s first planned housing tracts, the magical, quaint neighborhood is filled with gorgeous homes of a variety of styles dating back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, and it has counted many silver-screen stars among its residents.
Since parking and foot traffic on the streets is a touchy subject in the neighborhood, tour Beachwood by way of its “secret stairs,” a network of staircases dating back to the streetcar era of Los Angeles. As the neighborhood is quite hilly, the Beachwood Canyon stairs are fairly challenging, adding a healthy component to sightseeing.
There’s a whole book on walking tours of LA’s staircases, and the website for the book includes a PDF map and directions on how to get to and traverse the ones in Beachwood. Parking is scarce on the winding streets (some of which are permit-only parking), so why not take the Beachwood DASH bus up to the start of the walk? It picks up near the Hollywood and Vine subway stop.
6. Hike Fern Dell to the Griffith Observatory
Los Angeles, CA
The Griffith Observatory is one of those tourist draws that even locals adore. The best way to visit is to hike; you’ll enjoy pretty scenery and spectacular views along the way of the Hollywood and Downtown skylines, the world-famous Hollywood Sign, and, on clear days, even the ocean.
Start your trek on Fern Dell Drive, meander though Fern Dell Nature Center, fuel up at the oh-so charming The Trails Cafe (get the granola), then venture up either side of the canyon on well-maintained dirt trails that will lead you up to the magnificent observatory. If you have time, catch a show at the planetarium. A detailed overview of the hike is here.
7. Hollyhock House
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House—his first house in Los Angeles—recently reopened to the public after a big restoration. The house represents not just a beautiful Wright creation but also a “germination of what I think you can easily say became California Modernism,” Hollyhock House curator Jeffrey Herr told Curbed last year. The goal was to take the house back to as close an approximation as possible of how it looked in 1921, when it was completed; the house features the plaster, elaborate ceiling moldings, and accordion glass doors that it was intended to have.
Furnished with a mix of original furniture and detailed reproductions, the house is still a work in progress, but it has made incredible strides in its restoration. The house is open for self-guided tours Thursday through Sunday each week; standard admission is $7. After your tour, stick around for a picnic in Barnsdall Art Park.
8. Château Marmont
West Hollywood, CA 90046
If you’re doing Los Angeles, you really have to do one starfucky thing on the Sunset Strip, and we recommend the Chateau Marmont. Built in the 1920s as the city’s first earthquake-proof apartment building, it became a hotel and the place for stars to misbehave in the 1930s, and it has been that way ever since.
The rooms and bungalows are shockingly expensive, but make a reservation for lunch, enjoy the restaurant patio, then sneak a look around the pool and grounds, shrouded in foliage and perched tastefully above the Strip.
9. Heritage Square Museum
Los Angeles, CA 90031
Heritage Square is an elegant reminder that Los Angeles once boasted a slew of elegant Victorian homes. The museum is made up of eight historic structures—homes and mansions, a depot, barn, and drugstore—that have been preserved to showcase the “everyday lives of Southern Californians” at the turn of the century. The museum is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, with guided tours (included in the $10 admission) departing hourly from noon to 3 p.m.
10. The Getty
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Funded by oilman J. Paul Getty’s trust, the Getty is one of the most breathtaking places in Los Angeles. The light-colored marble buildings bob and weave up and down, among pools, fountains, and a circular garden designed by Robert Irwin, all on top of a ridge high above the 405 freeway with 360-degree views. Plus you get to take a funicular up there. The collection isn’t particularly beloved, but it includes everything from photography to early books to furniture. And it’s all free except for the parking.
11. Echo Park Lake
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Echo Park Lake began life as a reservoir but has been purely recreational for well over 100 years now. Besides being one of LA’s most pleasant parks, it’s also one of its most recognizable for its role in Chinatown—early on in the film Jake Gittes floats in a boat on the lake pretending to pose for his associate’s camera. After an early aughts restoration, there’s now a cafe where you can rent pedal boats, a short boardwalk, and a walking path around the lake.
12. Fowler Museum
Los Angeles, CA 90024
One of LA’s hidden gems, the Fowler Museum is tucked away on the UCLA campus. The intimate museum garnered some much-deserved national spotlight earlier this month, when the New York Times called its new exhibit “Striking Iron” the “most beautiful sculpture show in recent memory.” On view until December 30, the exhibit showcases 225 pieces of blacksmith’s art from across Africa. Admission is free, and the museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays but is otherwise open daily noon to 5 p.m.
13. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Los Angeles, CA 90036
LACMA is one of LA’s most prominent museums. Its vast permanent collection holds some famous works of art, including Henri Matisse’s “La Gerbe,” Ed Ruscha’s “Standard,” and Diego Rivera’s portrait of Frida Kahlo. This summer, the museum is hosting exhibits on Iranian art and artifacts from the ancient city of Teotihuacan.
Admission is $20 for LA residents and $25 for visitors who live outside the county, but you can view two of the museum’s most popular installations—“Urban Light” and “Levitated Mass”—for free. Both are located outside the museum’s doors. LACMA’s sprawling campus connects to the La Brea Tar Pits, and there’s a hardy network of walking paths between the two, making it a lovely place to stroll.
LACMA is closed Wednesdays. Admission is free for LA residents after 3 p.m.
14. Imperial Western Beer Company
Los Angeles, CA 90012
A glorious collision of LA food and architecture will debut Thursday, October 4 with the opening of Imperial Western Beer Company, a brewpub in Union Station. The restaurant and brewery are taking over the long dormant Harvey House, a once-popular way station for WWII soldiers shipping out to their posts. The menu will be a “tight collection of approachable bar snacks,” and it will be served inside one of LA’s most eye-catching and elaborate Art Deco spaces.
15. The Broad
Los Angeles, CA 90012
In short time, The Broad Museum atop Bunker Hill in Downtown has made itself an indispensable part of Los Angeles’s cultural landscape.
Within the confines of the honeycomb-covered building by Diller Scofido + Renfro, guests to The Broad will find contemporary art galore from the likes of Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger, John Baldessari, Kara Walker, Jeff Koons, and Jasper Johns. The infinitely Instagramable piece by Yayoi Kusama entitled “Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” is back, but it requires separate reservations to enter. Guests can make that reservation once they’re inside the museum.
The Broad is open daily except Monday, and entrance is free. The easiest way to get in is to reserve tickets online in advance, but there’s also on-site standby line for those who like to live spontaneously.
16. Oak Glen
This San Bernardino County town is not in Los Angeles, but it’s such a fun fall destination that we won’t hold geography against it. Much like the San Diego County mountain town of Julian, Oak Glen is famous for its apple ranches. It’s hard to recommend just one apple orchard in Oak Glen, because there are so many to choose from, so maybe just make a day of hitting up as many as possible.
The quaint burg is about a 90-minute drive east of Downtown, and just east of Yucaipa, but definitely worth the time spent on the 10 freeway. There are a number of U-Pick orchards for apples—just call ahead to make sure there are apples left—plus apple pie, cider tastings, and much cooler temperatures for that real fall feeling. (Oak Glen is located at an elevation of about 4,700 feet, so bring a jacket just in case.)
17. Hauser & Wirth
Los Angeles, CA 90013
If you’re headed to the Arts District to eat and drink, carve out some time for… art. The Los Angeles outpost of Hauser & Wirth is the most obvious choice, and it’s free. The sprawling campus occupies an old flour mill and features galleries, along with a courtyard and landscaping by Los Angeles landscape architect Mia Lehrer. Located on East Third Street, it’s walking distance to Angel City Brewing and Downtown LA’s Little Tokyo neighborhood.
18. Leo Carrillo State Beach
One of the least touristy beaches in Los Angeles, this state park stretches for two and a half miles and offers tide pools, soft sand, coves, sycamores-shaded camping, 7 miles of trails, and pretty vistas. But its best known for being dog-friendly: Pups are allowed on leash in designated areas (north of lifeguard tower No. 3). And unlike some other Malibu beaches, this one is pretty easy to access. There’s free street parking and designated parking for a fee ($12 per day).
19. Vincent Price Art Museum
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Gaudalupe Rosales, the artist behind Veteranas & Rucas—a popular Instagram page that pays tribute to Chicana life in Southern California—has put together her first solo museum show, and it’s dedicated to 1990s Latinx youth culture in East LA. On display through January 19, the immersive installation features rave lighting, fliers and other ephemera, and an altar honoring Rosales’s cousin. The museum is free; hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. Thursday.
20. The Museum of Jurassic Technology
Culver City, CA 90232
The Museum of Jurassic Technology is a museum about museums, one of its founders won a MacArthur genius grant, and there’s a lovely tea room and garden on the top floor. That is all you need to or should know about it before you go—except that no one ever regrets going.
21. California African American Museum
Los Angeles, CA 90037
Exposition Park is home to multiple museums, but if you can only visit one, make it the California African American Museum. Its mission is to showcase under-represented artists of color, with an emphasis on art connected to California. Among its fall exhibits is an examination of the Los Angeles Freedom Rally, a huge civil rights rally that took place in 1963 in South Los Angeles and featured an address by Martin Luther King Jr.
Admission is free, and it’s closed Monday. Before or after your visit, stroll through the elegant Exposition Park Rose Garden.
22. Expo Line Santa Monica Station
Avoid the traffic and parking costs of driving to Santa Monica, and just take the train. The Expo Line offers a chance to see a big chunk of LA without having to drive through it. It also passes by tons of conversation points, from USC to Exposition Park to the See’s Candies store on La Cienega to the eye-catching Hayden Tract complex—and that’s just along the older segment of the line.
Upon arriving at the end of the line in downtown Santa Monica, rail passengers are funneled onto a bold pedestrian paseo and then pretty much on to the pier. It’s true that that stretch between Downtown and USC can be painfully slow, but hopefully you’ll be so distracted taking in all the scenery, you won’t catch on.
23. Beach bike path
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Rent a bike—or an electric scooter—from a rental shop or bike-share station along the strand and pedal north from the Venice Boardwalk to Malibu, soaking in the sights and gawking at weird people along the way.
In Venice, you’ll spot pot shops, sick skateboarding, drum circles, and some pretty solid breakdancing. In Santa Monica, you’ll cruise past Shutters on the Beach and the world famous pier, but don’t bother stopping unless you enjoy chain restaurants and tacky souvenirs. Things get normal from there, and you really can’t beat the vistas. You can also ride south from Venice to Redondo but will have to navigate around the Marina before the path picks up again.
24. Leimert Park Village
Leimert Park—voted Curbed LA’s 2016 neighborhood of the year—was developed in the 1920s from a design by the Olmsted brothers, and for many years was a whites-only neighborhood. Once that kind of housing discrimination became illegal, wealthy African-Americans began to move in, and, by the 1970s, Leimert had become the epicenter of black arts culture in Los Angeles, eventually breeding the LA Rebellion film movement and the famous World Stage open mic nights.
Leimert Park Village is a walkable and diverse cluster of small, local businesses, many of them artsy in nature.
25. Venice Canals
Excavated from marshland in 1905 by a real estate developer who wanted to recreate the canals of Venice, Italy, LA’s historic Venice Canals feel like a world away from the tourist trap that is the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Unlike in Italy, you can’t ride gondolas or float on the water, but it’s an absolutely lovely place for a walk. Meander over the charming bridges and gawk at the eclectic mix of expensive homes.
26. Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park
Los Angeles, CA 90002
The Watts Towers are one of the most famous works of folk art in the U.S., made up of 17 steel and mortar sculptures built between 1921 and 1955 by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia. The towers rise as high as 99.5 feet and are entirely covered in “a diverse mosaic of broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery and tile, a rare piece of 19th-century, hand painted Canton ware and many pieces of 20th-century American ceramics.”
When he was done, Rodia said, “I had it in mind to do something big and I did it,” then he deeded the property to a neighbor and moved away. After his house burned down, a group of neighbors banded together to save the towers, eventually founding the Watts Towers Arts Center; the site is now run by the city and is on the National Register of Historic Places. You can take a guided tour, or just go yourself to see what Simon Rodia created.