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Article from BTNews 17 SEPTEMBER 2012

ON TOUR: Los Angeles

The city of Los Angeles is one of the most popular destinations from the UK and worth 1.3m passengers in 2011, 9% up from the previous year.  It is served non-stop only from Heathrow, and by five airlines.  British Airways three times daily, twice daily by Virgin Atlantic, and with single flights by Air New Zealand, American Airlines and United.

Now with the UK summer and the Olympic excitement over it should be considered for a warm autumnal break. 

The glitz and glam of Los Angeles doesn’t have to come at a high price for visitors; whether interests lie in culture, art, food, or music, LA is a city for all budgets and there are some great ways to experience it without spending a dime.  And there are the studios and Anaheim (Disney etc) of course.  Hollywood and the nearly 200 handprints in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre can be added to the list that follows. www.chinesetheatres.com

Los Angeles does have a mainly urban Metro system, whilst not as comprehensive as New York and London it now serves 80 stations.  The local bus operation is pretty extensive too, and there are always taxis.  Hiring a car is not recommended unless you have to go elsewhere in California.

We’ve put together some ideas but when it comes to hotels you are on your own. The variety is enormous.

1.    Star Gaze:  The Griffith Park observatory has much to offer walk-in visitors for no cost at all with exhibitions and displays.  Also the view from the observatory – which is atop one of the highest hilltops in the park – displays the expanse of Los Angeles below and the Pacific Ocean beyond.  www.griffithobs.org

2.    A different type of star gazing:  Head to renowned shopping district Melrose Avenue where trendy shops draw youngsters, hipsters and starlets; paparazzi can often be seen angling for a shot in the midst of cruising traffic which makes stars easy to spot – just look where the lenses are pointing!  www.seeing-stars.com 

3.    Stroll into the Sunset:  Make sure you visit Sunset Boulevard and soak up the artistic atmosphere.  Stop into Silver Lake’s hipster bars that are fast becoming popular hot spots for Angelenos in the know. http://matadornetwork.com

4.    Watch Paint Dry:  LA murals are something of a city treasure, demonstrating the cultural past, present and future. You can plan your own little tour of public murals by checking out for a comprehensive listing of the neighbourhoods and stories behind the works of art. www.lamurals.org

5.    Art & Jazz:  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) offers a free Friday night Jazz Series (until November) where the finest jazz musicians from across the Southern California region play.  A great way to end or begin a viewing of LACMA’s great exhibitions. www.lacma.org

6.    Clubs without covers:  Great dance spots without cover charges can be found in most neighbourhoods; in Silver Lake try Akbar, in Los Feliz, The Dresden offers festive live music.  Santa Monica’s Circle Bar is hot with the 20-something crowd, and Downtown’s 740 offers free Friday night entry before 22:30. www.akbarsilverlake.com

7.    See and Sip:  Chinatown Art Nights happen quarterly and are a draw for local art aficionados.  The galleries in this area open their doors, showcasing many up-and-coming talents and mark their artists as the ones to watch.  They also provide complimentary wine and refreshments though if visitors have worked up more of an appetite, Chinatown restaurants such as Hop Louie, Yang Chow and Full House are consistent art crowd favourites. www.chinatownla.com

8.    Farmer’s Markets:  LA has a great array of Farmer’s Markets which offer a perfect place for free snacks and these are the places where chefs seek out the freshest seasonal produce for their cuisine. If there’s only time to visit one, the Original Farmers Market should be it!; this Los Angeles institution has been offering fresh produce, speciality foods and authentic ethnic cuisine to visitors and locals for almost 80 years. www.farmersmarketla.com

9.    Museums:  Los Angeles boasts over 300 museums and galleries – many of them with free entry.  Visitors can explore must-sees such as The Getty, LACMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), and the Huntington (which houses Gainsborough’s Blue Boy) with its beautiful botanic gardens as well as insider favourites like the Autry National Centre which also holds a weekly farmer’s market, cutting-edge art institution the Hammer museum, and Craft & Folk Art – the only museum in Los Angeles dedicated solely to exhibiting handmade art since 1965. www.museumspot.com

10.    Music Festivals:  Whether a fan of jazz, blues, alternative or music to put on your dancing shoes, Los Angeles hosts a variety of music festivals and concert series through to the end of September.  Free events include Summer Music at the Original Farmers Market, Universal CityWalk where the music and entertainment’s top emerging and established talent perform in their Music Spotlight Series, and – now entering its 28th year – the Twilight Dance Series which takes place on the Santa Monica Pier and showcases a different music genre every week. http://eventful.com

Finally if you are bored with LA, but have some funds left you can always travel on to Las Vegas.  There are numerous flights from a variety of airports, coach services, and it is around 280 miles by road. Most of the carriers above will give you an ‘open jaws’ fare including the short LAX – LAS hop.


Malcolm Ginsberg

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