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California Dreaming

Back in 1938, the AAO was a new organization assembled from regional societies and the former American Society of Orthodontists. For the site of its first annual meeting, held in July of that year, the association chose Los Angeles. As reported in the official publication, then known as the American Journal of Orthodontics and Oral Surgery, “In this glamorous city, where graying hair and the springless step are rare enough to attract attention, the members entered into a fraternal spirit that formed many friendships and re-cemented old ones of years’ standing.” Eighty-one years later, the environment for this year’s annual meeting, to be held May 3-7 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, might not be so different, except for the graying hair.

Although LA’s climate is generally pleasant, the drier part of the year begins in May. The average high at convention time is 73°F, but nighttime temperatures will drop into the upper 50s. Be sure to pack a jacket, especially for evenings near the ocean.

Cab fare from Los Angeles International Airport to downtown is a flat $46.50. The LAX FlyAway bus runs to Union Station downtown for only $9.75 (www.lawa.org/flyaway). Even less expensive, a free shuttle bus connects to the Metro Green Line airport light-rail station, from which you can reach downtown with two train changes; the base fare is $1.75, and reusable TAP cards can be purchased at vending machines in the stations (www.metro.net). Shared-ride shuttles, Uber, and Lyft are also available.

You might save enough money on airfare to consider flying into a different airport—especially if you plan to rent a car. Taxis and ride-hailing services can be taken to downtown from the other regional airports, but will be more expensive. Hollywood Burbank (formerly Bob Hope) Airport does offer connections to the Amtrak and Metrolink rail lines. The convenient John Wayne (Orange County) Airport is served by seven major air carriers. Ontario International Airport is farther inland, and Long Beach Airport is small, with only domestic service.


The Convention Center, Staples Center, and Microsoft Theater now anchor an entertainment district known as L.A. Live. You could go through the entire session without leaving this complex—full of shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and the Grammy Museum (featuring a Cheech & Chong exhibit)—but you wouldn’t want to miss SoCal’s other attractions.

Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), once a place to avoid, is now alive with arts and dining. For an introduction, use Downtown LA Walking Tours, A Day in LA Tours, LA Art Tours, or the intriguing Esotouric Bus Adventures. For a bird’s-eye view, take the elevator to the observation deck of the city’s tallest building, the US Bank Tower, and experience OUE Skyspace (Fig. 1) and its Skyslide from the 70th to the 69th floor.

Downtown highlights include a spectacular new contemporary art museum, The Broad, with Yayoi Kusama’s LED Infinity Mirror Rooms (book in advance to avoid standby lines; closed Monday). Across the street is the Museum of Contemporary Art, celebrating its 40th anniversary with installations by Barbara Kruger and Elliott Hundley. While you’re in the neighborhood, take a look at another modern architectural marvel, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which opened in 2002 after the Northridge earthquake destroyed the previous structure in 1994. Nearby in California Plaza is Angels Flight Railway, a 298-foot funicular known as the “world’s smallest railway.” The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising museum (free), with more than 15,000 costumes and textiles, is also in the downtown area.

One of the largest museums in the West, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Fig. 2), offers exhibits of art from Sri Lanka and works by Robert Rauschenberg and Charles White during the convention. Next door, you can visit the La Brea Tar Pits’ Ice Age fossils (free). Also in the mid-Wilshire area: the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (free) and the Petersen Automotive Museum, with more than 3,000 vehicles. UCLA’s Hammer Museum of contemporary art is a few miles to the west, near the university’s Westwood campus.

Gallery lovers will want to tour the Downtown Arts District, a revitalized industrial area just south of Little Tokyo. The pedestrian Olvera Street, across from Union Station, features restored historic buildings, a Mexican Marketplace, the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes museum, and the Chinese American Museum. Cinco de Mayo weekend will bring plenty of festivities. In the same vicinity, bibliophiles shouldn’t miss The Last Bookstore (Fig. 3), a converted two-story bank building.

Just south of the University of Southern California campus (southwest of the Convention Center) is the 160-acre Exposition Park, featuring not only the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum but also the California African American Museum; the California Science Center, with the Space Shuttle Endeavour (timed tickets required on weekends); the Exposition Park Rose Garden; the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, with a new Dinosaur Hall; and the USC Fisher Museum of Art.

The short drive west is well worth it for one of the world’s great museums, the Getty Center, overlooking the city from the Westwood neighborhood. Admission is free (closed Monday), but parking, which is a necessity unless you’re being dropped off, is $15. While the permanent collection is stunning, the grounds are even more so. Special exhibits during the convention include 18th-century pastel portraits and “The Wondrous Cosmos in Medieval Manuscripts.” A few miles away in Pacific Palisades, the Getty Villa [Fig. 4) is a recreation of a first-century Roman country house that contains the museum’s antiquities collection. Free timed tickets are required (closed Tuesday); parking is $15.

Fig. 1 OUE Skyspace in the US Bank Tower, Downtown Los Angeles. Photo © Bennymarty, Dreamstime.com.

Fig. 2 Chris Burden’s Urban Light at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo © Coralimages2020, Dreamstime.com.

Fig. 3 Inside The Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles. Photo © Louis Ko, Dreamstime.com.

Fig. 4 Colonnade and walkway around the garden at the Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades. Photo © Guobeihua, Dreamstime.com.

Northeast of downtown, colorful Pasadena boasts two top museums: the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (featuring “Project Blue Boy,” about the restoration of the library’s famous Gainsborough painting) and the Norton Simon Museum (with tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries and an intriguing exhibit called “Matisse/Odalisque”).

The main attraction for that 1938 AAO convention is still one of LA’s biggest draws: Hollywood. Among the monuments in the world capital of filmmaking are Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, and Warner Bros. Studio (all of which offer guided tours), as well as Universal Studios Hollywood (really a theme park). Don’t forget to stroll the Hollywood Walk of Fame and check out the TCL (Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre. Other popular attractions include the Hollywood Museum and Madame Tussauds wax museum. If you want to see celebrity homes, try Access Hollywood Tours or Legends of Hollywood Tours.

The famous Hollywood sign is actually in Griffith Park, a 4,500-acre historic landmark in the Santa Monica Mountains above the city. It would take at least a day to visit all the park’s attractions, but the stars are the Griffith Observatory (closed Monday) and the Los Angeles Zoo. Other features include the Autry Museum of the American West and the Travel Town Museum of western railroading. Or you can simply hike along the park’s 70 miles of chaparral-bedecked trails.

It hardly needs mentioning if you have kids, but the original Disneyland in Anaheim is still the “Happiest Place on Earth.” A relatively new addition, the Disney California Adventure, is a showcase for Disney-Pixar’s animated stars. Be sure to plan your visit in advance online, using the FastPass option and mobile app. The best time to arrive is early, before the park opens.

For subscription service and information on our Online Archive, visit the JCO booth (No. 1658) at the AAO meeting. For information before the meeting, call us at (303) 443-1730, ext. 12.


The crown jewel of DTLA’s Music Center is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened in 2003. Frank Gehry’s architecture is spectacular both outside and in, including the iconic Manuel Rosales “French fries” pipe organ. The resident Los Angeles Philharmonic, one of the world’s finest orchestras, is celebrating its centennial this year. Pianist Emanuel Ax will be featured May 2-5 in his specialty, a Mozart concerto (No. 22). Also on the bill, conducted by former music director Esa-Pekka Salonen: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 and the world premiere of The only one by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen. In a different Disney Hall program, the Los Angeles Master Chorale presents “Great Opera and Film Classics” May 4-5.

Another classical-music star, tenor Plácido Domingo, appears across the street at the venerable Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Manuel Penella’s Spanish lyric opera, El Gato Montés (The Wildcat), May 4-5, 8, 11, 16, and 19. The LA Opera offers its regular children’s program “Saturday Mornings @ the Opera,” focusing this month on German opera tales, at 10 a.m. on May 4. Also in the Music Center, the Broadway musical Falsettos plays at the Ahmanson Theater May 3-5 and 7.

Elsewhere, the Latino Theater Company presents Elaine Romero’s Revoluciones at the Los Angeles Theatre Center through May 12. Les Miserables opens May 7 at Pantages Theater Hollywood. Bill and Hillary Clinton’s arena tour comes to The Forum in Inglewood on May 4.

On the pop-music front, the inaugural BeachLife Festival is scheduled May 3-5 at the Seaside Lagoon in Redondo Beach; headliners include Willie Nelson, Brian Wilson, and Ziggy Marley. Ariana Grande appears at the Staples Center May 6-7. Kevin Morby will be in concert at the Theatre at Ace Hotel May 8. If you can hang around until May 11, the ageless Rolling Stones will be rocking the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

Everyone should take in a game at Dodger Stadium at least once in a lifetime. Here’s an opportunity: the Los Angeles Dodgers play the Atlanta Braves May 5-7. Soccer fans might want to see the new Banc of California Stadium near the Coliseum, where Los Angeles FC hosts the Chicago Fire on May 4. In addition, the Los Angeles Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers (or both) may be involved in NBA playoff action at the Staples Center during the convention.

Restaurants and Nightlife

LA’s dining scene has gone from stodgy to cutting-edge over the past quarter-century. One of the trendiest restaurants, Ray Garcia’s Broken Spanish, is right next to L.A. Live. Another good bet in the neighborhood is the Italian Cosa Nostra Ristorante.

NoMad Los Angeles, the West Coast outpost of the celebrated New York City hotel, caused quite a stir when it opened in the historic Giannini Building about a year ago. Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara have taken their restaurant concept far off-Broadway to rave reviews. For a different building-driven experience, try 71Above atop the US Bank Tower—billed as the highest restaurant above street level west of the Mississippi.

The Forum Club recreated as a Rose Parade float, Pasadena. Photo © Chon Kit Leong, Dreamstime.com.

Arts District hot spots include Bäco Mercat, the best of Josef Centeno’s quartet of Mediterranean eateries; Bavel, for modern Middle Eastern dishes; Bestia, specializing in fresh Neapolitan fare; and Jessica Largey’s farm-to-table Simone.

Other DTLA dining recommendations from our sources are Faith & Flower (new American), Miro (California-Italian), Patina (in Disney Hall), Perch (a 15th-floor bistro), Redbird (new American), Sushi Zo (chef-driven Japanese), Takami Sushi & Robata (trendy Japanese on a 21st-floor rooftop, adjacent to the Elevate Lounge), and Water Grill (seafood). Two locations offer a taste of LA history along with their cuisine: the downtown branch of El Cholo serves the same classic Mexican food as its Western Avenue flagship has supplied since 1927, and Engine Co. No. 28 dishes up American fare in a restored 1912 firehouse.

Farther afield, the lively California-Italian Skylight Gardens is in Westwood near UCLA. Hollywood is a dining hub, comprising destinations such as Barbette (bistro), Gwen (American), Kismet (Middle Eastern), Lucques (Californian), Rosaliné (Peruvian), and Tesse (French, with a corresponding wine program and retail store). If you’re going to shop Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, you’ll also find tony restaurants like Wolfgang Puck’s original Spago and Curtis Stone’s Maude, which features a different wine region every quarter.

For a delightfully scenic afternoon and evening, take the Metro Expo Line to Santa Monica, where you can stroll and shop along the waterfront pier. Top restaurants range from the hotel-based The Georgian (California-Mexican) to the 18-seat Dialogue (market-driven tasting menus), the venerable Michael’s (Californian), and the up-and-coming Tar & Roses (new American).

Nightspots with live music include Club Bahia, the Conga Room, the Elevate Lounge, La Cita, The Mayan, and Redwood Bar and Grill. If you want a more traditional cocktail atmosphere, try Broadway Bar, The Reserve, Seven Grand, or The Varnish.



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Fig. 1 OUE Skyspace in the US Bank Tower, Downtown Los Angeles. Photo © Bennymarty, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 2 Chris Burden’s Urban Light at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo © Coralimages2020, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 3 Inside The Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles. Photo © Louis Ko, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 4 Colonnade and walkway around the garden at the Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades. Photo © Guobeihua, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 5 The Forum Club recreated as a Rose Parade float, Pasadena. Photo © Chon Kit Leong, Dreamstime.com.


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