One of things that I love about my family-oriented Encino neighborhood is that we can walk to the bus that will take us to the Getty to spend a wonderful afternoon playing on the grounds. Families that are visiting Los Angeles can have the same experience, taking mass transit to the Getty from most points in the Greater Metropolitan Area. Check out Metro.net for information.
The Getty Center is more than just a hilltop cluster of beautifully designed travertine buildings, it's a calming environment that magically incorporates out of this world, impeccably maintained landscaping, focused and directed natural light and monolithic water features. As you board the futuristic tram that takes you from the parking lot up the hill to the center, you realize that a visit to the Getty is an experience not to be missed. We spend entire days there and never enter any of the exhibitions. We just walk around the grounds, exploring the Surrealistic river that winds through the Robert Irwin garden and watching the sun set over the ocean, enjoying fabulous views of the city from this strategically-placed hilltop location. We usually cap the day off by having dinner at the fabulous, casually elegant Restaurant At The Getty Center. Families can also find less expensive fare at The CafÃ©, in the Courtyard, or your tribe can grab box lunches and eat on the lush grounds.
If you do decide to go to the exhibits, there are usually some first-rate multi-media experiences to be had, as well as a treasure-filled gift shop. The Family Room has great hands-on activities including mask making, sculpting and an art treasure hunt. One floor above the Family Room is an interactive drawing area for well-behaved kids of all ages. More than just a museum, a visit to the Getty Center is an exciting indoor/outdoor experience that gives the visitor a look into a wonderful side of L.A. life and offers an enchanting adventure for everyone in your group.
Wilshire Boulevard is the main thoroughfare in Los Angeles winding from downtown through Museums, Rodeo Drive Shopping and ending at a beachfront park on the Pacific Ocean. From Union Station, the Metro Rail will take you along Wilshire to Western Avenue, where you'll board MTA Rapid bus 720. Your first stop is The Page Museum and one of the world's most famous fossil locations, La Brea Tar Pits. Outside the Page Museum, Dinosaur lovers will love the life-sized replicas of several extinct mammals trapped in real-life tar pits. Inside, you can see the largest collection of extinct Ice Age animals and plants in the world and watch bones being cleaned and restored through the windows of the laboratory. More information can be found at www.tarpits.org.
Next door to The Page is the home of some of the most cutting edge 20th and 21st century art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The museum not only hosts over 100,000 works of art in 6 buildings, it's also a center of special events, ranging from fashion shows to movie screenings to free outdoor concerts in the summer. Â For another glimpse into the fashionable, but fun, L.A. lifestyle, start planning your visit to LACMA at www.lacma.org.
Hop back on the Rapid bus at La Brea and Wilshire and take it to famous Rodeo Drive, one of the most prestigious shopping streets in the world. Here you'll find stores that cater to celebrities; Cartier, Tiffany's, Sak's, Yves Saint Laurent, Bijan. Two Rodeo is a new recreation of an old European street with shops and cafÃ©s, a perfect picture spot to document your trip to Rodeo Drive.
The next stop is the Pacific Ocean. Where Wilshire Boulevard meets Ocean Avenue, is a little park on the bluff with a spectacular view of the California Coast from Point Dume, to the right, to the Santa Monica Pier on the left. Home to Pacific Park amusement park and the historic Carousel, as well as restaurants, fishing and a wonderful view, Santa Monica Pier is another site of fabulous summer events. For more info, check out www.santamonicapier.org. Stroll down the pier or follow the beachside path south to Venice Beach's quirky shops and bizarre street performers. Further north is beautiful Palisades Beach.
You can shop under the stars a couple of blocks inland at Third Street Promenade. Movie theatres, book stores, restaurants, cafÃ©s, clothing stores and street performers line the pedestrian-only street, which ends at Santa Monica mall where you can find more mainstream department store shopping.
No trip to Southern California is complete without a trip up the coast from Santa Monica to Malibu and beyond. While this will require a car or taxi, there are several restaurants on the Ocean and some great shoreline parks (Zuma Beach is our favorite) where you can park the car for a fee and have a day at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Warren Keating is an artist living in Los Angeles. Currently represented by galleries in downtown L.A. and in Encino, California, his work can also be viewed and purchased at KeatingArt.com. For more information, go to WarrenKeating.com.