You're an outsider heading to the West Side of Los Angeles -- not the beach cities, but Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Westwood and the nearby well-heeled neighborhoods south of the Santa Monica Mountains. This means you'll be well-fed, well-rested and perhaps more closely watched by the issuers of your credit cards. And while the dollars fly, you may learn a little about wealth, fame, geography and Persian desserts.
For instance, Beverly Hills, like the "Mona Lisa" and certain leading men, is smaller than you might expect (5.7 square miles). Culver City has connections to Oz and the old Soviet space program. There's a big Santa Monica Boulevard and a little one (aka 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.
For more on these revelations, here are some West Side stories -- 12 micro-itineraries to get a visitor started.
[subhed] Big screen, small wonders
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. If neither Judy nor Alex makes your world go 'round, think twice about this tour.
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 helipads of downtown L.A. and other notable human interactions with the landscape.
>Shopping on Rodeo
The Rodeo Drive shopping experience boils down to about three blocks. Start at South Santa Monica Boulevard and make your way southeast, past Brighton and Dayton ways, to Wilshire Boulevard. 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 at about $450. 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.).
>Cuisine on Canon
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. 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, at 235 N. Canon Drive. Main dishes in the upstairs Bouchon dining room are $18-$45. On a budget? Get the steak salad (about $21) at the little Bouchon Bar downstairs.
>A stroll in the park
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 (aka 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 between noon and 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, step into the Paley Center for Media (465 N. Beverly Drive), where you can watch or listen to any of 150,000 old TV and radio shows. Yes, it has the 1955 "I Love Lucy" episode in which Lucy and Ethel go rogue on a tour of the stars' homes. Suggested donation: $10 per adult.
>Nate, Al and Ali
Nate 'n Al, the deli at 414 N. Beverly Drive, dates to the 1940s. You can count on ample supplies of matzo ball soup and perhaps some schmoozing by talk-show icon Larry King, who's been a breakfast regular for years. When you're full, stroll down the block and boldly step into the Taschen store (354 N. Beverly Drive). But leave the young ones at home. This elegantly arranged shop, which feels more like a gallery, is full of pricey, arty, lavish and often naughty books. You'll find a $70 copy of "Linda McCartney: Life in Photographs," a $15,000 "champ's edition" of the Muhammad Ali tribute volume "GOAT" and a $700 appreciation of porn star Vanessa del Rio, promiscuously illustrated.
>SoBev and beyond
Fuel up in SoBev (Beverly Drive south of Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills) with breakfast or lunch at the affordable, busy Urth Caffe (267 S. Beverly Drive). Now, slowly drive past Heath Avenue and Olympic Boulevard, where you'll spy the backside of Beverly Hills High School (241 Moreno Drive) and the campus oil well, wrapped in what looks like an enormous floral-patterned oven mitt. Now ready yourself for a sobering look at multiculturalism, history and the Holocaust, tailored for children and adults. That's the mission of the Museum of Tolerance (9786 W. Pico Blvd.; adult admission $15.50).
>.The Bruins' Den
Either way, with its 420 acres and nearly 40,000 students, the UCLA campus in Westwood will stretch your legs and brain. Wander on your own or join one of the free student-led tours for prospective students and their parents most weekdays and Saturdays (www.admissions.ucla.edu/tours.htm). At Royce Hall, the 2011-12 season's 36 gigs include violinist Itzhak Perlman, author Joan Didion and banjo master Earl Scruggs. On the sidewalks of neighboring Westwood Village, you will find the Geffen Playhouse (10886 Le Conte Ave.), which often features big names on its stage, and the Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Blvd.), which spotlights cutting-edge contemporary art.
>The stars at rest
Just south of Wilshire Boulevard, hidden behind a clutch of tall buildings, you'll find the Pierce Bros. Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary, a grassy territory covering barely 2 acres. Marilyn Monroe rests in a crypt near the northern corner of the property. The graves of Jack Lemmon, Karl Malden and Walter Matthau are nearby, along with others who couldn't resist one more punch line. Rodney Dangerfield's headstone: "There goes the neighborhood."
>A barn and an ark
The Brentwood Country Mart (225 26th St., Santa Monica) opened in 1948 as a smaller version of the Farmers' Market in the Fairfax area, with more than 25 boutiques and stalls, a handful of casual eateries, one stylish bookshop and two little courtyards. Next, hop on Interstate 405 and head north to the Skirball Cultural Center (2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.), whose exhibits and performances aim to connect Jewish culture with American history. If you're younger than 10, the highlight is Noah's Ark, an 8,000-square-foot interactive Old Testament playground. You'll want time-certain reservations ($5 a kid ages 2-12, $10 per adult) for visits on weekends, Thursdays or holidays. Crowds are lighter on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
When Southern California devolves into feudalism, the sensible place for the new king will be atop Brentwood in the gleaming, sprawling Getty Center. This museum, backed by billions from late oil man J. Paul Getty, opened in 1997, its campus covering 110 acres. Park underground (parking is $15, museum admission is free). Take the monorail up the hill and head for the West Pavilion, which houses photography below and Impressionists above, including Van Gogh's vibrant "Irises," the museum's biggest star. Before long you'll want to snack at one of the center's two cafes, or maybe a fancy lunch farther upstairs at the Restaurant, which has a mountain view. Then, like one of David Hockney's figures disappearing into a deep blue pool, you dive back into the art.
What to see:
(All addresses are in Los Angeles unless noted.)
Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary, 1218 Glendon Ave.; (310) 474-1579, www.pbwvmortuary.com. Marilyn Monroe and many others. Visiting hours 8 a.m.-dusk.
Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive; (310) 440-7300, www.getty.edu. Admission free. Parking is $15 a car, free after 5 p.m.
Museum of Jurassic Technology, 9341 Venice Blvd., Culver City; (310) 836-6131, www.mjt.org. Suggested donations $5 for adults, $3 for children 12 to 21, free for those younger than 12.
Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd.; (310) 433-7000, www.hammer.ucla.edu. Admission $10; free for children accompanied by an adult.
Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave.; (310) 208-5454, www.geffenplayhouse.com.
Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., (310) 440-4500, www.skirball.org. Admission $10 for adults, $5 for children. Time-certain reservations recommended for Noah's Ark.
Center for Land Use Interpretation, 9331 Venice Blvd., Culver City (310) 839-5722, www.clui.org.
Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City; (213) 628-2772, www.centertheatregroup.org.
Paley Center for Media, 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 786-1000, www.paleycenter.org/visit-visitla. Exhibits, events and a library of 150,000 TV and radio programs and ads, which you can watch on site. Suggested contribution $10 for adults, $5 for children younger than 14.
Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd.; (310) 553-8403, www.museumoftolerance.com. Adults $15.50, ages 5-18 $11.50.
Beverly Gardens Park, Beverly Hills. This 1.9 mile linear park, runs along Santa Monica Boulevard between Whittier and Doheny drives; it has the city's 40-foot-long BEVERLY HILLS sign, near North Beverly Drive.
Sony Studios, 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City; (310) 244-8687, www.sonypicturesstudiostours.com. Walking tours last about two hours, open to ages 12 and above, $33 per person.
Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St., Santa Monica; (310) 395-9666, www.brentwoodcountrymart.com. Two dozen trendy shops and half a dozen spots for food.
Taschen Books, 354 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; (310) 274-4300, www.taschen.com. Fancy and sexy books, many in limited editions at eye-popping prices.