The Tyler Cowen Guide to 10.5 hr layover in Los Angeles

That is a reader request, here goes:

I sometimes describe L.A. as the world’s best city to live in, but one of the worst to visit.  Nonetheless you have some pretty good options.  With half a day, make sure you have a rental car with the appropriate soundtrack(s).  If you start from LAX, pick one road to drive east on, another to head back east to west — how about Sunset and Pico?  Wilshire?  Stop and walk as you can, convenient parking is often available.  Use Jonathan Gold to pick the right eating places, perhaps Thai and Mexican?  Veer off a wee bit and visit the La Brea Tar Pits, or for a longer trek Watts Towers.  Time the sunset for Griffith Park.  Deemphasize “Downtown” but consider the new Broad Museum for contemporary art.  Work in a beach walk at Santa Monica or Venice, preferably the former.  See a movie.  See another movie.  Avoid Beverly Hills.  The truly ambitious can drive all the way down Western Ave. and stop for Belizean food along the way to that chapel at the very bottom of the road.



Los Angeles is the funniest city in the world (e.g., the bereaved baby mammoth [or mastodon?] lamenting daddy mammoth sinking into the La Brea Tar Pits).

But it's hard to make up a tour agenda of stuff that will be guaranteed to strike you as funny.

What's so funny about that? In real life elephants mourn their fallen, unlike some humans disregard for fellow humans based on bogus un-scholarly misunderstandings of the bell curve as well as a fear of the 'other'. Looking at @@...

What about hanging out with Steve Sailer?

I lived in LA for a number of years but unfortunately never visited the La Brea Tar Pits museum. A valley girl talked me out of it by saying they smell bad.

Bonus trivia: besides overpaying for stolen art works, the Getty Museum overpaid to restore one of the relatives of Julius Cesar's villa, which is bigger in real life than Versailles, see: ("Villa dei Papiri") which is well worth the visit (I've never been there) a bit of a drive to get there for a day tripper. Of interest is that the real Villa dei Papiri has lasted, even exposed to the elements, far longer than the reconstruction, which after ten years or so is already falling apart. I think the craftsmen at the Getty are either incompetent and overcharging, or the Romans had really good engineers.

I lived in LA for a number of years but unfortunately never visited the La Brea Tar Pits museum.

We have something in common, Ray!

Hi Kris. That's nice. I lived in Westwood, Brentwood and once had a girlfriend of sorts that I visited in Downey. I liked LA in some ways better than NoCal, but for tech there was more opportunity for me in Silicon Valley at that time (1990s; electronics were heating up and aerospace was winding down). I did not get to see that many places, but did visit the boardwalk in Santa Monica during weekends, go to the comedy clubs there, and, when I was younger, go clubbing at numerous places that don't exist anymore I'm sure. Saw Arnold, Liz Taylor and a few other celebrities. Dinner dated a model that appeared in some movies once. I actually got a fake tan and rented a car to impress her (didn't work).

I really like the Getty Villa - easily one of the best and most under-appreciated tourist sites in LA, if not the whole of the USA. If you're at all interested in Roman/Greek history it's a must-see. Amazingly it's free, so very busy and you need to book ahead and have to pay for parking but it's money well-spent.

"world’s best city to live in" ... If you can afford to live by the water and never have to go anywhere during rush hour, sure. Otherwise a laughable position.

Given that Tyler’s idea of great cities include Brasília it’s not that far fetched.

There are many fine cities as long as you belong to the helicoptering classes.

The traffic is absolutely horrendous unless you layover is at 3 AM.

I've done a lot of what Tyler recommends in this post and elsewhere. I find it very difficult to imagine the reader having a good time.

I have walked in LA a lot including walks Tyler recommends and I simply can't make sense of Tyler's claim that it is a good walking city even with a Straussian reading or whatever.

I haven't lived in LA but what about living there is so great?

There's no Straussen reading, Tyler is just a weirdo. He doesn't like human interaction so much, that's why he decided to not go to Havard for undergraduate studies - he was scarred to live in a dorm. He likes LA probably because you can spend all day in your car avoiding other people. He also loves Brasila, so enough said.

Maybe you mean Brasília. Actually, according to scientists, Brasília has the ideal design (airplane-shaped) and the most convenient. If one wants a hotel, there is the hotel sector. If one is with the printing business, there is the printing sector. If onemis a diplomat, there is the embassies' sector. If one is sick, there is ths hospitals' sector. If one ismwith the military, there is the military sector and so far and so one. Also using numbers instead of neighborhood that would mean nothing to outsiders makes easier moving through the city. Many experts believe the cities of the future will be like Brasília, only bigger.

That was comedy gold. :)

Brasíia IS airplane-shaped.ília#/media/Ficheiro%3ABras%C3%ADlia%2C_Brasil.jpg

The Universidade de Brasilia is located prominently in front of the left wing.
They also put the military police academy at the far end of the right wing.

I think so. The Southern Police Sector in the Southern Wing and the Great Areas Northern Sector in the Northern Wing. I do not know if is meant to be symbolical.

"He likes LA probably because you can spend all day in your car avoiding other people"

Umm, this is obviously not true. You don't have to have read much of Tyler's writing on food or travel or walking to know that.

He is eccentric, and I don't think he claims that his recommendations will be to everyone's taste. My comment was written as someone who has explicitly followed his recommendations on LA and not had a good time. Call the fault mine.

'Call the fault mine.'

A truly loyal reader - you explicitly followed Prof. Cowen's recommendations, did not enjoy yourself, and the fault is yours. Congratulations - now you just have to support Prof. Cowen's various public policy positions, and when they result in nothing but ensuring that the rich get richer, simply blame yourself.

And just to be clear, I'm not at all upset about being fired from GMU or having Tyler Cowen steal the girl I had a serious crush on. None of those events ever happened! All of my critiques are solely based upon calm logic based reason.

For a while I've been of the opinion that Tyler is trolling us on LA. I dunno if you can call it Straussian or what. He keeps coming back to it being such a great city to walk in. Why? Because the weather is usually nice? And I call BS on his claim that it's the best city in the world to live in. Not because I disagree, which I do, but because I don't believe HE believes that. If he honestly did, why wouldn't he live there or at least spend a significant chunk of each year there? A man with his credentials could pull this off readily.

" If he honestly did, why wouldn’t he live there or at least spend a significant chunk of each year there? A man with his credentials could pull this off readily."

IE Revealed preferences. On the other hand, Tyler is centrist (mildly conservative) enough that he might find getting a comparable Professorship in California a challenge.

I walk in L.A. all the time, but not as a tourist.

Big, urban metropolis with all the opportunities and benefits of that, yet you can live in a more suburban or even rural setting. It used to be quite inexpensive for a major city, especially for the kind of housing and space you could get, but that quality sadly is disappearing rapidly now. It's one of the most ethnically and culturally mixed cities in the world. Has the laid back pace and attitude of a smaller city, but with the wealth of cultures, sub-cultures, "scenes", etc. of a major one. Weather's great. Great natural settings with everything from beach to mountains in proximity. It is car dependent, though not as bad as most would think. (Traffic has gotten distinctly worse in the last 10 years despite the rail system and bike friendliness growing rapidly.)

It really is a nice city to live in. But terrible to visit, especially short term.

Your guide to a 10.5-hour layover includes... 4 hours watching movies?

The entire post was bizarre, but particularly that

Yeah, I don't know what the heck Tyler is trying to get at with that recommendation.

LA is an outstanding place for a movie-goer to live, either the best or second-best city in the US for movies because of the many special screenings, Q&As with celebrated filmmakers, and the fact that if a movie plays anywhere in the US, it's probably going to play in LA (and NY), so you can see a wider variety of movies in LA than practically anywhere else.

And a few of the cinemas are gems; the American Cinematheque owns and operates the Egyptian Theater, one of several movie palaces that still survives. The UCLA Film Archive shows rare and/or restored films. Once a year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will screen all of the short films that have been nominated for an Oscar, both live and animated, with the winners usually on hand for Q&A afterward (and the Academy itself is a fun place to visit, with two floors devoted to rotating exhibits of cinematic interest and 6-foot tall Oscar statues scattered throughout the building). And during the summer there used to be (and maybe still is) a sort of silent film festival that would play at several of the surviving old movie palaces.

But one has to pretty much live in LA to take advantage of those cinematic opportunities. To recommend that a short-time visitor see one or two movies is beyond bizarre.

My two not-so hidden gem recommendations: The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City. Try to read as little about it as possible before going because figuring out what the museum is about is part of the experience. The founder and operator of the museum won a MacArthur Fellowship for his work on the museum.

And the Bradbury Building in downtown LA. It looks entirely ordinary from the outside, but is drop-dead awe-inspiring on the inside. Chicago's architecture tours proudly go through some of that city's classic downtown buildings, but their interiors are not nearly as good as the Bradbury's.

Its interior is also notable for being where the final climactic scene of "Blade Runner" was shot, as well as an episode of "The Outer Limits" ("Demon with a Glass Hand", written by Harlan Ellison). But neither of them portray the grandeur of the Bradbury's interior.

For me it would make a big difference when the 10.5 hours is. Los Angeles has wicked rush hours(*), and I would hate to try to get away from LAX in one, and back in another. If you can get down to Santa Monica before the sun comes up, that would be different and worth it.

Probably better to hang out at the beach, plenty to do in Santa Monica and on a winter weekday it would be that much calmer.

* - it might be fairer to say LAX traffic has occasional (and nighttime) lulls.

Think about it from Tyler's perspective: it's a ~6 hour plane ride from DC to LA. He's not getting there before 9 am, even with the 3 hour time change. so he gets there after rush hour and the layover lasts until after the evening rush hour. A 10 hour layover can only mean that he's flying to Asia, and those flights usually leave 10pm-12, IIRC, so he's looking at traffic from and to the airport at 11 am and 8 pm or a bit later.

10am is a pretty good time to get out of LAX, again at 1:30pm, and as you say, coming back after 8pm should be pretty good.

Check with google of course, and try different "leaving at" times to your destinations.

You can put together interesting urban hikes in LA, but to be interesting they need to be miles .. like Farmer's Market to Runyan Canyon, stops for Ethiopian food, "Milk" for ice cream. Like a 10 mile loop. Hiking not walking.

Ethnic neighborhoods abound in the sprawl, but it is sprawl. It is 20 miles from San Gabriel Valley Chinese to Cerritos for Indian.

Or do your layover at John Wayne Airport instead, and use that rental car to drive down PCH (Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar, Laguna Beach, Dana Point). There will be less traffic and it will be more civilized.

Skim 2 Years Before The Mast on the way in.

If one's idea of civilization is upper middle class banality, sure. Crystal Cove is worth a visit, I guess, and San Clemente has the northernmost Pizza Port, but other than that the sameness of it all makes the visit pointless.

The beach cities all have sub-cultures. The rich, the surfers, the tourists, the students, the sailors, the bars and daytime drinkers.

Other beach towns may be nice, but you probably have less chance of a 50 mph cruse with blue skies, dry wind, and high ocean views.

Crystal Cove itself is pretty banal, after it was taken over the by the State and brought up to code. No longer a rebel encampment. But it is a good spot to start, walking a few miles up or down the sand. Totally empty on weekday mornings. You might see a dozen people.

Just drive south to Hermosa, walk along the pier, get a cold beer, proplecwatch and enjoy the fantastic atmosphere.

Then drive a bit farther south up into the hills and cliffs in palos verdes to watch the surfers and get a dose of raw nature. Seriously, at some of the coves there you'd never know you're in Los Angeles it feels so remote. And all this is relatively close to the airport.

The La Brea Tar Pits translates as The The Tar Tar Pits.

Don't underestimate traffic. Don't be 20 miles away on the 405 and your flight leaves in merely five hours.

Take an uber to the beach and rent a bike. A bike path runs 25 miles - all the way from Palos Verdes to Sunset.

If I ever get to LA, I'm going to want to eat here:

L. Ron Hubbard ordered the church to have a first-class restaurant, and they do. You are welcome to eat there even if you are not a Scientologist. Prices are about half what comparable meals would be elsewhere, which is pretty much the only bargain you'll get anywhere in Scientology. There is also a museum of psychiatry there. Don't laugh out loud, it's rude. Anyway, I want to eat at the restaurant and see the museum.

And hey, you might see Tom Cruise.

So what? President Médici ordered Brazil to have two world class nuclear plants and a world class airplanes maker and it does.

" President Médici ordered Brazil to have two world class nuclear plants "

Yes, the facts indicate otherwise.

"Angra Nuclear Power Plant is Brazil's only nuclear power plant. "

It is not! We have Angra 1, Angra 2 and Angra 3 (under construction, can be ready anytime soon).

You are mentally impaired.

No, I am not. Actually, my mind is as sharp as a dagger. When Star Trek filmed the episode Dagger of the Mind, they had to ask my permission.

I forgot to mention that the Sunday brunch is reputed to be a particular bargain. If I lived nearby, I'd probably eat there every Sunday morning.

For a nice farewell after living in LA a few years, one fall day in my last week there I:
Left work at noon and rode a bus to the Santa Monica Pier, carrying with me a small backpack containing a swimsuit and water bottle.
Took off my sandals and walked along the sand the ten miles to the Manhattan Beach pier.
Put the sandals back on to detour three miles around Marina del Rey.
Arriving at Manhattan Beach, changed into my swimsuit and bobbed in the waves as the sun set.
Rode a bus home.

Something that stands out in my mind thinking about it right now is the variety along that ten miles of sand.

I have little nostalgia for my years in LA, but yours was a nice paragraph.

A very interesting day in LA could be spent driving Sunset Blvd. 25 mi. from the Pacific Ocean to DTLA, then backtracking slightly and driving Western Ave. another 25 mi. south from K-Town to San Pedro. The would take about 8 hours with food breaks and would be about the equivalent culturally of circumnavigating the globe. On the plane home, watch "The Big Sleep" or "Lady in the Lake," as Phillip Marlowe more of less follows the first leg in many Raymond Chandler stories (have lunch at Musso & Franks in Hollywood to complete the illusion). Then watch "Chinatown," Jake Gittes probably would have taken the second leg driving down to interview his client in Pedro.

"Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."

"You're a nosy fella, kitty cat, huh?"

"Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."

Funny, I often described San Diego exactly the opposite (not terrible to live in, but sometimes boring; great to visit.) And Tyler visited for a conference and struggled to name San Diego's cultural impacts on the rest of the country and world. He's right. Can you name something iconic about San Diego? "The beach" doesn't count, lots of a places have beaches. (Including L.A.) I thought it was telling that in Blade Runner, both Vegas and L.A. in 2049 had recognizable landmarks, but San Diego was just generic trash.

San Diego has a park with one of the magnificent pipe organs in the world. That would be one of the things I'd like to experience there.

The last time I was in the area, I noticed signs I'd never seen anywhere else. They had the outlines of a mother leading a few children. They were warning drivers to be careful about illegal immigrants crossing the road. Apparently, some of these people aren't used to traffic.

I haven't been there, but I would expect its famous zoo to have increasing relevance in the future.

Ron Burgundy is as iconic as it gets, my friend.

You can spend an entire weekend just in Koreatown.

It's a common line among locals that Los Angeles has better Korean food than Korea itself (high competition with better ingredients).

I recommend the Naengmyeon and Kalbi at Yu Chun for lunch (especially on a hot day) and the Bossam at Kobawoo House for dinner; capped off by some drinks (soju and cheap Korean beer) and drinking food at DwitGolMok (which is by far the most unique and least pretentious drinking hole in all of Los Angeles). If you're still there the next day nurse your hangover with a warm bowl of seolleongtang at Han Bat Sul Lung Tang.

if you're going all the way to western, agreed you must hit up koreatown for food. or pollo a la brasa (peruvian chicken).

i'd recommend mann's chinese theater for imax movie. and musso and franks for a martini if you're in hollywood. or, visit the egyptian theater and see what's playing.

other possible ideas: walk in chinatown (food is good now). agree to avoid downtown, but perhaps visit little tokyo. use burbank airport instead and go to the biggest ikea in the world.

In my experience, the time to eat a big bowl of salty soup is before you start drinking. Prevention is key. It's much less effective after the fact.

But do not drive east on the roads that are due east of LAX.

A first-timer renting a car and setting out to cover a distance that might take 30 minutes in their home town could be in for a rude awakening. LAX itself is almost permanently gridlocked and daytime traffic anywhere in the city can be pretty bad, for either chronic reasons or due to some random accident / construction / law enforcement encounter etc. I would keep my plans modest and stay close.

I agree with the suggestion to check out the beach cities south of the airport. Take a cab to the north end of Manhattan Beach, walk south along the beach path as far as time allows, Uber back 2.5 hours before your next departure.

The rental car will only slow you down and the local Uber/Lyft drivers are much better at navigating LA than you will be. On a short layover, emphasize the east side of town, including DTLA, which has more to offer on the margins under short time constraints. Stop by the new Wilshire Grand Center on 7th Street, if only to use the remarkable urinal on the 70th floor ( Head to Grand Central Market for lunch and then grab a short ride to Vista Hermosa Park or Echo Park or the newly reopened State Historic Park--all within a 3-mile radius of downtown. From downtown, you are well positioned to begin a Jonathan Gould-esque trek down Pico Blvd, exploring all the food outlets, churches, and strip malls one could possibly desire. You can stay on Pico through to the ocean, if you wish, where you'll hopefully catch the sunset before heading back to LAX (~19 miles from downtown). De-emphasizing DTLA and meddling through the middle and western parts of town may have been sound advice a few years ago. Today it is a mistake.

I had almost this exact scenario earlier this year (I had a little longer to spend) and I'd recommend the transit option. It is fast and efficient, and the wait times are pretty small. My day in LA, fwiw:
- checked my bags in for next flight (can be done on the same day).
- took airport bus to Green line, and Green Line to Rosa Parks station.
- walked to Watts Tower, then took Blue line to 7th/Metro Center
- took Red line to Hollywood (I walked from Sunset and Vine to see the Barnsdall Art Park).
- returned on Red line to Union station, walked through downtown (via City Hall, Grand Park, Modern Art museums etc.) to 7th/Metro Center
- took the Expo Line to USC and Science Museum, then to Santa Monica for sunset
- took a bus from Santa Monica to LAX.

Time over, I'd do it in the opposite direction, skip Hollywood Bvld and Watts tower, and walk up to the Griffiths observatory.

I live in LA, and what Tyler proposes is insane. You would literally be behind the wheel of your rental car for 90 percent of the day. Is that really what you want to do when you are about to sit on a plane for 15 hours?

The way to spend a day in LA is to go to one part of town -- say Venice, or downtown or Silverlake, or Hollywood, then park your car and walk around for several hours.

Why would you recommend seeing TWO movies during a 10.5 hour layover? Just because it's Hollywoodland? That seems crazy to me - to spend 3.5 to 4.5 hours of a 10.5 hour visit watching movies. I can see a movie practically anywhere, I'm probably going to have watched a movie or two on my flight to/from LA anyway.

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