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The local's guide to Los Angeles

The local's guide to Los Angeles

Going to the city of angels for a trip? Here’s the lowdown on local knowledge about what to see and skip!

Tips to survive LAX airport

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX for short) is the 4th busiest passenger airport in the world, with upwards of 61 million people travelling through it each year. When you find yourself amongst those millions, use these tips to navigate LAX like a pro.

Getting to/from LAX Airport

  • To/from - If you’re travelling with a lot of luggage to and from the airport, then we suggest the FlyAway bus. It’s a shuttle service specifically for airline passengers to get you to one of five major spots in L.A. It’s very affordable (between $8-10USD each way), efficient and quick
  • Terminal info - The central airport has nine terminals that are all connected by a U-shaped two-level roadway
  • First aid - The First Aid Station is located in the Tom Bradley International Terminal on the Upper/Departures Level. It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, including holidays
  • Flight status - If you are worried about your flight or just want to check that it’s still on schedule, visit the LAX website and select “Airport Condition” for up-to-date flight operations, weather impacts and other useful information
  • Customer service - Need information or help in your terminal? Look for the bright red jackets— these are LAX’s volunteers who can quickly help you and send you on your way.

Using LA’s buses

The buses in LA are an extremely helpful and easy way to get around the city without wasting money on taxis or the subway. Here are some guidelines about the DASH buses and Metro buses so you can determine which is right for you

DASH Bus

  • Find out the exact time of every DASH departure at ladotbus.com or plan your DASH trip using the Google Trip Planner
  • DASH buses run every 5-10 minutes during the day, but not on Sundays or the evening
  • Fare for the DASH bus is just $0.50USD – hard to beat.

Metro Bus

  • Metro buses cover all areas of Los Angeles instead of one neighbourhood for the flat fee of $1.75USD
  • Most metro buses accommodate bikes for no extra charge—DASH does not
  • Local metro buses that are numbered 1-299 make a lot of stops. Faster, express metro buses are numbered 300-799 and stop only at certain stops.

Tap Card Info

All public transportation in L.A. can be paid for with a pre-paid TAP card. The fare is a flat $1.75USD for each trip via bus or train. If you know you’ll be riding more than three times in one day, opt for the day pass. It costs $7.00USD and you’ll save serious cash if you’re moving around L.A.

Insider Tips

  • Keep an eye out for the incredible public art on display in L.A.’s metro system
  • L.A. holds the honour of having the worst traffic in the entire United States so avoid getting a rental car if you can
  • The L.A. Metro Trip Planner is a lifesaver. If it’s raining, opt for the subway instead of a taxi. Rain makes traffic catastrophic in Los Angeles.

Must-See Attractions

The usual question in L.A. is more WHO you’ve seen instead of WHAT you’ve seen. It’s the place to catch a glimpse of stardom or the A-list lifestyle. Instead of relying on a guidebook, try these activities to get a real taste of Los Angeles.

  • Hollywood Sign – You can’t drive to the Hollywood sign. Instead, hike there via the Mount Hollywood, the Canyon Boulevard, or Cahuenga Peak trails
  • Santa Monica Pier – Beyond being incredibly photogenic (Instagram, anyone?) the Santa Monica Pier is pure fun. We suggest a trapeze lesson, the historical carousel or riding the iconic Ferris Wheel
  • Rodeo Drive – Dubbed the intersection of luxury, fashion and entertainment, Rodeo Drive is the full three blocks of extravagant stores and customers
  • Walk of Fame – Test your knowledge of the 2,500 celebs featured on the Walk of Fame. To get more hands-on, head to the TCL Chinese Theatre, where you can match handprints with some of the most memorable people in Hollywood’s history
  • Venice Beach – Go to Venice Beach to shop and people watch. During summer months there are street entertainers everywhere and locals in outlandish clothing. There are plenty of oddball shops on the stretch where you can get a special souvenir. Keep an eye on your belongings as pickpocket rates skyrocket here.

Los Angeles Neighborhoods To Skip Or Visit

  • Downtown - Music, art, sports and more all come together in Downtown L.A. From small galleries to the gargantuan Staples Centre (for basketball games and concerts) tourists will be treated to the best entertainment L.A. has to offer.
  • Chinatown- Unless your goal is to be fully immersed in Chinese culture, Chinatown is probably skippable. Maybe stop through for an authentic and delicious meal in any of their superb restaurants.
  • Eastside - A trendy neighborhood in LA, Eastside is more hipster than most places in Los Angeles. There are plenty of shops, bars, and food spots, to quench your thirst and hunger with their organic, pure, earth-conscious creations.
  • Hollywood - Full of iconic attractions, it’d be hard to miss out on Hollywood when visiting Los Angeles. You should surely see the attractions, but maybe skip the neighbourhood. It’s a little rundown but the nearby West Hollywood is a classier alternative.

Celebrity Spotting

Instead of wasting your money on a celebrity tour, do a little research and take your chances with just running into celebs at one of these popular hangouts.

  • Chateau Marmont - Everything from bar fights (Lindsey Lohan vs. Avril Lavigne) to discreet hook-ups (Kate Bosworth and Alexander Skarsgard) have occurred in this see-and-be-seen restaurant. See if you can get on the list for their private bungalows or the coveted patio tables
  • Runyon Canyon – This trail is a hot spot for celebs, like Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake, to get their sweat on, especially when the sun is out
  • Studio City Farmer’s Market – Head to this outdoor farmer’s market on the weekend to spot celebs picking up their organic, naturally grown fruits and veggies. Elizabeth Banks, Selma Blair, and Anne Hathaway are frequent visitors.

Celebs

Be prepared – Each celebrity is different, and most are pretty used to getting gawked at, but instead of living up to the fan-girl or fan-boy stereotype, respect their privacy and space.

Cosy Up With (Good) Coffee

Contrary to popular belief, there are some people in America who know how to brew a good cup of coffee. Visit these cosy coffee shops for your flat white fix as you tour Los Angeles.

  • Bronzed Aussie - When native Aussie Samantha Brown moved to L.A. she didn’t want to abandon her native pies and quality espresso coffee. So she opened Bronzed Aussie, which has an espresso bar that serves the finest quality beans supplied by Longshot Coffee.
  • Two Guns Espresso - This modern and clean coffee shop has two locations where you can try their custom Stan-wich and flat white. The baristas use their own blend of espresso for a delicious, but slightly different take on the standard flat white.
  • Garlo’s - Garlo’s is a chain coffee shop that serves their scrumptious handmade pies (fresh daily!) and a full menu of delicious coffee brew beverages so you can get your dose of caffeine.

Day Trips  Outside The City

With so many things to do and see in L.A., crossing the city limits to other parts of the state may seem unbearable. Trust us, though. These day trips will only add great memories, new experiences and all around fun to your holiday in California.

  • Laguna Beach - Just an hour outside of the city is Laguna Beach. As its name suggests, it’s a coastal town that acts as a retreat for artists, nature lovers, beach-goers and international tourists. The sandy stretches attract thousands of visitors to its shores as temperatures are rarely anything but comfortable and enjoyable.
  • Catalina Island - Yes, Catalina Island is another beach destination—it’s just off the shore of California. It differs from Laguna Beach because it’s more exclusive, swanky, and secluded. If you want to pretend to be a celeb at a 5-star resort, this is the place to do so in California. Try new water sports, organise a deep sea fishing expedition, or just relax on the beach with bottomless drinks.
  • Sequoia National Forest - You can’t help but feel small when dwarfed by the massive Sequoia forests. Take the day to hike and revel in the natural beauty of the Sequoias. There are trails for avid hikers and beginners alike. By the end of the day, you’ll have a hard time believing the grit and grind of city life is just a few hours’ drive away.
  • Universal Studios - Go behind-the-scenes on the legendary Studio Tour to explore Hollywood’s most famous backlot in the world’s largest working movie studio. There are close to 13 city blocks of history to explore and when you buy a ticket to the theme park, the Studio Tour is automatically included in the admission cost.

Rainy day guide to Los Angeles

While L.A. is usually a sunny slice of paradise, have a backup plan in case the clouds roll in. A rainy day doesn’t mean the fun has to stop.

  • Get active indoors - Van’s Skateboard Park has all kinds of setups to keep ‘boarders’ busy. Or, try out a flight simulator at Flightdeck Air Combat Center. Rock-climbing at Rockreation in Santa Monica is another great way to stay focused on something other than the weather report.
  • Go see a movie - There’s nowhere closer to film history than tinsel town itself. Head to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for a tour of the historic spot, or to Cinerama Dome for a Hollywood-themed experience.
  • Avoid highways - As soon as the rain starts falling, the traffic starts getting worse. These traffic jams are so epic they’ve been nicknamed (appropriately) Carmaggedon. If the rain is falling, stay off the roads.

Museums to See/Skip

  • Griffith Observatory - The Griffith Observatory is your gateway to the cosmos! Visitors can look through telescopes, explore exhibits, see live shows in the Planetarium, and enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign.
  • L.A. Museum of Art - A more hip and forward-thinking museum, the L.A. Museum of Art will be an eye-opening look at art and sculpture.
  • Getty Center - More traditional artwork is shown in the Getty Centre where admission is free and there are programs in place for kids and families.
  • Natural History Museum of L.A. - While you may learn a few things here, we suggest choosing museums that are unique to L.A. or ones that give you insight into the city.

The Go Los Angeles Pass

This is a tourist card that was created to save you time and money on attractions in Los Angeles. This will be the best way for you to see over 37 attractions, tours and museums - including Legoland California, Universal Studios Hollywood, Madame Tussuad’s, Knott’s Berry Farm, and more—with savings up to 55%. You can even skip the ticket line at many top attractions!

Packing list for L.A.

Beyond the essentials, here are a few additional items to bring on your L.A. holiday:

  • Swimsuit - Los Angeles is on the coast and if the weather’s warm you’ll be able to take a dip. Regardless, most hotels in the area have a pool you can enjoy too, so it never hurts to have options.
  • Some smart clothes - If you’ll be enjoying L.A.’s nightlife be sure to have upscale clothing. Men, that means no tennis shoes and a collared shirt.
  • Camera - While you’ll probably have your smartphone camera with you, pack your nicer one, too. There are plenty of photo ops where you’ll want a real lens over your phone.
  • Travel insurance - Print out your policy documents and have them on hand, in case of emergency. You’ll be glad to have all the information right in front of you.

If you are travelling from Australia to the United States, don’t expect to power up without an adapter. Electrical outlets in the United States are Type A/B and can accept 110 voltage appliances. Your adapter should look like this:

Neighbourhoods to know in L.A.

  • Pacific Palisades
  • Santa Monica
  • Venice
  • Westchester/LAX
  • West Los Angeles
  • Beverly Hills
  • Bel-Air
  • Hollywood
  • West Hollywood
  • Universal City
  • North Hollywood

5 Most Common Los Angeles-ers

  • Elvis Impersonator - Whether it’s an Elvis lookalike, or a “statue” of Liberty, there are plenty of these performers around L.A.
  • Waitress-Slash-Actress - Everyone in L.A. wears a lot of hats, especially if they’re trying to break into showbiz. Chances are, your waitress is waiting for her big break.
  • Old-School Hollywood - They understand the charm and appeal of old school Hollywood and frequently tell stories about rubbing elbows with the celebs of yesteryear.
  • Native L.A. - Even if they complain, chances are they love their city and everything the neighbourhoods have to offer.
  • Celebrity - L.A. is the most popular place for stars to settle down (besides NYC) so if you think you saw George Clooney, there’s a good chance you did.

Iconic Restaurants

Maybe it’s something about the heat that makes Los Angeles locals crave summertime favourites. Many iconic Los Angeles restaurants feature hot-dogs on their menu. From odd additions to traditional toppings, L.A. is a hot-dog lover’s paradise.

  • Pink’s Hollywood - For seven decades, customers have been driving to Pink’s in everything from pickups to limos, just to savour Pink’s famous and mouthwatering variety of 30 hot dogs.
  • Canter’s Deli - Canter’s has served the entertainment industry from its spot on the Miracle Mile since 1953. It’s open 24 hours a day and has live entertainment on weekends.
  • Carney’s - This family-owned business specialises in simple comfort food for a reasonable price. Carney’s gained its fame mostly from its unique setting—a repurposed train passenger car.
  • Original Tommy’s - Original Tommy’s is a chain restaurant in California, but the original spot is located in L.A. To this day, long-time patrons will line up for their superb chilli burgers.

Fun Fact

The city was originally named “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora Reina de los Angeles sobre el Rio Porciuncula” meaning “The town of our lady queen of the angels on the Porciuncula River.” Thankfully, it was later shortened to Los Angeles. And shortened again to L.A.

Useful Info

Telephone

If you need to make an International call home, please dial:

  • 011 + 61 + (your 9 digit phone number)

In case of an emergency, dial:

  • 911

Visa Info

If you plan to travel to the United States for less than 90 days, you will need to get a visa waiver from ESTA.

For trips longer than 90 days, you must obtain a visitor visa.

Embassy

Australian Consulate-General

575 Market Street, Suite 1800

San Francisco, CA, 94105

+1 415 644 3620

Hospitals

UCLA Medical Centre

757 Westwood Plaza

310-825–9111

Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre

8700 Beverly Boulevard

310-423–5000

Keck Medical Centre of USC

1500 San Pablo Street

323-442-8500

More information

  • Visit the LAX website and select “Airport Condition” for up-to-date flight operations, weather impacts and other useful information
  • If you plan to travel to the United States for less than 90 days, you will need to get a visa waiver from ESTA
  • For trips longer than 90 days, you must obtain a visitor visa.

Written by Covermore Australia.

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