Some things to do if you have a layover in LA
Several years ago we learned the exhausting way that if we are flying to Los Angeles en route to another continent then we need to spend the night on our layover in LA. When we didn’t do this we arrived at our destination drained of energy for the beginning of a trip.
On the way home from Australia Blonde once spent 5 hours in LAX trying not to cry she was in such a state of despair waiting for her connecting flight. After having gone to all of the time and expense of a 3 week trip to Australia and then trying to save the cost of a night at a hotel was stupid, not clever, money management. It meant ending a trip on a downer note and that’s never a good thing.
Last year on the way to Fiji we used our layover to go to the Getty Center and Manhattan Beach. This year we decided to choose a location closer to the airport.
Our target destination was the La Brea tar Pits. However, our cab driver overshot the mark by a couple blocks and dropped us off beside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It turned out that the day we were there was a free admission day as it was the 50th anniversary of the museum.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
An exhibition at the time was “50 for 50”. It contained “a selection of highlights from the recent, historic bequest of A. Jerrold Perenchio” (and maybe things from some other people, we were confused).
Another interesting experience we had at LACMA was Breathing Light by James Turrell. It’s a room where colors slowly and vividly change. It’s designed to entirely eliminate a viewer’s depth perception. But we stood there saying things like “Wow, you look great in this color. You look badly embalmed in this color”.. etc. and then we got hungry and left.
Tragically, we made a poor choice of a restaurant for lunch and have since learned that we should have tried some of the food carts that were right across the street. An article in National Geographic Traveler says the best food trucks are right there – no searching required. The trucks are required by law to be cleaned each night at a commissary which is nice to know. You can enjoy their goodies as you sit on a patch of lawn beside parts of the Berlin Wall.
La Brea Tar Pits
Finally, off to the La Brea Tar Pits!
As we walked along the path to the museum our nostrils flared at the smell of methane gas bubbling in the original excavated pit which is in front of the museum. (Given the lunch we had we were glad to have the pit to blame for the smell of methane.)
You can choose to either just tour the museum or to also do the Excavator Tour. We opted for the whole enchilada but it hurt that the cashier sold us 3 senior citizen tickets without asking our ages. Ouch! But this is LA and if you are over 29 without a face-lift they probably assume you’re ancient. (At least that’s what we need to believe.)
This would be a great place to visit with kids (as long as Blonde isn’t there that day). According to Brunette, when we were little, we used to go to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh and be fascinated by the fossils. She may be confused by some of what we see now at happy hour in Florida, but her version sounds sweeter and makes our visit to the Tar Pits more meaningful.
Inside the museum there are also some of what we might call “action displays”. But, as this is Hollywood, they probably don’t merit the term “action” as there aren’t any multi-millionaires jumping over cars and shooting each other . Just some old mammoths making the occasional noise and head movement.
The Excavator Tour was thorough and interesting (if a tad long for hot, weary, senior citizens). Our guide explained that this is a very active archaeological site still being meticulously explored by professionals and volunteers. How they can still find people with this kind of attention span and eye for detail we can’t imagine (especially in LA).
Our guide also told us what is probably her best attention-getting line which is that the one thing you won’t find at the La Brea Tar Pits is tar. Whatever happened to truth in labelling?
The misnamed “tar” is actually asphalt. If you want to learn your science from a blonde then (possibly) tar is from coal and asphalt is from petroleum.
The tour lasts a little over an hour. It covers the history of the museum and the pits, a look at the current dig site and a voyeuristic look through the glass into the lab where the paid and volunteer scientists (of various sorts) categorize, assemble and record all of the excavated fossils.
By the conclusion of the tour we needed to put a stop to so much information entering our brains. We muddled our way over to The Grove for some speed-shopping, iced cappuccinos and a near futile search for a cab back to the airport.
We were told by several passersby that in LA you use Uber; there really aren’t taxis to flag down the way we’re used to on the east coast. Good to know for next time!
We got our fossilized selves onto that 11:30 flight to Fiji smug in the knowledge that we’d made good use of our layover in LA.
And then we were completely miserable for 10 long, cramped hours.