Outside L.A.'s Annenberg Space for Photography. In the second photo from left, photographer Helmut Newton is seen between two models.
  • Outside L.A.'s Annenberg Space for Photography. In the second photo from left, photographer Helmut Newton is seen between two models.
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An old friend and his fiancee were flying into Los Angeles from Texas in July, on their way up to Santa Barbara. They were staying one night in L.A., and asked me to join them for a visit. I said “of course” and made my trip plans.

I don't own a car, nor do I drive anymore. So I booked a round-trip on Amtrak. My business-class ticket with senior discount was $100. If you take Amtrak, always pay extra and enjoy the comfort of business class. Trust me, it's worth it.

I checked hotel prices for myself and my friends. We decided on Travelodge Hollywood (at 1401 Vermont Avenue, just off Sunset Boulevard); the rate for a night was $112 with free WiFi and continental breakfast.

Our first meal was at the next-door Masaya Thai Food. The $6.95 lunch specials were fresh and good, and filled us up. Then we were off on a drive in their rented Elantra.

LACMA's Levitated Mass.

LACMA's Levitated Mass.

We drove west on Sunset Boulevard to La Brea Avenue, then south to Wilshire. I was amazed at the amount of new construction going on in L.A. We parked, hit the La Brea Tar Pits, and then walked to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art next door... only to discover that the museum is closed on Wednesdays.

So after viewing the grounds, we walked over to see the free Levitated Mass installation, basically a 340-ton granite rock placed on top of a concrete trench. You walk down and underneath the rock to get the experience. It was amusing, but we were a bit underwhelmed by this “rock around the clock.” And this so-called artwork cost millions.

A classic Caddy at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

A classic Caddy at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

We then ventured over to the Petersen Automotive Museum. It's at 6060 Wilshire (at Fairfax Avenue), in a building that was a department store in a previous life. They have quite a collection of spectacular vehicles. Admission is $15 for adults ($10/seniors).

That evening we had dinner at The Vegan Joint, just down the street from the motel at 4718 Fountain Avenue. It's a small upstairs cafe in a plain strip mall. But we liked the food, and the bill for the three of us was only $24.85 + tip.

My friends wanted to go to an overlook, so I suggested we drive up Vermont Avenue to Griffith Observatory. We planned to walk around, look out at the city and take photos. I think everyone else had the same idea, as there was NO parking, even in the overspill lot. We finally found a space to squeeze into. (We then walked quite a bit to go take our pics, so don't make this same mistake.)

The next morning, it was off on Santa Monica Boulevard to Century City, passing through West Hollywood and part of Beverly Hills on the way. We passed by an intersection close to where I once lived in WeHo.

We ended up at the Annenberg Space For Photography to see the Helmut Newton exhibition “White Women – Sleepless Nights – Big Nudes.” It features over 100 extra-large prints and a documentary film. The fancy facility is at 2000 Avenue of the Stars, and admission is free. Parking in the multilevel space underneath cost us $3.50 (with discounted validation from the museum). The exhibit runs through September 8.

For lunch that day we drove around looking for awhile. We found ourselves outside the L.A. County Museum again, and saw a line of food trucks parked along Wilshire Blvd. We parked and made our choices. I had a Vietnamese BBQ sandwich for $7, but it was only so-so.

I had to catch my train soon, so they dropped me off at Wilshire Blvd. and Western Avenue to catch the Red Line subway to Union Station downtown. And so my quick but enjoyable trip soon ended.

The best part, of course, was just being with my friends.

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SanCarlosGuy2001 Aug. 2, 2013 @ 9:18 p.m.

Very helpful article. I'm in agreement with the reviewer about taking Amtrak to LA. It so beats driving. It's great to see LACMA mentioned in the article. It's constantly evolving as is downtown LA. Hopefully, you'll visit again and review the downtown museums and restaurants. Maybe, write a day trips series of articles about museums and restaurants within a 200 mile radius of San Diego. (A review of the Palm Springs art museums/galleries along with some reasonably priced restaurant recommendations would be welcome as I'm visiting there in Sept.).


dwbat Aug. 2, 2013 @ 9:30 p.m.

Good suggestions. I'll give them some thought. Palm Springs is a possible place for my next travel piece.


Ken Harrison Aug. 4, 2013 @ 5:24 a.m.

Hey Dave, If you take Amtrak to Palm Springs it will drop you off miles away in the desert. The station is a slab of concrete in the middle of nowhere. Enjoy your articles. I used to collect royalties for you as a rep. for ASCAP.


dwbat Aug. 4, 2013 @ 8:11 a.m.

Ken, I know about that empty platform in Palm Springs. Pretty ridiculous, isn't it? I think people would use LA to P.S. Amtrak if they put in a small station, but I don't think they will. But I've read that nationwide Amtrak usage is at an all-time high.


dwbat Aug. 27, 2015 @ 9:41 p.m.

I discovered that one can take Amtrak in SD to Fullerton. Then transfer to an Amtrak bus to Palm Springs. It drops you off at the airport. I may try it sometime.


dwbat Nov. 4, 2015 @ 7:09 p.m.

I did do a trip recently from Palm Springs to Fullerton (Amtrak bus), then via Business Class train to SD. I recommend it.


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