Difference between revisions of "Los Angeles"
Revision as of 05:09, 5 July 2005
Los Angeles is both a city and a county, and people often say Los Angeles or LA when they mean the greater Los Angeles area.
LA is a huge, sprawling, city. You could start in one end of LA and drive for more than 2 hours without leaving the city's influence (such as Santa Monica, Studio City, and Long Beach, all of which are unofficially LA), and yet there are neighborhoods very near LA that are separate cities. There is very little rhyme or reason to what's part of the city of LA and what isn't. For example, Hollywood isn't a separate city--it's all part of LA--but adjacent to Hollywood is West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, which are two cities basically surrounded by LA. For another example, most of the famous area beaches are in other cities, such as Santa Monica or Malibu. Confusing enough?
LA has five large airports. LAX is the major gateway. The others are 'Ontario' airport out way east of LA, the Long Beach Airport, the Burbank Airport and the Orange County/John Wayne Airport. 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 LGB), but you will typically be farther away from your destination which will entail a lot of driving. Then again, going anywhere in LA is going to cost you 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. For any of the airports, it is probably best to use the numerous buses and shuttles to get to and from the airport, instead of dealing with the hassles of parking.
The Amtrak station is at 800 N. Alameda St. next to the Hollywood (US-101) freeway. The train station also has a Metro Red Line subway station and Metro Gold Line light rail station (on a platform parallel to the Amtrak trains), while local city buses stop at various locations around the terminal, including some in the bus plaza at the east end 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 relatively pleasant walking distance to the civic center area and Olvera Street. Chinatown and Little Tokyo are also nearby.
Union station is spectacular, 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 Union has easily the best bus and light rail options, but Burbank is next to the Burbank airport so rental cars can be picked up there.
The Greyhound terminal is at 1716 E 7th St, near I-10 along S. Alameda Ave. You may be approached by panhandlers around the terminal. Friendly strangers who offer you advice are likely to also ask you for money. At least two Wikitravellers have encountered friendly or helpful, but needy, Vietnam veterans here. If you need to spend time at the terminal and want to avoid panhandlers it is suggested that you stay inside the terminal. The terminal was being given some needed renovation in 2003.
The terminal is in a dodgy area, and not located conveniently near anything, so walking to other locations is not a good idea. Take a taxi or catch the Metro bus. The Metro bus stop is a short way down the street from the Greyhound terminal exit eastward. You may want to ask for directions before leaving the Greyhound station. While there are private patrols (funded by the local Business Improvement District) during the day (on bicycles), those patrols are not present in the evening.
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 Bl. and is one quarter mile south of the Metro Red Line North Hollywood station. The Hollywood station is at 1715 N. Cahuenga Bl. and 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 N. Santa Anita Ave. The station is co-located with a MTA 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 either the East Los Angeles station, located at 1241 S. Soto St., or the Compton Station, located at 305 N. Tamarind Ave. 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.
The Metro light rail system is cool, but limited. As of 2004 it works on a 'trust' system, you buy your tickets from machines, then get on and ride... no checking, no gates, no nothing. There are, however, Metro police that are part of the LA Sheriffs Dept. who may check for tickets and the fines for not paying are expensive. You can get maps of this online too and many of them dump out near bus stops. The Metro is only a subway for the Red Line that goes from downtown L.A. through the Hollywood area. The rest of the time it's above-ground light rail.
The truth is that Los Angeles is huge and completely decentralized, so the Metro is only helpful if it happens to go where you want to go. Most of the Metro lines meet in downtown L.A., but that's not all that useful unless you are interested in the few attraction located near downtown (the Staples Center, Disney Hall, Olvera Street, etc.).
The Blue Line, which runs from downtown to Long Beach also has a stop near the Watts Towers. The Red Line subway will take you near many of the attractions in Hollywood. There are, however, many areas of LA that are not served by the Metro system at all, such as Westwood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, etc.
Get a car. Yes, traffic sucks, but if you want to experience L.A., you need to get a car, because some of the most interesting parts of town are very hard to reach via public transportation. See the article about Driving in Los Angeles County for more information. If you are going to be driving around, make sure you have access to a CD of street maps , a ' (a large spiral-bound atlas), or a car with an onboard navigation system. The freeways in LA are quite confusing, and typically the speed of the freeway during the non-rush hours is more than the speed limit. There's also lots of construction work going around since the beginning of 2004 (especially late at night), so watch out for that too. Listening to one of the two AM news radio station is absolutely essential for any long trip through LA (KFWB 980 and KNX 1070, as these stations regularly disseminate traffic information).
It's hard to summarize the plethora of hotel options in LA. From some of the most opulent (and expensive) resorts 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 SoCal, a car opens up a world of options, but be sure to check the parking arrangement at your accommodations before you arrive.
Los Angeles is similar to many other major metropolitan areas in that travel to and within certain parts of the city should be avoided unless absolutely necessary or you know how to handle yourself in a tight circumstance. In addition, homeless and other disenfranchised individuals are a common sight in many parts of the greater Los Angeles metro area including but certainly not limited to Downtown. Most of these individuals are harmless and if you are asked for money a polite refusal will typically send them on their way.