6. The Getty. The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center is my favorite art fix in California. When Ruth & I visited last April, the temporary exhibit was Herb Ritts: L.A. Style featuring “fashion models, nudes, and celebrities.” It closed. The current show until March 23, 2013, is In Focus: Robert Mapplethorpe, “explorations of gender, race, and sexuality…with homoerotic content…etc.” I wonder if controversial is coincidence or trend? Getty’s impressive, regular collection is displayed among 4 pavilions. The Garden Terrace Cafe, sad to report, isn’t what it used to be. Visitors pay to park in a huge garage and take a tram up to Getty’s free, sprawling complex of buildings, gardens, and panoramic LA views. At the separate Getty Villa in Malibu, which opened after a lengthy re-do in 2006, amazes with Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. Runner up: Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum.
7. Lake Tahoe. It always shocks me that this deep-blueness with so much human development around it remains so pristine. The largest Alpine Lake in North America and the US’ 2nd deepest (Crater beats it by 300 feet), Tahoe never freezes despite its high altitude. The last time we visited, it was early November and heavy, overnight rain turned to snow as we circled Tahoe’s western shore. It was equally dazzling & disquieting. Runner up: Monterey Bay.
8. Balboa Park. One of our nation’s largest completely urban parks (1,200 acres), Balboa birthed in 1868 only 11 years after Manhattan’s Central Park. It hosted the Panama-California Exposition in 1915-16, and Balboa maintains many of its Moorish buildings. There’s no entry fee, but parking can be difficult because Balboa’s so popular. Among its considerable attractions are more than 14 museums (our favorites are the Tinken & the Model Railroad Museum),the Old Globe Theater, gardens galore where I took the artsy photo above, etc. Runner Up: Golden Gate National Recreation Area (you can walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, have lunch in Sausalito, and take the ferry back to San Francisco’s centrally located Ferry Building)
9. Walt Disney Concert Hall. It’s steel-clad exterior is, in my opinion, Frank Gehry’s most stunning & successful design. The venue for the LA Philharmonic and an array of special events, WDCH’s main hall doesn’t have a bad seat, even if you sit behind the performers. The breathtaking lobby area sports soaring Douglas fir columns. The Hall’s pipe organ looks like a giant exploding matchstick game. Tours include the Lillian Disney fountain, the Henry Mancini staircase, etc. but not the main concert hall. And good luck trying to score decent tickets. Runner up: I’ve always had a soft spot for San Francisco’s 1972, way-ahead-of-its-time Transamerica Pyramid.
10. Pacific Design Center. Every visit to LA for us includes a stop at PDC at the corner of Melrose Avenue and San Vicente Boulevard in West Hollywood. Inside are 130+ showrooms stuffed with the latest wonders of interior home design. Its website brags about 2,200 product lines, and Ruth tries to see them all. I agree to let her explore “decor ideas” as long as she doesn’t bring up prices. OK, I must admit that I get a kick out of wandering around like an LA celebrity shopping for a kitchen for my newly acquired hot property. If You think Fantasyland is only in Disneyland, check out Pacific Design Center. Runner up: Rodeo Drive.