As someone hailing from the picturesque state of Oregon, my heart holds a special place for the magical world of Disneyland. Despite the distance, this enchanted park feels like my 'home' park, being ...Read more
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Home to Hollywood movie stars, a sprawling urban landscape, a diverse set of cultures and residents, Los Angeles is anything but ordinary. In one corner of this massive metropolitan terrain is the lovely beaches of Malibu along the Pacific Ocean coastline, another corner is home to downtown LA with its skyscrapers and interesting architecture. The Hollywood sign perched above the city in the Hollywood Hills watches over the bustling city below. Beverly Hills, Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Pasadena — all are unique in their own ways and are connected by dozens of other neighborhoods that make up the pieces of the puzzle known as Los Angeles.
LA is the most populous city in all of California and only ranks behind New York City as the most populous city in the nation. Home to millions of people from a vast variety of countries and cultures, it's hard to pinpoint just one way to describe this often mythical locale. The city is also often referred to as the Entertainment Capital of the World for its legendary history with movies, television and music.
The city is inviting for all types including those looking to visit Disneyland in Orange County and Universal Studios in Hollywood, surfers looking for the beaches all along the long coastline, shoppers in search of the most trendy and upscale boutiques, those hoping to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, or even foodies wanting to try out some of the country's most acclaimed eateries.
Cultural landmarks are not to be missed. One of the best is the Getty Center, perched high in the hilltops with its marvelous architecture. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California Science Center and the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance are all standout centers of culture, science and history. Beyond the booming entertainment industry that this city is known for, those looking to be entertained will not fall short for options. Movie screenings, comedy shows and live concerts all abound on a nightly basis in the performance-crazed city.
From May to October, average temperature is 70-80° F and from November to April, average temperature is 50-60° F
The nation's second most-populous city (after New York), Los Angeles is a great place to do business or take a vacation. Its marvelous restaurants, Hollywood history, terrific nightlife, expansive green spaces, bustling beaches, diverse ethnic populations, eclectic cultural offerings, amusement parks and easygoing casual vibe converge in a vast Southern California landscape flooded with sunshine, filled with traffic and lined with palm trees.
Still the entertainment capital of the world, television shows and movies are filmed on the city's streets every day and star sightings are commonplace. Beyond the La La Land glamour, there are dozens of museums, sports facilities, shops for every budget, food trucks, world-class concerts, tranquil gardens and parks, ample venues for staying active and myriad experiences waiting to be discovered in the patchwork quilt of communities that make up greater LA.
Visitors should see Los Angeles at least once, though a single visit will hardly be enough to appreciate such a large area jam-packed with attractions and unique characters.
Sights—Back lots and soundstage tours at Warner Bros., Sony Pictures and Universal Studios; the mansions of Beverly Hills and Bel Air; people-watching on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade and the Hollywood and Highland complex; luxury shops on Rodeo Drive and Robertson Boulevard; Griffith Park and the observatory; the Hollywood Sign; the gardens and art collection at the Huntington Library.
Museums—Paintings, sculpture, photography and architecture at the Getty Center or antiquities at the Getty Villa; Asian, European and American art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; modern art and contemporary exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art (including the Geffen Contemporary); contemporary art at The Broad museum; the Degas ballet sculptures at the Norton Simon Museum; exhibits on the art, history and culture of the American West at the Autry; famous and historic cars at the Petersen Automotive Museum; television and radio archives at The Paley Center for Media.
Memorable Meals—French-Californian cuisine at Patina before a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall; Smorgasburg on Sunday; modern Italian at Osteria Mozza or Bestia; food truck fare; wine and power lunches on the A.O.C. patio; pastries and brunch at Republique; a burger from Father's Office; tableside smoked short ribs at David Chang's Majordomo; the tasting menu at Wolfgang Puck's flagship Spago; mix-and-match meals at one of the many food halls including downtown's Grand Central Market.
Late Night—Comedy and rock clubs on the Sunset Strip; live Cuban music and salsa dancing at El Floridita; drinks by the pool at the Roosevelt Hotel's Tropicana Bar; cocktails at rooftop bars around town including The Standard downtown and Spire 73; karaoke in Koreatown; riding the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel at Pacific Park.
Walks—Los Angeles Conservancy walking tours of downtown; hiking in Runyon Canyon Park, Franklin Canyon Park or up to the old zoo in Griffith Park; a stroll through Descanso Gardens or around the Lake Hollywood Reservoir; meandering along the Venice Beach boardwalk and the South Bay Strand; watching surfers and wildlife along the sandy shores of Zuma Beach, El Matador or Surfrider; seeing the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the foot- and handprints in the TCL Chinese Theatre forecourt.
Especially for Kids—Disneyland; Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor (for older kids); rides at Universal Studios and shopping in neighboring Universal CityWalk; the reptile house LAIR at the Los Angeles Zoo; seasonal exhibits at the Natural History Museum; the Space Shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center; the all-glass Skyslide at OUE Skyspace; historic carousels at the Santa Monica Pier and Griffith Park; shark petting at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
Situated in a basin, the Greater Los Angeles area is framed by the Pacific Ocean (west and south) and mountains (north and east). It owes its somewhat Mediterranean climate to the desert valleys that spread out across Southern California and end at the coast. Los Angeles is made up of scores of independent communities and more than 80 different neighborhoods, whose often-indistinct boundaries are determined more by culture than geography. An extensive freeway system (some of which dates from the 1940s) connects the disparate parts of the city, covering more than 4,700 sq mi/12,000 sq km.
Downtown Los Angeles encompasses a cluster of skyscrapers about 15 mi/24 km from the ocean. It is home to the convention center, Staples Center, Santee Alley and the LA Fashion District, the jewelry district, the Arts District, Union Station, Broadway's restored Golden Age movie palaces, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Olvera Street, the Music Center, the Disney Concert Hall, the L.A. Live entertainment complex and some major museums, including the Museum of Contemporary Art and The Broad.
A couple of miles/kilometers from downtown visitors will find the USC campus, Exposition Park and the Coliseum. South and immediately east of downtown are more economically depressed areas: South Central and, across the cement-lined Los Angeles River, East LA.
Radiating out from downtown, you go through the hipster haunts of Los Feliz, Echo Park and Silverlake to the east. Heading north and west, you'll find Hollywood (with its famous sign and literally star-studded streets), West Hollywood (the center of LA's vibrant LGBTQ community), affluent Beverly Hills and Brentwood (with mansions, manicured lawns and infamous murder sites), the quickly gentrifying Baldwin Hills and Culver City, mid-city, Westwood (home to the UCLA campus) and the beach towns of Santa Monica, Malibu, Marina Del Rey, Playa Del Rey and Venice (LA has 75 mi/120 km of coastline).
South of Venice Beach and a bit inland is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Inglewood and the future home for LA's two NFL teams. The 298-acre Los Angeles District Stadium and Entertainment at Hollywood Park hosted the Super Bowl in 2022.
The San Fernando Valley—known simply as The Valley by locals—lies beneath a ridge of hills to the north and extends west from Burbank to Calabasas. Roughly one-third of LA's residents live there. Northeast of downtown, the San Gabriel Valley (with its inexpensive but delicious Chinese restaurants) extends east from Pasadena to Arcadia and beyond.
Long before the rise of this sprawling metropolis, the Los Angeles basin was populated by peaceful Native Americans, attracted to the region by the natural springs that arose in the area because of seismic activity.
In 1781, a group of 44 Mexican settlers established the first non-native settlement of what was to become the most diverse city in the world. Among them were Spaniards, Africans, mestizos and Native Americans. They gave their dusty small town a very large name—El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles sobre el Rio Porciuncula (the Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels on the Porciuncula River).
The city came under the control of Mexico in 1821 and was transferred to the U.S. in 1848 with the rest of alta California when the Mexican-American War ended.
By the mid-1880s, a rail line connected Los Angeles to the East Coast. The railroad brought growth and boosted Southern California's agricultural production by introducing seedless navel oranges to the area. With help from an aggressive chamber of commerce, the idea of California as the last frontier and land of opportunity sparked a massive westward movement, and the population of Los Angeles jumped dramatically. In 1880, 11,000 people lived in the city. By the turn of the century, that figure grew to 100,000. Today, 4 million people live in Los Angeles proper and 6.2 million live within the county's 80 borders and 88 incorporated cities.
Among those who relocated to the "other" coast were moviemakers drawn by year-round sunshine and the desire to escape Thomas Edison who held most of the country's film patents. Over the decades, the city has also attracted everyone from dust-bowl migrants to business executives to waves of immigrants from China and Southeast Asia, Mexico and Central America, Europe and the Middle East. The city houses the largest Thai population outside of Asia (and the world's first Thai Town), the largest population of Pacific Islanders in the nation and the world's third-largest Hispanic population.
People from more than 140 countries—speaking 224 different languages and dialects—call Los Angeles home. Together they have forged a city that's the world's multimedia nerve center, an expanding tech bastion known as Silicon Beach, an international aerospace hub, the center of entertainment production, the capital of the Pacific Rim and a multicultural magnet.
Los Angeles has the shortest abbreviation (LA) for the longest name of any city in the world. When the city was founded, the full name was El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles sobre el Rio Porciuncula.
LA's La Brea tar pits have yielded 100 tons of Ice Age bones representing more than 400 species of animals. The first LA homicide victim might have been the 9,000-year-old La Brea Woman, found in the tar pits in 1914 with a fractured skull. In 2006, a pit containing the remains of giant sloths and a mammoth named Zed was discovered.
The Angels Flight in downtown—a funicular that has transported folks from Hill Street to Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill since 1901—is the world's shortest incorporated railway.
More than 1,500 painted murals decorate walls throughout Los Angeles, making it one of the world's mural capitals.
LA is the only city in North America to have hosted the Summer Olympics twice. It will welcome them for a third time in 2028.
The first Academy Awards ceremony was a private dinner held at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood on 16 May 1929. The 270 people in attendance each paid US$5 per ticket to attend the event where Wings became the only silent film ever to win Best Picture.
The iconic Hollywood sign was originally erected in 1923 as an advertisement for the real estate development Hollywoodland. It was designed to last only 18 months, but was left up for years. It fell into disrepair in the '60s and '70s and was often vandalized. In 1973 alone, the third O fell down the mountain, an arsonist set fire to the bottom of the second L and pranksters altered the landmark to read "Hollyweed" to advocate legalizing marijuana. It was restored in 1978 by private donors, including Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame, Gene Autry, Alice Cooper and Andy Williams.
In the 1920s, Los Angeles produced one quarter of the world's oil. The city still sits on top of the third largest oil fields in the U.S. You can see pump jacks dotting the LA basin—some are hidden by tall decorated towers, like the one painted with flowers on the way to Century City from Beverly Hills on Olympic Boulevard.
The Moscow Mule was invented at the Cock 'n Bull restaurant in the late 1930s when the ginger beer-making owner Jack Morgan teamed up with a Smirnoff vodka executive named John G. Martin.
Two restaurants, Cole's and Philippe's, both of which are still operating, claim to be the birthplace of the French Dip sandwich.
LA installed the world's first parking meter in 1942.
Dying to find a unique souvenir? Drop by the LA County coroner's office where themed hats, housewares, magnets and more are sold in the gift shop, Skeletons in the Closet.
If it were a country, Los Angeles County would be the 20th largest economy in the world.
The Port of Los Angeles is in San Pedro, about 25 mi/40 km from downtown Los Angeles and 20 mi/32 km from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Occupying 43 mi/69 km of waterfront, it's at the southern end of the 110 (Harbor) Freeway. http://www.portoflosangeles.org.
The busiest seaport in the Western Hemisphere and the eighth busiest in the world, the Port of LA does more than US$284 billion in international trade. The port area is industrial (you'll see plenty of huge container ships and loading cranes), but pleasant thanks to recent additions of waterfront parks, plazas, art installations and bike lanes as well as street, traffic signal and sidewalk improvements.
Cruise ships dock at the busiest cruise complex on the U.S. West Coast: World Cruise Center. The Cruise Center is located at Berths 91, 92 and 93A/B. The two passenger terminals and two berths can accommodate four ships simultaneously.
The Cruise Center staffs an information booth daily 9 am-3:30 pm at Berth 93. It has plenty of brochures about local attractions. Visitors can obtain discount cards for various local attractions, restaurants and shops.
There is daily Amtrak bus service available from the San Pedro Thruway Bus Stop (at the Catalina Terminal located at Berth 95). There's also a free shuttle bus from the Cruise Center. This station has no staff, and there are no ticket or baggage services. The Amtrak bus will take you to Union Station downtown, which connects you to nationwide train service as well as the Metropolitan Transit Authority's (MTA's) subway lines.
Taxis, rideshare services and limousines are usually readily available. You'll also find direct-line phones to hotels and rental car companies (they'll pick you up and take you to the agency office). Shuttles take passengers to and from 24-hour secured parking lots (expect to pay US$18 a day or US$2 per hour for the first 10 hours). Phone Parking Concepts at 310-547-4357 or toll-free 800-540-7275.
There are two rental car companies operating near the World Cruise Center. They both offer free pickup and drop-offs to the terminal.
If you have extra time before or after your cruise, you could explore some of the sights in the port area, including the public promenades along the waterfront between the Cruise Center and San Pedro. Metro Bike Share stations are located throughout the vicinity, and free vintage trolleys run from the Cruise Center parking lot to downtown San Pedro, making multiple stops along the waterfront, including the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and Cabrillo Beach. The trolley operates in a continuous loop every 25 minutes Saturday and Sunday noon-6 pm.
Catalina Sea and Air Terminal, which provides daily ferry service and helicopter rides to Catalina Island, is located at Berth 92 and features two restaurants. http://www.catalinaexpress.com.
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