Los Angeles has a reputation for being a company town, a place where everything revolves around the entertainment industry. And show business is indeed a huge part of the city, and it's there for visitors to enjoy, from tours of movie studio back lots to celebrity sightings. But, L.A. has so much more to offer. Scratch beneath the celluloid surface and you'll also find rich cultural and culinary diversity, a thriving visual arts scene, and natural beauty, from beaches and mountains to great parks and un-Botoxed faces. Greater Los Angeles is more a string of vibrant, unique neighborhoods and municipalities than a cohesive city with an urban center. That said, the recent revitalization of downtown has given L.A. something it was sorely lacking: a true downtown with both rich commerce and cultural offerings, including a thriving gallery scene, and a growing resident population that inhabits shiny high-rise apartment buildings.
Moving west from downtown, Hollywood and West Hollywood are home to some of L.A.'s biggest tourist attractions -- Hollywood Boulevard, the Walk of Fame, and Grauman's Chinese Theatre -- and some of its most notable nightlife. The Sunset Strip, a famed stretch of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, is a lively, sometimes seedy, neon-lit stretch of bars, nightclubs, and trendy hotels. Further west, the wealthy enclave of Beverly Hills has pristine streets lined with the huge homes of the rich and the designer shops where they spend their money. On the coast, Santa Monica and the surrounding beach towns have the appeal of the surf and sand, cleaner air, and a more laidback vibe, but there's still plenty to do: get a tan, catch a wave, grab fish tacos or a gourmet meal, shop on Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, or just people-watch on Venice's Ocean Front Walk, a public runway for street performers, bodybuilders, skateboarders, and assorted burnouts.
Los Angeles' sprawling, diverse geography makes for uniquely distinct neighborhoods, and it's easy to find hotels that truly reflect their surroundings. Most areas offer hotels across a fairly wide range of prices, so visitors should choose where to stay based on what they want do on their visit, lest they're forced to spend hours in traffic commuting to and from their hotel.
Downtown primarily attracts business travelers with a number of midlevel and upscale chain hotels; but it's also home to some funky, historic properties that will appeal to those looking to explore the area's recent and ongoing revitalization and the art galleries, restaurants, and bars that have come along with it. Three of the city's major freeways also run through downtown, as does the Metro system, making it ideal for travel, but the streets can feel empty and unsafe at night.
Hollywood and West Hollywood are great for both families and party people. Many of the city's best known nightclubs, bars, and music venues are in the area, some within the trendy hotels, like the Hollywood Roosevelt, themselves. For families, proximity to major attractions like the Walk of Fame and Universal Studios Theme Park, coupled with some affordable, unpretentious hotels, like the Magic Castle, make Hollywood a great base camp.
Not surprisingly, true luxury can be had in Beverly Hills at large, iconic, amenity-filled properties like the Beverly Hills Hotel and Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire. There are also small, affordable boutique properties, like the Luxe Rodeo Drive, for those who want to spend less on their hotel and more on haute couture. Standard rooms tend to be tiny though, and amenities are slim to none. There's more luxury to be had in Santa Monica at beachfront hotels like Shutters and Casa Del Mar. The coastal towns are also great for families with their mellow, beachy vibe and attractions like the Santa Monica Pier, but proximity to the sand makes for higher prices and a long drive to Hollywood tourist attractions.
|Airports:||Los Angeles Int'l (LAX)|
|LA/Ontario Int'l (ONT)|
|Bob Hope Airport (BUR)|
|Peak:||June 21 - Sept. 22|
|Electricity:||120 V, 60 Hz|
|Tipping:||15-20% at restaurants|