Los Angeles, California Highlights

Los Angeles is a very fascinating city and a great place for anybody to take a vacation. Visiting Los Angeles and the surrounding areas could be one of the best and most memorable experiences that you will ever have. Tourists seem to get excited about everything from the simplest things to the bigger things. For some reason, tourists always like to see the famous Hollywood sign and especially visitors from non-coastal states like to go to the beach and see the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

If you like more of an adrenalin rush of fun and are planning to come to the city of Los Angeles, you will be in reasonable driving distance from several amusement and water parks including Six Flags Magic Mountain, Hurricane Harbor, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, Raging Waters and other places like the Los Angeles Zoo and Griffith Park.

If you are really interested in the Film Industry, you can go to the tapings of numerous television shows where you can see your favorite stars live and in person. Or if you prefer to be in front of the camera instead of in the audience, there are several advertisements in newspapers, magazines and posted on telephone poles looking for all kinds of people who want to be background Extras in movies, television shows and commercials. No experience is necessary. Be sure to go down Hollywood Boulevard and look on the ground for the stars of your favorite entertainers on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

You can go to Staples Center, home of the 9 time NBA (National Basketball
Association) World Champions Los Angeles Lakers. Magic Johnson has moved on from playing professional basketball, but you will still see his name all over Los Angeles. He is involved with a few businesses around town including some 24 Hour Fitness locations, the Magic Johnson Theatres located in the Crenshaw Shopping Center, Starbucks Coffee and Magic Johnson’s TGI Friday’s Restaurant.

Right across the street from the Forum in Inglewood where the Lakers used to play for about 30 years until a few years ago, is the Hollywood Park Race Track and Casino. They only have horse racing a few months out of the year. But you are in “Luck” because the Casino is in full swing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to satisfy your gambling needs. It is one of the few places around here that at least so far, they still have FREE parking.

For Baseball fans you can go to Dodger Stadium, home of the former World Series Champions Los Angeles Dodgers. You would not want to go to Dodger Stadium without eating one of their famous Dodger Dogs.

Not only do we have professional sports champions, we also have our very famous cross town college rivals, the U.C.L.A Bruins and the U.S.C Trojans who have both brought back team championships to the city of Los Angeles and they both have had their students and alumni bring back Gold Medals when they were representing the United States over the years in the Olympics.

If you want to see another historic Sports site, then go to the Los Angeles Coliseum. Not only was it the home of the Rams and then the Raiders, way back when Los Angeles used to have a NFL Football team, but it was a major venue for both the 1932 and the 1984 Summer Olympics. If you watched the Olympics then you saw the Los Angeles Coliseum during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the Track and Field events. The Olympic Torch is still there.

While you are at the Coliseum, it would be well worth your while to walk over to the California Science Center in Exposition Park. It is a great educational learning experience for both adults and children. The Sports Arena is in that general area. Also, within walking distance in that area are several museums that you might be interested in going through.

You would not want to miss out on spending time on the 405 San Diego Freeway which runs along the west side of Los Angeles County so you can enjoy the bumper to bumper traffic that we all get to experience so frequently. Most people in the area call it the world’s largest parking lot. Your foot rides the brake of your car while burning that expensive gasoline. Usually you are either at a full stop or traveling at a snails pace. Just hope that they do not have a vehicle accident on the freeway ahead of you because the snail would actually beat you in a race.

If you leave the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) which is right next to the Playa del Rey Beach on the far west side of the city, you can get on the 405 freeway and head northbound. When you are finally able to get through the traffic, you can visit the J. Paul Getty Museum which is just before you get to the valley.

You can go to Marina del Rey just north of the airport where you can enjoy a dinner cruise on the ocean or bring your fishing pole and go out on one of the all day fishing boats or just hang out in the Fisherman’s Village that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and has food, drinks and gift shops. There are places near most of the beaches where you can rent bicycles. There is Bike Path the runs along the side of the Pacific Ocean right on the beach. If you like rollerblading, rollerskating and / or skateboarding, then you will really like Venice Beach.

Normally from the west side of Los Angeles if you are at or near the Playa del Rey Beach and look up, you can see the planes taking off over the ocean. If you are somewhere east of the airport you can see the planes coming in for a landing. But if you look up and see a helicopter, don’t get confused. It is probably not a guided helicopter tour. More than likely it is the Los Angeles Police Department Helicopter chasing down a suspect with the news media helicopters trying to get their shots and doing their best to stay out of the way. Police car chases are very common around here. You hear sirens from emergency vehicles coming from all directions. But that is Los Angeles’ finest keeping our city nice and safe.

In all fairness, as a traveler you really need to make the safety of both yourself and your family a top priority no matter what city in the world you visit.

If you want to go on another cruise, you can go to Catalina Island. You can go over there, have some fun and come back the same day if you want or you can stay for several days if you really like it. There are numerous activities out there.

Another historic site that you would not want to miss is the street corner of Florence and Normandie Avenues which was where the 1992 Los Angeles Riots all began. Most of the businesses that were burned to the ground during that time have been rebuilt since then, so of course they look much better and more modern. Others may never be rebuilt.

On the far south side of Los Angeles County is Long Beach where you can see the Queen Mary Ship that is docked. You can tour the ship. Also, while you are in Long Beach you can visit the Aquarium of the Pacific for underwater adventure. Just like the California Science Center, it is another great educational learning opportunity for both adults and children.

For shopping, it depends what you are interested in. You can get just about anything you can think of at the malls which are located all over the place. The Del Amo Mall in Torrance (the southern part of Los Angeles County) is one of the largest malls in the United States. If you are looking for discount clothing and other merchandise, then go to the garment district in downtown Los Angeles. If you want the expensive stuff, then go down Rodeo Drive and the Wilshire Boulevard area in Beverly Hills. Just east of Beverly Hills is the Grove where you can check out the Farmers Market that has been serving Los Angeles since 1934. The area has been changed, expanded and built up over the past few years.

Wilshire Boulevard is one of the main business streets in Los Angeles that runs from the beach to downtown Los Angeles. So if you want to drive down Wilshire Boulevard just for fun, you can start by the Santa Monica Pier overlooking the Pacific Ocean and it will take you through the cities of Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. When you get to downtown, be sure to take a look at the Los Angeles Civic Center area.

Another interesting street to drive down for fun is Crenshaw Boulevard. You can start at Wilshire Blvd and go southbound on Crenshaw Boulevard. It will take you through the inner city of Los Angeles. Your trip will take you by the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Shopping Center, Leimert Park in the Crenshaw District, then through Inglewood, Hawthorne, Lawndale, Torrance, Rolling Hills Estates and all the way down until you end up in Rancho Palos Verdes in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County.

Check the schedule of the Los Angeles Convention Center. They always have some type of entertainment, business or informational seminars, expos or workshops going on over there. You might find something going on that you may want to attend.

There are countless food and beverage locations all over the Los Angeles area from fine dining restaurants to fast food places and every shade of grey in between that will satisfy any appetite. You just have to find the ones that match your taste. There are all kinds of entertainment, dancing, activities and shows even in addition to all of the things that are mentioned above.

If you are not visiting someone who has a car that you can use, then you should probably rent a car because waiting around for public transportation in Los Angeles will use up most of your vacation time. Have fun.

The Best Things to See in California

There is certainly plenty to see in California. If you only have a bit of time in the area then you might want to narrow your list down and decide on what are the best things to see in the state. Here are just some suggestions.

Visit Hollywood. This is one of the most famous places on the planet and a must see for anyone visiting the area. You might even get discovered by a big Hollywood producer who notices something in you straight away and wants to have you staring in films within a week; you never know. Hollywood is the place where dreams come true and more dreams get shattered. If you have any pretentions of being a star then you will find plenty of company in this city. If you just want to shop or sit in a restaurant and people watch then there is no better place to do it. A trip to Hollywood is something that you are unlikely to ever forget.

Big Sur California is a great place to go just to relax. Here you will have the stunning mix of mountain and ocean. Few people live in this area, but there are plenty of visitors attracted by its beauty. If you want to experience a bit of peace then Big Sur is the place to go in the state. This is a location that has been attracting writers and artists for over a century and they come here for inspiration.

Santa Cruz is the place to go if you want some of the nicest beaches in the United States. The city itself if a great location for dining and there is a really vibrant music scene. Most people come for the beaches though, and you won’t be disappointed by what is on offer. Monterey Bay is a great area to go sailing if this is the type of thing you enjoy.

Southern California

Most visitors to Southern California plan to see Hollywood, Disneyland, local beaches and maybe hop over to Las Vegas on their first visit to the area. What to do with the rest of their days is usually somewhat of a mystery. To start with, SoCal is a huge area with major attractions up to 300-miles away from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Several regions are within easy reach including the Central Coast, Los Angeles and Orange County while others are a bit more distant like San Diego, the Inland Empire and Deserts. What you are able to see during your trip is entirely dependent on the amount of time and the direction you head. The following is a shotgun selection of places worthy of visiting during your trip to SoCal.

Hollywood is about 30-minutes inland from LAX by car. There you’ll find the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood & Highland Center, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, tours of star’s homes and much more. Cruise the famous Sunset Strip, tour Warner Brothers Studios, enjoy movie-themed thrill rides at Universal Studios and capture a shot of the world-renowned Hollywood sign. For the ultimate shopping and celebrity spotting experience, head for Rodeo Drive and Robertson Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Just minutes north of LAX is Santa Monica with its huge sandy beaches, the Pacific Park boardwalk amusement park & aquarium and the nearby 3rd Street Prominade & Santa Monica Place shopping venues. Just a few minutes farther north is Malibu that offers famous movie beaches, wine tasting, hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains and several great seaside restaurants. Downtown L.A. is about 30-minutes northwest of the airport and includes several interesting places like El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, L.A. Live, Little Tokyo and more. Superb museums are spread all over the city. Our top choices include the Griffith Observatory, Getty Museum, La Brea Tarpits and Exposition Park.

Long Beach is located approximately 30-minutes south of LAX and includes several interesting attractions. Aquarium of the Pacific is L.A.’s largest aquarium with shark tanks, touch pools, pinnipeds and local & tropical fish species. The aquarium is located in Rainbow Harbor at The Pike along with an array of touristy restaurants, shops, hotels and tour boat operators offering excursions for everything from dinner cruises to whale watching. A nearby ferry service whisks visitors to Catalina Island that’s approximately 30-miles off shore. Catalina is a developed island with hotels, restaurants and plenty of activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, boating and more. Directly across the water from Rainbow Harbor is the Queen Mary, a Titanic-like luxury liner from the 1930’s that today serves as a hotel with restaurants, bars, museums and entertainment. The nearby Belmont Shore features dining, shopping and nightlife along 2nd Street and romantic gondola cruises through the ritzy canals of Naples Island. Head 15-minutes north of Long Beach to San Pedro for a tour of the U.S.S. Battleship Iowa. Just a few minutes north of there, and midway between LAX and Long Beach, is the pristine coastline of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. There you’ll find oceanfront golf courses, the Terranea Resort, Point Vicente Lighthouse & Interpretive Center and plenty of trails heading to secluded, Mediterraneanesque coves. Long Beach also has its own airport that is much more convenient than LAX if you want to make it your hub.

Although many think that Disneyland is in Los Angeles, it’s actually located 40-minutes south of LAX in Orange County. The Disneyland Resort is comprised of Disneyland, California Adventure, Downtown Disney and several themed hotels. Another Orange County theme park that’s just as worthy of a visit is Knott’s Berry Farm. Just as the name suggests, Knott’s was an old berry farm that today is a popular amusement park with rollercoasters and several nearby tourist attractions like Knott’s Soak City Waterpark, Medieval Times and Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. Orange County is all about the beaches with some of the best options for surf and sand in Southern California. For an old-school, laid-back beach experience head for Main Street, Seal Beach – one of the very few pier communities to fight expansion and cling to originality. If huge sandy beaches and a party scene is your thing, go to Huntington or Newport Beaches – just head for the piers to find the action. Newport Harbor is the spot for boat rentals, dinner cruises, whale watching and other on-the-water activities. The stretch of coastline from the Newport Coast to Dana Point is known as the ‘California Riviera’ for the plethora of multi-million dollar homes and beautiful, secluded coves that are located there. Check out Heisler Park in Laguna Beach for a taste what the ‘California Riviera’ has to offer. Fashion Island is located in Newport Beach and offers the ultimate shopping venue in a luxurious outdoor setting. Orange County also has its own airport that is much more convenient than LAX if you want to make it your hub.

San Diego is a ways south of Los Angeles and takes about 2 hours to get there from LAX. San Diego has its own international airport if you want to make it your hub. Many major attractions are within close proximity of downtown including SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, U.S.S. Midway Aircraft Carrier, Petco Park and Gaslamp Quarter. The Gaslamp Quarter is a historic section of downtown that features restaurants, bars, hotels and a bustling nightlife. Another historic section of town just a bit north by MTS train is Old Town San Diego with great Mexican restaurants, an Old West town and touristy shops. Accessible by trolley is Balboa Park where the San Diego Zoo, several museums, botanical gardens, theatres, parks and more are located. About 15-minutes north of downtown is Mission Bay where boaters and beach goers enjoy a huge protected bay with hotels, restaurants and rentals. Mission Bay is home to SeaWorld and Belmont Park, a beachside boardwalk amusement park with a rollercoaster and classic carnival rides. Approximately 30-minutes north of downtown is the quaint seaside town of La Jolla. Popular activities in La Jolla include kayaking, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, shopping and sightseeing. Go inside the La Jolla Cave Store for a secret staircase heading into a sea cave. Popular attractions in northern San Diego County include Legoland California Resort, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and San Luis Rey Mission.

If time permits there are many other interesting places that are 100 miles or more from LAX. Santa Barbara is a coastal town to the north with several beaches, a touristy pier, Spanish mission, city zoo, shopping & dining on State Street and more. Another 100 miles farther up Highway 101 is San Luis Obispo, which is centrally located to Cambria, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Avila Beach and Pismo Beach – All are unique stops along the Central Coast. A hundred miles southeast of L.A. is the wine growing region of Temecula where wine tasting and gambling at the local Indian casino are popular activities. At approximately 120 miles, and 8,000 feet up, are the mountain communities of Big Bear Lake and Idyllwild. Big Bear offers a variety of mountain & lake activities while Idyllwild is all about the relaxation. Just beyond the mountains and 125 miles out is the upscale desert community of Palm Springs. Golf Courses are the main attraction to the area but luxury resorts, Indian casinos, restaurants and nightlife attract visitors from all walks of life. Less than an hour north of Palm Springs is Joshua Tree National Park. Being one of the newest National Parks, Joshua Tree offers few amenities but features unique rock formations and landscapes. The only stay in the park is by camping. Not to be missed, Death Valley is 300-miles east of L.A. and features sand dunes, salt flats, an ancient meteor crater, off-road trails, Scotty’s Castle and more. Although not in California, many visitors to Southern California throw a visit to Las Vegas into their trip. At 390 miles, it takes 4½ hours to get there from L.A. If you can afford a flight from LAX, Orange County, Long Beach or any other local airport it would be much more convenient than driving the monotonous and dangerous I-15.

Santa Catalina – Island of Dreams

This beautiful island lies just 26 miles across the ocean from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. Yet it might be thousands of miles away.

As soon as you step ashore you can feel the pace of life slow perceptibly. Even the name of the main ‘town’ on the island is evocative – Avalon.

The 76 square mile island was originally owned by the Wrigley Family (of chewing gum fame) but over 80% is now owned by The Santa Catalina Island Conservancy. The island’s interior is unspoilt and protected as a wildlife natural habitat.
There are very few cars on the island – transport is mainly by bike or electric golf cart(!). But you can easily explore Avalon on foot, and the only way to enjoy the shops, bars and restaurants along The Crescent.

Tours include a guided tour of the Casino, glass-bottomed boat trip from the pier to some kelp fields to see fish being fed from the boats and various bus tours into the interior of the island.

Tours can be purchased from the tourist office located by the pier. The problem is trying to fit everything in before your return ferry!

The Casino is a must visit. Not actually ever a gambling casino, the three-storey Art Deco style building is home to a movie theatre and the world’s largest circular ballroom. At its heyday up to 6000 dancers enjoyed the Big Bands in the 1920s to 1950s.

Guided tours are available and well worth going on to see the place and learn something of its wonderful history.

Aside from the usual tee-shirt shops selling souvenirs the island is known for its coloured ceramic tiles. These can make good mementos of your visit.

There are several boat services linking Catalina to the mainland, all take approximately 1 hour 15 minutes and cost about $42 per adult or – for $132 round trip you can arrive in style by a 15 minute helicopter flight from San Pedro.