If Santa Monica is jammed up, try Pico or Olympic Boulevard, which run roughly parallel a bit farther south. Westwood Village and Brentwood's commercial district on San Vicente Boulevard come alive at night and on weekends, and the afternoon rush hour can be maddening—another good reason to plan museum trips early in the day or on Sunday.
Our advice? In Beverly Hills, park your car in one of several municipal lots (the first one or two hours are free at most of them), and spend as long as you like strolling along Rodeo Drive.
For street parking, bring plenty of quarters (although many meters in the area now also accept credit cards). Parking on residential streets is by permit only.