Los Angeles, California

The Los Angeles metropolitan area, which includes Los Angeles County, is the second largest in the U.S. The amazingly diverse city is most famous for Hollywood, Universal City, and Downtown. For many visitors, the "Los Angeles experience" includes Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Pasadena.

The Los Angeles metro area has been a "boom town" since the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1876, first attracting "the folks" from the Midwest with a blessedly warm and dry climate-- and then becoming a gateway to a magnificent diversity of immigration from throughout the Pacific Rim and Latin America.

L.A. is a huge, sprawling, megalopolis-- you could start in one end of L.A. and drive for more than two hours without leaving the county's influence. The metro area includes smaller cities, such as Santa Monica, Burbank, and Long Beach, which broke away many decades ago to form independent governments and "suburban" identities. Geographically, there is very little rhyme or reason to what is part of the city of LA and what isn't. For example, Hollywood isn't a separate city--it's part of the City of Los Angeles-- but adjacent West Hollywood and Beverly Hills are not part of the City.

Los Angeles has no less than five airports. Los Angeles International (LAX) is the major gateway. The airport is mindbogglingly huge, with no less than nine terminals. The others are Long Beach Airport, Bob Hope (Burbank) Airport,Orange County/John Wayne Airport and far flung Ontario airport east of LA. Even though LAX is often cheapest, avoiding LAX will save a lot of hassle because the other airports are small and not as busy (especially Long Beach), but you will typically be farther away from your destination which will entail a lot of driving.

Then again, going anywhere in LA is going to cost you a lot of driving. If you're going to Disneyland or any of the Orange County beaches (Laguna, Huntington, Newport), consider the Orange County/John Wayne airport. For any of the airports, it is probably best to use the numerous buses and shuttles to get to and from the airport, if you are staying in the area. Locals do this to avoid dealing with the hassles and cost of parking.

Universal Studios
Universal Studios Hollywood is the original 'Universal Studios' theme park, created initially to offer tours of the real Universal Studios soundstages and sets. It has since evolved into a fully-fledged theme park, and has spawned several others including a Universal Studios Orlando and a Universal Studios Japan.

Hollywood is a good place to stay for at least three reasons:

1. Street life there remains lively to a later hour than in most other areas, making the district a satisfying location to come home to. In fact, the best time to see Hollywood is in the evening, since the district serves, along with the nearby Sunset Strip, as the regional center for clubs and nightlife.
2. There is a wide range in price and quality of accommodations. The modern Renaissance Hotel and the antique Roosevelt Hotel provide an upscale choice, and there is a full range of standard motel chains including Travelodge, Motel 6, and Best Western. There are also a few well-located Hostels.
3. Hollywood’s location is central to most other popular attractions. The Red Line subway stations at Hollywood/Vine and Hollywood/Highland can connect you to the many city areas accessible by rail, and the stretch of Hollywood Blvd between Highland and Vine serves as a focal node of the bus system. Hollywood is also near enough to the Westside to make car trips there relatively easy, and the center of the freeway network (Downtown) is nearby, making long distance car travel relatively simple.

The main east-west streets of central Hollywood are Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd, crossed by the main north-south streets of La Brea Ave, Highland Ave, Cahuenga Blvd, Vine St, and Gower St. Any location within a few blocks of the intersections of these streets is likely to be a satisfying choice. Night-time pedestrian activity in this area is focused on Hollywood Blvd.

things to do in Los Angeles

J. Paul Getty Center, Los Angeles
Spectacular museum boasts a most impressive collection by such luminaries as Van Gogh, Monet and Cezanne, along with the architectural triumph of its six buildings and gardens.

Santa Monica
Santa Monica was originally developed as a seaside retreat at the turn of the last century. The railroad owners built the first version of the amusement park on Santa Monica pier as an attraction to fill empty train seats on weekends. Santa Monica grew into an urban, eclectic, and prosperous beach city whose real estate values are amongst the most pricey in the world. Things to see in Santa Monica are Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica Beach, Third Street Promenade and Bergamot Station.


Venice, also sometimes referred to as Venice Beach, is a district of Los Angeles. Its colorful Boardwalk is a great scene: free, fun, and funky, making the "short list" of things to do in Los Angeles. Venice was the creation and dream of one man, Abbott Kinney. Kinney was an investor who built a sort of recreation of Venice, Italy including a massive systems of canals and a huge entertaintment complex that opened in 1905 and became very popular.

The overly ambitous canals were mostly filled and made into streets in 1929. A few of the canals survive and are lined with funky, expensive, and architecturally diverse urban homes. A stroll along a couple of the remaining streets is a lesson in architectural ecclecticism.

Kinney's huge Pacific Ocean Park entertainment complex survived until the mid-1960's, eventually subcumbing to competition from Disneyland and others. The spirit of his seaside entertainment complex, however, still pulses in Venice's capitvating Boardwalk.
More than one hundred years after Kinney's debut, Venice remains unique and well worth the visit.

sunset boulevard hollywood

Sunset Boulevard
Sunset Boulevard (officially known as West Sunset Boulevard, except in Beverly Hills) is a street in the western part of Los Angeles County. The best-known section of Sunset Boulevard is probably the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, which is a center for nightlife in the Los Angeles area.

Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood is also sometimes called "Guitar Row" due to the large number of guitar stores and music industry-related businesses, including the legendary recording studios Sunset Sound Studios and United Western Recorders. Also, many young, struggling actors, musicians, and other artists continue to live in the area.

Farmer's Market
Note that the Farmer's Market area is really two things, the original Farmer's Market, which is an outdoor eating and shopping area begun by farmers during the depression, and The Grove which is an open air, upscale mall. Most people love one or the other, some even love both. Note also that the Farmers Market is near CBS studios which may still offer tours to the public.

Griffith Park
Comprising over 4,000 acres, Griffith Park one of the largest urban parks in the world and is home to a number of wonferful attractions. Also, if you're from out of state, it may be your only chance to see the natural chapparal which covered most of California's hills and valleys before they were built over.

Pasadena, the City of Roses, is most famous on New Year's Day for its Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game. The number of people in the city balloons every year after Christmas as visitors come from all over to decorate and view the floats, as well as to attend arguably the most famous college football bowl game of the year.

Pasadena also boasts the California Institute of Technology which is known for its Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Downtown Pasadena is a cultural mecca with museums, theatre houses, and movie theatres playing independent films.

Most visitors to Pasadena will also not want to miss the Huntington Library with its large art collection but more famous for its 150 acres of botanical gardens used as a backdrop for many Hollywood films.

long beach

Long Beach
Long Beach is a very large city with a (you guessed it) long coastline. It is situated at the very South-East edge of Los Angeles County, abutting Orange County. You may hear different people say both wonderful and horrible things about the city. This is because the city is so large that it encompasses everything ranging from a large industrial area to extremely exclusive communities.

Long Beach is recognized as one of the most culturally diverse cities in the United States, with immigrants from all regions of the world calling it home.

Long Beach isn't typically the primary target of someone's tourist visit, but it is centrally located to just about everything else that you'd want to see in Southern California. That said, Long Beach does have some nice people-gathering areas as well as genuine tourist attractions such as the Queen Mary floating museum and a pretty-good aquarium.

Copyright Travel West 2009  Cities - Los Angeles, California - Travel Guide West