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Travel Planner: Your Guide To Los Angeles

By:
Ben Hall
 

The Brilliant American writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, once described Los Angeles as “a city which can be understood only dimly and in flashes”. It’s one of the world’s most famous and illusory cities; a mass of concrete freeways, huge theme parks, luxury mansions, ghettos, glitzy shopping malls, white-sanded beaches and tacky fast food joints. Yet in spite of the smog and traffic, the sprawling City of Angels manages to attract millions of visitors every year. And the reason why? Whether you’re a sun worshipper or a culture vulture, Los Angeles has something to offer everyone. 

Need to Know

Location: The west coast of the United States

Language: English

Money: US Dollar. ATMs are located practically on every corner of the city, and currency exchange bureaus are safe to change money

Time Difference: GMT -7 hours

Getting Around: The American love affair with the car may well have been born in Los Angeles and, with less-than-adequate public transport, the car is king when it comes to getting around. Most of the popular LA tourist attractions are spread out all over the region, although driving times from A to B can vary dramatically, depending on time of day and the day of the week you’re travelling. Either way, rush hour should always be avoided where possible as delays on freeways are inevitable. New to the lineup of public transport options, however, is the Metro, a combination of buses and trains spanning the greater city. There are only two subway lines in LA; the Red Line starts at Union Station, and the Purple Line shares the Red Line track until Wilshire/Vermont, where it forks and heads for two stops in Koreatown. To ride the Metro you’ll need a TAP card, which is available at all Metro Rail stations. The cards are reusable and can be filled with dollar amounts or day passes for a set fee. 

When To Go: While it’s undoubtedly a year-round holiday destination, the weather in Los Angeles isn’t always what people expect. Its infamous smog is at its worst in summer, but it also suffers from marine fog at times, and there are days in June when the beach cities are foggy all day resembling London more than Southern California. Smog and fog aside, greater Los Angeles enjoys moderate temperatures year round, with cool mornings and evenings, and clear skies in winter especially after rainfall.

Tipping: This isn’t optional in the USA and at times it can be confusing. As a general rule, leave wait staff around 18–20 per cent of the total bill unless a gratuity has already been included, and leave bartenders around 15–20 per cent per round, or a $1 per beer and wine and $2 per cocktail. Taxi drivers should have 10–15 per cent of the fare rounded up to the next dollar, and for hotel and airport porters offer up $2 per bag. And don’t forget hotel maids; they should have $2–4 per night of stay left in an envelope on the bed. 

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Where To Stay

Los Angeles hotels range from outrageously expensive palaces down to super cheap motels, and while holidays and peak travel times can be busy as well as pricey, most times hotel rooms are often packed with business travellers and conferences. The first thing to do is decide where you want to be based, then do your research well in advance to secure a reasonable deal. There are hundreds to choose from, especially at the luxury and boutique end of the scale, and if you are planning to rent a car to get around, factor in parking costs, and make sure that any alluring boutique hotels which catch your eye can accommodate cars overnight. When it comes to places to consider in Santa Monica, Palihouse is a vintage chic boutique hotel, while Casa del Mar is all 1920s retro with an Obama design connection. Also in Santa Monica, and located on the beach front, the Shore Hotel is an understated, luxury boutique hotel with an eco-friendly focus. In West Hollywood, lovers of old Hollywood style and history will love the Chateau Marmont, while the Petit Ermitage is all about Boho elegance. In the Downtown area Hotel Indigo is a new hip and happening hotel to consider, with the Millennium Biltmore Hotel also worth a look. And finally, new to the city overall is Hotel Figueroa, located in Downtown, and which reopened in February 2018 with 268 rooms, the Westdrift Manhattan Beach, which opened in March 2018 as the first Autograph Collection hotel in Los Angeles, and the Jeremy West Hollywood, which opened in August 2017, and has 286 rooms.

Sightseeing Essentials

*Disneyland: Los Angeles is packed full of tourist attractions, and the grand dame of theme parks is Disneyland, which opened in 1955. It’s the ultimate theme park and you’ll need at least a full day to explore most of it - and it’s not just for young travellers either.

*Celebrity Home Spotting: The sprawl west of downtown Beverly Hills and Hollywood, and the glitzy enclaves of Brentwood, Bel Air, Pacific Palisades and Westwood, are where most of the movie stars reside. Grab a map of famous homes, hop in your car and meander through the palm tree-lined streets spotting your favourites of past and present. 

*Hollywood Walk Of Fame: Many of the greatest idols of stage and screen are memorialised on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and in the cement at Mann’s Chinese Theatre, both of which are on Hollywood Boulevard.

*The Beaches: California’s beaches are attractions in their own right, and starting at Zuma Beach – north of the downtown area and home of the classic TV series, Baywatch – take a leisurely drive south through some of the LA beach cities. There’s Santa Monica and its famous pier, Venice - home of Muscle Beach, Marina del Rey with its huge man-made marina, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Long Beach and Huntington Beach - surf capital of California. 

*Catalina Island: If you are in town for long enough, plan a day trip to Catalina Island. It’s only 41 km from the mainland and a world away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

*The Getty Museum: Located just off the 405 freeway near Bel Air, this museum is both an architectural wonder as well as home to an impressive collection of art and antiquities. Plan on staying until sunset if the weather’s good as it can be a spectacular sight.

Tours

Self-driving and visiting sights with a Go Los Angeles Card is ideal for anyone who’s spending plenty of time in the city, but if you’re a first timer and tight on time, Los Angeles Tours is highly rated and has three options: The Los Angeles tour features the “must see” historic areas; the Los Angeles Beach Tour explores Santa Monica and Venice Beach; or you can see all of LA in a day taking the Los Angeles Highlights Tour. For convenience, Big Bus Tours is also an option; it has hop-on, hop-off options with a number of different routes and English speaking guides. 

Best Happy Snap

Los Angeles is blessed with so many options from beach to city you’ll have your work cut out fitting them all into your itinerary! But just a few to put on your list, including some more unusual ones, include having your photo taken at the Point Vicente Lighthouse in Palos Verde as the sun goes down, Echo Park from the northern end looking towards downtown especially if there's a pretty sunset, the view from the Hollywood Bowl including Hollywood, Downtown and the freeway lights at night, the iconic Santa Monica Pier, kneeling down with the stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, and for real photo buffs, the parking garage on the corner of 9th and Broadway in Downtown offers a great view of the city skyline from an easily accessible rooftop, along with an epic “Jesus Saves” neon backdrop.

Shopping And Souvenirs 

LA is undoubtedly shop-till-you-drop territory; if you can’t find it for sale here it probably doesn’t exist. A visit to glitzy Rodeo Drive is a must, even just to people watch; it’s the world’s most famous and expensive shopping strip, lined with classy boutiques and exclusive jewellers. When you get there, you’ll find it surprisingly short given its global fame, and even if you can’t afford to buy anything from Prada, Chanel, Tiffany or Fendi, it’s still lots of fun to window shop. LA also has a many shopping malls – Westside Pavilion and the Beverly Center among them – and there are elegant department stores such as Nordstrom and Macys. In Santa Monica, Third Street Promenade is a pedestrian-only area and one of the city’s most happening shopping districts. One-of-a-kind boutiques, trendy chain stores, themed bookshops and chic cafes line either side of the street, and flower sellers, buskers and street poets add to the atmosphere. The bargain outlet malls are usually located outside of town including and are stuffed with terrific bargains, featuring everything from discounted Rock & Republic jeans to the top designer outfits you can normally only dream of buying. Check with your concierge or local visitor centre for any new or easy to reach ones.

Eating And Drinking

When it comes to culinary diversity, new trends and celebrity chefs, it’s hard to beat the City of Angels. Food is a highlight of the LA experience. It’s packed with everything from funky diners to gourmet havens, with restaurants of all types and styles of cuisine from all corners of the globe – some of which are impossible to get reservations at – and while there’s no one dish synonymous with the city, seafood is always a popular choice. Some of the best ethnic cuisines to try includes Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and Mexican. Generally speaking, anything you order will be a lot bigger than you expect; sandwiches almost always have fries and coleslaw accompanying them, and many breakfasts include cooked dishes as well as cereals and toast. Think seriously about sharing courses, but if your T-bone steak ends up hanging off the plate, feel free to ask for a doggy bag for the leftovers. And if you’re heading for a trendy spot be sure to make reservations, and don’t be late as tables aren't held. There are thousands of worthy venues in the greater LA area, but a few to places to put on your must-try in Los Angeles include Dialogue in Santa Monica, brainchild of the celebrated Chicago chef Dave Beran, offering a diminutive tasting menu of around 20 courses. The iconic Rose Cafe-Restaurant in Venice Beach has undergone a complete makeover of late, and offers a wide-ranging menu covering breakfast through to dinner service. If you love pizza, Pizzana is a new venue in Brentwood offers a detailed approach to Neapolitan pizza, while in Beverly Hills, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill,  the celebrity chef’s flagship eatery, still has a compelling tasting menu, a star-powered crowd, and world-class service. 

Hot Tip

The Go Los Angeles Card, or Go LA Card, can save you up to 50 percent on admission to 35 of the city’s attractions; read all the information on the website, and think through your planned itinerary in order to know how valuable the card will be for you. 

Got An Emergency?

Los Angeles Police: 911

Australian Consulate: +310 229 2300

LA♥Everybody 02:07

In a city of nearly 200 languages and 90 neighborhoods, everyone has a voice. Los Angeles is not only one of the most diverse cities in the world, it’s also one of the most culturally vibrant. From Thai Town to Tehrangeles to Little Osaka, the entire world is under the Hollywood sign. #EveryoneIsWelcome

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  1. Posted by on 5th Mar 2019 Verified Customer

    Nothing For Vegans 3 Star Review

    I am only a recent visitor to your website and while I love the ideas I have noticed you rarely mention any restaurants in your reviews which cater to vegans. This is a growing movement worldwide and should not be ignored!

  2. Posted by on 5th Mar 2019 Verified Customer

    Keen To Return 5 Star Review

    I have been fortunate to visit USA before Trump was elected....I hear the entire country has gone down a lot in the past few years when it comes to crime and the economy! But I would be keen to return to LA, had a holiday there a few years ago with my then girlfriend and we loved it. We went in September after the summer peak season, and enjoyed the beaches, great food, went to a baseball game and a few live shows. We did a side trip to Vegas too which was great fun. I love the variety of food there, and the Mexican cuisine beats what you can get in Australia. This travel planner will help when I decide it's time to go back!

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