SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES AND VICINITY
Southern California is one of the hot spots for both tourism and re-location, especially among those who either go to college or aspire to be in the entertainment industry.
Most people go by car, which can be a terror at rush hour time, so if you travel by car avoid 7 to 9 am and 3 to 7 pm anywhere if you can! These days you can travel by Metro Rail (the Red Line going from Downtown to the westside or into the Valley - the Blue Line from Los Angeles to Long Beach, where the Queen Mary is found), Metro Link (run by Amtrak, taking you to the Disneyland area, Glendale and Burbank, Van Nuys, California State University Northridge, Simi Valley and other lines go to Valencia near Magic Mountain Amusement Park, Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster out in the high desert near where the space shuttle sometimes lands). Amtrak (From downtown or Glendale as far as Seattle Washington, or down to San Diego). While there are buses, they can also be a nightmare as a lot of L.A. travels by bus, however the local Downtown Dash line was practically invented for tourism and will take you to China Town, the hotels, Pershing Square... all over the area for a quarter.
Bus and Metro Rail fare is $1.35, children under 5 are free. A transfer (good for about one or two hours, but not to go back on the same line) is an additional 25 cents. You can buy a bag of 10 tokens for $9 or a weekly bus pass for about $11 which has unlimited use. Passes are sold by the MTA and at many check cashing outlets.
Metro Link is not a part of the bus service. You can buy one way or round trip tickets. The cost to get to Valencia or Disneyland area from Union Station is around $8 one way. The train is comfortable, clean, air conditioned and fast. You are allow to eat and drink (no alcohol) on the Metro Link trains, but not on buses or Red Line trains. The Sheriff rides the trains and there is a $250 fine for no ticket. Trains do not run on Sundays, some run on Saturday, They cease operation between 5 and 8 pm in some areas. You buy the tickets at a vending machine (they accept credit and ATM cards or cash and give change for up to $20) not on the train.
Pictured below left is the Burbank Airport Metro Link station, which is a minute walk from the Hilton Hotel, the main airport terminal and Frys Electronics, a unique regional discount center where you can buy a nice digital camera, telescope or CD burner! Just down the street (Empire) past Walt Disney Feature Animation and near the Warner Brothers Store Corporate building, is the 1928 Company direct sales store offering some unique shopping at good bargains, a lot of locals don't even know about this place!
From Downtown you can actually reach almost anywhere within an hour by car or train (by bus it can take several hours and transfers... The bus is not a great way to get around unless you are on a real budget).
PORTS OF ENTRY AND ALTERNATIVE HOME BASES
For most people coming into Los Angeles is via the international airport (LAX,) out in the industrial part of the west-side, which is not the nicest part of town. Except for some four star hotels there ainít much to see or do by the airport! Consider relocating by car, train or shuttle to another area: The beaches, Westwood, Beverly Hills, Universal City, Glendale or Burbank. All of which sport lots of night life, safer streets, local transportation and are more central to people and places in the area. Even downtown Central City offers more to see and do within walking distance than does LAX!
SANTA MONICA, VENICE AND THE BEACHES
On the far westside of town, just a little ways from LAX by car is the city of Santa Monica and the ocean front. People still fish off the Santa Monica pier and there was a working carousel (both the pier and the carousel were once set to be destroyed).
McCabe's Guitar Shop is a local hot spot for musicians and music in Santa Monica. By day, a mild-manner music store selling and fixing guitars. But at night, when the owner goes home, all the gremlins come out, invite their friends and bring in some really interesting international talent to perform! You have to buy tickets in advance (by phone or in person). Limited seating (standing, however they work it). Scott Amendola Band plays there July 14, Peter Himmelman on July 15, Steve Forbert on July 20, Kate Rusby on July 21, John Renbourn on August 11 and Dave Edmunds on September 1st. Tickets sell for around $15 - $20. McCabe's
Adjacent of Santa Monica to the south is the art community of Venice, with itís canals, roller skaters, muralists and murals (French filmmaker Agnes Varda once made a documentary on this subject). Itís much like you see it on Baywatch and Pacific Blue television shows. Up north is Leo Carillo beach where the grunion occasionally run (fish that come on to land). In the past, open campfires have been allowed only on this beach. Around here is Malibu and if you keep going up highway 1 you eventually reach Santa Barbara, Big Sur area, San Francisco and eventually Canada.
To the south is Redondo beach with some nightlife, then the port of San Pedro, Long Beach where the Queen Mary is located, leaving Los Angeles County you head into Newport Beach, then San Diego and Mexico.
The main driving artery north and south is Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), the 10 freeway (to Century City and downtown) and the 405 (San Diego) freeway also goes into the valley.
The area has been rejuvenated in recent years, with four and five star hotels like the Omni (below left) on Grand Avenue in the Bunker Hill region (below center) or the Bonaventure a few blocks away on Figueroa (below right).
There are nice outdoor eating areas where you can even find live entertainment (a classical group rehearses below left, entertaining people sitting nearby sipping on Starbucks coffee and looking out from on top the hill over the older part of the city, pictured below right). Also nearby is the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and up on Hope Street is The Pantry a local hotspot where you go when you have the munchies!
There are free summer concerts at noon time, some evenings and some Sundays at Pershing Square (pictured below). Under Pershing Square is a large subterranean shopping mall. Across from the Square is an entrance to the Metro Red Line subway going to the westside or Universal City in the Valley. A little to the south and west from this area is the alley where you can buy lots of clothing direct from suppliers in the garment district.
The Los Angeles Music Center is located east of this area on Grand and Temple. Original cast touring musicals, theater shows and opera are the mainstays of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion , The Ahmanson Theater and the Mark Taper Forum (pictured below). Currently playing at the Mark Taper is The Body of Bourne. At the Ahmanson, the Tony award winning musical, Contact, plays at selected days and time through September.
To the south on Temple, near Alameda, is the Old Pueblo of Los Angeles, Olvera Street and the historic Catholic Church (pictured below) just across from Union Station where all the trains (Amtrak, Red Line, Blue Line, Metro Link) arrive. Across from the station and the Old Pueblo is an interesting little local eatery called Filippeís, serving up French Dip sandwiches (below right). Yummy! Up main street behind Union Station is the San Antonio Winery.
If you head east and south (up North Broadway) you come to Chinatown. Near by this area is also where you will find Dodger Stadium, home of Dodgers baseball and where the 4th of July fireworks for this area.
If you go in a westerly direction from Union Station you end up a the Staples Center (home of the Lakers, the Clippers and conventions) and reach the garment district area with good shopping bargains at Santee Alley between Olympic and 12th street. Itís also the very old part of town where all the professional homeless people are.
The major freeways downtown are the 5 (south to Disneyland, San Diego and Mexico or north to the Valley, Valencia, Magic Mountain, Castaic, Pyramid Lake and the mountains), the 10 (west to Century City, LAX and Santa Monica or east all the way to Jacksonville, Florida). Thereís also the 110 to San Pedro in the south and Pasadena in the north east. The 101 from downtown into Hollywood, the Valley, up to Ventura County and eventually Washington state!
Parking is generally metered or with a minimum at the lots. Minimum for 1 minute can be as high as $5. All day parking is around $7 to $10. Street parking is 25 cents for a few minutes and they do tow! Also the police give tickets in Los Angeles. You can, generally, turn right on a red light and unless otherwise posted you can make a U-turn at most intersections where you can see the road for 200 feet in front of you. There are some one way streets in downtown.
Just 5 minutes away by Red Line train (you canít beat that in your car)! Get on at Union Station or Pershing Square, get off at Hollywood and Vine (where you can then walk west up the walk of stars - pictured way below center) or Hollywood and Highland (near the Chinese Theater - pictured way below left and right), Hollywood Wax Museum - pictured below right -- and just a short walk from the Hollywood Bowl, where the classical and jazz music concerts are held.).
Hollywood is one big shopping district (from La Brea at the west to Vine at the east) with all sorts of odd little shops (way top right), plus the original Frederickís of Hollywood, that famous mural of the Hollywood Stars (way top, left), located east on Hollywood Boulevard, on the south side just before you reach Vine Street -- keep your eyes peeled for it! Along this stretch is also the Hollywood Walk of Stars (which also goes up Vine and parts of Sunset, which is to the south of Hollywood Blvd.).
VINE STREET AND THE SUNSET STRIP
Down on Hollywood and Vine you find the Capitol Records building to the north and across from it is the Palace, with live music (the likes of Third Eye Blind). The Pantages Theater (live stage) to the south is Judy Green Music Supplies, which is the place to know about if youíre a professional composer, songwriter and arranger. Further south is Sunset Boulevard with more stars in the sidewalk. If you go way west on Sunset you reach the historical local music district, home to the Troubadour, Roxy, the Whisky A Go-Go, the Viper Room, the Key Club and many, many more clubs, including a House of Blues. These are all way up around the 8500 to 9300 block on the Sunset Strip.
LOCAL MUSIC AT THE CLUBS
A lot of name recording acts play at many of these clubs, upcoming acts include:
Doug Westonís The Troubadour. The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy (July 8), The Posies (July 9), The Bratmobile (July 14), Teenage Fanclub (July 19), I.Q.U. (July 20), Glenn Tillbrook (from Squeeze) (July 23), Flotsam and Jetsam (July 28). Since they serve food, all ages can enter the club (21 to drink alcohol). troubadour.com
The Key Club, 9039 Sunset. Jerry Cantrell (from Alice in Chains) (July 1), Israel Vibration (July 19), The Smithereens (July 28), Lao Tizer (August 1).
The Roxy, 9009 Sunset Blvd. Upcoming acts include: Dick Dale (July 7), Missing Persons (all of them) July 18, Average White Band (July 29), Dan Hicks (August 18), D.R.I. (August 29). Tickets available at Ticketmaster. http://theroxytheatre.com/
House of Blues, 8430 Sunset, West Hollywood. July 19 - Echo and the Bunnymen, July 28 - Which Oneís Pink, August 4 - Neville Brothers, August 18 - Buju Banton. www.hob.com
Way down on Hollywood to the east, youíll also find one of my favorite places to junk food out - Tommyís, home of the best chili-cheese burger around! $1.50 for the burger. $2.25 for the double. 25 cents extra for cheese. Itís packed with tomato, onions, pickles, chili. Double Yum! If you keep going east you eventually reach Griffith Park, the observatory (they have twin reflector telescopes you can look through at night, plus a Lasarium show and Planetarium), the Los Angeles Zoo, Griffith Park Golf Course, Travel Town, Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, the equestrian stables so you can trot through the park!
In September the classic and silent annual film event, Cinecon will be held in Hollywood for the first time in several years, with screenings at the Egyptian theater.
There is also a new Hollywood entertainment museum.
THE VALLEY AND UNIVERSAL CITY
Go north down Highland (or take the Red Line train), past the Hollywood Bowl area over the Cahuenga pass and you're in the San Fernando Valley, eventually hitting Ventura Boulevard (below left) which offers 25 solid miles of shopping and dining from Studio City to Woodland Hills. Along the way are several shopping malls, a big new Guitar Center near Van Nuys Boulevard, just up the street (west) from there is, Leeds, one of the biggest sheet music stores in the world!
Back at Lankershim near Ventura is Universal City Walk (open Ďtil around 11 pm - pictured above, right) with 22 restaurants (including a B.B. King live music club and Hard Rock cafe), all sorts of shopping, 16 theater screens, plus an I-Max, the Universal Studio Tour (daytime hours only) and two huge four star hotels, the Sheraton Universal and the newer Hilton. All of this up a hill with a great view.
AN ALTERNATIVE PLACE TO STAY DURING A VISIT TO LOS ANGELES
Except for the traffic congestion (a single road services everything), this is one idea place to stay if you are a visitor. It is a very safe neighborhood you can walk the immediate streets day or night. There's lots of shopping. Lots of restaurants. The Red Line station is across the street. Shuttles take you up and down if youíd rather walk or take the train. The 101 freeway is a few blocks away. Hollywood is minutes away by car or train. Plus, there is enough to see and do right here, that it even keeps locals entertained enough for continual visits!
GLENDALE - BURBANK
To the north and a little east of Universal City (or to the east of Hollywood) is Glendale. From Universal City you can go a few blocks south to Riverside Drive and virtually take that all the way into Griffith Park and Glendale area via Toluca Lake or take the 101 freeway. (Griffith park is bordered on the north by Glendale and the south by Hollywood.)
Both Glendale and Burbank are also nice alternative places to stay while in Los Angeles and even good places to locate if you intend to live here. Reasonably safe streets day and night in some areas. Both cities are independent, recently renovated cities, each with their own mayor, police and fire departments, plus the Glendale Memorial Hospital (located a few blocks from the Metro Link station) has one of the best heart centers in the world and in Burbank there's a Providence Hospital near NBC and Disney studios.
By the freeway in downtown Glendale is a Hilton (below left) just across from Nestle Corporate headquarters. South on Brand, you'll find all sorts of theaters (movie and live stage, like the Alex and A Noise Within), restaurants and the massive Glendale Galleria shopping mall.
Local hangouts include Jax Bar and Grill (below right) for good food and jazz music in late evenings. There's a little outdoors mall across from the Galleria where youíll find street musicians -- you can also listen from upstairs at the restaurant by one of the two Mann's movie theaters.
On Saturday, July 21, there will be a Cruise Night event on Brand Blvd., with over 400 classic cars on display and live music on two stages (with performances by The Safaris, The Champs, the Mike Eldred Trio, among others).
If you keep going south on Brand you eventually reach the 5 freeway and just past it and a little to the west is Griffith park and the golf course. Along the way you pass another little wonder of Los Angeles: Out of the Closet thrift store (below left), where I found a Bell and Howell 16mm Filmosound projector for $20 (new its $1000) and friends of mine have found Marantz and Kenwood amps for $30, a Radio Shack PA for $20 -- many local musicians and actors shop here for their gig clothes and vinyl records (see our piece last issue on Finding The Best Deals At Thrift Stores).
To the north and west of Glendale is Burbank (above right is the Burbank Bar and Grill on Olive and San Fernando), home to NBC-TV, Warner Brothers and Walt Disney Studios. NBC will send you advance tickets for shows like the Tonight Show (order them at least a year in advance) and you can also get a tour of the NBC facilities.
Burbank is another great place to stay or locate. Lots of shopping (at the Media Center), eating (Tony Romaís for ribs, as well as all sorts of exotic cuisine, plus on the far side of town, past the IKEA is another Tommy's Burgers)!
The Holiday Inn (above left) is a good hotel, right across from it is Gordon Biersch (above right), which is a micro brewery, with a big bar, outdoor-indoor seating, an exotic restaurant menu, pop and light rock music plays on Friday and Saturday nights.
Thereís another micro brewery restaurant for pizza lovers, just a few feet up the street called P.J.ís (below left) with outdoor and indoor dining (see our stories last month on Home Brewed Beer and the Health Benefits of Beer). For the adventurous, another local eatery called Pipiripauís (below right) for real Mexican (and not the way you get it from a chain restaurant). Great tacos and burritos (remember: asada is beef, carnitas is pork and pollo - pronounced Poy-yo - is chicken). It's behind the hotel on Verdugo, right where the old part of town starts on San Fernando Road.
PASADENA, CAL TECH AND OLD TOWNE
East of Glendale-Burbank, way up over those hills is Pasadena. Home of Cal Tech, where NASA monitors the deep space probes and it is also the home of the Beckman Auditorium, providing some great classical and pop music acts such as the multi-Grammy comedy performer PDQ Bach, Gallagher and the hip harpsichordist, Anthony Newman.
There is also Old Towne shopping area, the famous Rose Bowl (they have had 4th of July Events here in the past, large concert acts, such as Lillith Fair perform here, as do the UCLA Bruins and soccer events).
To the south and a little west of Pasadena is Anaheim and Disneyland. You can also get there from downtown by taking the 5 south.
THE SAN FERNANDO MISSION
To the north of Burbank is the old Mission in San Fernando (thereís also the more famous one east of downtown in San Juan Capistrano and others to the north in Santa Barbara and elsewhere - founded long ago by Father Juniper Sierra). Itís located on San Fernando Mission east of Sepulveda. A very old, historic site...
NORTH TO MAGIC MOUNTAIN AND THE REAL MOUNTAINS
Beyond that, the 5 freeway north (or San Fernando Road) takes you up over the mountains and into Valencia (Magic Mountain amusement park area - pictured below - with their huge roller coasters and freefall drop), Santa Clarita, Castaic, Pyramid Lake and eventually the mountains up on the other side of the grapevine (a long, winding freeway route over the mountain passes that empties out into Bakersfield).
The main shopping area in Valencia - Santa Clarita. The Metro Link train gets close to this area and then you can take a Santa Clarita or Antelope Valley bus to the various areas. Check and make sure how late the bus and trains run. Last train into Los Angeles leaves this area around 8 pm at night!
Pyramid lake, a man-made lake, where speed boating, water skiing and jet skiing are allowed. There is a $7.50 parking fee (your Adventure Pass will not work here, as this is a state lake not a Federal reserve). There is a boat launch area. Get off the 5 at Vista Del Lago Road, which comes right after Templin Highway when you come north from Los Angeles (from the other direction it comes right after Smokey Bear Road).
If you keep going north youíll come to Mount Pinos and Frazier Park (where youíll find great pizza at Caveman Caveyís) with lots of places to hike, maybe a little snow up at the very top of the mountain in the shady areas and on weekends the astronomers come out at the very summit (roughly 8,000 feet up) with their telescopes for all to see the deep sky wonders in very dark skies, far away from the city lights. A good place to see Mars this time of year. Go up on a night when the mood is almost new or just past new.
To find this place, get off the Frazier park exit (just past the Gorman exit), turn left and keep going up that road as far as you can (see below left)! Frazier park and Cavemanís pizza is only a few minutes from the 5, turn right at the stop light, then turn left at the stop sign. Go up a few feet, heís on the left in the shopping center area next to our supermarket!
(See our piece on hiking the hills).
Back behind Castaic are the back roads which can take you by some sleepy little lakes, fishing holes and campgrounds (Lake Elizabeth, pictured above right). No jet skiing or speed boating allowed. Small, single stroke motor or sail boats only. Get a good map.
INDEPENDENCE DAY EVENTS
On the 4th of July in the San Fernando Valley at California State University Northridge North Campus will be a multi-stage event starting around noon and running until around 11 pm, including a lot of live entertainment (Lisa Haley and the Zydekats, profiled in our entertainment section, is a featured performer) and fireworks.
Also, similar events have been held at Dodger Stadium near downtown and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the high school auditorium out in the Palmdale-Lancaster area.
OTHER AREAS NEARBY IN THE WEST
Northern California wine country, where you can find many bed and breakfast resorts and taste wine to your hearts content. The cost, however, can be quite expensive, upwards to $150 per person per night in some areas! This area can be reached indirectly via Pacific Coast Highway (1) which travels through some beautiful country, via the Ventura Freeway from Universal City and the Valley (101) - the 5 and 405 also connect with both the 1 and the 101. The 5 will also take you their, indirectly (through Fresno, Yosemite, Sacramento). You are looking at a 4 - 6 hour drive.
Take the 5 to the 99 and you get to Sequoia National Park - Kings Canyon National Park.
To the north on the 5 (via other connections) is Lake Tahoe, on the border of California and Nevada about 6 hours away.
Going south and east via the 10 you eventually reach Arizona after about 9 hours travel time or if you switch over to the 15 from the 10 you end up in Las Vegas, Nevada.
No passport is required for Tijuana, Mexico. However if you intend to drive your car over the border you must buy auto insurance from a Mexican company on the U.S. side, otherwise park your car on the U.S. side and walk over.
Donít eat the food, drink the water or use ice obtained here in a glass of bottled liquid. Bottle beer and soft drinks are fine! The U.S. dollar still goes a long way, but itís not like it used to be in the shopping districts, nor in the automotive upholstery shops!
Los Angeles Times - Sunday Edition. One of the top 10 newspapers in the U.S. and probably the world. Available at large magazine stands in most major cities. Costs around $2 - $5. Has an excellent Calendar section showing most of mainstream L.A. Very good movie, food, art and theater coverage, including some small theater. Does not cover the local music scene too well, for that get the L.A. Weekly (see below). Visit their web site: http://www.latimes.com
At least get a California and Los Angeles map from the AAA if you are a member of the motorclub. You can also buy a tourist map for a few bucks at the hotels or local newsstands. If you are really good with maps and are intending to do some serious driving in the area to out of the way places, it might be worth checking out the THOMAS MAP BOOK to Los Angeles and Orange Counties if you can really read maps (cost is about $35).
Free Magazines To Help You (available at virtually any music, record or video store in town):
L.A. Weekly - covers the entire town quite well. Actor Michael Douglas is one of the supporting founders of this magazine.
Web Sites To Help You:
Wine Country Web Site
If you want to re-live the nostalgia of the 60's rock music scene (when the Mama's and Papa's, Donovan, Buffalo Springfield and others placed the Whisky A Go-Go) their website is very complete:whiskyagogo.com