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Los Angeles – The City of Stars

Posted By Jay On December 10, 2009 @ 10:00 am In Featured Articles,US Travel Reviews | No Comments

Los Angeles is the place to see and be seen. Whether in Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Venice Beach, LA keeps it looking good.

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Destination at a Glance

Date of Trip August 2009
Destination Good for Shopping, Beach, Theme Parks
Best Time to Go
Year Round
Currency/Conv. Rate US Dollar / NA
Good Way to Get Around Rent Car: Yes Public: No Taxi: No Walking: No
Appox. Trip Cost Moderate to Expensive
Speaks English? Everyone
Entry Requirements NA
Do it
  • Venice Beach
  • Sporting Event (Lakers, USC, etc.)
Skip it
  • Lame Celebrity Restaurants
  • Beverly Hills
Didn’t get to do Theme Parks
Would I Recommend Not Really
Overall Trip Rating

Trip Review

I have to be honest – I never really had a desire to go to the “City of Angels” for a vacation.  Although I hadn’t been since I was a little kid (small enough to enjoy Knot’s Berry Farm), what the city is known for really didn’t excite me.  I have no desire to get into the entertainment industry, Atlanta traffic is bad enough and I don’t need a boob job!

While planning for a late-August business trip to Orange County, I noticed flights were either sold out or triple the normal price.  As this was relatively soon after Michael Jackson’s death, the smaller Orange County/John Wayne airport apparently couldn’t handle the number of folks breaking their necks trying to get into LA.  Of course LAX could so I decided to fly there instead.  Might as well spend the weekend in LA and drive up to the OC for my meeting on Monday.   Turns out the second largest city in the country has a little more to offer than what the stereotypes might lead one to believe.

The Famous Five

You can’t visit Los Angeles without at least seeing some of its more well known landmarks.

  1. Theme Parks – There’s no shortage of theme parks in the LA area – the most popular of which being Disneyland.  Though obviously not as large as the Disneyworld in Orlando – this family oriented theme park is still pulling in the customers.  Both Universal Studios and Paramount Studios offer tours as well – with Paramount’s version focusing more on the movie making side of things than themed rides.  Finally, Six Flags and Knots Berry Farm offer all the latest in roller coasters and carnival rides you can take.
  2. Hollywood Sign – While you can actually see the Hollywood sign from several parts of LA, if you’d like to get a picture of the sign without it looking like a footnote – you’ll have drive up the hills.  Hollywood Hills to be exact – this 15 minute drive up some pretty steep hills that will have your ears popping half way up.  Once you reach the top (3202 Canyon Lake Dr Los Angeles, CA 90068 if using GPS), you can take some fantastic photos of the sign, as well as, the valley in which it sits in front.
  3. Hollywood Walk of Fame
    Over a 3½ mile stretch of Hollywood Boulevard contains reddish/pink ‘stars’ embedded into the concrete.  These stars represent individuals who have excelled in the Film, Television, Radio, Music, and Theatrical industries.  I believe there are over 2,500 stars in total – with new ones being added throughout the year.  Since I was there two weeks after Michael Jackson’s death, there was a huge crowd surrounding his star (the Jackson’s group star was further down the street).  Pretty cool if you are into this kind of thing – you can stare in awe over the famous stars and wonder how on earth some of these people got one in the first place (Brittney Spears – really??)
  4. Grauman’s Chinese Theater – Called “Mann’s” when I was growing up, this theater is famous for being the staple for Hollywood movie premieres.  Opened in 1927, it sits along the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  Other than the obviously beautiful architecture – it’s just a theater.  Nothing really special about the place.
  5. Beverly Hills /Rodeo Drive – When people say Hollywood – most folks think movies.  Say, LA – sun and sand.  Beverly Hills – money.  And it’s hard not to miss – from the $500k Maybachs to the huge mansions – this place ain’t for small change.  Rodeo Drive’s strip of high-end stores cater to this demographic.  In the past, this was one of the few places you could find the ‘it’ stores such as Jimmy Choo, Dolce & Gabbana, etc.  Nowadays, these stores are everywhere – Atlanta, Chicago – even Las Vegas – these high end stores are no longer the exclusive domain of Beverly Hills.  All of this makes the experience – a big yawn!  In fact, the recession seems to be hitting this area pretty badly – as there were plenty of “For Lease” signs up and down Rodeo Drive.  Skip It.

…Continued

In and Around LA

  • Venice Beach – Surf and Sand baby.  If you enjoy people watching – Venice Beach is the place to be.  Whether it was watching the muscle dudes pump iron, the hundred or so street performers doing their thing for tips, the “And-1” wannabe street ballers or the surfers catch a wave – I had a blast.  While the strip is somewhat touristy, there are a number of good restaurant shacks to get some food.
  • Santa Monica Pier – Extremely touristy – the boardwalk offers a number of attractions for those visiting LA.  The pier includes a giant ferris wheel, aquarium and a few restaurants.  The few locals you see not performing or offering some wares are fishing over the side of the pier (for what, I have no idea).  I had a street vendor model my face out of clay in about 20 minutes – all for about $20.
  • Sporting Events – While it seems strange to Easterners that the 2nd largest city in the country doesn’t have a NFL franchise, folks in LA have taken to other spectator sports.  The most popular of course are the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.  In addition, LA has two Major League Baseball teams, two NBA franchises, two major colleges (USC and UCLA) and has become the launching point for the UFC (mixed martial arts).  Though none of these are cheap – you won’t have to go without some form of professional sports.
  • Polo Match – Another first for me was attending a live Polo match.  When you are sitting in the stands, you can actually ‘feel’ the ground shake as this gang of thoroughbreds fly past you at 20-30 mph.  The rules are pretty easy to pickup and have a lot more scoring than soccer.  Pretty cool actually.
  • Golf – Let me first state – I am not a Golf kind of dude.  I will continue to play Basketball and Football (flag) until my wheels go flat.  In fact, I’ve only played Golf twice in my entire life – including this time.  Anyway, after shooting a ‘9’ on a Par 4 – I knew it wasn’t my day.  I didn’t care – I had a blast rolling around in the Golf cart Jackass style!
  • Mulholland Drive – One of the best places to see the entire skyline of Los Angeles – particularly at night.  The best way to get there is to take the 405 to the Mulholland Drive exit and turn towards Skirball Center Drive.  Drive 2 minutes.

Nightlife

As with most things in life – everything is relative.  No doubt one can experience a good time in LA during the evenings.  That is unless you have something to compare it with and that comparison starts to make you feel like something’s lacking in LA.  The first thing I became aware of is the clubs close ‘relatively’ early – like 1-1:30am.  In cities like New York and Atlanta – many clubs stay open to 3-4am in the morning.  Some – stay open 24 hours – though not as many in the ATL as there used to be.  Point is – in places like these – the party is just getting started at 1am.  Who the hell yells last call at 12:30am????

Secondly, if strip clubs are your thing – you could have a ‘relatively’ good time – so long as you aren’t from say – Miami.  In LA, local ordinances prevent clubs from selling alcohol to fully undressed models – so they either have to cover up or serve Kool-Aid to patrons.  In Miami – (and some spots in the ATL) – almost everything short of sex on stage is allowed – touching, fully undressed, toys – you name it. Errr – not that I know personally…..

What LA seems to excel at in terms of nightlife is the number and the diversity of live entertainment.  Clubs that cater to live performances are everywhere – specifically rock bands, spoken word/rappers and comedy clubs.

Food

From my perspective, there appeared to be more celebrity chefs than 5-star restaurants in LA.  While I certainly didn’t eat at every single venue in the city – nor did I look at every menu, those I did see where in the line with “Art Food”.  You know “Art Food” – the $50 plate of some made up concoction that is so pretty you don’t want to eat it – but so unimpressively tasting you wished you hadn’t?  You know – the place where they have to drizzle lines of syrup/gravy across the plate to make it look like they actually gave you something to eat – because the ‘art’ is the size of your pinky?  Junk!

While there’s really no quintessential ‘Los Angeles” dish, Los Angeles stands out for its variety of cuisines.  Mediterranean, Southwest, Middle Eastern, Asian – just to name a few – are all well represented in Los Angeles.  The one small gap I could fine was a lack of Caribbean restaurants, a la Jamaican, Cuban, etc.

There are a few soul food joints in LA – and none is more popular than Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles (though not necessarily the most authentic).  With 5 locations scattered throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan area, there’s one relatively close by.  While most of the menu is poorly put together (food grouping makes little sense), it was seasoned and prepared well – chicken is even fried in a skillet like your mama does at home.

In Closing

While my general impression of LA did not change dramatically, I did gain a better appreciation of the nuances of the city.  If you aren’t into theme parks or studio tours, there’s not that much to do in LA as a tourist.  With good planning, you could accomplish everything I did in about a day.  On the other hand, you could spend all of your time taking in the sun – “it never rains in Southern California” – so that’s what they tell me.  If nothing else, it’s close enough to drive to Las Vegas – and isn’t that what it’s all about??

Happy Travels

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