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Tourist in Los Angeles

I’ve been to Los Angeles several times for the Southern California Linux Expo, but the first few trips only took me to the LAX airport area, and without a car I wasn’t venturing too far beyond the area. This year it wasn’t even in Los Angeles, moving over to nearby Pasadena (good move!).

At CodeConf this past week my experience finally changed! The event took place in the heart of Hollywood, and my nearby hotel was a lovely jumping off point for my Hollywood adventures.

Sunday morning I flew down to Burbank airport on a little regional jet (CJR-200), putting me at my hotel around 10AM. I stashed my suitcase at the hotel and grabbed an Uber over my first tourist stop, the Griffith Observatory. I’ve seen it in movies and shows, most recently as MJ and I made our way through the Star Trek Voyager series, but I didn’t know a whole lot about it as a place. It turns out that it is actually a public observatory, specifically built for the public to use. It was built in the early 20th century at Griffith J. Griffith’s direction after he saw how life-changing seeing the sky through a telescope was and his desire to share this experience with everyone. I really enjoyed the free showing of the observatory’s history in the new Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater. In the movie you learn that addition to the original structure that we enjoy today, in the early 2000s they shut down the entire observatory to do a multi-billion dollar restoration of the interior and built the underground addition that houses the theater and massive a new exhibit space. It’s pretty astonishing that they were able to do such a change with virtually no change to the original structure or look of the place from the outside.

The observatory also has a planetarium, where during my three hour visit I was able to get in a couple shows, Water is Life and Centered in the Universe, both of which I’d recommend seeing.

The hill the observatory is perched upon also offered great views of the Hollywood sign, so I was able to get my obligatory Hollywood sign photos out of the way early in my adventures. I really missed MJ on this observatory visit, I think it would have been a great place to explore together. I sent him a postcard to help share the experience, even if it was just a little bit.

I swung by my hotel to check into my room, where I snagged corner room that offered views of the Hollywood sign, Capitol Records building and Pantages Theatre. Quite nice! I could also see one of the three Dunkin’ Donuts in California from my room, but I suppose that’s not quite as noteworthy unless you’re me. Yes, I did get some coffee and donuts during my stay. OK, I got more than “some” coffee. I drank more iced coffee this past week than I have in years.

My day continued by going to the TLC Chinese Theatre. I decided to pay for a VIP tour ($15) and also see Independence Day: Resurgence in the classic theater, fitted with the third largest IMAX screen in North America ($22.75). I’ll say right off the bat that the tour isn’t worth it if you’re going to see a movie in that theater anyway. Half the tour was reading labels of clothing displayed in the lobby and continued by walking us through common areas telling us rather droll facts about the theater that are easy to find online. Since I had access to the theater with my movie ticket anyway, it wasn’t a very good use of my time or money.

Seeing a movie in that theater is totally worth doing though. It’s the most famous movie theater in the world, the screen and sound system were great, which I was initially skeptical about given the theater’s age. The curtains that cover the screen are beautiful, faithful reproductions of the long-worn originals and always novel to see in a movie theater. The movie itself? It was pretty silly, but if you’re going to see it the IMAX is the way to get the full level of enjoyment out of it. I joked that I was going to see a ridiculous movie in a ridiculous movie theater. It all felt appropriate.

After the movie I walked down Hollywood Boulevard for about a mile to get back to my hotel. Along the way I walked through some hyper tourist areas with the wax museums, people dressed up as various characters for photos and tourist goodie shops selling t-shirts, magnets and the like. The stars along the sidewalks are worth seeing, but a single walk through the area was plenty for me. There’s also lots of great food around. Los Angeles is famous for fresh sushi, and I managed to get some before I left on Wednesday night.

The conference took up the rest of my week, except that I did have to sneak out on Tuesday evening for an event I’d been waiting months AND pledged on a kickstarter for, the MST3K reunion show! I picked up tickets on Fandango for a theater in downtown LA. It was a shame to go alone, I missed my San Francisco MSTies but I’m glad I was able to make time for it in spite of being away from home, it was a lot of fun.

In all, I enjoyed Los Angeles on this trip. I’m glad I was finally able to make it beyond a conference venue, the city has a lot to offer. Next time I’ll have to check out the zoo.

More pictures from my adventures here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157669821167402/