Los Angeles

Marina del Rey sunset at the jetty & breakwater

Overview: Los Angeles

 

Known for its year-round warm weather, beaches and Hollywood history, sprawling Los Angeles County with its diverse population has just tipped ten million people.

In the popular tourist destinations on the westside, stroll along the Venice Beach Boardwalk for sun, people watching, dining and tourist shopping. Have some fun at the amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier and take in a sunset on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Looking for art? Head inland to LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and wander through its corridors resting your eyes on works from the likes of Picasso, Rembrandt and Diego Rivera.

For cinematic history, there's no place like Hollywood. Find your favorite star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame along Hollywood Boulevard.

Continue reading below to learn more about what Los Angeles has to offer:

Hollywood

 

Photo: Shelly Prevost (Flickr)

Captivating Hollywood History

For most people, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Los Angeles isn't complete without a visit to Hollywood. Searching for their favorite star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame along Hollywood Boulevard and putting their hands into those of Hollywood legends in front of (Gruman's) Chinese Theatre is a time-honored tradition.

Next door to the Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood and Highland Center, with its four stories of shopping, restaurants and entertainment, now dominates the intersection of the same name.

From the top levels of H&H, look to the south towards Hollywood Blvd, you can view the glittering marquee of the El Capitan Theatre (circa 1926). In the opposite direction, through the dominating multi-story archway, you can see the iconic Hollywood sign visible on the hillside to the north.

Continuing in the northernly direction, head up Highland Avenue to the much loved Hollywood Bowl. Built in 1922, this amphitheater has welcomed top musical performers on its stage for almost 100 years. If you like, pack a picnic dinner and bring bottles of wine or beer. It's a rare treat to be allowed to "B.Y.O." (bring your own) into a venue like this. Just part of the Hollywood Bowl tradition. (More info: picnicking; allowed items for non-leased events; allowed items for leased events; What are leased events or non-leased events?)

While you're in the neighborhood, check out music at Avalon Hollywood (formerly The Palace back in my day). For more music, head down to Sunset Boulevard to The Hollywood Palladium (art deco circa 1940).

The round Capitol Records building is also known as "The House that Nat Built", e.g. Nat King Cole, it is just across the street from The Palace... I mean Avalon Hollywood. Catch live Broadway shows and movies at the Pantages Theatre (art deco theater circa 1930) on Hollywood Boulevard.

Over 100 years of Hollywood history all within blocks of each other, just waiting for you to discover.

Downtown
Los Angeles

 

Photo: Samuel L (FLICKR)

The Renaissance of Downtown Los Angeles

Transformation has been occurring in the Downtown Los Angeles area for over the last 15 years. The old office buildings have been refurbished and given new life as apartment buildings, albeit a pricey new life. Restaurants and bars line the streets and bring nightlife back to the area.

The Staples Center, opened in 1999, draws sports fans to the arena to see the Lakers and Clippers basketball teams. The Los Angeles Kings hockey team also call the Staples Center home. Up to 19,000 music lovers can pack the arena for concerts as well.

New lines opening on the metro are allowing for more convenient, car-free ways to get around the city. Beginning in May 2016, the Expo line is whisking people from Downtown L.A. to Santa Monica for the first time since they dismantled the Pacific Electric streetcars in 1963.

Historically speaking, Los Angeles was born from a pueblo (town) in 1781. Originally started by eleven families, it has grown to the metropolis that we know today. Olvera Street is a main tourist destination across the street from Union Station – the main railway station.

Chinatown is just a few blocks away. Its archways depicting the traditions of the Chinese immigrants in the Downtown Los Angeles area.

Not so long ago Downtown L.A. would not have been considered a place to visit in Los Angeles. The development and repurposing of buildings has changed all that.

Venice Beach

 

Photo: Lisa Kuhn

Alternative Life in Venice Beach

Emerging from the marshland just south of Santa Monica, “Venice of America” was created by Abbot Kinney and opened on July 4, 1905.

What became the hippie mecca of the 1960's and 70's is now home to "Silicon Beach." A nickname derived from the tech companies that have moved into the neighborhood.

If you're looking for the main action, it's at Windward and the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Directly towards the beach you'll see skateboarders impressing you with spectacular moves at the Venice Skate Park. The famous Venice Beach basketball courts and Muscle Beach weightlifting area are just to the south of Windward. Take it all in before you take a dip into the Pacific Ocean.

Stroll along the beachfront boardwalk for more people-watching as you walk past tourist shops and restaurants. Street performers and vendors line the westside of the boardwalk and music floats out of the various eateries as day becomes night.

Inland from the beach is the Venice Circle, which was once a lagoon and part of the Venice canal system.

Be sure not to miss a stroll through the original canals. Though few original canal houses remain, it is still a peaceful spot to slow down for a moment and take a breath.

After the canals, head out to the end of Washington Boulevard for a ramble on the Venice Pier to watch the waves break beneath your feet.

Santa Monica

 

Photo: Lisa Kuhn

Sunbathing and Shopping in Santa Monica

Santa Monica has long been a highlight for tourists visiting Los Angeles. Beginning at the ocean's edge, beach-goers soak up the sun in the soft sand of Santa Monica Beach.

Overhead, the Santa Monica Pier brings touristy delights to locals and travelers alike with the Pacific Park Amusement Park. An arcade and restaurants also dot its wooden planks of the pier.

From Santa Monica Beach, you can see the sandstone bluffs leading up to the heart of Santa Monica. Palisades Park atop the bluffs stretch 1-1/2 miles along Ocean Avenue. The California Incline has carried vehicles from Santa Monica to the beach since 1932.

The shopping district in Santa Monica is located on the pedestrian walkway known as Third Street Promenade. It starts at Wilshire and ends at Broadway where the Santa Monica Place Mall sits.

Mid-Wilshire

 

Photo: Lisa Kuhn

Internationally Renown Works of Art, Sculpted Classic Cars, Ancient Fossils and an Irish Pub all call Mid-Wilshire Home

Head inland along Wilshire Boulevard to enjoy the works of international artists at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Also known as LACMA (pronounced LAC-mah) it contains 130,000 pieces, making it the largest art museum in the western United States.

LAMCA hosts free outdoor music on Friday and Saturday evenings for most of the year. Friday evening is Jazz at LACMA from April through November. Saturday evening is home to Latin Sounds in Hancock Park along West 6th Street.

The grounds of LACMA are adjacent to the La Brea Tar Pits. These natural pits contain fossils of animals that had the misfortune of getting trapped in the tar. Walk through the grounds of Hancock Park to see the tar pits are still alive and bubbling.

Fun Fact: "La Brea" in Spanish mean "The Tar." So saying The La Brea Tar Pits translates into "the the tar tar pits."

There is also the La Brea Tar Pits Museum which displays the fossils that have been excavated from the tar pits.

On the other side of Wilshire at Fairfax is the Petersen Automotive Museum dedicated to automobile history. In 2015 it underwent a $125 million renovation(!). You can tour the museum and its 100 vehicles every day of the week.

After all that, you just might be ready to hoist a pint. Molly Malone's Irish Pub on Fairfax and West 6th has you covered. On one side of this establishment is the bar, on the other a music venue that's been cranking up live music since 1969.

The Mid-Wilshire area has much to offer. Check it out while you're in Los Angeles.