Los Angeles County
The Antelope Valley began as a community nearly a century ago. Its original industries were agriculture and mining, and those persist to this day with boron and copper mining going on in the northern hills and carrots and onions growing in the outlying areas. However, the region is now dominated by the aerospace industry, with the core work being done in and around either Air Force Plant 42 or Edwards Air Force Base. Economically, the area is dominated by its two largest cities, Palmdale and Lancaster. Between the two cities, a population of over 500,000 people call the Antelope Valley home. Roughly half of the breadwinners in the area commute to jobs closer to the nearby urban center of Los Angeles, but the others work near where they live. Attracted by affordable housing, clean air, and freedom from the crowding and congestion of the big city, the residents of the Antelope Valley (or "A.V." to the locals) also boast proximity to some interesting local attractions.
English is the dominant language; in some neighborhoods Spanish is spoken but an English speaker is usually easy to find there.
Palmdale Regional Airport (PMD) in Palmdale was served by United Airlines and Delta Airlines in the past. Currently, no scheduled air service exists in the Antelope Valley due to the economic recession. Charter flights however, are available in Fox Field to the northwest of Lancaster.
Bob Hope Airport (BUR), in Burbank 50 minutes South of Palmdale is served by all major domestic carriers except Continental Airlines.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Ontario International Airport (ONT), and Bakersfield Meadows Field (BFL) are all approximately 1.5 hours away with clear traffic. LAX has the most flight options and is relatively the cheapest way to go, but the traffic is usually bad. Ontario is usually a good alternate, although it has less flight options than LAX and occasional poor traffic conditions. Bakersfield has the least amount of traffic problems of any of the airports, except for Palmdale itself, but has fewer flight options than the other major airports and is usually more expensive.
If willing to drive a distance (90-120 miles), Long Beach Municipal Airport (LGB) and John Wayne International (SNA) are also available as alternatives.
The Palmdale Transportation Center is the area's principal transit hub. It is served by Metrolink, a commuter light-rail line from Los Angeles, by Amtrak using it's Throughway Bus service, and also by Greyhound Bus. Lancaster also has a Metrolink station that serves as the final destination on the Antelope Valley Line. There is also another Metrolink station on the edge of southern Palmdale called Vincent Grade - Acton.
Access to the Antelope Valley is had from Los Angeles mainly along California State Route 14, the Antelope Valley Freeway. From its beginning near Northridge, it is about a 45-minute drive to Palmdale, the southern of the Antelope Valley's two main cities. It is also possible to get to the area along California State Route 138, either from its point of origin along Interstate 5 between Santa Clarita and the Grapevine, or from where it intersects Interstate 15 in Victorville.
Once in the Antelope Valley, visitors may note that the streets proceed along an orderly grid. Avenue "A" runs east-west along the Los Angeles County-Kern County border. Avenue "B" runs parallel to it, exactly one mile south. Avenue "C" is one mile south of "B," and so on south to Avenue "T" (there are other, more southerly avenues, but visitors are unlikely to encounter them). The north-south lines parallel "Division Street," an arbitrary street that runs due north-south along a path that can be projected north from Lake Avenue in Pasadena. Every mile east or west from Division Street is noted by ten "street" numbers -- one mile west of division street is 10th Street West, and one mile west of that is 20th Street West, and so on.
Local residents refer to the "east side" and "west side" of town. In Palmdale, this generally refers to something being east or west of Division Street, but in Lancaster, it often means east or west of the Antelope Valley Freeway, which runs one to two miles west of Division Street.
Historical roads in and out of the area include Sierra Highway, which runs along the former U.S. Route 6, and Lancaster and Palmdale Boulevards. Lancaster and Palmdale Boulevards are both major commercial thoroughfares.
The Antelope Valley is an arid plateau located between the Tehachipi and San Gabriel Mountains. It enjoys clear air and strong winds, and fantastic visibility. While not everyone will appreciate the rugged beauty of the desert and the rugged mountains nearby, others find the scenery spectacular. Dotting the landscape are the Antelope Valley's trademark Joshua Trees, which only grow in the Mojave Desert.
Immediately north of the intersection of Avenue "S" and the Antelope Valley Freeway is a low hill, through which the freeway cuts. This is called the "Palmdale Bulge" and it is located immediately above the San Andreas fault. Strata of rock are clearly visible, warped and twisted in dramatic fashion by the tectonic interaction of the Pacific and North American plates. While most visitors only glance at the formation from the freeway, it is possible to park and hike about one-half mile through the desert to overlook the formations. Be careful and do not approach too close to the edge of the steep cutaway.
Aircraft in flight can be seen irregularly -- much of the United States' most advanced airplanes have been assembled and test-flown here. Most impressive to see in flight are the B-2 Spirit Bombers which are assembled at Air Force Plant 42, located along Sierra Highway. Other advanced aircraft such as the F-35 can be seen in test flights, as well as some older aircraft such as F-22s, T-38s, B-1s, C- and KC-135s, and even the occasional B-52 or C-5 Galaxy. A small dirt parking lot at the intersection of Avenue N and Sierra Highway affords a straight-down-the-runway look at whatever is being tested and flown that day. The SR-71 and F-117 are not seen in the skies anymore, but the frames of these and other history-making airplanes can be seen at Blackbird Park on Avenue P and 25th Street East.
The Antelope Valley Indian Museum in Lake Los Angeles offers insights and artifacts showing the indigenous population. The Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve , for a few weeks every year, presents a glorious exhibition of native wildflowers including the state flower, the California Golden Poppy. Hillsides turn orange, purple, and yellow several weeks after the rain as the native flowers bloom. Devil's Punchbowl is the most prominent of several outstanding local hikes in and around the Angeles National Forest. The Lancaster JetHawks are a minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox and play at ClearChannel Stadium located on Avenue I next to the 14 Freeway. The National Soccer Center is a mecca for high school and youth-league soccer tournaments. The annual Edwards Air Force Base open house provides one of the best displays of precision and high-tech aviation available to the general public anywhere. The Shambala Preserve in Acton, run by retired movie star Tippi Hedren, preserves large cats and is a good activity for youth groups; another large cat preserve is in Rosamond west of the Freeway. Willow Springs racetrack is one of the more challenging minor-league auto racing tracks available and can be rented for private use on a limited-availability basis.
Chain restaurants abound; if you love the Olive Garden, Outback, BJ's Brewpub, Chili's, or Appelbee's, the Antelope Valley has a lot to offer. Finer dining options are available at Tina's Ristorante in Lancaster for truly top-notch Italian food, Vincent Station south of Palmdale for steaks and seafood, and the clubhouse at the Rancho Vista golf course.
Visitors looking for libations are best advised to have a drink in the bar area of one of the various chain restaurants around the mall like Red Lobster, BJ's, or Olive Garden. There are few high-end, stand-alone bars. If you're looking for a belly full of beer and some sports on the TV, there are several good sports bar-and-grills like Buffalo Wild Wings, Schooner's, Coach's, or Papa's Barbeque Pit.
Some neighborhoods, generally on the east side of Palmdale and Lancaster, are known to be high-crime areas and as with any urbanized or partially urbanized area, visitors should be aware of their surroundings and avoid suspicious individuals. Generally, however, the Antelope Valley enjoys lower rates of both violent and property crime than the rest of Los Angeles County.
Affordable green fees can be found at several local golf courses, including Desert Aire, Lake Elizabeth and Rancho Vista. The Antelope Valley Country Club is a private course.
Bird watchers will enjoy the proliferation of red hawks in the area, and there is an abundance of waterfowl in and around the aqueduct. At night, owls prowl the deserts looking for prey. Other local wildlife that can be seen with some frequency are desert tortoises, coyotes, a wide variety of snakes, and the occasional small black bear from the nearby mountains looking for forage.