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Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

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Colorado
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Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

I'm trying to figure out the best way to make the most of our time. We arrive on a Sunday afternoon and have the rest of that day and Monday available. We'll be in the USC / Hollywood area on Wed.

We are interested in seeing the natural beauty of the area -- we don't want to lay out on beaches, but would love to spend time walking along the shore, visiting tide pools or seeing wildlife, seeing some of the more diverse areas -- these are some places that were suggested to us -- what are your thoughts? Trying to see as much as possible in a short time and trying to figure out best area to stay Sun & Monday nights:

Marina del Ray

Laguna Beach - someone said this was beautiful but probably too far away?

Long Beach

Venice Beach - fun to see the people in the area

Santa Monica Pier- some say fun, some say too run down and touristy

Malibu beaches

Culver City?

Griffith Observatory?

Aquarium of the Pacific?

Thanks for any guidance you can give us - we'll have a rental car and will be coming into LAX.

Los Angeles
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1. Re: Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

Laguna Beach is very nice but an hour+ away.

Long Beach isn't really much of a beach any more (mainly a commercial shipping port and what's left of the beach there is behind the breakwater for the port, so no waves) and around an hour from the central parts of LA, but that is where the Aquarium of the Pacific is and parts of the downtown / waterfront area there are nice.

Marina Del Rey is pretty but maybe not falling into the "natural beauty" category since it is an artificial, man-made marina.

Griffith Observatory is a worthy destination - its closed Mondays however. Suggest trying to go Sunday - get there a bit before sunset and remain into the evening.

Venice Beach is combination of beautiful and sort of gritty. Santa Monica very pretty and then urban with lots of shopping and restaurants just off the beach. Malibu has great beaches and more or less rural area - very pretty to drive through. Hiking can be had in Temescal Canyon which is in Pacific Palisades, between Santa Monica and Malibu.

Culver City is not generally much of a tourist area except for Sony Studios which is there, but its downtown area has a good restaurant scene going on these days.

Where to stay depends a bit on budget. Santa Monica would be one of the first choices with a car, but hotels there are pricey. You could stay in Marina Del Rey or Venice, which are slightly less central, or head inland a little bit to somewhere like Westwood near UCLA.

Colorado
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2. Re: Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

This is extremely helpful - thank you so much. Maybe we'll try to do the observatory instead of the aquarium. Sounds like we would nix Culver City. Would it make any sense to head from LAX to look at the UCLA campus and then go see a beach or observatory? Would it then make sense do Venice Beach / Santa Monica / Malibu on Monday or is that too much to see everything? If those were the areas we were interested in and then knowing we'd have to be at USC first thing Tuesday am, where would you suggest staying (area-wise)? Not into grand hotels - just clean, safe, and nearby is fine - won't be spending any amount of time there.

Santa Monica, CA
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3. Re: Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

Laguna Beach is lovely, but is a long day trip from LA (it can be done, will you have a car?) However, the shoreline of Malibu is quite similar - craggy, rocky, tidepools, beautiful, long stretches of beach. You can do both, or one!

Who said SM Pier is run-down? It's only 14 years old and very well maintained. It is a pleasure pier attracting visitors from all over California, locals, and visitors from afar. If that makes it touristy, then so is Laguna Beach! However, Santa Monica is far more than the pier. Our 3rd St. Promenade is a magnet for shopping, strolling, watching good street performers, and dining. I usually recommend Venice Beach and Santa Monica as a day trip. Start in Venice by visiting the canals, then wander the boardwalk (I like Sidewalk Cafe for lunch), then on to Santa Monica. Enjoy the pier, 3rd St. Promenade, perhaps cute Main St. where lots of the stores are independent (rather than chain stores). Have dinner in Santa Monica, see the sun set, then back to your hotel.

Malibu is a great day as well. You might consider including the Getty Villa that day, it's very nice. Drive all the way to Pt. Mugu in Malibu (it's at the county line). There is good hiking there, as well as many other areas off of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. If you are interested in that, let us know. You can tidepool at Leo Carrillo State Beach. Once you turn back towards Santa Monica, you will be on the ocean side of the road, providing lots of opportunities to park and visit the beaches. Some of my favorites can't be seen from the road, so map them first: La Piedra, El Matador, El Pescador. They have tiny parking lots, so if full, you can park on the road. You'll need to go down a steep drop-off (stairs) to the beaches. In Malibu, I recommend you stop at Duke's for lunch or apps. The location right over the water is great and it's a friendly, Hawaiian themed restaurant.

There really is not much to do in Culver City as a visitor, but there are good restaurants in the Helm's Building, an old bread bakery building that's been converted to furniture stores and restaurants.

Skip Marina del Rey. Even the city of LA is aware that it is a relic. They plan to make improvements, but until then, the only tourist attraction is run down (but you can stay there, so don't overlook for lodging; it is full of condos and apartments, so there are plenty of restaurants near-by).

Now, your real problem will be to whittle down your list as you are here for such a short time.

Edited: 7:32 pm, March 03, 2014
Los Angeles
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4. Re: Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

Sure, heading from LAX to UCLA to see the campus there, and then to the observatory makes sense. The beaches closest to UCLA are Venice / Santa Monica / Malibu so I'd probably save those for the next day and do the observatory instead. If you can get out of LAX early enough, might want to do a quick detour to the pier area in Manhattan Beach before heading towards UCLA, though its in the opposite direction from LAX as UCLA is.

Santa Monica, CA
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5. Re: Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

Here is a cool hotel in Culver City: http://www.culverhotel.com/

You could take the Expo light rail line to USC from there, too. I don't like the majority of hotels in Culver City because they aren't at the historic core (the one above is). That's the fun part of CC. Where the other hotels are is terribly traffic congested and not good for walking at all.

Colorado
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6. Re: Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

You are all so helpful and I truly appreciate your time.

So maybe what we'll do is go from LAX and see UCLA and the Observatory the first afternoon/evening we get there, and then save the beaches for the next day. I'll look up Manhattan Beach as well.

Is it truly feasible to do Venice / Santa Monica / Venice in one day? (yes, we'll have a car)

The day following the "beaches" we will need to be at USC early in the morning, and that will be a week day.

Is there an area that would make sense for us to stay with this potential itinerary for both nights, or would it make more sense to stay in different areas each night?

We will be in Anaheim the morning we leave, and will have about 3-4 hours available before heading to LAX if there is something that would make sense for that time frame/area.

I appreciate the restaurant suggestions! We are casual diners - love seafood, Mexican, Chinese, healthy...

Thanks!

Rancho Santa...
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7. Re: Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

I sense this might not be on your radar. Consider stopping here when you leave LAX.

tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g32655-d14…

HTH

Colorado
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8. Re: Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

I think we have a better handle on where to stay, thank you very much for your help.

A couple other questions ---

someone in our party is very music-oriented and wants to spend most of the day on the Sunset Strip area by Amoeba Records, and the various instrumental stores..... is there anything else in that area you would recommend for someone who is not able to spend a whole day in those types of stores?

Also, any suggestions for casual dining in Hollywood, Venice, or Santa Monica would be appreciated.

9. Re: Need Help Deciding What to See - where to go

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