Hidden Gems in the Westside of Los Angeles: Part 2

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Photo courtesy of Nuart Theatre, Facebook

The area of Los Angeles known as the Westside encompasses a diverse range of multicultural, historic and luxury neighborhoods. In this second part of our guide to the Westside, we cover Brentwood to Westwood and Sawtelle Japantown, including hidden gems of culture, history, shopping and nature.

NOTE: Hours and opening dates change frequently. Check individual websites for updated information.

Aero Theatre | Photo courtesy of jvoves, Flickr  |  Photo: jvoves

Aero Theatre

You can always count on being up front and center at the Aero Theatre, the Westside outpost of American Cinematheque, where the organization regularly holds screenings with director and/or producer Q&As. Become a member, and you'll have access to member screenings and other tickets applicable to up-and-coming movies as well as the classics.

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Photo courtesy of Compartes Chocolatier

Compartes Chocolatier

If "decadence" is what comes to mind when you think of chocolate, Compartes Chocolatier is a must. Founded by Jonathan Grahm, Compartes is a well-known chocolatier that handcrafts luxurious and delicious sweets from truffles to bars - all in a beautiful package with a fashionable, artful veneer. Get up close and personal at his Brentwood shop, where you can take a factory tour and even participate in a chocolate tasting.

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Giant Robot sign | Photo courtesy of 97213,

Giant Robot

Sawtelle Japantown, located on Sawtelle Boulevard between Olympic and Santa Monica Boulevard, is widely regarded as a top destination for Japanese food and unique retail shops, not only in the Westside but throughout Los Angeles. Be sure to check out Eric Nakamura's collection of Japanese pop culture and art at Giant Robot and its art gallery counterpart, GR2. You'll find great gifts for yourself or someone else at Giant Robot, while GR2 hosts gallery shows and sells art-related items.

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Los Liones Canyon Trail, view from Parker Mesa Overlook | Photo courtesy of LibraryAtNight, Flickr

Los Liones Trail

Take a scenic hike through the Santa Monica Mountains on the Los Liones Canyon trail. Views range from the Santa Monica Bay on one side, to as far as the San Gabriel Mountains on the other. Start in the Pacific Palisades on Los Liones Drive off Sunset Boulevard just east of Pacific Coast Highway. Enjoy lush vegetation and ocean views for the length of your moderate ascent - however far you choose to take it. Continue along the East Topanga Fire Road or even as far as the Parker Mesa Outlook, where the views will reward you for your endurance.

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Photo courtesy of Nuart Theatre, Facebook

Nuart Theatre

The Nuart Theatre is the flagship theatre for Landmark Theatres, but you'll find many a classic, foreign or independent film - perhaps a documentary - playing here. Every Saturday night, you'll see devoted Rocky Horror Picture Show fans lined up along Santa Monica Boulevard for a coveted seat to the midnight screening. Indicative of the theatre's success is that the Nuart plays the same film four or five times per day during a weekly run, with a different movie playing every Friday night.

Marilyn Monroe’s crypt at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park & Mortuary
Marilyn Monroe’s crypt at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park & Mortuary | Photo: Thomas Hawk, Flickr

Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park

Discreetly located beneath the highrises along Wilshire Boulevard, Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park is the final resting place for a Who’s Who of pop culture, including Marilyn Monroe, Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, Farrah Fawcett, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Dean Martin, Roy Orbison, Natalie Wood, Frank Zappa and many more. With its only entrance on Glendon Avenue, the cemetery is hidden though not impossible to find. Once inside, the cemetery itself is very small, so it's easy to find the graves of legendary stars.

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Skirball Cultural Center | Photo courtesy of Scott Beale, Laughing Squid

Skirball Cultural Center

Located a short drive from the world-famous Getty Center, the Skirball Cultural Center exhibits 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and tradition and its place within American democratic ideals. The museum showcases literary art, film, theatre, music and more. At the core of the Center is the permanent installation, Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America, it's permanent installment. Rotating exhibitions are also on display as well as a calendar of diverse events. Be sure to check the schedule to see which programming fits your fancy.

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Sweet Rose Creamery at Brentwood Country Mart | Photo courtesy of Muy Yum, Flickr

Sweet Rose Creamery - Santa Monica Main St.

Located at the Brentwood Country Mart, the original outpost of Sweet Rose Creamery is a great little ice cream shop that features organic, small-batch ice cream made every day with fresh ingredients sourced from local farms. Choose from a bevy of classic and seasonal flavors, dairy or non-dairy, all of which will surely impress you with their boldness. They've also got ice cream sandwiches and bon bons for the ultimate in sweet satisfaction.

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“Victory” at Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden | Photo by ijonesART, Flickr

Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden - UCLA

The renowned Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden is located on the Westwood campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The venerable collection of more than 60 sculptures is run by the Hammer Museum and spans more than five acres. Reservations for a tour must be made at least one month in advance, but admission to the sculpture garden is free - just purchase parking at lots 5 or 6.

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Photo courtesy of The Wine House, Facebook

The Wine House

At 18,000 square feet and a selection of over 7,000 domestic and international wines, The Wine House is more like a treasure trove than a hidden gem. But after an afternoon browsing their extensive offerings, why not head upstairs to the appropriately-named restaurant, Upstairs 2? Serving up a Mediterranean-influenced menu with wine pairings, Upstairs 2 is a prime place to experiment and learn about wines and how they pair with your food.