Visit LA Like a Local: The Ultimate Los Angeles Travel Guide for 2020

Warm sunny weather, perpetual clear blue skies, thriving surf culture, and glamorous Hollywood lifestyles: all of these are embodied by Los Angeles. The second-largest city in the United States by population, LA is a sprawling urban conglomeration of districts made famous by countless stories weaved through over a century of film, television, and media produced in the city’s biggest industry.

From hiking trails to stunning beaches to world-class shopping and beyond, there’s something to do in LA for every type of traveler. We hope to share with you some of the amazing things about this city in our Los Angeles travel guide.

Things to do in Los Angeles

Griffith Park

Griffith Observatory and a view of the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park

The second-largest city park in California, Griffith Park takes up a sprawling 4,511 acres. Think of it as LA’s version of Central Park, except bigger and wilder. You won’t find anything like the Bethesda Fountain here, but you might find a mountain lion or a coyote. 

From leisurely hikes to more strenuous climbs, visitors can choose from a vast variety of trails in the park. The iconic Griffith Observatory is not to be missed, and if you’re willing and able to hike to it, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the city. 

Once you’ve reached the top, the observatory offers a great vantage point to view and take pictures with the Hollywood Sign. The observatory also houses dozens of exhibits and runs free programs every hour in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater.

For those traveling with kids, we recommend checking out the Los Angeles Zoo and Travel Town Museum. For hardcore Disney fans, we suggest visiting the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round which is said to have inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland.

Santa Monica Pier

Things to do in LA: Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica’s ferris wheel is undoubtedly the most iconic symbol of the city of Santa Monica and a visual that is strongly associated with Los Angeles as a whole. With its beautiful beach surrounded by mountains, the ferris wheel only serves to complete this postcard-perfect view of Santa Monica. It’s a favorite of locals and visitors alike. 

If you are not a fan of heights or boardwalk games, there is still much to do and see at the Santa Monica Pier. Visitors can rent a bike or even a tricycle and ride along the coast to Muscle Beach in Venice. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see the next Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

You’ll also find plenty of restaurants, ranging from upscale to beach shack to keep you happy and full, as well as plenty of shops to pick up the perfect kitschy souvenir. Street performers are a common sight along the boardwalk and of course, you can’t leave without taking a picture with the Route 66 sign.

Disneyland

Pixar Pier at Disney's California Adventure

Your trip to LA would never be complete without having a blast at the happiest place on earth. Located in Anaheim, Disneyland Resort is split into two major theme parks: the original Disneyland Park which features classic rides, and the newer Disney California Adventure which offers more thrill rides. 

No one is too old for Disneyland. No matter your age, you can still enjoy this magical land. From a stroll down Main Street, to stuffing your face with churros, or taking a scream-inducing ride on Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, there’s always tons to enjoy here.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour

Warner Bros. water tower in Burbank, California

Located in Burbank, the Warner Bros. Studio Tour is the most fun way of experiencing the magic of Hollywood TV and film making. The two-hour tour is packed with activities such as a photo op at Central Perk from “Friends” and an exhibit of Batmobiles throughout the years.

 For Harry Potter and DC fans, you’ll get to visit a prop house where costumes and props used in filming these movies are on display. 

Guests are driven around the backlot where they can see many exterior sets. The tour also usually includes a visit to one of their sound stages. The day we went, we were taken to the sound stage used for “The Big Bang Theory”. 

The tour gives you extensive access to the Warner Bros. lot and, in our experience, the tour guides are very helpful and engaging.

Olvera Street

Guitars and ponchos for sale at Olvera Street

Many LA visitors miss out on Olvera Street, and we feel like that shouldn’t be the case. Close to Union Station, this street is known for its vibrant display of Mexican culture and heritage. 

It’s also a wonderful slice of LA history. In fact, the oldest house in Los Angeles, the Avila Adobe, can be found on Olvera Street. This house now functions as a museum and its furnishings will make you feel like you stepped into the 1840s. 

You can buy souvenirs like leather goods, sombreros, piñatas, and Mexican candies at the market. Olvera Street is also a great place to sample authentic Mexican foods. Of course, no trip here would be complete without a stop at Mr. Churro.

Where to stay

Venice canals in Los Angeles

Looking for a place to stay in Los Angeles is quite overwhelming and borderline confusing for most tourists. We get it, LA is massive and it can be a disappointing trip if you know nothing about its landscape. 

Los Angeles County has many cities inside of it. While tourists often think of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills when they think of LA, these are actually separate cities. 

LA is very spread out and it’s important to keep this in mind when putting together your itinerary. Otherwise, you might be spending long hours stuck in traffic. 

To not get lost in the urban sprawl, choose an area to stay in that caters to your interests. For example, if you know that you want to spend the majority of your time at the beach, stay on the Westside. Santa Monica, Culver City, and Venice would all be good options in that case.

LA is a lot more than the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. It’s a melting pot of diverse vibrant cultures where distinct food, art, and attractions can be found in almost every neighborhood. 

To help you find your spot and fall in love with LA, we’ve narrowed down some of the best areas to stay in based on what they are most known for:

Downtown LA

Downtown LA skyline

Our guess is that most visitors would want to stay in the most central location possible. This may sound very “LA” of us but there is no such thing. Ask any Angeleno and they would just answer your question with another question, “what do you want to do?” 

LA is hugely varied, and unlike many other cities, it’s pretty much impossible to stay in one compact and truly central area. But if you’re looking for a place with eclectic restaurants, hip rooftop bars, lively shops, and museums, then Downtown LA is your best bet for a taste of city life. 

This is our number one pick for anyone looking to get around on public transportation. DTLA is well connected to the public transit system and is also home to some of the trendiest and most modern hotels in Los Angeles

When it comes to things to do and places to stay, there’s a lot to choose from to fit your budget in DTLA. 

Recommended hotels: Hotel Figueroa DTLA & Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown

Koreatown

Korean BBQ

Locals will argue that LA plays host to the best multicultural restaurant scene in all of America. And we agree. From farmers’ markets and food trucks to food festivals and gourmet restaurants, you name it, we have it.

Almost every culture is represented in LA’s food scene and every neighborhood has its specialty. Koreatown, in particular, is one of the most exciting gastronomic neighborhoods in LA. 

Here you’ll find plenty of delectable Korean eats, such as the famous Park’s BBQ. But you’ll also find a vibrant lineup of other cuisines. Salvadoran, Oaxacan, and Bangladeshi favorites can all be found in Ktown. 

When you feel the need to switch it up from all the Korean BBQ you’ll be eating, we recommend the epic mole at Guelaguetza. 

Recommended hotels: The Line Hotel & Hotel Normandie

Hollywood

Car driving in Hollywood

Hollywood is undeniably one of the areas most flocked to by tourists due to its popular attractions. But there’s more to it than the Hollywood sign and the Walk of Fame, especially at night. 

Hollywood comes to life after dark with an array of nightlife options to enjoy. Top hot spots include the historic Avalon, Sound Nightclub, The Spare Room, and The Sayers Club. Fun fact: the theater that is home to the Avalon has hosted an amazing variety of musical acts, from The Beatles to Skrillex.

If you’re craving some touristy action during the day and a glamorous night out, Hollywood is the perfect base for your LA trip. 

Recommended hotels: The Hollywood Roosevelt & W Hollywood

How to get around

How to get around Los Angeles

Los Angeles, as one of the first metropolises in the US to widely adopt automobiles, has two things going for it: its involvement in the country’s ever-evolving car culture; and as Patient Zero for the traffic phenomenon the world now knows as “Carmageddon”.

But because of its reputation for horrendous traffic, what is often overlooked are the various ways of getting around the city. Of course, we can only imagine how intimidating LA might seem to a first-time visitor here. But, as with all things, this may also be the perfect opportunity for you to indulge in a new urban adventure!  

So, fret not. As our stab at a Public Service Announcement of sorts, we’re creating this transportation guide for first-time visitors to LA. Whether you plan on using public transit to save money, rent a car because it might seem like the most no-brainer thing to do, or simply get around by relying on Lyft and Uber, we’ll try to be as comprehensive as possible with this, while ensuring that you won’t drown in unnecessary information.

So, are you ready to start working on your travel itinerary to LA? Below are the various ways you could get around in the city. Read on!

Getting around via public transportation

Getting around LA via public transportation

Does LA have a wonderful public transportation system? Well, Jon Hamm says it does, and we can’t even imagine arguing with Don Draper on this.

No matter how Hamm’s statement is meant to be taken, we can say with a straight face that LA has at least a serviceable public transportation system. As with just about any big city, LA has working bus and rail systems.  

Let’s start with how much you’ll be paying. 

Regardless of what mode of public transit you take, most base fares start at $1.75 for a one-way trip. The Silver Line and certain express bus lines have a $2.50 base fare. This base fare covers unlimited transfers for up to 2 hours, as long as you’re headed in one direction. To put it plainly, round trips are not covered under the unlimited transfers, but you can transfer between bus lines or from bus to metro without any issues otherwise.

The easiest way to pay for fares is by getting a Metro TAP Card. This all-purpose card can be used to pay for your bus rides as well as any Metro rail rides. Just pre-load a one-day ($7), seven-day ($25), or thirty-day ($100) pass on it, and you’re all set. The TAP card itself is an additional $2 charge, but you can reload and reuse it for years to come.

Metro TAP Card

If you plan on using public transit as your main means of getting around, buying one of the passes above will help you save some money. However, you can also choose to pay as you go. 

You can buy a TAP card directly from any Metro rail station or an accredited vendor. You can purchase a pass for your new TAP card or you can determine how much money you want to load on it if you’re opting to pay as you go. If you find yourself running low on funds, you can top up at any location that sells TAP cards or you can do so by phone or online.  

Now that fares are out of the way, let’s look at what types of transportation are available.

Metro Buses

Local Metro Bus in Los Angeles

Let’s start with Metro Buses, which are divided into the following: 

  • Metro Local buses: These are painted orange and stop approximately every two blocks.
  • Metro Rapid buses: These are painted red and stop only at major intersections.
  • Metro Express buses: Painted blue and mostly ply routes around freeways and, thus, go for longer distances with fewer stops.
  • Metro Silver Line: As the name implies, these buses are silver/grey. They run from and to downtown LA and the South Bay area.
  • Metro Orange Line: These are usually silver buses with orange writing on them. They serve the San Fernando Valley, running from the North Hollywood Red Line station to Chatsworth.

If you don’t have a TAP card, you can use cash to pay at most of these buses. Bus drivers don’t carry change, so be prepared and have exact change for your fare. Note that without a TAP card, you won’t be able to take advantage of free transfers.

Metro Rail Lines

Metro Red Line at the Wilshire/Vermont station in Los Angeles
Credit: Buchanan-Hermit

The Metro Rail, on the other hand, is categorized with the following handy system: 

  • Metro A Line (Blue): Runs north and south between Downtown LA and Long Beach.
  • Metro Red Line: Runs between Union Station and North Hollywood. If you’re planning to go to Universal Studios Hollywood via public transportation, this is the line you want to get on.
  • Metro Green Line: Runs east to west, covering Norwalk to Redondo Beach.
  • Metro Purple Line: Runs between Downtown and the Wilshire/Western Station in Koreatown.
  • Metro Expo Line: If you’re looking to hit the beach, the Expo line can get you from Downtown LA to Santa Monica without the stress of traffic. 
  • Metro Gold Line: This line covers East LA and can take you from Little Tokyo/Arts District to Pasadena and beyond. It also has a stop at Union Station, making it easy to transfer to the Red, Purple, and Silver lines.

Of course, we know it’s a lot to keep track of which route covers where. Thankfully, you can download maps of each route from the official LA Metro website here.

Public transportation hours & schedules

Most bus and rail lines operate from 5:00 am to 12:00 am on weekdays. On weekends, the service stays up until around 2:00 am.

Bus frequency will vary depending on the route. Some less popular routes might only have one bus per hour. We advise you to check the timetables for the specific routes you plan to take so that you’re not stuck waiting. Schedules are available here for both buses and rail lines.

Trains tend to run about every five minutes during peak hours. Do be aware that taking rides late into the night can leave you waiting at the stop for as long as 30 minutes. 

Finally, Metro.net has integrated a “Trip Planner” feature right on its homepage to help you get to where you’re going. Convenient, indeed!

Renting a car in LA 

Renting a car in LA

To fully explore LA, there are times where public transportation alone is not enough. Unfortunately, some areas are not as accessible as others on public transit. In some cases, you might find that trying to take the bus or metro ends up being impractical or takes too long.

If you have the means, then we recommend that you rent a car to get around Los Angeles. For some itineraries, the convenience of having a car will more than make up for the added costs and the headache that is traffic. 

We recommend that you compare prices online and book your car before your arrival. To help get your search started, LAX has published their directory of accredited car rental services here.

No matter which car rental service you go with, you’re still required to travel off-site to get your assigned vehicle. To do so, go to the center island from the baggage claim area of your terminal and look for the purple sign that says “Rental Car Shuttles”. 

Now, we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you this: you absolutely have to do your due diligence if you do decide to rent a car in Los Angeles. As we’ve alluded above, traffic here is nothing to sneeze at. 

Make sure you’ve got Google Maps downloaded on your phone. Depending on the traffic, sometimes freeways will be faster and sometimes it will be best to stick to surface streets. Knowing when to take what route can be tricky. Apps like Waze will be your friend for purposes like these.  

Lastly, looking for parking spots isn’t just notoriously difficult; they can be downright costly, too. Almost every public attraction, street, or commercial establishment in LA has fixed or metered parking. You should expect to pay overnight parking fees at most hotels. Some can run as high as $40 a night, so you should keep this in mind when deciding on a place to stay if you’ll be renting a car.  

If you’re going to allot a budget for a car rental, make sure you also squeeze in a significant amount for the parking fees that you might be subjected to. Hey, no one said living in the city is cheap!

Getting around by taxi or rideshare (Uber and Lyft)

Getting around by taxi or Uber and Lyft

The Goldilocks solution. If you’re planning on exploring one area for most of your stay and occasionally venturing out beyond, you might find that combining ridesharing with public transportation is just right.

Taking a taxi or an Uber might not offer quite the same freedom as renting a car, but it does come with benefits. For one, you won’t have to worry about finding a parking spot. Depending on where you’re going, that alone makes taking an Uber or Lyft worth it.

And while you’ll still find yourself stuck in traffic at some point, at least you won’t have to be the one navigating it. You can relax and enjoy a podcast or read about the destination you’re heading to.

Taxis

Taking a taxi

It’s pretty much impossible to imagine the modern commuting experience without the presence of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. Like who else is willing to wait outside in the hopes of catching a cab in this day and age?

But taxis still have a place in the transportation landscape.

According to industry analyst Morning Consult, 42 percent of US-based adults they surveyed said they’re using taxis over ridesharing services due to a single factor: surge-pricing.

If you book a Lyft or an Uber during busy hours, you’ll feel the sting of surge pricing. Prices rise the busier it is, which can result in you paying double what the usual rate would be for your ride. It’s simple supply and demand, but it leaves a bad taste. 

Nobody likes paying $20 for a ride that would’ve cost $10 if it had been booked 15 minutes prior.

There’s also the fact that taxis make it possible to pay fares via cash; a boon for those who don’t own smartphones or prefer not to use cards. Because taxis are subject to government regulation, you’ll find that background checks for taxi drivers tend to be much more thorough.

One cue LA taxis are taking from their ridesharing competitors is the gradual adoption of booking apps. Essentially, a similar system to the ones used by Uber and Lyft for years now. You’ll find that some cab companies like United Taxi have their own apps, while others have signed up for services like Curb.

Uber and Lyft

Using Uber and Lyft in Los Angeles

Government-certified as taxis might be, there’s no escaping the fact that they’re more expensive compared to using Uber, Lyft, or other ridesharing apps. 

For comparison, a taxi’s base fare is $2.85 for the first 0.9 mile, with subsequent charges of $0.30 for each additional 0.9 mile and $0.30 for every 37 seconds of wait time. Uber and Lyft, on the other hand, don’t charge base fares, which means there are no uniform estimates as to how much a ride costs. 

However, data collected by tech publication Digital Trends gives us an idea of how fares are calculated in major cities like Los Angeles. Booking fees cost $3.00 for Uber and $2.80 for Lyft. Cost per minute is $0.28 for Uber and $0.17 for Lyft. Cost per mile works out to be about $0.80 for Uber and $1.07 for Lyft.

In short, ridesharing services make the most financial sense in a city like LA since they charge per minute and per mile. Meanwhile, traditional taxis charge for while you’re moving (per mile) and for while waiting in traffic (per minute). Even taking surge pricing into consideration, a ridesharing service will usually be cheaper. In a place like Los Angeles, paying for time you spent stuck in traffic can add up real quick.

And of course, there’s no denying that using services like Lyft and Uber is just plain easy.  All you need is your smartphone and you’re good to go (literally).

How to get an Uber or Lyft at LAX

As any passenger who has gone through LAX would attest, it was a headache to wait for a ride because of the traffic jam coming into the airport. Airport management eventually realized they needed a solution for it. In late 2019 they implemented LAX-it to address the problem. 

Yes, it looks like a laxative brand. But it’s actually supposed to be read as “LA Exit.” The LAX-it’s purpose is simple: it’s a designated pick-up lot for passengers traveling by taxi or by rideshare. 

Located east of Terminal 1, you can walk to it from Terminals 1, 2, 7, and 8. For the rest of the terminals farther away, or if you’d rather not walk, you can board a shuttle that will take you to the lot. 

Upon arrival at your terminal, look for signs directing you to LAX-it. Once you exit the terminal, you should see a green column that says “LAX-it”. Wait there for a bus (also colored in LAX-it green) to arrive. LAX management says that buses appear at each terminal about every 3-to-5 minutes.

You can book an Uber or Lyft while you’re still at your terminal. Otherwise, you can decide which service to use upon getting off at the LAX-it lot. Uber and Lyft, in particular, have color-coded lanes designated for their passengers; green lanes for Uber, and pink ones for Lyft. 

Each is also staffed by their agents wearing color-coded vests. Black for Uber employees, and pink for Lyft representatives. LAX-it employees can be seen wearing green vests if you need additional help.

Once you’ve booked a ride, a PIN will be sent to your phone. When your turn comes up, an attendant will direct you to the next available car. Before getting into the car, you’ll need to give that PIN to the driver so they can put it into their Uber or Lyft app. This will allow the driver to sync up and see your info, such as where you’re headed. It might take a bit getting used to, but there’s plenty of employees around to help you out.

The LAX-it lot is also full of amenities like sitting areas, restrooms, charging stations, Wi-Fi, and even food and coffee trucks.

But if you’d rather skip all that and get picked up curbside, you can request an Uber Black or Lyft Lux Black. These premium services are still allowed to pick up passengers curbside at the arrivals level.

Accessibility at LAX-it

The LAX-it shuttle buses are fully ADA compliant. If you’re a wheelchair user, you should move to the front of the line for priority boarding. Once you arrive at the lot, look for an LAX-it attendant. They will be able to help you choose the right transport for you. 

Where to Eat 

In-N-Out Burger in LA

LA rivals many of the world’s major cities as a center for a culinary adventure. There’s so much good food in Los Angeles that it’s almost hard to have a bad meal. But if you’re looking for classic California flavors, we recommend trying one of the restaurants below.

In-N-Out

One of LA’s most emblematic restaurants, locals and visitors alike line up to sample the burgers of In-N-Out. It has earned its reputation by serving burgers with the freshest ingredients at reasonable prices. In-N-Out is also known for its not-so-secret secret menu. Get an order of Animal Style fries and thank us later.

Malibu Farm Pier Cafe

Catering mostly to health-conscious Malibu natives, Malibu Farm Pier Cafe is known for serving farm-to-table dishes. You can choose to dine at the cafe or the restaurant. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are available too.

Musso & Frank Grill

In business since 1919, Musso & Frank Grill evokes old-Hollywood ambiance. Its menu is also full of nostalgia for Hollywood’s Golden Age. The Grenadine of Beef, which is filet mignon medallions soaked in gravy and béarnaise sauce, is a must-try. Make sure to also order one of their legendary martinis.

Monty’s Good Burger

This socially-conscious burger joint is the vegan answer to In-N-Out. Everything from the burgers to the shakes and dipping sauces is vegan and made with locally-sourced ingredients. It’s no wonder why Joaquin Phoenix chose to celebrate his Oscar win by eating one of these burgers.

Hungry for more? Check out our 60 Los Angeles Restaurants for Every Taste and Budget

Day trips from Los Angeles

For travelers who have extra time or want to explore beyond the city, a day trip outside LA is highly recommended. After all, California has so much to offer that it would be a shame to miss out on other destinations in Southern California. 

Catalina Island

Day trip to Catalina Island

Catalina Island is one of the most popular day trips from LA. Those who would like to relax and escape the city can find refuge in Catalina Island’s Descanso Beach where they can lounge, sunbathe, and do yoga. 

Meanwhile, the island’s main town, Avalon, has a wide array of activities for people who are looking for a fun and wholesome adrenaline rush. You can zip line from the canyons to the beach or take a hummer tour along the wilder parts of the island. There’s also a variety of water activities such as parasailing, scuba diving, and dolphin watching.

Solvang

Day trip to Solvang

Solvang is a historic city in Santa Barbara County. A center of Danish culture, Solvang’s architecture is unlike anything else in Southern California. 

Many of its restaurants offer Danish dishes that aren’t as easily found in LA. You’ll see people lined up to get aebleskiver (Danish pancakes) and other delicious treats. 

The Book Loft Building has a museum dedicated to the fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. And if you want to learn more about the city’s Danish history and see Scandinavian artifacts, you can head over to the Elverhøj Museum of History & Art.

Ojai 

Day trip to Ojai

Ojai is known for its picturesque Spanish colonial buildings and fruit orchards. You can find the best restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and other quirky establishments along the arcade and streets that branch off from Ojai Avenue. Casa Barranca Winery, the first certified organic winery in the area, is found along these streets. 

If you’re in the mood to treat yourself, we recommend booking a spa treatment at the Ojai Valley Inn. For those looking for a more active day trip, the city is at the center of the Santa Ynez Valley. It’s a great starting point for people who want to hike around the nearby mountains.

Weather and best times to visit

Los Angeles residents experience predominantly sunny weather throughout the year. On average, the city only receives rain for about 36 days annually. For most of the year, the temperature is mild. Summer extends from May to October. The hottest temperatures occur in September. For the rest of the year, the temperature is a lot cooler. 

The best time to visit LA will depend on the activities you are planning to do. We recommend travelers time their visit during the weeks of special events such as the Rose Parade, Coachella, and Dia de los Muertos.

Rose Parade

The Rose Parade marks the beginning of the Rose Bowl Game. The celebration was first held in 1890 and ever since has been conducted annually without failure. It’s a New Year’s Day tradition. 

Highlights of the Rose Parade include the floral floats, equestrians, and marching bands, and the crowning of the Rose Queen.

The parade is held annually along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena every January 1st unless New Year’s Day happens to fall on a Sunday. When this happens, the parade is moved to January 2nd instead.

Visitors hoping to see the parade can opt for free viewing or reserve seating in advance. If you opt for free viewing, please note that it is first-come first-served. Expect to line up pretty early for a prime viewing spot. 

Some people choose to camp overnight to reserve a space. If you’d rather have a guaranteed spot, you can reserve a ticket for the Grandstand seating. Pricing for Grandstand seating starts at $60.

Regardless of what you choose, traffic and parking can get hectic during the Rose Parade. We recommend that you take the Metro or use a ridesharing service instead of driving.

Coachella 

Coachella Valley Music Festival

The Coachella Valley Music Festival takes place in the city of Indio at the Empire Polo Field. Famous as one of the hippest music festivals in the world, Coachella features indie and mainstream artists and life-sized art installations.

The event is usually held on two weekends during spring. However, due to Coronavirus, the 2020 festival will most likely be postponed until 2021 so make sure to double-check dates before you book your flights. Ticket prices start at $429 for general admission. Ticket scalpers buy by the dozens so it is advisable to purchase online as soon as possible.

For travelers, it is important to remember that Coachella is held in the middle of the desert. Travelers need to take the temperature into consideration. Dehydration is a real risk. Keep in mind also that cellphone reception can also be a challenge.  

Dia de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever

Dia de los Muertos at Hollywood Forever

In celebration of the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos on November 2nd, Hollywood Forever Cemetery welcomes visitors to a night of music and festivities. 

Artists are invited to compete in creating the best altars (ofrendas) for the dead along the gravestones of Hollywood Forever. People are encouraged to wear traditional costumes and makeup in line with the Mexican holiday. 

At the end of the night, awards are handed out for the best costume. Visitors can expect bands, dancing, and food stalls. Make sure to sample traditional and modern reinterpretations of Mexican foods during the event.

Tips for traveling with limited mobility

Traveling with limited mobility

LA is a PWD-friendly city. Most sidewalks and tourist sites have ramps and other equipment designed to help people with mobility problems. People are also helpful and will often go out of their way to lend a hand. 

The best thing about LA is that there are many companies that specialize in addressing these needs. You’ll find plenty of transportation services for wheelchair users.

At the airport

LAX provides several services that cater to the needs of people with mobility challenges, including wheelchair assistance and ground transportation. As mentioned earlier, the LAX-it shuttles are also fully accessible. 

The LAX website has a dedicated page set aside to assist travelers with disabilities in planning and preparing for their travel to LA. You can visit https://www.flylax.com/en/lax-americans-with-disability-act for more information.

Metro buses and railways

Trains and buses in the city are capable of accommodating all types of wheelchairs. They are also equipped with Braille-encoded “Metro Flash Books” used for signaling. Passengers with disabilities are also afforded fare discounts.

MobilityWorks wheelchair van rentals 

MobilityWorks specializes in selling and renting wheelchair accessible vans. For travelers who are opting to rent a vehicle, book it before flying into LA. The company will deliver the van directly to LAX upon your arrival.

Wheelchair repair shops and rentals

As every traveler knows, things are bound to go wrong at the worst possible moment. If your mobility equipment gets damaged and you find yourself in need of repairs, you’ll need to know where to get it fixed. Luckily, LA is full of repair shops that will also work on wheelchairs. 

If you’d rather go to a wheelchair-specific shop, popular ones include One Stop Mobility, Craft Wheelchair Repair, and Sherman Oaks Medical Equipment. Both One Stop Mobility and Sherman Oaks Medical Equipment also rent wheelchairs and electric scooters.

Travel parking placards for visitors

If you have a disability placard or plates that were issued outside of California, you’ll still be able to use them in LA and anywhere else in the state. If you have disability plates but are not going to be driving your own car or can’t bring your existing placard for any reason, you can apply for a travel parking placard. This placard is issued by the DMV and is good for up to 90 days for non-residents. You can download the application here.

Whether you apply for a travel parking placard or use your own placard, you’re entitled to the same privileges. You’ll be able to park at metered spots at no charge as well as areas that would normally require a resident permit. There are some limitations as to where you can park, so we suggest you read the full details at the DMV website.

Nightlife

There’s a lot of stuff to do in LA during the day, but it’s just as active at night. From high-energy parties to more laid-back activities, there’s something out there that can help you make the most out of your LA stay.

Nights out you’ll never forget

Nightlife in LA

If your idea of an exciting evening consists of drinking, dancing, laughing, and socializing, LA serves as a playground for all things lively after dark. Some of the places you could go to include:

  • The Rooftop at The NoMad Hotel: This rooftop bar located in Downtown LA offers sweeping views of the LA skyline. Although the pool is reserved for hotel guests, the cocktail bar and cafe are open to the public. Seating at the bar is first-come first-served.
  • Troubadour: Whether you’re a fan of up-and-coming artists or established ones, there’s no shortage of live music performances in LA. The Troubadour in West Hollywood is known for having played host to Elton John early on in his career. 
  • Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre: Also known as UCB, this improv group started in Chicago and launched the careers of many comedic actors. Among its alumni you’ll find Amy Poehler, Ben Schwartz and Aubrey Plaza. 
  • Avalon Hollywood: This historic nightclub plays EDM, house, and trance music, among other genres. You’ll also find plenty of live performances here. Every Thursday, the club hosts TigerHeat, where the DJ spins Pop and Top 40 hits. TigerHeat is the largest weekly gay event on the West Coast.
  • Scum & Villainy Cantina: Designed to look like the Mos Eisley Cantina, this spot is sure to be a favorite among Star Wars fans. This themed bar started out as pop-up, but proved to be so popular that it opened a permanent location in Hollywood. If you’ve got a youngling, kids are welcome at the cantina before 8pm. 

Wholesome kinds of fun

Pacific Park in Santa Monica at night

When we hear the word “nightlife”, oftentimes the first thing that comes to mind is clubbing and partying. However, you can also have fun in LA at night time without the drinks. Listed below are alternatives for a more chill night out:

  • Universal CityWalk: You can take in the atmosphere at CityWalk, eat at the restaurants, shop around or catch a movie on a massive IMAX screen. Tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood are not needed to hang out at CityWalk. 
  • Pacific Park: The Santa Monica Pier is a truly special sight to see at night. The lights from the Ferris Wheel and rides at Pacific Park give it a magical glow. Go for the ambiance, stay for the cheesy boardwalk games and rides. 
  • Evening Hikes at Griffith Park: For hiking enthusiasts who’ve always hiked during the day, this would be a good introduction to evening hikes. Just sign up for a hike with the local Sierra Club chapter and make sure to bring enough water. 
  • Downtown Art Walk: If you’re an art enthusiast, you may appreciate the Downtown Art Walk, which is held during the 2nd Thursday of the month. 
  • Wi Spa: This 24-hour spa has everything you need to relax — hot tubs, cold tubs, showers, saunas, fitness center, restaurant, and even a nap area if you still don’t feel like going home.

Things to do with kids

Things to do with kids in LA

Beyond Disneyland, LA offers a lot of sites and activities that are enjoyable for children. The city receives so much sunshine, and kids will surely enjoy the many outdoor activities. We’ve rounded up some of the most popular things to do with kids that are both educational and fun. A win-win for any parent.

La Brea Tar Pits & Museum

This museum houses the fossilized remains of extinct wildlife that lived in California during the ice age. These remains were unearthed from the La Brea Tar Pits that surround the museum. 

Kids will enjoy seeing extinct American megafauna such as saber-toothed cats and mastodons. They’ll also get a kick out of watching museum excavators work on active dig sites.

The museum also features a neat 3D theater. It shows how animals were trapped in the tar pits and preserved as relics of the previous Ice Age. 

Aquarium of the Pacific

With 11,000 species of animals in more than 50 exhibits, the Aquarium of the Pacific is a nice detour for families enjoying the day at Long Beach. 

The main draw for kids is the shark feeding at the aquarium’s Shark Lagoon. The penguins exhibit, lorikeet forest, and the sea lion meet and greet are also popular among families. Visitors are advised to reserve slots for the meet and greet. 

Kidspace Children’s Museum

Located in Pasadena, the Kidspace Children’s Museum seeks to inspire children to become active learners. The museum has more than 40 hands-on exhibits to keep kids engaged in what they’re learning. Some of these interactive exhibits are inside, while some are outside, giving your kids plenty of variety. 

Kidspace is a popular field trip destination for nearby schools. If you want a less crowded experience, be sure to check out their “field trip level” on their homepage to gauge how busy the museum will be.

Things to do for senior visitors

Things to do for senior visitors in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a big city and there’s an endless list of places that you can explore and go to. For older individuals, there are certain spots in the city that are friendlier and more fit for a traveling senior. We’ve narrowed down our list to a few popular sites and activities. Here are the top choices for seniors to check out while exploring LA: 

The Getty Center 

LA is home to many unique, and one-of-a-kind museums that could be of interest to seniors. The Getty Center, for instance, is known for its spectacular architecture, design, and art. Nestled in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, it’s accessible through a smooth tram from the parking structure, up to the top of the hill. Not only does it offer a breathtaking view of the city, but the surrounding sculpture gardens and the art inside the museum are incredible as well. 

Santa Monica Farmers Market

Seniors who love taking a stroll will enjoy their time at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. This farmers market is famous for being the go-to place for local award-winning chefs to buy fresh produce for their restaurants. Visitors can take a leisurely walk around the market, sampling fresh fruits, vegetables, and high-quality artisan foods. 

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe can be found in the heart of the beautiful beaches of Malibu. This place isn’t crowded and noisy like the usual LA hangout spots, so it’s an excellent choice for seniors who are looking for a bit of rest and relaxation without the noise. 

This cafe also offers a spectacular view of the sunset. It’s a wonderful spot to take a stroll down the pier, relax under one of the shady cabanas, and breathe in the cool, ocean breeze.

Notes and additional information

Los Angeles neon sign

Airports

LAX is hectic and very busy. This could easily color a person’s first impression of the city. Using one of the following airports might provide you with a less stressful experience.

  • Bob Hope (Burbank) Airport – nearest to San Fernando Valley
  • Long Beach Airport – easy access to Orange County
  • Ontario International Airport – nearest to Inland Empire (cities of Riverside, Ontario and San Bernardino)
  • John Wayne Airport –  closest to Orange County

Ethnic Enclaves

Little Tokyo in Downtown LA

Diversity is a beautiful part of LA’s culture. Many communities with roots coming from all over the world call Los Angeles home. Travelers can sample the cultures, cuisines, and heritage of many ethnic groups by visiting these ethnic enclaves. Among such communities you’ll find:

  • Chinatown
  • Historic Filipinotown
  • Koreatown
  • Little Armenia
  • Little Ethiopia
  • Little Tokyo
  • Little Bangladesh
  • Thai Town
  • El Salvador Community Corridor

Safety

The majority of the must-see places in LA are safe. However, you must always exercise proper caution, especially when walking at night. Visiting Skid Row and certain areas around South Los Angeles is not advisable for casual tourists. 

Visitors should also be aware that they might run into wildlife when hiking. Rattlesnakes are among the native fauna and can be found on many trails. Always be mindful of your surroundings.

Questions?

We hope that our Los Angeles travel guide has been helpful to you, but if there’s anything we didn’t address that you’d like to have answered, please let us know in the comments. We’ll do our best to get you all the info you need. Likewise, if you are interested in more personalized recommendations, leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. We want every visitor to love LA as much as we do, so we’ll do what we can to help your trip go smoothly.

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