Los Angeles streets
Going to LA? Prepare to spend a lot of time inside a car (Photo credit: StockSnap)

Los Angeles Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • Located in Southern California (SoCal), Los Angeles has a population of 3.8 million.
  • The Greater Los Angeles metropolitan area is the 2nd largest in the United States, stretching out 33,954 square miles (and home to 18 million people).
  • Due to the high number of musicians, artists, actors, and other creative professionals, Los Angeles is often called the “Creative Capital of the World.”
  • Locals are called “Angelenos.”
  • Nicknames: L.A., City of Angels, Lalaland, El Pueblo, Tinseltown, The Big Orange.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: US Dollar (USD).
  • Spoken languages: predominantly English. Spanish is also widely spoken.
  • Best time to visit: all year round! Hottest months are July, August, and September. The city has a Subtropical-Mediterranean climate. If you can manage a vacation during the spring or fall, you’ll be rewarded with fewer crowds and shorter lines.
  • Arriving via airport: there is a Metro Bus Station in Lot C of LAX serviced by the Los Angeles Metro, Santa Monica Big Blue Bus, Culver City Bus, and Torrance Transit. Using the Metro, it costs under $10 to get downtown. The FlyAway Bus offers shuttles to Van Nuys, Westwood, and Union Station, and there’s a free shuttle bus to the Green Line on the L.A. Metro Rail.
  • The easiest option to get to most parts of the city is to take a taxi. There is a flat rate of $46.50 for all taxi rides from LAX to downtown Los Angeles. Taxis have a minimum fare of $15 for all trips originating at LAX, plus a $4.00 surcharge.

WHERE TO STAY

Hotels in Los Angeles are priced for all budgets. Downtown Los Angeles hotels vary widely, and range from $75 to $350 a night. In Marina Del Rey, hotels range from $45 to $300. Hollywood hotels range from $70 to $330 a night. Note: Los Angeles is massive, and everything is relatively far apart. Plan ahead and book your hotel/hostel in the area where you think you will be spending most of your time. The most popular places for tourists to stay are in the areas of West L.A., Hollywood, and Beverly Hills, and along the coast.

GETTING AROUND

  • If there’s one city in the USA where having a car is crucial, it has got to be Los Angeles. If you plan on moving around the city a fair bit, strongly consider renting a car – there are numerous car rental locations throughout the city (and at the airport). ZipCar is a very popular service.
  • Metro, LA’s public transit system, operates over 2,000 peak-hour buses and 73.1 miles of Metro Rail service. The Metro Rail subway system consists of the Red Line, Blue Line, Green Line, and Gold Line with a grand total of 62 stations – including Long Beach, Hollywood, North Hollywood, Universal City, downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena, Norwalk and El Segundo. Fares are $1.5 for adults, and discounted to $0.55 for seniors and disabled. All fares must be paid with cash.
  • There are nine franchise taxi companies in the city of Los Angeles, operating over 2,300 taxis. Finding a taxi can be rather challenging due to the rules cabbies are bound by. Taxis start at $2.85 for the first 1/9th mile, and $0.30 for each additional 1/9th mile. Yellow Cab can be reached at 877 733-3305.

LOS ANGELES NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 21 (IDs are usually checked), and last call is at 1:30 AM.
  • Trendy/upscale scene: Pershing Square, Century City, Beverly Hills, and Little Tokyo are replete with upscale clubs.
  • Hipster scene: hipsters flock to Silver Lake for clubs and trendy taverns.
  • College scene: the under 25 crowd flocks to Hollywood, particularly Hollywood Blvd., and Sunset Blvd.
  • Getting into the hottest clubs in L.A. is a privilege often reserved for the rich and beautiful. To increase your chances, be patient, be polite to the bouncers, and of course, dress your best.
  • Pro tip: use Uber to get around (this way you don’t have to look for parking, and the driver can join in on the drinking!)

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • The Griffith Observatory: Opened in 1935 to much fanfare, this iconic civic gathering place is one of L.A.’s most popular attractions. Admission to the observatory and grounds is free, while there is a nominal fee for shows in the planetarium.
  • Hollywood Sign: while you’re at the Griffith Observatory, you’ll have a fabulous view of the Hollywood Sign. There’s a 2 mile trail through the hills to get to the sign if you’re feeling adventurous.
  • The La Brea Tar Pits. Rancho La Brea was a Mexican Land Grant given to Antonio Jose Rocha in 1828. Fossils were discovered in the asphalt pit, and the rest is history. Today, La Brea Tar Pits is the world’s most famous ice age fossil site – right in downtown Los Angeles!
  • The Getty features world-class architecture and art works, and is one of the most popular attractions in town. Admission is free, but you need to reserve ahead of time.
  • The many towns along the coast offer nice beaches with opportunities for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, biking, beach volleyball, and more. Popular beaches include Malibu, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Venice Beach, and Hermosa Beach.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a walk up to the Griffith Observatory through Griffith Park. The 4,000+ acre park rewards hikers with stunning views of LA. The traditional route is a 6.4-mile hike from Bush Canyon Trail, while a 3-mile hike starts at Wonder View Trail.
  • Take a stroll around Venice Beach and/or Santa Monica Pier – perfect for people watching.
  • Near the junction of 101 and 405 lies a hidden gem. Behind the Sepulveda Dam is a hidden greenway with a lovely Japanese garden.
  • The Fashion District is a fun place to take a walk. Start at Pico Blvd., and make your way to Los Angeles Street.
  • Elysian Park is located near Dodger Stadium, and has panoramic views of the city and the mountains.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • L.A. is a great place to catch a show! There are more than 20 theatrical openings every week.
  • Tennis is very popular in Los Angeles. Southern California is known for producing some of the best tennis players in the world, and you can find a game at any one of the free tennis courts run by the city.
  • Los Angeles is prone to a high concentration of smog throughout the summer months – an atmospheric inversion prevents exhaust and other fumes from escaping the basin.
  • Some of the best yoga is in Los Angeles – the city attracts plenty of world-class instructors. There is a yoga studio on every corner, and free yoga can be found almost every day of the week if you know where to look.
  • Where to find good cheap eatsdowntown is the happening spot for all things food. You can find Asian fusion, Indian, breweries, and homemade sausages. Even though Los Angeles is known for amazing burgers and french dips, the food scene is becoming more focused on fresh vegetables. For more restaurants, check out reviews and tips on Yelp.
  • Dangerous areasEast Los Angeles is known for its gangs – there are even a few neighborhoods in East Los Angeles taxis won’t go to. Avoid South L.A., East L.A., Compton, and Inglewood, especially at night. Avoid Oakwood (in Venice) after dark.

RECOMMENDED LOS ANGELES GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days


SEE ALSO:
Los Angeles Travel Guide was last modified: September 23rd, 2016 by Nick
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