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“We are all citizens of Los Angeles because we have seen so many movies,” essayist D.J. Waldie said. Still, first-time visitors might be surprised by the sheer size of the sprawling megalopolis.
Under the watchful eye of the famous Hollywood sign lies Sunset Strip and world-famous landmarks and bars, Rodeo Drive and its rich clientele, studio backlot tours at Paramount Studios and Universal plus Santa Monica Pier with its bevy of sun-kissed bodies and palm tree-lined boulevards.
Our advice to first-timers? Organize your itinerary, take advantage of free museums and escape to the mountains, even if just for a drive.
If you’ve only got funds for one touristy trip, treat yourself to a behind-the-scenes look at where movies are made. Top-rated studio tours in LA include:
Unlike NYC, bopping between different neighborhoods in Los Angeles takes time and patience. Our advice? Choose one zone to explore each day. For example:
Locals would probably agree that Los Angeles’s close proximity to nature is one of its major draws. Here’s how — and where — to dip an exploratory toe:
Take at least a day to soak in surfer culture. You haven’t experienced essential Los Angeles vibes until you’ve watched tricks at the Venice Beach skate park or window-shopped along the Santa Monica Promenade.
Another key difference between Los Angeles and NYC is that many of LA’s most prominent museums are free! Step back in time at the Getty or enrich your Insta-game at the Broad. Even the Walt Disney Concert Hall offers free tours with purchased tickets to a show.
It may be sunny during the day, but 70 degrees in the desert with an ocean breeze is far from balmy. Pack at least one cardigan or denim jacket, even if you’re visiting during warmer months. Plus, then you’ll be all set for a breezy climb into the hills.
The essence of Los Angeles is a far cry from what’s sometimes portrayed on TV. Discover the rich cultural diversity, blooming creativity and sweeping mountain views for yourself by booking a flight to this coastal metropolis. And don’t forget about the beach!
But at its core, LA is a funky, diverse and inviting epicenter of creativity and culture.
Here we answer often-Googled questions to help your LA trip go right.
Yes, ATMs as well as bank branches are very common in LA. For reference, Wells Fargo has 25 ATMs throughout the LA area, while Bank of America has over 70.
Yes. TAP vending machines at Metro Rail stations accept cash, coins, tokens and credit or debit cards.
Sometimes. But not all do, so keep cash handy. As a rule, it’s usually best to pay with cash to avoid vendor transaction fees for small purchases.
It depends where you eat and how much you consume. However, here’s an example scenario detailing what a budget traveler might expect to pay — assuming you brought a reusable water bottle along:
Breakfast: Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast at Eggslut = $10
Lunch: Three tacos at Flamin’ Taco food truck = $5
Dinner: Burger and fries at In ‘n Out Burger = $7-$10
Total estimate: $22 to $25.
If there’s a restaurant you’re dying to try, scout the menu in advance to get an idea of what a meal might cost. You could also start your day off light, then grab brunch around 10 or 11 to bundle breakfast and lunch into one meal.
Yes. Choose from Uber options including UberX, Uber SELECT, UberXL, UberSUV, Uber Black SUV, UberLUX and UberPool.
Approximately 382 miles, or a six-hour drive on main roads. Driving takes longer on the scenic coastal route, though.
Yes, all Metro Rail lines run 24/7. However, the schedule changes between midnight and 5 a.m., so it’s best to check ahead of time if you’re expecting to go on a moonlight trip.
Yes! Take the Metro Red Line to the Universal City subway station. Across the street from the station, you’ll see a Universal Studios shuttle bus that will take you to CityWalk Hollywood and Universal Studios Hollywood for free.
The Universal Studios shuttle runs seven days a week, and stops every 10 to 15 minutes starting at 7 a.m. and ending two hours after the park closes.
Yes. Amtrak’s LA hub is Union Station in downtown LA, so if you can catch an Amtrak from your starting point, you should be able to roll right into the city. For reference, a round-trip ticket from Chicago to LA on Amtrak starts at around $143.
Yes, LA’s tap water is safe to drink, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water — which tests H2O to ensure it meets quality standards — and independent testing group SimpleWater, which conducted an evaluation of the city’s tap water in 2018.
While the US government estimates there’s about 10,000 a year in SoCal, most are so small that they go unnoticed. About 15 to 20 per year have a magnitude higher than 4.0. Your chances of experiencing an earthquake in Los Angeles are pretty low.
LA is ranked 51st out of 162 US cities for safety, according to safearound.com. While tourist areas like Hollywood and Santa Monica are fairly safe, visitors should stay in well-populated areas. If you’re veering off the radar in Los Angeles, check with a concierge or a local to inquire about potential risks.
Exercise the same level of caution as you would in any other city: Avoid dark alleyways and walking the streets alone at night.
We wouldn’t dare proclaim the best beaches in Los Angeles, as every local has their own favorite place to catch rays. Nevertheless, here are some popular sunny spots for out-of-towners to try:
You’ll find some of the best vintage shops outside of downtown. Our top picks:
Yes. The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is located in the northeast corner of Griffith Park.
Admission for individuals age 12 and older is $21, while children ages two to 12 get in for $16. Tots younger than two can go to the Los Angeles Zoo for free.
The famous walk begins at 7089 Hollywood Blvd. The 2,400 stars run east to west along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard, with an additional three blocks running north to south on Vine Street between Sunset Boulevard and Yucca Street.
While hostels offer cheaper rooms near downtown and Hollywood, families with plans to see Universal City might find better rates in Burbank. Folks interested in beach days should consider Culver City, Mar Vista or Santa Monica. Koreatown is also a centrally-located option with cheap overnight rates.
For more information and specific hotel suggestions, read our guide on where to stay in Los Angeles.
Your guide to sightseeing in the city of stars. Read more…
Save money en route to La La Land when you book a cheap flight. Read more…
Demystify the land of surf 'n sun with answers to all your burning questions. Read more…
Navigate LA using public transportation and get to surrounding areas by train or car. Read more…
Stay close to the action with our guide to the best LA hotels. Read more…
The best times to visit LA’s top attractions, and the ideal months for good weather. Read more…
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