Los Angeles – Brentwood and Bel Air


There isn’t a lot to see in Brentwood besides the homes of different movie stars,with one major exception. The J. Paul Getty Museum. You can also drive along Sunset Boulevard which is pretty.

J. Paul Getty Museum

Just getting there is an adventure. You park in the garage at the base of the hill and then take a monorail to the top. It is free except for a fee to park. The original Getty Museum is in Malibu and is a recreation of an ancient Roman villa with beautiful grounds and more formal gardens. This Getty Museum is equally or more spectacular just in its own different way.

The building is a piece of art just as much as any of the art work it holds. We found ourselves taking many pictures of the building and the views. It has an absolutely amazing view over most of Los Angeles from well inland all the way to the coast. You truly get an appreciation for how massive Los Angeles is. Besides the beauty of the building and the view, the gardens and sculpture are gorgeous as well.

It was finished in 1997 and cost $1 billion. But then again, the Getty is the wealthiest museum in the world. That has meant they can buy almost whatever they want. Despite it being a newer museum releatively speaking it has amassed an impressive collection. Even though it is a bit out of the way, it is well worth it to make the trip here, you won’t regret it.

Bel Air

As with Brentwood, this is mostly private homes, many of which belong or belonged to movie stars. Probably the most famous is the Playboy Mansion. There is also Aaron Spelling Manor which is the largest mansion in Los Angeles which is saying something. It has 123 rooms and is 56,000 square feet. Supposedly Tori Spelling moved out because she couldn’t find a room she liked.


But what dominates Bel Air is the University of California, Los Angeles. Royce Hall and Powell Library, both in Romanesque style are quite beautiful and worth a look inside. The Fowler Museum is one of the top university based anthropological museums. It has exhibits about pre-historic, historic and contemporary cultures around the world.

Nearby is the Armand Hammer Museum with pieces of art collected by Armand Hammer.

If you are into the movies, you may be interested to visit Westwood Memorial Park, also nearby, where you can find the tombs of Burt Lancaster, Natalie Wood, Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote and more.

Los Angeles – Midtown

Midtown basically runs from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the La Brea tar pits and park and museum on the west to Koreatown and Macarthur Park on the east.

Wilshire Boulevard runs down the middle of it. It has many wonderful art deco buildings from the 20s and 30s and was at one time home of the city’s most opulent stores. It was known as the Miracle Mile but has been declining since the 1960s.

If you like cars, check out the Peterson Automotive Museum. It is the largest in the world and founded by the publisher of Hot Rod magazine.

La Brea Tar Pits / George Page Museum

My personal favorite is the George Page Museum otherwise known as the La Brea tar pits. There is tar and oil naturally seeping up still there. (In the 1920s they still had oil derricks in Midtown). Water would be on the surface and animals would walk in to get a drink of water and get stuck in the tar underneath. Then predators would attack and get stuck as well. They have found thousands of bones of many types of animals. It is a fascinating museum. Their one problem is that they regularly have to rope off areas of the lawn in the park behind the museum as new spots of tar seep to the surface. You can look at some of the tar pits that they are excavating, looking for new fossils.


Art Museum

LACMA is the largest general art museum west of Chicago and has over 250,000 pieces from all periods of art. There are several buildings and besides a range of art through history they also have a range of art from around the world.

Another amazing old theater is the Wiltern Theater. It is amazingly ornate and has been completely restored but is no longer a movie theater and is no a performing arts center.

The Wilshire Country Club is basically in the middle of Midtown. If you don’t know some one, forget about it.

Then there is Koreatown where you can get great authentic Korean food of many styles.

Finally there is MacArthur Park, renamed after the WW2 general but made famous by the song a few years back. It was a popular and beautiful area in the 1890s and early 1900s. It is now an area with a lot of recent immigrants and has a crime problem.

Los Angeles – south of Downtown

Down Figueroa St. a few blocks from the Staples Center is the University of Southern California, the Coliseum and Exposition Park. But before doing that, be sure to stop in at The Original Pantry at Figueroa and 9th. It is open 24 hours a day and has been around forever. There is always a line. Prices are reasonable. The food is very good but not superb, but the experience is worth it.

University of Southern California

Even if you aren’t taking a son or daughter to visit colleges, the University of Southern California (USC) is worth a walk through. It is one of the most beautiful college campuses I have seen. There are a number of fountains but with the water shortage who knows if they will be working. They probably recycle the water.

There is Mudd Hall which is a beautiful Romanesque building and Widney Alumni House built in the 1880s and moved several times as they needed more room to build buildings. The Doheny library is fairly impressive.

Doheny Mansion and Shrine Auditorium

Speaking of Doheny, he was one of the wealthiest people in Los Angeles and his mansion is just north of campus. It is in Chester Place and not surprisingly is called Doheny Mansion. It was one of the largest mansions in the city. It can be toured and has been used in many movies and TV shows.

Right near that is the Shrine auditorium. Seating 6,300 it was the largest theater in the world and is still the largest in the US. It has been used to host the Emmy’s, the Grammy’s and the Oscar’s.


Just south of the campus is the Coliseum, home of the USC Trojans as well as the 1932 and 1984 Olympics. The experience of watching the Trojans play a football game is such a spectacle. There is a student dressed up as a Trojan riding on their mascot horse, Traveler. Every time a goal is scored, the Trojan stabs his sword into the field. Their band is huge and a lot of fun. The atmosphere is electric, even more so when they are winning.

Science Center and Natural History Museum

In between USC and the Coliseum is Exposition Park and the Natural History Museum and the California Science Center. For fans of the television show Bones, you will notice that the Jeffersonian is not in Washington DC but the exterior shots are from right here in the rose garden (huge and amazing and the roses smell wonderful) looking at the buildings.

The Natural History museum has a T Rex on display, other fossils, gems, minerals and much more. The Science Center has exhibits on science, mathematics, & technology. There are space craft among many other things. You could spend an entire day just in these two places.

Los Angeles sights – Downtown

Where to start with Los Angeles? It is so large and so spread out that it is almost like a group of towns tossed together into one. Part of the feel of Los Angeles is due to when it had its growth spurt.

1890 – 50,000

1900 – 100,000

1910 – 300,000

1920 – 600,000

1930 – 1.2 million

2010 – 3.7 million

So it had its big burst as the movie industry was getting going and at the peak of the Art Deco style. So you see amazing Art Deco buildings all over Los Angeles and it is now part of the city’s DNA. Even modern buildings will have touches that pay homage to the art deco style.

In the downtown area there are some fascinating buildings you might want to duck into and see. One is the Bradbury building where a lot of Blade Runner was filmed. You would almost not recognize it. It is beautiful.

Then there is the Fine Arts Building. You won’t believe the lobby when you walk in. It is one giant piece of art done primarily in the Romanesque style and the building was originally designed to house studios and workshops for artists. They also have regular wine tastings or other gatherings which you should check out if you are there.


“Fine Arts Building of Los Angeles interior” by Sorgente Group of America – http://www.sorgentegroup-usa.com/index.php?lingua=eng. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Even though this picture is good, it still doesn’t do it justice. I don’t think anything but seeing it in person will really give a feel for the space.

In the same general area as these two is the Broadway Theater District. This area has seen better days, but is still worth the look. If you take a tour or catch a movie, the exteriors are not bad, but the interiors of these theaters is over the top opulent. Many seated 2,000 to 2,500 people.

There are the obvious attractions like the Staples Center and Los Angeles Convention Center which have events going on all the time.

On appropriately named Hill St., you will find the Angels Flight Railway which is a funicular railway that will chug you up or down the steep hill. It was built in 1901. Nearby to the bottom end of the railway is the Biddy Mason monument on Spring St. She was an amazing African American woman, who, as a slave, had to walk behind her master’s wagon from Mississippi to Utah and then on to California where she won her freedom. The Bradbury building is also nearby.

The Disney Concert Hall which is definitely not art deco, but is amazing to see. There is apparently not a straight line in the building which must have driven the contractors nuts. Nearby is the music center which includes  Dorothy Chandler Pavilion which is known to most people because of the Oscars.

Just north of these is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. It created controversy when it was built because it is very modern and angular. Also because some felt the money spent on the cathedral should have been spent on the victims of sexual abuse. The interior is massive but welcoming at the same time. Very impressive are the windows made of translucent alabaster that give an amazing soft light to the space.

On the other side of the 101 is Union Station, which is the last grand train station built in the US. Across the street is El Pueblo de Los Angeles. It is the oldest surviving part of the city. Going there is like going back in time to when Los Angeles was just a small Spanish mission.

Just on the east side of downtown is Little Tokyo and to the north near El Pueblo is Chinatown. There are some great restaurants in each.