Maximizing One Day in Los Angeles
With less than a full day to spend together in Los Angeles, California, my daughter Alison and I wanted to make the most of our quality time. We sharpened our pencils and crammed an ambitious itinerary of hidden gems in L.A. Since Alison was now a Los Angeles native, I had an expert guide.
There are endless things to do and see in Los Angeles, but these six (6) hidden gems in L.A. made our short-list. You’ll find they’re great takes if you’re time-pressed, and a few are free if you’re on a budget. I might have taken a more leisurely pace on a few, but these six will whet your appetite.
In this article, you are invited to discover…
- The Bradbury Building
- The Last Book Store
- OUE SkySpace L.A.
- The Writers Guild Foundation Library
- The Huntington
- Manhattan Beach
If you happen to be near 304 South Broadway at West 3rd Street in Downtown L.A., you might walk right past The Bradbury Building. But it’s worth stepping inside.
Built in 1893, The Bradbury Building is the city’s oldest landmarked building. Gold-mining millionaire Lewis L. Bradbury spared no expense when he commissioned it, making it our first of the hidden gems of L.A.
When it deteriorated into disrepair, it became an ideal setting for dystopian future sci-fi movies, including the neo-noir film Blade Runner (1982) starring Harrison Ford. (Did I mention how much I love Harrison Ford?)
Now restored to its original splendor, natural light pours through the sky-lit atrium of this 5-story building with cake-frosting-like ironwork. While the first and second floors remain open (and free) to movie-buffs, the remaining floors are converted to upscale office space and residences.
Alison and I oohed-and-aahed at the fine details, because The Bradbury Building was an incredible piece of architecture to behold, even without its silver screen fame.
- PRO TRAVEL TIP: Look for the framed Blade Runner poster hanging on the first floor.
In the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, Alison discovered a reservoir of quietude. It’s a peaceful refuge for those longing to escape the city’s frenzied pace. Here, we joined the dreamers and writers, book lovers and music enthusiasts, artists and eclectics, and curious travelers who passed through the oversized door on 5th Street. This oasis was The Last Book Store.
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Turns out, it’s California’s largest used and new book and record store. It’s also one of the largest independent bookstores in the world. It’s a unique collection dotted with whimsical touches, artful retail shops, and even a Rare Books Annex. If you’re creative and looking for “your people,” you might find them at The Last Book Store.
Alison and I could have spent hours here poking around. We stayed long enough to take it all in as another of the hidden gems of L.A., then moved on to the next stop on our itinerary.
- PRO TRAVEL TIP: There’s no food or drink allowed at The Last Bookstore, so plan to have a bite before or after visiting. (Here’s a Free List of 20 Rooftop Bars in L.A.)
Stop number three was the OUE Skyspace L.A. It offers one of the best views of downtown Los Angeles. On the 69th and 70th floor of the US Bank Tower (633 W 5th Street, Los Angeles), it features two observation decks, an interactive Media level, and a rooftop bar with light fare. The unobstructed, panoramic view is California’s tallest open-air observation deck. It even has a glass Skyslide!
From the rooftop, Alison pointed out Hollywood and other downtown landmarks. The OUE Skyspace L.A. was a great way to see the city from on high. This was definitely one of the hidden gems of L.A. with a birdseye view. Had we more time, I would have ordered up a drink and some apps from the Skybar to enjoy a sunset here.
- PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you are planning to visit a few attractions in L.A., you might save some money with the Go Los Angeles Card. It saved us from purchasing individual tickets to the OUE SkySpace and The Huntington at a higher cost.
4. The Writers Guild Foundation Library
Alison and I share a love of writing, so The Writers Guild Foundation Library made the day’s bucket list. It is the “only library on the planet focused entirely on writing for the screen.” The library houses over 35,000 items, including produced television and film scripts, radio scripts, new media and video game scripts, and other interesting collections.
As a Television Writing & Production major at Chapman University’s Dodge College, Alison spent much of her time at The Writers Guild Foundation Library pouring over television scripts.
All scripts must be read on site, so with my license as collateral, I requested the script for “The X-Files” Pilot. Making myself comfortable in the library’s windowed conference space, I prepared to relive the magic. Skimming three revisions, I gained immense insight and respect for the process that created the characters, Mulder and Scully. (X-Files fans, are you out there?)
- PRO TRAVEL TIP: You don’t have to be a Writers Guild of America member to get in; The Writers Guild Foundation Libary is open to the general public.
If you appreciate art, books, and botanical gardens like I do, add The Huntington to your L.A. itinerary. The picturesque grounds cover about 120 acres and houses extensive collections.
We meandered through the cactus garden (it was so otherworldly) and the rose garden. I think we saw every color and type of rose in existence that day. The bustling Victorian “tea room” beside the rose garden offered refreshments and we were tempted but…
Instead, running short on time, we took a quick spin through the Library Exhibition Hall to view the handiwork of medieval and other important manuscripts. Among my favorites were the hand-lettered and illustrated Ellesmere Chaucer, inked drafts of Thoreau’s Walden manuscript, and the Gutenberg’s Bible. Talk about being one of the hidden gems of L.A. Wow!
We only scratched the surface of all The Huntington offers, and, I was disappointed to learn I’d miss an upcoming museum exhibit featuring the iconic masterpiece by painter Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), “The Blue Boy.” I guess I’ll have to go back. 😉
You’ll find The Huntington in Los Angeles County and a short car ride from downtown L.A. at 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino.
- PRO TRAVEL TIP: Plan to spend the better part of an afternoon or even a whole day here, and wear comfortable shoes. There’s so much to see!
6. Manhattan Beach
Before leaving California, I wanted to take one last look at the Pacific so we headed for Manhattan Beach. Manhattan Beach is a city known for its laid-back vibe, outdoor enthusiasts, and pricey real estate. This is one of the hidden gems of L.A. in plain sight.
We strolled what’s known as The Strand (the street running closest to the water), window shopped, and grabbed a latte before heading to the breezy Manhattan Beach Pier.
To one side of the pier, we watched surfing lessons on the west coast’s signature waves; on the other, a barefoot volleyball game.
A golden hue arose from the horizon and the sun dropped like a spiked ball in slo-mo. It was a lovely last vision of Southern California, forever suspended in my memory. Game over, but so well-played!
- PRO TRAVEL TIP: Coffee and candy connoisseurs will love the selection of delectable treats (including ice cream) a short walk from the pier at Manhattan Beach Creamery.
Best of the Hidden Gems in L.A.
My last day in Los Angeles was a wonderful whirlwind, punctuated by the cultural attractions Alison and I loved best. She and I discovered we were compatible travel companions after all, with common interests and ambition. Truly, that was among the best of all the hidden gems in L.A.
In fact, it was really hard to leave! If I were to ever leave my home in New England, I would consider relocating to Greater Los Angeles. While it may not be one of the cheapest places to live in California, it would certainly be wonderful to live closer to my daughter.
Which of these attractions would you put on your bucket list when visiting Los Angeles?
A special thanks goes to Smart Destinations for their generosity. This article is part of a sponsored collaboration between Smart Destinations and Enjoy Travel Life. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. For more information, please see the following Disclosure.
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