Los Angeles Travel, California, USA
Los Angeles downtown seen from the Griffith Observatory. Photo by Mike Peel.
Visiting Los Angeles
‘I love Los Angeles. . . Everybody’s plastic, I love plastic. I want to be plastic.’ Andy Warhol.
Truly one of the most grotesque, must-see cities of the world; you may well hate it but if you’ve ever seen a Hollywood movie you have to experience LA at least once.
As well as Hollywood and the first ever Disneyland, the city also houses some top museums, art galleries, fantastic ethnic restaurants and a plethora of designer stores to keep fashion wannabes occupied for days. It is also within range of some of the USA’s great beaches, from the poseurs’ paradise of Venice Beach to the upmarket sands of Malibu.
Cruise Beverly Hills, stroll Venice boardwalk, gawk at Hollywood Boulevard’s concrete hands, fight off the anacondas at Universal Studios, get wrecked in the Hotel California (actually the Beverly Hills Hotel). . .and so on.
La Brea Tar Pits. Photo by Joe Mabel.
• Though the public transport system is good, you’ll need a car to get around the urban sprawl to all the top sights and that means negotiating a nightmare tangle of congested freeways and erratic direction signs. Walking around the shops or the beach is fine but elsewhere you’ll feel like a freak.
• Despite improvements in recent years, smog alerts are still relatively common in the hot summer months.
• About 10, 000 quakes rattle the region annually – fortunately minor ones.
• Crime is not as bad as the movies might suggest, just be sensible about when and where you go.
Venice Beach, Los Angeles. Photo by Theory23.
Venice Beach: great for exercising and wacky people watching, including muscle builders and colourful mutants, Venice Beach encompasses a massive stretch of rather plain beach as well as some cute canals and excellent walking trails going both north and south.
Reached by bus #33, 333 or 436, this is the main city beach. The sands may be bland but the beach bums are anything but, while beautiful people parade the curving walkway or dazzlingly bring customers drinks in restaurants as they wait for their break.
Head to Abbot Kinney Boulevard for ultra hip shops.
One of the country’s largest parks, covering an area of over six square miles, Griffith Park offers a green alternative to the congested city centre. By day, the views from this Art Deco Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood are superb.
The observatory itself – which featured in Rebel Without a Cause – hosts excellent displays related to science and space and has a sublime café. The park is also home to the Hollywood sign, on the flank of Mount Lee. Originally built in the 1920s to advertise a new housing development, the 45-foot high letters have become an icon for the film industry.
Take a drive up Mulholland Drive for the best views of the sign and also to see how the other half live – this is home to some of the world’s priciest pads and has inspired everything from the film of the same name by David Lynch to paintings by David Hockney.
Los Angeles Downtown and the San Gabriel Mountains. Photo by Eric Chan.
Most of the places you’re likely to be visiting will be perfectly safe by day, while even after dark you should be fine in a car (though road rage is rampant during rush hour).
Walking, however, is less recommended; take care after dark in Hollywood, Venice and Downtown, while crime hotspots include the areas of East LA, Compton and Watts which can be dodgy at any time.
Major Festivals and Events:
1st January, Tournament of Roses, Pasadena
February, Chinese New Year, with Giant Dragon Parades down North Broadway.
June, Gay Pride Parade, Santa Monica Blvd.
July/August, International Surf Festival, Redondo Beach.
September, LA County Fair, Pomona.
November/December, Griffith Park Holiday Light Festival, with a mile long light parade through the park.
Despite its reputation for being the city of cars, public transport is used by 12% of commuters, one of the highest percentages of any US city.
The bus system is extensive and efficient, subway and light rail systems cover most areas and the Metrolink extends to the suburbs and outlying areas. Day passes are good value and allow unlimited access for that day. Check the Metro Trip Planner for more maps, passes, timetables, parking and more.
Los Angeles has experienced overbuilding and over-pricing in the last few years but the crunch has seen a new reality surfacing in the city so prices are lower than ever. Choose your hostel/hotel well, taking into account your transport situation. i. e. if you have a rental car, ensure there is secure parking. If you’re on foot, ensure there is public transport nearby and if you want to spend time on the beach then that’s the place to park your head!
Best time to visit Los Angeles
Best: Spring and Autumn, tho’ winter’s usually OK too.
Worst: July/August (hot, humid and frequently smoggy).