People either love it or hate it—but no matter what, Los Angeles makes no excuses and changes itself for no one. And you've got to admire that. Made up of dozens of communities, there is not one single experience that can sum up the life and heartbeat of this city. But what can be noted about Los Angeles by both tourists and locals alike is the hustle-and-bustle lifestyle, the vibrant and unique neighborhoods, and the extreme diversity that sets it apart from any other city. From the eternal sunshine and Hollywood glitz to all the small communities with their own distinct cultural personalities, this City of Angels will forever be many things to many people.
While not exactly in the center of town geographically due to the sprawling nature of the city,
The Miracle Mile/Hancock Park area is another of L.A.'s historical neighborhoods. Here you will find Wilshire Boulevard's
Ritzy West Hollywood is home to one of the city's most famous (or infamous) attractions: the
Beverly Hills & the Westside
This world-famous city with its world-famous zip code is synonymous with wealth, status, and celebrity. The understated elegance and grace of the residential neighborhoods are balanced out by
Santa Monica & Bay Cities
Back in the heyday of Route 66, Santa Monica was the end of the line. Today, this beachfront community offers the best in entertainment for all ages on its famous
The motto of the coastal community of Malibu is "27 miles of scenic beauty"—and that just about describes it best. The main attraction here is the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, which takes you past beach after beach on one side of the road and million-dollar hilltop estates on the other. Make sure you have plenty of film and sunscreen. Even at night, the stars just seem brighter.
Venice, just south of Santa Monica, is the city's home to all things eclectic and many things downright bizarre. This small, artsy beach town offers one of the greatest collections of cafés, bars, galleries, antiques and one-of-a-kind shops around. Weekend afternoons on the boardwalk are definitely a memorable experience for any visitor to the city.
San Fernando Valley
On the other side of the Hollywood Hills sits "The Valley," as known by locals. It features a seemingly endless sea of suburban cul-de-sacs, strip malls, funky shops and restaurants. Hollywood makes its presence known in the cities of Burbank and Universal City, which are home to Warner Bros. Studio and
South Central & Compton
Although the South Central neighborhood of Crenshaw gained worldwide publicity as the center of the infamous 1992 riots, this area is rich in history and culture. South Central is also home to famous Los Angeles landmarks such as the
Long Beach & the South Bay
Long Beach is a fairly large city in its own right and is a neighbor to the well-known district of Orange County. Aside from a plethora of shopping and dining options, this beach community is perhaps best known for the
The South Bay is made up of smaller beach towns and quiet neighborhoods such as
Pasadena & Points East
Pasadena is one of the most prominent communities in the entire state of California.
East L.A., as evidenced by its name, forms the eastern edge of the city and is a great example of a neighborhood rich in cultural expression.
LAX & Inglewood
Inglewood features a wide variety of restaurants, music and sports venues. Here you will find the
According to the tired but true axiom, the three most important things in real estate are location, location and location. In the universe of Los Angeles, that cannot be stressed enough, and where you stay will have a tremendous impact on your L.A. experience. The following are some of the most-recommended areas to lodge.
Downtown Los Angeles contains the heart of the financial and business districts of the city and is perfect for corporate travelers. All of the best amenities can be found at the swanky Standard Hotel which truly gives a new meaning to the word "standard," or at the luxurious Millennium Biltmore. Formerly the Regal and famous since 1923, it was home to the Academy Awards during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Those wanting to stay within a budget but who still want singular and eclectic accommodations might try the charming Best Western Dragon Gate Inn located right in the heart of Chinatown, the Hotel Figueroa with its funky Southwestern motif, or the elegant Miyako Inn & Spa where you can either gratify yourself with a relaxing massage or have a little late-night fun at their karaoke bar.
For those with the means, there is simply no other place to stay in town. World-class luxury and service can be found at the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Beverly Hilton or the Beverly Wilshire Beverly Hills. The world-famous Peninsula is also a high-class, luxurious choice for anyone wanting the best in amenities and service. Wherever you choose to stay in this high-end neighborhood, you will be close to some of the very best shopping and dining in the world.
Considering Hollywood's status as a tourist mecca, it should come as no surprise that it offers many places to lodge, especially for those on a budget. The Hollywood Celebrity Hotel and the Best Western Hollywood Hills Hotel offer decent rooms for those who want to keep their costs down. All are close to every famous Hollywood attraction, as well as Universal Studios. You'll be in the thick of the action here, although you may not want to walk alone at night in the darkest parts of Hollywood.
Nestled at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, Pasadena offers some of the greatest lodging options for those who want to get away from the urban energy of the rest of L.A. If you want only the best, stay in elegant style at the Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa. The Pasadena Hilton also offers top-notch amenities and great service. For those looking for something other than a large hotel, try the beautiful and charming Artist's Inn or the Bissell House, both offering personalized luxury and service in a bed-and-breakfast setting.
Maybe it's the sound of ocean waves that helps you sleep easier, or maybe it's being near both shopping and recreational beaches —but either way, Santa Monica has proven to be the place to go for many visitors to the area. For those with pockets deeper than the sea, consider the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, the Fairmont Miramar or the ultra-luxurious Shutters on the Beach. All three are located within walking distance of all of Santa Monica's wonders, both natural and man-made, and offer the full royal treatment. For those on more of a budget, the Ocean View Hotel and the classic Art Deco Cadillac Hotel (located in nearby Venice) offer more affordable accommodation while sacrificing very little in the way of amenities or location.
There's always something to be said for being close to the action. For those who long to be in the center of L.A.'s star-studded nightlife, you can't get much closer than a hotel room in West Hollywood. The Chateau Marmont, the Mondrian and the Sunset Tower Hotel offer accommodations fit for a king (with a bill to match). The attractive, modern accommodations at the Andaz West Hollywood are ideal for cosmopolitan travelers looking for a personalized experience, and the rock 'n' roll atmosphere of the Standard Hotel offers great rooms at a fraction of the cost of neighboring hotels. Just about every hotel in the area is located on Sunset and lies within walking distance of the hottest clubs.
This high-end neighborhood not only boasts UCLA but also offers many bars, restaurants and entertainment options. It also features some of the best accommodations at reasonable prices. The Hilgard House offers wonderful accommodations that aren't exactly cheap, but certainly won't cause you to break the bank. The upscale W Los Angeles is a popular choice featuring world-class service and comfort.
Walking around Los Angeles is not an easy task. As the world's largest metropolis, Los Angeles has become as famous for cars and traffic as it is for its film industry. So grab a rental, and make your way out to these tourist hot spots.
Located in the heart of downtown, the modest Pueblo de Los Angeles remains the city's oldest structure. Built in 1818, it serves as a historical monument to the mission era of California and also provides tourists with the perfect reason to visit downtown and not miss one of the city's best-kept sightseeing secrets. Located in the middle of the historic pueblo is Olvera Street, an L.A. landmark since the early 1930s. Any day of the year, this cobblestone street is alive with inexpensive Mexican delicacies, kitschy shopping and several wandering mariachi bands. If too many hours on Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive Shopping District have strained the magnetic strip (or the limit) of your credit card, the Garment District offers a great low-cost shopping alternative. The Cooper Building and Santee Alley house designer outlet stores and clothing in all styles, labels and sizes.
The Griffith Observatory is one of the largest in the country. At night you can stargaze from balconies on the outside of the building, or from the rooftop. Face north in the parking lot and you will get a spectacular view of the Hollywood Sign. Take Hollywood Boulevard approximately three blocks to Vine. At this famous intersection begins the Hollywood Walk of Fame, so named for the bronzed stars placed into the pavement that bear the name of a legendary entertainer in music, movies or television. Continuing up Hollywood Boulevard you will come to Grauman's Chinese Theater, more famous for the front courtyard than for any film ever shown there. The footprints and handprints outside include so many stars and create such a stir, it's sometimes hard to squeeze your way in.
Malibu & Santa Monica
The beach community of Santa Monica offers great shopping and dining. The Third Street Promenade and The Pier are major centers of activity. Here you can ride rollercoasters, shop, eat, fish or just take in the ocean air. Beau Rivage is a fantastic restaurant with ocean views. When you're ready to hit the coast, head north on the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. A few miles north of Malibu is Leo Carillo State Beach. This unique inlet features rock formations and tide pools overflowing with some of the most unusual aquatic life in the world. If you are lucky, you will also be able to see dolphins frolicking just offshore. When you are done here, head south to Venice City Beach.
The 110 Freeway North ends at Colorado Boulevard, where you will turn right and head into Old Town. In addition to being a quaint historical city, Old Town Pasadena Shopping District is known for world-class restaurants, thriving theater and many antique shops. One of the best features of Old Town is the architecture. An elegant dining option nearby is Bistro 45, which has contemporary French options on its menu. For those who feel confined by gravity and want to get a different perspective of Pasadena, simply follow signs to the Angeles Crest Highway and head up—straight up! This winding (and at times treacherous) mountain road takes you through the Angeles National Forest en route to the Mount Wilson Observatory, some 5000 feet (about 1.5 kilometers) above sea level.
This stretch of Wilshire Boulevard is also known as Museum Row, and with good reason. Most of the city's main museums are located here, as well as several small but influential art galleries, such as the Vintage Animation Gallery and the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. After checking them out, take a quick drive up Fairfax to another Los Angeles historical monument, Canter's Deli. This Jewish-American diner has long been a Hollywood tradition. After your first bite of a Canter's Deli sandwich, you will know why stars, locals and tourists have made this eatery a Los Angeles must-see location. After indulging in all the best that Canter's has to offer, finish the day off with the astounding glamor of the mansions in Hancock Park, a neighborhood dotted with homes built in the golden years of Hollywood. If you'd like to do something more adventurous, the famous La Brea Tar Pits are just a short drive away.
If you are planning on checking out a few centrally-located things, going on foot is fine. However, if you want to explore the parts of this sprawling city that are hard to get to, planning a day with a tour company is recommended.
Los Angeles Conservancy (+1 213 623 2489 / http://www.laconservancy.org/)
Off'N Running Tours (+1 310 246 1418 / http://offnrunningtours.com)
Red Line Tours (+1 323 402 1074 x31 / http://www.redlinetours.com/)
Beverly Hills Trolley Tour (+1 310 285 2438 / http://www.beverlyhills.org/attractions/trolley.asp)
Universal Studios (+1 800 8 6483 7725 / http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com)
Warner Bros. Studio Tour (+1 818 972 8687 / http://www2.warnerbros.com/vipstudiotour/)
Paramount Studio Tour (+1 323 956 1777 / http://www.paramountstudios.com/special-events/tours.html)
Sony Pictures Studio Tour (+1 323 520 8687 / http://www.sonypicturesstudios.com/)
Starline Tours (+1 800 959 3131 / http://www.starlinetours.com/)
Guideline Tours (+1 800 604 8433 / http://www.guidelinetours.com/)
Los Angeles Sightseeing Tours & Charters (+1 310 458 0257 / http://www.lasightseeing.net/)
Catalina Adventure Tours (+1 310 510 2888 / http://www.catalinaadventuretours.com/)
Descanso Beach Ocean Sports (+1 310 510 1226 / http://www.kayakcatalinaisland.com/)
Discovery Tours--Flying Fish Boat Trip (+1 310 510 2000/ http://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/avalon/tour_flyingFish.php)
Star Party Cruises (+1 562 799 7000 / http://www.reggae-boat.com/)
Crystal Cruises (+1 866 446 6625 / http://www.crystalcruises.com/)
Harbor Breeze Cruises Whale Watching Tours (+1 562 432 4900 / http://2seewhales.com/index.asp)
Helitac Aviation (+1 213 483 6898 / http://www.helitac.com)
Adventure Helicopter Tours (+1 818 612 3676/ http://www.adventurehelicoptertours.com)
Big League Tours (+1 866 619 1748 / +1 317 534 2475 / http://bigleaguetours.com/)
California's earliest residents were Native Americans. Prior to the mid-18th Century, several native peoples dominated the area, most notably those from the Tongva nation.
The earliest key date in the development of Los Angeles is August 2, 1769. It was on that afternoon that a group of Spanish explorers from the east, led by Juan Crespi and Captain Gaspar de Portola, entered what came to be known as Los Angeles in the area around Elysian Park. It was then that Crespi realized the potential the area had to become a sizable settlement. Then in 1771, Junipero Serra created the Mission San Gabriel Archangel in the present-day San Gabriel Valley. It wasn't until 1781 that the town was founded and named "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula"—quite a mouthful to say and subsequently shortened to Los Angeles.
Throughout the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, Los Angeles was only a small farm town that remained part of Mexico, until the Mexican-American War. On March 9th, 1842, Francisco Lopez discovered gold in the Santa Clarita Valley, and by 1845, U.S. troops began battling for control of California. On January 9, 1847, Commodore Stockton recaptured Los Angeles for the third and final time, and just days later Mexican general Andres Pico surrendered California to U.S. General John Fremont. A subsequent boundary dispute ensued as to where the borders of the city and county should be. But on April 4, 1850, the city of Los Angeles was incorporated, with California officially entering the union five months later.
The late 1800s and early 1900s saw Los Angeles grow exponentially. One reason for this was the railroads, which finally reached Los Angeles from the East. The railroads resulted in a major expansion of economy and population, as evidenced by the fact that L.A.'s population doubled in the last decade of the 1800s and tripled in the first decade of the 1900s. In 1913, William Mulholland built an aqueduct, which allowed water to be brought to Los Angeles from 200 miles north. This important event, coupled with the earlier railroad boom, is considered to be largely responsible for L.A.'s growth into a major population center.
By the 1920s, many industries were beginning to stake their claim in the city. The most popular of these industries was the budding film industry. Filmmakers from the East came to Southern California for its eternal sunshine and varied landscape. Where else in America could they find perfect weather and largely empty surrounding land, as well as mountains, lakes, forests and beaches all within an hour's drive? As movies and movie-making became more ingrained in American culture during the 1940s and 50s, millions began flocking to L.A. in hopes of becoming a star and striking it rich. By the mid-to-late 1950s, the population of L.A. had reached two million and appeared to be going nowhere but up.
As the city grew, more people meant more problems. In 1943, a clash between sailors, marines and local Hispanic gangs broke out, known as the Zoot Suit Riots. For several days and nights, downtown Los Angeles was transformed into a battle-zone. Although the riots were finally quelled by police, this would not be the last time the city witnessed large-scale urban unrest. Devastating race riots erupted in 1965 and again in 1992, after the Rodney King verdict, giving the city its reputation for being a hotbed of racial tensions. Riots, however, weren't the only problems that affected the history of Los Angeles. Runaway air pollution and the damage caused by several earthquakes—the largest and most memorable of which was the Northridge earthquake in 1994, with a total magnitude of 6.7—have also given the city its fair share of crises to deal with over the years. But with the 21st Century has come an increase in the improvement and gentrification of many parts of the city.
Certain things can always be trusted to thrive in L.A.: cultural diversity, beautiful weather, the well-known traffic on the 405 Freeway, and eager souls arriving each day to the City of Angels in search of their own piece of heaven.