L.A. bounces back with breezy new stays, superheroes and movie magic
By Jen Rose Smith,
Todd Wawrychuk Academy Museum Foundation
Los Angeles contains multitudes: Some first-time visitors are startled to learn the city has lion-prowled mountains, meditation gardens, heavyweight museums and even prehistoric tar pits within easy reach. But as travelers return this summer and fall, they’ll find fresh attractions steeped in old-school Hollywood magic. Welcome back to the land of superheroes and silver-screen glamour.
After long anticipation, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open Sept. 30 with screenings of “The Wizard of Oz” accompanied by live symphony music. The museum exhibits, on a Renzo Piano-designed Wilshire Boulevard campus, will display Hollywood totems including Dorothy’s famous red slippers, the sole remaining shark from “Jaws” and the space shuttle from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” (A concrete and glass sphere that houses the museum’s screening theaters, meanwhile, reminds some Angelenos of George Lucas’s Death Star.) Timed admission tickets go on sale Aug. 5.
Swelling the offerings at Anaheim’s Disney California Adventure Park, the new superhero-themed Avengers Campus opened June 4 with a cast of characters sprung from the pages of comic books. Entering the Avengers Headquarters, visitors meet “cast members” channeling Black Panther, Loki or Captain Marvel, while Doctor Strange haunts the atmospheric ruins of his Ancient Sanctum.
“There is some incredibly cool stuff happening,” said Adam Burke, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. “It’s been a really tough year and a half, but there’s so much to make us excited that the L.A. experience will be stronger than it’s ever been.”
Burke pointed to a $14.3 billion capital improvement project at LAX to ease the hassle of getting there, with the eventual inclusion of a Metrolink to downtown Los Angeles. That project won’t be completed for years, but travelers aren’t waiting to return. At the beginning of 2021, hotel occupancy was below 50 percent, Burke said, but that number has reached 70 percent for seven consecutive weekends, with some properties at 90 percent on the busiest nights.
Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times
A hiker walks on the Park to Playa Trail in Los Angeles. The recently completed 13-mile trail links parks and cycling paths from Crenshaw to the beach.
Los Angeles’ wealth of outdoor activities has been key to that recovery, Burke said. As in other cities, the pandemic brought fresh air to the fore. It’s a trend that will probably continue: In July, Los Angeles County announced an indoor mask mandate in response to rising coronavirus cases fueled by the delta variant. Visitors seeking outdoor experiences have a lot to choose from, including the recently completed 13-mile Park to Playa Trail, which links parks and cycling paths from Crenshaw to the beach. Forest bathing has taken off at the 127-acre Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, and in November, the arboretum will unveil Lightscape, a mile-long installation with fountains and thousands of twinkling lights.
All salty tans and boardwalk chic, the 34-room Venice V Hotel opened in June steps from the famed waves at Venice Beach. Stars including Charlie Chaplin and Clara Bow once lived in the historic beachfront property, now renovated with a rooftop deck, exposed brick and ocean views from every room. Guests can book surf or skate lessons, or just rent a skateboard and head to the nearby Venice Beach Skate Park for a sunset session.
Freshwater fans may prefer the 250-room Hotel June, which opened last June near the airport and Playa del Rey. Shady loungers and nighttime fire pits line the hotel’s turquoise pool, and the two-story outdoor restaurant Caravan Swim Club serves a Baja-inspired menu, including dozens of hard-to-find brands of tequila and mezcal. Like Venice V Hotel, it’s owned by hotel group Proper Hospitality, whose design-focused 148-room hotel Downtown L.A. Proper opens Aug. 26.
Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times
The outdoor seating area at Playita Mariscos, which opened in Silver Lake in March.
And a stroll away from downtown’s Grand Central Market — a trove of food vendors more than a century old — will be a 315-room L.A. outpost of Netherlands-based hotel chain CitizenM. Minimalist rooms are teeny but smart, featuring king-size beds wedged between bright white walls. Downstairs, art-filled common spaces are made for mingling, with reservations available from Sept. 1.
Grand Central Market is always a good idea, but travelers will find some of the city’s most interesting new meals a few miles away in the artsy Silver Lake neighborhood. That’s where James Beard Award-nominated chef Mei Lin opened her Szechuan hot-chicken joint Daybird in March. Beloved vegan soul-food pop-up VTree found a bricks-and-mortar home there the same month. Though it turns two this fall, Silver Lake’s diner-inspired All Day Baby still feels fresh, with hot crab sandwiches and airy biscuits.
And then there are tacos. (In L.A., blessedly, there are nearly always tacos.) The city added one more option when the owners of Guisados, a celebrated Los Angeles mini-chain of Mexican restaurants, opened window-service Playita Mariscos in Silver Lake in March.
A succinct menu of ceviche, tostadas and other sunny fare is inspired by the proprietors’ family trips to Mexico; served in plastic cups topped with lime wedges, their Campechana seafood cocktails channel breezy afternoons at the beach. But ordering a plate of beer-battered fish tacos to carry down Sunset Boulevard? That’s unmistakably L.A.
Please NotePotential travelers should take local and national public health directives regarding the pandemic into consideration before planning any trips. Travel health notice information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s interactive map showing travel recommendations by destination and the CDC’s travel health notice webpage.
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