For museum lovers, culture buffs, explorers of interesting sites, connoisseurs of unique restaurants,  in other words , for most everyone, young and old, there is much to appreciate on the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, between La Brea and Westwood Boulevards in West L.A.. Along here, attractions abound. In addition to several museums, there is the largest farmer’s market in the world, and one of Southern California’s oldest villages created decades ago for a new Hollywood. Finally, there is great theater to cap off a day of exploring.

It takes about 20 minutes to drive this stretch but by all means, several stops are in order along the way, adding up to at least a day’s activities.

Going west on Wilshire from La Brea, the expanse of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or LACMA looms.

LACMA building

When you spy the ornate antique street light piece by artist Chris Burden, and see the sharp projections jutting from the Broad Building, you are there. Parking is on Wilshire or in the main museum parking lot.

In the several exhibition galleries, there is always artwork of great  interest. Currently Children of the Plumed Serpent: the Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico is a special attraction through July 1. We were there last Cinco de Mayo, and saw a large number of Hispanic people on hand to explore their heritage.

The large collection displays art and material objects covering late pre-Columbian and early colonial eras. The display’s focus on the god Quetzalcoatl’s role as founder and benefactor of the Nahua-, Mixtec-, and Zapotec-dominated kingdoms of southern Mexico. Highly developed socially and culturally, these communities successfully fought off both Aztec and Spanish occupation.

On view are painted manuscripts (codices), polychrome ceramics, textiles, and exquisite works of gold, turquoise, and shell that reflect the achievements of this culture of the Plumed Serpent. One imagines the artist had a sense of humor when he had water god Xoltl, sticking his tongue out. And it is interesting to see depicted on painted manuscripts citizens deliberating over geographical boundaries. Some of the bright colors, amazingly, are still vivid. Children, as well, are fascinated by this view of another world and another time.

Next to LACMA is Page Museum where skeletal remains of ancient American mastodons rise from the floor. They’re distant relatives of elephants and lived from two million to 12,000 years ago. They ranged from Alaska to Florida and were excavated from the La Brea Tar Pits in which they stumbled, got trapped and died eons ago. The bones are assembled to view inside the Page Museum but the tar pits outside can still be seen. I remember as a kid taken here in the forties and how I imagined these very large animals writhing in the sticky ooze.

Across the street is the Petersen Automotive Museum. Dedicated to depicting the automobile’s impact on American life and culture, this place is heaven for car buffs and those interested in the history of the automobile, which is most of us.  Exhibits and lifelike dioramas feature more than 150 rare and classic cars, trucks and motorcycles.

About five minutes from here, down Wilshire,  Fairfax intersects. Turn right on Fairfax to Cantor’s Deli.  Since World War II, the Fairfax District has been a heavily Jewish neighborhood with Cantor’s a landmark eatery since the 1940s. This celebrated deli is a great place to grab a bite. Customers extol the corned beef and pastrami sandwiches. And the cheesecake is among the best in West.

A bit farther up Fairfax is the famous Farmer’s Market.

Farmer's Market

Since 1934, this has been an area of food stalls, sit-down eateries, prepared – food vendors, and produce markets. It’s also a historic Los Angeles landmark and tourist attraction.

Featured here are more than 100 restaurants, grocers and tourist shops. These farmers’ stalls are a permanent installation and open seven days a week.

Dozens of vendors serve many kinds of food including a variety theat appeals to immigrant communities, with many Latin American and Asian cuisines well-represented.  On each visit, the various aromas emanating from so many cuisines pull us from spot to spot as we decide what we’d like to choose. Along the way, we find ourselves stopping and drooling over the pastries and goodies we pass.  And, on a recent visit with our three-year old granddaughter, we found ourselves in the toy store enjoying items from our childhood while she reached for everything from the classics to today’s colorful cartoon characters.

Back on Wilshire, after some  20 minutes driving toward the ocean, we come to Westwood Boulevard with the Hammer Museum on the corner. Along with a collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, the museum holds over 7500 works by French satirist Honoré Daumier, the largest collection outside of Paris. Recently, it has become well known for its assemblage of  art works on paper.

A special collection now at the Hammer features Alex Hibbard’s off-the-wall work, some of which contain a range of pleasant and unpleasant objects – construction and art materials, urban detritus, domestic items, and even the occasional animal make its way into this New York-based artist’s output.

From the Hammer, a walk about Westwood Village is in order. Created in the late 1920s as a shopping district and headquarters of the Janss Company, it boomed immediately with the opening of nearby UCLA in 1926, rapidly developing as a shopping district for locals and the students and staff of the university.  Buildings located at strategic points, have towers to serve as beacons for drivers on Wilshire Boulevard.

Its construction followed a Mediterranean theme, with clay tile roofs, decorative Spanish tile, paseos, patios and courtyards. Business declined in the nineties, however, with the advent of big shopping centers. It is still bustling, though, with a bevy of restaurants and beautiful old buildings still to be appreciated.

Five buildings definitely worth exploring,  all declared Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments:

Janss Dome

The Janss Dome (Janss Investment Company Building) is the first building to be built in Westwood Village in 1929. It has a landmark sphere on an octagonal base, an elaborate portico and large arched windows. The Dome is situated at the three-way intersection of Westwood Boulevard, Broxton and Kinross Avenues.

Westwood  Fox Theater (1931) sports a 170-foot  white Spanish revival/moderne tower and Churrigueresque stucco decorations. The theater looms over the Broxton and Weyburn Avenues intersection. This cinema later became famous for the many movie premieres held.

Ralph’s Market Building (1929), is a red tile-roofed Spanish colonial revival building featuring a rotunda with a pediment over the entrance and arcaded wings. It’s at 1142–1154 Westwood Boulevard.

Bruin Theater (1937), a streamlined Art Deco cinema, which sits just across Broxton Avenue opposite the Fox Theater.

Holmby Hall (1929), a Spanish Colonial Revival building, featuring a clock tower which was damaged by fire in 2003. It is at the corner of Weyburn Avenue and Westwood Boulevard.

We finished a good day attending a play at the Geffen Playhouse. The Geffen is, itself, an historic building built in 1929 as a Masonic Hall for UCLA students, among others. In the seventies it was converted into Westwood Playhouse and was, subsequently, refurbished, and re-opened in 1995 as the Geffen. A second playhouse, the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater was added in 2005.

Its main venue schedules new, often award -winning plays, as well as special commissions. Coming in July is “The Exorcist,” an adaptation of the scary movie classic. The Skirball is a smaller, more intimate house. Playing now through June 24 is the very effective Mona Golabek in “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” a true account of a Jewish child caught up in the holocaust who grew up to become an internationally famed piano player.

On our way to the theater we passed many places to eat. W chose the Skylight Garden restaurant catercorner from the Hammer which specializes in Mediterranean food. We’d enjoyed dining here before and with new owners we were hoping the food would continue to be as good. We began with a very good beef carppaccio followed by prosciuto with burrata, although we would have preferred some melon with it.

Finishing dinner around 7, we strolled down to the Geffen. Soon, we came across a line circling the block with folks waiting to get into 800 Neapolitan Pizzeria. We figured food really had to be good here and asked a man who had been waiting half an hour. He said price was a big factor, only around $7 a pizza, but the taste was the best. We’ll have to try this place next time but make sure we get there before 6.

About Larry Taylor: Larry has spent 15 years in the newspaper industry, prior to going into teaching at Fullerton College in 1975. He retired in 2000. During his time in newspaper work and education, he wrote stories on travel and covered the arts–theater, music and culture.. Today, his wife, Gail, takes photos. They travel extensively and write about it.