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The city of Los Angeles (also known as the "City of Angels" or simply LA) is the largest city in California. Located on a broad basin in Southern California, it is surrounded by vast mountain ranges, deep valleys, forests, desert, and the Pacific Ocean.
The metropolitan area is the second largest in the United States in terms of population, home to nearly 18 million people who hail from all parts of the globe and speak over a hundred different languages. The metropolitan area is centered in Los Angeles County, but stretches into Orange County, Ventura County, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County.
Los Angeles is an important center of culture, business, media, and international trade, but it is most famous for being the center of the world's entertainment industry, which forms the base of its global status.
Even before O.J. rode in the Bronco or "The Terminator" became governor, Frank Lloyd Wright said, "Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles."
The Los Angeles metro area has been a "boomtown" since the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1876, first attracting "the folks" from the Midwest with a blessedly warm and dry climate, becoming a gateway to a remarkable diversity of immigration from throughout the Pacific Rim and Latin America.
L.A. is a sprawling megalopolis; from end to end it is about a two-hour drive. The metro area includes smaller cities, such as Santa Monica, Burbank, Pasadena and Long Beach, which were founded around the end of the nineteenth century and retain distinct identities. Geographically, some district names in the city are so common, that they are believed by some to be separate of Los Angeles when in fact, they are neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Hollywood, Van Nuys, and Bel-Air are some examples of neighborhoods in Los Angeles, while West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills are independent cities.
Los Angeles' primary newspaper is the Los Angeles Times [☛], and another daily newspaper is the Los Angeles Daily News [☛]. The free LA Weekly [☛] comes out on Thursdays and is a good source for concerts, movies, and other local information. A few local areas may have their own free neighborhood papers as well. "BrokeLA.com" [☛] has a listing of under $10 events in Los Angeles.
PeopleLos Angeles is a very diverse city with nearly half of its population being born outside the United States. It has the third largest Mexican population in the world behind Mexico City and Guadalajara, and is home to dozens of other large immigrant populations, many with their own little enclaves of restaurants, shops, and places of worship. For the most part, it's also a fairly gay-friendly city, especially the West Hollywood, Silver Lake, and Westside areas.
ClimateThe city enjoys a temperate climate for most of the year. Summers are warm and occasionally hot and brings the infamous dirty air, though the smog is somewhat less than before. Between the months of June - September average daytime highs are 82 (F), and nighttime lows average 63 (F). Winters are quite mild and bring much of the annual rainfall. Between the months of December - March average daytime highs are 68 (F), and nighttime lows are 49 (F). Spring is comprised of a mixture of gloomy rainy days and warm sunny days, while fall has the same mixture, typically with more sunny days, however.
Temperatures can also fluctuate wildly depending where you are in the city. For example, it can be 84°F (27°C) in Venice and 93°F (41°C) in Pacoima on the same day in mid-July. The coast tends to stay a bit cooler which helps during summer days, but as such, is chillier at night even in the summer. Bring a sweater and pants if you stay for dinner.
Visitor informationLA Inc. Visitor Information Center ( Downtown),685 S Figueroa St ( at W 7th St; Metro: 7th St/Metro Center) ,☎ +1 213 689-8822 [☛] . LA Inc. Visitor Information Center ( Hollywood),6801 Hollywood Blvd ( in the Hollywood and Highland Center; Metro: Hollywood/Highland) ,☎ +1 323 467-6412 [☛] .
By planeThe Los Angeles area is served by six major commercial airports and more than a dozen private airports.
Los Angeles International [☛] () is the major gateway. The airport is huge, with nine terminals. A free "A" shuttle bus loops around all the terminals, and departs from the curbside on the lower level. If you do not mind walking, it is no more than a 10 min walk between any of the terminals, and if you are transferring between adjacent terminals, walking will be quicker than the shuttle; a streetside sidewalk connects all the terminals. There is no free wifi. Paid wifi is available from T-mobile. $6per hour or $9.99 for the whole day.
Many international flights do not leave from or arrive at the Tom Bradley International terminal. To avoid missing flights, always determine in advance which terminal(s) your international flights will be flying in or out of, especially if you are connecting through LAX.
There are also two executive terminals for charter aircraft, if time means money.
Public transportation connections for the airport are not the greatest. LAX FlyAway [☛] runs shuttles to Union Station (half-hourly, $7.00 one way), Westwood, Van Nuys and Irvine Station. There is no train service right to the airport, but free shuttle buses run to Aviation Station on the Metro Green Line. Taxis to Downtown cost $45.00 and take 30 min in good traffic but can be far slower in rush hour.
On your return to the airport, be sure to arrive at least three hours before your flight as lines for security are notoriously long and often time-consuming.
If you want to rent a car, there are around 10 different companies with very frequent shuttle buses picking up on the lower level around all terminals and going to large offsite lots. If you want to compare prices, you will need to do so using the telephones in the arrivals area or on the Internet in advance of arriving. There are no details from the shuttle drivers or negotiable prices. Signing up to one the car rental club schemes can get the shuttle bus to drop you at your car, thus saving substantial time.
The other airports in the region are Long Beach Airport [☛] (), Bob Hope (Burbank) Airport [☛] (), Orange County/John Wayne Airport [☛] () and far flung LA/Ontario Airport () east of L.A and LA/Palmdale Airport () to the north. Only Bob Hope Airport is within walking distance of a Metrolink commuter rail station; all other major airports in the Southland also lack direct train service.
There are five airports in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. They are Los Angeles' LAX, as well as airports in Burbank, Ontario, Santa Ana, and Long Beach. The much busier LAX generally features lower airfares when compared to the other airports; and you should fly into LAX if the fare is too good to pass up, or it is the closest (or one of the closest) airports to your final destination. However, if your destination is closer (or almost as close) to one of the other four airports, then they should definitely be considered. Those airports can save a lot of time and hassle due to the fact that they are less busier than LAX. The L.A. area is so wildly spread out and so populated, that going anywhere will generally require a lot of driving, as well as possibly enduring traffic jams. At any random time on any particular day, a traffic jam can develop and it is not unheard of to take an hour just to go a few miles on the freeway. So utilizing the nearest airport will only be of assistance to you.
Private pilots will prefer smaller general aviation airports such as Santa Monica (), Van Nuys (), Hawthorne, or any of the other small airports in the area that do not handle commercial flights. LAX does not cater to small general aviation; Burbank () does, but is considered high-traffic for this type of flight; Long Beach () does, but has a very complicated runway system and, again, is considered high traffic. General aviation will fare much better at L.A. area airports that do not handle commercial flights at all. Much of Los Angeles is Class Bravo or other controlled airspace, but due to the number of airports and the generally good weather, Los Angeles makes a fantastic flying destination.
The main Amtrak [☛] station is at Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St. next to the Hollywood (US-101) freeway in downtown Los Angeles. The train station also has a Metro Red Line subway station (platforms in station's basement) and Metro Gold Line light rail station (on platforms 1 and 2, parallel to the Amtrak and Metrolink trains), while local city buses stop at various locations around the terminal, including some in the MTA (Patsaouras) bus plaza at the east portal of the station. The train station is patrolled by private security staff and people lingering too long in the seats may be asked to show a ticket. Taxis are available at the west exit and the station is within short walking distance to the Civic Center and Olvera Street. Chinatown and Little Tokyo are also nearby. Be warned that it can get quite uncomfortable in the station especially when it is hot and/or there are a lot of people. Great for business travel but perhaps not the best for families or any large group of people.
Amtrak routes serving Los Angeles are the following:
• The Coast Starlight [☛] runs daily between Los Angeles and Seattle via Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area, with one other LA County stop northwest of Downtown in the San Fernando Valley (Van Nuys).
• The Pacific Surfliner [☛] runs several trains daily between San Diego and Los Angeles, with some trains traveling north to Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. There are many local stops northwest of Downtown in the San Fernando Valley (it shares a route with the Coast Starlight but stops at more stations) and southeast to Orange County.
• The Southwest Chief [☛] runs daily to Chicago via Albuquerque and Kansas City. Local stops south of Downtown and east into the Inland Empire (Fullerton, Riverside, and San Bernardino).
• The Sunset Limited [☛] runs three times a week out to New Orleans via Tucson and San Antonio. Additionally, Amtrak's Texas Eagle [☛] service between San Antonio and Chicago incorporates the Sunset Limited to provide a direct connection to Los Angeles. Local stops east of Downtown into the Inland Empire (Pomona and Ontario).
• The San Joaquin [☛] from Fresno and Sacramento goes no further than Bakersfield (about 115 miles to the north). However, coordinated bus travel to Union Station on a single ticket is available from Amtrak. From the San Joaquin Valley (also know as the Central Valley), this is the only option available that involves any train service. Since the track is generally west of the State Route 99 freeway, it serves different cities than the Greyhound Bus line.
Metrolink [☛] is an extensive regional train network with rail lines to Riverside, Lancaster, Oceanside, San Bernardino, Oxnard, and points in between. Union Station is the main station served by Amtrak, the hub of the Metrolink network, and it is well-served by the Los Angeles Metro.
Union Station is spectacular (opened in 1939 and with the era's associated grand architecture), but there are several stops within the county that may be better located to your destination. LA is massive so make sure you get the right stop. Unfortunately, while Union Station has the best bus, subway, light rail, and commuter rail connections (and a Hertz and Budget car rental desk), it may be far from other landmarks. If you are arriving in LA by train but planning to travel around the area, here are some alternate connection options:
• The Burbank Amtrak station is next to the Burbank Bob Hope airport, where connections include Metrolink, bus and the usual rental cars at the airport's terminal. Book Amtrak through to Burbank (BUR), although doing so means you'll probably make a connection to a Pacific Surfliner at Union Station (since no long distance train serves Burbank). If that is the case, Pacific Surfliner tickets are not tied to a specific train and can be used on any Pacific Surfliner train as well as any Metrolink trains serving the same route. So when your long distance train arrives at Union Station, you can simply take the first available train heading to Burbank. (Note that Metrolink calls the same station Burbank-Bob Hope Airport, as Metrolink also serves an additional Downtown Burbank station not served by Amtrak.)
• Los Angeles World Airports operates a cheap motorcoach service between Union Station and LAX, where every major rental car company has countless thousands of cars available (weekend prices can be real bargains). Called the Union Station FlyAway, it serves the MTA (Patsouras) bus plaza adjacent to the station.
• You can also take bus 42 or the subway to LAX (Purple, Blue, and Green Line) to LAX where you can rent cars. If you are a tourist, you can plan visiting all the tourist places that are on the Metro Subway lines on one or two days and rent the car only for the rest of the trip (to go to Disneyland, Malibu or Santa Monica).
Several Metrolink lines overlap Amtrak's routes or serve the same cities via a slightly different routing. Metrolink tickets can cost significantly less than Amtrak tickets; for example, LA to Oceanside is $14 on Metrolink but $19 on Amtrak. Train frequencies vary between Amtrak and Metrolink for given station pairs (some are more frequent via Amtrak and some are more frequent via Metrolink, since some Metrolink runs terminate before the end of the line).
By busThe Greyhound [☛] terminal is at 1716 East 7th Street, near I-10 and South Alameda Street, south of the city's Downtown Arts District and east of the vast, notorious Skid Row district. Though a growing residential population in the area has brought increased safety and services, this neighborhood remains largely underdeveloped. You should still not linger around here longer than you have to, and staff often ask people who are here too long to show their tickets.
Access to connecting transit services is limited. From the Greyhound station, take a taxi or bus 760 or 60 to connect to Downtown.
Fortunately, other terminals are in far safer areas and have better access to public transportation. From the north, the North Hollywood station is located at 11239 Magnolia Boulevard, a quarter of a mile south of the Metro Red Line North Hollywood station. The Hollywood station, at 1715 North Cahuenga Boulevard, is a quarter of a mile west of the Metro Red Line Hollywood/Vine station.
Of note for passengers coming from the east is the El Monte station, at 3501 North Santa Anita Ave. The station also houses an M.T.A. and Foothill Transit bus station, and frequent express bus service to Downtown Los Angeles is available upstairs. The El Monte station also houses a substation of the local county sheriff. Also, from the east, the Pasadena Greyhound station, located one-quarter mile west of the Lake Avenue Metro Gold Line station, is an option.
From the south, Greyhound passengers should use the East Los Angeles station, located at 1241 South Soto Street, or the Compton Station, located at 305 North Tamarind Ave. The East Los Angeles station has many buses to downtown nearby, while the Compton station is across the street from a Metro Blue Line station.
LuxBus [☛] offers four daily trips to and from Anaheim, San Diego, and Las Vegas.
Xe Do Hoang [☛] offers service between Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
English is the dominant language in Los Angeles. However, like much of the rest of California, with a large Latino population and a history under Spanish and Mexican rule, Spanish is very widely spoken in Los Angeles. Even the city's name is a Spanish phrase meaning "The Angels." In fact, Los Angeles has one of the largest Spanish speaking populations in the world, with street and store signs in certain parts of the city printed in both English and Spanish. According to the U.S. Census, roughly 70% of Los Angeles' population speaks English either as their first or second language, while roughly 44% of Los Angeles speaks Spanish as a first or second language. With the large immigrant population, many other languages such as Armenian, Tagalog, Chinese, Japanese, Persian, Russian, Korean, Hindi, and Vietnamese are also widely spoken. Street signs in ethnic enclaves will often be printed in one of these languages. For example, street signs in Chinatown will be printed in English and Chinese.
HistoricalOlvera Street .This is the historic center of LA and the city derives its name from the pueblo established here (Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles - Our Lady the Queen of the Angels). The oldest building in the city is located here and is open to visitors, as are a number of Mexican restaurants and shops; it is across the street from Union Station. Union Station ,800 N. Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90012 .A historic downtown site and the main railway hub for the city.
The Getty Center as seen from the museum's central garden.
The Japanese American National Museum opened in 1992 in Little Tokyo. The Getty Center (aka J. Paul Getty Museum) ,1200 Getty Center Drive [☛] .Well worth a visit. Entrance is free though you will pay $15 for parking or is served by Metro Bus 761. Located at the top of the Santa Monica mountains, you have a spectacular view of both the L.A. basin, the Pacific Ocean, as well as the beautiful buildings and the rose gardens. They also have a very extensive arts collection, should that interest you. This is widely regarded as the finest museum in the USA, matched only by the National Gallery of Art in DC. The old museum, J. Paul Getty Villa [☛], in Pacific Palisades, is also worth a visit. Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) ,250 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, 90012 [☛] ,M/F: 11:00am-5:00pm, Th: 11:00am-8:00pm (5-8pm is free), Sat/Sun: 11:00am-6:00pm, price General Admission: $10, Students/Seniors: $5, Children under 12: FREE.There are two branches located downtown, but there is another at the Pacific Design Center on Melrose Avenue. They feature rotating exhibits. Los Angeles County Museum of Art ( LACMA),5905 Wilshire Blvd. [☛] ,Mon, Tues and Thurs: 12-8 PM, Fri: 12-9 PM, Sat, Sun: 11 AM -8 PM,Wed: CLOSED, price •General Admission- $12,Seniors & College Students- $8,Under 18- Free, After 5 PM- Pay what you wish, Second Tuesday of every month- FREE, Target Holiday Mondays- FREE .Since its inception in 1965, LACMA has been devoted to collecting works of art that span both history and geography—and represents Los Angeles’ uniquely diverse population. Today, the museum features particularly strong collections of Asian, Latin American, European, and American art, as well as a new contemporary museum on its campus, BCAM. With this expanded space for contemporary art, innovative collaborations with artists, and an ongoing transformation project, LACMA is creating a truly modern lens through which to view its rich encyclopedic collection—more than 100,000 works strong. • Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.
• California Afro-American Museum.
• Page Museum at La Brea Discoveries, 5801 Wilshire Boulevard. A fascinating site of palentological excavations. Saber-tooth cats, mastadons, giant sloth, bison, Dire wolves, the American lion (yes - there was one), camels, horses. An on-going work of digging the complete remains of tens of thousands of years old animals out of tar continues today and a massive collection of the bones inside. Well worth the visit away from the glitz of Hollywood and back in time when man was just appearing in the area. Rancho La Brea is one of the world’s most famous fossil localities, recognized for having the largest and most diverse assemblage of extinct Ice Age plants and animals in the world. Visitors can learn about Los Angeles as it was between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago. Watch volunteers dig out bones every summer, watch your step as active tar seeps are all over the property, watch the methane bubbles boil up in the lake in front of the museum, hold your nose.
• The Museum of Tolerance, ,9786 West Pico Blvd ,☎ 310-553-8403 ,Mon-Fri 10AM-5PM, SUN 11AM-5PM, Early close on Fri 10AM-3PM Nov-Mar, price Adults $13, Seniors (62+) $11, Student with I.D. and Youth 5-18 $10.The Museum of Tolerance (MOT) is a multi-media museum designed to examine racism and prejudice in the United States and the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. It is sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. • Japanese American National Museum.
The Los Angeles basin, stretching from Downtown to the Pacific Ocean, viewed from Griffith Park. Griffith Park .A former ostrich farm, this is the second largest park within a city in the whole country (and in LA, where you'd least expect it!), and is a great place for hikes, picnics or hanging around with friends. The hiking trails lead up to Mulholland Drive, and provide great views of the city. One of the main hiking trails is located on Bronson Ave. The street will end leading up to the trail. Griffith park has several options for kids, including the L.A. Zoo, "Travel Town" which is a free exhibition of old trains and model trains with trains rides for children ($3), the Autry western museum, pony rides, a golf course, driving range, horseback riding, a christmas light drive in December (expect traffic), and The (Space) Observatory. • Exposition Park is surrounded by Figueroa Street to the east, King Boulevard to the south, Vermont Avenue to the west, and Exposition Boulevard to the north. In 1909, California's Sixth District Agricultural Association and the county and city of Los Angeles agreed to transform Agricultural Park (renamed Exposition Park in 1910) into an exposition building and armory. In return, the county would construct and operate a history and art museum and the city would maintain the grounds.
Mulholland Drive .This famous avenue is worth a drive if you have your own transport. It's the setting for endless movies and first kisses, and provides great views over the city. The easiest way to enter is to head north up Highland Ave into the Cahuenga Pass - you'll come to a turnoff to your left that is signed. Beware of speeding cars near this intersection.
Concerts and ConventionsWhile the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood has more ambience, and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena offers a chance of seeing concerts with 90,000 of your closest friends, the city of LA has its own concert venues that are worth exploring.
Nokia Theatre at LA Live [☛] .Part of the $2.5 billion LA Live project, the Nokia Theatre is located near the Staples Center. The 7,100 seat venue hosts annual events such as the ESPY awards show and major-name concerts. Staples Center [☛] .While primarily a sports venue, Staples Center also hosts a large number of major-name concerts with its 19,000 seat capacity. LA Convention Center [☛] .Within walking distance of the Staples Center, the massive convention center hosts everything from the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo [☛] to the adult film industry's Erotica LA [☛] convention. LA Fair [☛] .A taste of rural living just outside of the large metropolis. The LA fair offers fun attractions for the entire family such as a petting zoo and rides.
Pro sportsLA has great opportunities for seeing live pro sports.
LA Dodgers ,Dodger Stadium [☛] . Who wouldn't want to grab a Dodger Dog and enjoy watching a game of baseball in this venerable stadium which opened in 1962 and home of 6 time world champions? Also, for $35 you can get all-you-can-eat hot dogs, sodas, and nachos at the Right Field Pavilion. LA Lakers ,Staples Center [☛] .Do they need an introduction? They are the most popular basketball team in the city. Prices are very high (the most expensive ticket in the NBA) but you will rarely be disappointed with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the beautiful Staples Center. LA Clippers ,Staples Center [☛] .The Los Angeles Clippers are a rising NBA team. Tickets are slightly cheaper than Laker tickets. The basketball season runs from late October to June. LA Kings ,Staples Center [☛] .LA's hockey team - One of the NHL's brightest young teams with stars like Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. A fun hockey experience and a great, affordable way to experience the Staples Center. LA Sparks ,Staples Center . LA's women's basketball team - they especially need your support! A good, inexpensive family outing and a chance to be shown that women are just as capable of dazzling the crowd with their athletic prowess as men!! In addition, baseball's LA Angels and hockey's Anaheim Ducks play in nearby Anaheim, and the city's two soccer teams—Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy (featuring David Beckham and USA World Cup star Landon Donovan) of Major League Soccer play at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
ShoppingLos Angeles has a well-known, diverse and unique shopping traditions and destinations. Shopping malls will dominate your shopping trip as they are nearly inescapable in many of your destinations. For example, the Hollywood & Highland mall is a popular meeting point for those gazing at the Walk of Fame and Mann's Chinese Theater. Other malls you may bump into are the Grove (next to the Farmer's Market) and the Beverly Center, which is quite unlike other shopping malls as it is multilevel with a nice view of Los Angeles from its food court patio.
Lacking any significant public square, Los Angeles funnels its commercial life onto its streets. Among the most popular street is Larchmont Blvd. which caters to the wealthy elite of Hancock Park with one-of-a-kind boutiques. Melrose Avenue, especially in the West Hollywood portion, one-ups Larchmont Blvd. with celebrity presence.
Broadway in Downtown will take you out of the comforts of overly manicured shopping centers and drop you onto its chaos. With merchandise geared towards the city's millions of Latinos, twenty dollars would probably get you a new wardrobe. You will also find pirated DVD's and CD's. You can find a lot of brand name merchandise at discounted prices. Broadway once was the city's premier boulevard and looking up above the gritty flea markets and you would see the opulent theaters that defined luxury in early 20th-century Los Angeles.
For a similar experience in a less-polished but even livelier environment, try Alvarado Blvd around Wilshire & 6th in the Westlake District. This district, with a density that rivals Manhattan's, gives an insight to how most of working-class Los Angeles shops. Big deals can be found on a wide range of counterfeit goods, but don't stay too long after dark, when the neighborhood gets sketchy. Make sure to check out the art deco buildings that exist in between the makeshift warehouses (malls), as well as the Alvarado Terrace Park, surrounded by early century mansions.
SpecialtyDowntown is the destination for some focused retail therapy. Want flowers? Why there's a Flower District in Downtown! Jewelry? Fashion? Seafood? Toys? Yep, there are entire districts in Downtown dedicated to these particular products. You can buy art in Gallery Row up and down Main Street or see artists at work in the Artist District. They are located mostly just east of the towering Financial District. Beware though as they exist along with the notorious Skid Row.
MusicNo matter what music you're into, Los Angeles will feature artists to your taste. Visit the Rock Venues on Sunset Blvd. Jazz Clubs in Hollywood. The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown. etc. As the second capital of hip-hop culture Los Angeles has hundreds of records stores scattered around the area. Also, though vinyl has disappeared from the shelves of regular record stores, many stores still sell used and new vinyl. Amoeba Music in Hollywood is without a doubt the best in the city.
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