On Foot in Car-Obsessed Los Angeles

Does your itinerary include a layover in Los Angeles? Want a great getaway for a weekend? Here’s some great ideas of things to do in Los Angeles.

One word not often associated with Los Angeles, America’s second largest city, is “walkable.” That’s because most people head out to see Disneyland, Hollywood, or a beach; and they think that’s all there is to L.A. But L.A. is much more than these places. There are great walkable areas in L.A.

If you have a layover at LAX, these 6 places are a half-hour away by car from the airport. Take an Uber to any one of them and start there. You can walk to them all. For a weekend, book a hotel in the part of L.A. known as Mid-Wilshire, West Hollywood, or La Brea.

The 6 sites here are within blocks of Wilshire Boulevard, one of L.A.’s main streets.

No matter where you book, expect to find groups of aspiring actors hanging around at some point for cast calls, as movie and television production is key to  the economy here, and hotels are excellent places to hold these events.

Here are 6 sites in walkable L.A.:

First, 3rd Street. You can start here for a refreshment or to pick up the sunglasses you forgot to bring. 3rd Street is quintessentially L.A., with chic boutiques and sidewalk cafes where folks with time hang out as they take in the hip scene. 3rd Street is very walkable, not unlike similar areas in other places. The only drawback here is that the street is not closed off as similar places are in other cities.

Off 3rd Street, visit the second sight, L.A.’s iconic Farmer’s Market. It continues to offer fresh, unique food offerings of all sorts and is a favorite of entertainment stars and CBS employees whose TV headquarters building is adjacent to the area. Some of the shops here have been under continuous family ownership for since the Farmer’s Market opened in 1934, so it’s not uncommon for shopkeepers to know their repeat customers by name.

Almost part of the Farmer’s Market, but really a different experience is the  third stop, the Grove, an outdoor shopping center with all the typical high-end stores, ranging from Zaza to The Gap, movie theaters, and modern street vendors selling high-end hats, jewelry, and handbags. The architecture is typical of L.A., grandiose and elaborately adorned. The Grove has been, and remains, a favorite hang out for upscale youth of L.A. As you leave The Grove, look up into the Hollywood Hills in the distance, and you will see the iconic “Hollywood” sign known throughout the world.

Walk a few blocks from the Grove and you arrive at La Brea Tar Pits, our fourth stop. It’s a one-of-a-kind visitor experience with five million fossils from the past 50,000 years, a virtual time capsule of the Ice Age. You witness nature at work. Here archeologists continue to mine bones of animals and large mammals who wandered into natural pits of tar and became stuck there as in quicksand. As the animals fought to get out, others would feast on them. The thick tar served as a preservative for both the lured and the originally trapped. Once the bones are cleaned of tar, the skeletal remains are particularly complete. Hot tar continues to bubble up from the ground around here; parking cones mark hot spots so pedestrians will not get stuck. A full schedule of activities, certain to entertain even the most blasé of children, includes active architectural digs. Inside the museum, scientists in lab coats clean tar off bones. A particularly good interactive exhibit demonstrates how difficult it is to get a bone out of sticky tar.

Our fifth stop is next to La Brea Tar Pits. Here the western U.S.’s largest art collection is assembled in the magnificent Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), scattered in seven buildings on a park-like campus. Some of the best art here is outside, including famous Calder mobiles in a romantic sculpture garden. Admission to LACMA is free on the first Saturday of the month as part of Bank of America’s museum alliance. Although designated our fifth site to see, if you are an art fan, you might want to start here and stay here. There’s enough to see for several days.

Our sixth stop on the walkable L.A. tour is down Wilshire Boulevard from LACMA. Hard to miss, the Petersen Automotive Museum has a unique and distinctive red and grey outer shell.  The Petersen is one of the best museums of its kind, a must-see for car enthusiasts, a homage to the supreme automobile and a tribute to one myth of L.A. Really, there is a lot to see by foot.

No car is needed to see these six fantastic sites. Walk to them all. Wear your best walking shoes; your feet will probably get plenty of exercise. But seeing these sites will definitely dispel the myth that L.A. is not walkable. You’ll now be in know.

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