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L.A. introduction

Off the beaten track L.A.

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Los Angeles:
Linking to the most useful L.A. information

Deciding what to do

Besides the beach, which is enjoyed all year on any warm day, what to do?

Check out these fun places and information links, and then go on to more beach information, scenic drives, and tips on visiting the outskirts of Los Angeles, including Disneyland, Orange County, Burbank, the San Gabriel Valley, etc.

The Hotel Bel Air—the best deluxe hotel to stay, and cool to visit, too. Beautiful gardens and excellent food. If flush with cash—lots and lots of cash—stay here. Excellent location for those with cars. Website doesn't do it justice.

The Hotel Bel Air closed during 2009 for renovations and is set to reopen mid 2011.

Beverly Hills Visitors Bureau

The Big Blue Bus for access in and around Santa Monica and West Los Angeles, plus service to from Santa Monica to the Los Angeles International Airport and Amtrak Union Station.

California State Travel and Tourism site - Very helpful

Outstanding Los Angeles-area hotel bargains. Check out: Hotwire.com

The Comedy Store - Dr. Voyageur once saw Robin Williams climb out of the audience at the Comedy Store to join an in progress improv group. On June 2, 2005, Dave Chappelle came out of seclusion here.

The Comedy Store, one of the most well-known comedy venues in the world, is located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood at 8433 Sunset Boulevard. There are both group and standup rooms.

Disneyland - See the Disneyland pages for more information.

El Cholo Restaurant - Dr. Voyageur's favourite Mexican restaurant, the oldest Mexican-style restaurant in California, where the good doctor has dined countless times. All of L.A. dines here—rich and not rich—famous and not famous. Gourmet Magazine called it the best family restaurant in Los Angeles. El Cholo freezes and ships meals to movie filming locations all over the world.

Since 1927, the same family has dished out delicious, affordable (You need not pay over $12 here at lunch, excluding drinks), and innovative meals. Often, the traditional combo plates are the most satisfying. If you cannot go now, enjoy its excellent cookbook.

The neighbourhood around the original El Cholo is marginal. If arriving by car, park on the block in front of the restaurant, or use the valet parking service offered by El Cholo. Do not park on the side streets. The restaurant is easily reachable by driving north on Western Avenue from the Santa Monica Freeway, Interstate 10. El Cholo will be on your left, at 1121 South Western, just beyond the 12th Street intersection.

A branch of El Cholo in Santa Monica is just as good and features the same menu. This is located at 11th and Wilshire, not far from Santa Monica Pier.

Fox Television Network

Forest Lawn - You won't believe it.

Getty Center - This museum is one of the premier art venues in the United States and the world. Don't confuse this with the old J. Paul Jetty Museum of Art on a crumbling cliff overlooking the Pacific near Malibu. Because parking is very limited, you must book a space for your car in advance.

Hermosa Beach Surf City Hostel—Good accommodation in a safer area near LAX Airport. A great place to relax several days on the beach. However, this is not nearly as convenient for extensive sightseeing and dining as the Santa Monica Hostel, which is also very near a beach. However, the City of Hermosa Beach attracts more young singles, including many airline employees. The site includes good directions for air, bus, car, and rail travellers.

Hollywood and Highland complex, the fabulous new home of the Academy Award show. A must see. Discussed in the L.A. at night section.

Hollywood Bowl - Outdoor summer concerts.

Hotwire.com—Deeply discounted L.A.-area hotels and motor inns. You choose the quality, price, and neighborhood, but not a specific hotel prior to paying. Excellent savings. At these rates, no changes or refunds. This is your chance to get a better hotel at a moderate price.

Huntington Beach in Orange County. A centre of southern California beach life. This is truly "Surf City USA." The drive along Highway 1 along its long, long public beach will exhilarate you.

Huntington Library and Gardens — A local favourite. Watch for Cameron Diaz in the gardens, where she loves to come and relax.

Knotts Berry Farm —Another local favourite, this amusement park is described here.

KFWB. - Get reports on Los Angeles and Orange County area traffic conditions by listening to Newsradio KFWB AM 98 or checking its Internet site. L.A. is the most car-centred car culture in the world, so you can use up-to-date information to save driving time. AM 1070 KCBS is your news alternative.

KROQ 106.7 FM Radio, the pioneer alternative rock station. Great music, comedy, and information. This station created the infamous "Love Line" show, which was eventually seen on MTV.

KUSC - 91.5 FM Classical Radio — It ain't all rock & roll in Angeltown.

Los Angeles Coroner's Gift Shop — DrV kids you not. Oh, you doubt him?

This shows just how wacky L.A. really is. Sick. Sick. Sick. To put it mildly. Talk about poor taste from a government-run department. (The one featured in the O.J. Simpson trial.) Nevertheless, Dr. Voyageur is not going to deny the denizens of this abysmal but essential trade or you their fun.

Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority information and timetables—Used to be called the Rapid Transit District, but one day it resolved to lie no more. In fairness, this innovative agency has improved and now even has subway service.

The Los Angeles Times Calendar section — Superb entertainment coverage, perhaps the best in the U.S., as befits the entertainment capital of the world. Highly recommended.

As this link mostly shows current events, be sure to buy the L.A. Times (at major newsstands worldwide) prior to visiting southern California to check out what tickets should be ordered ahead of time. Favour anything at the outdoor Hollywood Bowl in the summer, especially the more aggressive music. Also, be sure to check out the restaurant section.

Six Flags Magic Mountain (the famed Wally World of National Lampoon's Vacation), whose ads once featured the upchuck potential of its rides. Visit Universal Studios, Disneyland, and Knott's Berry Farm (see Orange County section) before this less unique amusement park, unless you area14-year old "Fear Factor" fan and want to make your little brother or sister sick.

Metropolitan Transit Authority (Los Angeles) routes and timetables

Ontario Mills, southern California's premier outlet mall at the junction of Interstates 10 and 15. A bit inconvenient to most attractions unless you are on your way to Las Vegas.

Orange County Transit (Disneyland area). Friendly service in a congested area

Paramount Studios — Tours discontinued.

Santa Monica Big Blue Bus serving Santa Monica, West Los Angles, LAX, and Amtrak Union Station (serving Union Station daily except Sunday). Fantastic public transit service. Helps make Santa Monica a great place to stay if you don't have a car.

Santa Monica Hostel, 1436 Second Street, Santa Monica (310 393-9913), the best budget place to stay in the Los Angeles area. Period. Well run and super location. Book in advance! Hostels: USA pans the comfort of its beds, but its super convenient and reasonably safe location just above the beach and its coherent management make this place a Dr. Voyageur favourite.

Hostelling International membership for Canadian, U.S., and travellers from around the world gives a discount at the Santa Monica Hostel. Check out the Santa Monica Transit information link below for transfer information.

Santa Monica Transit Information - Dr. Voyageur's guide to getting to Santa Monica from Amtrak, Greyhound, and LAX.

Santa Monica Visitor's Bureau (somewhat slow to load)

Sierra Club Angeles Chapter has numerous outstanding day trips in Los Angeles and Orange Counties open to nonmembers. Walk with the club through the Santa Monica Mountains, Hollywood Hills, etc. (See the site for trip choices.) Local members often help with transportation to trail heads. The main Sierra Club Internet page has links to other chapters and much additional information. Highly recommended guided hikes.

Sightseeing tours from the Los Angeles area or Orange County offer an efficient way to see the top sights in southern California, including Hollywood, Sea World, and the San Diego Zoo.

If you have time for just one tour, take a combo Hollywood and Universal Studios Hollywood tour, an excellent introduction to Los Angeles.

One drawback of coach tours is that the good people of Beverly Hills no longer allow noisy and smelly large tour buses (in their view) to lumber along their residential streets. Thus, the classic tour of Beverly Hills movie stars homes cannot be given by coach, although stars homes in adjacent areas are easily seen.

More and more, however, the stars have moved away from Beverly Hills to be closer to the beach (where there is less air pollution) or to live the more natural settings of Bel Air or the Santa Monica Mountains. Jane Fonda led the way to Santa Monica prior to her marriage to Ted Turner, the CNN cable television founder, and numerous other celebrities now live in adjacent Malibu.

If you are limited in time, try the following sightseeing:

  • Day 1: An entire day on a Universal Studios and Hollywood combo tour with an evening at a local music club or comedy venue or just relaxing.
  • Day 2: Morning: An organized tour focusing on entertainment stars homes and hangouts using a minivan.
  • Day 2: Afternoon: Santa Monica Beach, if you don't have a car: Zuma Beach beyond Malibu, if you do.
  • Day 2: Evening: Hollywood and Los Angeles at-night tour.
  • Day 3: Disneyland (if you will not visit the better one in Florida) or—better yet—an all day tour to Santa Barbara.

Dr. Voyageur does not recommend the VIP tour company in Los Angeles.

Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena

The Standard, well-located upmarket (but not super expensive) hotel in the centre of the Sunset Strip entertainment area. This was the venue for several "Sex in the City" episodes set in Los Angeles and for scenes from the 2004 "Ocean's Twelve." Neat lobby. Nice views. Great vibrant location.

Museum of Television and Radio

Ticketmaster, advance tickets for most venues. Service charge, but super convenient. You can print most tickets from your computer.

Universal Studios Hollywood Tour. A must see, unless you have recently visited the one in Orlando. Even then, it still might be a must see.

Although Universal Studios located in Orlando is newer and fresher, Universal Studios located north of Hollywood has the tradition.

At this studio were filmed thousands of movies and television shows that you have all seen. The house in Psycho? Right here. The graveyard in "The Birds"? Ditto. The clock tower and plaza used in the "Back to the Future" films? Yep. The Jaws and King Kong sets? Of course. And, each of these locales has had a multitude of uses.

At Universal, Jaws and King Kong greet you (to put it mildly). You can touch the car used in Back to the Future and meet some of the stars of Jurassic Park—real, real close—and eat at the excellent Jurassic Park snack bar, which is far more vegetarian friendly than you might expect!

The advantage of an organized tour to Universal is that you skip the tour queues. Tour participants gain special entry. And, if you take a full day combo tour, the bus visits the highlights of the surrounding area, including the famous stars built into the sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard.

UCLA Interfraternity Council offers summer accommodation in the convenient Westwood Village area between Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. One summer, Dr. Voyageur got himself a University of California at Los Angeles frat room in a friendly place with a pool and some awesome water polo games. Most places rented are within easy walking distance of Wilshire Boulevard buses and many restaurants and snack bars. Parking is bad news near UCLA, unless you pay—a lot.

The University of Southern California Tommy Cam — The world's first web cam, best seen on a weekday. Aimed at the campus centre, this shows (from a distance) what students are wearing and how little of it they are wearing in southern California. Links to USC information.

Warner's Brothers VIP Studio Tour - Excellent!

Zagat Survey restaurant guides cover the Los Angeles area, Orange County, and San Diego. Zagat also rates Los Angeles nightlife, but be sure to check its listings with knowledgeable locals, as places become "in" or "out" in L.A. more rapidly than nearly anywhere else. All of these inexpensive guides are highly recommended.

For more L.A. information:

Go to >> Introduction to your visit
Go to >> Off the beaten track L.A.
Go to >> L.A. at night
Go to >> Disneyland

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