Photograph by Catherine Karnow
From the November-December 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler
Cinefamily Created by “movie lovers devoted to finding and presenting interesting and unusual programs of exceptional, distinctive, weird and wonderful films,” this organization is a real L.A. animal. Its venue is a cultural icon built in 1942: the Silent Movie Theatre in West Hollywood. Specializing in “experiential” movie-going, including live musical accompaniment, it also offers other programs. When I was an unemployed young actor, I got a great education in clowning while watching marathon festivals of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton shorts here. 611 N. Fairfax Ave.; www.cinefamily.org.
Getty Museum This landmark art gallery above the 405 Freeway offers a fine afternoon excursion to view major works by Impressionists like Claude Monet and sculptors like Isamu Noguchi and Henry Moore. The museum is open late on Saturday evenings, so consider taking in a sunset with your art. I have wonderful memories of watching my son learn to crawl on the museum’s lawn. 1200 Getty Center Dr.; www.getty.edu.
Santa Monica Pier I love to walk on this 1,600-foot-long pier. It has a real honky-tonk feel, very un-L.A., and attracts an interesting mix of people from all walks of life. I always chat with the fishermen at the end of the pier—they’re a salty lot. At night, when the Ferris wheel and rides are lit, there is a sense of magic. www.santamonicapier.org.
Scoops I find myself making excuses to head to this ice-cream emporium in the Wilshire Center area for artisanal gelato. Order a scoop of the “brown bread” flavor and settle down to watch the parade of people. (Scoops serves vegan gelato too, if that’s your bag.) 712 N. Heliotrope Dr.
Book Soup This is my favorite independent bookstore in L.A. On a rare day of rain I’ve spent hours in this informal, tome-filled venue. I’ve also come to hear more than a few authors read from their work. 8818 Sunset Blvd.; www.booksoup.com.
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre I’ve visited this vintage performance venue at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard for nearly 30 years. I still love to arrive before showtime to place my hands and feet into the cement impressions made by the stars of yore. Jimmy Stewart had very long fingers. www.manntheatres.com/chinese.
The Flowering Tree Tucked along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, this cheery little joint serves organic food—burritos, salads, sandwiches—without frills. 8253 Santa Monica Blvd.; +1 323 654 4332.
Union Station This 71-year-old train station in downtown Los Angeles is an art deco step back in time. I’ve always wanted to take a cross-country train that either departed from or arrived here. Some day I’ll do it. 800 N. Alameda St.
Larchmont Boulevard Not far from the Paramount lot sits this walker’s oasis in a driver’s town: a small village with a British feel—it dates to 1911—popular for its sidewalk cafés. I always stop here for a smoothie or cup of tea. www.larchmont.com.
Griffith Observatory and Park I visited this domed landmark on my first trip to L.A. The third planetarium built in the U.S., opened in 1935, it offers a magnificent view of L.A. I love visiting at night, when the stars shine above and city lights shimmer below. 2800 E. Observatory Rd.; www.griffithobs.org.
My Favorite Breakfast Spots Marmalade at 710 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, for the early-morning biking and yoga crowd. Dukes, an old rock ’n’ roll joint at 8908 W. Sunset, for its vintage ambience. The Fountain Coffee Room in the Beverly Hills Hotel for old Hollywood charm.
Point Dume State Preserve I love to drive the Pacific Coast Highway to this beautiful stretch of beach near Malibu. I’ve shot movie scenes on the rocks above the beach (right) and watched porpoises ease up the coast while I walked on the sand. This spot of nature makes L.A. feel very far away, very fast. Westward Beach Road.
Tar Pit and Campanile Restaurants Created by Top Chef master Mark Peel, these two fine-dining spots at 609 N. La Brea Ave. and 624 S. La Brea Ave. offer Old Hollywood elegance with clean, modern cooking. Peel is a force on the L.A. food scene, which continues to ramp up.
Hotel Shangri-La There is something special about this art deco hotel across from Palisades Park in Santa Monica. Recently redone, it’s still the Shangri-La. The restaurant serves a very good cheeseburger. 1301 Ocean Ave.; www.shangrila-hotel.com.
Farmers Market on Third Street and Fairfax Avenue L.A.’s original farmers market is a popular local institution. I used to come here on Sundays, especially for Bob’s doughnuts, which are superb! Open daily.
Disney Concert Hall This Frank Gehry masterpiece features the architect’s signature free-form stainless steel walls, which appear to billow up and over Bunker Hill. It also claims one of the world’s most acoustically sophisticated concert halls. Grab some headphones and take the self-guided tour; it’s a very inspiring hour. 111 S. Grand Ave.; www.laphil.com/philpedia/wdch-overview.cfm.
Nat Geo Traveler All Access
Available in print and for iPad®! See destinations come alive with 360-degree photos, videos, and more!