Food and Drink in Los Angeles
Acapulco has big, bold and better-than-you'd-think Mexican cuisine at really good prices. The Fajitas Gigante are not just gigantic when it comes to portion size -- this dish is a sizzling extravaganza of shrimp, chicken and steak with plenty of sauteed onion, guacamole and peppers. Inexpensive. (750 Sampson Way, corner of Sixth, San Pedro; 310-548-6800)
Chin Chin is a beloved mini-chain offering up the likes of dim-sum, only-in-L.A. Chinese chicken salad and plump, golden-browned pot stickers. Always fun, very inexpensive and honestly quite delicious. Inexpensive. Open daily from 11 a.m. (11740 San Vicente Blvd., Brentwood; 206 S. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills; 8618 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; 12215 Ventura Blvd., Studio City)
Musso & Frank Grill The oldest restaurant in Hollywood and it's still wonderful. If you love martinis, this is the place. Clubby, dark and comfortable. Moderately priced. Open Tuesday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. (6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; 323-467-7788)
No two ways about it. The Ivy is the place to see and be seen. On top of that, it's, in a word, lovely. Country French to the nth degree, you'll enjoy the good food, too. Expensive. Reservations recommended. Open Monday - Thursday 11:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m., Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 11 p.m., Sunday 10:30 a.m. - 10 p.m. (113 N. Robertson Blvd., L.A.; 310-274-8303)
Koi A hey-isn't-that-so-and-so-over-there kind of place, the food's Asian and the scene is white hot. Try the seared scallop with yuzu. Moderate. Reservations recommended. Open Monday - Wednesday, Sunday 6 -11 p.m., Thursday 6-11:30 p.m., Friday - Saturday 6p.m. - 12 a.m. (730 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood; 310-659-9449)
L'Opera Ristorante serves fantastic northern Italian dishes like caramelized sea scallops snugly placed between asparagus cannelloni and a creamy roasted garlic ricotta. Expensive. Open Monday - Thursday 11:30 a.m. - 10 p.m., Friday until 10:30 p.m., Saturday 5 p.m. - 10:30 p.m., Sunday 5 - 9 p.m. (101 Pine Ave., Long Beach; 562-491-0066)
More than a handful of New Yorkers would tell you that there is no true deli in L.A. -- but Nate 'n Al actually is a really good one, Hollywood-style. It's a favorite among long-time famous locals; don't be surprised if you see one slurping up the very delicious chicken soup. The pastrami is as good as it gets -- even by New York standards -- and if you love short ribs, this is the place. Moderate. Open at 8 a.m. every day -- so don't knock yourself out rushing over to make lunch hour. (414 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-274-0101)
Smack-dab between the Third Street Promenade and the Pier, The Lobster has a delightful pedigree nowadays. Enjoy everything lobstery from grilled Pacific spiny lobster to a refreshingly outstanding cold lobster and avocado salad. No disappointments here. Expensive. Open Monday - Sunday 11:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. (1602 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; 310-458-9294)
Some say it's an acquired taste, but not only are the fluorescent-orange chili dogs at Pink's Hot Dogs the best you'll ever have -- you'll also probably spot loyalists like Leno, Willis and Pitt lining up at this iconic outdoor stand (near the chi-chi Beverly Center shopping mall) with the rest of the crowd at this beloved L.A. institution. Even Ruth Reichl, the famous food critic (she was editor of Gourmet Magazine) said she once dug through their trash to find out what kind of chili they used (it's a family recipe). Inexpensive. No, cheap! (709 N. La Brea Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-931-4223)
If you love Moroccan food, the award-winning Babouch Moroccan Restaurant will do the trick. Their Bastilla (chicken, spiced eggs and roasted nuts all wrapped up in phyllo, sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon) is out of this world, and it comes with a fabulous floor show, too. Expensive. Open Tuesday - Sunday, 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. (810 S. Gaffey St., San Pedro; 310-831-0246)
Nobu Malibu is yet another outpost, this time at the beach. Try the ceviche. It's divine. Very expensive. Open Sunday - Thursday 5:45 p.m. - 10 p.m, Friday - Saturday until 11 p.m. (3835 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu; 310-317-9140)
Don't Miss in Los Angeles
The Hollywood CityPASS gets visitors half-price admission to four attractions: Red Line Tours Hollywood Behind-the-Scenes, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Starline Tours of Hollywood, and Kodak Theatre guided tour or the Hollywood Museum. Valid for nine days from first use and allows you to skip most ticket lines with CityPASS in hand. You can also consider the Southern California CityPASS which gives visitors a special price to several fab attractions: a three-day ticket for Disneyland Resort (including California Adventure Park), and one-day tickets to Universal Studios, SeaWorld and a choice between the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It's valid for 14 days from first day of use.
You can take a 40-minute Trolley Tour through Beverly Hills to see some of that city's best sites, including Rodeo Drive. There are several types of docent-led tours to sign up for, including Public Art in Beverly Hills. Schedules vary with time of year.
We dare you to pass up one of the bus tours that take you past famous movies stars' homes, past and present. Consider one with L.A. City Tours which includes downtown, Hollywood, and the beaches in its five-hour sojourn, or Starline Tours, which has a specific Movie Stars Homes tour through Beverly Hills, Bel-Air and Hollywood to see where the likes of Lucille Ball, Natalie Wood, Harrison Ford and Richard Gere hang or hung their hats.
It'll take you an hour to get down to Anaheim by way of the San Diego Freeway, but you might want to check out Disney California Adventure. It has rides and shows, including Soarin' over California and Superstar Limo. This park addition actually divides up three ways: the Golden State, paying homage to California's natural beauty; Paradise Pier, evoking the great seaside amusement parks; and the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, honoring the magic of movie making.
Don't miss the chance to meander through the Farmer's Market's shops and stalls and the chance to even catch a glimpse of a few movie stars or studio execs grabbing a quick power breakfast. Legend has it that Walt Disney used to sit at a table for breakfast while he designed Disneyland. Sure, it tends to fill up with tourists by the busload, but it's still a fun place to check out. Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 9 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. (6333 W. 3rd St. at Fairfax, Hollywood; 323-933-9211/866-993-9211)
We say the coolest is the Hollywood Sign on Mount Lee -- which happens to be the tallest peak in L.A. Each letter is 45 feet. The whole shebang is 450 feet long. Believe it or not, the sign had nothing to do with show business when it went up in 1923. It was meant as a promotional billboard for a new development back then called Hollywoodland. (The LAND section was damaged in a landslide.) The best view is from Sunset Boulevard and Bronson Avenue, but if you want to get up close, you can take a five-mile hike along the Brush Canyon Trail near the end of Canyon Drive in Griffith Park (It's actually illegal to get too close -- beyond the gates, security cameras and park rangers.) or drive up Beachwood Drive. Top it off with a drive along Sunset Strip to see the amazing billboards -- a phenomenon since 1953, when a famous hotel placed an actual swimming pool atop their sign.
Don't even consider visiting Los Angeles without stopping at The Getty. This magnificent complex opened in 1997 and houses J. Paul Getty's enormous collection of art ranging from Impressionist art to contemporary photography -- as well as van Gogh's Irises. Admission is free. Open Tuesday - Friday and Sunday 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Closed Monday. (1200 Getty Center Drive. L.A./access at main gate on N. Sepulveda Blvd.; 310-440-7300)
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has a permanent collection of 110,000 works that includes American, Asian and European art ranging from ancient art to the 21st century. Monday - Tuesday and Thursday noon - 8 p.m. Friday noon - 9 p.m. Saturday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. Closed Wednesday. (5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.; 323-857-6010) It's also located adjacent to the famed La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum, one of the few places in the world to see preserved prehistoric artifacts -- including dinosaurs! -- and watch as archaeologists work in their laboratories. Open daily 9:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. (5801 Wilshire Blvd.; 323-934-7243)
One of California's best art museums is Norton Simon Museum of Art. Inside this world-class museum, you'll find beloved masterpieces from the likes of Degas, Picasso, Rembrandt -- as well as sculptures from artists like Moore and Rodin. Leave time for relaxation in the Monet-in-Giverny-inspired garden. Open Wednesday - Monday noon - 6 p.m. Friday till 9 p.m. Closed Tuesday. (411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; 626-449-6840)
One of the city's historic districts is on Olvera Street celebrating its colonial Mexican past. You'll see the 27 19th-century adobe buildings, listen to the strolling mariachi bands and browse the stalls selling wonderful handicrafts. It's also a chance to try some really great Mexican food since most of the restaurants are run by the original families. Downtown.
You'll feel like you just stepped into Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard" with Gloria Swanson herself when you head through the gates of The Studios at Paramount. This is where they filmed Hope and Crosby's "road" pics, and it was also once home to Lucy and Desi's Desilu Studios. Walking tours offer in-depth looks at so much of what is familiar -- even one of the original Forrest Gump benches. For bona-fide star sightings, consider lunch in their Commissary. Open Monday - Friday 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (5555 Melrose Ave., Hollywood; 323-956-5000)
Unless you've gotten a personal invite from Mr. Hefner, you won't get inside the gates of the legendary Playboy Mansion -- but driving by can still be a hoot. It's at 10236 Charing Cross Road between S. Mapleton Drive and Sunset Boulevard in Bel-Air.
Peripatetic strolls along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills are a must where the sidewalks are generously dusted with the most elegant and exclusive shops in the world. Note: Beverly Hills cops will fine you big-time for crossing the city streets except at designated crosswalks.
Hollywood Boulevard may have lost some of its luster, but with the Hollywood Walk of Fame's 2,000-plus stars, it still twinkles. You'll find Lucille Ball and Gregory Peck in front of 6100 Hollywood Boulevard, Gene Kelly at No. 6153, Ronald Reagan at No. 6374 and Rudolph Valentino at No. 6164. You'll find Lassie at No. 6368. From Gower Street to La Brea Avenue and from Vine and Yucca streets to Sunset Boulevard.
If you ever watched a movie or television program and wondered how it really got made, then a Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour is just the thing since they offer a rather intimate and historical behind-the-scenes view of a working studio. It starts with the Warner Bros. Museum, which houses some of the most interesting film memorabilia such as Best Picture Academy Awards, famous scripts, costumes and props. From there, you'll set out for the back lots, sound stages and even the craft/production shops. What's great is that the routes change from day to day to accommodate production, so no two tours are exactly alike. Several TV shows are filmed at Warner Bros. and if the timing is just right, you get to visit those sound stages while they're being filmed. Tour is about 2 1/2 hours, and you should arrive 20 minutes early. Not for children under age 8. Parking for nominal fee available at Gate 6. Available Monday - Friday 8:20 a.m. - 4 p.m. (3400 Riverside Drive, Burbank; 877-492-8687)
Want an in-front-of-the-scenes, rather than behind-them, experience? Devote a day to the covered tram-driven Universal Studios Tour. One of the original studio tours (the studio is now a theme park), the tour is included in the price of admission into the complex. A favorite stop is the clock tower square from "Back to the Future." f you are interested in seeing a TV show taped here, tickets are free and easy to get if you plan ahead. Some of the latest attractions are the Revenge of the Mummy and Van Helsing-Fortress Dracula and Shrek-4D. Hours vary, depending on season. CityWalk is nearby, so leave time to walk the dining and shopping promenade that's home to 65 restaurants, shops and movie theaters. (Universal Center Dr., Universal City)
It's fun to spend time at the wild and crazy Venice Beach, where you'll see jaw-dropping street performers and tattooed weight lifters vying for your attention. Rent skates, a bike or even a scooter to see it all. Don't forget to stop by Muscle Beach. (Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica)
For an extraordinary point of view, top your to-do list with a trip to Griffith Observatory and Planetarium. Shows run during the day as well as into the evening at the Griffith Observatory Satellite, but come after dark for star sightings (the real kind) through one of the largest public telescopes in the world. No admission to enter the building, but there is a charge for shows in the planetarium. Parking is free, but extremely limited. Open Tuesday - Friday noon - 10 p.m., Saturday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. (2800 East Observatory Road, L.A.; 213-473-0800)
Get tickets to Hollywood's The Groundlings theater. Its alumni usually hit the big time on "Saturday Night Live," so it's not surprising that their skits are hysterically funny. Open Monday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Tuesday 2 - 9 p.m., Wednesday - Thursday 10 a.m. - 8:30 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. - 10:30 p.m., Saturday 2:30 - 10:30 p.m., and Sunday 2:30 - 8 p.m. (7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; 323-934-4747)
Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens is the former home of Henry E. Huntington. The estate is filled with wonderful tapestries, French porcelain and an art collection that includes Gainsborough's Blue Boy. In the library, you can see a Gutenberg Bible as well as a manuscript of "The Canterbury Tales." You'll find the 200 acres in the botanical garden filled more than 15,000 kinds of plants from all over the world, stunning themed gardens and sweeping views. Check out the many special events, seminars and symposia that are available all year long. We strongly suggest making advance reservations for afternoon tea at the Tea Room, set in the heart of the beautiful gardens. Open weekdays, except Tuesday, noon - 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. In summer, open daily, except Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. (1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino; 626-405-2100)
Take your own version of a walking tour by talking your way through the main gate to the rich and famous of Malibu Colony (folks like Streisand and DiCaprio call it home) -- but if that doesn't work, find the Zonker Harris Accessway on the 22700 block of Pacific Coast Highway to reach the Colony's beachfront; all beaches in Los Angeles County are public, but to avoid the wrath of the rich and famous, walk on "wet sand." The homeowner deeds cede rights to the waterline -- even though those rights are not enforceable and despite the "no trespassing" signs dotting the beach.
For hikers and trekkers, we recommend Monrovia Canyon Park to see the falls. Flowing throughout the year, this Los Angeles rarity is very cool (no pun intended). Just 10 miles east of Pasadena, walk under a canopy of sycamore, coastal live oaks, white alders and big leaf maples along the easy-to-walk Bill Cull Trail to reach it. The round trip is barely 3.5 miles. On Saturdays, free guided hikes are offered at 1 p.m. Park open Wednesday - Monday 8 (7 on weekends) a.m. - 5 p.m. Closed Tuesday. (Off Canyon Blvd., Monrovia; 626-932-5550)
You'll love exploring more than 4,600 works under the pyramids of glass at Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Open Monday and Friday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., Saturday - Sunday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Closed Tuesday - Wednesday. (California Plaza, 250 S. Grand Ave., Downtown L.A.; 213-621-1745)
Shake the sand out of your flip-flops and check out The Paley Center for Media. The museum is the west coast outpost of the New York museum. They offer more than 100,000 programs to mull over and view. Wednesday - Sunday noon - 5 p.m. Closed Monday - Tuesday. (465 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-786-1000)
Ride the gondolas through a miles worth of canals smack dab in the middle of Alamitos Bay on Naples Island in Long Beach while striped-shirted guys sing Italian tunes. Consider signing up for the hour-long picnic ride that comes with a basket of bread, cheese and salami plus wineglasses for those who wish to bring along their own bottle of Chianti with Gondola Getaway. Daily 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. (5437 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; 562-433-9595)
Affectionately dubbed the "Blue Whale," Pacific Design Center offers 130 showrooms that are open to the public. It's a wonderful place to wander through. There's even a MOCA outpost inside that alone is worth the trip.Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. (8687 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; 310-657-0800)
It's a treat to take Pasadena's Bungalow Heaven Tour in April and see over 800 Craftsman bungalows built 1900 - 1930. While you're in the area, stop at Pasadena's Gamble House -- a jewel box of iridescent glass, inlaid furniture and custom light fixtures. Open Thursday - Sunday noon - 3 p.m. (4 Westmoreland Pl., Pasadena; 626-793-3334)
One fool-proof way to see your favorite stars is by taking in the TV tapings. All of the program tapings are free and open to the public, so all you need is information on how to get tickets. Keep in mind it can take up to four hours to tape a half-hour show, but count on the actors chatting up the audience up between takes. Tickets go fast, so plan ahead. One good "go-to" source for tickets is Audiences Unlimited.
Architect Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown at the Los Angeles Music Center is a sight to behold. It's called the most acoustically sophisticated symphony hall in the world. Run, don't walk, to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic perform here. (111 S. Grand Ave., between First and Second streets, Downtown L.A.; 323-850-2000)
Check out the smallish cemetery at the Westwood Village Memorial Park if you'd like to pay your respects to Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Truman Capote, Donna Reed, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. (1218 Glendon Ave., Westwood)