Los Angeles has been in the spotlight this year more than ever, thanks to a certain throwback, Jazz-era inspired musical film. The story, brought to life by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, helped evoke a more romantic, whimsical side of this city, which is too often dismissed as just another big, congested city. In the grown-up LA of today, design lovers, beer connoisseurs, and even Japanophiles will all find something to hold their interest. Considering a trip to the West Coast’s flashiest city? Here are eight spots worth adding to the list.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
To pay your respects to Hollywood legends past, enter (for free) these park-like grounds just off Santa Monica Boulevard. Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, and director John Huston all rest here, though memorials are not the only thing that keeps people showing up at the gates. Each summer, Cinespia hosts an outdoor film series, which occasionally honors the cemetery’s own residents. One of this year’s features? Wizard of Oz.
Grand Central Market
There’s no such thing as a quick lunch at this high-volume, maze-like international food hall. It takes an hour just to choose between the different options: Salvadorean pupusas, gourmet grilled cheese, vegan falafel wraps, Japanese bento boxes. The good news? Most vendors stay open until 10:00 p.m. every night, so you can come back and do it all again for dinner.
Crossing into Angelino Heights from neighboring Echo Park, the difference is immediately apparent. Massive 19th-century houses in flamboyant colors like yellow and purple decorate this block of Carroll Avenue, earning it a title on the National Register of Historic Places. Here, you’ll see the famous manor Prue, Piper, and Phoebe (and later Paige) called home on the TV show "Charmed." Just down the street, Michael Jackson used another of these Victorian stunners for his “Thriller” video.
Million Dollar Theater
It caused a big stir when it first opened on Broadway in 1918 — at 2,345 seats, the Million Dollar Theater was one of the country’s first real movie palaces, with an orchestra pit for live accompaniment to the films. Beautifully restored, the same giant circular chandelier still hangs over plush velvet seats. Show up for a backstage tour or, in the summer, book tickets to “Last Remaining Seats,” a film series featuring classics like LA Confidential and Jaws.
Attention thrill seekers: there’s a glass chute affixed to the outside of LA’s tallest building, and it’s built for sliding. You’ll enter on the 70th floor, strap yourself to a foam mat, and whiz gleefully one floor below, with nothing but 1¼“ of material separating you from the street. It’s a fun angle on the city, and there are few skyscrapers to compete with, meaning you can see for miles in all directions, from the snaking freeways out to the San Gabriel Mountains.
So popular has this sleek contemporary art museum gotten since its opening in 2015 that a dedicated Twitter account posts updates on the average wait time to get in. Once you make it inside, you’ll see why demand is so high. Amassed by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, the total collection includes originals by Cindy Sherman, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol — and of course, the Instagram-famous “Infinity Mirrored Room” by Yayoi Kusama.
Afternoon tea purists will swoon for the spread at the Huntington Rose Garden Tea Room, which has three-tiered trays piled with salmon finger sandwiches, fresh-baked crumpets with Devonshire cream, and tiny tiramisu squares. The whole 207-acre estate is a knockout with different themed gardens (including a jungle habitat with orchids, bamboo, and a waterfall), two art museums, and a library with manuscripts dating back to the Middle Ages.
For a whistlestop tour through this eccentric, curio-filled corner of downtown Los Angeles, start at the Japanese Village Plaza. On most weekday afternoons, a warbling middle-aged man sets up his synthesizer in the mall’s courtyard while patrons browse Japanese-themed souvenirs and snack on bacon-topped donuts at the excellent Caffe Dulce bakery. At neighboring Weller Court, there are even more shops, ramen eateries, and an acclaimed jazz club.