That was the tagline, almost, for Predator II. "He's in L.A. with a few days to kill." I also thought of United Airlines' in-flight magazine, Hemispheres, and its "Three Perfect Days" series. I'll try to hunt down its article for Los Angeles. Anyway, a couple of friends asked me for advice on visiting L.A. Here is my response. Please note links for each destination:
My favorite place to visit, and most Angelenos' preferred place to live, if they could afford it and if it were convenient, is Santa Monica, a small, walkable seaside village at the end of I-10 (the Santa Monica Freeway). The beach is beautiful. The Santa Monica Pier is interesting but a little seedy. Just north of downtown Santa Monica, there's a hip shopping district on Montana Avenue. At night, the Third Street Promenade is fun to walk around, have dinner, and explore the shoppes. It's a pedestrian area closed to traffic in the heart of downtown.
At the Reagan Library, you can walk on the former president's Air Force One, have your photo taken in front of the aircraft, visit his gravesite, and see a replica Rose Garden and Oval Office. From atop the hill the museum sits on, there are stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding area. This is about an hour northwest of Los Angeles.
Malibu also has stunning ocean views; I drove through Pepperdine University's campus there just for the scenic drive. The palace guards are more than happy to let you in. It snowed in Malibu this week. That probably won't happen when you are there!
Near Pasadena in San Marino is the Huntington, a beautiful garden and art museum paradise. Very peaceful, and the foliage (varies by season) is breathtaking. Old Town Pasadena is very historic and is like an old towne square; I was not particularly impressed.
I have not been to the Descanso Gardens in La Cañada. I've been told it's better than the Huntington. It is farther away.
The Getty is almost an automatic tourist stop now. Regardless of how you feel about the art, the views of the Los Angeles Basin are amazing, and the buildings are beautiful. Make sure to reserve your parking spot in advance! If you don't, or the parking lot is full, you can park in Santa Monica for free off Bundy Drive and take the Big Blue Bus to the museum at the top of the hill. Admission is free. Parking is $8 or $10.
Just north of downtown Los Angeles, Griffith Observatory has stunning views of the Los Angeles Basin at night. It's where you can shoot photos of the city lights going to infinity in the distance. No charge to visit. Scenes from Rebel Without a Cause and Paula Abdul's "Rush, Rush" video (a Rebel tribute) were shot here.
I would stay away from Hollywood, but I did check out the Walk of Fame once because my gf wanted to. There are bus tours as well. I did see a show at the Improv once--very good--because I thought in Hollywood I could park for free, and parking on the Sunset Strip near the Comedy Store would be expensive. I was right! Sunset Strip parking was $20 last time I checked. Could be $25 or $30 now. The Strip and surrounding West Hollywood have numerous restaurants and entertainment venues. I like to drive along the Sunset Strip and then Mulholland Drive at night--more stunning hilltop views. (Take Sunset Boulevard to Benedict Canyon and head north up the hill to Mulholland.)
Want to see stars? One of my tour guides proclaims, "Beverly Hills delivers!" It's not a guarantee, but they live, eat and shop there. Parking in BH is very reasonable. Rodeo Drive is fun to walk, and the Two Rodeo Drive Italian-like pedestrian shoppe area is pretty and has al fresco dining. BH is very close to downtown L.A.
Almost every ethnicity in the world is represented in greater Los Angeles, and that goes for the restaurants, too. You can find anything to your heart's desire. My gf and I ate at a great seafood restaurant on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. (I don't remember the name. At a street corner--maybe Ocean and Arizona or Ocean and Wilshire.) I think we found it in this travel guide. Vegetarian, kosher, California cuisine....anything you want.
My gf found a beautiful B&B minutes from LAX. So, so romantic! For my cousin's wedding in 1999, my family stayed at a beautiful beachfront hotel in the South Bay. Pricey. There are hundreds of places to stay around town. Nicer places on the Westside (west of Fairfax Avenue), near the ocean. Airport area is kind of seedy and industrial, but airport hotels--nice and not-so-nice--abound. You could also stay farther south or in Anaheim--obviously there's Disneyland Hotel. If you stay in Orange County, a trip to San Diego is well under two hours on I-5 (Golden State Freeway). I loved SeaWorld. I thought the Wild Animal Park was strictly okay, but most people love it. The zoo is world-famous, too.
If you're in a desert mood, I love Palm Springs. I almost cried at how beautiful it was the first time I saw it. Two hours without traffic east of L.A. on I-10 (San Bernadino Freeway). Even closer from Anaheim. The Spa Casino has reasonable room rates. It has two properties: one in downtown Palm Springs, and one about 15 mi. east, in Rancho Mirage.
http://www.laparks.org/venice/venice.htm (beachfront/Strand skating permitted!)