Los Angeles

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Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California Southern California Los Angeles County Los Angeles

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Introduction

Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles

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Los Angeles, also known as L.A., is not the most accessible of places like New York or Europe for tourists, but don't be dismayed! It is a great city with a lot of hidden gems. The city of Los Angeles is quite large, but the broader concept of Los Angeles covers many areas ranging from the beach cities of Santa Monica and Venice to the neighborhood areas of Hollywood and Silverlake.

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Neighborhoods

What visit to Los Angeles would be complete without stopping over in Venice Beach? Named for the Venice canals located around the area and right behind people's backyards, a walk early morning on the beach is very peaceful. By noon on the weekends the shops open up along Oceanfront Walk and the beach can get crowded with both locals and tourists alike. Muscle Beach, Venice attracts body builders from all over and Gov. Schwarznegger was a visitor in his early years. Shopping along Abbot Kinney Avenue features artist originals and rare finds.

Just two miles south of Venice is Marina del Rey, the place to get out on the water. Whether you want to rent a small sail boat, motor boat, kayak or join a day sportfishing tour, enjoy a public charter dinner/dance cruise or just enjoy the waterside view, the Marina is the place to be. Fisherman's Village (at the end of Fiji Way) is where you'll find many of the boating outfits and public charters as well as waterside restaurants, cafes and shops for souvenirs. Plus, you can rent bikes to ride along the L.A. Beaches Bike path, taking you north to Santa Monica or south to Torrance. The bike trail is over 20 miles (32 kilometres) long, with most of it right along the beaches making it an easy ride for the entire family. Also, in Marina del Rey is Burton Chace Park, located at the end of Mindanao. This 10-acre jewel, jutting into the Marina's main channel, offers what may be the best vista point in the area; it is a great spot for walking, picnicking and gazing out at the deep blue water, boats and Marina.

In the other direction, 2 miles north of Venice is world famous Santa Monica. It features miles of wide beaches known for surfing and sunbathing - and made famous by television's Baywatch. The Pier is also famous, including the Merry-Go-Round featured in motion pictures, and amusement park. Again, you'll find numerous places along the beaches to rent bike and skates. Santa Monica offers world class shopping along Third Street Promenade and one of a kind treasures on Montana Avenue. Plus with a wide variety restaurants, cafés and fast food outlets, you'll find something that will satisfy everyone without blowing your budget.

For the local scene head over to Manhattan Beach about 15 miles (24 kilometres) south or take the Pacific Coast Highway north and check out the beautiful coastline of Malibu.

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Sights and Activities

Show Business

Entertainment is what has earned L.A. its fame, so it's no surprise that many come for the sights of Hollywood, where you will find such landmarks to film as Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame or gaze up at the Hollywood Sign perched on the hill.

However, while the entertainment industry is still headquartered in Hollywood, most of the major studios have moved elsewhere, particularly San Fernando Valley; Universal City is home to Universal Studios and its associated theme park, CBS has set up shop in Studio City, while nearby Burbank is home to the Warner Brothers Studios and the Walt Disney Studios, among others. On the Westside, Sony Pictures occupies the historic MGM Studios in Culver City, the headquarters of 20th Century Fox sit in Century City, and many television shows are still taped in CBS Television City in Fairfax. Paramount Pictures is the last movie studio left in Hollywood, with its famed double-arched gate facing Melrose Avenue. Many studios offer tours, and at some you might even be lucky enough to attend a television show taping; check the individual pages for details.

Besides the studios, there are many sights that attract movie buffs and are worth checking out for those interested in the history of film. Hollywood has plenty of museums and classic cinemas related to the Golden Age of Hollywood, while Hollywood, Downtown, Northwest L.A., Wilshire, and Beverly Hills are chock-full of iconic filming locations in a city that's full of them. There are also a few cemeteries noted for being the final resting places of many celebrities and influential writers and directors, particularly the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, the Westwood Village Memorial Park in Westwood, and the massive Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, where you're guaranteed to run into the famous of yesteryear.

Of course, many also come in the hopes of seeing living celebrities. While your chances of running into one in Hollywood are rather low, you may get lucky in the glamorous neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Malibu, which are home to many celebrity mansions and whose fancy restaurants are sometimes frequented by movie stars. Awards season brings a lot of celebrity-spotting as well, with most of the famous awards shows hosted in Los Angeles: the Academy Awards take place in Hollywood, typically in late February; the Grammy Awards have settled into the Staples Center in Downtown each February; the Golden Globes take place in Beverly Hills each January; and the late summer Primetime Emmys have spent the last several years at the Microsoft Theater in Downtown.

Historical

Los Angeles, as a general rule, hasn't been too careful about retaining its historical artifacts, and that's ignoring the fact that much of the city was only built in the last half-century or so. However, there are some historical attractions for those interested in learning about L.A.'s past:

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument in Downtown is the site of the original Spanish settlement where Los Angeles was founded in the 1780s. Today it's preserved as a historic district with some of the city's oldest buildings as well as a number of Mexican restaurants and shops along touristy Olvera Street. Two other important sites from Los Angeles' Spanish era are located along the El Camino Real in Los Angeles County: the Mission San Gabriel, which predates the Pueblo de Los Angeles, and the Mission San Fernando in the northern portion of the San Fernando Valley.

Downtown's Historic Core still has many splendid examples of late 19th and early 20th century architecture, including many old movie palaces and the noteworthy Victorian-style Bradbury Building along Broadway. Just north of the Historic Core is the grand 1920s City Hall building, while just a little further on, across from the El Pueblo area, is the 1930s Mission Revival-style Union Station, the main railway hub for the city. East L.A. has the Heritage Square living history museum, showcasing life in L.A. around the turn of the 20th century.

Heading west from Downtown, the Miracle Mile district along Wilshire has a lot of mid-20th century commercial architecture, including some superb examples of Art Deco and Streamline architecture. Another great Art Deco structure is the Griffith Observatory atop Griffith Park, famed for its many appearances in film and its sweeping view of the city. And of course, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Culver City have numerous theaters, studios, and other examples of architecture dating from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Museums

Of Los Angeles' museums, the Getty Center in West L.A. is the most renowned, regularly hailed as one of the finest art museums in the country. Located above the city on the Santa Monica mountains, it has a spectacular view of the L.A. basin and the Pacific Ocean, with an extensive European art collection inside. The old museum, the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, is also worth a visit for its collection of artifacts from ancient Greece and Rome. Admission to both is free (although the Villa requires tickets to be reserved in advance) and you can visit both in the same day (Wednesday through Sunday only) and pay the parking fee only once, but don't expect to have any time left over for other activities.

Another splendid institution is the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which has its main building on Grand Avenue in Downtown with branches in Little Tokyo and West Hollywood. Across the street from the MOCA is The Broad, a contemporary art museum housed in a striking building. The massive campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire features a particularly varied collection of works from around the world, with strong collections of Asian, Latin American, and American art, as well as a new contemporary art museum on its campus.

Exposition Park holds two of LA's best science museums, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Science Center, both of which have an extensive range of exhibits. The Natural History Museum is the largest of its kind on the West Coast, while the Science Center is reputed for its aircraft collection, which includes the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Another excellent museum is the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits in Wilshire, which preserves the famous tar pits and showcases numerous fossils that have been excavated from the tar. Long Beach has the spectacular Aquarium of the Pacific, one of the largest aquariums in the country, right across the harbor from the historic Queen Mary ocean liner. On the other side of the port from Long Beach is San Pedro, which holds several maritime museums.

Los Angeles also has many excellent historical and cultural museums. The Autry Museum in Griffith Park has numerous exhibits on the history of the American West, with plenty of cowboy artifacts and memorabilia from Hollywood westerns. Exposition Park is home to the California African-American Museum while Little Tokyo holds the Japanese American National Museum. In West L.A. you'll find the Museum of Tolerance, which has a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust, and the Skirball Cultural Center in the hills near the Getty Center, with exhibits devoted to Jewish history and culture. Culver City has the Wende Museum, with a collection of Cold War artifacts from Soviet-era Eastern Europe. Culver City is also home to the quirky Museum of Jurassic Technology, an artistic blending of fact and fiction that tends to defy proper explanation but still delights visitors.

Parks and Scenery

Griffith Park in Northwest LA is an absolutely massive park (indeed, it is five times larger than New York's Central Park) that sprawls across the hills near the Hollywood Sign and is a great place for hikes or picnics, with excellent views of the city. Amidst the rugged terrain of the park are numerous hiking trails and tucked-away sights, as well as major draws like the Los Angeles Zoo, the Autry Museum of the American West, the iconic and historic Griffith Observatory, and plenty of recreational activities. Also in Northwest LA are Echo Park and MacArthur Park, both of which are popular neighborhood parks with picturesque lakes and excellent views of the downtown skyline, and Barnsdall Art Park, which sits atop a hill overlooking East Hollywood and holds a community art complex centered around a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. Exposition Park in South Central LA is a pleasant green space, with a beautiful rose garden and several cultural institutions including the Natural History Museum, the California Science Center, and several venues from the 1984 Olympics including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Pan Pacific Park in Wilshire is another popular neighborhood park.

Above Hollywood and West LA is winding Mulholland Drive, a famous road that hugs the ridgeline of the Hollywood Hills and has been the setting for countless movies and first kisses, with spectacular views over the city and the Hollywood Sign, not to mention all the celebrity mansions that line the road. Another excellent hilltop view can be found at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook above Culver City in the middle of the Westside, which offers marvelous views over the basin and the Pacific Ocean.

If coastal scenery is what you seek, Malibu is a must-see for its fantastic ocean views and mansions perched atop the ocean cliffs, hugging the coastline beneath the Santa Monica Mountains, which itself makes for a pleasant retreat from the city with its miles of scenic roadways and hiking trails. Further south, Palos Verdes is an oasis of ocean cliffs, Eucalyptus trees, and walking trails at the very southwestern corner of the basin, with a historic lighthouse with views of distant Santa Catalina Island, a popular destination for tourists and locals seeking to escape the city.

Further afield, the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys hold a few lovely botanical gardens open to visitors, most notably the large and extensive Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia, the private Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge, the Japanese Garden in Van Nuys, and the botanical gardens of the stately Huntington Library in San Marino. Above the valley, the Angeles National Forest covers the steep and rugged San Gabriel Mountains, with its many scenic roads and recreational opportunities.

Beaches

The Westside is home to the most famous beaches of LA: Venice Beach, with its colorful Boardwalk and Muscle Beach, and the adjacent town of Santa Monica, with its popular pier and amusement park. Both communities share an expansive stretch of sandy beach which gets very crowded in the summer and which have plenty of amusements and facilities available, as well as a very festive scene in Venice that's fantastic for people watching. Just south of Venice is the less-crowded Dockweiler State Beach in the aptly-named town of Playa del Rey (Spanish for beach of the king). Further north, where the coastline meets the Santa Monica Mountains, are scenic beaches in Pacific Palisades and Malibu; Pacific Palisades' Will Rogers State Beach is expansive and quite popular, while Malibu's narrower Surfrider Beach is famed for its surf breaks.

South Bay is home to a number of beaches that are also very popular, in particular the Beach Cities of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach, with piers and expansive stretches of sand lined with expensive houses. Hermosa is famed for its festive atmosphere, regularly holding volleyball tournaments and surfing competitions, and all three are popular with families and beach-goers. Also good but less crowded is Torrance Beach further south, which is noted for great surfing, and the very scenic stretch of coastline in Palos Verdes, which holds many rocky coves and tidepools that make for fun exploration.

Off the coast and enormously popular for people taking a day trip out of L.A. are the picturesque beaches of Catalina Island. Additionally, the Beach Cities of nearby Orange County are very popular with locals. For those who are more into boats than sand, Marina del Rey is located just south of Venice and is the world's largest man-made small-craft harbor, offering plenty of mooring as well as motorized and non-motorized rentals.

Santa Monica

Rollercoaster, Santa Monica

Rollercoaster, Santa Monica

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Although Santa Monica is a city itself rather than part of the city of Los Angeles, it basically is the playground for the beach bums in the LA. Most of the action in Santa Monica is centred around the Santa Monica Pier, where the official end of Route 66 is located. The pier, with its activities like rollercoasters and all sorts of shops, splits the beach into two halfs. The northern one is less attractive and most parking takes place there. The southern half, towards Venice Beach, is more attractive, with cycle- and foothpaths and palmtrees. The water here is pretty cold like most of the Californian coast, and watch out for riptides or strong currents at times. There are lifeguards patrolling around the waters, but better safe than sorry!

Venice Beach
While Santa Monica Beach is more of a family style beach, Venice Beach is more the beach for the young and the ones that like to see and to be seen. Apart from the beach, there is also lots of sport grounds, including the famous Muscle Beach, where you'll find the big guys pumping their iron. Next to the beach runs the Ocean Front Walk, or just boardwalk, full with souvenir shops, snacks, drinks and even 'legal' (as in 'good for health problems') marihuana shops. Things can feel a bit worn down and downright shabby after the sun sets, but most of the times it's nothing more than a feeling and certainly not an unsafe place!

T-shirt shop, Venice Beach

T-shirt shop, Venice Beach

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Sports

Los Angeles has great opportunities for seeing live pro sports. The Major League Baseball Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the most famous teams in baseball and a game at Dodger Stadium in Elysian Park, in the hills north of downtown, is an absolute treat for baseball fans. However, LA's most successful sports franchise has been and remains the Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA, undoubtedly one of the greatest basketball teams in history. They play in the Staples Center in Downtown along with the less-famous Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA, who have risen from perennial losers to a competitive force. Also playing in the Staples Center are the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League and the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. The city has two Major League Soccer teams—the LA Galaxy, which plays at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, and Los Angeles FC, which started play in 2018 at Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park.

The National Football League now has two teams in the L.A. area, both having returned to the area after having spent decades elsewhere. The Los Angeles Rams, which called L.A. home from 1946 to 1994 before moving to St. Louis, returned to L.A. in 2016. They are playing in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Exposition Park until their new stadium in Inglewood opens in 2020. The Los Angeles Chargers, which started their life in the old American Football League in 1960, moved to San Diego the next year and didn't return until 2017. The Chargers are playing at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson before sharing the new Inglewood stadium with the Rams when it opens. For the second-largest city in the country, Los Angeles long showed an inexplicable inability to hold down a NFL franchise; during the Rams' stint in St. Louis, Los Angeles football fans made do with the local college teams: the USC Trojans football team plays in the Coliseum, while the UCLA Bruins play in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, which also hosts the annual famous college bowl game the stadium is named after.

In addition, Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Angels and the National Hockey League's Anaheim Ducks play in nearby Anaheim in Orange County.

Major college sports in L.A. aren't limited to USC and UCLA, although those schools have by far the highest profiles since they're the only two NCAA Division I schools in the area that play football. The immediate L.A. area boasts seven other Division I programs. The city of Los Angeles boasts the Cal State Northridge Matadors in the San Fernando Valley district of Northridge and the Loyola Marymount Lions in Westchester, while Los Angeles County also boasts the Pepperdine Waves in Malibu and the Long Beach State 49ers. Orange County is home to the Cal State Fullerton Titans and UC Irvine Anteaters, while the Inland Empire city of Riverside is home to the UC Riverside Highlanders and the California Baptist Lancers, the latter of which joined Division I in 2018.

Music

No matter what music you're into, Los Angeles will feature artists to your taste, be it rock venues on Sunset Blvd, jazz clubs in Hollywood, or classic music in Downtown, just to scratch the surface. From the ambiance of the famous Hollywood Bowl to the spectacle of seeing a concert with 90,000 of your closest friends in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, L.A. has many venues that are worth exploring.

Downtown Los Angeles holds several major entertainment venues. The 7,100 seat Microsoft Theater has become L.A.'s premiere venue for rock concerts and awards shows, while the nearby Staples Center, though primarily a sports venue, also hosts a large number of big-name concerts with its 19,000 seat capacity. Near the Civic Center, the Los Angeles Music Center consists of four music halls, most notably the Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, home to the Los Angeles Opera.

Griffith Park holds the Greek Theatre, an outdoor amphitheater modeled after a Greek temple that hosts many concerts. Nearby Hollywood has two major concert venues in the Hollywood Palladium and the Fonda Theatre, the latter of which is reputed for its indie band scene and both of which regularly host big-name acts. A little further south, Wilshire has a couple of classic rock concert venues at the El Rey Theatre and The Wiltern. West Hollywood is home to some legendary rock nightclubs along the Sunset Strip, like Troubadour, Whisky a Go Go, and The Viper Room. Next to the USC campus and near Exposition Park in South Central L.A. is the Shrine Auditorium, a large enclosed amphitheater that holds over 6,000 people and regularly hosts large concerts and stage shows. In Inglewood, The Forum regularly hosts concerts as well as the occasional sports event.

Los Angeles also has an abundance of records stores scattered around the city, and though vinyl has disappeared from the shelves of most regular record stores, there are still plenty of stores that sell new and used vinyl. Amoeba Music in Hollywood is without a doubt the best in the city. An exploration of underground music would be advised to perhaps begin at The Smell in Downtown or listen to KXLU 88.9 FM Monday-Friday for details on numerous shows.

Theater

Los Angeles is a major center for stand-up and improvisational comedy, rivaling New York City given its proximity to the Hollywood industry and innovative scene; L.A. has become the undisputed center for comedy podcasts. There are many excellent comedy venues in town, but a few consistently rise to the top. The Comedy Store is a legendary venue in West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip that gave rise to many of the biggest names in the 70s and still hosts the occasional nationally recognized comic. Also on the Sunset Strip is the Laugh Factory, which consistently features plenty of big-name comics. Elsewhere in West Hollywood you'll find the Largo at the Coronet, a very popular venue that emphasizes the intersection between comedy and live music and regularly hosts podcast shows. Another renowned spot is the Upright Citizens Brigade in Hollywood, which has cultivated some of the best comics in the industry today and dominates L.A.'s improv and experimental comedy scene. Another pair of great improv venues are the Improv and The Groundlings, two popular clubs on Melrose Avenue in Fairfax.

Venues for stage productions abound in L.A., with the largest concentration being in Downtown. Along Broadway within Downtown's Historic Core, the Theater District is full of old movie palaces that have been converted to performance spaces and concert halls. In Civic Center, the Ahmanson Theatre of the Los Angeles Music Center is the city's main venue for plays, while the Music Center's Mark Taper Forum is a prominent venue for experimental theater. The historic Pantages Theatre in Hollywood is the place to see Broadway musicals in town. Near the Hollywood Bowl is the Ford Theatre, a historic outdoor amphitheater that puts on community theater productions. Out in Westwood, the UCLA-affiliated Geffen Playhouse is noted for their original productions.

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Events and Festivals

Befitting its size, Los Angeles plays host to many major events throughout the year, from large conventions and spectacular holiday celebrations to more low-key neighborhood festivals. Whenever you come, you can be assured that something will be happening. What follows is just a sampling of the biggest annual events that take place in L.A.

Every January 1st, the New Year is rung in with the Tournament of Roses Parade, a massively popular parade in Pasadena with dozens of marching bands and elaborate floats before the famed Rose Bowl football game. Chinese New Year celebrations are held throughout the city in early February, with the biggest taking place in Chinatown with a dragon parade, live music, food, and firecrackers. March brings the L.A. Marathon, a massive event in which thousands of runners make their way from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica. The popular Fiesta Broadway event takes place in Downtown on the last Sunday of April and is billed as the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world, with lots of Mexican food, music, and pinatas.

Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer, and is marked by a tribute at the Battleship USS Iowa in San Pedro. Summer brings many of the city's biggest cultural festivals, such as Film Independent's Los Angeles Film Festival in June, West Hollywood's massive celebration of LGBT culture during Pride Week, and Little Tokyo's Nisei Week Japanese Festival in mid-August. Summer also sees many major conventions and expositions, including the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June and Anime Expo in July, both of which are held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown.

In the fall, the Los Angeles County Fair takes place every September with concerts, carnival rides and agricultural exhibits in Pomona out in the San Gabriel Valley. After Thanksgiving, the holiday season kicks off with the Hollywood Christmas Parade, with plenty of elaborate floats, classic cars, and celebrity appearances. Other popular events during the holiday season include the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade and a popular Christmas Eve music show in Downtown at the L.A. County Holiday Celebration.

Summer months offer a variety of festivals thoughout the city. Some to enjoy include:

  • Venice Beach Carnevale, usually the first weekend of June. Outdoor live musical performances, dance performances, fire-spinners, bellydancers, live theatre and day-long costume contest.
  • For the Fourth of July Fireworks display in Marina del Rey, which are shot over the main channel and can be seen from almost any waterview location in the Marina. This a a popular free event, so come early as it does get crowded; show starts at 9pm.
  • Also for the Fourth are the Mr. & Ms. Muscle Beach Body Building Competition held in Venice, and the Westchester/LAX 4th of July Parade are held during the day.
  • West Hollywood, the gay district of Los Angeles, hosts a Halloween Parade and Carnaval every year that's about as close to Carnaval in the city. There are even a few Haunted houses nearby.
  • In many sections of the city, local neighborhoods feature festivals for the winter holidays. Not to be missed are the Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade, usually held the second Saturday of the month. Fireworks kick off the parade of lighted, holiday decorated boats as they parade up and down the main channel of the Marina. Starts at 6:00pm, fireworks at 5:55pm. Best viewing from Burton Chace Park or Fisherman's Village. Dress warmly as it does get cool by the water.
  • Also for New Year's Eve it wouldn't be complete without fireworks. Marina del Rey offers a New Year's Eve Fireworks display. Starting at 11:59:30pm, where they set off one blast each second counting down to midnight, then followed by a 5-minute display ushering in the New Year. Several restaurants and public charters offer dinner cruises or cocktail cruises to enjoy the festivities. But you can see the display from anywhere in the Marina.

Holidays

  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.

Sport

  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.

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Weather

Los Angeles has a Mediterranean climate, and receives just enough annual precipitation to avoid a semi-arid climate classification. Los Angeles has plenty of sunshine throughout the year, with an average of only 35 days with measurable precipitation annually. The coastal region around Los Angeles has a climate that is comparable to coastal areas of Rabat, Morocco, in temperature range and variation, as well as annual precipitation levels and rainfall distribution.

Temperatures in the coastal basin exceed 32 °C on a dozen or so days in the year, from one day a month in April, May, June and November to three days a month in July, August, October and to five days in September. Temperatures in the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys are considerably warmer. Temperatures are subject to substantial daily swings; in inland areas the difference between the average daily low and the average daily high is over 17 °C. The average annual temperature of the sea is 17 °C, from 14 °C in January to 20 °C in August. Hours of sunshine total more than 3,000 per year, from an average of 7 hours of sunshine per day in December to an average of 12 in July.

The Los Angeles area is also subject to phenomena typical of a microclimate, causing extreme variations in temperature in close physical proximity to each other. For instance, the average July maximum temperature at the Santa Monica Pier is 24 °C whereas it is 35 °C in Canoga Park. The city, like much of the southern California coast, is subject to a late spring/early summer weather phenomenon called "June Gloom". This involves overcast or foggy skies in the morning which yield to sun by early afternoon.

Downtown Los Angeles averages 379 mm of precipitation annually, which mainly occurs during November through March, generally in the form of moderate rain showers, but sometimes as heavy rainfall during winter storms. Summer days are usually rainless. Rarely, an incursion of moist air from the south or east can bring brief thunderstorms in late summer, especially to the mountains. The coast gets slightly less rainfall, while the inland and mountain areas get considerably more. Years of average rainfall are rare. The usual pattern is year to year variability, with a short string of dry years of 130-250 mm rainfall, followed by one or two wet years with more than 510 mm. Wet years are usually associated with warm water El Niño conditions in the Pacific, dry years with cooler water La Niña episodes. A series of rainy days can bring floods to the lowlands and mudslides to the hills, especially after wildfires have denuded the slopes.

Both freezing temperatures and snowfall are extremely rare in the city basin and along the coast, with the last occurrence of a 0 °C reading at the downtown station being January 29, 1979; freezing temperatures occur nearly every year in valley locations while the mountains within city limits typically receive snowfall every winter. The greatest snowfall recorded in downtown Los Angeles was 2.0 inches (5 cm) on January 15, 1932. At the official downtown station, the highest recorded temperature is 45 °C on September 27, 2010, while the lowest is -2 °C, on January 4, 1949. During autumn and winter, Santa Ana winds sometimes bring much warmer and drier conditions to Los Angeles, and raise the wildfire risk.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max18.7 °C18.8 °C18.6 °C19.7 °C20.6 °C22.2 °C24.1 °C24.8 °C24.8 °C23.6 °C21.3 °C18.8 °C
Avg Min8.8 °C9.6 °C10.3 °C11.6 °C13.5 °C15.3 °C17.1 °C17.9 °C17.3 °C15.1 °C11.6 °C8.8 °C
Rainfall61 mm63.8 mm50.3 mm18.3 mm3.6 mm0.8 mm0.3 mm3.8 mm7.9 mm8.6 mm44.7 mm42.2 mm
Rain Days4.54.64.92.50.60.20.20.411.43.13.8

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Getting There

By Plane

The Los Angeles metro area is served by five major commercial airports and more than a dozen private airports. Three of the major airports are in L.A. County proper while the other two are nearby.

  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX IATA), 1 World Way, +1-310-646-5252. LAX is one of the major ports of entry for international flights to the United States as well as a major destination for domestic flights so it can be quite busy, especially around holidays. Nearly all major airlines as well as some smaller regional airlines fly into LAX. All of the major rental car agencies have a location near the airport with hundreds of cars available for rent.
  • Bob Hope Airport (BUR IATA), 2627 N Hollywood Way, Burbank, +1-818-840-8840. Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, SeaPort, Southwest, and United fly into this airport located in the San Fernando Valley, northeast of Downtown L.A.
  • Long Beach Airport (LGB IATA), 4100 Donald Douglas Dr., Long Beach, +1 562 570-2600. American, Delta, and JetBlue fly into this airport located in southern Los Angeles County. It is also the west coast hub for JetBue.
  • Ontario International Airport (ONT IATA), 1940 East Moore Way, Ontario in adjacent San Bernardino County, +1 909 937-2700. Aeromexico, Alaska, American, Delta, Southwest, United and Volaris serve this airport located 37 mi (59 km) east of Downtown Los Angeles, about a 40-minute drive without traffic.
  • John Wayne Airport (SNA IATA), 18601 Airport Way, Santa Ana in adjacent Orange County, +1 949 252-5200. Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, United, and WestJet serve this airport located 40 mi (64 km) southeast of Downtown Los Angeles, about a 45-minute drive without traffic.

LAX is the airport many travelers use when visiting the Los Angeles area and is the far more likely point of entry if you're on an international flight. LAX generally features lower fares and more nonstop and frequent service when compared to the other airports. Flying into LAX is the best option if this is the closest airport to your destination, and even if LAX is further away the fare is often simply too good to pass up. However, if your destination is closer (or almost as close) to one of the other four airports, and the fare really isn't a huge difference, then consider those airports. For instance, if you plan to spend most of your time in the San Fernando Valley, there is the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. If your visit will be centered around Orange County, Knotts Berry Farm and/or Disneyland, there's the John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana or even the Long Beach Airport. If you will be staying in the Inland Empire or San Gabriel Valley in the east, there's the Ontario Airport. These airports can save a lot of hassle because they are less busy than LAX. Also, the L.A. area is so wildly spread out and populated that going anywhere will generally require a lot of driving, as well as possibly enduring traffic jams. On any random day at any particular time (day or night), 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 using the nearest airport will only be of convenience to you.

All five airports lack direct train services; only the Bob Hope Airport is somewhat proximate to a Metrolink commuter rail station (not to be confused with the Metro Rail service). LAX has a comfortable, fast, and relatively frequent express bus service, the LAX FlyAway, to a variety of regional centers including Union Station (in Downtown), Hollywood, and Westwood.

LAX does not cater to small general aviation; Burbank (ICAO: KBUR) does, but is considered high-traffic for this type of flight; Long Beach (ICAO: KLGB) 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.

Private pilots will prefer smaller general aviation airports such as Van Nuys (ICAO: KVNY), one of the world's busiest private jet airports, as well as Hawthorne, or any of the other small airports in the area that do not handle commercial flights; Santa Monica (ICAO: KSMO) recently reduced their runway length to restrict aircraft size to smaller planes. Air taxi and air charter companies including Los Angeles Private Jets and ElleJet can access private aircraft at any of L.A.'s private aviation airports, as well as planes in your area for flights to Los Angeles.

By Train

Los Angeles' main Amtrak and commuter train station is Union Station, at 800 N. Alameda St. next to the Hollywood Freeway (US-101) in Downtown Los Angeles. The station is a spectacular example of Mission Revival architecture, with a spacious waiting room and courtyards with outdoor seating, as well as some eating establishments on-site. It's also well connected to L.A.'s public transit system, with a Metro Red/Purple Line subway station (in the basement), a Metro Gold Line light rail station (on platforms 1 and 2, parallel to the Amtrak and Metrolink trains), and the adjacent Patsaouras Bus Plaza (at the east portal of the station) which serves local buses and LAX Flyaway shuttles to Los Angeles International Airport. A Budget and Hertz rental car desk is also located in the station; more rental car options are available at LAX.

Union 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 main entrance off Alameda Street 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. Free guided tours of Union Station are available on the 2nd Sunday of each month. No reservations are required; tours begin at 10:30AM at the information booth inside the Alameda Street entrance.

Union Station is the region's primary train station and has the best public transit connections, but there are several other Amtrak stops within the region that may be better located to your destination, namely in the Inland Empire, Orange County, and the San Fernando Valley. L.A. is massive, so make sure you get the right stop.

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 another L.A. County stop in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley.
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 several stops in the San Fernando Valley (it shares a route with the Coast Starlight but stops at more stations) and in Orange County.
The Southwest Chief runs daily to Chicago via Fullerton, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Barstow, Needles, Grand Canyon (at Williams/Williams Jct and Flagstaff); Albuquerque and Kansas City. It also makes stops in Orange County (Fullerton) and the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino).
The Sunset Limited runs three times a week out to New Orleans via Pomona, Ontario, Palm Springs, Yuma, Tucson, El Paso 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.
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 known 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 radiating out from Union Station to surrounding suburbs and counties, stretching as far as Riverside, Lancaster, Oceanside, San Bernardino, and Oxnard.

Several Metrolink lines overlap Amtrak's routes or serve the same cities via a slightly different routing, and Metrolink tickets tend to cost significantly less than Amtrak tickets. Metrolink frequency varies between lines, with service dropping considerably during the weekend; Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner runs far more frequently on the weekends and always runs later in the day than overlapping Metrolink trains.

Fares are based on how far you travel, falling in the range of $5-$15 for one-way fares. Tickets must be bought from vending machines on the platform, and are checked by fare inspectors on board. Metrolink tickets also cover free travel on many connecting local transit systems, including L.A. Metro, where a Metrolink ticket effectively works as a day pass for the date stamped on your ticket. If you're thinking of using Metrolink to day trip on the weekend, you'll want to get the $10 weekend day pass, which is good for unlimited travel on Metrolink (and connecting transit) on either Saturday or Sunday.

By Car

Several major freeways enter the Los Angeles region. Interstate 5 is the primary north/south freeway through Central L.A., heading south to the Mexican border through Orange County and San Diego, and heading north through the San Joaquin Valley to Sacramento, continuing on through the Pacific Northwest before eventually reaching Canada. From the south, Interstate 405 splits off from I-5 in Orange County and is a more direct route to Long Beach, the South Bay, and the Westside, so long as you don't travel during rush hour. From the north, I-5 is the most direct option from the San Francisco Bay Area (linked to I-5 by I-580), while U.S. Highway 101 is the most direct option from California's Central Coast.

From the east, Interstate 10 is the primary road into the region, heading east from L.A. through the Inland Empire and the California desert (via Palm Springs) before crossing through into Arizona and continuing across Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle to Jacksonville, FL.

And while they don't directly connect to Los Angeles proper, Interstates 15 and 40 are important links from the north and east. I-15 runs north/south through the Inland Empire (where you can connect to several freeways to L.A. proper), continuing north through Nevada and Utah (via Las Vegas and Salt Lake City) and heading on through the Rocky Mountains (Idaho and Montana) to the Canadian border. I-40 is one of the nation's primary east-west road links, cutting a long route across the middle of the country. In California, I-40 terminates at I-15 in the town of Barstow; from there, follow I-15 south into the Inland Empire and connect from there to Los Angeles.

If driving into or through the L.A. area, be sure to make note of when you'll be arriving so as to try to avoid one of the area's notorious traffic jams. See the Get around section below for more detailed info on getting around L.A. by car.

By Bus

Buses connect Los Angeles to San Diego, San Francisco Bay area, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Bakersfield and Sacramento through various cities in the San Joaquin Valley in California and the western part of the U.S. to as far as Salt Lake City, Seattle, Dallas and Denver in the U.S. Southbound buses towards Mexico typically cross through San Ysidro/Tijuana and Calexico/Mexicali. Locally a number of bus companies have multiple terminals and stops in different parts of the city.

Greyhound/Cruceros, Intercalifornias, Tufesa and El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express have their own separate stations located in and around the infamous 'Skid Row' area east of Downtown L.A. Skid Row is sketchy during the day and even more so at night, so taking a taxi to get there is recommended. Bolt Bus and Megabus have curb side stops at Union Station. Be aware that many of the same bus companies have additional stops or depots scattered throughout the greater Los Angeles area, particularly in El Monte, East L.A., Colton and/or Huntington Park, but they can be elsewhere too. Some of which may be closer to your final destination.

Bolt Bus, bus stop at Union Station, 800 Alameda St (100 yds to left of the main entrance, at the north end of the building), toll-free: +1-877-BOLTBUS (2658287). Offers service to/from San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland on one route and from Las Vegas via Barstow on another route. Buses to/from San Francisco make an additional stop in front of the Florentine Gardens in Hollywood at 5951 Hollywood Blvd while buses going to/from Las Vegas stop at a Carl's Jr Restaurant in Ontario at 1625 E 4th St.
"Cabin" (formerly Sleep Bus), (Bus stop) Ocean & Arizona Ave in Palisades Park, Santa Monica. Overnight service to the Los Angeles area (Ocean & Arizona Ave in Palisades Park in Santa Monica) from San Francisco (Bayside Lot @ 1 Bryant St). This is an actual sleeper bus featuring twin size bunk beds with privacy curtains, power outlets, and free wifi.
El Paso Los Angeles Limousine Express, depot at 260 E 6th St (SW corner of E 6th St & Wall St, east of Downtown in Skid Row), ☎ +1-213-623-2323, +1-323-265-3232, toll-free: +1-866 691-9732. Travels along I-10 between Los Angeles, Indio, Phoenix, Las Cruces and El Paso on one route and on I-15 to Las Vegas and North Las Vegas on another route. They have additional depots at 11825 Valley Blvd in El Monte; 620 W Mill St in San Bernardino, and at 4425 S Atlantic Blvd in East Los Angeles.
Flixbus, (depot) Vignes Lot 501-503 E Cesar E Chavez Ave (Parking lot at E Cesar E Chavez & Vignes north of downtown.), ☎ +1 855 626-8585. Connects Los Angeles to Las Vegas (via Ontario, Victorville, Barstow); to Tucson (via Ontario, Palm Springs, Blythe, Phoenix, Mesa) and to San Diego (via Anaheim). They also have additional stops at USC (W Jefferson & Flower St); West L.A./Santa Monica at 10021 National Blvd; and UCLA at 592 Gayley Ave (at Gayley & Strathmore).
Greyhound & Curceros-USA, depot at 1716 E 7th St (along 7th St between Decatur and Lawrence in Skid Row east of Downtown. Taxi stand on east side of building at Decatur), ☎ +1-213-629-8401, toll-free: +1-800-231-2222. Connects Los Angeles to Sacramento (via Bakersfield, with some of the buses continuing north to Seattle. Some of the buses go up along I-5 while other make multiple stops along Hwy 99); San Francisco Bay Area, El Paso (via Blythe, Phoenix, Tucson, etc); San Bernardino, San Diego (some buses stop in Santa Ana while most are direct); Las Vegas (some continue to Salt Lake City while others go towards Denver); and Tijuana. They have additional stops and depots in Hollywood (5951 Hollywood Blvd); North Hollywood (11239 Magnolia Blvd); El Monte (3501 Santa Anita) and Long Beach (1498 Long Beach Blvd).
Hoang Express, bus stop at Metro Gold Line Chinatown Station, 1231 N Spring St (NW corner of Spring and College), ☎ +1-714-839-3500, toll-free: +1-888-834-9336. Travels between SoCal (San Diego, El Monte, Los Angeles, Westminster); northern California (San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Sacramento) and Arizona (Phoenix, Chandler and Tempe). They also have additional stops at the ABC Supermarket at 8970 Bolsa Ave in Westminster and at Thuan Phat Supermarket at 2650 N Rosemead Blvd in El Monte. $60-65 to Bay Area; $80 to Sacramento.
International Bus Lines (formerly Intercalifornias), depot at 655 S Maple St (NW corner of Maple & 7th, east of Downtown in Skid Row), ☎ +1-213-629-4885, toll-free: +1-888-834-9336. Buses go up to San Fernando, Bakersfield, Fresno, and San Jose/Stockton (route splits/joins in Madero) and down to Tijuana via Santa Ana and San Ysidro. They also have additional depots at 1305 S Atlantic Blvd in East Los Angeles and the Mariposa Beauty Salon at 11430 Laurel Canyon Blvd, Suite C in San Fernando. Prices vary depending on your destination.
National Charter Bus Los Angeles, 926 S San Pedro St, Unit 2634, Los Angeles, CA 90015, ☎ +1 323-201-2618, e-mail: la@nationalbuscharter.com. 24/7. Local charter bus provider facilitating travel to Los Angeles from San Francisco, San Diego, Denver, and Phoenix.
LuxBus, on request for hotel pick up/drop off, toll-free: +1-877-610-7870. Operates to/from Las Vegas, Anaheim, and San Diego.
Megabus, bus stop at Bus Bay 8 in Union Station's Patsaouras Plaza (opposite side of the tracks from Union Station; a pedestrian tunnel under the tracks links Pastsaouras Plaza with Union Station itself). Goes up to Oakland (via San Jose and San Francisco) and to Las Vegas on two separate routes. Buses going to/from the Bay area also make another stop at Bay #9 at the Burbank Metrolink Station.
Los Paisanos, depot at 612 Wall St (E 6th St & Wall St, east of Downtown in Skid Row), ☎ +1-213-228-9988, +1 626 444-5300, toll-free: +1-866-771-7575. Travels along I-10 between Los Angeles and El Paso via El Monte, Ontario, Fontana. Some of their buses go up along I-15 to Las Vegas from Ontario. They have additional depots at 11635 Valley Blvd in El Monte and 1603 Valley Blvd. Suite C in Fontana. Crosses into Mexico via El Paso/Cd Juarez. (updated Apr 2016 | edit)
Rapid Connections LLC, bus stop at Greyhound Terminal, 1716 E 7th St and in East LA at Marianna & Olympic Blvd, ☎ +1 559 442-3000. Buses goes up to Sacramento via San Fernando, Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton and several other places along SR-99; and down to Tijuana via Santa Ana and San Ysidro.
Santa Barbara Airbus, ☎ +1 805 964-7759, toll-free: +1-800-423-1618. Connects LAX to Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Goleta.
TAP Royal, (Bus depot) 767 Maple Ave (Maple Ave & 8th), ☎ +1-213-533-8700. They also have another terminal at 2474 E Florence Ave, Huntington Park CA 90255. They offer bus service between California, Arizona (Phoenix, Tucson and Nogales); and Las Vegas NV in the U.S. and along the Hwy 15 corridor to Guadalajara through Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit and Jalisco in Mexico. Crosses the border in Nogales and in San Ysidro/Tijuana. Travels the I-5/Hwy 99 corridor between Tijuana, Huntington Beach, Bakersfield, Fresno and Modesto.
Rapid Connections LLC, bus stop at Greyhound Terminal, 1716 E 7th St and in East LA at Marianna & Olympic Blvd, ☎ +1 559 442-3000. Buses goes up to Sacramento via San Fernando, Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Stockton and several other places along SR-99; and down to Tijuana via Santa Ana and San Ysidro.
Tres Estrellas de Oro (TEO), depot at 2414 E Florence Ave, Huntington CA 90255 (SE corner of Florence & Santa Fe Ave), ☎ +1-323-588-9188. Connects Los Angles to Sacramento, El Paso and Tijuana (via San Ysidro) on multiple routes.
Tufesa, 611 Maple Ave (Along Maple Ave between 6th & 7th St), ☎ +1 213 489-8079. Connects Los Angeles to Sacramento (via multiple cities in San Joaquin Valley), Oakland, Salt Lake City (via Ontario, Fontana, Las Vegas, St George); Hermosillo (via Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales) and Tijuana (via Anaheim, San Ysidro) on multiple routes. They also have an additional station at 5201 E Olympic Blvd in E L.A. and a stop in a parking lot at E 3rd St & E Ford Blvd.

By Boat

Long Beach has a Carnival Cruise Lines terminal. 231 Windsor Way, Long Beach, +1 562 901-3232.
San Pedro has a cruise ship terminal that all of the major cruise ship lines (except Carnival) sail from. Berth 90-93, San Pedro, +1-310-514-4049. Fax: +1-310-514-4057.

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Getting Around

Los Angeles has a well-deserved reputation as a very car-dependent city, with an extensive network of freeways and a historically underdeveloped public transit system. Nevertheless, while far from perfect, the public transit network in L.A. is being expanded and has come a long way. With a rapidly expanding rail system as well as an extensive and growing network of frequent "Rapid" bus lines (with less frequent stops than the so-called "Local" bus lines), transit might be a good option depending on where you are traveling and what you'd like to see.

Given L.A.'s sheer size and general dependence on the automobile, travel by transit can be a challenge. A good rule of thumb is that if you're in the L.A. basin transit service is generally pretty extensive and frequent, but if you're going to areas to the north (such as the San Fernando Valley) or east (such as East L.A. or the San Gabriel Valley), service gets a lot more sparse and infrequent. There isn't a bus line to reach every nook and cranny, and as such it's not uncommon to find yourself walking up to a mile or more to your destination after you've gotten off at the nearest bus stop—and you may find yourself walking even further to catch a better Rapid bus since their stops are much further apart! Consider checking a trip planner like Google Maps first to see if transit is right for your needs.

Also, some bus routes end service in the early evening, so you should plan your trip to make sure you're not stranded while on an outing and have an expensive taxi ride back to your hotel - which, depending on how far away you are, may end up costing roughly the same amount as if you had rented a car for the day in the first place. On the flip side, Metro extended their service hours to as late as 3AM on Fridays and Saturdays on some routes, but check Google Maps or Metro's website to see what's available for your trip.

In addition to the Rapid bus lines, Los Angeles also has a moderately extensive (but continuously expanding) rail system to help speed up journeys around the city. If you plan to stay near a Metro Rail station, this may suffice as the rail network can take you to some of the major tourist areas such as Hollywood, Universal Studios, Downtown L.A., Culver City, Santa Monica, and Long Beach. However, those who plan to stay in the area for multiple days or stay in or visit outlying areas are strongly advised to rent a car if the budget allows, since you would otherwise have to take multiple long bus trips during your visit. An alternative option is to stay at different locations during your trip, for example Downtown or Hollywood for subway access, Santa Monica or Venice for the beaches, and Anaheim for Disneyland.

If you want to get a compromise between cost and practicality, a good idea is to combine public transit with taxi or e-hailing services such as Uber or Lyft. For multi-segment journeys, a simple rule of thumb is to take public transit for rapid bus, subway and light rail, and replace local bus segments by taxi or e-hailing. While this will be obviously more expensive than using only public transit, it will sometimes be more time- and cost- effective than renting a car when you consider traffic, parking time and expenses.

If you choose to rent a car, you'll get a look at L.A.'s infamously large freeway system and a taste of the notorious traffic jams. However, this will likely still be more convenient than bus travel for long or multi-destination trips.

By Train

The Los Angeles area's Metro Rail subway/light rail system opened its first line in the 1990s and has been expanding since. Many prominent neighborhoods and sightseeing destinations can be reached using Metro Rail, including Downtown L.A., Koreatown, Hollywood, Universal Studios, Chinatown, Pasadena, Exposition Park, Culver City, Santa Monica, and Long Beach. For these areas public transportation can be preferable to the gridlock that often occurs on freeways and streets.

The Metro Rail system consists of two subway lines, four light rail lines, and two bus rapid transit lines, with operating hours and frequencies varying from one line to another.

  • Subway service is provided by the Red and Purple Lines, with the Red running from Downtown to Hollywood, then to Universal City and North Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley, while the Purple connects Downtown to Koreatown. In Downtown, these lines overlap with a terminus at Union Station; check the train's destination signs to make sure you are on the right train. Purple Line trains outside of rush hour are only two cars in length and will not fill the length of the station; signs on the platform will help guide you to where the train will stop.
  • The Blue Line light rail service runs between Downtown and Long Beach through South Central Los Angeles, with a stop convenient to the Watts Tower. The Expo Line light rail service runs from Downtown through South Central Los Angeles to the University of Southern California and the museums of Exposition Park before turning west to Culver City and Santa Monica. In Downtown, these two lines overlap with a terminus at 7th St/Metro Center Station, where you can transfer to the Red or Purple Lines.
  • The Gold Line is a horseshoe-shaped light rail line that runs between East LA and the San Gabriel Valley through the eastern side of Downtown, with stops in Chinatown and at Union Station.
  • The Green Line is the only light rail line that doesn't serve Downtown, running east-west along Interstate 105 on the southern side of L.A. between El Segundo and Norwalk, with a transfer point to the Blue Line in South Central L.A.
  • There are also two bus rapid transit lines which use bus-only roadways. The Orange Line runs across the San Fernando Valley between Chatsworth and the terminus of the Red Line in North Hollywood. The Silver Line runs between El Monte (in the San Gabriel Valley) and San Pedro through Downtown, and requires an extra surcharge in addition to the standard Metro fare.

There is no direct rail connection between Downtown Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), but a free shuttle to the airport terminals is available from the Aviation/LAX Station on the Green Line. However, a much more convenient option is the direct LAX FlyAway shuttle service; see the LAX page for details.

Distinct from Metro is the Metrolink commuter rail system, which radiates out from Union Station to many surrounding suburbs and counties. Metrolink does not accept Metro passes, but Metrolink tickets are honored as a day pass on Metro Rail and buses for the date stamped on the ticket, and are compatible with the TAP system.

By Car

Los Angeles is notorious for its traffic conditions, and its freeway system can get extremely clogged, even during the weekends. Still, automobile travel is the easiest way to see most parts of the region, and the only way to reach many of the natural areas surrounding the metropolitan area. If you are going to drive, make sure you have access to extensive street and freeway maps (if possible, use a passenger as your navigator) or a GPS navigation system. A valuable tool for L.A. drivers is a Thomas Guide, which is a spiraled book of detailed street maps. If you don't want to purchase a full Thomas Guide (about $20-$30 at bookstores), you can purchase Rand McNally maps which cover a given geographical area and cost about $4-$6 at most gas stations, supermarkets, and convenience stores (Costco and Walmart usually have the cheapest prices). Use of an online mapping tool is also recommended, but as a general rule, time estimates given by online mapping tools should be at least doubled during rush hours.

Each freeway is identified by a number, and usually one or two names. When giving directions, most locals refer to a freeway by its number and the definite article, e.g. "the 405 freeway" or just "the 405." It's recommended that you familiarize yourself with your chosen route before setting out on your trip and pay close attention to traffic and road signs. One particularly annoying aspect of L.A. freeways is finding an onramp; onramps are marked with small green signs marked "Freeway Entrance" but these can be frustratingly difficult to find.

Although L.A.'s traffic jams are legendary, the freeway grid provides for an effective movement of traffic and a variety of alternatives. Be sure to have an alternative route planned out in advance; many freeways run parallel to one another and serve as viable alternatives, especially in long-distance trips. You can check sites like Go511, SigAlert, or TrafficReport for current traffic information before your trip.

On average, residents of Los Angeles County spend an estimated four days a year stuck in traffic. However, since there is often no effective alternative for getting around, dealing with traffic is an inescapable part of the Los Angeles lifestyle and something many visitors will not be able to avoid.

Listening to a radio station is helpful for any long trip through L.A. since most stations regularly disseminate traffic information during the daylight hours. KNX 1070 AM, Los Angeles' 24-hour news station, has traffic reports "on the fives" (:05, :15, :25, :35, :45, and :55 of each hour) when they aren't running the simulcast of 60 Minutes (7PM on Sunday) or "Weekly Roundup". KFI 640 AM and KABC 790 AM run traffic reports four times an hour, usually during commercial breaks of their talk shows. The radio station web sites often have links to graphics showing traffic speeds and the accident logs of the highway patrol. Traffic reports will often use the verbal name for a freeway (e.g., "westbound Santa Monica Freeway") instead of the number of the freeway.

Despite the infamy of Los Angeles' traffic, the only real issues are the sheer length of the rush hour and the volume of traffic. The assertions of driving difficulty and danger will most likely seem unfounded to residents of other large cities, especially comparatively frantic East Coast cities, who often see Los Angeles traffic as relatively easy-going. When traveling on a Los Angeles freeway, remember that slower traffic keeps to the right. Many Angelenos do well over 20 mph of the posted speed limit and cutting them off or remaining in the fast lane at a slow pace will frustrate native drivers.

It's actually very easy to drive around Los Angeles in the late night/early morning hours (from around 11PM to 5AM), when driving times can easily be less than a third of what they are during peak hours. However, late hours are when partiers are most likely to be returning from clubs, so be vigilant for drunk drivers. In addition, a lot of construction is scheduled during these off-peak times, so be ready to plan alternative routes. Anyone planning on visiting by car may wish to seriously consider scheduling the trip so as to arrive or depart in the early morning, as this can prevent a great deal of frustration. This is also an excellent time of day to find your way around, memorize your routes, and explore.

In his parody traffic reports, Tonight Show host Johnny Carson used to refer to the "Slauson Cutoff". While driving around L.A. you often have the option of taking freeways or surface streets, and some locals rely on surface streets to avoid rush hour traffic on the freeways. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is debatable and it may be difficult for inexperienced drivers to accurately guess which way will be faster. Outside of rush hour, the freeways will almost always be faster for longer trips around L.A.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Bus

The main bus system in Los Angeles is operated by Metro (+1-800-COMMUTE, or +1-800-266-6883). Many Angelenos without a car use the bus as their primary mode of transportation. There is a preponderance of frequent bus service along major north-south and east-west corridors radiating to the south and west from Downtown Los Angeles.

Service frequencies are fairly high along major streets in the L.A. basin; in general you won't wait more than 15-20 minutes for a bus. "Rapid" buses run more frequently than local ones and should be used when possible, given that L.A. is so huge that you'll much prefer riding buses which only stop at major intersections to ones that stop nearly every block. Check the schedules in advance as many routes change and have reduced frequency in the late hours. Express buses are blue, Rapid buses are painted red and local buses are painted orange. The red Rapid buses run the same routes as some of the orange local buses, except the stops for the Rapid buses are further part while the local buses would stop more frequently in between the Rapid bus stops.

An oddity of L.A. public transit is that there are numerous bus transit agencies, which almost always require paying an additional fare if you transfer between agencies. LADOT's DASH shuttles circulate around Downtown L.A., Hollywood and various Los Angeles neighborhoods. Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus system provides service in that city as well as linking Santa Monica with Westside L.A. districts (such as Brentwood, Westwood, and Venice Beach), Downtown L.A., and LAX. The Culver CityBus operates buses in and around Culver City and UCLA. Areas of the San Gabriel Valley east of El Monte are served by Foothill Transit. Montebello Bus Lines operates service in Montebello, Pico Rivera, Whittier, East LA, and surrounding communities. Long Beach Transit provides service in and around Long Beach while the city of Torrance have their own set of buses with Torrance Transit.

For service from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the LAX FlyAway bus is the most convenient bus service to Downtown L.A., Hollywood, Van Nuys, UCLA in Westwood, and Long Beach; see the LAX page for details.

By Bicycle

Metro introduced a bike share program in 2016. Thus far it only covers Downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, and San Pedro, but there are plans to expand into other communities in the near future, with Venice Beach in the works. The map shows stations as well as the number of available bikes/free spaces to dock a bike in real time. There are monthly ($20, free first half hour, $1.75 for every begone half hour after that) and yearly ($40; $1.75 per begone half hour) passes, but you can also pay as you go ($3.50 for every begone half hour) and Metro TAP cards can be registered with the system and used for payment. Separate bike share systems are also available in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Long Beach.

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Eat

The Los Angeles area is one of the best places in the country for food - you can find just about anything you can imagine somewhere within its loose borders. From traditional American diner culture (try Mel's Drive-In in West Hollywood) to the new wave of organic cafes, to inexpensive taco trucks, and swanky eateries with breath-taking food, there are no shortage of options.

Los Angeles abounds with inexpensive, authentic food that represents the culinary traditions of L.A.'s many immigrant communities. You have to be willing to do a little legwork, go to neighborhoods you might not otherwise go to and often deal with charmless fluorescent-lit storefronts in strip malls, but your reward is hype-free, authentic cuisine from around the world served up at bargain prices. Food critic Jonathan Gold has been finding and reviewing these gems since the 1980s, mostly for the free LA Weekly before he moved to the food section of the LA Times.

For those on a budget but don't want to make too much of a sacrifice, In and Out is always a good hamburger option. For good cheap Mexican food go to Chano's located near USC, literally a small white stand on the corner of Figueroa and 30th St. or La Barca on Vermont which offers a Supreme Burrito the size of your entire plate. Another cheap eat is Noura Cafe on Melrose, which serve delicious Mediterranean food. Canter's is a Jewish deli on Fairfax that stays open late for the last call crowd. Miyagi is a popular Japanese restaurant on the Sunset Strip.

The newest arrival on the L.A. food scene is the gourmet food truck. These are not your average taco trucks and construction-site catering operations (although those exist too), but purveyors of creative and surprisingly high-quality food. Food trucks, particularly taco trucks, can be found in most parts of the city. A few noteworthy food trucks are "Grill Em All," run by 2 metalheads doing outstanding gourmet hamburgers, "Nom Nom," doing Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, "Kogi," doing Korean-inspired tacos and burritos, and "Manila Machine," doing Filipino food. Many trucks also have their own websites and post their daily schedules and locations on Twitter.

On the opposite spectrum from food trucks, those seeking high-end dining have some of the country's finest restaurants to choose from. While the Michelin guide stopped reviewing Los Angeles in 2010, Beverly Hills had several eateries that were rated by Michelin, including Wolfgang Puck's first restaurant, Spago. While there are numerous destinations for an upscale meal throughout the LA area, Santa Monica is notable as the only city besides Beverly Hills that can lay claim to multiple Michelin starred restaurants.

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Drink

There are bars all over. For the more typical Hollywood scene check out Mood or The Ivar.
Hotel bars are generally considered by Angelenos to be the nicest places to have drinks. Some of the more popular upscale ones include Chateau Marmont, Skybar at The Mondrian, and Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, and The Rooftop Bar at The Standard in Downtown LA. Hollywood and the Sunset Strip are generally considered the nightlife centers of LA, though neighborhoods such as Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and Echo Park in Northwest LA are home to the dive bars and cafes favored by trendy hipsters. Downtown has recently recaptured some of its former glory with a selection of popular nightlife destinations such as The Golden Gopher, The Edison and the bars/clubs at LA Live. Hollywood's Cahuenga Corridor (Cahuenga between Selma and Hollywood Boulevard) boasts several popular bars in a row, making bar-hopping a possibility in a city where it's not the norm.
The Standard Hotel is a chill yuppie place for drinks and the Westin Bonaventure downtown offers a revolving, yes, the floor rotates, for a 360-degree high-rise view of the city.Other popular local hangouts The Dresden in Silverlake, The Brig in Venice, and Molly Malone's on Fairfax.

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Sleep

It's hard to summarize the plethora of hotel options in L.A. From some of the most opulent (and expensive) hotels in the world to budget hostels to apartment-hotel crash pads, there's something for everyone. Deciding where to stay will have a lot to do with what areas you plan on visiting, and how you're going to get there. As usual in Southern California, a car opens up a world of options, but be sure to check the parking arrangement at your accommodations before you arrive.

Hollywood and the Sunset Strip are probably the most popular options for those wanting to sight-see and chase their image of that world. Downtown has long been popular with the business crowd but is rapidly receiving a makeover with newer hotels drawing a hipper crowd. Beverly Hills has some of the nicest hotels in the city, and one should expect the prices to reflect its reputation. Sun and sand seekers can head to Santa Monica or Venice, while those just in town for a day or two might consider staying in one of the suburbs near LAX. To the northeast of Downtown L.A., Pasadena is a peaceful and leafy city and a good alternative that's still proximate to many major attractions, while Burbank has many places convenient to the Valley. Long Beach offers plenty of cheaper accommodations on the south side of the city.

View our map of accommodation in Los Angeles or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Learn

Los Angeles, like most major U.S. cities, has its fair share of colleges and universities. Of these, the largest are the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Southern California; California State University, Los Angeles; and California State University, Northridge. Within the wider L.A. region are some of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the U.S., including the Claremont Colleges - home to Pomona College, the premier liberal arts college on the West Coast, and several other highly selective schools - and the prestigious California Institute of Technology, the West Coast rival to MIT.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.

Post

The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 34.052187
  • Longitude: -118.243425

Accommodation in Los Angeles

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Los Angeles searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Los Angeles and areas nearby.

Contributors

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This is version 115. Last edited at 9:29 on Jun 12, 19 by Utrecht. 157 articles link to this page.

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