20 travel tips for your first visit to L.A.
Metro operates a bike share program in Downtown L.A., Pasadena, Venice, the Port of L.A. and (soon) Culver City that allowers riders to pick up and return bikes at kiosks around those respective areas. Pay for a day pass ($7) and all rides under 30 minutes are free.
The Broad, Getty Center, Getty Villa, Hammer Museum and Annenberg Space for Photography are always free (though you’ll have to pay for parking; the Marciano Art Foundation even has free parking). You can skip out on admission fees at L.A.’s remaining institutions if you time it right: LACMA on the second Tuesday of the month, MOCA every Thursday after 5pm, the Skirball every Thursday, the Norton Simon Museum on the first Friday of the month and the Huntington Library the first Thursday of the month (with an advance ticket)
When you’re booking a hotel, pay very close attention to which cardinal direction sits in front of “Hollywood.” West Hollywood—which is technically a separate city from Los Angeles—probably best fits your image of Hollywood glamour: hilltop mansions, celebrity sightings and glitzy-yet-sleazy nightlife on the Sunset Strip. Just to the east, Hollywood is home to all of those familiar Tinseltown attractions along with a lot of grime and disappointment. The neighborhood is split by the 101 freeway; you won’t find many familiar sites in East Hollywood, but it is home to the Barnsdall Art Park and Hollyhock House, Thai Town and Little Armenia. Head north over the hills and past Universal Studios, and you’ll reach North Hollywood, which is named as such so you forget that there’s a mountain range between it and Hollywood. The once gritty Valley suburb has recently birthed its own arts district dotted with small performance spaces.
Glitz, glamour and celebrities—all things you won’t find in Hollywood, at least not on a daily basis. Once you’ve seen those immortalized names on the sidewalk (which you probably shouldn’t rub your hands all over), there’s not much more than suspect superheroes, claustrophobia-inducing crowds, star tour salesmen and a never-ending line of gift shops. If you want a peek at moviemaking magic, a studio tour or a TV show taping are much safer bets.
Despite repeated attempts to keep the booze flowing later into the evening, last call in California is 2am. As a result, to feed your night owl tendencies you’ll need to find your way into a house party—of which there’s no shortage. Now to just make friends.
Don’t get us wrong: A crunchy taco shell piled high with cheese and sour cream is delicious. But you didn’t come here to subsist on Taco Bell. If you’re looking for a true taste of L.A.’s incredible Mexican cuisine, stick to the open-faced corn and flour tortillas.
Some of L.A.’s tastiest cuisine can be found outside of concert venues or clubs after closing time. Pupusas, tamales, tacos and “danger dogs” (that’s a bacon-wrapped hot dog) can be found sizzling on shopping carts or served out of food trucks (the Taco Zone Truck is our go-to) into the wee hours of the night.
We can’t think of a more dazzling spot that so consistently wins over out-of-towners and natives alike than the Griffith Observatory. It’s a sublime place to watch the sunset—but also an exceedingly crowded one. Give yourself plenty of time to get there before the sun goes down—or take the DASH bus from Los Feliz—and stick around into the evening as the city twinkles below.
By 2021, an automated people mover at LAX will shuttle passengers between terminals and outside of its horshoe-shaped automotive hell. Until—and even after—then, you should check out flights into and out of Long Beach or Burbank. The two low-key airports are considerably less crowded, less traffic-choked and more convenient to certain destinations. Plus, we always get a kick out of boarding a flight straight from the tarmac.
While we won’t encourage you to break any traffic laws, we will let you know that almost every car-bound Angeleno technically does so on a daily basis. Relatively few intersections in L.A. have protected left turns (i.e. a green arrow), so one or two cars will pull into the middle of the intersection and make a left once the light turns red. If you don’t, prepare for a few angry honks.