Some cities are easy to see on foot, just park downtown and walk to most of the attractions. LA is not one of them. You need wheels, and the best way to join in on the fun of driving around Southern California is to rent a car at LAX.
Los Angeles has been in love with the automobile for a long time. They made movies and sang songs expressing their undying affection for four wheeled vehicles. After all, this is where America’s Mother Road, Route 66 ends.
The iconic highway meets the Pacific at Santa Monica Pier, which is not far from the airport, so why not start there? The pier actually predates the road by a couple of decades, since it is over a century old and the highway didn’t arrive until 1936.
Throughout the Roaring Twenties this was the happening hot spot on the water in Los Angeles. Angelinos flocked to the seaside to ride the carousel and roller coaster, and to dance in the largest ballroom on the west coast.
After some hard times during the depression and World War II, the pleasure pier came storming back and is once again one of LA’s favorite spots, with the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel being one of the new main attractions.
The top of the wheel is a great place for views up and down the beaches that Southern California is so famous for. Looking to the north there are three and a half miles of Santa Monica Beach stretching out, and just below the pier to the south the illustrious Muscle Beach still has bodybuilders strutting their stuff as they have been since Beach Blanket Bingo was big at the box office.
The pier, and its nearby beaches, have served as a backdrop for countless movies and TV shows, so let’s drive a few miles inland and make Hollywood our next stop.
Fame is everywhere here, beginning with the instantly recognizable sign overlooking all of the Tinsel Town. It is amazing how an ad for a real estate development from back in 1923 has become the quintessential symbol of Hollywood, spelled out in forty-five feet tall letters.
Down below, more than 2,600 stars embedded in the sidewalks along Hollywood Boulevard make up the Walk of Fame. Almost anyone who’s anyone can be found, but we had fun finding some of the more off-the-wall entries such as Dr. Seuss, Lassie, the Munchkins, and Cubby Broccoli.
Truth be told, we had to look up Cubby. We just liked his name, but it turns out that as a producer he is responsible for much of the James Bond franchise. Oh, and also a very famous car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
For a look at LA a little farther back in time the La Brea Tar Pits are not far away. Not quite the lakes of black goop that we pictured in our minds, these are actually oil reserves that have seeped up to the surface. Animals did get stuck, but no dinosaurs, this was way too recent for them.
The Pits are a part of what has become known as Museum Row on the Miracle Mile. This stretch of Wilshire Boulevard is home to four major museums; along with the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum there is the L.A. County Museum of Art, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, and Petersen’s Auto Museum.
Since this has us in the heart of the city, we can drive toward the towering Los Angeles City Hall, that stark white building that we best remember from Dragnet. Just the facts, this is right by where the city was founded.
Tucked in among the freeways and skyscrapers, the tiny pedestrian lane of Olvera Street is known as the Birthplace of Los Angeles. This is where Don Fernando Rivera y Moncada and forty-four Spanish settlers arrived from Mexico in 1781 and established El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciúncula.
Now that’s a real mouthful, which means the town of Our Lady the Queen of Angels of the River Porciúncula.
Time to head back to the water’s edge and back out on the road. The Pacific Coast Highway is a perfect place for scouting out vistas by the sea while driving one of America’s most scenic roadways. There are any number of fantastic views in Malibu between the seaside hills and the beach homes of the stars.
For those who just can’t get enough of seeing the coast from behind the wheel, continuing up the coast route offers even more amazing views of the Channel Islands, Santa Barbara, and Big Sur. Now that’s a road trip!
Whether in a Little Deuce Coupe or a T-bird it’s sure to be Fun, Fun, Fun.
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