Los Angeles was founded way back in 1781, but the city and its environs really made a splash in the early 1900s, when Hollywood became the center of the motion picture industry.
Like New York on the opposite coast, Los Angeles has become a magnet for dreamers. In addition to would be movie stars, Los Angeles has also drawn many ethnicities, and today the city is renowned for its compact ethnic neighborhoods that welcome visitors while still preserving their ethnic heritage.
It’s easy for visitors to put together a vacation that covers a myriad of interests.
The city’s high culture is epitomized by the Walt Disney Concert Hall, J. Paul Getty Museum and LACMA. Get started with this LA Culture in a Day itinerary. Hollywood culture can be enjoyed throughout the city, but especially on Hollywood Boulevard and by taking one of the studio tours. Beaches abound, each one with a different vibe, such as Santa Monica Beach (Santa Monica), Venice Beach (Venice) or Malibu Beach.
Families will have more options than they can fit into one vacation, with Universal Studios high on most lists. Check out this LA for Families itinerary to get started. Or concentrate your explorations with this downtown (DTLA) itinerary for kids.
Foodies can book tables at some of the best restaurants in the world, or go a different route and track the city’s trend-making food trucks. Check out this LA Dining Adventures itinerary to get started.
Nightlife is off the charts, and a thriving LGBTQ scene can be found in West Hollywood.
While the city has made strides in its mass transportation, LA is still a destination best accessed with your own set of wheels.
When I first moved to LA from the east coast, I was amazed by one sunny day after another. I was used to New York City, and it was a pleasure to drive down Sunset Boulevard and see the hills in the distance, instead of a row of tall buildings. The first week, I made it a point to dine in one ethnic neighborhood after another, from Koreatown to Little Armenia.
LA is a company town and they take their movies seriously. I loved the care that theaters took in presenting their films, especially the ArcLight on Sunset.
Whatever your interest, take the time to delve into what LA has to offer. If you’ve never visited, my guess is you’ll be inspired to begin planning your first trip.
Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) with Kids … Where to eat, play and learn with the under-12 set in LA
Los Angeles Culture in a Day … All phases of culture are alive. They have voices. (Camile Paglia)
Los Angeles Dining Adventures … Bring an appetite for these one-day epic adventures in Los Angeles
Los Angeles for Families … A three day getaway with variety and spice
Universal Studios Hollywood: Magical Family Day … A day of wizardry, movie adventures and rides galore at Universal Studios
You could spend a year in LA and still feel as though you’re peeling back layers of the onion. A six-day vacation could at least allow a traveler to touch on major attractions that coincide with their interests.
Be realistic about travel times between points. If you’re on Malibu Beach at 5:00 am, and you have dinner plans in Santa Monica, you’re going to run into LA’s notorious rush hour traffic. Also, an over packed itinerary can stress you out, and leave no room for serendipitous experiences.
One thing to keep in mind: When planning your trip, make sure you have some down time to kick back and relax or reflect on where you’ve gone and what you’ve done.
Los Angeles remains a popular destination year round. Even so, it does have its high and low seasons.
High season is June to August; the shoulder season is September to May. The spring time is when visitation is at its lowest.
Visitation spikes during holidays and special events, such as the Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys.
With a little searching, you should be able to find some discounted hotel rates and a variety of promotions. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to ask for a cheaper rate – the worst they can do is say no.
The reason Hollywood was established in the first place, in the early 20th century, was because of its ridiculously high number of sunny days, creating perfect conditions for shooting outdoors.
As temperate as it can be, LA does have seasons. December is the coldest month, when average temperatures hover around 48°F. August is the warmest month, with averages of 84 °F. The greatest amounts of rainfall occur December through March.
Santa Ana winds, or “Devil Winds,” blow hot and hard during late fall and early winter.
Joan Didion described the Santa Ana winds to great effect in her essay, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”:
“It is hard for people who have not lived in Los Angeles to realize how radically the Santa Ana figures in the local imagination… just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.”
LA has a full calendar of special events and festivals. Choosing your visit to coincide with a special interest of your own can add a lot of punch to a vacation. Here’s a quick look at some of the major annual events throughout the year. There are also tons of one-off events and festivals
Tournament of Roses Parade – Downtown Pasadena
Rose Bowl Game – Rose Bowl Stadium
Restaurant Week – Citywide – A twice-yearly 14-day event in which city’s top restaurants offer prix-fixe menus (also held in July).
L.A. Marathon – Citywide
Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire – Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area
Fiesta Broadway Cinco de Mayo celebration in Downtown Los Angeles
Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Celebration – Downtown Long Beach
NoHo Theatre & Arts Festival – North Hollywood – featuring live theatre, music, fine arts, and dance.
Battleship USS Iowa Memorial Day – San Pedro
The L.A. Film Festival – Downtown Los Angeles
LA Pride Festival – West Hollywood – Celebrating transgender, lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens with a parade attracting more than 400,000 people annually.
July 4th Fireworks Spectacular – Hollywood Bowl
Anime Expo – Los Angeles Convention Center
L.A. Restaurant Week – Citywide
Nisei Week Japanese Festival – Little Tokyo
Los Angeles County Fair – Pomona Fairplex
Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival – San Pedro
Watts Towers Day of the Drum Festival/Simon Rodia Watts Towers Jazz Festival – Watts Towers
AIDS Walk Los Angeles – West Hollywood
Halloween Carnaval – West Hollywood
L.A. Auto Show – Los Angeles Convention Center
USC vs. UCLA Football – Los Angeles Coliseum/Rose Bowl
Marina del Rey Holiday Boat Parade – Marina del Rey
Hollywood Christmas Parade – Hollywood
Holiday Sing-Along – Walt Disney Concert Hall
Los Angeles is on Pacific Standard Time (PST).
PST is one hour ahead of the Alaska Time zone, one hour behind the Mountain Time Zone, two hours behind the Central Time Zone, and three hours behind the Eastern Time Zone.
This is great when you’re traveling from the east coast of the U.S. to LA, since a 9:00 am departure from NYC will gain you three hours and put you on the ground in LA at 12 noon. Not so great on the return trip, since you’ll have to give up three hours.
Los Angeles observes Daylight Saving Time (DST), when clocks are set forward one hour from Standard Time during the summer months, and one hour back again in the fall, in order to make better use of natural daylight. An easy way to remember the change is “spring forward, fall back.”
Los Angeles is one of the cutting edge fashion capitals of the world, with a very open attitude to what one wears. If you can pull off the style, you’re in.
When packing for a vacation, casual works. Pack a jacket or sweater, especially if you’re going to be on the beach in the evening, since the marine layer invariably cools things off. Depending on the activities you’ll have planned, pack comfortable shoes, flip flops or sandals, and something dressier. If you’re going to be spending time in some of the luxe restaurants and clubs of the city, women should pack an easy to care for dress, and men should bring along a sports jacket.
If you’re an executive in town for business, then appropriate business wear is in order. If you’re a creative type calling on Hollywood, you may lose points showing up as though you worked on Wall Street.
One thing to keep in mind: if you arrive in LA and you feel you need an extra few items of clothing, you’ll have plenty of shopping options, from over-the-top Rodeo Drive, to budget-friendly Ross and Target department stores.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We donât want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$$ => Tickets $26 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $200 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $300 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$ => $16-40 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $41 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $11-25 per person
$$ => Tickets $26 per person
There are amazing bargains to be found in airfare to LA, especially with low cost carriers like JetBlue. Look for special promotions. You can also trim some costs off your travel budget by scheduling you return trip on a red eye flight, which is a flight departing late at night out of LA.
The US Dollar is the currency used in LA. Even with the vast amount of Hispanics in LA, you won’t see the Mexican peso in wide use.
Visitors to LA will have no problem finding ATMs, or using their credit cards. The exception would be purchasing items at farmer’s markets and street fairs, where cash is still the preferred method of doing business.
There are numerous options in getting to Los Angeles. There are three airports, including LAX, one of the busiest in the world, and only 15 miles from downtown LA. With all of these fights coming into the City of Angels, it’s possible to find attractive rates.
Driving to Los Angeles has its own charms, providing plenty of opportunities for serendipitous stops, or taking in the changes in the landscape. Most visitors roll into town on interstate highways like US 101, Interstate 10 and Interstate 5. Approaching the city by car also gives a person a chance to acclimatize themselves with LA’s notorious traffic.
Amtrak has a variety of train routes that service Los Angeles, with trains connecting with San Diego, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago. One of the joys of traveling by train is arriving at LA’s historic downtown train station, Union Station, which still has a whiff of film noir, having been used as a backdrop for many Hollywood movies.
Travelers can also arrive via cruise, where they’ll dock at The World Cruise Terminal in San Pedro, about 24 miles from downtown LA.
If you arrive via your own car, you’re in perfect position to explore LA with a minimum of fuss. If you arrive via air, consider renting a vehicle. It was a little bit daunting the first time I rented a car at LAX and immediately shot out onto LA’s freeways. As confusing as LA’s freeway system seems at first glance, it’s really a marvel of engineering and in my experience, it sorted itself out in no time. Having your own car makes it a lot easier to combine a city/beach vacation, especially if you have a lot of gear to lug around.
Visitors also have mass transit options. The Metro (The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority) provides a network of subway trains, light rail, and buses. Metro Rail, the city’s rapid transit rail system, has six lines serving 80 stations across LA County, connecting Downtown LA, Hollywood, Westside, Culver City, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, East LA, the Beach Cities and Long Beach. Metro Rail lines are wheelchair accessible, and Metro buses have automatic wheelchair lifts.
English is the major language in LA, although at times it would seem that Spanish is running a close second.
One of LA’s greatest charms is its ethnic neighborhoods, where languages such as Korean, Thai, or Armenian might prevail. If there’s a moment of linguistic confusion, there will almost certainly be a bilingual speaker on the scene who will facilitate communication.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion
The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
The novels of Raymond Chandler (especially Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye)
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Deer Park by Norman Mailer
If Hollers Let Him Go by Chester Himes
You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again by Julia Phillips
Permanent Midnight by Jerry Stahl
The Studio by John Gregory Dunne
L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
My Dark Places by James Ellroy
Ask The Dust by John Fante
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
The novels and poems of Charles Bukowski
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
The novels of Michael Connelly
The Bad & The Beautiful
The Last Tycoon
Boyz n the Hood
Straight Outta Compton
Singin’ in the Rain
Entourage (the TV series)
Rebel Without a Cause
Devil in a Blue Dress
The Big Lebowski