Los Angeles Airport is the fourth biggest airport in the States. That’s why it has so much air traffic congestion, and airlines from every corner of the world have flights to this airport. Turkish Airlines has a respected status here, you can see its ads everywhere; we felt very proud.
Transportation and Accommodation
There are lots of options like renting a car, taking a cab, catching a bus or a shuttle, and the train/subway. Shuttle buses take you to the subway station but sometimes it might take longer than you expect. There are also Super Shuttles going to the city. The rides on the shuttles, depending on the destination, cost 15-20 USD per person.
I think the easiest way to get to your hotel and tour the city is renting a car. Your driving license is valid in the States but the traffic codes are different to ours. For instance at the traffic lights, you don’t go and stop at the nearest point to the lights, you wait behind the stop line on the carriageway and the lights are across you at the junction. There is also a carpool lane designated for people driving with usually at least one passenger. I recommend you to learn these kinds of codes because the traffic fines are much stiffer than Turkey.
If you like the sea and the beaches, I recommend Santa Monica or Venice Beach, but if you like to stroll around the city and go shopping I recommend staying in Hollywood, Beverly Hills or Downtown. Between downtown LA and the beaches there is fair distance so it’s very important to make the right call when you try to figure out where to stay. We stayed at a hotel which is very close to the 7th subway station. From there it was very easy to go anywhere either with subway or bus and it was quite safe, but, just in case, if you go back to your hotel late at night, you should be careful as there are lots of homeless people on the streets. It’s really awkward to see so many homeless people in a country as rich as the USA. The homeless people generally walk around with a supermarket cart where they keep all their belongings. Seeing them like that breaks your heart.
Places to go
In LA, there are plenty of places to see and plenty of alternative attractions to enjoy. I’ll try to write about the ones that I think are important according the regions.
Although the downtown area seems like a business district, in fact it’s an area housing lots of touristic places. For instance there is a very important location for basketball fans, Staples Center where you can watch the Lakers’ game. Just below the Staples Center, there is a shop that sells Lakers’ gear and souvenirs and there is an outlet store very close by.
Downtown consists of “the Fashion District” which has housed the textile suppliers for as long as anyone can remember, “the Financial District” where the financial centers and banks reside, “Little Tokyo” hosting the Japanese restaurants and the Japanese American National Museum, “Chinatown” containing Chinese restaurants and products, “the Civic Center”, “ the Flower District” with the flower market, “the Toy District” with the offices of toy companies, “the Jewelry District” where most of the jewelers are, and the “Arts District” where the art galleries are located.
On your way from Financial District to Civic Center you’ll come across the Library, the Columbia Building, Bunker Hill Building, the former Fire Station and the City Hall, and those are a few of the places you should visit.
There are also lots of historical theaters on Broadway Boulevard.
Among them we can list Million Dollar Theater, Tower Theater, Arcade Theater and Roxie Theater which were built at the beginning of 20th century. The Grand Central Market, located just next to the Million Dollar Theater, is a historical closed public market, where you can find fresh groceries, have them cooked and eat. Bradbury Building, just across the market, is a landmark historical building of the area.
While you are downtown you should also visit the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by eccentric architect Frank Gehry, known for his interesting designs. The concert hall can be visited for free on weekdays. The contemporary art center of LA, the MOCA is just across from the Walt Disney Concert Hall, on the same block. There you can go to the contemporary art exhibitions and see the original pieces of famous pop art artist Andy Warhol.
Another important place I recommend you to visit downtown is Olivera Street. If you choose to go there by subway you have to get off at the 75 year old central station, Union Center. When you leave the station, you’ll come up against a beautiful square with lots of trees. One of the buildings facing the square is Pico House and it was built in 1870. Olivera Street and its neighborhood have been the home of the Mexican community since the old times. Along the street you will stumble upon Mexican specialties on street stands, local products, colorful mandolins, puppets, accessories and souvenirs. With the Mexican restaurants and the street musicians the ambiance is very colorful!
Beverly Hills & Hollywood
Now, the heart of the movie industry, Hollywood, and the residency of the stars, Beverly Hills, and of course with its keen relationship with them, Universal Studios…
It’s very easy to go to Hollywood from the 7th subway station downtown, in fact it’s the quickest and easiest way to go there because there is generally a traffic jam. “Hollywood/Highland” subway station is located just at the center. As soon as you leave the station you find yourself on the Walk of Fame. You proceed on the sidewalks where the names of the all-time favorite Hollywood stars, musicians and fictional characters are embedded. Only the name of the world champion boxer Muhammed Ali is on the wall because he didn’t want people to step on his name.
The former Kodak Theater, the new Dolby Theater, where the Oscar ceremonies are held is also there. Hollywood Madam Tussaud Museum is also situated in the Dolby Theater and just across, there is the Chinese Theater.
The Hollywood Sign situated on the Month Lee is a little distant from here, so you have to go there by car. If you’d like to observe it up close and enjoy the landscape I recommend you to go to the Griffith Observatory. I don’t know why but Hollywood didn’t seem as huge and sumptuous as we had imagined, maybe because on the screen everything seems dramatically different.
In this neighborhood, the historical burger restaurant Johny Rockets in the mall next to the Dolby Theater, and the hotspot Hooters next to the Chinese Theater are good places for dining. I can also recommend the Hard Rock Café close-by Dolby Theater, a classic, Denny’s, on Hollywood Boulevard and the famous hamburger chain In and Out Burger on Sunset Boulevard.
Sunset Boulevard, parallel to Hollywood Boulevard is also known for its restaurants, nightclubs and active night life. Sunset is quite long and extends to the Beverly Hills Sunset Boulevard where the stars reside. It’s not a good idea to walk here from Hollywood, go either by car or bus.
In Beverly Hills, the first thing that salutes you is the Beverly Hills Hotel, with which you will feel acquainted because of the movies. Strolling around, you might bump into street sellers trying to sell maps showing the houses of celebrities for 10 Dollars. If you’re really interested, you can find those maps on the internet. Just some advise, don’t buy into it, even if you know the places of the houses, they don’t let you see what’s inside, almost all of them are surrounded by bushes or high walls. In Beverly Hills if you follow the road that’s ornamented with trees, well-kept foliage and beautiful houses, you’ll reach Rodeo Drive, known for its luxury goods stores and the movie Pretty Woman. All the stores on this drive are competing with each other with their designs. At the end of the street, you can see the hotel where Pretty Woman was shot and the cute street from the shopping scene with Julia Roberts. I think these places resemble the European cities and are much more glamorous and elegant than Hollywood.
And here comes the Universal Studios. Whatever you do, spare some time for the Studios. To feel like a kid in a candy store is a guarantee. I recommend you to buy your tickets online because it’s cheaper and you will avoid wasting time waiting in long queues each morning at the door.
If your time is limited, buy a VIP pass to skip the queues for attractions. It was more expensive than the normal one, 30 dollars, but as I said, if your time is limited, it’s worth it because for some attractions you may have to wait for at least 45 minutes and there are so many of them! Go early in the morning, that way you can skip waiting for the most popular attractions, at noon the place becomes packed.
Let me list the attractions that I found really interesting:
1. Transformers (4D, with its amazing visuals, you feel like you’re in the movie.)
2. Krustyland -The Simpsons (3D, it’s marvelous, one of the most entertaining attractions)
3. Waterland Show (The extras act the scenes from the movie, it’s really impressing)
4. Road train (You tour the studios in the train enjoying the animations, behind the scenes, and special effects of movies like Jaws, San Francisco Earthquake, Mexico, King Kong, War of the Worlds, and Desperate Housewives, it’s so much fun!)
5. Jurassic Park (You tour in a boat among the dinosaurs and ultimately fall from a waterfall and get soaked. Take my word for it, keep a spare t-shirt with you and preserve your camera very well)
6. Shrek (4D fun)
7. House of Horrors (You proceed in a cave-like tunnel, in the dark and people disguised as scary characters from horror movies attack you, at times it can be really terrifying but so much fun as well, they don’t let the kids attend this attraction.)
8.Mummy (In a roller coaster-like car you pass among the mummies and stop just before hitting the wall, and then it goes backwards without slowing down. The journey ends where you least expect. If you like these kinds of attractions enjoy, but it disagreed with my stomach.)
The tour in the studios will probably last till the evening, but you won’t realize how fast the time passes by. I strongly recommend Mel’s Drive-in in the Studios if you feel hungry. You should definitely try their famous Mel Burger, or some delicious fried turkey drumsticks. The best burger I have eaten in States was at Mel’s. After visiting Universal Studios, stroll around City Walk where you’ll find malls and restaurants. This area is home to popular restaurants like Hard Rock Café, and Hooters, and is packed with the shops of popular brands. It’s very vibrant with the people performing on the streets and the visitors from all over the world.
If you have time I also recommend visiting Disneyland. Of course if you have visited Orlando or Paris, I will not insist, because it is the same as them, but if you haven’t been there yet and you have your kids with you, don’t miss the opportunity. It’s a whole day of enjoyment with the kids.
The bay and the beaches
I think the California coast has the best scenery among all America’s bay areas. If you rent a car, drive either to the north (from Santa Barbara to Saint Francisco) or to the south (from Malibu to San Diego) and enjoy the bay. San Diego is not far away, just 1-2 hours by car. Breath in the fresh smell of the Pacific Ocean, adore the endless ocean scenery. If you don’t have the time to go so far then absolutely visit the beaches in Los Angeles.
One of the most important beachfront cities of Los Angeles is Santa Monica. It has a very long beach, and it’s a very romantic area with its wooden pier and the Ferris wheel, you’ll probably remember them all from the movies. On the pier there are street performers, sea food restaurants and Cafés. If you are traveling with kids there is Ferris wheel and a small park surrounded by toys. As we mentioned the beach is very long and there is a coast guard. If you are considering the idea of swimming, choose a less wavy day.
You can also visit Hotel California which inspired one of most popular songs of all time by the Eagles. The hotel is still in service and very close to the seaside. It also has a gift shop for visitors.
As you walk to the downtown district, you will come across the vibrant, pedestrianized Third Street Promenade. On this street you can stroll, shop and if you’re hungry there are many options for grabbing a bite to eat.
Another important bay area is Venice Beach… It’s the home of surfers, roller-skaters, skateboarders and bodybuilders that you often see in American movies. It’s also known for its restaurants, cafés and entertainment hubs. Venice Beach where lots of sport activities take place is a hot spot, especially for the youth. That’s why it’s packed each day of the week. The empty walls of the buildings are ornamented with graffiti artworks. It gives a special character and a different kind of beauty to the area. For body builders there is a special area called Muscle Beach. You can also enjoy the high level street ball played by local teams just next to it. I felt kind of depressed seeing all those healthy and fit people religiously exercising on the beach and decided immediately to start working out.
Because of its distinctive architectural attributes, you should definitely see the binocular shaped structure, the Binoculars Building, designed by the eccentric Frank Gehry, on Venice Beach. It’s on the street parallel to the Venice Beach and it’s very hard to miss.
If you have time I highly recommend you to visit the bay area, Long Beach, Malibu, and Santa Barbara.
You can’t leave the States without shopping. You can find products of very famous brands for very cheap prices at the outlet centers.
There are two notorious big outlet locations in Los Angeles.
1. Camarillo Premium Outlets: It’s a little far from the downtown area, so it’s easiest to reach by car. It might be difficult to see the whole place in one day, it’s really huge. You can save time by checking out the map and deciding where you’d like to go beforehand.
2. Citadell Outlets: Compared to Camarillo, it’s a more compact area and has a shuttle service from specific places in the city It’s easier to reach than the other outlets.
Besides these, Ross, Marshalls and T.J.Max are the stores where you can find famous brands for a good price in the city.
Besides, for fundamentals like groceries and vitamins and medicines, you should take a peek at chains like Wallgreens, Rite Aid and Wallmart. You can buy all kinds of necessities, souvenirs, and little gifts for a very good price.
Have a nice holiday!