LOS ANGELES: Visit the rich and famous in LA for less!
Always wanted to spot a celebrity dining out or visit Beverley Hills? Los Angeles, one of the most famous cities in the world, has long drawn budding actors and singers in the hopes of finding fame. Los Angeles hotels abound so finding accommodation will never be a problem. In fact, there is so much choice that you will have a problem choosing one.
When to visit based on price
Greater Los Angeles offers some of the most famous attractions in the world, with Disneyland, Universal Studios, Six Flags, Knott’s Berry Farm and more. Other attractions that qualify as fun are of course beautiful beaches, including Santa Monica, Malibu and Venice Beach.
You can spend a day or more at each of the attractions like Disney and Universal Studios having nothing but fun. Try to get there when the gates open, and have your map and key attractions you want to visit circled. This way you can hit those first before the crowds arrive. If there are front of the line passes available, they are well worth the prices in time.
You’re a hop skip and a jump from Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard, and oh what fun it is. Take drive or public transportation and spend a day in the Hollywood area.
You can see id your hand or foot fits that of your favorite movie star on the “walk of fame”, or shop till you drop on the famous Rodeo Drive. Always keep your camera and or smartphone handy, because you never know who you will bump into in Hollywood.
You are also in Southern California, land of some of the best gold courses in the U.S., so for the golfer, why not hit the links.
For women, shopping in Los Angeles is the best activity you could possibly hope for. From the Fashion District in Downtown LA, to Robertson Blvd and Rodeo Drive is the weight of your purse is weighing you down and needs to be lightened. Some of the more popular shopping centers are Hollywood and Highland, The Grove and Beverly Square to name a few. If outlet stores are your pleasure, you’re in luck with a visit to Desert Hills, the Citadel Shops and Camarillo Outlets.
An excellent day excursion is to take the ferry out to Catalina Island for the day. With its quaint little town, shops, restaurants and quiet beaches, it’s a nice relaxing change from the city. For the Scuba Divers, there are some awesome kelp beds to dive off this island too.
You can spend the whole day, after the short drive, on the Santa Monica Pier. Fasten your seatbelt and get the thrill of old times on the historic wooden roller coaster. There’s plenty to keep you occupied from the aquarium, restaurants and of course, the sandy beaches.
If you leave early in the morning, you can spend an entire day in San Diego south of L.A. Popular attractions include the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, Sea World and the newer LEGOLAND in Carlsbad just north of San Diego. For San Diego beaches, there’s nothing quite like an afternoon in Del Mar. Another exciting adventure is taking a San Diego Harbor Cruise to view San Diego from the water. An added experience is visiting Coronado Island, and maybe getting a glimpse of the Navy Seals practicing maneuvers.
If you stay for the evening in San Diego, you’re in for quite the experience visiting downtowns “Gaslamp Quarter”. Choose from over 100 excellent restaurants within walking distance, from family friendly to music and drinking pubs for the adults.
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The Concourse Hotel at LAX - A Hyatt Affiliated HotelDespite its modern comfort, this is an eco-friendly hotel that focuses on convenience not luxury. However, there is still plenty of modern perks to enjoy, including a swell business center....ViewRooms from$149.00
Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International AirportThe Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport lets you come home for the holidays at the best rates in the business and in one of the finest hotels anywhere in the big city....ViewRooms from$109.00
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Local expert's tips
Visiting the best “non-tourist” destinations L.A. has to offer
You may have visited the L.A. Zoo in the past, but did you know that there was another zoo before that one that was abandoned? It is located in Griffith Park and after being shut down decades ago, it has remained the same as when it was in operation. In fact, all the original animal cages are intact, with even the doors still swinging. Besides some vegetation and a little rust, you can freely walk about the place. In fact, there are picnic tables installed in some of the cages, for your dining pleasure. Pack a few sandwiches, a bottle of fine wine and two glasses and may the animal love take over.
If you have a “dark side” and like to experience the macabre, we have just the destination you will never see on any tour. We’re talking the Museum of Death, and this place is everything dark and sinister. As you open the red steel door with the massive skull next to it, you immediately get the feeling this will be intense. Inside you will find everything death, from documents about executions, homicides, cannibalism and serial murderers. There are actual photographs of killers, crime scenes, and actual movie footage. Please understand that there is a “no-photography” rule that you need to respect. This is an easy “side trip” as it’s located in Hollywood.
Our next destination has the mystique of cloak and dagger days of old, or maybe you should dress like a “wise guy”. Everyone knows about the days of Prohibition when booze was banned. We also think right away of Chicago and New York for tales of organized crime and bootleg whisky barrels. Well, Los Angeles had their fair share of illegal hooch flowing beneath its streets. Below the city streets run eleven miles of service tunnels, much like the ones Disney uses today. Only these were used to supply speakeasy clubs in hidden rooms above ground. In fact, the Mayor and his buddies ran this illegal booze distribution. These passageways still exist today, and we are gong to tell you where and how to check them out.
One of the old saloons from those days, King Eddy Saloon located on Main St. and 5th is where you want to go. In addition to the passageways, there are abandoned subways, and even equestrian trails below ground from back then.
To gain access, take a couple flashlights and rather big guys and walk around behind the Hall of Records on Temple Street. Locate the old elevator that’s not easy to spot, Keep in mind that it really is closed to the public, but there is no signage telling you that. Just be careful.
As we all know the days of actually paper books is coming to an end due to the popularity of eBooks and the digital world, sad but true. This is the reason we suggest you take the time to visit The Last Bookstore, located in an old abandoned bank. You can find hundreds of old books, paperbacks, both old and new. There are some really special original nooks where you can sit and read, like in the old bank vault. This is a hidden treasure for anyone that is a true book lover. As a published writer myself, I would love to have one of my books included in this bank vault for all time.
So many fun choices Los Angeles vacation!
Did you know that the original sign created back in 1923, was worded “Hollywoodland”? The sign was only supposed to be there for about a year and a half, but became popular, and was re-done as Hollywood. Walking the streets of Hollywood, checking out the sidewalk of Stars, and looking for your favorite celebrity is always a kick.
If you are in pretty good shape, and traveling on vacation with children, we have a fun activity for you can experience in a day, and get some exercise. There’s a sidewalk that runs all the way from Malibu to Venice Beach, great opportunity for biking. There are many places to rent bikes and take a trip along the California waterfront, with fun stops. If you decide to do the entire round trip, it’s forty miles, quite a distance. You could choose something like hitting the fun town of Venice Beach for coffee and a donut, then renting bikes and riding up to the Santa Monica Pier for a fun afternoon.
If you choose to reverse this ride and start at the pier, especially adults will find a pot of gold at the end of the ride in Venice, at the Venice Ale House. With over thirty craft style beers on tap, a nice pub menu, indoor and outdoors seating, you can enjoy a serious romantic sunset.
And while we are on sunsets over the beautiful waters of California, here are some of the best places to enjoy them, besides Venice Beach. One of my favorites is sitting at the end of the Santa Monica Pier and sipping suds while watching it. Other favorites are the Griffith Observatory, Hermosa Beach and Dockweiller State Beach. What makes that a great photo op is the sunset shining through the shipwreck there.
If you are escaping the cooler weather from elsewhere in the world, and vacationing in the Beverly Hills location, we have a suggestion for you to ease the aches and pains, and shivers, the Beverly Hot Springs. This experience hosts natural artesian well water at 96-105 degrees, with hot and cold pools. Spend a few hours of relaxation, which is what vacations are all about.
A question you need to ask yourself is what to do with the family if it rains, like it can and does in L.A. No beach, walking the big parks in the rain may not be looking good to you. Here are some excellent indoor activities for you to consider. How about visiting L.A.’s famous Natural History Museum or the Hollywood Museum. Madame Tussauds Hollywood is one of the top destinations, rain or not.
This is where you can experience the best of the best of wax museum a-list celebrities of Hollywood today. You will be so stunned by the reality of these figures, that taking selfies is a must do. The reason is how they are produced, taking six months each to make, using, 2,400 lbs. of wax, and a price tag of $45,000 for each production.
Most popular L.A. Events to plan your vacation around
If you miss this beer event and are still looking for a “sudsy” experience, there’s always the Orange County Beer Festival; on May 6 every year.
Another exciting happening in the L.A. local this year is the much anticipated Orange County Fair, July 14th –August 13th.This offers you a whole month to target your vacation so you can attend this year. Not only do you get to enjoy the rides, food booths and events, you also get to enjoy some of the top entertainers from the music industry. This year’s artists include names like Kenny Loggins, The Band Perry, Huey Lewis, Steve Miller and the B-52’s to name a few.
And then there is the largest food and wine festival offered in Los Angeles, the LA Food and Wine offered for your sipping and munching pleasures. This event will occur August 25-28th, and will feature stars from the wine industry as well as the food industry. With top chef names like Emeril Lagasse, Robert Ervin, and Rick Bayless showing off their cooking skills, how could you go wrong?
Featuring over 100 international wineries and their best wines, make sure you have a designated driver, or better yet, take a cab home.
If you are planning your vacation at the end of October start planning now for your best Halloween costume, because you’ll be in the city offering the world’s biggest Halloween party, in West Hollywood. We are talking about the West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval, or “WeHo”. This is one massive street party with at least 500,000 adults in various theme costumes walking the streets. Keep in mind, this is not a family event, but should be classified “adult only”. Not for the faint of heart, everyone is dressed to a “T” with outfits from movies to drag queens. This party begins around 11 pm on the 31st of October on Santa Monica Blvd. and officially ends on the streets around 11 pm, when it moves into the various bars. Keep in mind that that no bags are allowed, and that’s camera bags, backpacks etc. If you’re looking for a wild adult party, this is it, and expects lots of wild fun, and occasional “accidental nudity”.
On that same note, for those “Zombies” out there, or those interested in becoming one, we have an awesome event for you. The Long Beach Zombie Festival is a “deadly event” happening October 20-22nd this year at Rainbow Lagoon in Long Beach. Here’s you perfect opportunity to attend a free makeup zombie clinic and learn the choreography to the infamous “Thriller Video”. Attend “Zombie Flash Mob workshops”, and meet stars of the TV series, “Walking Dead”. You can enter the Zombification Zone, and get a free Zombie make-up by professionals. And one of the top destinations by all, is getting lost in the 3500 sq. ft. haunted maze.
Check out some of the best Day Trips from Los Angeles, California
The three beaches include the Malibu Lagoon State Beach, famous for surfing, Zuma Beach with pure white sand, and El Matador where you can examine its sea caves.
Another excellent choice for day tripping is visiting Balboa Island, which is under an hour away in Newport Beach area. Drive down and take the ferry over to the island, where it will unload you near the famous Ferris wheel. This seaport town is perfect for relaxing and strolling the town’s streets, checking out local shops and some very excellent restaurants. There’s a calm sandy beach for sunning and beach picnics. If you want to experience something exciting and new, there are always sailing, jet ski rentals, paddleboarding and other water sports.
One of my personal favorites is taking the ferryboat out to Catalina Island for the day. You can take one from Newport Beach, Dana Point, San Pedro or Long Beach. Island life, pretty much on any island calms you down a few steps onto dry land. You’ll enjoy strolling the streets of Avalon, with its quaint hotels, restaurants and stores. This island is famous for its sunbathing community, hikers and bicyclists, all available to you. For active watersports, you can find paddleboarding, kayaking and snorkeling. For PADI certified divers, the underwater park is an excellent place to spread your bubbles.
No visit to Los Angeles is really complete without a visit to a town everyone has heard of, Hollywood. Whether you want to stroll Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame, or Sunset Boulevard with its fantastic nightlife, you will enjoy yourself. You can easily include any of these in a day visiting Universal Studios.
If visiting Los Angeles during the “gloomy season” you might want to head out to Palm Springs for the day, with its almost all year long sunshine. Golfers will have no excuse if they don’t play a round on one of it famous links. To truly get a look at the area, you just have to ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up to the top of Mount San Jacinto.
Still another option, would be to drive down to Santa Barbara, which is a couple hour drive, but well worth it. This town, known as the “Riviera of the West”, offers its sandy beaches, golf courses as well as some fantastic restaurants. You can plan a day full of Channel Islands via sea kayaks, or head outside town for some wine sipping.
Traveling a bit farther down the coast brings you to another popular area, Carlsbad. Once known as a great place to surf and walk the beaches, it now if extremely popular to youngsters. The reason is the new LEGOLAND Complex. If you are vacationing with small children, they won’t be complaining about the drive if they know this is the destination.
Fun “off the wall” ideas for your Los Angeles Vacation
The eccentric atmosphere of this sometimes-bizarre beach community is reflective of the old Haight Asbury area of the 60’s, but instead of painting on pants its on bodies. In fact, if you have ever wanted to get a tattoo, this area is well known for having some excellent artists, as well a places that specialize in removing them, on TV! While there you must check out the “hard bodies” on Muscle Beach of course, and keep in mind, there are as many ladies as men these days.
Hot Tip: Get your eats at the Figtree’s Café.
For the couple looking for a little quiet romantic time of un-crowded granules of sand and surf, take a drive to Leo Carrillo State Park. You definitely won’t find the party animals of Venice Beach, or riff-raft hanging around here. In fact, there’s almost 1.5 miles of un-crowded beautiful beaches available to you. If you have always wanted to try surfing, this is your place, especially if you don’t want crowds gawking at you. For just that reason, years ago I took my long board many times to this beach, and you can rent one and do the same. The main attraction to you, and probably me is the mellow waves that usually don’t get higher than your chest.
There are also some nice trails to explore, as well as tide-pools that can hold some interesting creatures.
Now for some of the “off the wall” adventures I promised. One of the things I usually tell people visiting this city especially with small children is visit the zoo. For you I have something really special to do instead. How about discovering the Abandoned Old Zoo at Griffin Park? That’s right, abandoned when the new zoo opened; it sat for years, growing over with vines and whatever. It still has the original cages, like the monkey house, where today, a picnic table has been placed. What a perfect way to experience what the animals did, and enjoy a picnic lunch and peaceful walkabout too.
For the history buffs, how about visiting the site where the famous people that have their names on street signs now rest? Visit Los Angeles’s oldest cemetery. This cemetery is full of religious leaders, mayors, actors and actresses, musicians and more.
Lastly I will give you a roadmap to an adventure not many realize exists in L.A. Put on your jeans and walking shoes and head over to Temple Street, and the Hall of Records. In the back of the building there’s an easy to miss elevator that will take you below the city to the underground tunnels of Los Angeles. These are still there from the days of Prohibition, some eleven miles of tunnels. There were little bars selling hooch (supplied by the Mayor’s office staff” available for purchase. Don’t go alone, but see if you can find some other adventurous visitors to join you.
Wild adventures during your Los Angeles Vacation
Hot summer tip: Get discount tickets for the ferry at Costco.
You can pick up the ferry to Avalon in San Pedro, Dana Point, Marina Del Ray, Long Beach and Newport Beach, depending on where you are staying.
The beauty of visiting this peaceful island is that all transportation I by foot, bikes golf carts, trolley or taxi. If you want to bring your car, put it on the wait list, which at this time is about fourteen years.
Ready to “get wild”? How about going on a guided snorkel or dive trip into the Casino Point Dive Park? There are some of the most beautiful kelp bed dives off the coast with fish galore, including colorful Garibaldi. You can get up close and personal with bass, rays, blacksmith and much more. For Certified Divers, the experience is awesome, with a great shipwreck on the south side of the casino point at about 90 feet. Most times expect 50-60 ft. visibility.
Other excitement on this summer vacationland island include zip-lining, high-speed yachting, awesome food and pubs, and ever popular “late night bar crawling”.
Have you ever heard of the Queen Mary? Did you know it is docked in Long Beach?
You can board her and take a guided tour aboard the 1950’s ocean liner that served as a troopship in her day. Today she is known as “the haunted ship, mainly for paranormal activities aboard. We highly suggest taking one of the evenings “Twilight Tours” that will introduce you to some of those still living on this vessel from beyond. You can take the Twilight Tour, Paranormal Ship Walk, Paranormal Investigation Tour, or for the truly brave, the Dining with the Spirits”, and we aren’t talking alcohol.
If you are looking for a wild and also quite chilling place for that morning run, why not visit L.A.’s oldest cemetery, from back in the 19th Century. That’s right, Evergreen Cemetery of the final resting place for most of the people the city streets are named after. Names like Van Nuys, Bixby and Lankershimm to name a few. You’ll also notice many old actors, musicians, Mayors and decorated war veterans.
And yes, it’s quite popular as a jogging trail is actually cut through the cemetery, but we wouldn’t suggest piping music through your ears while you run.
Lastly, lets take a look at one of the weirdest places to have a picnic lunch, ever!
The original Los Angeles Zoo build in Griffith Park back in 1912 was abandoned in 1966 when the new L.A. Zoo was built and opened. Here is your opportunity to experience life as those 15 caged animals did. The original cave enclosures have been “updated” with picnic tables and grills, for your picnic / barbeque pleasure.
Picnic in the “bear grotto” or climb around the monkey enclosure. It may all seem a bit weird, but it is fairly popular today.
What you should know before heading to Los Angeles on vacation
That’s why we highly suggest eliminating these frustrations by taking the Metro Rail from LAX to your hotel area if flying into LAX. If you need a vehicle rental for a day or two during your stay to visit outlying destinations, rent one. Most of the popular hotels in town have car rental booths in them. The fact is, taking the rail or public transportation is your best bet to eliminate all that frustration.
Although everyone out there believe it’s sunny and hot all year long in California, this really is a false belief. Even during the summer months, it may be sunny and in the 80’s in downtown L.A. but hitting the beaches is a whole different story. Yes, plan to work on your tan at noon, but temperatures do dip in late afternoon, even in the summer. Arrive in late summer and you may just welcome in “June Gloom” and never see the sun during your stay. Another fact to keep in mind is the fact the waters are cold.
If you have done any kind of research you already know everything in Los Angeles is expensive, right? Wrong! In fact you can find lots of choices that are exciting and much cheaper than one might expect.
Take for instance dining out. Surly in L.A. you really don’t expect to see tons of celebrity stars in restaurants, but wait, we can offer you a good shot, but it will cost. If that’s on your “bucket list”, make reservations at Fig & Olive or The Palm in West Hollywood.
Getting back to eating more on a lower budget, let’s check out what the average L.A. locals do for lunch and even dinner. Both in Venice Beach as well as Santa Monica you will find tons of ever-popular “Food Trucks” lining the streets. Choices range from standard hot dogs, to awesome tasty taco variations.
Top Taco Suggestion: When you can find it, try a “beef tongue taco”.
That may not trip your trigger, but if it doesn’t, grab a fresh fish taco because this is where you get the very best.
The bottom line is try to do all the planning before you arrive, like what area’s you absolutely must visit, what you want to see and do. You can plan to hit the Steel Pier, Santa Monica Pier and Muscle Beach, all in a day. However, this is a massive city, so keep in mind, you can’t see everything in a week, which just begs for a return visit.
Best of Los Angeles for summer adult vacations
When visiting California from out of state, taking the opportunity to taste some of the famous as well as unknown wines from here is almost a must do. That being said, driving out of L.A. proper to visit any of the wine regions is time consuming, traffic frustrating, and probably defeating your purpose. Instead, why not take advantage of a couple of the local wine bars instead, for a sip or three?
May we suggest visiting Silver Lake Wine Store in the downtown Art’s District, a favorite of locals and visitors alike? They feature both domestic and European wines, and offer special tasting on weekends, with reservations. But wait, during the week there’s not much of a crown, with tastings Monday and Thursday all day.
Without a doubt the most famous and popular beach area in L.A. is Santa Monica, and if possible you should plan to spend a day there. Yes, summertime its pretty crowded, but well worth it. Be ready to take tons of photo’s with some of the best scenery in California, from the beach to the distant mountains.
After a quick dip you can head over to the Santa Monica Pier for a ride on the iconic Ferris wheel, visit the Aquarium or play a few games and win your mate a stuffed animal. Take a stroll south of the pier and visit the original “muscle beach” that Arnold made famous years ago. Still busy today, but more often occupied by “in-shape female gym chicks”, they give you quite the show as the work out.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing quite like a California sunset, on one of the rooftop bar/restaurants, enjoying a chilled cocktail, glass of wine or cold micro-brew.
The three most popular rooftop bars in L.A. include the High Rooftop Lounge featuring DJ’s and excellent views of the boardwalk below. Perch is a French Bistro that offers sunset views of the L.A. skyline. And then there’s the Rooftop Bar, where you can continue your party into the evening. Be sure to wear your bathing suit, with appropriate cover-up, because there’s a party pool here.
“Escape from L.A.” when you can’t take any more “busy”
Another excellent day trip is down to San Diego and the pristine beaches there. You can rent a surfboard and jump the waves in Carlsbad, or maybe spend the day at the San Diego Zoo. If you brought you clubs along on vacation, bring them along and maybe get in a back 9 at the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course in Del Mar. If you left early in the morning and brought your passports you can jump over the boarder and visit Tijuana, Mexico for a cerveso and a couple fish tacos. Just mind your p’s and q’s down there and make sure to come back across the boarder before dark. Hot Tip: You should walk over the boarder, don’t take your car.
Another special adventure especially if you are in the Long Beach area is to visit the Historic British liner, the Queen Mary that is docked there. You an take an exciting tour of this magnificent vessel, getting behind the scene info and history by story telling guides. You can also book a room and actually stay in a stateroom overnight if you desire.
Down the coast a bit you can visit Santa Barbara and its iconic pier, for some shopping, a carnival ride or two, a hot dog, and some great people watching. There are some great little shops and this is a terrific destination to pick up some souvenirs. There are some excellent restaurants on the pier and in town for lunch or dinner is that dog isn’t so appealing. And don’t forget a selfie on the old Ferris wheel for those at home.
Then there’s Venice Beach, the historic old beach where bodybuilding became famous. Just finding an empty park bench along this iconic beachfront community and watching who or what walks by is a photographers dream. From colorful street performers to dangerously unclad skateboarders and hard-body weightlifters the entertainment is unlimited.
Visiting L.A. with children of all ages, there’s more to see than Disney
Traveling with children can get expensive in any popular destination, and certainly here in L.A. Keeping with a theme of saving dollars, lets look at another excellent way to spend time with your children, the popular and expensive “movie star tours”. If you want to jump on a tour to see those famous homes, instead we suggest you board the Beverly Hills Trolley instead. You can pick up the trolley at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way. Pick up your tickets at the trolley office where you board and away you go.
If your kids are really interested in Hollywood and movie making, they will learn nothing about the process at Universal Studios walking around and doing rides. Why not instead get to see what really happens behind the curtain so to speak. Universal Studios offers special “Backlot Tours”. From August through March these movie lots are usually busy and that’s the time you want to tour. You will board a tram and be taken on a tour of working movie lots actually being used for productions.
If the weather is nice and the kids are screaming to go to the beach, a day at the Santa Monica Pier and beaches is in order. You just won’t find many amusement parks today built on a pier over the ocean. From youngsters to older teens, there’s something for them on the pier. From rides for toddler including an awesome carousel to a giant Ferris wheel and roller coaster, thrills abound. If you are there during the summer, you may opt to stay for one of the Twilight Concerts held on the pier.
For those with toddlers looking for an activity center, especially if you catch a rainy day, head over to the Skirball Cultural Center. Inside your kids will find Noah’s Ark, a massive “floor to ceiling” replica of the Ark completely from wood, including wooden animals. They can get rid of some of that energy, climbing, playing with and building things out of wood.
A great place for kids to safely play and Mom’s get some rest and adult conversation.
Mingle with the stars, visiting Hollywood, California
I’m sure most of the readers out there are very familiar with the all-familiar business in many tourist towns, The Wax Museums. Although many of these are just your basic tourist trap, the Hollywood Wax Museum is everything they are not. Go figure, why wouldn’t you expect the best from Hollywood? When you visit, be sure to bring your camera or smart phone, because photos with the like of Forrest Gump, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Edward Scissorhands await you. Trust us, you will swear that you are standing next to the real thing.
The fact is that West Hollywood is well known as “Walkable WeHo” for a reason, it is the most walkable city in the entire state of California. This equates to mega savings on your vacation, because if you fly into LAX and take shuttle or cab no vehicle rental needed. Top that with the hassles of parking and fees, and instead of driving for hours looking for parking, you can be relaxed and vacationing.
The great thing about this city, is within its 1.9 miles, you can walk Sunset Boulevard., stroll down Santa Monica Boulevard, dine at a café on Melrose Ave or visit the iconic Sunset Strip, all on foot.
Now we did say, “mingle with the stars”, and you have to be prepared at all times to bump into one. You never know whom you will find shopping or dining, but remember how upset you’ll be if Johnny Depp is standing next to you at a crosswalk, and you don’t have your camera!
While here you shouldn’t miss a visit to the Chinese Theater if not for a movie, to spend hours checking out the 200+ hand and footprints in the sidewalk of the “Stars”. It’s a pretty interesting way to spend some time, seeing if your prints will match your idols.
Of course the topping on the cake if this is your first time in Hollywood, is to visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Expect crowds but go with the anticipation of a fun experience. Strolling down the Walk at the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway, experiencing the brass stars embedded in “The Walk” is just part of the experience. The rest involves the many Lingerie stores, tattoo parlors and gift shops that seem to go on forever.
And then there’s “The Hollywood Sign”, seen from the boulevard, up in the Hollywood Hills. Everyone needs to walk the path and have a photo taken with this icon behind you. You can choose to take a guided tour or a shuttle to it, but you must visit this sight in person.
Visiting L.A.? Local tips for a day on Balboa Island
Balboa Island is a strolling kind of place, where you have so many choices for relaxation, piece and quiet, so excellent food choices and people watching opportunities. There are also some excellent shopping adventures waiting, if only for “window shopping”. And then there’s the beach, where you can get some sun time and watch as the boats and paddle boarders float by.
There are excellent choices for restaurants and cafés where you can enjoy lunch, brunch or a fine glass of wine and watch some of the largest and most expensive yachts in the world cruise the waters off the island.
And speaking of restaurants, your choices are many, including Mexican, French, and Italian and more, and they all offer fresh local seafood. But, the real culinary treat of the island is what it’s famous for, the “Balboa Bar and Frozen Banana! For over seventy-five years, local Californians have been enjoying these treats when the visit the island. How can anyone resist these delicacies that are dipped in chocolate and smothered with sprinkles, nuts and cookie crumbs?
If you brought your swimsuit, you can visit the Balboa Surf and Style shop and rent a Kayak or Paddleboard, or maybe check out the island on an electric bike.
One of the newest sports that most people might choose to watch, and only the brave will attempt, is the “Jetpack”, which operates from a watercraft. This is like something out of a James Bond movie, where you are fitted with a backpack that you control that forces air and water downward, and you upward, to heights of 15 ft. or more. You can try it out if you dare, in the waters of Balboa Island.
Our local suggestions for restaurants include Wilma’s Patio Restaurant that serves an awesome breakfast, including their “Belly Bomber” if you arrive in the morning. Lunches and dinners offer everything from seafood to sandwiches.
Another great choice, that has been serving their pastas and fresh seafood to locals for over fifty years is Amelia’s Balboa Island.
Visiting Los Angeles? Take day trips “like a local”
Visiting a museum can give any traveler a break from the hectic world and provide some super entertainment, usually for little or no cost. Pasadena is home to the Fenyes Mansion, a beautiful three story Beaux Arts Mansion that was built back in 1906 by a local Doctor, Adalbert Fenyes and wife Eva. This museum has been maintained in its original splendor since donated to the museum, including all furnishing, paintings etc. This is a fun and interesting place to spend some time during the heat of day, or rare rainfall. A bonus to this visit is the location of the Finnish Folk Art Museum, located behind the Fenyes Mansion. This building was once a “Swiss-chalet” style garage that was re-located to the Fenyes property many years ago, and used as a guesthouse. Later it was turned into a Swiss museum and now houses original Finnish artifacts, and is set up as a real farmhouse.
Lastly, a great daytrip while in the area, if not just for a photo to say you were there is Hollywood. You can do this area inexpensively with a little planning, but grabbing some sandwiches and sodas for a picnic lunch. You’ll find this much cheaper than eating in the Hollywood area, unless you plan on it. There are some excellent walking trails nearby in Lake Hollywood Park and Runyon Canyon.
That being said, you really should spend some time on Hollywood Blvd. and the Walk of Fame, if not just for “people watching”.
If you decide to spring for lunch and want to experience a Hollywood local tradition, you have to experience “Pinks Hollywood”. Way back in 1939 a couple named Betty & Paul sold hot dogs out of a small cart, and today that cart turned into Pinks Hollywood today by their children. With many awesome flavors to choose from, they offer over thirty different variety dogs! This is still a “walk up to” hot dog stand and it’s easy to find by the crowds standing in line.
Los Angeles – Exploring Griffith Park
If you are a baseball fan you’ll head to Dodger Stadium and oddly enough it is located in Griffith Park. Funny thing is that if you enjoy the stars the Griffith Observatory is also in the park, as is the Zoo, a few golf courses, the Greek Theatre, the Gene Autry Museum and some of the best views of the city from some of the best hikes in Los Angeles.
Exploring this huge public park is free and if you consider just how much you can do it is a shame to ignore it any longer.
Things To See and Do in Los Angeles’ Griffith ParkOld Zoo Hiking Trail – These ruins of an abandoned zoo are peculiar in a way that old cities tend to have hidden treasures. The funny thing is that Los Angeles is not really that old and this zoo was not abandoned hundred of years ago. Regardless, it is a good spot for an afternoon hike and very easy to get to. There are more hikes in the immediate vicinity and the views from up above at Bee Rock are very impressive. In Griffith Park follow Crystal Springs Rd and turn west on Griffith Park Dr. near the Golf Course. You’ll look for the merry go round and the old zoo is located in a canyon west of the parking lot. You’ll see large play structure area, find parking and make your way to the west along a paved trail that will lead you to abandoned cages and old animal exhibits. Bring along a picnic and a camera.
Hollywood Sign trail – The name of the trail is the Hollyridge trail and the best way to get there is drive to the top of Beachwood drive. Once you get to the top of this street you’ll find parking and then you pretty much can follow the people walking to the sigh or the signs to the Hollywood sign. At times it may feel like you are walking in the opposite direction but just trust the crowd and you’ll soon get to the top of the hill and look out over Los Angels from behind the famous Hollywood sign. This is a great free attraction in Los Angels and it is free.
The LA Zoo – While this attraction s not free it does offer some value as you can spend an entire day roaming the exhibits and getting in some exercise at this large zoo situated in a canyon in Griffith Park. Years of renovations have converted this once aging attraction into a real tourist attraction with large enclosures that mimic the natural habitats of some of the animals on display.
The Greek Theatre – See a show under the stars in the middle of the park. Headliners perform here on a weekly basis and a show at the Greek Theatre can be memorable. Grab a picnic and eat in the park before you go into the venue and you’ll save money. If you don’t have tickets find a park bench and listen to the show for free.
Roosevelt, Wilson and Harding Golf Courses – If you want to get on the links three courses are situated in the Park. Roosevelt is a small 9 hole course and the most affordable, although each pf the courses are significantly less than major courses in most metropolitan areas. These golf courses do get crowded so prepare for a six hour round if you get there in the middle of the day.
The Griffith Observatory – This gem of an attraction is free and will surprise you with its quality. It recently was completely remodeled and the exhibits capture the excitement of the stars in such a fashion that you’ll be surprised that there is no fee charged. Make sure to take in the views of Los Angeles both day and night.
Taking a Culinary Tour of Los Angeles
So where will you eat in Los Angeles? Check out these spots in the neighborhoods in and around LA.
East Los Angeles. Well, actually more like Boyle Heights and City Terrace but these two spots, one old and one relatively new will get you good Mexican food for a relatively low price. El Tepeyac has been serving king sized burritos since the dawn of time, or at least it feels that way since I have been eating there since before I started elementary school. My go to, once the Hollenbeack burrito but now it is the machaca. Either way you get a huge burrito that should be shared. They still offer the Manny’s Special and this one burrito can feed at least 6. Be sure to sample the juicy morsels of Pork sitting on top of that tortilla. As neighborhoods see gentrification Boyle Heights seems to be sitting pretty while holding on to the deep roots of the past. With that said, Mexican food is still very prominent in this area but elevated Mexican food is making a charge, Guisados is a spot where they are braising their meat to the tune of flavor-packed tacos that are to die for. Two is all you need and you’ll be set. By the way they have opened two other locations in Echo Park and Downtown LA.
Ramen: Little Osaka vs Little Tokyo. This staple of budget eaters is proliferating right to the point where people are calling the Little Osaka area of West Los Angles “Ramen Row” and it is fitting. Personally, I stick to 1st street in Downtown Los Angeles for cheap noodles flowing with flavor. Daikokuya is easily among the best place for ramen noodles and Orochon Ramen consistently packs them in. This area is still home to many Japanese businesses, but much of the same can be said of the area on Sawtelle also known as Little Osaka. There are plenty of Japanese food and plenty of inexpensive noodle dishes.
Food Trucks. The culinary clash between table cloths and dining curbside was so heavily promoted on the streets of Los Angeles that I almost forget there even not being a food truck scene. These days in every city in the US, food trucks are considered gourmet and trendy but they still thrive. Head over to Wilshire Boulevard across the street from the L.A. County Museum of Art and you can see a daily menu of trucks catering to all of your culinary wishes. You might not find Kogi Barbecue here but you will find plenty of people combining Korea and Mexican, Cuban and Dominican and Soul food and BBQ. Food trucks are still cheap but be wary of those trucks that think that they need to charge you for the experience, remember, you are still eating off of a paper plate.
The Market: Farmers Market vs. Grand Central Market. It used to be that most visitors to Los Angeles would see Farmers Market just because of its central location in West Los Angeles. They still do and the food options range from upscale gourmet in the Grove shopping area to cultural curiosities of the culinary world found inside the actual Farmers Market. Prices have risen over time and the good deals are still there relative to a proper sit down restaurant, but unless you combine the experience with a full day of sightseeing at The Grove you should visit the Downtown LA Grand Central Market. The Grand Central Market has experienced a huge overhaul and these days you can get affordable Texas Barbeque, Berlin CurryWurst, dirt Cheap Chop Suey and gourmet burgers. Make sure to walk across Broadway to the Bradbury Building and see the architecture of this iconic office building. You may recognize it as it has appeared in a multitude of films and commercials.
When you decide to visit Los Angles you might have an idea about what Hollywood is and what you might see but realistically Hollywood is another of a number of interesting and quirky neighborhoods that make up Los Angeles. You will see Sunset Blvd. and you will walk along Hollywood Blvd but you should also check out a few other things that make this area of the city a must see for any visitor. Sightseeing is free and if you plan on keeping the cost of your Los Angeles Vacation down there is no better way than with a few of these suggestions.
The Hollywood You Should SeeHollywood and Highland – Right at this busy corner you will be fascinated with the scene straight from a travel brochure about what to avoid in a tourist trap. You’ll find novelty shops, photo opportunities and the ever ending stream of tourist friendly peddlers of tours and shows. Yes, it may be a tourist haven but you have to see it once. Take a picture with your favorite movie character or sign up to see a television show. A few museums are in the immediate vicinity and plenty of cheap food exists within walking distance.
The Burgundy Room – Walk down Cahuenga from Hollywood Blvd. and you’ll see a black awning over a door with a guy standing near the entrance to a building. That is the Burgundy Room and if you ever needed to find a bar that is quintessentially Hollywood this is where you‘ll find it. There are no hand crafted cocktails and the bar is served by the bottle. You will not get a fancy drink and the lighting is so bad you might end up talking to a complete stranger without ever knowing what that person looks like. That is why you go there because in the made up world of Hollywood there is no place that is more real than this bar. The drinks are cheap and the crowd is very casual.
Hollywood Walk of Fame – You may have seen the stars that line Hollywood Blvd. and you can seek out your favorite personalities of the film and television industry. Take a picture with a piece of the sidewalk as you venture in and out of the stores along this famous thoroughfare. This free attraction spans over a mile long on both sides of Hollywood Blvd so you’ll have plenty of walking to do if you plan on seeing all of the 2500+ stars on the street.
Griffith Park Observatory – Within view of the Holywood sign , Downtown Los Angles or even the beach is a dome on the side of the Hollywood Hills. That spot is the Griffith Observatory and as an attraction for the budget minded it is hard to beat (The Getty Museum is also free except you pay for parking). There is no fee for admission. the exhibits are impressive and interactive and the views from the top of the hill of Los Angeles are perfect for your social media feed. Get to the observatory at sunset and see the night sky come alive or spend a little money and see the show in the planetarium.
Thai Town – Since were talking Hollywood there is no way you can wander around this part of Los Angeles without finding some real good, real cheap food in Thai Town. Understand that when they say spicy is very spicy they mean it and then order a meal for four for next to nothing relative to the rest of Los Angeles. Technically Thai Town is not Hollywood but they are neighbors and the fusion of neighborhoods is exactly what Los Angels is all about.
Where to Go Hiking in Los Angeles
No one will ever confuse Los Angles with the cities on the east coast of the United States that are so walker friendly that residents do not even feel the need to own a vehicle. In Los Angeles the car is king but that does not mean that you cannot find a few spots to put your hiking shoes on and take a long walk either to sightsee or just for a little exercise. Hiking is an ambiguous term in Los Angeles as you might see someone “hiking” with a cell phone and a large cup of coffee in hand. These hikes/walks are really a way to explore the city of Los Angeles and its surrounding neighborhoods for very little money while getting a large dose of what LA is all about.
Hollywood Sign – There is no way you can avoid this iconic sign when traveling throughout the city. Hollywood is is right in the center of this sprawling city and the hike up to the Hollywood sign is really a gentle stroll up the side of a hill. It will most likely take you anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and half to get to the sign but from that point you will be greeted with views of the entire Los Angeles Basin all the way to the Pacific Ocean. To get to the trailhead find the corner of Franklin Ave. and Beachwood Drive. Take Beachwood Drive toward the sign until you reach a dirt parking lot. You will see plenty of people preparing for the hike once you are near. Follow the signs for the Hollyridge trail and you will be on your way. TIP: Do not walk out on to the middle of Beachwood Drive to take a picture of the sign, this is dangerous.
Beach Walk – If you head down to the beach anywhere from Pacific Palisades to the north or Manhattan Beach to the south you will see a beach path that is your paved way to explore the beach communities of the Los Angeles area. Aside from the sand and the surf this easily manageable flat path takes you past restaurants and recreation areas along its 22 mile span. A few popular highlights include Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier but other spots that must be visited include Redondo Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach and Will Rogers State Beach. A true treat right off of the beach trail is the Annenberg Community Beach House. With recreation facilities, a poll and a restaurant it is a secret spot that very few locals know about. The restaurant is one of the few places in Los Angeles where you can sit with your feet in the sand and a drink in your hand. TIP: This trail is mainly meant for bikes so beware of traffic while navigating it or rent a bike and take in more of the path.
Mt. Lowe Railway in the San Gabriel Mountains – This is a true hike that requires a little bit of endurance and some sturdy hiking shoes but the views from the top of Los Angels and the San Gabriel Valley are worth the work. This spot is home to a former railway meant to deliver tourists up into the local mountains. All that is left is the ruins and stories of the past but if you want to see a different Los Angeles this hike is not only free but it also is very educational. To get to this hike you will have to head to Altadena which is 20 minutes north of downtown Los Angeles. TIP: Go early because the sun feels so much warmer when you are hiking uphill with little shade.
Amusement Parks in Los Angeles
When seeking out amusement parks in the Los Angeles area it is better to describe them as being in Southern California because to the north in Valencia Magic Mountain thrills you with roller coasters and a water park and to the south San Diego offers up an impressive wild animal park and Sea World. In between Disneyland makes the kids happy.
Disneyland and California Adventure – Mickey Mouse has been settled in these parts for over 50 years and if there is one thing Disney gets correct is having a good time. They call it the happiest place on earth and no doubt you will probably leave the amusement park a happy camper. A few attractions that are a must for any successful Disneyland visit are Space Mountain, The Pirates of the Caribbean and the Tea Cups. In order to save money on food you should pack a lunch and utilize the lockers near the entrance. Realistically it is impossible to visit Disneyland and not spend a small fortune but there is no need to overspend on mediocre amusement park food. There are a few affordable food options in Downtown Disney located right outside the entrance but just know that you still will be paying a premium for the convenience. California Adventure is right across from Disneyland and if you happen to stop in, make sure to ride the Tower of Terror attraction. Yes, it will scare you, but you have to do it once. Food options are a bit easier here as there are some fast food outlets around the park. Once again there is a premium price attached but it is a little cheaper than next door.
Knott’s Berry Farm – This amusement park, a few minutes from Disneyland gives you much of the thrill that Disneyland does for a much better price. Kids will enjoy the attractions targeted for their age group and the western motif still draws plenty of oohs and ahhs. This amusement park is one of the best deals in Southern California.
Six Flags Magic Mountain – This is the amusement park for the thrill ride aficionados that like steep and deep. While Six Flags Magic Mountain has plenty of rides for all types of visitors this is the place you got to if you really love a great rollercoaster. With names like “Full Throttle” and “Goliath” you can be sure to test the limits of your mettle on these rides. If there is one place to visit with teenage kids in Los Angeles this is it. Search the web for coupons and deals on this amusement park as they are in abundance.
Lego Land – This amusement park is set up perfectly for families with younger children and those adults who still can’t let go of their Lego collection. This is located in Orange County so it is a bit of a drive from Los Angeles.
Located in San Diego
Sea World – If you love marine life this is the place to see Shamu do his thing and partake in the entertainment that comes with Killer Whales and Dolphins doing tricks for the paying patrons. The park can be expensive and a drive from Los Angeles is required.
San Diego Zoo and Safari Park – Get an up-close look at wildlife at this very impressive zoo and Botanical Park. Interactive exhibits and family friendly attractions make this a great place for families.
Things To Do This Summer in Los Angeles
Before you plan your evening entertainment in Los Angels you should know that even though the sun is out all day when it dips below the Pacific Ocean the temperatures drop just enough to require a sweater. Yes, in the middle of summer you might need to bundle up and snuggle up close to someone special
The Hollywood Bowl – You’ll get there early because you would have packed a picnic dinner. You’ll have packed two bottles of wine. You’ll have some fancy cheese and a charcuterie plate that rivals any fine dining establishment you have ever set foot in. The Hollywood Bowl as a summer destination while in Los Angeles is an event that extends from pre-dinner drink straight through a meal with new found friends all the way to a performance under the stars. Concerts occur nightly through out the summer and seats can be purchased fro cheap prices for weekday shows. Don’t worry about where you sit as much as you concern yourself with the entire atmosphere of the event.
Dodger Stadium – Baseball is the national pastime but sitting at a Dodger Game on a warm summer night, some peanuts and a hot dog is a celebration of the season. The team is playing well so tickets are a bit harder to come by if you need to be way down low but if you don’t mind sitting way up high you can take in the views of the San Gabriel mountains from your seat and scream from the top of your lungs when the home team scores a run.
The Grand Performances – Located in downtown Los Angels the weekends come alive with free musical performances featuring world music artists under the stars in the shadow of the skyscrapers on Bunker Hill. The California Plaza has an entertainment space that invites roaming the crowd and dinner options are in abundance just walking distance from the performances.
The Getty Museum – If you seek out a daylong activity there is nothing quite like the Getty Museum. The collection is vast and the grounds are spectacular. The views of the Pacific Ocean will leave your friends back home jealous when you share your images with them via social media. The museum is free and you just pay to park. If you want to visit the Getty Villa in Malibu you will need to make a reservation but it also is free. Summer weekend nights the museum is open until 9pm and select dates also treat you with live entertainment in the museum courtyard.
Shakespeare at the Park – If you are looking for a fun approach to the theatre, look no further than Shakespeare at Griffith Park. Thursdays through Sundays during the summer months the park is home to the Independent Shakespeare Company. This season performances of the 12th night and The Taming of the Shrew will be featured. The outdoor theatre is located near the Los Angeles Zoo so make a day out of the event and spend a summer day at the Griffith Park in Los Angeles.
Beach Ideas in Los Angeles
It is quite easy to head to Los Angeles and never set foot on the sand, the city is quite large and even though you’ll fly into Los Angeles international airport that is located right next to the beach, it is safe to say that you might not see it again until you leave. We can assume that you might decide to do a movie studio tour or visit Disneyland or even walk along Hollywood Boulevard, but when in Los Angeles you have to consider a day at the beach. That does not mean you’ll have your toes in the sand all day long, but it does mean you can be having some fun that will cost you very little yet deliver plenty of enjoyment.
Santa Monica Pier: The draw with Santa Monica pier is not just that the ocean spreads out from here in what seems like every direction. Walk up the Pier to Third Street Promenade and you get dining and shopping options as well as plenty of opportunity to walk around this beach town. Back on the Pier carnival games and amusement park rides make the kids happy, while a few bars on the edge of the water help parents spark the fire of romance with a sunset toast.
Venice Boardwalk: Take a seat at the Waterfront Café in Venice and you will be sure to witness why so many tourists and locals alike flock to the area. It is a scene. From vendors, to performers it seems like every wacky person on the planet has decided to put on a show right on this walkway beside the sand. From this spot you can rent a bike to explore the bike path that stretches far off in both directions or you can shop for trinkets and souvenirs from more vendors than you have the patience for. People watching is free and there is an abundance of it here.
Sailing and Stand Up Paddling in Marina Del Rey: The active lifestyle is infectious in Los Angeles and if you spend a day at Mother’s Beach in Marina Del Rey you’ll realize that if you are not on a kayak or Stand Up Paddle board or in a small sail boat you are simply not pulling your weight. You can sit and enjoy the sun or you can rent some physical exertion by the hour. The fun factor goes way up once you fall in the water. Food options abound in this area with chain restaurants and cheap local spots easy to access either by car or by water taxi around the marina.
Malibu and the Getty Villa: If you like the idea of mixing in a little culture with your beach day, head up to the Getty Villa along Pacific Coast Highway and enjoy a day at a museum followed by a day down on the sands of Malibu. It does not have to be expensive. Grab a picnic lunch and after your day of looking at fine pieces of art, take in the natural beauty that is Southern California sunshine. The museum is free as long as you make reservations prior to attending and grocery stores can be found along the road to stock your picnic basket.
Using Public Transportation in Los Angeles
If you have decided to choose Los Angeles as a vacation destination you may or may not have already heard that either public transportation is non-existent or the complete opposite, public
transportation has been completely revitalized in the city. Both statements are somewhat true and somewhat false at the same time.
Public transportation has come a long way in Los Angeles yet it has a long way to go to rival the programs found in other major cities both in the United States and around the world. If we only consider bus routes you could say that you can get virtually anywhere with a bus pass and some patience. The real determining factor of progress is light rail and while Los Angles has begun to create a sprawling network of rail lines they do have their limitations.
However, with a little help you should be able to navigate the city on the train for a small price.
These days, getting to the attractions and sights in Los Angeles is much easier and very cheap if you use metro rail system.
Where To Go And What To Do Using The Rail System In Los Angeles (from Union Station):Union Station is located in Downtown Los Angeles and is the central station from which to start your rail adventure in Los Angeles. From this point you can also catch a Flyaway bus
that will take you to and from the airport as well as Metrolink commuter trains that travel farther distances within Southern California.
If you are looking to travel to other cities, Amtrak runs from this point as well with destinations outside of the Southern California area.
The Red Line to Hollywood Walk of Fame – You have seen the sidewalks lined with stars that celebrate famous and not so famous people who have made a contribution to the history of Hollywood and you know you want to take a selfie alongside one of your favorites. This area of Hollywood along Hollywood Blvd is popular with tourists who visit the shops and museums as well as Grauman’s Chinese theatre where movie stars have placed their feet in the cement. (Now called TCL Chinese Theatre).
The rail line has a station at Hollywood and Highland in the middle of all the action.
The Blue Line to Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific – The Long Beach area boasts attractive beaches, nightlife and the Aquarium. Take a stroll around the area where boat excursions and walking tours can be found. The train ride is about 45 minutes from Union Station and the beach is a short walk away. The Aquarium of the Pacific is open daily and you can often find admission tickets deals on the web. Buy a ticket for the Los Angeles Zoo and The Aquarium and you get a discount on admission cost.
Don’t miss the Shark Lagoon and the Southern California gallery where you get a view of what the waters off the coast hold.
The Gold Line To Old Town Pasadena – Head to Pasadena and visit Norton Simon Museum and take a walk in Old Town Pasadena where restaurants, bars and shopping line Colorado Boulevard
The Red Line To L.A. LIVE – Located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles LA Live is home to the Staples Center where the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings Hockey Club play their home games as well as the Nokia Theater. Restaurants, bars and hotels line the plaza and the area is alive with nightlife that ranges from Club Nokia to the Conga Room to Lucky Strike Lanes.
From Union Station: Olvera Street, China Town, Little Tokyo and the Artist District all are within walking distance of Union Station and stops along the rail lines that begin at this spot.