For instance, you'll realize that Beverly Hills, like the "Mona Lisa" and certain leading men, is smaller than you might expect (5.7 square miles). You'll recognize Culver City's connections to Oz and the old Soviet space program. You'll be reminded that there's a big Santa Monica Boulevard and a little one (a.k.a. South Santa Monica Boulevard), which perplex the uninitiated by running parallel for more than a mile. In Westwood, you'll see how death has united Marilyn Monroe and Rodney Dangerfield, among others.
Photos: Westside of Los Angeles
For more on these revelations, here are some Westside stories — 12 micro-itineraries to get a stranger started. This is the ninth installment of our yearlong series of Southern California Close-ups, each piece covering a different region of Los Angeles and Orange counties. You can find the first eight at latimes.com/socalcloseups.
1. Big screen, small wondersSony Studios (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
If Judy Garland or Alex Trebek makes you swoon, you'll want to check out Sony Studios (10202 W. Washington Blvd.) in Culver City. Its two-hour guided walking tour costs $33 (no children younger than 12) and includes soundstages where "The Wizard of Oz" was filmed in 1938 and where "Jeopardy!" has been shot since 1984. (On the tour, you may learn that Merv Griffin, who wrote the "Jeopardy!" theme song in less than half an hour, reaped from it an estimated $70 million to $80 million in royalties.) If neither Judy nor Alex makes your world go 'round, think twice about this tour. It costs more and delivers less than the Warner Bros. tour in Burbank. For a more engrossing (and affordable) experience in the same neighborhood, get thee to the Museum of Jurassic Technology (9341 Venice Blvd.). This odd little spot is all about the joy of weird stuff, presented with great museological pomp. Shuffle through the tiny dark rooms, your jaw slackening at the sight of the trailer-park dioramas, Soviet space-dog oil portraits, a tiny sculpted pope in a needle's eye and two dead mice on toast (the consumption of which is described as an old bed-wetting cure). Don't miss the tearoom upstairs. Next door stands the Center for Land Use Interpretation (9331 Venice Blvd.), whose exhibits and publications have probed the underwater towns of America, the traffic barricades of Washington, D.C., the helipads of downtown L.A. and other notable human interactions with the landscape. Also nearby, you'll find live drama at the Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theatre (9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City).
2. Beloved burgers and newfangled photosAnnenberg Space for Photography (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
Since 1947 — long before the Westside Pavilion shopping center rose on Pico Boulevard — the Apple Pan (10801 W. Pico Blvd.) has been offering Angelenos burgers and desserts. No reservations, no alcohol, no air conditioning. The only dining area is a U-shaped counter, the wallpaper is red plaid and the sign says, "QUALITY FOREVER." Order the Hickory burger ($6.75) and maybe a big slice of apple pie ($5.50) for dessert. Or, to cut down on calories and red meat, follow the example of 31-year counterman Roberto Velasco, who has switched to the tuna melt. Then head two miles northeast to Century City, where you'll park beneath the soaring cold metal and glass of the Creative Artists Agency building. You have not scored a meeting with CAA's deal makers, but they will let you in next door, at the Annenberg Space for Photography (2000 Avenue of the Stars, No. 10), a nonprofit exhibition space that opened in 2009 with a video-friendly layout and sophisticated digital technology. It's free. If you show up in time to see the multimedia "Beauty Culture" exhibition through Nov. 27, you'll be wowed by its thoughtful, provocative and visually rich examination of the business that beauty has become.
3. Shopping on RodeoRodeo Drive (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
The Rodeo Drive shopping experience boils down to about three blocks — enough to enrapture certain shoppers for days, or to amuse a fashion agnostic for an hour or two. Start at South Santa Monica Boulevard and make your way southeast, past Brighton and Dayton ways, to Wilshire Boulevard. Along the way, you'll find enough designer finery to bankrupt the sultan of Brunei, or at least make a monarch sweat. See the impeccable salesman wiping fingerprints off the Cartier shop window? The strange staircase that architect Rem Koolhaas placed at the front of the Prada shop? The beckoning faux-European side street of the Two Rodeo shops? At the far end of your stroll, you'll find the Beverly Wilshire (9500 Wilshire Blvd.). This hotel, run by Four Seasons, is where Warren Beatty once lived, where Esther Williams taught 14-year-old Elizabeth Taylor how to swim and where Richard Gere brought Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman." It's not perfect; an ungraceful '70s addition lurks behind the original 1928 building. But it has location, a Wolfgang Puck steakhouse called Cut and Four Seasons service. Rooms for two start about $450. Oh, but wait. If you're a true retail warrior, you're not done shopping yet. Within a few blocks, you'll find Barneys New York (9570 Wilshire Blvd.), Neiman Marcus (9700 Wilshire Blvd.), Niketown (9560 Wilshire Blvd.) and Saks Fifth Avenue (9600 Wilshire Blvd.).
4. Cuisine on CanonBouchon Bistro (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)
You can try La Cienega Boulevard, the official Restaurant Row of Beverly Hills, some other night. For now, scope out the high style and smaller scale of the eateries on Canon Drive between Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards. At 225 N. Canon (on the ground floor of the Montage Beverly Hills Hotel), glass windows reveal the steamy kitchen of Scarpetta, one of the region's most highly rated Italian restaurants since its 2010 opening. There's Wolfgang Puck's flagship, Spago Beverly Hills, at 176 N. Canon Drive. There's Nic's (453 N. Canon Drive), with its lively bar and walk-in, drink-in vodka freezer. There's Mastro's Steakhouse (246 N. Canon Drive), with its $90, 48-ounce double-cut porterhouse steaks. And there's Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro, which opened in late 2009 at 235 N. Canon Drive. Main dishes in the big, tile-floored upstairs Bouchon dining room are $18-$45. On a budget? Get the steak salad (about $21) at the little Bouchon Bar downstairs. If you've recently won a lottery or been signed by CAA, take a few steps across Beverly Canon Gardens to the Montage and see whether there's a vacancy. Montage, opened in late 2008, sports a Spanish Colonial-Revival look, with dashes of Morocco and Italy, and plenty of space in its 201 luxury-laden rooms. (Rates usually start at $495 a night.) But if it's Oscar week, Emmy week or Grammy week, skip the Montage. Chances are the nominees, presenters and producers have booked it solid.
5. A stroll in the park and a cubicle seatBeverly Hills sign (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Grab an all-day parking spot at the Beverly Hills Civic Center (455 N. Rexford Drive; first two hours free) and walk or jog on the 1.9-mile greenbelt (a.k.a. Beverly Gardens Park) along Santa Monica Boulevard. At Beverly Drive, if not before, you'll realize you have company: That's where the big, gold BEVERLY HILLS sign is, and tourists arrive day and night to pose by the letters. If it's Sunday morning, head next to the weekly farmers market at 9300 Civic Center Drive. If it's between noon and 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, step into the Paley Center for Media (465 N. Beverly Drive), where pros and amateurs alike can watch or listen to any of 150,000 old TV and radio shows at a cubicle in a windowless upstairs room. Yes, it has the 1962 black-and-white first episode of "The Beverly Hillbillies," in which the Clampetts strike oil, come to town and mistake their new mansion for a prison. They also have the 1955 "I Love Lucy" episode in which Lucy and Ethel go rogue on a tour of the stars' homes. There's no fee beyond the Paley's suggested donation of $10 per adult. As you watch, picture Chris Rock at the next cubicle, studying Bob Hope and Billy Crystal's work on long-ago Oscars broadcasts, as he did before taking his turn emceeing at the Academy Awards in 2005.