Adventures in La La Land

Los Angeles, the monolithic city to the north of where we live, is usually just a barrier we must get through on our way to somewhere else. Because its rush “hour” lasts most of the day, driving on L.A. freeways with the least amount of congestion and stress means leaving our home very early or very late. When we finally make it to the other side, we breathe a sigh of relief.

Like any large city, though, there is a lot to see and do in Los Angeles and, last week, we braved the crazy traffic for a few days to visit some highlights.

Getty Center

The Getty Center’s architecture and gardens are works of art themselves.

We spent the better part of two days enjoying this spectacular museum with its extensive collection of pre-20th century European paintings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts. Not all of the beauty is on the inside, though. Equally as impressive is the Center’s stunning architecture, gorgeous gardens, and expansive views overlooking the city.

L.A. is huge. Those tall buildings aren’t “downtown”… downtown is in the distance.

Griffith Observatory

Renovated in 2006, Griffith Observatory’s Art Deco exterior was maintained… thank goodness.

Opened in 1935, the Griffith Observatory’s mission was to make astronomy accessible to the public, as opposed to the observatories located on remote mountaintops and restricted to scientists. This Art Deco marvel includes several fascinating exhibit halls and a planetarium. The two shows we saw in the planetarium were top-notch and – like the Getty Center – the building’s architecture and views were stunning.  

Tesla Coil in action. Picture credit: my brother.
Ceiling in the rotunda painted by muralist, film producer, and author Hugo Ballin in 1934
The iconic Hollywood sign in the distance.

Fun Fact: during World War II, the planetarium was used to train pilots in celestial navigation. The planetarium was again used for this purpose in the 1960s to train Apollo program astronauts for the first lunar missions.

Another Fun Fact: the Griffith Observatory has been featured in several films, including the knife fight scene in the James Dean classic, Rebel Without a Cause.  

Where the knife fight was filmed

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Our final day in L.A. before heading home was spent at the LACMA. It is the largest art museum in the western United States, and we could have easily filled another day enjoying the exhibits.

A couple of my favorites:

From Picasso’s Blue Period.
Portrait of Frida Kahlo by Diego Rivera.

If we had had even more days, we would have loved to explore several of the other museums in the area, including La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the Peterson Automotive Museum, and the Craft Contemporary Museum.

So much to see, so little time.

Because we had come to view L.A. as a massive but unavoidable obstacle to be endured at the beginning of just about any road trip, my husband and I had lost sight of the many great things the city has to offer. My brother and sister-in-law (who took the train down from Northern California) came up with the idea to meet there and explore L.A. together, and we are happy that we said “yes!”

Now that we’ve been reminded of how much there is to see and do in L.A., we would like to return… but maybe not anytime soon. I still don’t like the traffic.  

I’m linking this post to the What’s Been on Your Calendar? monthly wrap-up challenge hosted by Donna, Jo, Deb, and Sue. Please visit their link page to see what other bloggers have been up to in February.  

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Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

137 thoughts on “Adventures in La La Land”

  1. We are right there with you always strategizing how to get north of the congested sprawl called LA. My last job had me traveling through LA to redondo beach or Burbank. An all day trek for a 1-2 hour meeting! Painful. I’m glad I’m not alone! But, like you, I’ve taken the leap to go site see here and there. Griffith Observatory was a more recent destination. And, I highly recommend the Huntington Library and Gardens. Not in Los Angles proper but a lovely destination to spend a day. We got invited there recently and I almost begged off (traffic reasons); but I was glad we made the trek.

  2. Driving through LA would be a lot like driving through London, England, I would think. I remember it took hours and hours to get through good ole congested London. But I recall that it was worth it. Just to see the famous places like Big Ben and Kew Gardens was fabulous!

  3. Janis, I have not been to L.A. since 1980 and I am sure a lot has changed, but I remember heavy traffic then and the many expressways – yikes! Driving from the suburbs to L.A. is like driving to Toronto, always a hubbub of activity and when we used to go visit my grandmother in the 70s and 80s, we would precisely time our departure from the Detroit area, to our arrival in Downtown Toronto to miss all that traffic. To make it worse, I’m no fan of expressway driving and there were three expressway changes from the 401 Highway (where we had just traveled some 200 miles) until reaching our cutoff to go to the business section where we finally reached my grandmother’s house. In Toronto, many people don’t even need cars as the public transportation in/around the City is easy and the “Go Train” connects you from suburbs to Downtown quickly and efficiently – were it not for public transportation, it would be a nightmare.

    1. We stayed in downtown Toronto several years ago and experienced the traffic first-hand. Although we pretty much parked our rental car when we got there and either walked or took public transportation everywhere, we still had to drive in and out of the city. Yikes!

      1. It is a nightmare for sure. Years ago I went to Washington, D.C. I went with my father and booked the flight thru a travel agent and we were advised not to get a rental car and just walk everywhere. We took her advice and it worked out well.

  4. the fight scene was a fun flashback and how cool to find such beauty in LA rather than just make it through
    – I enjoyed this post
    also, we had the opposite feeling after spending time in Atlanta – we had always rushed through it or went around it and finally had the chance to spend a weekend and there and it had some artsy takeaways but really did not care for it at all.

    1. I’ve only been to Atlanta once (years ago on business), so I don’t have a good recollection of it. I think any large city has both good and bad elements, but sometimes it’s hard to outweigh the crowds and congestion. I went away from LA feeling happy that we visited but glad I didn’t live there.

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