Downtown, Los Angeles
In response to a forum question:
So many things to do in LA specially if it is your first time. But if you are a good driver and have international license, I suggest renting a car which is so cheap anyway -- there's a lot of good deals that sometimes just charge under $30 a day (sometime even less than 20 USD).
Having a car saves so much time becase unlike in Europe, public transportation is not as extensive in California. But if you can, try to rent a car with GPS, or if you have GPS, bring your own. The drive from LA to San Francisco is nice and can be done in less than half a day, depending how much you stop.
Driving is the way you can understand the California way of life --- traffic sometimes in LA specially during rush hour. Once in SF though, you can just leave you car in your hotel and just use the nice public transportation of trams and buses which are easy to understand. It is harder to drive around the congested "up and down" 45- degree hills in SF...but a nice experience to go through the world's crookedest street! In driving from SF to LA or vice-versa, you can also take the more scenic Carmel route which goes along the California coast (see the map and freeways).
The AAA map is nice and if you have a friend who is a member in USA, they can get the map for you for free and even a little book for free which will outline everything you can do around California.
cooling off with fresh fruit/fruit drink!
Fondest memory: I love to go stands like Velarde's Fruit at Olvera St which offers common Los Angeles ways of refreshments, ala mexicano style: licuados (vaiours fruit flavored juices) and fresh slices of fruits like cantalupo/melon (cantaloupe) or sandia (watermelon)
Travel agents are not considering as often as in the past due to the beginning of the Internet. However, they are still a great resource of information and provide you with an entire range of services, which will make your trip, run easily, as well as save you time, problem, and cash. Here is the process you should follow when choosing a travel agent.
Things you will need to do:
o Date, Place, and price range of Your Trip.
o List of agencies in your near by area.
o List of query
A good quality travel agent will ask you to outline your trip. They will ask where you’re going and why, how you would wish to travel, how long you plan to stay, and what your travel budget is. Be open and honest with your answers. A good agent will gladly put together a sample tours that describes availabilities in transportation, accommodations, and estimated costs.
Steps for Choosing Best Travel Agents
Recognize your needs
A good travel agent will always take your needs into thought. However, while an agent will typically ask questions to bring out this type of information from you (and you should take it as a bad sign if the agent does not), you will also need to do your part by speaking your mind.
• Clarify the main purpose of your trip.
• Decide where you want to go and when, making sure the trip will fit into everyone's plan.
• Choose your mode of transportation, whether it's Airline, Cruise, rental car, or something else fully.
• Try to determine a realistic budget for your trip based on all your other considerations.
Ask the right questions
Once you have pointed your choices, call around to ask questions. You should ask most of these questions to person, in addition, when you meet with those agents:
• What kind of travel do you specialize in?
• Can I contact you 24 hours a day?
• Which services do you charge for and how much will they cost?
Meet With Travel Agents
Travel arrangements like shopping of any car and other commodity, if you are too eager to jump on a deal right away. When you do meet with travel agents don't feel required to purchase anything. As you start to discuss travel options with an agent you like, keep these guidelines in mind:
• Do not rely on vocal agreements alone.
• Do not suppose your accommodations will look as impressive as they do in the glossy direct mail.
• Always read out the paperwork carefully before you sign on it, especially when it comes to package deals.
Finding a best travel agent might a little complicated at first, but it could simplify your life vastly. I would like to suggest you few best travel agents website as I found while searching on Google. These are Airtkt.com, Cheapfareguru.com, Eros Tours & Travel Inc., Latinfare.com.
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If you happen to be in downtown LA on a Wednesday and are hungry for lunch, a good bet would be to go on 5th street between the central library main entrance and the Bunker Hill area by the "Spanish steps". There you'll find the Farmer's Market booths. Have fresh fruit. nuts, cheeses, sweets, breads and a big variety of ethnic treats. Favorites are of the Mexican/Latin , Japanese and Thai. There's good ol' American grill options as well. Bring a fresh, hearty meal back to the office or, better, find a spot to eat al fresco (by the Spanish steps Bunker Hill suit well)
Fondest memory: I'd always go here for lunch break rom my downtown secretary job.
If you are in LA only for a couple of days, here is my personal list of things to see and suggestions on how to get organized for that. You don't need a car
1st day: the city
start from Union Station, an old beautiful train station (reach it by bus or metro, by car you can find reasonably cheap parking). Have a walk to Olvera Street where the historical core of LA is (the old mexican market, the oldest house in LA, the mission of Our Lady of Angels, el Pueblo, it's all there - 2 hours). You can walk towards downtown switching between grand, hope, flower, spring street. Along the way, have a look at the downtown area (the skyscrapers, the city hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall - 2 hours), take the metro redline at 7th / Figueroa to hollywood/highland and visit Gruman Chinese and Kodak Theater, walk of fame, it's all there (2 hours). You can take here the Bus to LA zoo and from there the bus to the Griffith Observatory. You must book in advance by internet. Be there at sunset, when LA turns lazily into the City of Lights (you can stay there until 10 pm).
If you are not tired yet and want to spend the night out, do it at Sunset BLVD, in the suset strip. There are some clubs that have made the history of music/glamour like The Roxy, The Viper Room, Wiskey a gogo. Take a taxi back to your hotel if you are late.
2nd day: the beach
take bus number 20/21 downtown to Santa Monica. step out and rent a bike somewhere with a locker. you can ride the bike all the way to Venice beach, there is a very nice byke\\pedestrian path. Stop where you like and enjoy the beach, people watching, entartainers, shops, etc. You can spend all the day and early afternoon to go and come back.
At Santa Monica I suggest a walk on the mythical pier and along third street promenade. At sunset stay on Pacific Palisades park at Santa Monica, another set of an endless number of movies. Enjoy the sunset and twilight on the Pacific.
The title says it all. While, Chinatown and Little Tokyo as well as a museum and the music center are downtown, after night fall, dowtown is pretty much a deserted no man's land. Some of the major swank hotels are located in this area, and unless you're doing something in particular at one of the areas above, you're just wandering around deserted streets. There are for example, no grocery stores in downtown at night and no foot traffic except for the bums in skid row. You heard it here first. Some boosters will disagree with me, but realistically it's a disgrace that LA's downtown is so deserted.
UPDATE- some major steps have been made, and downtown is starting to come around a little more, much like it did in the 80s before crashing. But it seems a bit different this time, and as a testament to the possible viability of downtown as a residential area, Ralph's supermarkets is even planning on putting in downtown's first full service supermarket.
Hoever it shakes out, don't expect to head downtown at night and see a bustling street life like you'd expect in NYC or other 'downtown' areas like European historical centers.
I just found this very informative website on Los Angeles, not sure why I've never used it before. See My LA is the LA Convention and Visitors Bureau website and has a ton of info on what to see and do in LA. Log on and you can order a free visitors guide.
It also has a link to another website LA Downtown Guide which has terrific information on touring the city's downtown area.
On a quintescential visit anywhere in Los Angeles, have a tamale or two (or five) at a restaurant or food stand. LA is even home to a tamale festival, which is just in its second year in 2006. Yes, a whole festival is a dedicated to the tasty cornmeal treat wrapped in a husk. No longer is it just of a Mexican tradition. The taste and pure pleasure of eating one (be sure to take off the husk before biting and devouring!). The tamale may not be the taco but is certainly popular and more hearty.
MacArthur Park, in the Westlake district, hosts the 2006 Tamale Festival.
Real Deals and People in downtown
If you like to discover the daily beat of the locals while visiting a new area as I do, come to the Fashion District. And, oh yeah, if you refuse to pay full price for various items, make your way here, where you will find the famous cheap-sometimes chic shopping mecca of Santee Alley and more..
Warning--Streets in these parts are not pristine at all. This is a shabby area and you should take some extra precaution here though it's not a very dangerous area (basically, don't fall into the bad tourist traps of flashing money, not looking around you, etc). However, it is worth coming here to see the everyday, non-pretentious folk and the daily dealings of the sale.
At Santee Alley or "The Alley", sellers showcase everything knock-off-sunglasses, purses, jeans, suits, shoes, etc. Don't expect to find the truly authentic garb and accessories from the Guccis and all but , hey, don't knock the knock-offs- they're just as fabulous! There have been some police raids done here of fake merchandise but Santee continues to thrive.
Besides the Alley, one will come across the Flower Mart, really a district within the bigger one. The L.A. Flower District is the largest market dedicated to flowers in the U.S. It's amazing to see virtually every kind of flower on Mother Earth. Oh, the aroma here- come here to get your organic perfume on!
Fondest memory: Getting, at last, my fabulous $4 black purse in the district!!
I'll admit it, for several years I always thought downtown LA wasn't a good place to go unless you worked there. I had driven through the ghetto areas and I mistakenly thought all of downtown was like that. Every major city has its ghetto areas.
But, if you walk around Grand Ave and 1st where the Disney Concert Hall is, it's actually a really nice area. It's clean and safe. There's a lot of restaurants to eat at. You can gaze up at the humongous skyscrapers... look at the various art pieces around the city. There's a lot of cool photographic opportunities that can be found just by taking a stroll around the city. Check out my pics and you'll see a few gems I found in my exploration of the city.
Favorite thing: Downtown LA: skyscrapers jostle with low-rent business plazas in this multi-faceted part of town but Downtown LA is not just about the skyscrapers, but they sure are an important part of the city's skyline. For the most part these tall buildings are the heart of the city's financial district. The tallest building in Downtown is the First Interstate World Center which is 73 stories high. A good view on the district is offered by the elevated park around the 55 story 333 Hope Street Building
Great websites for places to go in downtown L.A. with walking maps.
1. Civic Center (Cathedral, Music Center, Disney Hall, MOCA & Plaza, Bunker Steps, Library, Jewelry District)
2. Union Station/Olivera St. (across from Union Station)
3. Chinatown (near Olivera St.)
4. Little Tokyo
Favorite thing: If you arrive early, enjoy coffee, drinks or a light meal outside on the patio between the Dorothy Chandler Music Center and the Mark Taper Forum. There is usually a good water fountain show. Parking is $6.00 under the Music Center, a little bit less if you park a few blocks away.
One can explore latino (particularly Mexican) culture about everywhere in Los Angeles. Yet, going from downtown L.A. on Pico Ave is an especially interesting way to discover Latino life and culture.
Fondest memory: I love to capture murals like this one (along Pico). I happen to be on the bus when I snapped this one. The smeared look of this pic from the bus window adds an interesting effect of the image. It is that of an angel. The mural reads, " We are each of us angels with one wing. We can only fly embracing each other." There are so many murals, small and big, to count throughout the city.
Los Angeles' own "Broadway" street is now a mishmash of mostly Latino-owned clothing shops, music stores, and places that sell, well, junk.
However, in its heyday, Broadway was a vibrant movie and live theatre district. The theatres still stand, though most are not used for their original purpose.
Still, it is a wonderful trip down the street (look UP), viewing all the lovely facades. There are 12 major theatres along the road from 3rd - 9th street.
One theatre that does still host live plays, music, and more, is the Orpheum, between 8th & 9th. It has a fantastic lighted sign that is so cool to see at night. Check it out--something interesting may be playing while you're visiting.
Also, the Los Angeles Conservancy (www.laconservancy.org) hosts a very popular program called "Last Remaining Seats", for which they open a few of the movie palaces for screenings of old movies, just a few nights per year. It's worth looking into.
Check out my travelogue featuring some of the beautiful buildings of broadway, and another of downtown.