A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Jeffrey Compton, Executive Editor of a new book called “Arts America: Enjoying the Best Art Museums, Theater, Classical Music, Opera, Jazz, Dance, Film, and Summer Festivals in America,” offers up some tips for Culture Spot readers, both LA residents and visitors.

Los Angeles is a one of the great cultural centers of the United States – and the film capital of the world.  There is a lot to see (at very good prices), but due to the city’s size, lack of centralized arts/theater districts and second-rate public transportation, you will spend a great deal of time driving on wildly confusing highways.  Do yourself a big favor and invest in a GPS – and learn how to use it before you get to LA.

1)    Los Angeles has great museums, good classical music choices, a lively jazz scene – but the brightest jewels in LA’s cultural crown are the town’s live theaters. Not the major theaters featuring touring Broadway hits, but the hundreds of smaller 60- to 200-seat houses scattered across Los Angeles and Orange County. In very intimate surroundings (and for very little money – see the next tip), you can see major movie and television stars in interesting new plays or great revivals.

2)    There are not one – but two excellent online half-price ticket services in Los Angeles: LA Stage Tix (lastagealliance.com) and Goldstar (goldstar.com). Both offer tickets several days (or weeks) in advance for as little as $10.  Note: LA Stage Tix, a nonprofit, charges a lower service fee, but their site is quirky and limited to theater. Goldstar offers a broader selection – but check out both.

3)    Before you run off to the “free” Getty Center, be aware that it costs $15 to park a car. (You can get there by bus.) Also, many experts feel that the collections are not in any way as spectacular as the high-on-the-hill location.  Recommended instead is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (admission $10) or the wonderful Norton Simon Museum (admission $8) in Pasadena. Garden lovers should head to the Huntington Library in San Marino (south of Pasadena), which also features a strong British (including Gainsborough’s Blue Boy) and early American collection.

4)    If you live near or frequently visit one of the area’s performance venues (Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Los Angeles Music Center, Pasadena Civic, Orange County Performing Arts Center or Skirball Cultural Center), go to their website to sign up for free email.  Besides sending advance publicity on their programs, email is becoming the primary vehicle theaters and venues use to announce special discounts and last-minute giveaways.  While you are there, see if the venue offers membership – and if it works for you, consider investing.

5)    If you love film, you will love LA anytime (especially the Nuart Theater), but the best time to visit is the week between Christmas and New Year’s when many films are given early screenings to make the Oscar deadline. You can catch the hottest movies – and frequently see a celebrity getting a head start on his upcoming viewing/voting responsibilities.

Visit the book’s website for more information about culture in LA and dozens of other U.S. cities: go-artsamerica.com.