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Sunday, 20 May 2012 22:37

City of Angels Welcomes LGBT Visitors

CSW WeHO SMALL 4703736256 eede4766e0 zOn Christopher Street in West Hollywood.

LA's trademark industries — entertainment, fashion, art, design and cuisine, among others — have been magnets for creative gay and lesbian trendsetters for more than a century. And by their sheer numbers and substantial influence, these pioneering men and women have left a permanent, positive and gay-friendly legacy on LA's culture, political climate and sense of community.

LA's gay scene goes back to before Christopher Isherwood wrote about it in A Single Man (reborn as the 2009 Tom Ford movie). That story was set in the 1960s, when there was a Stonewall-style riot in LA, two years before Stonewall. The Advocate magazine was born here, as were America's first gay church and synagogue (Metropolitan Community Church and Beth Chayim Chadashim). If you know PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) moms or dads, you can thank LA for them, too.

Outfest, the LGBT film festival that takes place each July, is the city's largest and longest-running film festival of any kind, celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012. Theater companies citywide stage productions of gay interest (the Celebration Theater in Hollywood specializes in gay-themed productions), and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles has set national standards since 1979. There's even a gay bus tour offered by Out & About Tours for those wishing to learn more about LA's gay history. But it's not just history. LGBT life in this county of 10 million people continues to be as diverse and dynamic as the City itself, with sights, sounds, tastes, languages, nightlife and adventures for every visitor. In fact, there is not just one gay neighborhood in this glittering metropolis. They dot the region. You could spend an entire week just exploring unique and engaging gay and lesbian enclaves throughout the City.

LA's original gay neighborhood is Silver Lake, along and around Sunset Boulevard, northwest of Downtown and east of Hollywood. Amid Silver Lake's rolling hills, trendsetters mix with one of America's most ethnically diverse populations in pillbox-sized homes, hip clubs and friendly bars.

At the center of Silver Lake is the cluster of low-key chic boutiques called Sunset Junction. Browse for star-worthy leather messenger bags, handbags and duffel bags at Dean or museum-quality barware at Bar Keeper; or try out restaurants like the hyper-locavore Forage, the Kitchen for comfort food done right, German sausages at Berlin Currywurst, brunch at Dusty's, or LA's favorite Cuban guava-cream cheese pastry at Café Tropical. You can also visit the site of that pivotal, pre-Stonewall riot, which took place in 1967 at 3909 West Sunset Boulevard. The building now houses a laundromat, but a Black Cat logo marks the spot.

After dark, Akbar is a den of alt-cool, gay but straight-friendly, with Moroccan-inspired décor, a jukebox filled with hip-again oldies, theme nights from craft-making to "Bears in Space," and a dance floor. Up Hyperion Avenue, rock with the go-go boys at busy MJ's, or listen to talented pianists and singers at The Other Side piano bar. Drag acts from Chico's Angels to Jackie Beat camp it up at the Cavern Club Theater, inside Casita del Campo Mexican restaurant.

And, of course, there's West Hollywood, also known as WeHo — the gay and lesbian capital of the world, where fully 50 percent of the resident population identify as gay or lesbian. "Boys Town" along Santa Monica Boulevard is the disco-beating heart of gay Southern California. Here, LA's Gay Pride Parade and festival takes place each June, and half a million costumed revelers gather for the annual Halloween Costume Carnaval along Santa Monica Boulevard. The rest of the year, it's busy day and night with cafés, gyms, restaurants, bars and dance clubs.

An evening in WeHo might start over margaritas and mingling at Marix Tex-Mex restaurant — barely more than a covered patio but always a big gay party — or power-lunch with power-lifters from the nearby gyms at the local chicken chain Koo Koo Roo. For something more upscale, ramble down the Boulevard to chichi Eleven or Revolver video bar, or dance to the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa of Rage or Micky's. Not your scene? How about bingo hosted by drag queens at Hamburger Mary's?

Then there's The Abbey, a world unto itself. What started as a simple coffee shop has grown into practically an empire of flavored martinis served by eye-candy staff in an indoor-outdoor setting with Goth-gone-wild décor.

Nearby, Hollywood's gay scene reflects its diversity. Arena Night Club and Circus Disco are favorites among LA's large Latino community. The Faultline attracts scruffy men, especially at Sunday Beer Bust on its patio.

Between Hollywood and West Hollywood lies the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the most extensive and encyclopedic collection of art west of Chicago. In seven buildings on extensive lush grounds, right next door to the "only-in-LA" La Brea Tar Pits, visitors can experience the works of groundbreaking gay and lesbian artists, including William Burroughs, Marcel Duchamp, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Annie Leibovitz, Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, Robert Rauschenberg and of course, the inimitable Andy Warhol.

From LACMA, it's just a short jaunt over the hill to Studio City, gay hub of the San Fernando Valley. Oil Can Harry's is an institution (since 1968) for country line dancing and retro disco nights. And new this year to the Valley is the upscale Rain nightclub. Rain gives bar-goers fresh entertainment seven nights per week from some of Southern California's top promoters and tastemakers. Patrons enjoy everything from drag shows, musicals and acoustic sets to '80s, '90s and Top-40 hits and electronic dance music. Rain features a custom, state-of-the-art video and sound system. In addition to gay-themed entertainment, Rain features a world-class, Cuban-inspired tasting menu born from a collaboration between two renowned celebrity chefs.

Finally, what's a trip to LA without the beach? Will Rogers State Beach (affectionately known as "Ginger Rogers") in Santa Monica has been a gay hangout since Isherwood and his kind lived just up the nearby canyon. A few miles down the coast in Venice Beach, Roosterfish has been serving honest drinks at honest prices to the men of the beach since 1979. (It's on the downtown chic Abbot Kinney Boulevard.)

And on LA County's southern shore, Long Beach is a lesbian and gay hub in its own right: Classic nightspots include Ripples (recently featured on Bravo TV's Tabatha Takes Over) and the Silver Fox.

 

TAG-Approved hotels in Los Angeles County

LA offers many hotels that are TAG-Approved, which means they meet six LGBT welcoming qualifications, including enforcing policies that are non-discriminatory due to sexual orientation, fair treatment of homosexual employees and their domestic partners, and giving back to their communities. Below is a listing of several TAG-Approved hotels in LA and their neighborhoods:

Andaz West Hollywood, West Hollywood

Chamberlain, West Hollywood

Elan Hotel Los Angeles, West Hollywood/Beverly Center

Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles Intl Airport, Los Angeles International Airport Area

Hilton Checkers Los Angeles, Convention Center/Staples Center/Nokia Theater

Holiday Inn Long Beach Airport, Long Beach

Holiday Inn Santa Monica at the Pier, Santa Monica

Hollywood Hotel, Hollywood/Silverlake/Universal Studios

Hotel Angeleno, a Joie de Vivre Hotel, West Los Angeles

The Huntley Hotel Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica

Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Century City/Beverly Hills

The London West Hollywood, West Hollywood

Luxe Hotel Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills/Los Angeles

Maison 140, Beverly Hills/West LA

Montage Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills

The Mosaic Hotel Beverly Hills a Gemstone Property, Beverly Hills/Los Angeles

The Orlando, West Hollywood Adjacent

Palomar Los Angeles - Westwood, a Kimpton Hotel, Wilshire Corridor/Westwood

The Redbury @ Hollywood & Vine, Hollywood

Renaissance Montura Hotel, Los Angeles, Los Angeles International Airport Area

Residence Inn by Marriott Beverly Hills, Los Angeles/Beverly Hills

Sheraton Agoura Hills Hotel, West San Fernando Valley

Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles, Los Angeles International Airport Area

Shore Hotel, Santa Monica

SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, West Hollywood/Beverly Hills

Sofitel Los Angeles, West Hollywood

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Suites, Downtown

Thompson Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills

W Los Angeles, Westwood

The Westin Long Beach, Long Beach

 

(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)

 

Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in the Hollywood/Los Angeles area can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

 

Sunday, 20 May 2012 21:23

LAX Layover? Go Have Some Fun

Los Angeles conjures up images of movie stars, sunny beaches, unique museums and great theme parks. It's a LAX Encounter Restaurant SMALLThe Encounter Restaurant at LAX.world-class destination deserving of time, but if you just have some lag time between flights at LAX, you can step outside the airport and start your California dreamin'. Even a little bit of Los Angeles is sure to whet your appetite for a return trip.

For a Two-to Three-Hour Layover

Before the next leg of your journey, head over to the Encounter Restaurant outside Terminal 2. It's easy to spot. Look for the iconic, spider-shaped restaurant that is synonymous with Los Angeles International Airport. The observation deck and restaurant/bar was recently renovated and is a fun place to watch the planes take off and land.

For Four-to Six-Hour Layovers

Only about 10 minutes from the airport by cab is Manhattan Beach. After poking around shops at Manhattan Village and sitting in the warm sand at the beach, enjoy a nice meal at the Second Story restaurant at the Belamar Hotel. Out-of-towners will get a taste of creative California cuisine, where the culinary team focuses on using fresh organic produce and sustainable ingredients. The menu includes dishes such as marinated skirt steak or pancetta-wrapped pork tenderloin that blend traditional American cooking with a bit of California fusion. Another 10 minutes away is Venice Beach. Enjoy cocktails and munchies at the High Rooftop Lounge at the Hotel Erwin while watching the ocean waves. Then join the waves of people on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, which sports quirky souvenirs, street performers, roller skaters and muscle men working out.

A bit farther (about nine miles from LAX) is trendy Santa Monica. Start with some casual dining at the Fourth Street Grille at the Doubletree Hotel. The hotel is just four blocks from the Santa Monica Pier, where you can ride the 90-year-old carousel, get great views of the beach from the Ferris wheel, or stroll on the pier and watch the fishermen angling their catch of the day. As you walk out from the pier, to your right is the original location of Muscle Beach, the birthplace of the physical fitness movement in the U.S. This beach is also where "Baywatch" was often filmed. For upscale shopping, you can explore the Third Street Promenade, an outdoor, pedestrian-only collection of stores, movie theaters and cafes, stretching several blocks.

Another nearby waterside community (30 minutes by car) is Marina del Rey, one of the largest constructed small boat harbors in the world. Tell the taxi driver to drop you off at Fisherman's Village on Fiji Way. If you are there on a Friday or Saturday night, Hornblower Cruises offers two-and-a-half-hour dinner cruises. Otherwise, there are plenty of restaurants, shops and docks where you can sniff the sea air and look at all the boats going in and out of the harbor.

For Eight-Hour-Plus Layovers

Hop on the LAX FlyAway bus service to Downtown LA. At LAX, the bus is located on the Lower/Arrival Level underneath the green "FlyAway, Buses and Long Distance Vans" signs. The FlyAway will take you to Union Station in about 45 minutes (longer in rush hour traffic). From, there you can take Metro buses and trains to various points throughout the City. The Metro has a free iPhone app, and you can find route maps at the airport. If you arrive in the morning, try breakfast or lunch at the Cielito Lindo, a popular Mexican restaurant on historic Olvera Street. Breakfast options include traditional morning favorites, and lunch has robust yet healthful California-style dishes. Now fortified, start with Downtown sights such as MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Music Center, Olvera Street, Chinatown, and shopping districts, including the California Market Center, LA Fashion District, and the LA Flower District.

From Downtown, it's a 20-minute Metro Red Line ride from Union Station to Hollywood. Get off the train at Hollywood and Highland and walk over to Grauman's Chinese Theatre. You can get your picture taken with Johnny Depp in pirate garb or Darth Vader. (They are look-a-likes, of course.) Then, explore the courtyard itself with its famous cement footprints and handprints of Hollywood's favorite celebrities. Match your footprints with legends such as John Wayne or Marilyn Monroe. Just around the corner is the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and Highland, which is the home of the Oscars and Cirque du Soleil's "Iris" show. You can take pictures of the Hollywood sign and then walk over to Madame Tussaud's wax showcase of celebrities. Be sure to look down at the stars on the sidewalk on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. If you get hungry, try Yamashiro Japanese restaurant on Sycamore Avenue. It's a venerable Hollywood institution located on a hill overlooking the city.

Universal City Metro station is 25 minutes away from Union Station. Experience how movies are made on the Universal Studios Hollywood tour and see the backlot of movie sets, not to mention cool attractions such as the new "Transformers™: The Ride 3D."

If you'd prefer to leave the driving to others, take a shuttle or a tour. At LAX, follow signs to the free hotel shuttles and take the Radisson Hotel at Los Angeles Airport shuttle. Amazing LA Tours will pick up passengers there or at any of the other LAX airport hotels. Amazing LA Tours picks up passengers at either 8 a.m. or 12:30 p.m.at the Radisson. Tours include Beverly Hills/Hollywood, Celebrity Homes, Full Day Tour of Los Angeles, and Universal Studios Hollywood with a Front-of-the-Line Pass.

If pampering is what you need, hop in a taxi (30 to 45 minutes) and head for the famed Sunset Strip in LA for a day of massages, yoga, and skin and body treatments at the Sanctuary Spa at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel. Here, you'll be able to select from an impressive array of treatments designed to refresh and rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit before another long flight.

With any of these suggestions, leave yourself enough time to go back through security.

 

(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)

 

Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in Los Angeles can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

 

Sunday, 20 May 2012 21:03

Hidden Downtown Los Angeles

With the $2.5 billion L.A. LIVE entertainment complex continuing to re-establish a buzz east of the Harbor LA Downtown Skyline Summer Night SMALLDowntown LA Skyline on Summer Night. Freeway, thousands of people moving into center city's lofts, condos and apartments each year, and even a new football stadium on the way, there's been no shortage of press about the resurgence of Downtown Los Angeles. The good thing is that, as with any dynamic urban district, there are more than a few less-than-obvious, if not downright hidden, places to check out and feel in the know about Los Angeles.

It's Not Easy Being Green: Downtown's Gardens

Few Downtown buildings provide a bigger feast for the eyes than the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall atop Bunker Hill. Which makes the Concert Hall's Blue Ribbon Garden all the more a treasure. The Blue Ribbon Garden, which is reachable by four flights of stairs, sits atop one of the Concert Hall's roofs and provides 3,500 square feet and almost four dozen trees of serenity that's downright symphonic.

A little less hidden but also enchanting are the orchards and fountains adjacent to Bank of America Plaza on Hope Street near the Fourth Street overpass. There, three waterfalls spill into a willow-shaded pool, while tiered seating and lawns give people from nearby offices respite.

For a bit of quietude near a more traditional structure, there's Maguire Gardens, the 1.5-acre park next to the Los Angeles Central Library that was named for downtown office developer Robert Maguire III. The park includes a multi-level fountain, adjoining pools and great views of the Library, which was built in 1926 by noted architect Bertram Goodhue and renovated in 1993.

Finally, away from the high-rises and amid the pagodas of Little Tokyo, lies the James Irvine Japanese Garden, also known as "The Garden of the Clear Stream," at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. There, solitude seekers can meditate by a 170-foot-long stream or amid the dozens of blooming trees.

Mum's the Word: Downtown Speakeasys

Nothing screams "overlooked" like a bar that's in the basement of a building that contains not one, but two, high-profile food-and-drink establishments. Indeed, the classic building at 515 West Seventh Street houses Cedd Moses' whiskey haven Seven Grand on the second floor and Mas Malo, the sister restaurant to Silver Lake's innovative Mexican eatery Malo, at street level. But if you really value the "low" in "low key," check out Mas Malo's basement cantina, which combines a below-grade locale with a top-grade tequila collection.

Meanwhile, head to the corner of Sixth and Los Angeles Streets, and you can get two hidden gems for the price of one. Cole's shares the distinction with Philippe the Original of inventing, or at least claiming to invent, the French Dip sandwich in 1908. But while Philippe's reputation kept expanding, Cole's fell into the shadows, shutting down in early 2007. But the restaurant reopened almost two years later under the watch of Downtown bar impresario Cedd Moses (Seven Grand, Broadway Bar) and still features the legendary roast beef sandwich served au jus, as well as a full bar. And if you happen to be in the area in time for a nightcap, look for a plain door in back of Cole's, which leads to The Varnish, serving up well-crafted drinks with a throwback, speakeasy vibe.

In Step: Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) Museum

When people think Central Los Angeles and Museums, Exposition Park immediately comes to mind, making Downtown's Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum in South Park all the more of an offbeat destination. Since 1969, FIDM has attracted the best and brightest looking to get into the fashion industry, and its museum includes a collection of about 15,000 fashion artifacts dating back to the 1800s.

Even more hidden is the Annette Green Fragrance Archive, tucked away on FIDM's second floor. The Archive features iconic and whimsical perfume bottles and fragrances dating back more than 130 years.

Well-Trained Eye: Metro Rail Art

New York has the Met for local art lovers, and you need a museum ticket. Los Angeles goes one better with its own version of "the Met," which requires a train ticket. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) commissioned about 300 artists to create works of art throughout Metro Rail's network of stations, and many of these works are Downtown. The 7th Street/Metro Center station includes two tile murals depicting unfolding film strips as a tribute to the movies, while Pershing Square's station has a dozen neon sculptures as a nod to the fact that the country's first-ever neon sign was installed nearby in 1924.

Sneak a Snack: Downtown Restaurants

If bacon-wrapped matzo balls are a contradiction you're willing to embrace, The Gorbals is worth seeking out in Downtown's Historic Core. Known for a cuisine that defies convention, the Scottish/Jewish/Spanish/whatever restaurant features items ranging from Vietnamese bahn mi to Welsh rarebit to gribenes (chicken or goose skin cracklings with fried onions). This menu is beyond off the beaten path.

Nothing says "hidden" like a pop-up restaurant, and Downtown obliges in this particular trend. Specifically, Wolvesden, is an Arts District dinner party of sorts thrown every few weeks by Chef Craig Thornton, and the decadence is matched only by its exclusivity. Both the number of courses and number of guests tend to range in the low double-digit territory.

Little Tokyo deserves its own section when it comes to overlooked restaurants, as the district is chock full of noodle houses and ramen dens. Lots of the attention goes to Orochon Ramen, which has been featured on Travel Channel's Man vs. Food and has a "Wall of Bravery" for those deviant enough to try its super-spicey "Special 2" Ramen (it's three levels above "Hyper" and two levels beyond "Extreme"). That said, no less an expert than Pulitzer Prize winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold has tapped Daikokuya Ramen as LA's best. So, once you figure out how to pronounce the name, you may want to head over there.

Finally, with LA leading the nationwide food truck craze, it's worth pointing out that one of the more understated yet outstanding eateries in Downtown was birthed in 2012, when its proprietors decided to go from four wheels to four walls. Mexicali Taco & Co. features a menu with a handful of authentic, Baja-style tacos amid a cheery, familial setting located on a no-man's-land stretch of Figueroa north of Sunset Blvd. Be warned, though. The restaurant may be understated, but its legendary Vampiro — a quesadilla infused with garlic sauce — will ensure that your breath won't be.

 

(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)

 

Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in Los Angeles can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

 

When it comes to the arts, Los Angeles has raised the bar and has set the standard with the quality of art that it creates and presents. With more than 100 museums boasting priceless works of art, original sculptures, avant-garde objects and pop-culture icons, LA boasts the highest percentage of visitors who cross the thresholds of its many museums of any major U.S. city.

"We have an extraordinary collection of art museums, performing art venues, and galleries," says Michael McDowell, senior director of Cultural Tourism & Affinity Markets for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board. "Cultural tourism ranks high among travelers, and LA has so much to offer visitors who want an art-filled experience. Whether it's to view paintings by some of the world's greatest artists or to enjoy a spectacular operatic performance, LA offers travelers a diverse and thought-provoking arts experience."

Visitors to Los Angeles often get their first glimpse of LA's vibrant art scene as they descend into Los Angeles International Airport, where a series of 100-foot-high, colorfully lit pylons and 32-foot-high letters spelling out "LAX" are visible to airline passengers from 3,000 feet high. These permanent public art installations have become symbolic and are a well-known example of the LA's public art. In addition, many of the airport's terminals feature permanent and rotating art exhibits.

Among the City's prized museums is the Getty Villa, an extraordinary full reproduction of a Roman pleasure palace filled with Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities with recently expanded galleries. The grounds also feature an outdoor theater, indoor auditorium, museum store, and café specializing in Mediterranean fare.Getty Center PicGetty Center Along Museum Row is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), where the Broad Contemporary Art Museum opened in 2008, with the Resnick Pavilion following in 2010. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, these two buildings are among the nation's largest, column-free art spaces with loft-like galleries housing works from 1945 to the present. A sky-lit upper floor bathes the spaces in natural light. Other well-known museums include the Getty Center, Museum of Tolerance, Skirball Cultural Center, Hammer Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, just to name a few.

Space and science enthusiasts can head to the Griffith Observatory, California Science Center or Natural History Museum. Built in 1935 with commanding views from just beneath the famed Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory is one of the City's most iconic destinations and visited attractions. A recent, $94 million renovation added another 40,000 square feet of public space that includes a multi-level exhibit gallery, 200-seat theater, Wolfgang Puck café and gift shop. The California Science Center, located Downtown near the USC campus, features a new, permanent Ecosystems wing, which has doubled the museum's amount of exhibition space. Within the gallery are a blend of live plants and animals with hands-on science exhibits representing 11 immersive environments. A 188,000-gallon kelp tank teeming with 1,500 live fish serves as a centerpiece. The new, large-scale Dinosaur Hall at the neighboring Natural History Museum boasts the largest individual dinosaur fossil collection in the world, with major mounts, including the world's only T. Rex growth series, displaying skeletons from juvenile to adult.

 

IMG 9942 Grammy MuseumGrammy Museum at LA Live.Touted as the "entertainment capital of the world," it's not surprising that LA is home to several entertainment museums. There is the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. LIVE, celebrating outstanding accomplishments in music. The Hollywood Museum, housed in the historic Max Factor Building, pays homage to movie-making history with a vast display of memorabilia. Nearby, Madame Tussauds Hollywood offers a collection of life-like wax figures, featuring movie and sports celebrities from the past and present.

The City is also home to several significant historic structures that date back to the region's humble beginnings. The Avila Adobe and the San Fernando Mission are registered landmarks filled with priceless artifacts and artwork.

When it comes to performing arts, Los Angeles boasts more venues than any other metropolis, including New York City. The Kodak Theatre, home to the annual Academy Awards™ presentation at the famed crossroads of Hollywood and Highland, is now the permanent home to Cirque du Soleil's "IRIS: A Journey Through the World of Cinema". The Music Center, a performing arts complex in the heart of Downtown LA, includes the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, and Walt Disney Concert Hall. The complex is home to the LA Philharmonic, LA Master Chorale, Center Theatre Group, LA Opera, and Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center. Historic venues, such as the Hollywood Bowl and The Greek Theatre, as well as the Pantages Theatre, also attract thousands of visitors annually.

LA Arts Month takes place in January, but in reality, the momentum for the City's rich cultural scene is non-stop. Upcoming cultural events include "Aphrodite and the Gods of Love" at the Getty Villa through July 9; "Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity" at the Getty Center through August 12; "La Boheme" at Los Angeles Opera, Music Center May 12-June 2; "War Horse" at the Ahmanson Theatre June 13-22; Bolshoi Ballet presents "Swan Lake" at the Music Center June 7-10; and the Los Angeles Film Festival at L.A. LIVE June 14-24.

Before the year concludes, Los Angeles will welcome an array of new cultural developments and attractions, including the arrival of the USS Iowa to the Port of Los Angeles. This World War II battleship will be permanently berthed at the San Pedro Waterfront as a museum and memorial. The California Science Center will be home to the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which embarked on its first mission in May 1992. In the midst of a seven-year, $135 million renovation is the Natural History Museum, which will open a new, permanent exhibit focusing on Southern California's environmental and cultural history. The Italian American Museum of Los Angeles is currently being built in Downtown's historic Italian Hall adjacent to Olvera Street.

Two new, multimillion-dollar arts projects are slated for completion in 2013. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts broke ground in March 2012 and will transform a Beverly Hills city block into a vibrant new cultural destination with two distinct buildings: the historic Beverly Hills Post Office and a new, 500-seat Goldsmith Theater.

The Broad, located across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown, will feature a 120,000-square-foot museum housing philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad's extensive collection of contemporary art.

 

(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)

 

Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of Los Angeles lodging and dining options can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

 

West Los Angeles, which stretches from the Miracle Mile to Brentwood, is an oasis of culture paired with chic, urban perks. A wealth of amenities, including world-class museums, chic shopping areas and chef-driven restaurants, are in store.

Miracle Mile

The Miracle Mile is home to several of LA's top museums, all within walking distance of one another. Among them is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), one of nation's top art institutions. Since it opened in 1965, the museum has grown into a 20-acre campus that exhibits 100,000 objects dating from ancient times to the present. Seven buildings house rotating exhibits and a permanent collection that includes works of all media from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. The campus is in the midst of a 10-year expansion known as the Transformation, designed by celebrated architect Renzo Piano. Already open are the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, featuring post-war works, and the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion, with a rotating selection of major exhibitions.

Adjacent to LACMA is the Page Museum/La Brea Tar Pits, a working laboratory where paleontologists uncoverLaBreaTarPits PictureThe La Brea Tar Pits in another era. the remains of Ice-Age mammals like mastodons and saber-toothed cats from actual tar pits, where these creatures met their ends 11,000 years ago. Inside the Page Museum, you can watch as they clean, reconstruct and examine the fossils.

Across Wilshire Boulevard, the Petersen Automotive Museum is unmistakable, with decorative elements on its façade that resemble giant fins from a classic car. The museum's lifelike dioramas feature more than 150 vehicles, including rare and classic cars, racecars, concept cars, celebrity and movie cars, trucks, and motorcycles. It also features the history of the automobile, as well as auto design and technology.

The nearby Craft and Folk Art Museum was founded by the late Edith R. Wylie, who was self-described as "a chronic enthusiast of indigenous art." The art tells stories via original exhibitions, workshops, lectures and community events. Works have included photographs of contemporary Iran, solar ovens, and L.A.'s Asian-Latin fusion.

After a day of museum-stomping, it's time to relax in one the more than 92,000 hotel and motel rooms throughout LA. The boutique Hotel Wilshire houses 74 of these rooms and is located in the heart of the Miracle Mile district. The hotel has a rooftop pool, restaurant and bar, featuring stunning city views, as well as modern amenities.

And for dining, you can head back to LACMA, where Ray's and Stark Bar opened in the expansive, central BP Pavilion last year. Esquire magazine named this Mediterranean restaurant, with its adjacent, al fresco bar, "one of the best new restaurants of 2011." Or drive north just a few miles and dine at an LA institution, Campanile. This 20-year-old restaurant in a rustic setting serves California fare with a menu that changes daily. Adjacent is the original La Brea Bakery, specializing in artisan breads.

The Original Farmers Market/The Grove

There are many farmers' markets throughout LA, but The Original Farmers Market is at Third and Fairfax, walking distance from the Miracle Mile. It all started in 1934, when18 local farmers gathered at that intersection and sold produce from the backs of their trucks. Today, it boasts more than 100 boutiques, specialty food shops, produce stands, butchers and restaurants, including a few retail outlets and eateries in the newer North Market. Stroll through the stalls and shops in the open-air market and treat yourself to a scoop of freshly made cabernet sauvignon sorbet or pumpkin ice cream from Bennett's Ice Cream; buy a decorative, non-leaded candle at By Candlelight; or savor a glass of wine and artisan cheese at Monsieur Marcel wine bar and gourmet market.

In 2002, The Grove, an open-air shopping, dining and entertainment mecca, opened next door to the Farmers Market. Built to resemble a Tuscan village, The Grove is anchored by Nordstrom and an art-deco multiplex cinema and features dozens of shops, from Abercrombie & Fitch to UGG Australia. Attracting more than 18 million visitors a year from around the world, The Grove has become a tourist haven because of its central fountain, which dances to music, and a vintage-style, double-decker trolley that runs between The Grove and Farmers Market. On weekdays, the entertainment news show "Extra!" with Mario Lopez is filmed live on The Grove's cobblestone streets. And if you want to savor the cuisine, as well as the scene, there are several restaurants offering indoor and al fresco dining, like The Farm of Beverly Hills, which offers its own spin on American comfort food with items like Dill Pickle Fried Chicken and Truffle Mac & Cheese.

Just north of The Grove, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the nation's oldest Holocaust museum, exhibits artifacts from survivors of Nazi concentration camps. Its interactive audio and video exhibits depict the Holocaust era and the worldwide effort by non-Jews to save Jewish lives.

If you're looking for a unique place to stay, The Farmer's Daughter Hotel across the street from The Grove offers a country cool retreat in the middle of LA's urban scene, with 66 rooms and Tart restaurant.

West 3rd Street/Beverly Center

Go west on 3rd Street from Farmers Market, and you'll find an area that attracts LA hipsters, young families and the arts crowd. The street is lined with one-of-a-kind boutiques, like Polkadots and Moonbeams, selling vintage clothing and accessories; Kristin Londgren, specializing in cocktail-length, bias-cut dresses with soft draping; and Milk, featuring fashionable clothing for the family.

Bordering the west side of West 3rd Street is the Beverly Center. This indoor shopping emporium includes 160 specialty boutiques and restaurants reflecting the diverse styles and tastes of Los Angeles, including those of celebrities, who often shop there, sometimes unnoticed. Anchored by Bloomingdale's and two Macy's stores, the Center also offers brand-name stores like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and True Religion Brand Jeans.

Along the way, you'll find some of the City's hippest hotels. For example, The Orlando, a European-style boutique hotel, recently completed a $6 million facelift. In 2006, the Sofitel Los Angeles completed a $35 million transformation mixing European sophistication with the energetic pulse of Hollywood by the award-winning design team of George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg. The hotel now features Simon LA restaurant by Chef Kerry Simon, offering a Hollywood take on American comfort food. And the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, a Luxury Collection Hotel adjacent to Beverly Hills, is the first of that brand to open. SLS stands for style, luxury and service, and this hotel has it all. Its sixth-floor pool deck has two pools, private cabanas and a pool concierge; and its onsite restaurant, The Bazaar by James Beard Award-winning Chef Jose Andres features innovative delicacies.

But West Third is a walking street, and you might want to try some of its standalone eateries. For example, you can get breakfast all day at Toast Bakery and Café. At Joan's on Third, you can dine in a deli type atmosphere and buy tapenades, fancy deli meats, hard-to-find cheeses, breads and pastries at the restaurant's Gourmet Marketplace. And The Little Next Door offers healthful organic indulgences using local ingredients.

Century City

Century City  Photo SMALLCentury City at nightfall.Once a backlot for 20th Century Fox (now Fox Studios, which is still in operation nearby), Century City is a 176-acre "city within a city" with high-rise office towers, residential properties and an upscale, open-air shopping mall.

Tucked among these urban structures is the Annenberg Space for Photography, located on the former site of the Shubert Theatre. The intimate museum, which offers free admission and features an interior design influenced by the workings of a camera, is dedicated to the exhibition of print and digital photography with rotating exhibits by renowned masters.

Century City's two main hotels are the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza and the InterContinental Los Angeles Century City, both located on Avenue of the Stars. The Hyatt, with its distinctive curved main structure, originally opened in the 1960s and hosted many celebrities and dignitaries. Its award-winning Breeze Restaurant serves locally sourced California cuisine and also offers a sushi bar and vegan selections. The InterContinental Los Angeles Century City is a newer luxury hotel with 361 rooms, a spa with Zen-inspired villas, and the casually elegant Park Grill, serving globally inspired California cuisine.

Some of the best shopping in the City is at the Westfield Century City, an outdoor plaza with 111 stores, including designer stores like Armani Exchange, Coach and Kenneth Cole. Anchored by Macy's and Bloomingdale's, it also features a multiplex cinema. Dining includes upscale casual restaurants, such as RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen, featuring cuisines from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and India. Other options include a dining terrace and specialty food shops.

Westwood

Westwood is best known as home to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the adjacent Westwood Village. UCLA is one of the country's top educational institutions, but it goes way beyond that, with museums, a sculpture garden and landmark architecture in and around the campus. For example, its Royce Hall performance venue features a façade inspired by a Milan basilica. It is the main venue for UCLA Live, one of LA's most varied programs of dance, music, spoken word and experimental theater. UCLA's five -acre Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden is among the finest in the country, with more than 70 major works by famous sculptors, including Matisse, Moore and Noguchi. The campus' seven-acre Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden is home to more than 5,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants from around the world. The Fowler Museum features works from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific.

Adjacent to the south end of the campus lies Westwood Village, with dozens of restaurants, bars, coffeehouses, shops and movie theaters, all within a few blocks of one another in a quaint yet urban village setting. The UCLA Hammer Museum features a permanent collection with works by such noted artists as Rembrandt, Cézanne and Gauguin. For live theater, the Geffen Playhouse features classic plays, new works and musicals, and world and West Coast premieres.

Westwood has two hotels: Hotel Palomar, a chic hotel with 264 guestrooms, celebrates art in motion pictures with glamorous decor. It's a Kimpton hotel, and its chef-driven BLVD 16 restaurant serves farm-to-table California cuisine by Chef Richard Hodge. The W Los Angeles-Westwood, located on a quiet, residential street, features 258 modern rooms. It features a pool lined with lavish cabanas, Bliss Spa, Whisky Blue by bar magnate Rande Gerber, and NineThirty restaurant, serving California cuisine in a cozy environment.

Restaurants abound in Westwood Village and beyond. One of the oldest is Matteo's Restaurant, which opened in 1963. This Italian favorite was once frequented by Frank Sinatra and the other members of the Rat Pack. Other eateries include Yamato, serving Japanese pub food, and Palomino, with a rustic, European menu. South of Wilshire Boulevard, the area known as Little Persia features restaurants serving authentic ethnic food.

Bel Air/Brentwood

The Bel Air and Brentwood neighborhoods are home to some of LA's wealthiest residents and grandest mansions. But the grandest structure, which sits atop a hill overlooking the City, is the Getty Center. The Center is an art mecca with galleries, a garden, a café and research facilities. The collection includes paintings by masters such as van Gogh, Cézanne and Monet, as well as photographs, decorative arts, drawings, sculptures and other works of art.

Nearby is one of the world's most dynamic Jewish cultural institutions, the Skirball Cultural Center, which traces the experiences and accomplishments of the Jewish people for more than 4,000 years with multimedia installations, rare artifacts, photographs, interactive computer stations and sound recordings.

Among the hotels in this area is the 103-room Hotel Bel-Air, A Dorchester Collection Hotel, which reopened in 2011 after a major transformation. Set in a luxury residential area in the hills of Bel Air, the award-winning hotel originally opened in 1946 and became a hideaway for the rich and famous. Among the new amenities is a Wolfgang Puck restaurant serving farm-to-table, California cuisine. Tucked into lower lying hills to the west is the 160-room Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel, an urban retreat on seven acres at the intersection on Brentwood and Bel Air. On Sunset @ Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel restaurant features seasonal California fare with a French accent. And the Hotel Angeleno, a Joie de Vivre hotel, offers 208 rooms in a cylindrical tower. Each room has a private balcony and views. There's also a heated, outdoor pool with a fireplace and West Restaurant and Lounge, which offers 200-degree views of LA.

High-end shopping and upscale casual dining can be found in Brentwood Village, with dozens of independently owned and operated stores and restaurants, as well as major chains. You can also find services like nail salons, yoga studios and pet grooming there.

 

(TravMedia.com contributed to this article)

 

Editor's note: Links to the websites of hundreds of lodging and dining options in the Los Angeles area can be found at Taste California Travel's Resource Directory.

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