Los Angeles

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Los Angeles is big and sprawling. It has almost everything. The challenge is that what you want may be 50km away over inhospitable terrain (also known as the freeway system).

Many people believe that the city is good for only one thing, which is leaving. There is some good stuff. Disneyland and the other theme parks are good. Venice Beach can be entertaining for its oddities. La Brea Tarpits for the nerds, and Hollywood and Malibu for the celebrity spotters.

The good news is that San Diego is not far away.

Map of Los Angeles, from Google Maps


  • Highway 1 is a way out of Los Angeles. It is the coast road up to San Francisco, via Santa Monica, San Luis Obispo, Carmel, Big Sur and Monterey. It is a spectacular drive between the ocean and the mountains, very similar to Victoria's Great Ocean Road. It is worth taking at least 2 days for this trip, as there is lots to see on the way including the Hearst Castle (although don't be tempted to take the much promoted 17 Mile Drive in Carmel - unless you like golf courses this drive is a disappointment after you have seen Big Sur).
  • La Brea Tarpits are excellent for palaeonerds. It is in the middle of suburbia, which is sort of surprising. It has the preserved remains of many extinct critters, including sabre tooth tigers and some particularly nasty looking wolves. These are the critters who became stuck in tar and were preserved. The place is pretty small, but very interesting if you like that sort of stuff.
  • Venice Beach is muscle beach. A great collection of posers and eccentrics. Great for people watching.
  • Disneyland is Disneyland. Week days in January are almost deserted. Sometimes it takes longer to walk along the line area than to actually wait in the line. You can get multi-day park hopper passes that allow entry to Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure on the same day. Indiana Jones and Finding Nemo still have lines. Nemo is crap.
  • Getty Museum The Getty Museum Villa is at Malibu, on the coast to the north of LA. It covers the periods up to the end of the Roman Empire. The main Getty Museum is at Los Angeles, about 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. It covers the rest. The artwork is amazing. The architecture is amazing. The Getty Foundation is extraordinarily wealthy, and has bought some extraordinary works. Tour companies run tours to both sites, or a public bus from Santa Monica stops outside the Villa. You have to book in advance for the Getty Villa, but it is free. Web Site
  • Santa Monica A sort of funky seaside area with lots of interesting shopping. And a pier. There is a shuttle service to Santa Monica from the airport hotels.
  • San Diego is a way out of Los Angeles in the opposite direction from San Francisco. It is only about 90 minutes away, and is a smaller and nicer place than Los Angeles. San Diego has heaps of navy stuff as it is the Pacific base for the USN. Seaworld has dolphin shows, penguins, sea otters and a couple of rides. There are two zoos - a traditional zoo similar to many city zoos in Australia and an Open Range Zoo like the one at Dubbo or Werribee. Both are excellent. You can get day long bus tours to Seaworld and the zoos.
  • Beverley Hills & Hollywood Drive Infested with tourists. Of whom you will be one.
  • Universal Studios is an interesting combination of theme park and working studio. The studio tour is worthwhile, particularly the 3D King Kong bit.
  • Palm Springs is an irrigated enclave for the rich in the desert to the east of LA. Nothing much happens there unless you play golf, but the sight of lush green golf courses in the middle of the desert is bizarre.
  • Las Vegas is about a 4 hour drive away, all on freeways. Las Vegas is beyond description. Hoover Dam is nearby.

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Shopping for Other Stuff


Getting Around

The Los Angeles public transport system does not seem to exist (although I am sure it is somewhere). There are shuttles from the airport to major areas, such as Disneyland hotels. Shuttles to Anaheim (Disneyland) are US$15 per person, and a taxi is about US$100. A shuttle from the airport to downtown is also US$15. (Jan 2007). Some of the more upmarket hotels have complimentary shuttles. You can use bus tours to get to places such as Disneyland, Universal Studios and other major tourist attractions. If you buy your ticket in advance Universal has a free shuttle from Anaheim to the studios. Sometimes the only thing to do is surrender and hire a car.

Places to Stay

If your plan is to go the Disneyland, all the major hotel chains have properties in the Anaheim area. Santa Monica is on the coast and has several hotels.