How to spend three days in L.A. for the ultimate car-cation
Detroit may be the Motor City, but Los Angeles in its own way helped make the automobile a central part of the America’s car culture. With no real winter to deal with and lots of manufacturing know-how, southern California was a great place for hot-rodding to take off just after WWII. Dragstrips, dry lakes, and Willow Springs—the “Fastest Road in the West”—nearby meant that enthusiasts of all kinds had places to race.
There are fewer dragstrips now than there were in the ‘50s, and ‘60s, but Los Angeles and the rest of southern California is still a superb place to be a car fan. Gatherings large and small happen year-round. If you’ve got a three-day weekend to spend in L.A., here are some events and locations you can’t miss.
Once you land in Los Angeles, either via LAX or Burbank Airport, you may want to take advantage of the opportunity to drive the famed L.A. canyon roads before those pesky weekend tourists invade. You’re not like them, you’re a weekday tourist. At least for now.
Splurge for something fun at the airport rental counter or plan ahead and get a sporty or classic ride from Driveshare. Once you’ve got the appropriate steed, there are the Malibu canyon roads like Mulholland Highway, Encinal Canyon, and Latigo Canyon, that run in the mountains between Highway 101 and Highway 1.
Once you’re done carving up the curves there, hit Neptune’s Net and relive your favorite Fast & Furious moment.
These roads can get packed on the weekend, and they’re frequently monitored by Highway Patrol on the lookout for hooligans speeding through corners and crossing the center line. If you want to spend your money in California, by all means, leave some tax dollars, but you don’t need a ticket.
There are also great roads north of L.A. in the San Gabriel Mountains, like Big Tujunga Canyon Road, Angeles Crest Highway, and Glendora Mountain Road. Open a map, find a squiggly road, and explore.
There are several Bob’s Big Boys in the L.A. area that host night cruises. The historic Johnie’s Broiler in Downey was rebuilt and is now a Bob’s Big Boy. Its fantastic architecture and sign made it a popular filming location, but its cruise night is Wednesday. If you’re looking for lots of car action on Friday night, head to Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank, the oldest remaining Bob’s Big Boy in the country, where the cars will shuffle in and out all night so you can take in a wide variety of muscle cars, hot rods, and classic Japanese cars as you enjoy a burger and shake.
You’ll find classic cars gathered every Saturday morning in the parking lot of Adams Ave Donuts in Huntington Beach. Show up early, grab a cup of coffee, a maple bar, and take in some custom cars.
Now that you’re awake and properly caffeinated, head into L.A. proper and spend a few hours at the Petersen Museum and spring for the Vault tour. It’s not as fancy as the Hollywood Dream Machines exhibit and the well-curated displays upstairs, but the Vault packs a lot of great stuff into a behind-the-scenes and otherwise unseen part of the museum.
Plan your trip right and you can get an early start by perusing all of the used cars and hard-to-find parts at the legendary Pomona Swap Meet. There may be larger swap meets in the U.S., but the Pomona Swap Meet takes place seven times per year and has miles-long rows of vendors. If you’ve got a laser focus and want a great deal, you can be there at 5:00 in the morning when it opens, scope out your deals, and be off before most people are even awake. Or, if you’re more of a late riser, take in the food vendors for a fair-like experience over lunch.
More manageable in size, the Long Beach Swap meet lacks the wide variety of food vendors at Pomona but is still very much worthwhile. You’ll find project cars, tools, and lots of vintage speed equipment for sale.
Located in Woodland Hills in the west end of the San Fernando Valley, Supercar Sunday fills several lots at Pierce College and is free to the public. You never know what you’re gonna see but it does typically host lots of exotics. If butterfly doors and high cylinder count are your jam, these are your stomping grounds.
Got your own L.A. spots that other gearheads would love? Share them in the Hagerty Forums below.