Los Angeles: La Brea & Miracle Mile

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Contemporary architecture and large mall multiplexes define Wilshire Boulevard, a stretch of which is called Miracle Mile. The surrounding streets are filled with independent art galleries and retailers.

SEE La Brea Tar Pits
5801 Wilshire Blvd., 323/934-7243, tarpits.org
Active tar pits are an unexpected reminder of what was here long before tall buildings. The surrounding park is pleasant for strolls or picnics. There's also a small educational museum with fossils and woolly-mastodon skeletons. $7.

SEE LACMA, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd. 323/857-6000, lacma.org
The must-see of museum row has old masters and new rebels, with a regular slate of exciting installations. The best time to go is Friday evenings for the jazz series. Closed Wed. $9, free for kids under 18, and for all visitors after 5 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.

EAT Flora Kitchen at Rita Flora
468 S. La Brea Ave., 323/931-9900, florakitchen.com
A hit with the health-conscious and gourmets alike. Fresh food, mainly hearty sandwiches and salads, is the focus of this flower shop turned restaurant. Most dishes are made with organic ingredients. Start with the Flora Italia--mozzarella on a baguette or olive bread slathered with olive tapenade--and finish things off with an amazing traditional chocolate chip cookie. The dining room is full of beautiful blooms.

EAT Mäni's Bakery
519 S. Fairfax Ave., 323/938-8800, manisbakery.com
Casual café with outdoor seating that's great for pancakes or burgers any time of day. The fresh breads and homemade desserts are all made with organic whole grains. Most meat dishes can be made with tofu instead, and there are even vegan and sugar-free desserts. The multigrain pancakes are superb, and the gazpacho packs zing.

SPLURGE Locanda Veneta
8638 W. 3rd St., 310/274-1893, locandaveneta.com
Upscale Italian in understated surroundings. The New York-- style close-quartered seating allows for literal elbow-rubbing with the celebrity clientele (including Dustin Hoffman). You can't go wrong with the fresh pastas and rich sauces, but the daily specials are always a good bet too, with surprises such as pastry-wrapped halibut and spinach-and-ricotta gnocchi. Anything the sage butter sauce touches is a must.

DRINK Lola's
945 N. Fairfax Ave., 213/736-5652, lolasla.com
Classy and sassy martinis rule at this romantic nightspot; some 60 variations are on the menu. The chocolate mint is sweet and refreshing, and the pumpkin tastes like Thanks- giving in a glass. A fashionable yet mellow crowd.

SHOP The Grove
189 The Grove Dr., 323/900-8080, thegrovela.com
Shops at the grandiose outdoor mall range from the large Nordstrom department store to little carts selling imitation designer bags and jewelry. There's also a movie theater and a handful of restaurants.

SHOP Paul Frank
8101 W. 3rd St., 323/653-6471, paulfrank.com
Cool graphic-art T-shirts and accessories for men, women, kids, and babies. The artist's lovable cartoon characters--Julius the monkey, Skurvy the dead pirate, and a new line of Warhol-inspired friends--appear on everything from handbags to housewares.

SHOP The Way We Wore
334 S. La Brea Ave., 323/937-0878, thewaywewore.com
Hipsters and fashion mavens agree that this is the best vintage collection in L.A. The couture shop upstairs is the place to pick up gowns worn by movie stars past. The store also sells shoes, hats, and antique costume jewelry.

SPLURGE Room Service
5901 W. 3rd St., 323/692-9221, roomservice-la.com
A housewares dreamland that can give even the most decor-challenged a touch of cool. Large silk-screened canvases adorn the walls, chic minimalist couches conjure martinis and jazz, 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.

PLAY The El Rey Theatre
5515 Wilshire Blvd., 323/936-6400, theelrey.com
An art deco performance space that hosts up-and-coming bands, and also provides a venue for big names like Beck to do surprise concerts. Grand winding staircases, chandeliers, and plush velvet decor make for an interesting spot to catch a favorite act or learn about a new one. Purchase tickets online. From $10.



If an earthquake hits while you're inside, protect yourself under a heavy table or stand in a door frame, away from windows and anything that can break or topple over. Outdoors, stay away from trees, buildings, and electrical lines. For more info: lafd.org

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