Los Angeles in a Snap!

Ten insider favorites in the La Brea neighborhood

By , Tuesday, Jun 20, 2006, 12:00 AM

1. It's hard to believe now, but there was a time when L.A. wasn't all concrete jungle. A small museum at the La Brea Tar Pits explains how the area's historic tar pits preserved fossils of saber-toothed tigers and other creatures from the Ice Age. The surrounding park makes for a perfect picnic spot. 5801 Wilshire Blvd., 323/934-7243, tarpits.org, $7

2. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard known as Miracle Mile, has the largest permanent collection west of Chicago. There are over 100,000 pieces of art, from the ancient (a 7,000-year-old Mesopo-tamian cylinder seal) to the modern (a 2005 steel-and-silk sculpture by Do-Ho Suh). On Friday evenings April through December, free jazz concerts are held in the Central Court. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., 323/857-6000, lacma.org, $9

3. Very little in L.A. qualifies as understated. But the upscale Italian restaurant Locanda Veneta blessedly doesn't make too much of itself. Close-quarter seating allows for literal elbow-rubbing with the celebrity clientele. The daily specials (grilled langoustine or spinach-and-ricotta gnocchi, for example) are the way to go. And anything made with the sage butter sauce is a must. 8638 W. 3rd St., 310/274-1893, locandaveneta.com

4. The ultranice employees at Farmer's Daughter Hotel take pride in their work, and it shows. Country charm fuses with a playful decor that gives a nod to the neighborhood farmer's market. Murals of waving wheat line the walls, and vintage lattice furniture is upholstered in gingham and denim. The hotel used to be a cheap spot for Hollywood hopefuls to get their footing (including Charlize Theron when she first moved to L.A.). 115 S. Fairfax Ave., 323/937-3930, farmersdaughterhotel.com, from $159

5. Flora Kitchen at Rita Flora, a flower shop-meets-organic restaurant, is a favorite of the health-conscious, gourmets, and gardeners alike. Hearty sandwiches and salads are the main draw. It's best to start with the Flora Italia (mozzarella on a baguette or olive bread slathered with olive tapenade), and then finish things off with an utterly health-unconscious, decadent chocolate chip cookie. 468 S. La Brea Ave., 323/931-9900, florakitchen.com

6. In L.A., shopping and tanning are equally important--hence The Grove, a grand outdoor mall that doubles as a people-watching promenade. There's also a movie theater, a handful of restaurants, and a 1950s trolley that goes approximately a quarter mile from one end to the other before turning around. 189 The Grove Dr., 323/900-8080, thegrovela.com

7. Hipsters and fashion mavens agree that The Way We Wore has the best vintage collection in L.A. The couture shop upstairs is the place to pick up a red carpet--appropriate ensemble: shoes, antique costume jewelry, and all. 334 S. La Brea Ave., 323/937-0878, thewaywewore.com

8. At Mäni's Bakery Café, a casual spot with outdoor seating, the fresh breads and homemade desserts are all baked with organic whole grains, tofu can be substituted for meat in most dishes, and there are vegan and sugar-free desserts. 519 S. Fairfax Ave., 323/938-8800, manisbakery.com

9. The decor-challenged can learn how to incorporate a touch of cool at Room Service, a housewares dreamland. Large paintings of pop figures adorn the walls, and the groovy cups and plates are perfect for parties. The staff stays out of the way and lets customers test the repro-Eames furniture. 5901 W. 3rd St., 323/692-9221, roomservice-la.com

10. A 1936 art deco performance space, the El Rey Theatre is one of the most interesting places around town to catch a favorite musical act or learn about a new one. The lobby alone deserves center stage, with grand staircases and velvet decor. 5515 Wilshire Blvd., 323/936-6400, theelrey.com, from $10