WELCOME TO LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Beauty spas, celebrities, beaches, extravagant cars and theme parks are merely opening acts in this oft ungainly, but always exciting and expansive region. Absent a master landscaping plan, the world’s most extensive freeway system is the connective tissue that sews together Downtown, Exposition Park, Mid-Wilshire, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, Universal City, Pasadena, Beverly Hills, Century City, Bel Air, Westwood, Westside, Santa Monica, Venice, Crenshaw, Baldwin Hills, Long Beach, and Anaheim. Each has a unique calling to visitors, and each is identified by freeway exit signs as much as by city or district boundaries.
In this megatropolis, Downtown remains the dominant center for culture, government, finance, sports and value shopping. A lively nightclub and restaurant scene and a little known movie studio that caters to TV and commercial production on Downtown streets are just a taste of what's to come. You’ve seen LA’s 73-story cylindrical skyscraper in more movies than you can count, and the polished architecture of the nearby Gas Company, Sanwa Bank, IBM, Wells Fargo and California Center skyscrapers stand out with equal merit. Lowering your sight line, the boldly eclectic Disney Concert Hall, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles Music Center, Colburn School of Dance, Central Library, Union Station, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, and the Coca Cola Building present some of the best eye-candy in lotus land. Downtown LA also has the largest Fashion District in the nation. Get a great deal on rings and things at the Jewelry District. Have a taste for authentic Mexican food, culture and momentos? Drop by Alvera Street where the city was founded. Then hustle over to Little Tokyo for sushi and the new Japanese American Museum. Just north of the City Hall is Chinatown, with all the Dim Sum you can handle. And now, more than $10 billion of investment has attracted a blizzard of upscale residential, retail and entertainment construction in the southern part of Downtown.
LA's nexus of entertainment consists of two adjacent downtown parts. Staples Center, is home to the Lakers, Clippers, and Sparks basketball, Avengers arena football, Kings hockey, Grammy Awards and large concerts. LA Live is home to Nokia Theater concerts, VH1 Awards, MTV Awards, ESPY Awards, American Music Awards, Latin Grammy Awards, Grammy Museum, a flagship ESPNZone, ESPN West Coast broadcast studio, and a Club Nokia concert venue. At LA LIVE, you'll also find a giant Lucky Strike bowling-billiards cafe, more chic restaurants, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, a Grand Marriott Hotel and a flagship Regal Cineplex suitable for movie premieres. For visitors, the area is nicely served by two Metrorail lines and DASH shuttle buses that circulate around Downtown.
As the Movie Capital of the World, it is only fitting that Hollywood feature four of the best cinemas on the planet: Chinese, El Capitan, Egyptian and the Arclight Cinedome. Its other crown jewels are the magnanimous Kodak Theatre to host the Academy Awards, Pantages Theatre, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Capital Records Tower, Hollywood Bowl, and the tony Hollywood & Highland retail-dining-entertainment complex. Nowhere else can you see as many tributes to Michael Jackson. In a nice touch for travelers, Metrorail, with its movie-themed subway stations, conveniently whisks you between Universal Studios, Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire and Downtown. Before you leave Hollywood, make a shoppers sojourn on Melrose Avenue and La Cienega Boulevard.
A family vacation paradise, greater LA is home to Universal Theme Park, Universal CityWalk, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Downtown Disney, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor theme parks. Then there’s La Brea Tar Pits, Exposition Park museums and the Coliseum, which hosted the 1984 Olympics. There’s also Sony Pictures, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Fox, and New Line movie studios plus NBC, CBS, FOX and ABC TV West Coast Studios.
The Getty Center and Getty Villa are encyclopedic museums of the first order. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Petersen Automotive Museum, Museum of Tolerance, Museum of Contemporary Art, Autry National Center and other museums cement Los Angeles' reputation as an international arts destination. A case in point, with both the Museum of Contemporary Art and the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum, City of the Angels is now a focal point of the contemporary arts world. Here's a surprise - LA now employs more people in cultural arts institutions than the aerospace industry. So if you hear someone making tired jokes that LA doesn't have culture, they don't know LA.
Century City, the 2nd largest business district in LA, is more inviting than ever with its chic shopping center, superb restaurants, eye-catching architecture and dramatically landscaped boulevards. A first-time visitor could easily mistake it for Downtown. About 2 miles away, stop in Westwood to check out the college scene at UCLA, boutiques and if your timing is right, a movie premiere at the Fox Theatre.
Head west to Santa Monica for its 3rd Street Promenade retail-dining-entertainment center, well-tended beach, and world-famous Santa Monica Pier. Few places nationwide offer a better combination of family and general attractions in such a short walking distance. Next to Santa Monica is the outrageously enigmatic Venice Beach – an homage to the 1970s and yet cutting edge at the same time. More sedate than its neighbors, Marina Del Rey lets you charter a fishing boat or take a day cruise in the Pacific Ocean – a nice diversion in uber-busy LA.
Central Avenue has changed demographically, yet a number of important Black historic sites remain, such as the Dunbar Hotel and Black Fireman’s Museum. Today Crenshaw in South Los Angeles anchors a range of Black attractions from the subtle to the spectacular: West Angeles Church of God in Christ Cathedral, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, Magic Johnson Theatres, Tavis Smiley’s headquarters, and the organization responsible for originating Kwanzaa. Just off Crenshaw, take a drive through Baldwin Hills and Ladera Heights to see where most of the Black middle class and wealthy live. Leimert Park Village is a thriving collection of Afrocentric galleries, shops, restaurants, nightclubs, cultural centers and a fully restored quaint park centered at Degnan Boulevard at 43rd Place. But fitting in the, “Who would a thunk it” category, Faithful Central Baptist Church bought the Forum, where the Lakers once played, to accommodate its huge congregation. Meanwhile secular concerts still play at the Forum. Next door is Hollywood Park Racing Track and Casino. Only in LA! And as you will see in this guide, Pasadena, Inglewood and Watts have a number of attractions as well.
Downtown, Hollywood, Century City, warm beaches, an unmatched diversity of restaurants, Black cultural sites, theme parks, family attractions, fine arts attractions, gigantic malls, specialty shops, and a whopping list of cultural events make LA one of the most irresistible cities in the world. That irresistible vibe demands that you experience LA in a nice car because you’re always driving someplace. Or just rent an expensive, fly automobile and look important in the city where looks matter.