Postcard: Los Angeles

Scenes from vacations past

A mural of the pueblo de Los Angeles, with an illuminated tree, blue skies, and small buildings in a green valley

Outside LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, at El Pueblo de Los Angeles. October 2021

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November 5th, 2021 at 11:14pm

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Los Angeles: the great divider.

Many love America's second-largest city, many hate it - but everyone should visit at least once. And so I took my wife and son in October.

We made one rule: half of our activities would cater to grown-ups, half to kids. We didn't want Francis to be bored to tears. I think we managed our itinerary admirably.

The Huntington

Such lovely grounds - as well as Gainsborough's Blue Boy - at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, aka "The Huntington." We spent several hours here. I particularly liked the rose garden and the Japanese garden.

Pretty garden with trellises in the background

A portion of The Huntington's pretty rose gardens.

Getty Center

Breathless music reminiscent of Scientology videos entertained us as our tram ascended a hill over the 405 Freeway. The complex was beautiful, with modern galleries, outdoor dining, and cool gardens.

Francis didn't get too bored appreciating the art. In fact, he liked some of it very much - particularly the photography, and a sculpture of a guy on horseback celebrating his erect penis.

A child with his hands on his head, looking at an almost 300 year-old painting of a lazy, semi-romantic picnic

Boucher's The Bird Catchers (1748), at the Getty Center.

A pretty red-headed woman straining to eat an enormous messy hot dog, while someone at the next table watches with mild skepticism

Yep, Pink's will do that to you. The lady at the other table knows.

La Brea Tar Pits

I love driving down the Miracle Mile, glass and steel and automobiles, and then - boom - there's a tar pit. The exhibits are dated but the skeletons are cool.

The skeleton of a large feline with enormous fangs on a museum display pedestal

The La Brea Tar Pits: a saber-toothed cat.

Universal Studios

We had one goal for Francis - to go on Jurassic World: The Ride. It was so much fun. He did not like The Transformers or Simpsons rides, however. By "did not like" I mean he hated both. The latter was way too scary for children.

A window with blue water and plants, with a mosasaurus swimming around, it looks like a whale-sized crocodile

A computer-generated mosasaurus at Universal Studios.


Several restaurants stand out:

  • Pink's: So many different and delicious hot dogs, including the bacon burrito dog, the Giada De Laurentiis, and the El Mandril.
  • Musso & Frank Grill: Who wouldn't want to spend $275 on ribeyes and a bunch of side dishes in a cool old restaurant? Maybe not you? Apparently, we did. We thoroughly enjoyed it, but the bill hurt for a day or two. Actually it still kind of hurts.
  • Shamshiri Grill: Stupid delicious Persian cuisine in Westwood.
  • Los Anaya Taqueria: Magnificent Mexican food and impeccable service. We loved this place.

El Capitan Theater

Just a couple of weeks before Halloween, we caught A Nightmare Before Christmas at the glorious El Capitan on Hollywood Blvd. A live organ show in the theater regaled us while we waited for Jack Skellington to ask, "What's this? What's this?"

A mother and young son on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, outside a theater with elaborate lights and signs

The Nightmare Before Christmas at the El Capitan theater.

A barefoot kid climbing a wall, looking pretty confident

The Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena.

El Pueblo de Los Angeles

We went to the original site of L.A. and its first street on, of all days, Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples' Day - which meant a few attractions we wanted to visit were closed.

That didn't dampen the mood too much. We strolled down Olvera Street and appreciated the small and astonishingly clean church Our Lady Queen of Angels, just across from the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.

The interior of a modest yet beautiful church - spotless earthen tile floor, immaculate white walls, kaleidoscope-patterned ceiling, and enormous gold-framed paintings behind the altar

La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles.

Kid holding a stuffed dragon with a Ferris Wheel in the background

Exhausted by the Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica Pier

If anyone in your family likes small roller coasters, grifteresque carnival games, and Ferris wheels, don't miss the Santa Monica Pier. Buy a wristband for unlimited access and spend all day over the water, thrashing around in the rides.

When you cross Ocean Blvd at the pier, look southeast toward Venice and Marina Del Rey. You can clearly see Chez Jay and the Ocean Lodge from Seasons 1 and 2 of Goliath. Alas, Billy McBride was nowehere to be found.

The Verdict

Gina enjoyed Los Angeles, but doesn't need to go back. She's similar to me, more of a Bay Area/Tahoe person. Francis loved L.A. I have a feeling he'll return someday.


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