Difference between revisions of "Los Angeles"
Revision as of 22:13, 6 May 2013
The city of Los Angeles  (also known simply as L.A., and nicknamed the "City of Angels") is the most populous city in California. Located on a broad basin in Southern California, the city is surrounded by vast mountain ranges, valleys, forests, beautiful beaches along the Pacific Ocean, and nearby desert.
The metropolitan area is the second-most populous in the United States and home to over 17 million people who hail from all parts of the globe. The metropolitan area is spread across Los Angeles County, Orange County, and parts of San Bernardino County, Riverside County, and Ventura County.
Los Angeles is an important center of culture, business, media, and international trade, but it is most famous for being the center of the world's television, motion picture, and recording industry, which forms the base of its status.
These districts are a part of the city of Los Angeles. See also Los Angeles County for destinations in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Even before the rolling blackouts, or O.J.'s ride in the infamously-slow Bronco chase, or Arnold "the Terminator" Schwarzenegger became governator of the state, Frank Lloyd Wright said, "Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles."
The Los Angeles metro area has been a "boomtown" since the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1876, first attracting some "folks" from the Midwest and East Coast with warm winters, becoming a gateway to a remarkable diversity of immigration from throughout the Pacific Rim and Latin America.
The city of Los Angeles is huge. From the Sylmar district in the north to the Port of Los Angeles in the south, the drive can be close to an hour an a half long; possibly longer once traffic is factored in. The sprawling L.A. metropolitan area includes smaller cities, such as Santa Monica, Burbank, Pasadena, Long Beach, Anaheim, and Riverside some of which were founded around the end of the nineteenth century and retain distinct identities. Geographically, some district names in the city of Los Angeles are so common, that they are believed by some to be separate cities when in fact, they are actually neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Hollywood, Van Nuys, Encino, and Bel-Air are just some well-known examples of neighborhoods that are actually within Los Angeles and not separate entities, while West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Beverly Hills, for instance, are actually independent cities.
Los Angeles' primary newspaper is the Los Angeles Times , and another daily newspaper is the Los Angeles Daily News . The free LA Weekly  comes out on Thursdays and is a good source for concerts, movies, and other local information. A few local areas may have their own free neighborhood papers as well. "BrokeLA.com"  has a listing of under $10 events in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is a very diverse city with nearly half of its population being born outside the United States. It has the third largest Mexican population in the world, behind the Mexican cities of Mexico City and Guadalajara, and is home to about a dozen of other large immigrant populations, many with their own little enclaves of restaurants, shops, and places of worship. The gay-friendly areas include the city of West Hollywood, as well as the Silver Lake and the Westside areas.
The city enjoys a sub-arid climate. The sunniest and driest part of the year is from May - October. Humidity is generally mild, but there often can be smog. Daytime highs in summer are about 81F, although on occassion a heat-wave could occur. Nighttime lows during sumer are about 63F. December - April is wetter; rain is rare in summer and fall, but more prominent in winter and spring. Daytime highs in winter are about 67F, nighttime winter lows are about 49F. Climate varies depending on how far inland you are located. Inland city and suburban locations typically have more smog. Inland suburban locations tend to have hotter temperatures as well, with summer days in the 90s, and on several occassions over 100F. Inland winter nights are generally in the 30sF or low-40sF. The water temperature of beaches in L.A., Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Newport Beach and other locales is around 62F in spring, 66F in summer, 68F in fall, and 58F in winter.
Being that it is an American city, English is the dominant language in Los Angeles. However, like much of the rest of California and any American state that borders Mexico, Spanish is also widely spoken. Even Los Angeles' name is a Spanish phrase meaning "The Angels." The city has one of the largest Spanish speaking populations in the world, with many business store signs and billboards in some parts of the city printed in both English and Spanish. According to the U.S. Census, roughly 70% of the city's population speaks English either as their first or second language, and roughly 44% speak Spanish as a first or second language. With a large immigrant population, many other languages are widely spoken such as Korean, Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, Russian, and Vietnamese.
The Los Angeles area is served by five major commercial airports and more than a dozen private airports. The five major airports are located in Los Angeles, Burbank, Santa Ana, Long Beach, and Ontario.
Los Angeles International  (IATA: LAX) is the major gateway. The airport is huge, with nine terminals built in different eras in a variety of architectural styles, of which the common element is that they all seem rather cramped on the inside (that is, relative to the size and importance of the airport). Some terminals have been renovated recently and look relatively modern, while others are definitely showing their age. Most of the terminals were built before the Transportation Security Administration implemented modern security checkpoints, which means the checkpoints were shoehorned into the existing buildings with very awkward results.
If you find yourself in one of the older terminals (which can be recognized by the overcrowding, outdated décor, and unpleasant odor), keep in mind that the last comprehensive renovation and expansion of LAX was just prior to the 1984 Summer Olympics. Since then, implementation of LAX's various master plans have been stalled for years by lawsuits filed by the airport's enraged neighbors. This is why LAX has never won any of the Skytrax World Airport Awards, and consistently tops lists of the worst airports in the United States.
LAX's lower level roadway is divided into inner and outer roadways. Private vehicles are supposed to do pickups and dropoffs on the outer roadway; commercial vehicles, including shuttles, circle the inner roadway and stop at islands that divide the two roadways. The different pickup zones are clearly marked by brightly colored signs facing you as you exit the lower level of any of the terminals; you have to cross the outer road when it is safe to do so and find the zone corresponding to the type of vehicle you are looking for.
A free "A" shuttle bus loops around all the terminals on the lower level roadway; it stops at the zone marked "LAX Shuttle and Shuttle Connections." If you do not mind walking, it is no more than a 10-minute walk between any two adjacent terminals (with the obvious exception of 1 and 8). If you are transferring between directly adjacent terminals, walking is nearly always quicker than the shuttle. A streetside sidewalk connects all the terminals.
Note that security-side transfers between terminals are extremely limited at LAX. Only Terminals 6, 7, and 8 are linked on the secure side into a single complex so that passengers in any one of the three can go to the other without having to pass through security again.
There is free WiFi in the terminals.  Paid WiFi is also available from T-Mobile for $6.00 per hour or $9.99 for the whole day. Boingo WiFi is also available for those who need high-speed Internet access which costs $4.95 per hour, or $7.95 for the entire day.
Many international flights do not leave from or arrive at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). To avoid missing flights, always determine in advance which terminal(s) your international flights will be flying in or out of, especially if you are connecting through LAX.
There are also two executive terminals for charter aircraft, if time means money.
Public transportation connections for the airport are only via shuttle to a metro or bus station, and via the more direct FlyAway bus. Follow the signs for ground transportation, and you will eventually reach outside the terminal where there will be a green sign/overhang for the FlyAway and long distance buses, and a blue sign for shuttles (Lot C and Lot G shuttles stop under the blue sign). LAX FlyAway  runs shuttles to/from Union Station (half-hourly, $7.00 one way), Westwood (at UCLA) and Van Nuys Airport. Taxis to Downtown cost $45.00 and take 30 min in good traffic but can be far slower (and more expensive) in rush hour. Otherwise take the "Lot C" bus from the airline terminals out to the "LAX City Bus Center" at Parking Lot C (W 96th St & Skyway (on ramp back to terminals)) to transfer to local city buses  or take the "Lot G" bus out to the "Aviation/LAX" station of the Green Line Metro (subway)  further down on Aviation Blvd & I-105 freeway (nearest metro station).
On your return be sure to arrive at the airport at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours before your flight (2-3 hours if traveling internationally) as check in procedures and lines for security can be long and time-consuming.
Being that you are in Southern California, renting a car may be your best option for getting about. The Greater Los Angeles area is huge and public transportation, while adequate, is not all the time sufficient enough to get you around. If you rent a car, there are around 10 different companies with very frequent shuttle buses picking up on the lower level around all terminals and going to large offsite lots. If you want to compare prices, you will need to do so using the telephones in the arrivals area or on the Internet in advance of arriving. There are no details from the shuttle drivers or negotiable prices. Signing up to one the car rental club schemes can get the shuttle bus to drop you at your car, thus saving substantial time.
The other airports in the Los Angeles area are Long Beach Airport  (IATA: LGB), Bob Hope (Burbank) Airport  (IATA: BUR), Orange County/John Wayne Airport  (IATA: SNA), and LA/Ontario Airport (IATA: ONT) east of L.A. All five airports lack direct train service, only the Burbank Airport is somewhat in walking distance of a Metrolink commuter rail station (not to be confused with the Metro rail service).
LAX is the airport many travelers use when visiting the Los Angeles area. The airport generally does feature lower fares, and more nonstop and frequent service when compared to the other airports. Flying into LAX is the best option if this is the closest airport to your final destination, and (even if LAX is further away) the fare is simply too good to pass up. However, if your destination is closer (or almost as close) to one of the other four airports, and the fare really isn't a huge difference, then consider those airports. For instance, if you plan to spend most of your time in the San Fernando Valley, there is the Burbank Airport. If your visit will be centered around Orange County, there's the Santa Ana Airport or even the Long Beach Airport. If you will be staying in the Inland Empire, there's the Ontario Airport. These airports can save a lot of hassle due to the fact that they are less busier than LAX. Also, the L.A. area is so wildly spread out and populated, that going anywhere will generally require a lot of driving, as well as possibly enduring traffic jams. On any random day at any particular time (day or night), a traffic jam can develop and it is not unheard of to take an hour just to go a few miles on the freeway. So utilizing the nearest airport will only be of convenience to you.
Private pilots will prefer smaller general aviation airports such as Santa Monica (ICAO: KSMO), Van Nuys (ICAO: KVNY), Hawthorne, or any of the other small airports in the area that do not handle commercial flights. Air taxi and air charter companies such as Jetset Charter  fly a variety of private charter aircraft and jets, from charter luxury Gulfstream's down to economical piston twins for small groups and individuals into and out of SMO, VNY, and BUR. LAX does not cater to small general aviation; Burbank (ICAO: KBUR) does, but is considered high-traffic for this type of flight; Long Beach (ICAO: KLGB) does, but has a very complicated runway system and, again, is considered high traffic. General aviation will fare much better at L.A. area airports that do not handle commercial flights at all. Much of Los Angeles is Class Bravo or other controlled airspace, but due to the number of airports and the generally good weather, Los Angeles makes a fantastic flying destination.
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 (platforms in station's basement) 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. Be warned that it can get quite uncomfortable in the station especially when it is hot and/or there are a lot of people. Great for business travel but perhaps not the best for families or any large group of people.
Amtrak routes serving Los Angeles are the following:
Metrolink  is an extensive regional train network with rail lines to Riverside, Lancaster, Oceanside, San Bernardino, Oxnard, and points in between. Union Station is the main station served by Amtrak, the hub of the Metrolink network, and it is well-served by the Los Angeles Metro.
Union Station is spectacular (opened in 1939 and with the era's associated grand architecture), but there are several stops within the county that may be better located to your destination. LA is massive so make sure you get the right stop. Unfortunately, while Union Station has the best bus, subway, light rail, and commuter rail connections (and a Hertz and Budget car rental desk), it may be far from other landmarks. If you are arriving in LA by train but planning to travel around the area, here are some alternate connection options:
Several Metrolink lines overlap Amtrak's routes or serve the same cities via a slightly different routing. Metrolink tickets can cost significantly less than Amtrak tickets; for example, LA to Oceanside is $14 on Metrolink but $19 on Amtrak. Train frequencies vary between Amtrak and Metrolink for given station pairs (some are more frequent via Amtrak and some are more frequent via Metrolink, since some Metrolink runs terminate before the end of the line).
The Greyhound  terminal is at 1716 East 7th Street, near I-10 and South Alameda Street, south of the city's Downtown Arts District and east of the vast, notorious Skid Row district. Though a growing residential population in the area has brought increased safety and services, this neighborhood remains largely underdeveloped. You should still not linger around here longer than you have to, and staff often ask people who are here too long to show their tickets.
Access to connecting transit services is limited. From the Greyhound station, take a taxi or bus 760 or 60 to connect to Downtown or a taxi to Union Station for the FlyAway bus to the airport, Amtrak or Metrolink trains.
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 Boulevard, a quarter of a mile south of the Metro Red Line North Hollywood station. The Hollywood station, at 1715 North Cahuenga Boulevard, is a quarter of a mile west of the Metro Red Line Hollywood/Vine station. (The Hollywood greyhound station closed in July 2012)
Of note for passengers coming from the east is the El Monte station, at 3501 North Santa Anita Ave. The station also houses an M.T.A. 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 the East Los Angeles station, located at 1241 South Soto Street, or the Compton Station, located at 305 North Tamarind Ave. The East Los Angeles station has many buses to downtown nearby, while the Compton station is across the street from a Metro Blue Line station.
Cruceros USA and Autobus Americanos are subsidiary brands of Greyhound Mexico  for travel within the American southwest and to Mexico from the U.S. They share the same stations & stops as Greyhound Lines in the U.S. Onward travel from Tijuana, Mexicali and other cities south of the border are with the partner, Grupo Estrella Blanca.
In addition to Greyhound there are other choices:
Unfortunately, there is no central bus terminal and different companies leave from their own terminals or stops. Some stop in multiple locations all over the city. The terminals or stops for El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine, InterCalifornias and Tufesa are in the sketchy skid row areas near downtown and are very close to each other.
Public transportation or car?
Public transportation in L.A., as in many western American cities, leaves something to be desired. Although the Los Angeles area has numerous bus routes and several transit agencies, and a fairly new subway and elevated network to boot, this is still not adequate enough considering the region's population and size. For instance, a few bus routes at best may have service every 15 or 20 minutes, while others (especially away from the main tourist areas) may have service every 30 to 90 minutes. Also keep in mind there is not a bus line to reach every nook and cranny, and as such, it is not uncommon to find yourself walking up to a mile or so to your destination after you've gotten off the bus at the closest stop. And because there are numerous bus transit agencies in the L.A. area, you may find yourself paying additional money when you get off one transit agency's bus and board another transit agency's bus to continue your journey. Keep in mind, some bus routes will end service in the early evening, so you should plan your trip accordingly to make sure you are not stranded while on an outing, thus subjecting yourself to an expensive taxi ride back to your hotel -which, depending on how far away you are, may end up costing roughly the same as if you had just rented a car for the day in the first place.
Los Angeles also has a medium-sized, and expanding, subway/light rail system to help speed up journeys around the city. If you plan to be staying near a Metro Rail station in the outlying areas, this may suffice as the rail network will take you to some of the tourist areas such as Hollywood, Universal Studios, Chinatown, and Long Beach. However, those who plan to stay for multiple days in the city, and will be staying or visiting outlying areas, and would otherwise have to take multiple buses during their visit, are strongly advised to rent a car if the budget allows.
For visitors who will routinely be traveling only a couple of miles or so, and willing to plan for much longer trips, and who will stay just a few days, and not minding the generally 20-60 minute bus wait, then they may find that the L.A. public transportation system can be sufficient enough. Basically, if you intend to travel in the areas of the West Side, downtown L.A., Beverly Hills, and Hollywood, and primarily travel during weekdays, then public transportation may reasonably accomodate your needs.
If you choose to rent a car, you will get a look at the infamous and large L.A.-area freeway system and a taste of the notorious traffic jams. However, this will still be more convienent than bus travel for long or multiple destination trips.
If you are planning on driving please watch out for police chases which are very common in the area.
The Los Angeles area's Metro Rail subway/elevated light rail system opened its first line in the 1990s. This is a considerably amount of time -approximately 100 years- from when the nation's two other largest cities first opened their lines; New York City in the 1880s, and Chicago in the 1890s. As it was non-existent several years ago, the Los Angeles local train network can do nothing but improve at this point, and the system has been expanding over the past 20 years or so.
Many neighborhoods and sightseeing destinations can be reached using the Metro, including downtown, Koreatown, Hollywood, North Hollywood, Chinatown, Pasadena, and Long Beach. Public transportation is preferable, when possible, to the gridlock that often occurs on Los Angeles area freeways and streets.
A single-trip fare valid on one line in one direction costs $1.50 (no transfers) and can be purchased from ticket vending machines located in the stations. Alternatively, a day pass (valid until 3 a.m. the next day) costs $5; a weekly pass (running Sunday to Saturday) costs $20, and a monthly pass costs $75. Passes allow unlimited access on Metro bus and rail lines. Day passes can be purchased through ticket vending machines in stations (on buses, day passes can be purchased only using a reusable TAP card), and weekly and monthly passes on TAP cards can be obtained online or at Metro Customer Centers. (The main one is at Union Station.) Metrorail and metrobus services can be used with the passes (a few express bus routes require payment of additional fare except for pass users). Route maps are available online and in stations.
Metro fare payment works on a proof-of-payment system. There are turnstiles in the subway stations and some light rail stations. Passengers using a TAP card must tap the turnstile to have a valid fare. Passengers using paper one-day passes can walk through the turnstiles as they are currently unlocked, but there are plans to lock at least some of the stations. However, tickets or passes must be purchased before entering boarding zones; there, Metro police randomly check for valid tickets on the trains or platforms, even if people did not board any train. The penalty for not being able to show a valid ticket is $250 and up to 48 h of community service.
Unlike many cities whose local train systems allow free transfers between rail lines when the lines converge, trips that involve multiple lines or transfers in Los Angeles require separate tickets for each line. A better option will simply be to purchase a day, weekly, or monthly pass for travel on all the lines. Passes can be more cost effective than several single-ride tickets.
Metro Rail/Transitway Lines:
Note that Metro operating hours and timetables vary fom one line to another.
There is currently no direct rail connection between Downtown Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), but a free shuttle from the Metro Green Line Aviation/LAX Station to terminals is available. Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) operates the much more convenient and direct LAX FlyAway shuttle every 30 min between Union Station and airport terminals.
One should not confuse Metro with Metrolink, the commuter rail system. Metrolink, centered at Union Station in Los Angeles, is a region train network that shuffles passengers from city to suburb to suburb to suburb. The system reaches as far as Ventura, Lancaster, San Bernardino, and Oceanside (northern San Diego County), but runs limited service at night and on weekends. Metrolink does not accept Metro passes and thus requires the purchase of a separate ticket. Metrolink, like Metro, uses the honor system, where no barriers are required to enter the system, but frequent random inspections are used to ensure that every passenger has a valid ticket. If a passenger is found without a valid ticket, the fine is $250, with 48 hours of community service. Metrolink tickets are honored as a day pass on Metrorail and Metrobus.
For information on the Los Angeles County bus system, operated by Metro, call 1-800-COMMUTE (1-800-266-6883) or go on the site first. The Metro bus system covers virtually all of central and southern Los Angeles County, including much of the City of Los Angeles.
Many Angelenos without a car use the bus as their primary mode of transportation. Within the central area, roughly from Santa Monica Blvd on the north, the Downtown area on the east, Pico Blvd on the south, and Santa Monica on the west, the buses are somewhat frequent. Outside of this corridor, however, service is not as frequent. An online 12 minute map is available.
Metro buses come in three basic kinds: Local (orange), Rapid (red) & Express (blue). Express buses have the fewest stops and use the freeways (if possible) to get closer to the end of the route, thus skipping some local areas. Rapid buses usually go on local streets (parallel local routes) with fewer stops than Local buses and are better at cutting through traffic because they are not constantly diving over to the curb to pick up or drop off passengers. Check the schedules in advance as many routes change and have reduced frequency in the late hours. Fares are currently $1.50 per ride (no transfers), $5 for a day pass (also good on Metro Rail, but note that on buses, day passes can be purchased only using a reusable TAP card), and $20 for a weekly pass. Day passes can be purchased from any Metro Rail station or bus operator; weekly passes can be purchased in selected stores in the county, and at Metro Customer Centers.. They are also available online.
Metro also operates extra-long Metro Liners on the Silver and Orange bus rapid transit lines, which appear on the Metro Rail map because both operate in dedicated transitways for most of their routes.
In addition to Metro, the City of Los Angeles' Department of Transportation (LADOT) operates its own white-colored buses on local shuttle lines to supplement Metro bus service in high-density areas like Downtown. 
Neighboring cities often operate their own bus systems with different fares which extend into the City of Los Angeles and overlap with parts of the Metro bus network and adjacent cities. Some of them also have 'Rapid Ride' route paralleling a local route with fewer stops. They are:
Los Angeles is notorious for its traffic conditions, and its freeway system can get extremely clogged at times. Still, automobile travel is the easiest way to see parts of the region. Many major car rental companies are located at LAX.
Many natural areas surrounding the LA metropolitan area can be reached only by car. See the article about Driving in Los Angeles County for more information. If you are going to be driving, make sure that you have access to extensive street and freeway maps or a GPS navigation system or you may get lost on the spaghetti map of freeways.
The freeways can be confusing for visitors. It is recommended that you familiarize yourself with your chosen route prior to setting out on your trip and pay attention to traffic and road signs. "Carpool Only" lanes may be entered with two or more occupants in a vehicle. Although the speed limit is 65 miles per hour, most people drive much faster. Do not drive in the carpool lane if you don't have at least one passenger and are comfortable with driving at least 80 miles per hour, traffic permitting. In the other far left lines, drive at least 75 miles per hour, traffic permitting. If you are not comfortable driving this fast, stay in the slower lanes to the right to avoid angering others.
Listening to a radio station is helpful for any long trip through LA since most stations regularly disseminate traffic information during the daylight hours. KNX 1070 AM and KFWB 980 AM are the most frequent and cover the metropolitan area, including Orange and Ventura counties and the Inland Empire.
Although LA's traffic jams are legendary, the freeway grid provides for an effective movement of traffic and a variety of alternatives. Be sure to have an alternative route planned out in advance; many freeways run parallel to one another and serve as viable alternatives, especially in long-distance trips. If possible, use a passenger as your navigator. You may also check SigAlert  or TrafficReport  for current traffic information before your trip. In addition, the electronic message signs placed along the freeways show estimated times to destinations as well as warnings about severe accidents that require lane closures or detours. For the worst accidents, Caltrans may deploy pickup trucks carrying large electronic signs to freeways approaching the accident site to give further warning.
As for driving on the street grid, most cities in the Greater Los Angeles Area (also called Southland) have well-maintained streets, but streets within the city of Los Angeles itself tend to have a lot of cracks and potholes (the city government spends about half of its annual budget on law enforcement, which leaves little for street maintenance). The most dangerous period is within two weeks after major rainstorms, when potholes can grow large enough for entire tires to sink deep into them. This means they can cause severe, irreparable damage to tires, wheels, and shocks, and force drivers to replace all three.
Both Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards are particularly notorious for extremely bumpy conditions, especially in the Mid-City area east of Beverly Hills. The city government has installed sensor loops on most major streets and publishes real-time traffic speed maps online..
Also, while many other California cities have dedicated left-turn traffic lights at major intersections, allowing for so-called "protected" left turns, most Los Angeles intersections do not have them. They operate under the rule where you must yield to opposing traffic, and turn only when it is safe. Some Los Angeles streets are so congested that it is impossible to turn until the traffic light reaches the yellow (caution) phase. Therefore, it is customary in Los Angeles for as many as two or three vehicles to creep into the middle of such intersections in order to turn against opposing traffic on a yellow light. During rush hour, once the light turns yellow and the two or three cars waiting in the intersection finally initiate their left turns, a fourth or even fifth car will sometimes follow them through (running the red light in the process). If you are a first-time visitor, you may find yourself being honked at by other drivers until you become accustomed to this.
Driving around downtown is especially frustrating to deal with. Even when there are not a large number of vehicles present, drivers still tend to go slower in this area because of the numerous turns and exits.
Another frustration of driving in downtown Los Angeles is the very expensive cost of parking there. Many downtown hotels and many hotels outside of downtown (such as in high-density areas like LAX, Hollywood and Century City) have parking garages, but will charge you exorbitant daily parking fees. Even worse, they may have only valet parking, meaning you will be expected to also tip the valet. If you plan to bring or rent a car to drive around Los Angeles, consider looking for hotels that have free parking or at least reasonable fees for self-parking garages.
Many Los Angeles intersections have red light enforcement cameras, linked to sensor loops which are energized about a third of a second after the traffic light turns red. You will know the camera activated when it flashes its strobe light at you to obtain a clear view of your face (which is required along with a picture of the license plate to issue a ticket under California law). These intersections are sometimes marked in advance by signs and should be approached carefully to avoid a fine.
Taxis can be expensive. You cannot flag them down on the street, but can call one of the taxi companies to send a cab to pick you up. You may have to wait awhile for a taxi to get to you depending on where you are. Remember, this city generally experiences a lot of traffic and is very spread out. Thus the overwhelming majority of citizens have their own vehicles; hence, cabs are expensive and less involved in the movement of people than in cities like New York, Chicago, or Washington, DC.
An often overlooked alternative which deals well with Los Angeles' lackluster public transportation and frustrating traffic conditions is to travel by motorcycle. Rentals range from around $70 for a basic bike up to $300 a day for high-performance sport bikes, with plenty of range and options between. This option garners a higher per-day rental price than a car, with obviously diminished cargo space. However, a motorcycle's significant increase in fuel economy combined with the city's high gas prices, and ease of parking in a notoriously difficult-to-park-in city may be appealing to the adventurous rider. A quick web search will reveal numerous rental agencies, including Eagle Rider (http://www.eaglerider.com/), Cheap Motorcycle Rental (http://cheapmotorcyclerental.com/), and others. California riders must have a class M1 license.
Of course, riding a motorcycle should be done by those who are experienced as it is not for the faint of heart. But it may afford the rider a small advantage in terms of travel time. In most states in America, it is illegal to "split lanes" -riding between two adjacent lanes through slow or stopped traffic to get ahead of other vehicles- as a motorcycle rider is still required to follow virtually all rules and guidelines as if it were a car. Although lane spliting is illegal in most states, it is legal in California if undertaken at speeds under 45 mph. Motorcycles with engines less than 250cc, or if incapable of maintaining speeds exceeding 60mph, are not permitted on freeways. Foreign travelers not familiar with the United States may notice motorcycles tend to be comparatively large, heavy, and fast and extreme caution should be exercised.
The canyon roads of Malibu, Topanga, and the San Gabriel mountains are frequented by motorsports enthusiasts year-round due to their extreme "twistiness" and contain celebrated hangouts such as Neptune's Net (on the Pacific Coast Highway), the Rock Store (on Mulholland in Malibu Canyon), and others. Bikers visiting on the weekend will find good company, cold beer, and excellent riding there. The drinking age is 21, and it is enforced.
Concerts and Conventions
While the Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood has more ambience, and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena offers a chance of seeing concerts with 90,000 of your closest friends, the city of LA has its own concert venues that are worth exploring.
LA has great opportunities for seeing live pro sports.
In addition, baseball's LA Angels and hockey's Anaheim Ducks play in nearby Anaheim, and the city's two soccer teams—Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy (featuring David Beckham and USA World Cup star Landon Donovan) of Major League Soccer play at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
Los Angeles is well-known for its diverse and unique shopping traditions and destinations. Shopping malls will dominate your shopping trip as they are nearly inescapable in many of your destinations. For example, the Hollywood & Highland mall is a popular meeting point for those gazing at the Walk of Fame and Mann's Chinese Theater. Other significant malls frequented by tourists are the Grove (next to the Farmers' Market), Westfield Century City, Westside Pavilion, and the Beverly Center, which is quite unlike other shopping malls as it is multilevel with a nice view of Los Angeles from its food court patio.
Lacking any significant public square, Los Angeles funnels its commercial life onto its streets. Among the most popular street is Larchmont Blvd. which caters to the wealthy elite of Hancock Park with one-of-a-kind boutiques. Melrose Avenue, especially in the West Hollywood portion, one-ups Larchmont Blvd. with celebrity presence.
Broadway in Downtown will take you out of the comforts of manicured shopping centers and drop you into its chaos. It features affordable merchandise geared towards the region's millions of working-class Latinos, meaning that forty dollars would probably get you a brand new wardrobe. You will also find pirated DVD's and CD's. You can find a lot of brand name merchandise at discounted prices. Broadway once was the city's premier boulevard; look up above the gritty flea markets and you will see the opulent theaters that defined luxury in early 20th-century Los Angeles.
For a similar experience in a less-polished, but also livelier environment, try Alvarado Street near Wilshire Boulevard and 6th Street. This district gives an insight to how most of working-class Los Angeles shops. Big deals can be found on a wide range of counterfeit goods, but don't stay too long after dark when the neighborhood gets sketchy. Make sure to check out the art deco buildings that exist in between the makeshift warehouses (malls), as well as the Alvarado Terrace Park, surrounded by early century mansions.
The major department stores in the Southland are Macy's, Bloomingdale's, JCPenney, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Sears, and Kohls. Macy's is by far the most ubiquitous (due to the 2006 merger with the May Company) and can be found at virtually every mall, plus it also has a handful of stand-alone stores.
Notably, Los Angeles has never developed a giant ten-story-tall regional flagship department store like those found in other large cities around the world. This can be very frustrating. It means you may have to visit stores at several malls to survey the same amount of merchandise one would be able to see all at once in a flagship department store.
Groceries and other basics
7-Eleven convenience stores are found every few blocks and are always open 24-7, but have limited selection and high prices. The major supermarket chains are Ralphs (owned by Kroger), Pavilions and Vons (both owned by Safeway), and Albertsons (owned by Supervalu). Ralphs and Vons both have a few stores open 24-7. They are useful for picking up supplies like drinks and snacks if your flight arrives late at night.
The nation's largest discount store chain, Walmart, has several stores in Los Angeles, but none of them are close to tourist areas or open 24-7. The closest Walmart stores open 24-7 are in the suburbs of Santa Clarita and Lakewood, which are both inconvenient for tourists.
Downtown is the destination for some focused retail therapy. Want flowers? Why there's a Flower District in Downtown! Jewelry? Fashion? Seafood? Toys? Yep, there are entire districts in Downtown dedicated to these particular products. You can buy art in Gallery Row up and down Main Street or see artists at work in the Artist District. They are located mostly just east of the towering Financial District. Beware though as they exist along with the notorious Skid Row.
No matter what music you're into, Los Angeles will feature artists to your taste. Visit the Rock Venues on Sunset Blvd. Jazz Clubs in Hollywood. The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown. etc. Los Angeles has an abundance of records stores scattered around the area. Also, though vinyl has disappeared from the shelves of most regular record stores, there are still plenty of stores that sell new and used vinyl. Amoeba Music in Hollywood is without a doubt the best in the city and possibly one of the best in the entire country. An exploration of underground music would be advised to perhaps begin at The Smell in Downtown or listen to KXLU 88.9 Monday-Friday for details on numerous shows.
The Los Angeles area is one of the best places in the country for food - you can find just about anything you can imagine somewhere within its loose borders. From traditional American diner culture (try Mel's Drive-In in West Hollywood) to the new wave of organic cafes, to inexpensive taco trucks, and swanky eateries with breath-taking food, there is no shortage of options.
Los Angeles abounds with inexpensive, authentic food that represents the culinary traditions of L.A.'s many immigrant communities. You have to be willing to do a little legwork, go to neighborhoods you might not otherwise go to and often deal with charmless florescent-lit storefronts in strip malls, but your reward is hype-free, authentic cuisine from around the world served up at bargain prices. Food critic Jonathan Gold has been finding and reviewing these gems since the 1980s, mostly in the free paper LA Weekly .
The newest arrival on the L.A. food scene is the gourmet food truck. These are not your average taco trucks and construction-site catering operations (although those exist too), but purveyors of creative and surprisingly high-quality food. A few noteworthy food trucks are "Grill Em All," run by 2 metalheads doing outstanding gourmet hamburgers, "Nom Nom," doing Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, "Kogi," doing Korean-inspired tacos and burritos, and "Manila Machine," doing Filipino food. A listing of well known trucks can be found, along with a real-time map showing their locations on any given day at http://www.foodtrucksmap.com/, and many trucks also have their own websites and post their daily schedules and locations on Twitter.
Coverage of regional food from other parts of the U.S. is spotty. Migration into the city has been disproportionately from Texas and Oklahoma, the South, Midwest and greater New York City and food representing these areas is easy enough to find. Food representing New England and other parts of the East Coast, the Pacific Northwest, and the Intermountain-Rocky Mountain regions can be elusive, along with many ethnic cuisines with central- and east-european origins. However L.A. is birthplace of the drive-thru and numerous fast food chains clog the roadsides. The In 'n Out Burger chain is far above average for hamburgers, french fries and milkshakes.
The cultural diversity of Los Angeles is an evident influence on the local vegetarian food restaurant industry. You can find strictly vegan and vegetarian dining, be it American, Mexican, Chinese, Ethiopian, and Thai among others. Other dietary restrictions are catered to as well. For example Genghis Cohen in West Hollywood serves Jewish Chinese food and kosher Mexican or Italian is not hard to find along predominantly Jewish parts of Pico Boulevard.
There are several different supermarket chains of varying quality - for something different (and cheap) try Trader Joe's, a reputable grocery store with multiple locations (the original is in Pasadena), selling many organic products with no preservatives. They normally give out great samples to the public and sell their acclaimed Charles Shaw wine, also known as "Two Buck Chuck." Whole Foods  is another market with multiple locations and a favorite among the health conscious -- but also a little pricey. Their salad bar is fully stocked, they have huge fresh burritos, sushi, hot dishes ready to go, and a comprehensive selections of pre-made, delicious salads. This is a great place to buy food for a picnic!
LA visitors and locals alike have the opportunity to indulge in a selection of specially priced three-course menus from a wide variety of LA’s best restaurants during dineLA Restaurant Week . It takes place over a two-week time period. Restaurant week for 2008 was January 27 to February 1, 2008 and February 3 to February 8, 2008.
The hotel bars are generally considered by Angelenos to be the nicest places to have drinks. Some of the more popular upscale ones include: Chateau Marmont (Sunset Strip), Skybar at The Mondrian (Sunset Strip), Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower (Sunset Strip), and The Rooftop Bar at The Standard (downtown). Hollywood and the Sunset Strip are generally considered the nightlife centers of LA, though neighborhoods such as Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and Echo Park are home to the dive bars and cafes favored by trendy hipsters. Downtown has recently recaptured some of its former glory with a selection of popular nightlife destinations such as The Golden Gopher, The Edison and the bars/clubs at LA LIVE. Hollywood's Cahuenga Corridor (Cahuenga between Selma and Hollywood Boulevard) boasts several popular bars in a row making bar-hopping a possibility in a city where it's not the norm.
Bars close at 2 am with most last calls at 1:30 or 1:45. It is worth noting that some bars and almost all clubs charge cover and some may have VIP lists that are relatively easy to get on. Look up promoters and ask them to add you to their list. This is the easiest way to get into clubs such as Ecco, the Kress, Myhouse and similar popular Hollywood clubs.
It's hard to summarize the plethora of hotel options in L.A. From some of the most opulent (and expensive) hotels 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 Southern California, a car opens up a world of options, but be sure to check the parking arrangement at your accommodations before you arrive.
Hollywood is probably the most popular option for those wanting to sight-see and chase their image of that world. Downtown has long been popular with the business crowd but is rapidly receiving a makeover with hotels like The Standard  bringing a hipper crowd. Beverly Hills has some of the nicest hotels in the city, expect the prices to reflect its reputation. Sun and sand seekers can head to Santa Monica or Venice, while those just in town for a day or two might consider staying on the Westside near LAX airport. Pasadena to the northeast of LA is a peaceful and leafy city and a good alternative.
Most tourist destinations within Los Angeles area tend to be fairly safe, including Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Westwood, and West L.A. However, walking at night in some areas of the city (and some suburban cities as well) should be conducted with caution; and depending on the area, in groups. If traveling by car there is little threat of being harassed day or night, provided you avoid driving around neighborhoods with blatant signs of gang activity as mentioned below.
Certain areas in or near downtown, such as Skid Row (which is where the Greyhound station is located), Pico-Union, Westlake, Boyle Heights, and South Central, can be dangerous regardless of the time of day and should be avoided altogether when walking if possible. If traveling in the San Fernando Valley region of the City of Los Angeles, the neighborhoods of Pacoima, Panorama City, Arleta, Van Nuys, Canoga Park, North Hills, some parts of North Hollywood, and the southern end of Northridge are also best avoided on foot.
Though cities such as Detroit, St. Louis, and Atlanta have higher reported crime rates per capita than Los Angeles, these numbers can be deceiving. L.A. statistics are skewed because the city has a humongous amount of geographic area so the safe neighborhoods such as Bel Air, Pacific Palisades, Westwood and many others balance the numbers from the extremely dangerous neighborhoods. If the South Central area of Los Angeles were counted as its own city, it would have the highest crime and murder rate of any city in America. Neighboring Compton, an independent city, currently ranks as the fourth most dangerous city in America. Luckily for Los Angeles, Compton's statistics are not counted as part of L.A.'s crime data but instead counted separately, yet the two cities border each other. As a general rule, you should exercise great caution if walking in the area roughly bounded by Interstate 10 on the north, Interstate 710 on the east, Artesia Blvd/Highway 91 on the south, and La Cienega Boulevard on the west.
Both the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles, unfortunately, have a high rate of gang violence and crime. However, gangs generally confine themselves to certain areas and should be of little concern to the typical traveler, who is unlikely to venture into such areas. Gangs will usually identify their territory with graffiti markings. While most visitors to L.A. will not visit neighborhoods where gang violence is a concern, common-sense precautions apply should you become lost and end up in a bad neighborhood: remain on high-visibility roads or freeways, avoid confrontations with groups of young men, and should a confrontation arise flee immediately. If a person who appears to be a gang member asks you where you are from, prepare to flee or to defend yourself, as that is a common gang challenge. Use common sense on freeways to avoid incidents of road rage, which accounts for tens of deaths per year.
Most homeless individuals are harmless; they will likely only ask you for money and if you refuse, will simply go on to the next person. They are most heavily concentrated near downtown, Skid Row, and Hollywood. Avoid walking along Skid Row near Downtown at any time of day or night.
In the unlikely 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.
Los Angeles is notorious for air pollution problems. However, air quality in the city has improved dramatically in recent decades, and Los Angeles has even fallen from its Number One position on lists of the worst air in the United States due to aggressive cleanup efforts on behalf of the state and regional air quality authorities. Generally, smog is worst during summer months and is worse further inland where it is away from the ocean breezes and gets trapped by the surrounding mountains. Air pollution can also become a problem if a wildfire is burning in surrounding hills.
Note that Los Angeles air is cleanest in the winter in the first two or three days after winter rainstorms, when the storms have washed the pollution out of the air; this is how photographers obtain the smog-free pictures seen in advertisements and postcards.
Internet cafes are spread around town and most easily found in heavily touristed spots such as Hollywood Blvd and Melrose Ave. For most travelers, stopping by a local coffee shop such as Starbucks or The coffee bean should suffice. Most will either have free service for customers or require a nominal fee for usage. Many less expensive hotels and motels also offer complimentary internet access, often usable in the lobby before you check in.
There is also a growing trend for local fast food establishments and some restaurants to provide complimentary Wi-Fi.