|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. |
Los Angeles has five airports. Los Angeles International ( LAX ) is the major gateway. 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.
The main Amtrak station is at Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St. next to the Hollywood (US-101) freeway in downtown Los Angeles. The train station also has a Metro Red Line subway station and Metro Gold Line light rail station (on platforms 1 and 2, parallel to the Amtrak and Metrolink trains), while local city buses stop at various locations around the terminal, including some in the MTA (Patsaouras) bus plaza at the east portal of the station. The train station is patrolled by private security staff and people lingering too long in the seats may be asked to show a ticket. Taxis are available at the west exit and the station is within short walking distance to the Civic Center and Olvera Street. Chinatown and Little Tokyo are also nearby.
Union Station is spectacular (opened 1939), but there are several stops within the County that may be better located to your destination. L.A. is big, make sure you get the right stop. Unfortunately, while Union Station has the best bus and light rail options it may be far from other landmarks. Burbank Amtrak Station is next to the Burbank airport where options include Metrolink, bus and rental cars at the Air Terminal.
The Greyhound terminal is at 1716 E 7th St, near I-10 along S. Alameda Ave. You may be approached by panhandlers around the terminal. Friendly strangers who offer you advice are likely to also ask you for money. If you need to spend time at the terminal and want to avoid panhandlers it is suggested that you stay inside the terminal. The terminal was being given some needed renovation in 2003.
The terminal is in a dodgy area, and not located conveniently near anything, so walking to other locations is not a good idea. Take a taxi or catch the Metro bus. The Metro bus stop is a short way down the street from the Greyhound terminal exit eastward. You may want to ask for directions before leaving the Greyhound station. While there are private patrols (funded by the local Business Improvement District) during the day (on bicycles), those patrols are not present in the evening.
Fortunately, other terminals are in far safer areas and have better access to public transportation. From the north, the North Hollywood station is located at 11239 Magnolia Bl. and is one quarter mile south of the Metro Red Line North Hollywood station. The Hollywood station is at 1715 N. Cahuenga Bl. and is one quarter mile west of the Metro Red Line Hollywood/Vine station.
Of note for passengers coming from the east is the El Monte station, at 3501 N. Santa Anita Ave. The station is co-located with a MTA and Foothill Transit bus station, and frequent express bus service to Downtown Los Angeles is available upstairs. The El Monte station also houses a substation of the local county sheriff. Also, from the east, the Pasadena Greyhound station, located one quarter mile west of the Lake Avenue Metro Gold Line station, is an option.
From the south, Greyhound passengers should use either the East Los Angeles station, located at 1241 S. Soto St., or the Compton Station, located at 305 N. Tamarind Ave. The East Los Angeles station has multiple lines operating to downtown nearby, while the Compton station is across the street from a Metro Blue Line station.
It's hard to summarize the plethora of hotel options in LA. From some of the most opulent (and expensive) resorts 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 SoCal, a car opens up a world of options, but be sure to check the parking arrangement at your accommodations before you arrive.
• Comfort Inn & Suites LAX Airport Hotel, 4922 West Century Boulevard, (310) 671-7213. Just half a mile from Los Angeles Airport with a 24-hour shuttle.
• Best Western Airpark LAX Hotel, 640 West Manchester Boulevard, (310) 677-7378.
• Best Western Airport Plaza Inn LAX Airport Hotel, 1730 Centinela Avenue, (310) 568-0071.
• Best Western Suites LAX Airport Hotel, 5005 West Century Boulevard, (310) 677-7733.
• Days Inn LAX Airport Hotel Center, 901 West Manchester Boulevard, (310) 649-0800. Two miles from the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and only a block away from the San Diego Freeway.
• Days Inn LAX Airport Hotel South Bay, 15636 Hawthorne Boulevard, (310) 676-7378.
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.
• Motel 6, 1738 North Whitley Avenue Hollywood, CA 90028, (323) 464-6006. Located in the heart of Hollywood this is budget model chain. It offers clean rooms in a convenient location. Price: US$70 for a double/twin
• The Standard, 550 South Flower St, Los Angeles, CA 90071, (213) 892-8080. This is an upscale hotel with designer rooms and a bar and swimming pool on the roof. Price starts at US$99/night. There is also a Hollywood location.
Los Angeles is similar to other major metropolitan areas in that travel within certain parts of the city at night should be conducted with caution and only in groups. As with any large city, do not walk alone at night, male or female. Most areas are safe in the daytime, but traveling in groups is still a prudent precaution. Most homeless individuals are harmless and if you are asked for money a polite refusal will typically be adequate. Certain areas of Downtown where much of the homeless population spends the night are known as Skid Row. These areas can be violent and should be avoided at night even by groups. Other than that most areas are safe for groups (who pay attention) after dark. Gangs should not be a major concern. They do persist throughout the region (not only in South Los Angeles) but they have no reason to be interested in you.
In the unlikely (although not as unlikely as in the rest of the country) event of a major earthquake, duck and cover and stay where you are during the shaking, then go outside once the shaking stops. Buildings and other structures are unlikely to collapse. Your largest threats come from breaking windows and falling objects such as ceiling tiles and bookshelves. Try to get under a table, desk, or doorjam to reduce your exposure to these threats. You are more likely to be injured if you try to run during the shaking.
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Downtown Los Angeles skyline
• East LA
• Harbor Area
• South Central
• West LA
Frank Lloyd Wright famously said, "Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles". And he said that before O.J. drove the Bronco or "The Terminator" became Governor.
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.
LA is a huge, sprawling, megalopolis-- you could start in one end of LA and drive for more than 2 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 LA-- but adjacent West Hollywood and Beverly Hills are not part of the City.
Visit the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants tucked away in Sun Valley, a community in the eastern portion of the San Fernando Valley. The non-profit organization has the only nursery devoted exclusively to California native plants in Los Angeles County, with more than 400 native species and a seed store with more than 200 species available. For more information, call (818) 768-1802. The organization operates an annual wildflower hotline by phone and web that lists wildflower sites throughout California and hosts an annual Fall Festival with speakers, exhibits and a plant sale.
• San Fernando Valley
• San Gabriel Valley
• Santa Monica
• South Bay
• Universal City
Los Angeles skyline at night, California