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Beaches to valleys, art to science

[Los Angeles, CA]

My parents have only spent one full day in LA, and they already are amazed by how huge this city is, and how different it is from all the other US cities they have already visited.

We started off our day at Manhattan Beach Pier. I tried to give my parents the initial lay of the land, pointing out Santa Monica, which was barely visible through the haze to the North of us, and Palos Verdes peninsula to the South.

From there we drove North by Dockweiler Beach, then veered East through Playa Del Rey and Culver City – I wanted to show my parents all the little nooks and crannies of LA that I tend to frequent. We passed the massive campus of Sony Pictures in Culver City, then the downtown area with Kirk Douglas theater and the Culver Hotel, then headed North on the I-405 towards the Getty Center. I mused about traffic in LA because even on a mid-morning, traffic was heavy and the widening project currently going on in the area didn’t seem to hold much promise of unclogging the busiest highway in the US.

The Getty was as gorgeous as I remembered it to be. Although the haze never fully cleared up, I was glad that my parents were still able to enjoy pretty good views from this awesome place. We admired the architecture and gardens as much as the exhibits. All three of us learned a lot about LA in a temporary exhibit that showcased LA’s immense growth from WWII onwards, celebrating its diversity, urban sprawl, architecture and industry.

From the Getty it was a short and easy hop onto Mulholland Drive. We drove the portion of it that connects the 405 and the 101. We stopped at a couple of awesome overlooks – one on the North side overlooking Universal, and another on the South side overlooking the Hollywood Bowl with downtown LA in the background. Mulholland was a bit underwhelming for me but my parents seemed to enjoy it.

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Hollywood Bowl overlook

Griffith Observatory was really close at that point and it was still early afternoon, so we headed there. My parents were expecting only scenic views but were pleasantly surprised and impressed by the exhibits inside the observatory. The coolest things in there were the Tesla Coil, the interactive table of elements and the solar system exhibit, which, in addition to providing lots of fun facts comparing each planet, allowed you to weigh yourself to see how much you’d weigh on the other planets. I have to say that moving to Mars, where I’d weigh just about 50 lbs, sounds pretty appealing right now. 😉

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In a city as large as LA, it doesn’t happen often that one can knock off 3 landmarks all at once but alas, that’s what we did next. At the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave, three world-famous attractions find their home – the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Kodak Theater where the Oscars are held (now called Dolby Theater), and Grauman’s Chinese Theater. My parents loved seeing the Kodak, which they knew very well from watching the Oscars all these years.

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We ended our evening with an amazing meal at Yamashiro, a Japanese restaurant perched just above the Walk of Fame. We got a great table overlooking Hollywood, while downtown LA glistened in the afternoon glow just a bit further away. The food didn’t disappoint, either! My parents got to try sake for the first time, and my mom and I split what is probably one of the most unique meals I’ve ever had – steak that’s cooked right on your table on a salt plate that’s been heated to 400 F (200 C). We toured the Japanese garden and the Pagoda bar that are part of the grounds of the restaurant before we headed back to Manhattan Beach. We even managed to drive the Sunset strip on the way home, and it was perfect timing, too, because it had just gotten dark and the strip’s neon lights and inviting signs were just lighting up, getting ready to tantalize the Friday night party crowd.

What a fun first day in LA this has been! I loved showing my city to my parents, and since I’d never done this much here in one day, it started to dawn on me exactly how much the City of Angels has to offer. Just today, on a fairly leisurely day, we saw so many different things! From beaches to valleys, from art to science, from exquisite to gaudy, we saw a different side of LA everywhere we went, and there is still so much to see!

I meant for this to be a short entry… I guess I will try that again tomorrow… *yawn*

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