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Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

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Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

Thank you L.A. TA's for your help in planning my summer vacation this past year. We had such a blast, that we are returning for a long weekend this December! We'll be arriving in L.A. on Friday 21st afternoon around 3:30/4:00 & plan to check out Sunday a.m.

We visited Getty Brentwood, Santa Monica, Farmer's Mkt/Grove & Hollywood this Summer. What more can we see this time? Is The Grove something to see at Christmas? Is Little Tokyo worth a trip? My parents will be with us & they've seen Chinatown in SF. Someone locally suggested we check out City Walk for our kids (8&11) but I read on the forum that the food is not great. Should we drive straight to City Walk on Friday, have a look around, check in to hotel (Hyatt Century Plaza) & then head out to dinner? Or is the City Walk more fun at night? If we do the former, how long will this take?

Also, if we do dinner in Santa Monica/Venice, how long will the drive take on that Fri/Sat? Last but not least, how long is the drive from Hyatt to Getty Malibu on Sat. or Sun. morning? Does it make a difference if we go Saturday or Sunday (how long to tour)? If latter, we'll just do Getty & head back to SF.

Thank you, thank you!

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Santa Monica...
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1. Re: Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

Getty Malibu requires a reservation, and traffic won't be any different Friday versus Saturday (unless you encounter Christmas shopping traffic around Century City/Beverly HIlls). The drive would be about 30 minutes, and it's a good idea to visit Getty Villa on your way back up the coast to SF.

Personally, I see no reason to go to CityWalk, and your kids might enjoy the Grove's Christmas decorations.. Have you been to the Westfield mall near your hotel (Century City)? The kids might like all the toy stores there.

How about a drive down Candy Cane Lane, in the valley? Or ice skating in downtown LA?

Los Angeles
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2. Re: Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

There is also a drive thru Christmas Lights show at the L.A.Zoo/Griffith Park.

Universal is for tourists mostly, so we locals stay away/ But i could see your kids enjoy this place. Food is not bad there, it is just chain restaurants. You can get ok food at the Hard Rock Cafe or Saddle Ranch

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3. Re: Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

Thanks Yogachik & Alex, you guys are the best! Where is Candy Cane Lane? I assume the Christmas decorations (Lane, Grove & Zoo/Griffith) are for night time viewing?

Newbury Park...
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4. Re: Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

Candy Cane Lane is on the west side of the San Fernando Valley - off of Winnetka just north of the freeway.

City Walk is okay - nothing to write home about though. The Grove is more enjoyable. Santa Monica 3rd Street is also nice to go, eat dinner and walk around.

Griffith Park has holiday lights up and the observatory is a nice outing with the kids (or without kids).

There is an ice skating rink downtown that is fun and you can head over to Olvera Street for a little LA history. Also on Saturday - they have a Holiday Sing A Long at the Disney Concert Hall. Not sure if tickets are still available - but defiantly something a bit different to do.

West Hollywood...
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5. Re: Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

I'd skip the downtown skating rink. It's far from your hotel, it's expensive to park, it's 1/2 the size of a standard rink and they have no Zamboni machine to groom the ice. The sessions are for an hour and then they close the rink down for 45 minutes while they spill chipped ice on the surface and move it around with giant squeegees. (It's pretty awful, to be honest).

If your kids like to ice skate, there are a number of skating rinks you could visit:

a. The Culver City Rink on Sepulveda Bl

b. The Toyota Sports Center (where the Kings Practice) near the airport

c. Pickwick Ice in Burbank (northeast of Hollywood)

All of these have free parking, are easy to get to and have full-size rinks that are professionally groomed. (You can also skate as long as you like unlike the downtown rink where you only get an hour).

Have fun!

Topanga, California
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6. Re: Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

There are a number of interesting Christmas light displays in the Pasadena area:


I think it's worth the trip, and you can peruse Old Town while you're in the neighborhood.

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7. Re: Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

You could hit some of the museums on Miracle Mile. Given the kid's ages, the La Brea Tar Pits and the Petersen Automotive museum might be of interest. Other posters here have their own prejudices :-) Griffith Observatory is another possibility in town.

That downtown ice rink: yes, it's dinky and the ice isn't very good. But it's such a novelty to be skating outdoors in Los Angeles! That's the experience you're paying for. Worth it if you happen to be downtown and walking around to see Olvera Street, Walt Disney Hall, Central Library, Little Tokyo.

San Mateo...
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8. Re: Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

Don't forget Venice Beach, SM Pier, and Fisherman's Village in Marina Del Rey.

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9. Re: Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

Lots of good suggestions here. I'll second many of the ideas of my colleagues.

YC is right. Hit the Getty in Malibu on Sunday morning on the way home. You must make reservations, which are free. I was there just a couple of weeks ago. It is quite a compact place, so a couple of hours should be plenty. I'd point out the food is very good, too (except the pasta, go figure).

I think the Griffith Observatory would be a great place to visit. It was recently renovated and has emerged as an even more glorious building. Good news is that you don't have to make a reservation and get bussed in. You can just drive up and park. However, it is the holiday season. So it is likely to be busy.

I'm undecided on recommending the Christmas Lights at Griffith Park. I guess it depends on your kids. I went last year with mine and it was okay. The traffic was heavy and that detracted from the experience. Your call.

Well, despite the comments of HSJ, I highly recommend the ice rink downtown at Pershing Square. As a ex-patriot from Canada and a patron of the rink for ten years, I can attest the ice quality isn't as bad as some suggest. They actually bring in an ice expert from Canada to oversee the rink for the duration of its two-month run. (They put him up at the Biltmore.) The challenge for maintaining ice quality is the weather. If it gets hot or rains, ice quality suffers.

Yes, the rink is small. But, I can assure everyone, there is a zamboni. Yes, the staff clears the ice manually. But, they do this before the zamboni does its work.

Moreover, the pleasure of the experience is, as pointed out, that you're ice skating outside in Los Angeles. The setting is quite handsome with the majestic Biltmore across the street with the corporate skyline towering over you. Palm trees add to the effect. I have to say the park is well decorated for the Christmas season.

What makes the experience is the simple joy of the people skating. Remember, this is Los Angeles and practically no one knows how to ice skate. Regardless, the glee of everyone as they struggle to manuver on the ice is obvious and infectious. Yeah, it is pretty corny. But, this is the good stuff.

My only caveat is hopefully one of the insufferable 'concerts' will not be going on. Unless lousy cover bands are your idea of fun (Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin anyone?), these are best to be avoided. Fortunately, they are roundly ignored by everyone.

Olvera Street is a nice place to visit. I'm sure the place will be decked out to celebrate Christmas. In general, skip the Mexican food except for Las Anitas at the end of the street (although a little pricey). The churros, however, are fresh and excellent. The oldest Catholic church is across the street and always very busy. The historic adobe is well hidden, but nice to visit (free, too).

If you do visit Olvera Street, a great place for lunch is Philippe's one block north on Alameda. Great sandwiches in a place with saw dust on the floor which probably hasn't changed much in the past hundred years.

I'd highly recommend visiting Disney Hall. Iconic architecture which tends to delight everyone. Be sure to check out the park on the roof. There is a elevator to the roof on the First Street side. If there is a show happening during your visit and it is appropriate for your kids (i.e. they are not too twitchy), get tickets.

If you do visit Disney Hall, walk over to the Cathedral at Grand & Temple. Given it is Christmas, you can be sure the holiday season will be celebrated in various ways. Check out to see if there are any special Christmas concerts or activities during your visit. There is also a decent cafe in the spendid public plaza. Parking is available underneath the cathedral.

I'd agree with the sentiment The Grove/Farmer's Market is better than CityWalk, particularly for Christmas decorations and holiday cheer. A meal at the market is always a pleasure. I'd recommend the pizza and the crepes. My only caveat is it will be quite busy given the holiday season. Just park on the roof.

If you're kids are determined to visit CityWalk, consider driving the spine along Mulholland from the 405 to the 101. Many excellent views of the Valley and the city.

Is Little Tokyo worth a trip? I'm not sure, particularly compared to Chinatown in San Francisco. It is a more compact and sedate place. I just commented about it a few days ago. Check that post for more details.

Another suggestion which might appeal to your kids is the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. It is just west of downtown on First Street. Their number is 213-250-9995. But, your kids might be too old. Your call.

My only really out-of-the way recommendation is if you do head downtown is the restaurant La Serenata de Garibaldi in Boyle Heights. Just take First Street east from downtown across the river and under the 101 freeway. The restaurant is located at Boyle & First. Superb Mexican food and arguably the best in the city. I can't recommend this place highly enough. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, if you go for dinner, make a reservation. They are sure to be busy. There number is 323-265-2887.

Obviously, this post is way too long. Hopefully, there is something helpful here. Let us know how your trip goes.

Corona del Mar, CA
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10. Re: Returning to L.A., what did we miss?

Get out of the Westside!! Discover the eastern side of LA. Pasadena is a great place to visit. They have the Norton Simon Museum, Huntington Library, the Rose Bowl, work on the floats should be well under way. Shopping on Colorado Blvd is fun and there are a lot of nice restaurants there.

I would say Little Tokyo isn't worth a visit and Chinatown only to eat, even then LA's best Chinese food is in Monterey Park & Hacienda Heights.