While the traffic will probably be worse than you have heard, air quality is something that LA gets a bad rap for that really isn't warranted any longer.
Even when air quality problems were at their apex in the 1950's and 1960's in Southern California, Los Angeles's air was not the center of the poor air as that was in the inland communities up against the mountains (where the air gets trapped) 30-40 miles east of the city. Since then, California has mandated catalytic converters, unleaded gas, banned trash burning, and other numerous pollution control measures. Cars in California are the cleanest burning in the world and 100 times cleaner than 30 years ago. As a result, air quality has improved substantially and today there are generally no days during the year in Downtown Los Angeles where air quality reaches the unhealthy level (although it still does in the far inland areas of So Cal albeit far less frequently than decades ago).
When you arrive in LA, especially in the summer, you will likely see a white milky haze. Everyone assumes this is all smog or air pollution (even some locals). In fact little of it is as the omnipresent haze has been part of the region forever due mostly to the cold ocean water and the hot deserts inland. The Native American name for Los Angeles is "land of smoke or haze". The haze gets thicker the closer you get to the beach areas where it is often fog, whereas air quality gets worse as you go inland.
If you don't believe me, check the weather section in the newspaper, which forecasts air quality across the region or the USA Today newspaper which shows air quality across all major US cities. Downtown LA will never get worse than a moderate for air quality, which can't be said of some other US cities and especially some other world cities (where depending on the country it isn't always monitored like in the US).
Los Angeles has some of the worst air in America, and the problem can be especially acute on winter days when thermal inversion prevents the auto emissions from escaping into the atmosphere. In looking out over the city from the Getty Museum, we could actually see the dirty air move up the valleys as if it were fog rolling in off the sea.
Los Angeles has finally regained her crown - as the smoggiest city in the U.S. Yee haw! Number One, Again! Take that, Houston!
Seriously, though, travelers who are sensitive to toxins, or who suffer from respiratory or cardiac problems should take care in Los Angeles. The bizarre geography of the Los Angeles Basin keeps air remarkably still, a characteristic that was perfect for outdoor filming at the turn of the twentieth century - and perfect for air pollution since the first factory opened its doors.
The air quality differs depending on where you are in the city. Generally, the "Valleys" suffer far more "unhealthful" rated days than the basin. The beaches have the best AQIs(Air Quality Indices), with the exception of Long Beach and San Pedro which have the WORST due to the massive Port of Los Angeles wedged between the two communities.
If you fly into Los Angeles, you will see the toxic cloud floating over the city. Then, you'll step out of the terminal into the brilliant sunshine California is famous for. Just don't forget what you saw from above...
Today - this very day - authorities are recommending EVERYBODY stay indoors. Massive wildfires have turned the basin into a big floating ashtray and particulate matter is more than twice the normal level(and "normal" in LA is not so good in the first place). You can see the shimmering ash in the sky, and the smoke has turned some neighborhoods from day into night. This is an exceptional day, yes, but the dangers of smog cannot be underestimated, on any day of the week. Contact the "smog hotline", listed below. The service carries AQI readings for various neighborhoods, as well as warnings/suggestions.
Yes, the sun shines in LA. A lot. And it can be quite strong at times. So, take care of yourself, especially if you're fairskinned. That means lots of sunscreen and wearing a hat when you're out in the sun. And not only at the beach or pool, but whenever you're outside for a long period of time.
Protect yourself in the California sun...and enjoy your LA experience.
We don't trust air that we can see. At least thats what we say to make ourselves feel better because we live in one of the most dirtiest cities in terms of air quality. Yup, we're all going to die of some lung related illness... but we're going to have fun doing it!
So just know that while you're here in our great city, you're most likely breathing in air that's a little bit more unhealthy than you're used to....
If you have a problem with breathing, then be sure and note that this place is not going to help one bit. The air pollution is so bad it's hard to see for a distance, smog is low-laying or perceptible layer of polluted air all around you. Becareful.
When you are here in Los Angeles and you decide to visit our beautiful forest's, please remember.. There is no smoking in the woods, you could start a fire like this one in Glendale california (early september 2002).
Please, just be very careful, or "Smokey the Bear" will get ya!
The slabs of faux marble that constitute the Walk of Fame are H-O-T in the summertime! You'll probably feel compelled to lay down on them to have a picture taken with a particular star (say, for example, if you see Irwin Winkler's star, pictured). But definitely put something between your skin and the ground, or you're gonna get burned.