If you're in an artsy mood, then a trip to Robertson Boulevard should be on your agenda. A gem is the Koplin del Rio Gallery, 6031 Washington Blvd., Culver City (tel. 310/836-9055; www.koplindelrio.com), which focuses on contemporary painting, drawing, and sculpture of established internationally known artists, as well as emerging California artists. The gallery's main emphasis is representational, figurative, landscape, and still-life works. If you haven't had your artistic fill, stop in at Gallery 825/Los Angeles Art Association (LAAA), 825 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles (tel. 310/652-8272; www.laaa.org). It's one of the oldest surviving visual arts organizations (nonprofit) in town and supports Southern California artists with an emphasis on emerging talent.
A Very Beverly Hills Bookstore
If you're a connoisseur of small bookstores, you'll definitely want to pay a visit to the Taschen bookstore at 354 N. Beverly Dr., in Beverly Hills (tel. 310/274-4300; www.taschen.com). It's the German-based publishing house's first American store and a fitting monument to the company's beautiful, high-quality books. French designer célèbre Philippe Starck was commissioned to create the long, narrow store's dramatic interiors -- glossy walnut woods, shimmering bronze bookshelves, purple mirrors, and handmade glass walls. Befitting the world's leading art publisher, the artwork alone is worth the trip: Artist Albert Oehlen created 20 computer-generated collages for the walls and ceiling, inspired by the wide selection of Taschen's art, design, and erotic books. Prices range from a few dollars to several thousand for Helmut Newton's SUMO, the biggest and most expensive book produced in the 20th century. Truly, Taschen is unlike any other bookstore you've browsed. Open Monday through Saturday 10am to 7pm, Sunday noon to 5pm. A second, smaller location has opened at the Grove, 6333 W. Third St. (tel. 323/931-1168).
All American Girls
Filled to the brim with all the things young girls love, the American Girl Place at the Grove shopping mall at 189 The Grove Dr. (tel. 877/AG-PLACE [247-5223]; www.americangirlplace.com) features the flagship line of historical dolls and books. Find the contemporary Just Like You dolls, accessories, and girl-size clothing. For a real treat, girls can take in a performance at the American Girl Theater, dine with their dollies at the American Girl Café, and treat their doll to a new coif at the Doll Hair Salon.
L.A. Souvenirs on the Cheap
Ocean Front Walk in Venice Beach is one of the best places in L.A. to shop for inexpensive souvenirs.
Lingerie Insider -- Panty Raid, a very charming boutique, carries brands for the serious lingerie collector such as Cosabella, Mary Green, and Felina, as well as Hanky Panky (cute lace tank tops and boy-short sets), Betsey Johnson, T and C California, Eberjey, and Only Hearts. A selection of hosiery, socks, yoga outfits, loungewear, and gift items -- including bath and body products and candles -- is also available. 1953 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles. tel. 323/668-1888; www.pantyraidshop.com.
Celebrity Cloned Clothing -- If your dream is to dress like your favorite celebrity who may have stepped right off the red carpet at one of Hollywood's numerous award shows, then a visit to A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz should be on your to-do list. As soon as one of these high-profile events is over (think Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Oscars), A.B.S. has already produced a knockoff version that is every bit as lovely, but much more affordable. 1533 Montana Ave. (at 15th St.), Santa Monica. tel. 310/393-8770. www.absstyle.com.
Where to Find Hollywood's Hand-Me-Downs -- Admit it: You've dreamed of being a glamorous movie or TV star -- everyone has. Well, don't expect to be "discovered" during your L.A. vacation, but you can live out your fantasy by dressing the part. Costumes from famous movies, TV show wardrobes, cast-offs from celebrity closets -- they're easier to find (and more affordable to own) than you might think.
For sheer volume, you can't beat It's A Wrap, 3315 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank (tel. 818/567-7366; www.itsawraphollywood.com). Every item here is marked with its place of origin, and the list is staggering: Beverly Hills, 90210; House; Eat, Pray, Love; General Hospital; True Blood; As the World Turns; Dexter; Hannah Montana; and so on. Many of these wardrobes (which include shoes and accessories) aren't outstanding except for their Hollywood origins: Jerry Seinfeld's trademark Polo shirts, for instance, are standard mall-issue. Some collectible pieces, like Sylvester Stallone's Rocky stars-and-stripes boxers, are framed and on display. Open Monday through Friday from 10am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 6pm.
When you're done at It's A Wrap, stop in across the street at Junk For Joy, 3314 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank (tel. 818/569-4903; www.junkforjoy.com). A Hollywood wardrobe coordinator or two will probably be hunting through the racks right beside you at this wacky little store. The emphasis here is on funky items more suitable as costumes than everyday wear (the store is mobbed every year around Halloween). When I visited, the shop was loaded with 1970s polyester shirts and tacky slacks, but you never know what you'll find. Open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to "5-ish" pm.
The grande dame of all wardrobe and costume outlets is Western Costume, 11041 Vanowen St., North Hollywood (tel. 818/760-0900; www.westerncostume.com). In business since 1912, Western Costume still designs and executes wardrobes for major motion pictures; when filming is finished, the garments are added to the staggering rental inventory. This place is perhaps best known for outfitting Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind. Several of Scarlett O'Hara's memorable gowns were available for rent until they were auctioned off at a charity event. Western also maintains an outlet store, where damaged garments are sold at rock-bottom (nothing over $15) prices. If you're willing to do some rescue work, there are definitely hidden treasures here. Open for rentals Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm, and for sales Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 6pm.
Finally, don't miss Golyester. This shop is almost a museum of finely preserved (but reasonably priced) vintage clothing and fabrics. The staff will gladly flip through stacks of Vogue magazines from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s with you, pointing out the lavish, star-studded original advertisements for various outfits in their stock. Open every day 11am to 6pm.
A Mecca for High-End Vintage -- If your style is more Hepburn than Hilton, you won't want to miss the treasure-trove of high-end vintage shopping L.A. has to offer. Doris Raymond's the Way We Wore, 334 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/937-0878; www.thewaywewore.com), is a favorite among celebs and stylists for vintage Chanel, Balenciaga, and Fortuny. Cameron Silver's Decades, 8214 1/2 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/655-0223; www.decadesinc.com), is an L.A. institution, where you'll find frocks from Halston, Gucci, Lilly Pulitzer, and Missoni. Lily et Cie, 9044 Burton Way (tel. 310/724-5757), supplies many of the glamour gowns you see on the red carpet. Owner and vintage maven Rita Watnick has an impeccable collection of pieces from important designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and Trigere.
For Bored Non-Shoppers: A Lamborghini Test-Drive
So your better half has planned a full day of shopping and spa treatments, and after you drop her off at the mall, she won't need your services for a while. Since you're in L.A. -- where everyone is judged by the car they drive -- this is the perfect time to call Shawn Williams, a very down-to-earth car enthusiast who co-owns an exotic car dealership called Exclusive Motorcars. Even if you have no intention of buying or leasing a Ferrari or Lamborghini, he'll be happy to talk cars, take you on a tour of his showroom, and perhaps test-drive a new or slightly used Bentley Continental GT, Mercedes SL600, or Porsche Carrera GT. If you're the type that has to have it now, you can drive your new baby while vacationing in L.A. (Shawn can arrange financing and insurance while you wait), then either take the car home or have it shipped. He'll be happy to arrange a short-term rental as well (me, I'd go with the black Ferrari F430 Spider F-1). If you want to make an appointment, call Shawn at tel. 310/558-3300, or just drop by the showroom at 10534 W. Pico Blvd. near Overland Avenue. It's open Monday through Friday 9am to 6pm, and Saturday 10am to 5pm. Log onto www.emcars.com.