The Huntington is a splurge, but the $25 admission is more than worth it. One of the most beautiful properties in Los Angeles, the sprawling estate holds more than a dozen themed gardens, including a jaw-dropping Japanese Garden, fragrant rose garden, and colorful desert garden. The admission also includes access to the the grand library and other exhibition spaces that display a wide-ranging mix of artifacts, literature, and paintings, from a Donald Judd prototype to Henry David Thoreau's manuscript of Walden to an original 1516 copy of the Thomas More book Utopia .
If you're doing Los Angeles, you should probably do one thing on the iconic Sunset Strip , and we recommend that thing be the Chateau Marmont. Built in the 1920s as the city's first earthquake-proof apartment building, it became a hotel and the place for stars to misbehave in the 1930s, and it has been that way ever since .
The rooms and bungalows are shockingly expensive, but make a reservation for lunch, enjoy the restaurant patio, then sneak a look around the pool and grounds, shrouded in foliage and perched tastefully above the Strip.
Funded by oilman J. Paul Getty's trust, the Getty is one of the most breathtaking places in Los Angeles. The light-colored marble buildings bob and weave up and down, among pools, fountains, and a circular garden designed by Robert Irwin , all on top of a ridge high above the 405 freeway with 360-degree views. Plus you get to take a funicular up there. The permanent collection isn't particularly beloved, but there are several exhibits worth checking out right now including “ Gordon Parks: The Flávio Story, ” “ An Enduring Icon: Notre-Dame Cathedral ,” and “ Bauhaus Beginnings .” It's all free except for the parking ($20; $15 after 3 p.m.).
Along with the big chains, Nuart, ArcLight, El Capitan, and the New Bev will screen movies Thanksgiving day. Throughout December, Quentin Tarantino's movie house on Beverly Boulevard will showcase some of the best winter and holiday films around, including Carol , The Thing , White Christmas , and Die Hard .
LACMA is one of LA's most prominent museums. Its vast permanent collection holds famous works of art, including Henri Matisse's “ La Gerbe ,” Ed Ruscha's “ Standard ,” and Diego Rivera's portrait of Frida Kahlo.
Admission is $20 for LA residents and $25 for visitors who live outside the county, but you can view two of the museum's most popular installations—“ Urban Light” and “ Levitated Mass ”—for free. Both are located outside the museum's doors. LACMA's sprawling campus connects to the La Brea Tar Pits , and there's a hardy network of walking paths between the two, making it a lovely place to stroll.
LACMA is closed Wednesdays. Admission is free for LA residents after 3 p.m.
Check out the first Los Angeles commission by 2019 Pritzker Prize winner Arata Isozaki . With the award earlier this year, the under-celebrated building was thrust back into the spotlight . Clad in red sandstone and opened in 1987, it features geometric forms, including glass pyramids that were designed to serve as skylights.
Be sure to venture inside. The art critic at Los Angeles Times says MOCA “has the makings of a possible sleeper-hit” with its new exhibit, “ With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art, 1972–1985 .” Artists in this movement “practiced a postmodernist art of appropriation borne of love,” working with a plethora of mediums evoking sources from around the world, from “Islamic architectural ornamentation to American quilts, wallpaper, Persian carpets, and domestic embroidery.”
(Tip: The museum offers a buy-one-get-one-free deal on admission when you ride Metro.)
Cloudy days call for pancakes all day, and if you're going to eat pancakes, do it at Pann's. Arguably the best remaining Googie diner in Los Angeles (with one of the best neon signs), the restaurant has been running since 1956 and was designed by Armet and Davis , a firm that mastered a “Jetson kind of aesthetic” that defines Googie style .
The Watts Towers are one of the most famous works of folk art in the U.S., made up of 17 steel and mortar sculptures built between 1921 and 1955 by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia . The towers rise as high as 99.5 feet and are entirely covered in “a diverse mosaic of broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery and tile, a rare piece of 19th-century, hand painted Canton ware and many pieces of 20th-century American ceramics.”
When he was done, Rodia said, “I had it in mind to do something big and I did it,” then he deeded the property to a neighbor and moved away. After his house burned down, a group of neighbors banded together to save the towers, eventually founding the Watts Towers Arts Center; the site is now run by the city and is on the National Register of Historic Places. You can take a guided tour, or just go yourself to see what Simon Rodia created.
Best known as the “Home of the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ,” the theater is as cozy as it is charming, with a pair of large crystal chandeliers and velvet curtains. Opened in 1920 as a live performance venue for employees of the nearby Standard Oil Refinery, the theater operates today as a venue for jazz concerts and old movies, including a line-up of horror classics in October. Tickets are $10 and can only be purchased at the box office.