10 Tips for the Second Time LA Tourist, Calif.

It’s inevitable that, as a first time visitor to Los Angeles, you will be drawn to its better known sights like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and Venice’s Muscle Beach. I am all for it; the media and motion picture industries are part of Los Angeles’ DNA, and what we might read about, watch on TV, or see in the movies can greatly influence our itinerary choice. It’s on the second trip that you may want to reconsider the Star Line bus tour and tourist-friendly draws however, and explore the layers beneath LA’s celluloid surface.  What you’ll find is a patchwork of cities and neighborhoods that enrich the county’s culture and communities.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you sidestep the well trodden tourist path:

1. Mulholland Drive – Perhaps one of the most appealing things about LA, aside from its warm climate, is its proximity to the ocean and mountains. To see it from top to tail, rent a car and cruise along the 21-mile stretch of winding Mulholland Drive. The road will take you through the Hollywood Hills, over the Valley, and to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Tip: GPS is essential in navigating this road as it is broken up in parts.

An overlook on Mulholland Drive - looking at LA's downtown

From Mulholland Drive, looking over LA’s downtown

2. Hollywood – LA looks different when you look at it through the letters of the Hollywood sign. To get to the top of Mt. Lee, Google: Beachwood Drive and Hollyridge Trail. There’s room for parking and it’s about a 40 minute walk, one way. Tip: Keep on track by staying left of the trail.

My sis and me peeking over the fence at "that" sign

My sis and me peeking over the fence at “that” sign

3. Griffith Park – Los Angeles is home to a variety of architecture; Moby even has a blog dedicated to it: Moby Los Angeles Architecture Blog. A beautiful example is The Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. At once futuristic and historic, the details of its precast building blocks harken to Mayan times; you may also remember the house from the 1980’s movie Bladerunner. Tip: Address is 2607 Glendower Ave, Loz Feliz.

Part of the Ennis House

Part of the Ennis House

4. Echo Park – Echo Park Avenue has the artisan feel. Street art colours the hilly neighbourhood; cafes offer pour over coffees for $5 a cup. Located close to downtown LA, the area feels like it’s on the cusp of something big. Tip: Go to FIX for a pour over coffee – order anything from the “Handsome Coffee Roasters” line. Pazzo Gelato on Sunset Blvd offers $1 scoops during its 4-6pm Happy Hour. The Pear Sorbetto is highly recommended.

Top: European Yoghurt, Strawberry Custard Gelato; Bottom: Pear Sorbetto, Espresso Gelaro

Top: European Yoghurt, and Strawberry Custard Gelatos; Bottom: Pear Sorbetto, Espresso Gelato

5. Silver Lake – More than 500 staircases around Los Angeles used to serve its public transportation system; now they are a good excuse to stairwalk and see a neighbourhood up close. An excellent starting point for the novice is the Music Box Stair Loop in burgeoning Silver Lake, made famous by the movie starring Laurel and Hardy. Tip: Check out Walks @ Secret Stairs-LA for more routes. The website counts the Music Box set to have 133 steps across multiple landings as part of a 2.5 mile loop.

The shaky looking "Music Box" Steps

The shaky looking “Music Box” Steps

6. Downtown LA – Newly built condos in the area have attracted a young entrepreneurial community. The Art District has injected a creative vibe in this part of town, and galleries can be found along Spring and Main Sts between 2nd and 9th. Tip: Check out a couple of the laid back eating spots: go to Urth Caffe on Hewitt St for a Moroccan Mint Latte, or a Belgian Beer at Wurtskuche on East 3rd.

Arts District

Arts District

7. Westwood – In the midst of a cluster of office buildings rests Westwood Village Park Memorial Cemetery. Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, and other stars are buried here. Tip: Located at 1218 Glendon Avenue, the narrow street looks like the entrance to a parking lot – it’s easy to overlook.

Marilyn Monroe is buried in the site at the top right

Marilyn Monroe is buried in the site at the top right

8. Pacific Palisades – For a panoramic scene that spans downtown LA to the ocean, hike to the top of the Los Liones trail. It’s 2 miles each way and not too strenuous but wear your sneakers. Tip: Go on a sunny day for a clear view.

At the top of the Los Liones trail - Pacific to the right, and downtown to left (not seen in this photo)

At the top of the Los Liones trail – Pacific to the right, and downtown to left (not seen in this photo)

9. Malibu – Perhaps one of the loveliest museums in LA is The Getty Villa. High up in the mountains, with the Pacific as the backdrop, it feels Mediterranean – manicured gardens, fountains, and a herb garden surround a villa that houses antiquities and sculpture collections. Tip: Allocate some time to lunch on wine and cheese in the courtyard, but don’t forget to reserve your entry free tickets on http://www.getty.edu prior to visiting.

The grand pool at The Getty Villa

The grand pool at The Getty Villa

10. Venice Beach – The Pacific is alluring, the boardwalk is not. Navigate the Venice Canal Walk in the direction of Abbot Kinney – a retail stretch of road where you’ll build up an appetite as you window shop. Tip: Go to Gjelina for an excellent modern Italian meal, or stop at TOMS for a pair of shoes. Browse as you sip on an espresso made to order from their in-store coffee bar.

Inside the TOMS store

Inside the TOMS store

Intermission: The LA Tourist

Having my sister visit LA from Down Under is such a treat. It reminds me of how much I value time with my family, and of that irreplaceable bond between siblings.

It’s also a wonderful excuse to act like a tourist in my newly adopted home base.

I dedicate this post to my sis, Katya.

Below are some of our fun moments photographed around LA with either the Nikon 35mm or Smartphone.

Sisters reunited after nearly 2 years. At LAX.

Sisters reunited after nearly 2 years. At LAX.

Santa Monica Beach

Santa Monica Beach

Cloudy Venice Beach

Cloudy Venice Beach

Thanks sis!

Shopping at Michael Kors. Thanks sis!

Sharing sweet potato fries at Venice Beach

Sharing sweet potato fries at Venice Beach

Wowed by the canals, Venice Beach

Wowed by the canals, Venice Beach

Feeling on top of the world at Runyon Canyon that overlooks LA's downtown

Feeling on top of the world at Runyon Canyon that overlooks LA’s downtown

At Forest Lawn Cemetery, at the Bette Davis Memorial

Me, at Forest Lawn Cemetery, at the Bette Davis Memorial

Kath making new friends while on a photo shoot, Calabasas

Katya making new friends while on a photo shoot, Calabasas

Visiting the Hotel Bel-Air, and its swans

Visiting the Hotel Bel-Air, and its swans

Seeing chocolate, and eating it. At See's Candies., The Grove

Seeing chocolate, and eating it. At See’s Candies, The Grove

Sistertime at the top of the Los Leones Trail

Sistertime at the top of the Los Leones Trail

At Urth Caffe in LA's downtown

At Urth Caffe in LA’s downtown

Overlooking LA from Mulholland Drive

Overlooking LA from Mulholland Drive

Toasting at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Toasting at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel – feeling like we’re on the set of The Hills

Set Your Sights on Hollywood – Los Angeles, CA

If you happened to be on Hollywood Boulevard yesterday, along with hundreds of other spectators you may have spotted a starry eyed Scarlett Johannson standing outside the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. This is where her Walk of Fame plaque joins the 2,369 others planted along both sides of a thoroughfare fringed with kitschy souvenir stores, the awards hosting Kodak Theatre, a Madame Tussauds museum, and the legendary Roosevelt Hotel – said to be haunted with the spirit of Marilyn Monroe.

Whilst this block of the boulevard, wedged between North Sycamore and Highland Avenue, feels like Hollywood’s nucleus; the area within the district’s circumference is also worthy of exploration. Further down the Boulevard, you’ll come across old-school stores and iconic architecture; Hollywood Hills is a fitting backdrop – its hiking trails treat you to panoramic vistas of Los Angeles City from all angles. You may even come face to face with a landmark you had only ever seen from a distance or know from the movies…

Here are some other options to consider on your next trip to Hollywood.

WALKING TOUR: Hollywoodland

A hike through the Hollywood Hills is a perfect introduction to the terrain that makes up LA. Leave the urban zone behind, arm yourself with Charles Fleming’s L.A. Walks: Beachwood Canyon, Hollywood sign directions, and get set to explore a beautiful neighbourhood that showcases the appeal of living in the hills.

Hollywoodland was a housing development established in 1923; it was described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most attractive residential sections of the City of Los Angeles”. You’ll feel a bit of a Mediterranean Riviera vibe in this part of LA; that’s exactly how the plan for this section of the Hollywood Hills was envisaged.

You’ll pass a Norman chateau, once home to Hollywoodland real estate developer L. Milton Wolf; recently it was purchased and remodeled by musicmind, Moby. Enroute is Madonna’s former home: the 1926-built Mediterranean villa, Castillo del Lago, is a beautiful mansion with stand-out appeal.

Beyond the thick of the Spanish broom plant and bountiful cacti rests the Lake Hollywood Reservoir – designed by William Mulholland, it was first filled in 1925 and supplied a growing city with water.

The walk isn’t a tough one, unless there’s a need to pick up the pace for any looming rain-busting clouds that may be hovering above. Tall eucalyptus trees, flourishing bougainvillea, and palm trees make up the landscape upon ascent to Mulholland Drive. From here, up-close views of the Hollywood Sign are frequent.

A bit of history: Originally reading ‘Hollywoodland’ in 1923, the sign was planned to be an 18-month advertisement. Still standing in 1949, community support saved it from its fate; refurbished, its name was shortened to ‘Hollywood’. A second restoration took place in 1978, but this was more labour intensive as it meant an overhaul.

The new sign, made of corrugated metal on steel poles driven into the hillside in the exact same spot as the old sign, was completed on October 30th, 1978. The new sign is 5 feet shorter than the original, to help it maintain stability against wind and other elements. Funding for the new sign came from the Hollywood Sign Trust, which was established for the occasion. www.laist.com

Celebrities pledged their support at a donation of $27,000 per letter; Hugh Hefner paid for the letter ‘Y’, whilst Alice Cooper donated to the last letter ‘O’, in memory of Groucho Marx.

Take some photos of the varied architecture as you walk downhill, to your starting point.

ARCHITECTURAL DRIVING TOUR: Hollywood Hills

Modern architects Richard Neutra and John Lautner, along with photographer Julius Shulman, left their mark on Hollywood’s real estate world. If you’re a fan of Modern architecture, a drive to see some of these architectural constructs is well worth it.

Of note is John Lautner’s Chemosphere House:

“The sleek, octagonal house… is considered a masterpiece of California Modernism and is beloved by cultists of midcentury design,” wrote the LA Times in its 2005 article, Eight Sides to this Story. “It’s hard not to see the house, which sits on a 29-foot-high, 5-foot-wide concrete column over a long-considered-unbuildable Hollywood Hills site, as a hovering flying saucer or a prototype for the 23rd century architecture of The Jetsons.”

Do you agree?

Here, on Torreyson Drive, you may be in the midst of nature, but you can also see sweeping views of the other side of LA: the San Fernando Valley.

NB: Other homes to see in the area include the former home of Julis Shulman, the Neutra designed Josef Kun House, and Lautner’s Harpel House.

DID SOMEONE SCREAM ICE CREAM?

Mashti Malone’s serves up the creamiest rosewater saffron ice cream with pistachios… ever. Rosewater to the Middle East is what vanilla is to the US. Make sure to order 2 scoops of this fragrant cream tinged with yellow from the saffron.

What’s with the store name and clovers on its sign? Apparently, the business is owned by two brothers from Iran – one who is named Mashti. Unable to replace the entire sign of the ice cream parlor after they’d purchased it, then called Mugsy Malone’s, they simply replaced the first name only.

The brothers do happen to have a sister-in-law by the name of Malone, who lives in Cape Cod and is married to their older brother, Iraj. When Mashti bought the store, he told her they bought it for her, which made her laugh. http://www.mashtimalone.com

You’ll find the neon lit, bare-bones store at the corner of Sunset and La Brea.

MUSIC ICONS

From samba to soul, electronic to experimental, reggae to rock, Amoeba is the world’s largest independent music store and stocks it all. As you flip through stacks of CDs and DVDs over two floors, you might be lucky enough to catch one of their live in-store music performances. A mainstay on Sunset Boulevard for over a decade now, it’s easy to lose track of time in this warehouse that spans an entire city block, especially if you’re a hard-core collector of music or movies.

Seek out the Capitol Records Building, on the corner of Vine and Hollywood Blvd. The world’s first circular building, it took two years to complete. Artists who have recorded here include Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, and the Beach Boys. In the year it opened, 1956, Frank Sinatra inaugurated one of its studios by recording the instrumental album, Tone Poems of Color. The tip of the spire at night blinks out the words ‘Hollywood’ in Morse code, and you’ll find the Walk of Fame stars of John Lennon and Garth Brooks outside the building.

SEE A SPECTACULAR, GRAB A LATE NIGHT SNACK… throw in a glass of champagne too

Catch the year-round sensation, IRIS A Journey Through the World of Cinema™ at Kodak Theatre. A delightful mix of theatre and film presented in the signature Cirque du Soleil style, this is a must-see. Note: Home of the Academy Awards, the show bows out of the theatre to make way for the Oscars once a year.

The film noir aspect of the spectacular injects a bit of art and a whole lot of play into a vibrant showcase consisting of colourful costumes, eccentric makeup, bouffant hairstyles, and acrobatics performed with effortless precision. This is a whirlwind 360 degree theatre experience: the animated orchestra plays in the balconies; aerial acts evoke ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as they swing from ropes high above; dancers glide across the stage below; audio visual projections intersperse with moving images, and lots of fun and laughs are achieved through good-natured audience participation.

Inspired by the aerial acts, you may float out of the theatre feeling a little high from all the electric energy. Go on, cartwheel all the way down Hollywood Boulevard if you so desire.

Across the road, the flashing red neon of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is hard to resist for a night cap… maybe even a late night snack (the exertion of the IRIS show will wear you out).

The Public Kitchen and Bar serves food until about 11pm on weekends; chilled oysters splashed with lime go down so well with a glass of bubbly. Be prepared for the crab cake to rock your world. A triangular package, it is crispy on the outside, and generously filled on the inside. Delectable.

The leather banquettes are a match for the restaurant’s subdued vibe; in between bites of charred octopus and hamachi enjoyed from the spacious seating that looks onto the hotel’s lobby, you’ll be impressed with how well a lively Saturday night LA crowd packs it in. That said, nothing can take away from the old-Hollywood grandeur of the hotel’s open space; high ceilings, Spanish colonial architectural details, magnificent chandeliers, a fountain in the centre – you’ll be transported to another world.

FACT: It was in this hotel that the first ever Academy Awards was held in 1929. Old Hollywood patrons included Clark Gable and Carole Lombard; representative of New Hollywood, Paris Hilton and Price have partied here.

For some outdoor-action, grab a cocktail by the pool at the Tropicana Bar. Chill out as long as you want for you’ll be spending the entire night dreaming up ways on how to pave your own way to stardom.