Los Angeles, CA

In 4 words: A few worthy sights.
Distances are not walkable in most cases, this is a driver’s city (despite all the traffic).
Worthy attractions: Getty Center and Getty Villa; Universal Studios; Hollywood Walk of Fame; Rodeo Drive; the Grove.
Left for another visit: Huntington Library, Museum, and Gardens; a number of house-museums; Downtown LA.
You will surely combine your stay with: Disneyland Resorts in Anaheim.
Last visit: August 2021.

View from Mount Hollywood

I doubt that many people would consider coming to Los Angeles explicitly for LA sightseeing. Yes, there are a few interesting sights, and yes, there is clearly the Hollywood industry pull, but for a discerning traveler, there is probably not enough surpassing visuals or superb attractions to put LA near the top of the must-visit list. You are only likely to spend a short time in the city using it as a gateway to Disneyland, Universal Studios, or both.

Things to See and Do

LA is a sprawling metropolis made of dozens of “villages”, the majority of which are frankly nondescript or hardly warranting attention. But every visitor to the city would probably stop by at least two neighborhoods. One is Hollywood, anchored by the Hollywood Walk of Fame ♥ and the TCL Chinese Theatre. The overall area is a bit seedy and obviously very touristy, but many people – kids, especially – find it a fun recognition exercise to look at the sidewalk-embedded stars. By night there are street performers and street food vendors. There is a number of museums and museum-like establishments in the vicinity, but none of them, IMHO, is worth the cost of entry. That includes Madame Tussaud’s, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and a few others (Museum of Illusion, for instance, gives you a chance to create a few dozen photographic illusions with you in the picture – for $30 per visitor.) You can also join a “celebrity house viewing” tour – our experience with one of these from years past suggests that it is not worth time or expense.

Beverly Hills ♥ is another famous area likely to attract everyone, especially its upscale commercial centerpiece of Rodeo Drive ♥.  The majority will stick to window-shopping when there, although there is an excellent art gallery worth visiting on 2 Rodeo Drive by-street. (Note on parking: 2-hour free public parking is available in garages just off Rodeo Drive, but not in the garage that is entered from the street itself.)

A few seaside neighborhoods can be pleasant strolling destinations: Santa Monica, Marina del Rey (both of which we had last went to ages ago), or a bit further afield, Manhattan Beach ♥♥. They offer minor points of interest (such as the small Aquarium at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier) but primarily are simply picturesque with architectural variety and a lively promenade and food scene.

The Grove ♥, a newish compact open-air mall, is a very nice place to unwind at the end of the day. It is centered around a fountain that continuously plays in patterns; not exactly musical, although a good selection of light music is piped through the speakers. Several eateries offer fountain views.

When you drive through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, you will probably notice eye-catching buildings here or there on many corners and streets. In fact, there are several mansion-museums in the area that may be worth visiting – it pains me to admit that I have not figured out a way to fit any of them into my visits to the area. Among them are Schindler House, Stahl House, Greystone Mansion, as well as Gamble House in Pasadena, and a part of the serial Frank Lloyd Wright UNESCO World Heritage site, Hollyhock House in East Hollywood.

There is also a cluster of potential attractions in Downtown LA, which is hardly the area frequented by visitors.

One of the standout points of interest in Los Angeles is the Getty Center ♥♥♥. It is just an incredible modern museum campus with nice grounds, gardens, views, and a reasonable collection of paintings, sculptures, and objets d’art. Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Goya, El Greco, Canaletto, Lorraine, Turner, and many others feature, albeit some only in a single instance. Easily more than half a day needed to see all there is to see. Smaller children will benefit from a couple of “treasure hunts”. Food options on the grounds are reasonable if a bit overpriced.

There is also the Getty Villa ♥♥, a fantastic recreation of a Roman Patrician villa, replete with gorgeous courtyards and fountains. Paraphrasing what J. Paul Getty himself said, if you have ever been to Italy and wondered what the ruins of classical buildings may have looked like in their heyday, this is your opportunity to see it with your own eyes. On the upper floor of the villa is a compact but impressive collection of antiquities.

A note on distance: Don’t let the family name deceive you into thinking that the two attractions are close to each other. There is no less than half an hour’s drive in normal traffic between the two.

Universal Studios ♥ is another top attraction within LA borders. Obviously, pretty expensive even with the cheapest basic ticket, but a great pull nonetheless. The Studio Tour takes you through a number of movie sets; the Waterworld stunt show is very entertaining; the Jurassic Park ride is our personal favorite. Hogsmeade and Hogwarts (The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter) are very beautifully done, but the attractions there are mildly disappointing, IMHO. Overall, there are only a dozen rides and shows in the entire park in total, so it is technically possible to cover everything on a regular ticket on a non-peak day (although probably challenging when waits exceed 30 minutes on a busy day). However, there is a very likely problem for those prone to motion sickness: half of the attractions are either non-gentle motion simulators or roller coasters.

Through happenstance related to Covid and cancellations, we came to the park with tickets that were effectively free of cost for us, so on a whim, we upgraded them to a VIP version. The usual cost of a VIP ticket is $350 – prohibitive for most. The perks above the next level below are: a nice breakfast lounge; an above-average lunch buffet (with an important added bonus of the wait staff hugely accommodating for a picky-eater child); unlimited express access to all attractions; discount on the preferred parking to the price of the cheapest option; and most importantly, an expanded smaller-group studio tour with several stops where we got off the bus and walked around the sets. With our VIP guide we covered all rides in the park bar two, plus the most important show, and then had enough free time to catch up on the remaining ones and to revisit the favorites. In our rare case, it was obviously worth it.

We also attempted the hike to the Hollywood Sign. Starting at Hollywood Lake Park, which offers the closest convenient parking (be warned: the streets right underneath the sign have no public parking whatsoever), we picked a fairly simple path along sloping and paved Mount Lee Drive. It is not a demanding hike even though it obviously gets very hot in summer as the day progresses. There is a shade of disappointment at the end in that you do not actually get close to the letters – the peak point is above the sign with a limited skewed view of the letters. But the city views are fantastic. The closest look at the sign from below is at the Tyrolean Tank Viewpoint, at the foot of Mount Lee Drive. If climbing up to the peak is not your thing, make that your finish point – or even just do the Hollywood Lake Viewpoint.

Places to Eat

The collective wisdom of a critical mass of visitors at a site like TripAdvisor is a better starting point for researching restaurants than the opinions of a single family, but nonetheless here are brief notes on a few places that we ate at on our most recent visit to LA in August of 2021.

L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele ♥ on a back street a couple of blocks from the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a pleasant Italian eatery, with a good menu, and good service. Torta di Nonna for dessert got surpassing marks. Damage: $155 for two adults and a child, including drinks and tips.

Running Goose ♥♥ on North Cahuenga Boulevard also not too far from the Hollywood focal point: democratic vibe, not too extensive but excellent Mediterranean menu, everything ordered was absolutely great, especially lamb tagine. One Pavlova dessert easily satisfies 3 people. No record of damage as we were treated there by friends.

Fishing with Dynamite ♥♥♥ in Manhattan Beach: cool seafood menu, many excellent choices, nice service, very accommodating of unusual requests for a picky child, overall great ambiance, a great experience overall. Damage: $225 for 4 adults and 1 child, including drinks and tips.

Petros, also in Manhattan Beach: extensive Greek menu, nice but sometimes confused service, pleasant setting on a pedestrian square; uneven food – a couple of our choices were rather mediocre while a couple of others were really good. Damage: $370 for 4 adults and 1 child, including drinks and tips.

Disneyland Resorts in Anaheim

We just love both Disneyland ♥♥♥ and the newer California Adventure Park ♥♥♥. The week before Labor Day, we were certainly lucky to find the parks not overflowing and therefore managed to ride every single ride that we chose to with barely any waiting in line. Several favorites more than once. Only in a couple of cases, the wait exceeded 15 minutes. For a couple of most in-demand attractions, you have to stand in a virtual queue that takes several hours, but as long as you join it first thing in the morning and then go about riding other rides, you will then more or less walk on to those attractions when the time comes.

There is also Downtown Disney ♥ – an attractive open-air mall, with fountains, shops, and eateries, which is a nice place to unwind in the evening if you are staying nearby.


Radisson Blu Anaheim ♥♥♥ opened just a couple of months before we stayed there at the end of summer 2021. It is a modern sleek hotel; we had a huge room overlooking Disneyland in the distance, with two queen-size beds and a bunk bed (so the room can accommodate 6 people). There are lots of modern amenities and very attentinve staff. The public transport shuttle system to the park needs to work out some kinks – it can take longer than you plan to get to and from the hotel – but that’s the only nitpick. On the top floor is Skybar – a great lounge and a tapas restaurant, where everything we ordered was incredibly tasty, to the damage of $235 for two adults and a child, with drinks and tips. Breakfast at the Fire Lake lounge is very nice, albeit for hotel-level prices. Another breakfast alternative is the Marketplace Cafe, where sandwiches and coffee are available.

Places to Eat

In addition to the aforementioned options at the Radisson Blue, we also had a couple of meals at the Disney Resorts in the summer of 2021.

Wine Country Trattoria ♥ is an above-average choice for lunch inside the California Adventure park. Good Italian menu, excellent food, large portions (one pasta entree can easily feed two people). Damage: $135 for two adults and a child, with drinks and tips.

Jazz Kitchen ♥♥♥ in Downtown Disney is simply great, with an excellent New Orleans-inspired menu, and superb and accommodating service. Among the things we had were fantastic gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish spring rolls, and beignets for dessert. Damage: $165 for two adults and a child, with drinks and tips.

Other notes for USA