Difference between revisions of "Los Angeles"
Revision as of 17:24, 1 August 2009
The city of Los Angeles  — also known as the "City of Angels" or simply L.A. — is the largest city in California. Located on a broad basin in Southern California, it's surrounded by vast mountain ranges, deep valleys, forests, desert, and the Pacific Ocean.
The metropolitan area is the second largest in the United States in terms of population, home to nearly 18 million people who hail from all parts of the globe and speak over a hundred different languages. The metropolitan area is centered in Los Angeles County, but stretches into Orange County, Ventura County, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County.
Los Angeles is an important center of culture, business, media, and international trade, but is most famous for being the center of the world's entertainment industry, which forms the base of its global 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 O.J. drove the Bronco or "The Terminator" became governor, 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 "the folks" from the Midwest with a blessedly warm and dry climate- and becoming a gateway to a remarkable diversity of immigration from throughout the Pacific Rim and Latin America.
L.A. is a sprawling megalopolis; one could start in one end of L.A. and drive for more than two hours without leaving the county's influence. The metro area includes smaller cities, such as Santa Monica, Burbank, Pasadena and Long Beach, which were founded around the end of the nineteenth century and retain distinct identities. Geographically, there is no clear method as to what is part of the city of L.A. For example, Hollywood is not a separate city (it's part of the City of LA) but adjacent West Hollywood and Beverly Hills are independent cities. Nonetheless, they are all within Los Angeles County and culturally are very much a part of the city itself.
The city's primary newspapers are the Los Angeles Times  and 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. Local areas may have their own free neighborhood papers as well. LosAngelesNomad.com  is a good resource for travelers trying to find hidden gems, as are local review sites such as TryOurLA.com  and EyeSpyLA.com .
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 Mexico City and Guadalajara, and is home to many other large immigrant populations such as Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Iranians, Armenians, Thais, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Indians, Koreans, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Israelis, and Samoans. Spread throughout the city are many ethnic enclaves such as Koreatown, Chinatown, Filipinotown, Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, Thai Town, Little Persia, and Little India. For the most part it's also a fairly gay-friendly city, especially the Westside, Hollywood, and West Hollywood where even the police cars bear rainbows.
The city enjoys a temperate climate for most of the year. Summers are warm and occasionally hot, and bring the famously dirty air (though the smog has reduced in recent years, and much of what you hear about was overhyped to begin with). Fall and Winter bring some of the clearest weather and often some of the most beautiful days of the year... it's not uncommon to spend the day at the beach mid-January and wind up with a healthy tan. Spring brings a mix of sunny warm days and gloomy rain.
Temperatures can also fluctuate wildy depending where you are in the city — it's entirely possible for it to be 80 degrees in Santa Monica and 105 degrees in Burbank on the same day in mid-July. The coast tends to stay a bit cooler, and gets quite chilly at night even in the summer, don't forget a sweater and pants if you're staying for dinner.
English is the dominant language in Los Angeles. However, like much of California with a large Latino population and a history under Spanish and Mexican rule, Spanish is very widely spoken in Los Angeles. The city's name is even a Spanish phrase, meaning "The Angels". In fact, Los Angeles has one of the largest Spanish speaking populations in the world, with street and store signs in certain parts of the city printed in both English and Spanish. According to the U.S. Census, roughly 70% of Los Angeles' population speaks English either as their first or second language, while roughly 44% of Los Angeles speaks Spanish as a first or second language. With Los Angeles' large immigrant population, many other languages such as Tagalog, Chinese, Japanese, Persian, Russian, Korean, Hindi, and Vietnamese are also widely spoken. Street signs in ethnic enclaves will often be printed in one of these languages. For example, street signs in Chinatown will be printed in English and Chinese.
Before heading out, get the Go Los Angeles Card , which gives you free admission and express entry to over 40 attractions in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties. The Southern California CityPass  gives a 3-day ticket to Disneyland, and 1 day each at Universal Studios Hollywood, SeaWorld San Diego, and the San Diego Zoo.
The Los Angeles area is served by six major commercial airports and more than a dozen private airports.
Los Angeles International  (IATA: LAX) is the major gateway. The airport is huge, with nine terminals. A free "A" shuttle bus loops around all the terminals, and departs from the kerbside on the lower level. If you don't mind walking, it is no more than 10 minutes walk between any of the terminals, and if you are transferring between adjacent terminals walking will be quicker than the shuttle; a streetside sidewalk connects all the terminals.
Don't assume that all international flights leave from the international terminal. Many don't, and some carriers even operate some of their international flights from there and some from other terminals. Its is always important to carefully check the terminal for international flights.
There are also two executive terminals for charter aircraft if time means money.
In L.A., an automobile is nearly essential, and connections to and from the airport are poor. There is no direct train service, although there are free shuttle buses to Aviation Station on the Metro Green Line, and half-hourly LAX FlyAway  shuttles to Union Station ($6 one way). Taxis to downtown L.A. cost $45 and take 30 minutes in good traffic, but can be far slower in rush hour. On your return to the airport, be sure to arrive two hours before your flight as queues for security are notoriously long and often time-consuming.
If you want to 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 off-site lots. If you want to compare prices you will need to do so using the telephones in the arrivals area, or in advance of arriving. Don't expect any details from the shuttle drivers, or negotiable prices once you arrive at their lot. Signing up to one the car rental club schemes can get the shuttle bus to drop you at your car, saving substantial time.
The others are Long Beach Airport  (IATA: LGB), Bob Hope (Burbank) Airport  (IATA: BUR), Orange County/John Wayne Airport  (IATA: SNA) and far flung LA/Ontario Airport (IATA: ONT) east of L.A and LA/Palmdale Airport (IATA: PMD) to the north. 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 further away from your destination which will entail a lot of driving. However, Bob Hope Airport in Burbank is much closer to the destinations in Los Angeles and if you're able to get a flight to Burbank, take it!
Then again, going anywhere in L.A. is going to require 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 (IATA: SNA). 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 so to avoid dealing with the hassles and cost of parking.
Private pilots will prefer smaller general aviation airports such as Santa Monica (ICAO: KSMO), Van Nuys (ICAO: KVNY), Hawthorne or one of the dozens of other small airports in the area. LAX does not cater to small general aviation; Burbank (ICAO: KBUR) does but is high traffic; Long Beach (ICAO: KLGB) does but has a very complicated runway system and high traffic. 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. Private pilots should also be prepared for flight delays when flying to LAX (including IFR ground holds} or delays in arrival or departure sequencing with busy jet traffic, and should consider alternatives such as Hawthorne (10 mi from LAX) as an option to leave an airplane and catch an airline flight.
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:
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. L.A. is big--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're 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; for example, LA to Oceanside is $12.50 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). Metrolink schedules are available at the Metrolink Web site .
The Greyhound  terminal is at 1716 East 7th Street, near I-10 along 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.
Access to connecting transit services is limited. From the Greyhound station, take a taxi, Metro Rapid Bus #760 or Metro Local Bus #60 to connect to the Downtown center.
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, one-quarter mile south of the Metro Red Line North Hollywood station. The Hollywood station, at 1715 North Cahuenga Boulevard, 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 North Santa Anita Avenue. 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 Avenue. 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.
LuxBus  offers four daily trips to and from Anaheim, San Diego, and Las Vegas.
Xe Do Hoang  offers service between Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
Los Angeles' massive sprawl and dysfunctional public transportation makes getting around rather painful, especially during weekends when service can be more erratic. The only rational way of getting around much of the city is to rent a car, in which case you'll get a crash course in the complex freeway system and, if you're "lucky," a taste of the notorious traffic jams. The underdeveloped rail system will only get you so far (although it does, fortunately, provide service to most of the main tourist areas). On the other hand Los Angeles' bus system is enormous and you should be able get wherever you need to by bus, provided you aren't terribly pressed for time.
Los Angeles County's Metro Rail subway and light rail system has grown considerably over the past 20 years and is increasingly useful in getting around.
Many neighborhoods and sightseeing destinations can be reached using the Metro, including Downtown, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Los Feliz, Thai Town, Hollywood, Universal City, North Hollywood, Chinatown, Pasadena and Long Beach. Public transportation is preferable to the gridlock that often occurs on Los Angeles-area streets and highways.
A single-trip fare valid on one line in one direction costs $1.25 and can be purchased from ticket vending machines located in the stations. Alternatively, a day pass (good until 3AM the next day) costs $5; a weekly pass costs $17, and a monthly pass costs $62. Passes allow unlimited access on Metro bus and rail lines. Day passes can be purchased through ticket vending machines in stations (or on any Metro bus), while weekly and monthly passes can be obtained from Metro Customer Centers (main center at Union Station) or online. Because Metro Rail interfaces with Metro's bus network and passes are valid on either system, current route maps are available online and in stations.
Metro fare payment works on a 'trust' system: There are no turnstiles or barriers. However, tickets or passes must be purchased before entering boarding zones; Metro police randomly check for valid tickets on the trains or platforms. The penalty for not being able to show a valid ticket is $250 and up to 48 hours of community service.
Trips that involve multiple lines or transfers require separate tickets for each line or a valid day, weekly or monthly pass. Passes can be more cost effective than several single-ride tickets.
Metro Rail/Transitway Lines:
Note Metro operating hours and timetables, which do vary between lines.
Distinct from Metro is the Metrolink commuter rail system, centered at Union Station. This commuter rail system reaches as far as Ventura, Lancaster, San Bernardino, and Oceanside (northern San Diego County), but runs limited night and weekend service. Metrolink does not accept Metro passes and requires the purchase of separate tickets. Like Metro, Metrolink uses the honor system where no barriers are required to enter the system, and random inspections to ensure that every passenger is in possession of a valid ticket are conducted often.
The Los Angeles bus system, operated by Metro, is extensive but takes a little bit to learn. The website www.mta.net or 1-800-COMMUTE are the best way to plan trips in advance. Once you have the hang of it, you can get anywhere during the day.
Many Angelenos rely on the bus as their primary mode of transportation. Within the central area (from Downtown to the coast, south of Sunset Boulevard and north of Interstate 10) the buses are frequent and ubiquitous enough to get around without a schedule (see Metro's '12-minute map').
Metro's Rapid buses have fewer stops than local service and cut through the traffic well. Some travelers recommend checking night schedules; bus service (but not rail service) runs 24 hours but many routes change and have reduced frequency in the late hours. Fares are currently $1.25 per boarding (no transfers), $5 for a day pass (also good on Metro Rail), and $17 for a weekly pass. Day passes can be purchased from any Metro Rail station or bus operator; weekly passes can be purchased online, in selected stores in the county, and at Metro Customer Centers.
Neighboring cities often operate their own bus systems. Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus system operates a number of lines that link not only places within Santa Monica, but also Westside Los Angeles districts like Brentwood, Westwood, and Venice Beach. The Culver CityBus operates buses in and around Culver City.
Transit connection to Los Angeles International Airport
Los Angeles is notorious for problematic traffic conditions on local highways, but visitors used to driving in most of the world will not find it especially bad. Many major car rental companies are located at LAX.
Many spectacular natural areas surrounding the L.A. metropolitan area can only be reached by car. See the article about Driving in Los Angeles County for more information.
If you are going to be driving, make sure you have access to extensive street and freeway maps, a Thomas Bros. Guide or a car with an onboard navigation system. One map in particular that even locals find useful is a pocket guide to the area's extensive freeway system offered by the Automobile Club.
The freeways in L.A. 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.
Listening to a radio station is helpful for any long trip through L.A. 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 L.A.'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 each other and serve as viable alternatives, especially in long-distance trips. If possible, use a passenger as your navigator. You may also check SigAlert  for current traffic information before your trip.
As for driving on the street grid, most cities in the Southland have well-maintained streets, but streets within the city of Los Angeles tend to have a lot of cracks and potholes (the city government spends about half of its annual budget on law enforcement, which doesn't leave much for street maintenance). Wilshire Boulevard is particularly notorious for extremely bumpy conditions and requires extreme caution to avoid destroying the suspension of one's vehicle. However, over the years, the city government has installed sensor loops on most major streets and publishes real-time traffic speed maps online at the LADOT traffic information site.
Also, most California cities have dedicated left-turn traffic lights at major intersections, allowing for so-called "protected" left turns, but most Los Angeles intersections do not, meaning they operate under the rule where one must yield to opposing traffic and turn only when safe. Some Los Angeles streets are so congested that it is impossible to turn until the traffic light reaches the amber (caution) phase. Therefore, it is customary in Los Angeles for as many as two, three, or four vehicles to creep into the middle of such intersections in order to turn against opposing traffic on an amber light (rather than only one vehicle, as is traditional elsewhere in the rest of the state and most of the country). If you are a first-time visitor, you may find yourself being honked at by other drivers (or honking at other drivers) until you become accustomed to this.
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 marked in advance by signs and should be approached carefully.
Want to stay in shape during your visit to LA? The city offers more options than perhaps anywhere in the world. Yoga? Yes. Pilates? Yes. Great gyms? Yes. Spinning? Yes. Tai Chi? Yes. If it exists as an exercise then yes. Most gyms offer more mainstream versions of some or all of the above - or most types of Yoga studios can easily be found.
LA has great opportunities for seeing live pro sports.
Los Angeles has a well-known, 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 malls you may bump into are the Grove (next to the Farmer's Market) 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 overly manicured shopping centers and drop you onto its chaos. With merchandise geared towards the city's millions of Latinos, twenty dollars would probably get you a 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 and looking up above the gritty flea markets and you would see the opulent theaters that defined luxury in early 20th-century Los Angeles.
For a similar experience in a less-polished but even livelier environment, try Alvarado Blvd around Wilshire & 6th in the Westlake District. This district, with a density that rivals Manhattan's, 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.
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 Disney Symphony Hall in Downtown. etc. As the second capital of hip-hop culture Los Angeles has hundreds of records stores scattered around the area. Also, though vinyl has disappeared from the shelfs of regular record stores, many stores still sell used and new vinyl. Amoeba Music in Hollywood is without a doubt the best in the city.
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 are 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 .
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. Where else but L.A. can you find strictly vegan and vegetarian dining, be it Chinese, Ethiopian, Mexican, Thai, American, Indian, International Fusion, Vegan Macrobiotic, and Raw Gourmet restaurants among others. Other dietary restrictions are catered to as well. For example Genghis Cohen in West Hollywood serves kosher Chinese food and kosher Mexican or Italian is not hard to find along predominantly Jewish parts of Pico Boulevard. Tung Lai Shun in San Gabriel offers Halal (Islamic) Chinese, including the cuisine of China's muslim minorities as well as familiar favorites prepared according to Islamic law.
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. Dates are not yet set for 2009.
Coffee & Tea
The hotel bars are generally considered by Angelenos to be the best places to have drinks. Some of the more popular 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 Silverlake, 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.
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.
It is possible to get a prepaid sim-card account, but they aren't cheap. The main providers are:
Internet cafes are spread around town and most easily found in heavily touristed spots such as Hollywood Blvd and Melrose Ave.
Most tourist destinations within Los Angeles tend to be pretty safe, including Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Downtown (during the day), and West L.A. While the city is one of the safest big cities in the US, walking at night in certain parts should be conducted with caution and only in groups. However by car there is little threat of being harassed in Los Angeles day or night, provided you avoid driving around residential neighborhoods with 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), East LA, 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 Los Angeles, the neighborhoods of Pacoima, Panorama City, and Canoga Park are also best avoided on foot.
Though some cities, such as Detroit, St. Louis, and Atlanta have higher listed crime rates per-capita than Los Angeles, these numbers can be deceiving because the numbers in L.A. are often skewed because of nicer neighborhoods such as Bel Air, Pacific Palisades and Westwood that offset the numbers for the more dangerous neighborhoods. If South Central were counted as an independent city, it would have the highest crime and murder rate of any other city in America. Neighboring Compton, an independent city, currently ranks as the 4th most dangerous city in the United States. As a general rule, you should avoid walking at night in these areas, roughly bounded by Interstate 10 on the north, Interstate 405 on the west, Interstate 710 on the east, and State Highway 91 on the south.
Los Angeles County and City is, unfortunately, the gang capital of America. Gangs generally confine themselves to certain areas and should be of little concern to the typical traveler, who is unlikely to venture into the areas where the gangs are. Gangs will usually identify their territory with graffiti markings. It is best practice to remain in high visibility on major thoroughfares or freeways in areas where graffiti is everywhere. If you do happen to come across a gang it is wise not to stare at them as this could be taken as a personal threat.
Road rage accounts for ten or so deaths per year, a minor but heavily-publicized part of the annual toll. It is a good idea to plan out drives on unfamiliar routes so you can more easily keep up with the flow of traffic and avoid tailgating or cutting off other drivers.
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. However, avoid walking along Skid Row in Downtown regardless 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, away from the fresh ocean breezes.
Air pollution can become a problem if a wildfire is burning in surrounding hills, though that rarely has significant impacts.