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Los Angeles is glitter and glamour in the movie studios and Beverly Hills, but also a very multicultural city with residents who have their roots in all continents. The largest minorities have their own neighborhoods: Filipinotown, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Little Armenia, Little Persia, Little Gaza, Thaitown, Koreatown, Little Ethiopia and Little India. Los Angeles is a city with unprecedented shopping opportunities, beaches nearby, but a desert too. Los Angeles is Disney World, but also a variety of top class museums. You must get to know Los Angeles in order to be able to love it.
In the center of the city (Downtown) lies the historical district of El Pueblo. This is where Spanish settlers founded a Catholic mission which later became a village with the long name El Pueblo de Nuestro Señora la Reina de Los Angeles del Río Porciúnla (The Town of Our Lady The Queen of Angels on the Porciúncular River). Well, quite a mouth full and we can be glad that the Americans use a shorter version of the name of the city. The oldest house of Los Angeles is on Olvera Street and inside you can see how the Spaniards lived at that time. There are also many Mexican restaurants in this area.
Hollywood is the most famous part of Los Angeles. The fifteen meter high letters in the mountains are known all over the world. Hollywood Boulevard has become a very commercialized happening, with a Ripley's Believe It or Not and a Wax Museum. The Hollywood Walk of Fame carries the names of over 2200 celebrities by now.
West Hollywood is a popular nightlife district with excellent restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Further west lies Beverly Hills. Many tours are offered to visit the houses of celebrities in this chic neighborhood, but you won't see much more than high fences and walls. A waste of money. Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Larchmont Boulevard and Melrose Avenue are the streets where the stars run their errands. Here you'll have a greater chance of an encounter with a celebrity 'in the wild'.
Shopping in Downtown is something different. Entire streets are specialized in a certain product here: flowers, jewelry, clothing, toys, art, antiques, etcetera. Designer clothing is available for small prices here too. Copies of course, just like the CD's and DVD's on offer.
There are beautiful beaches near Los Angeles. To the north of Malibu lies Zuma Beach. Thanks to the great waves and the clear water this beach is popular amongst windsurfers. The wide Venice Beach attracts a mainly young crowd. There happens to be a nice neighborhood with canals behind this beach; the reason it was called Venice Beach. Redondo Beach is very suitable for families. Many activities are organized, there is a pier with amusement halls and along the beach runs a hardened path that skaters make use of gratefully.
With the exception of Paramount, the film studios no longer have their headquarters in Hollywood. They have moved to Burbanks to the north of the city. You can visit the building complexes of Universal Studios, Warner Brothers and NBC. You can walk or drive through the sets of well known movies like The Terminator, The Simpsons, Jurassic Park and Shrek. An admission ticket isn't cheap and once inside you'll notice that the prices for a bite to eat and a drink aren't modest either, not to mention the merchandise that are offered by sellers everywhere. A visit to the film studio can quickly cost you an arm and a leg.
High on a hill in Santa Monica is the Getty Center. This museum has an enormous collection of impressionist paintings, including Vincent van Gogh's The Irises.
Located in the Long Beach resort, just south of Los Angeles, is the Aquarium of the Pacific. This aquarium has seventeen large water basins and thirty smaller ones with sea life from the Pacific Ocean: whales, sharks, dolphins, turtles and a large number of colorful jellyfish. In the Long Beach port lies the passenger ship Queen Mary. It is partially a hotel, but you can view the rest of the ship.
One of the main attractions in South California is Disneyland. It is located in Anaheim, southeast of Los Angeles, just off Interstate 5. It is a vastly extended park with many attractions and it is therefore advisable you determine in advance what you wish to see. Eating and drinking in the park isn't cheap, but there is an alternative. For a bite and a beverage go to Disneyland Downtown, just outside the theme park. Don't forget to ask for a stamp on your hand when you leave the park, so you can re-enter.
There is a huge range of hotels in and around Los Angeles. Decide in advance what you want to visit in and around the city, and then choose a hotel that is conveniently located. If not, you'll spend hours on the Freeways. We also recommend you book your accommodation well in advance.
The city is notorious for its traffic jams and if you're not familiar with Los Angeles, the Freeway system can be very confusing. Especially around Downtown there is a maze of highways and you have to choose the right line on time to get to the desired destination. So buy a detailed road map of Los Angeles and orient yourself well before you hit the road. You have to pay to park on the street. This can be done by phone: dial a special number (stated on the meters) and enter your credit card number. You can also park your rental car in one of the many parking garages or at your hotel.
Los Angeles International Airport (in short LAX by the airport code) is situated 24 kilometers southwest of the city center. You can easily reach Los Angeles or other destinations in California: the airport is located along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) and Highway 42, at the intersection of the Freeways 405 and 105.
Other airports are Long Beach Airport, Bob Hope (Burbank) Airport, Orange County/John Wayne Airport (for Disneyland and the beaches of Orange County) and the eastern Ontario Airport.