Walt Disney Concert Hall
Downtown Los Angeles was once dominated by prosaic office buildings, until Frank Gehry designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall. With an incredible facade made of curvaceous stainless steel, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is an internationally recognized architectural landmark.
Home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, visitors can catch one of their performances by booking tickets online. But if you want to save time and money, you can opt for guided or audio tours that are completely free. Architecture lovers in particular may find the tours interesting.
- Audio Tours: Monday through Saturday, 10am-2pm and 2pm-5pm
- Guided Tours: Thursday through Sunday, timings vary
Parking costs $9 per vehicle and is located underneath the building.
Los Angeles Union Station
The largest railroad passenger terminal across Western United States, the Los Angeles Union Station is considered “the last of the great train stations”.
In 1939, architects John and Donald Parkinson designed the station using elements of Spanish Colonial Revival, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne architectural styles.
The 161,000 square foot terminal served as a major terminus for troops during World War II. After the Los Angeles Union Station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the station underwent major restoration in 1992.
There is paid parking available in the Los Angeles Union Station. While $2 for 15 minutes may sound steep, it’s practically impossible to find parking in downtown Los Angeles. And given the station’s proximity to attractions like the popular Olvera Street (just across the road), I highly recommend going for it.
Los Angeles was founded in 1781 by Spanish settlers on a site near the Los Angeles River, just southeast of Olvera Street. In 1930, Olvera Street was created to preserve the ambiance of early California, and was officially designated “the birthplace of Los Angeles”.
Today, Olvera Street is a historic district in downtown Los Angeles, and a part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. Some of Los Angeles’s oldest structures can be found here, including the Avila Adobe. Built in 1818 by Don Francisco Avila, it is the oldest existing house in Los Angeles. In 1847, it was occupied briefly as the American Headquarters. After being severely damaged by the earthquake of 1971, Avila Adobe was restored as part of the development of Olvera Street.
The narrow brick-lined pedestrian mall of Olvera Street is a riot of colors and flavors, and recreates a Mexican marketplace. The smell of freshly cooked taquitos and tacos wafts from cafes. Street vendors in their painted stalls sell handcrafted goods like pottery, purses, leather and Mexican folkart. As you listen to the Mariachi music filling the air, it’s no wonder that Olvera Street is regarded as one of the top five greatest streets in America.
Los Angeles City Hall
Built in 1928, the city hall was designed by the same architects who built Los Angeles Union Station, John and Donald Parkinson. The concrete was made with sand from each of California’s 58 counties, and water from 21 historical Spanish missions.
The distinctive tower was inspired by the Mausoleum of Mausolus, a tomb built at Halicarnassus by Greek architects for the Persian governor Mausolus and his wife Artemisia II of Caria. The Los Angeles City Hall tower has an observation deck that is free to the public, and is open during business hours, Monday through Friday.
At 454 feet, the Los Angeles City Hall is the tallest base-isolated structure in the world. That means it can survive a 8.2 magnitude earthquake. In 1976, the building was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
Modeled after its namesake city in Italy, Venice Beach doesn’t quite live up to your idea of an Italian neighborhood. If you are looking for intimate cafes, authentic pizzerias and churches, you will be disappointed.
Venice Beach more accurately embodies the Californian spirit of indulgence, experimentation and eccentricity. The canalside mansions, the eclectic boutiques, rooftop lounges, and the scantily-clad beach goers at the boardwalk constitute the typical Los Angeles scene.
While the beach is free to visit 24 hours a day, finding street parking can be a real pain. In fact, Venice Beach is so crowded that there is no real swimming going on. Sunbathing is the more realistic pastime.
Santa Monica Pier
Located west of downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica offers 3 miles of legendary shoreline. With 340 days of sunshine every year, great restaurants and thriving nightlife, it’s no wonder that the “State Beach” served as the backdrop for the famous television series “Baywatch”.
Attractions include watching street performers, biking the longest beach bike path in the world, riding the Ferris Wheel, strolling down Third Street Promenade, playing carnival games, and stuffing your face at food stalls.
La Brea Tar Pits & Museum
One of Los Angeles’ most unique treasures are the tar pits located along Museum Row in Miracle Mile. For more than 40,000 years, hot tar has been bubbling in this spot in Los Angeles. More than 1 million bones from around 600 species have been discovered in the pits. These are now housed in the museum, making it one of the largest collections of Ice Age fossils in the world.
Anyone visiting Los Angeles has to check out this site. To observe geological forces within the earth in real-time is a rare opportunity. You definitely don’t want to miss this!
The museum ticket costs $12 for adults, but the tar pits are completely free. The site offers paid parking, but we just parked in the side streets. It’s free, and that allows you to explore the tar pits more leisurely.
Hare Krishna Los Angeles Temple
The Hare Krishna temple is a great spot to grab a cheap and delicious lunch, as well as explore Indian culture. The temple is run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), a religious movement having its origins in India’s Gaudiya Vaishnavism tradition.
For only $8, you have access to an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet, which is served in the temple restaurant “Govinda’s”. The spread is elaborate and includes vegan options. The menu is different everyday. For example, the day I came for lunch, there was a salad bar, pasta, rice, creamy potatoes, dal (lentil soup), curried vegetables, and halwa (type of Indian sweet). So freakin yummy! My mouth’s just watering from uploading these pics. What I wouldn’t to eat there again!
After lunch, you can check out the temple store upstairs. From colorful Indian jolas (handbags) and attire like sarees and kurtis, to incense sticks, personal products and figurines, there is so much to buy in this little store. Thumbs up to the Hare Krishnas for supporting cruelty-free and vegan products.
Note: There is no real dress code, though I wouldn’t suggest turning up in a bathing suit. But things like sleeveless tops, shorts, skirts and dresses are totally fine.
Parking is free. Though there are only few spots on the temple premises, it’s completely fine to park along the street.
One of the most impressive structures in Los Angeles, the Getty Center was designed by famous architect Richard Meier. It contains some of the finest works of art in the world, including 20th century American photography, Renaissance paintings and Baroque sculptures.
Free 45-minute guided tours are available at 11am or 2pm for groups of 15-30 people. Complimentary headsets are also available for self-guided tours. Personally, I just enjoyed walking through the space by myself. There are free pamphlets that highlight the main artworks in the museum, and I used them as a reference when exploring the place.
Finding the Getty Center can be tricky, and I would not recommend blindly following your GPS. The public entrance to the Getty Center is through Getty Center Drive from North Sepulveda Boulevard. If you feed this into your GPS, you should be good to go.
While entry to the Getty Center is free, parking costs a flat rate of $15 per vehicle. But if you visit after 3pm, the rate drops to $10.
Since the museum is situated on the Santa Monica Mountains, visitors board a tram that ascends the hill to the museum grounds. On the ride up, you are treated to aerial views of Los Angeles. But the most spectacular views are from the various balconies at the Getty Center.
Note: Before boarding the tram, visitors have to go through security. I would suggest not to bring huge backpacks or bulky baggage. Why would you want to lug those around anyway? Just leave them in your vehicle, and explore the Getty Center hassle-free.
The western rural area in Los Angeles, along the eastern Santa Monica Mountains is known as the Mulholland Drive. You can access this road from the Getty Center by crossing Sepulveda Boulevard.
Named after Los Angeles civil engineer William Mulholland, the 21 mile arterial road provides gorgeous vistas of the Los Angeles Basin, the San Fernando Valley, and the Hollywood Sign. Mulholland Drive is also home to some of the most expensive homes in the world.
Filled with private boutiques, luxury designer stores, and other things that I can only goggle at but never afford, Rodeo Drive symbolizes the lifestyle of the elite in Los Angeles.
Made famous by Julia Robert’s shopping spree in the movie “Pretty Woman”, this upscale shopping street in Beverly Hills is popular with wealthy shoppers, celebrities and tourists. If you are an avid window shopper, aisle peruser, or celebrity spotter, then Rodeo Drive is where you should be.
From its humble beginnings in the 18th century as a route from El Pueblo de Los Angeles to the Pacific Ocean, Sunset Boulevard has evolved into one of the most famous avenues in the world. Traversing the quiet and regal neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, then through charming West Hollywood, it eventually becomes the seductive Sunset Strip.
Distinguished by the huge neon billboards, Sunset Strip is lined with fancy cocktail bars, restaurants and rock clubs. The nightclubs and casinos first moved here during the 1920s, an instant hit with the Hollywood community because alcohol was served in back rooms even during the Prohibition.
Over time, as Sunset Strip’s appeal to Hollywood insiders waned, its popularity with locals and tourists grew. The Strip became a socializing scene especially for musicians and their fans, starting with rock music, then followed by glam rock, glam metal and heavy metal. Legendary bands such as Led Zeppelin, The Stooges, The Doors, and Guns N’ Roses have frequented this fabled avenue of Los Angeles.
Hollywood Walk of Fame & TCL Chinese Theatre
Two of Los Angeles’s most iconic structures, the TCL Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame attract millions of visitors every year. The sidewalks are often jam packed with camera-wielding tourists, street performers, and vendors. While some may find this frustrating, I think it is all part of the appeal of being on Hollywood Boulevard.
Opened in 1927, the TCL Chinese Theatre of Los Angeles continues to show newly released movies throughout the year. Tours are available for $16, but you need to reserve your spot online way ahead of time. Another amazing but perfectly free feature of the theatre is the hundreds of handprints and signatures of famous celebrities on the concrete floor. Look closely and you may find your favorite star, musician or director!
You cannot leave Los Angeles without strolling down The Hollywood Walk of Fame. It consists of more than 2,600 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars embedded in the sidewalk. Running for 15 blocks along Hollywood Boulevard, the stars bear the names of notable actors, musicians, bands, directors, producers, and even fictional characters. It’s tempting to keep looking at the stars while you are walking, but take care not to bump into people!
Note: Parking is an impossible option on Hollywood Boulevard. Just park in the quieter side streets like I did, and walk up to the main thoroughfare.
And that concludes my 24 hours in Los Angeles, the city of fantasy, starlets and beach bodies! If you have any queries or feedback, do reach out to me via the comment section below. I’ll be more than happy to help you out.
Let me leave you with a quote from the famous traveler Ibn Battuta: “Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”