- Buy a decent street map and skip the freeways. Last time I spent hours on I405 and I10 … this time drives down Wilshire, Western and Sunset stunned me with just how colourful the city is.
- Have a car (OK, OK, so this is obvious, but you'd be surprised as to how many friends I have who have gone to LA and been p*ssed off that they can't get around easily on public transport)
- Hang out with locals who know fun places to go and where to park.
- If you can't hang out with locals, at least do some research before you go.
- Through a combination of 3. and 4., know where you are going before you start driving (reference "trying to find a cocktail at 4pm in downtown Culver City)
Talking of research, here are some tips on museums, cafes, bars, restaurants and neighbourhoods I would recommend:
Creative City Cafe, 7310 Santa Monica Blvd · West Hollywood, CA · 90046
Free wifi, friendly staff, awesome sandwiches, and stacks of movie scripts to browse through.
Akbar, 4356 W Sunset Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90029
Funky gay/mixed bar, very good mojitos, interesting decor.
Cat and Fiddle, 6530 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
European pavement cafe meets British pub meets LA.
Coach and Horses, 7617 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90046.
OK, so we didn't actually make it here but the barmaid who I bumped into elsewhere assured me that the happy hour is worth dropping in for (4-8pm), and it has the best juikebox in the city. Also its apparently murky, so if lkike me you occasionally need to escape the sun, its somewhere to head.
Good Luck, 1514 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Apparently this place used to be too trendy for its own good, but we found it welcoming. Cosy chinese decor.
Watts Towers, 1765 East 107th St, Los Angeles, CA.
A must see. Hand built by Simon Rodia over 34 years. Eerily reminiscent of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Well off the regular tourist track which makes it even more of a must see.1765 East 107th St,Los Angeles, CA.
Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA
To be honest the mostly 17-19th century art was lost on me, but the Getty is worth a visit for the view, the view, the view, the view and the view. Did I mention the view? And the burgers in the cafe. And the monorail public transport experience (a rarity in LA). And the building. Stunning.
Museum of Jurassic Technology, 9341 Venice Boulevard, Culver City, CA
Very very odd. To get in the mood, make sure you have a Margarita or 2 at the Mexican place on Bagley Ave. south of Venice Blvd (we found this place after walking round the neighbourhood for 30 minutes, see tip 5 above). Make sure you go upstairs to calm down and have some tea.
Firstly three non-touristy places where a Bay Area resident/European can feel at home:
- Echo Park – Mellow, interesting shops and bars, livable, very Bay Area.
- Los Filez – Ditto
- Silverlake – Ditto
Two places to go eat:
Two touristy essentials (combine with the above to stay sane):
- Venice Beach – everything you have heard is true. You can see David Hasselhoff down there busking on most Tesday afternoons.
- Hollywood – As tacky as hell but worth a trip for the Chinese theatre, street of stars (can you spot Lee Majors and Big Bird?) and possibly the world's longest news stand.
Electric Lotus, 4656 Franklin Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027
In the Los Filez neighbourhood – a funky Indian restaurant, where intriguingly all the staff look like they auditioned for Beverley Hills 90410.
Palms Thai, 5900 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028
Great thai food, but who cares about the food when you have a Singha beer and a splendidly croony Thai Elvis impersonator?