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Everyone dreams of going to Los Angeles at one time or another. A certain romance is attached to this city, the "city of angels." Even children on remote islands thousands of miles away can describe Los Angeles to a certain degree. They will tell you of glorious beaches, beautiful women, fabulous weather all year long, and how easy it is to meet real life movie stars. The incredible part is that this kind of lifestyle is true for many of the city's inhabitants. A region of tremendous size and magnitude, Los Angeles is a marvelous place to visit. The variety of activities and opportunities for diversity is practically unparalleled. Speaking in relative terms, Los Angeles is a remarkably new city, a cultural center unlike anywhere else.
 
Los Angeles fascinates historians because its history is so exciting and easy to track, and because its growth has been so amazing. The Spanish officially founded Los Angeles in 1781. The area had been inhabited by Native American tribes prior to that, and was under Spanish rule until 1821, when they relinquished their power, and the Bear Flag Republic was then proclaimed in 1846. In 1850 California became the 31st state of this new Republic, The Santa Fe Railroad finally reached Los Angeles in 1875, and from there the expansion began. However, it wasn't until 1911 that Los Angeles really started to take off; it was at that time when the first Hollywood studio was established. Just one year later, there were already 16 motion picture companies located in Hollywood. So began the history of the movie capital of the world. Since then, Los Angeles has been the pioneering force behind everything in entertainment and film, in particular. Los Angeles is a region where you can drive to the mountains and ski in the morning, then travel to the beach and surf in the afternoon. It is truly an unbelievable city, with miles of glorious beach, gorgeous mountains, interesting cultural centers and museums, extraordinary amusement parks, and of course, plenty of movie studios. The Staples Center, just opened to the public in 1999, is a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment facility, where the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, and Kings play their respective professional sports games. Concerts and marvelous events are held here as well, and this is only the beginning of this diverse haven; a city that has been designed with the intent to entertain.
 
San Pedro is the home of The Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center. Major Cruise Lines offer vacation cruises to Baja California, the Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Hawaii, and other destinations around the world. Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruise Lines, Crystal Cruises, the Cunard Line, the Disney Cruise Line,  the Holland America Line, the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises,  Regent Seven Seas Cruises, the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, and Catalina Express, along with other cruise lines offer frequent sailings that make San Pedro the busiest passenger port of call on the United States West Coast. Carnival Cruise Lines departs from Long Beach, California. San Pedro remains the easy and economical place to stay before and after your cruise.
 
Where You are Dock
World Cruise Center is approximately 20 miles south of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) via the San Diego Freeway (405) south to the Harbor Freeway (110); 25 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles via the Harbor Freeway; 12 miles from Santa Monica via the Santa Monica Freeway south (10) to the San Diego Freeway to the Harbor Freeway; 20 miles from Hollywood via the Hollywood Freeway (101) south to the Harbor Freeway. Once on the Harbor Freeway, continue south to the CA 47-Terminal Island exit. Parking is available; check Web site for directions and fees. Free shuttle buses are provided to and from the terminal on scheduled ship days. Note: They are not wheelchair accessible.
 
Getting Around
Nope. Not a myth. Not an urban legend. No one really walks to get from point A to point B around Los Angeles. In fact, locals will only walk just so far -- like from their front door to their garage and from the parking lot to the store. And since it is all a huge urban sprawl, consider wheels (be it a taxi, a car rental, a bus or a train) to get around.
 
Three airports serve the Greater Los Angeles Area: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport (BUR); and Long Beach Airport (LGB). Amtrak serves Los Angeles with its main terminal at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles.
 
Renting a car is pretty easy, but navigating the elaborate network of freeways -- not so much. All the majors are set up at the airports and pretty cheap, too -- but if a Ferrari or Porsche is your thing, consider Budget Beverly Hill Car Collection . Not only will they bring the car to the airport as a complimentary service, they'll be waiting for you at Baggage Claim where, in the blink of an eye, all the paperwork is done. Did we mention the traffic? Leave plenty of time to get where you're going and try to enjoy yourself along the way. Note: Most Southern California freeways have carpool lanes (HOV/High Occupancy Vehicles called "Diamond Lanes" in and around Los Angeles, and signified with a diamond shape painted in the lanes) -- which means there needs to be a minimum of two (a few require three) passengers inside the car to be using it. Don't even think about trying to beat the system. You'll end up with a pricey fine that will cost upwards of $300.
 
Seeing the sights will present a bit of a challenge since you'll want to use freeways for quicker travel -- a perplexing situation even for locals -- though sticking to main thoroughfares like Wilshire, Santa Monica, Sunset, Venice, Olympic and Pico boulevards is perfectly fine if you don't get crazy driving in a lot of traffic. For example, you can drive Wilshire, Olympic or Sunset boulevards all the way from the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica to downtown. It may take a while, but it does give you a chance to see a lot. You can also get to the valley through the "canyons." Taking the steep twisting roads through Laurel, Coldwater or Benedict canyons or over Beverly Glen is an impressive drive, particularly as you reach Mulhulland Drive at the tippy-top before heading down to Ventura Boulevard -- the valley's main thoroughfare. Note: Freeways running east-west have even numbers, while those running north-south have odd numbers. Most have a name as well as a number and all are well-marked.
 
Los Angeles has a light rail system that covers more than 60 miles and 65 stations with four lines. Metro Rail may not go everywhere, but it can make it easy to get to a bunch of places worth checking out, such as Pasadena and Universal City. Trains run from approximately 4 a.m. until midnight, depending on the particular line: the Red Line connects downtown to Hollywood, Universal City and North Hollywood; the Gold Line connects downtown to Pasadena and Long Beach; the Blue Line connects downtown to Long Beach with free shuttle-bus connections to LAX; the Green Line runs along the Century Freeway and links Norwalk and El Segundo. Single rides are inexpensive (well discounted for seniors), but there's a one day pass option, too. Notes: Station stops can be more than a few blocks from your actual destination, so be prepared to walk. Tickets are purchased from vending machines and the entire system operates on an honor system. That being said, there are inspectors, from the Sheriff's Department no less, who roam the cars checking randomly for tickets. Get caught without a ticket and you'll end up with a hefty fine and maybe even 48 hours of community service.
 
Edging inland, past the fabulous Getty Center near Brentwood (off I-405, CA 90049, +1-310 440 7300, www.getty.edu) and UCLA-dominated Westwood, lies Beverly Hills. Although the big chains have impinged on world-famous Rodeo Drive and its surrounding commercial streets, this is still an undeniably wealthy and glamorous part of town. Slightly further inland is West Hollywood. Like Beverly Hills, it's not home to any major attractions besides its own indigenous atmosphere, but the nightlife here is livelier than in many of the surrounding areas.
 
Some of the biggest changes in LA recently, at least in the eyes of returning tourists, have been in the heart of Hollywood. Pretty rough around the edges for years, it's recently been cleaned up, with the huge mall development at the corner of Hollywood and Highland perhaps the main sight for sore eyes. However, the old favorites all remain: the hand- and footprints outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the 2,000-plus stars that make up the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and, way up in the Hollywood hills, the world-famous Hollywood sign.
 
There are further changes east of here, in three neighborhoods that sit in various stages of gentrification. Cultured, homey Los Feliz has pretty much come all the way up, while funkier Silver Lake and Echo Park are both on the rise. There's an eclectic mix of people living in these corners of town, and the shops, restaurants, bars and clubs reflect the blend.
 
Sightsee Hollywood and Beverly Hills at your own pace, with unlimited hop-on, hop-off opportunities at 19 stops!
Xpress Shuttle provides service 24/7 to and from all three airports to really anywhere you need to go throughout the area. It is also popular for getting to both cruise terminals. (800-427-7483)
SuperShuttle operates the same way, serving the same airports. Reservations are not necessary from the airports, but they are when you require a pick-up to go back. (800-BLUE VAN)
 
Taxis can be expensive -- primarily because everything is just so spread out. A small surcharge is added for fares originating from LAX. Taxis are not hailed in Los Angeles and must be called, unless you are at a major hotel, at an airport or downtown at Union Station. United Taxi (213-483-7604) and L.A. Taxi (323-654-8400) are two reliable choices. A metered-taxi ride from LAX to West Long Angeles or Santa Monica will run at least $20, to Beverly Hills, at least $25 and to downtown, count on at least $35, but that's only if you arrive and travel when traffic is at a minimum, say ... between midnight and 5 a.m. A tip should be about 15 percent.
 
Public buses (there are more than 200 lines) are recommended for quick daily trips only.
Downtown Los Angeles has a DASH system and fares are inexpensive.
Cityline Shuttle is great if you're hanging around West Hollywood (not to be confused with Hollywood). It operates Monday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., making stops at all the major shops and restaurants. ( 800-447-2189)
Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus offers 12 routes covering the beaches, UCLA and LAX.
Long Beach's public transportation is excellent. The Passport is a free shuttle bus that provides hop on/hop off service throughout the downtown area -- getting you to top attractions such as the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific.
The Aquabus makes six stops daily from late May to early September, then weekends thereafter, running frequently along Rainbow Harbor to the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary, Shoreline Village at Parker's Lighthouse, Catalina Landing, Pine Avenue Circle and Hotel Maya. The fare is cheap and you can pay onboard.
 
Most cruise lines use the World Cruise Center in San Pedro. Cruise ships belonging to Carnival Corp. use the Cruise Terminal

in Long Beach which is a huge white hemisphere with an elevated gangway leading from the terminal to the ship. The old Queen Mary, now a hotel and museum is next to the terminal.
Both terminals are more than 20 miles south of the airport. Los Angeles is huge and distances are almost beyond taxi's limits. That's why most airline passengers rent cars.
If you use GPS the addresses are: World Cruise Center 500 N. Front Street . San Pedro . California . 90731 Long Beach Cruise Terminal is at 231 Windsor Way, Long Beach, California . 90802
 
Cruise Passenger and Ferry Terminals
 
World Cruise Center
Berths 91-93
Ports America Cruise
100 Swinford Street, San Pedro, CA 90731 
Phone: (310) 519-2342 or (310) 561-4992
Fax: (310) 732-6981
www.portsamerica.com
 
Terminal features: Features two terminal buildings, a 70,000-foot ClearSpan tent structure, three passenger processing areas, expedited U.S. Customs security clearance and baggage handling, secured overnight parking, passenger shuttles.

Cruise lines served: Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Line, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn Cruise Line, Silver Sea Cruises
 
Berth 95
CATALINA SEA AND AIR TERMINAL
Catalina Express, Inc.
Berth 95, San Pedro, CA 90731
(310) 519-7971
www.catalinaexpress.com
 
Land area: 71,500 square feet
Total berth length: 300'
Berths: 5
Height: 10'
Water depth: 53'
Terminal features: Features passenger ferry terminal building with deli, lounge, sightseeing kiosks, brochure racks and ATM; passenger processing areas, baggage handling, secured overnight parking.
Ferry lines served: Catalina Express
 
Island Express Helicopters, Inc.
1175 Queens Highway South, Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 436-2012
www.islandexpress.com
 
Features: Helipad; Island Express Helicopter service to Catalina Island
 
Parking
World Cruise Center Parking
Parking Concepts Inc.
(310) 547-4357
www.cruisecenterparking.com
 
Spaces: 2,560 secured spaces
Cost: $2 per hour, $16 (maximum) per day
Overnight parking: Available
Shuttle: Courtesy shuttle from passenger terminal to parking lot
 
The Long Beach Cruise Terminal
is at 231 Windsor Way and is approximately 30 miles from LAX via the San Diego Freeway south to the Long Beach Freeway (710); 35 miles from Downtown Los Angeles via the Harbor Freeway south to the San Diego Freeway south to the Long Beach Freeway; approximately 32 miles from Santa Monica via the Santa Monica Freeway east to the San Diego Freeway south to the Long Beach Freeway. Once on the Long Beach Freeway, follow the signs for the Queen Mary. At the entrance to the Queen Mary, stay to the far right for the Carnival Cruise Terminal. Check Carnival for info on parking. Note: No matter where you're driving from -- count on at least an hour's time to drive from locations listed above. The Long Beach Airport (LGB) is approximately five miles from the cruise terminal.
 
Passengers flying from Los Angeles International Airport after their sailing can check-in their luggage from the ship terminal; for a small fee, bypass the ticket counters, remotely check up to two bags and print out
 
Long Beach Cruise Ship Terminal
231 Windsor Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
 
Travel Time: 23 miles from Los Angeles International Airport; travel time is approximately 50 minutes. 12 miles from Long Beach Airport; travel time is approximately 20 minutes.
 
Traveling from the Los Angeles area (north)
 
Take the 405 Freeway south.
Take the 710 Freeway south.
Continue on the 710 Freeway south and follow the signs for the Queen Mary.
At the entrance to the Queen Mary, stay to the far right of the parking ticket taker for the Queen Mary; this lane is the entrance to the Long Beach Cruise terminal.
Follow the signs for Passenger Parking and Luggage Drop-Off area.
Traveling from the San Diego area (south)
 
Take I-5 north.
Take the 405 Freeway north.
Take the 710 Freeway south.
Continue on the 710 Freeway south and follow the signs for the Queen Mary.
At the entrance to the Queen Mary, stay to the far right of the parking ticket taker for the Queen Mary; this lane is the entrance to the Long Beach Cruise terminal.
Follow the signs for Passenger Parking and Luggage Drop-Off area.
Parking:
(Rates subject to change)
0 to 30 Minutes - no charge
30 minutes to 1 hour - $4.00
1 to 2 hours - $8.00
Daily rate - $19.00
 
5-Story, 1450 space parking garage.
Full payment due upon exiting the parking garage.
Handicap Parking available with proof of valid permit.
Accepted forms of payment: U.S Dollars; major credit cards.
No advance reservations required.
Oversized vehicles will be charged per parking space.
Due to height restrictions in the garage, RV's may have to utilize the adjacent outdoor parking facilities.
 
Things To See and Do

Santa Monica Pier
Built in 1909, this world-famous pier on the sparkling Pacific features an amusement park, a trapeze school, an ocean-front walk, an aquarium, an historic carousel, shops, eateries and an arcade.
 
J Paul Getty Museum
The J Paul Getty Museum complex, designed by Richard Meier, is huge, measuring 0.75 square miles and set on 110 acres. Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, the unique design, the setting, and the beautiful grounds are worth the visit alone. The museum was created by the late oil magnate, J Paul Getty. The collections range from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary art. The center consists of several buildings and a Central Garden, as well as a restaurant and cafe. Address: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, Official site: http://www.getty.edu/museum/

Griffin Park and Observatory
Griffith Park, situated in the eastern part of the Santa Monica Mountains, and covering an area of 4,210 acres, is the largest state park in California. In the park is the Los Angeles Zoo, the Griffith Observatory and a planetarium, a Greek theater with 4,000 seats, a riding center created for the 1984 Olympic Games, golf courses and tennis courts, and much more. Walking trails or drives into the mountains provide splendid views.
 
The Griffith Observatory is located on a hilltop outside the Los Angeles city center and offers viewing opportunities both during the day and night. The Zeiss telescope is the highlight, allowing for viewing of the moon and planets. There are also three solar telescopes allowing for viewing of the sun. The park and observatory are named for the founder, Griffith J. Griffith, who donated the greater part of the parkland to the city in 1896. Official site: www.laparks.org/dos/parks/griffithPK/griffith.htm
 
Farmers Market
The Los Angeles Farmer's Market first started in 1934 as a very modest affair that sprung from the hardships created by the depression. At the height of the economic depression, eighteen farmers got together and set up stalls on a piece of open land near Wilshire Boulevard in order to sell their produce direct to the consumer. This experiment was so successful that the market kept on expanding. At that time it truly was a fruit and vegetable market. Over the years the market has expanded to accommodate more and more vendors. Today there are all kinds of fruit, vegetable, and other food stands, along with restaurants, and specialty shops. You can find everything from jewelry and candles to kitchenware and kids toys.
Address: 6333 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, Official site: http://www.farmersmarketla.com/

Disney Concert Hall/Music Center
Featuring stainless steel curves on its striking exterior, this 3.6-acre complex designed by architect Frank Gehry is one of the most acoustically sophisticated concert halls in the world.

At the top of Bunker Hill is the Music Center, Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles, one of the largest such facilities in the United States. There are four venues here; the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theatre, and the Mark Taper Forum. The most visually impressive building is, by far, the uniquely designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. Also on site are the Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre, Kirk Douglas Theatre, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
 
The Ahmanson Theatre is home to the Center Theater Group and hosts a variety of plays throughout the year. Its design makes it a good venue for both large and small productions. The recently renovated, state of the art Mark Taper Forum also hosts the Center Theater Group. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is where you will find performances by the Los Angeles Opera.
 
At the south end of the Music Center is the facilities' most recent addition, the spectacular Walt Disney Concert Hall. The concert hall is hard to miss with its unique exterior of stainless steel sails. The main auditorium is designed to resemble a ship's hull and offers incredible acoustics, with seating for over 2,200 people. There are also two outdoor amphitheaters.Official site: www.musiccenter.org

Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
This is the place to go for contemporary art in Los Angeles. The Museum of Contemporary Art consists of three separate facilities and is dedicated to works from the 1940s onwards. Pieces from the permanent collection are on display and regularly changing exhibits feature new works and emerging media.
Official site: http://www.moca.org/

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
With a history that dates back to 1913, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has expanded considerably over the decades. Today the museum lays claim to being the "largest art museum in the western United States". The complex consists of seven separate buildings and has particularly strong collections of Asian, Latin American, and Islamic Art. The museum has seen ongoing renovations and expansions in recent years, in what is termed the "Transformation".Address: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Official site: http://www.lacma.org/

A suburb of Los Angeles, Hollywood is filled with numerous famous sites and attractions. The name Hollywood has long been associated with the film industry, celebrities, and glamour. Visitors will want to cruise down Hollywood Boulevard, stroll down the Walk of Fame, and see the Chinese Theatre.
 
Venice Beach
The world famous Venice Beach deserves its reputation as a place to see and be seen. An extensive stretch of golden sand is backed by a great walkway that is always thronged with people walking, cycling, rollerblading, or jogging. One of the most interesting places on Venice Beach is the appropriately named Muscle Beach, where people come to pump iron in the hot California sun. There is also a variety of eclectic shops that line the walkway selling all manner of unusual goods. This is definitely a unique spot, but for a more family friendly experience many people head up the coast a short ways to Santa Monica Beach.

Exposition Park
There are a number of ways to entertain one's self in Exposition Park. The park covers over 160 acres and includes the California Science Museum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the California African American Museum. In addition to the museum the park is also home to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Sports Arena, the Expo Center, and the popular Rose Garden, among other features. Most people come to Exposition Park with a specific purpose in mind, whether it is to visit one of the museums or attend an event at one of the venues. The Rose Garden is a pretty area to walk through with thousands of rose bushes, a fountain, and gazebos. Official site: http://www.expositionpark.org/

Long Beach
Bordering on Los Angeles to the south, Long Beach extends along San Pedro Bay. Long Beach has the famous liner "Queen Mary" lying at anchor and converted into a hotel and museum. The Queen Mary was an ocean liner used as a troopship during the Second World War. Long Beach City Beach is located just off Ocean Boulevard to the east of Catalina Terminal.
 
Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits
In Hancock Park in Los Angeles are the La Brea Tar Pits.These were formed 40,000 years ago when oil seeped through the rock. These Tar Pits would entrap passing animals which would get stuck in the substance. The tar then preserved the fossils throughout the ages. The Page Museum shows reconstructed fossils of prehistoric animals found in the giant tar-craters of La Brea, as well as the process of fossil recovery. Visitors can see bones being worked on and what takes place before bones and skeletons are ever displayed. On display at the museum are fully reconstructed fossils of a variety of mammals including mammoths, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, and others all dating from between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. There is also an outdoor area, in Hancock Park, with replicas of extinct animals.
Address: 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, Official site: http://www.tarpits.org/

Angels Flight
Known as the shortest railway in the world, Angels Flight Railway covers a distance of 298 feet as it transports people up and down Bunker Hill. The railway was first opened in 1901 when this neighborhood was one of posh Victorian homes and well to do residents. The funicular service was terminated and the railway dismantled in 1969 as the area was being redeveloped. However it reopened, in a slightly different location in the 1990s. It closed again in the 2000s but is once again functioning and open to the public for a nominal fee. If you are in the area you may want to ride it simply for the experience rather than the convenience. Address: 351 South Hill Street, Official site: http://angelsflight.org/

Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo, the Japanese enclave in Los Angeles, is a clear indication of a thoroughly prosperous ethnic group. Situated around 1st Street between Main and Alameda Streets, within walking distance of the City Hall, the Japanese Village Plaza quarter has developed. This area contains a culture center, dozens of Japanese shops and restaurants, and a large shopping center. Today, more than 100,000 Japanese live in Los Angeles and the surrounding county.The Little Tokyo Historic District, as it is known, still has some historic buildings from the 19th Century. The best way to see the area is simply to walk around. There are a number of walking tours that take in a Japanese Garden, markets, and museums. Official site: http://www.littletokyola.org/

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument encompasses the area where Los Angeles was first founded in 1781. The history of this area is extensive, having been claimed at one time or another by Spain, Mexico, and the United States. The first settlers in what is today Los Angeles were of Native American, African and European descent. It was not until 1953 that an effort was made to restore the 27 historic buildings. Located here are various museums, galleries, numerous historical buildings, as well as restaurants, shops, and smaller souvenir vendors. There a range of events held on site and entertainment of all sorts takes place in the streets. Official site: http://elpueblo.lacity.org/
 
Hollywood Boulevard
This popular boulevard is home to the Walk of Fame, star footprints at TCL Chinese Theater, a dining/shopping complex, The Dolby (formerly Kodak) Theater, Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum and
 
Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum.
TCL Chinese Theater (Formerly Grauman's) TCL Chinese Theater (Formerly Grauman's)
Featuring elaborate Chinese-style architecture, and over 200 Hollywood legends hand and foot prints set in the concrete of its forecourt, this landmark is the most sought-after theater for movie premieres.

Universal Studios
This movie-based theme park features thrilling rides including "Revenge of the Mummy" "Jurassic Park," a ground-breaking 3-D King Kong attraction and a famous Studio Tour that takes guests behind-the-scenes of a working studio!

Olvera Street
The birthplace of the City of Los Angeles, this colorful village features 27 historic buildings, a Mexican-style plaza, and a marketplace offering traditional Mexican food and handcrafted Mexican wares.

Hollywood Bowl
Designed in 1919 by Frank Lloyd Wright Jr. , this iconic bowl-shaped amphitheater has hosted some of L.A.'s most memorable musical moments, including symphonies, opera, jazz, ballet, presidential addresses and rock concerts.

Rodeo Drive/Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive/Beverly Hills
The epicenter of luxury, this famed shopping street spans three city blocks and features over 100 world-renowned boutiques and hotels, and a Walk of Style that honors fashion industry leaders.

Eating Out
As one of the world's cultural crossroads, Los Angeles is a veritable international atlas of exotic cuisines: Afghan, Argentine, Armenian, Burmese, Cajun, Cambodian, Caribbean, Cuban, Ethiopian, Indian, Jewish, Korean, Lebanese, Moroccan, Oaxacan, Persian, Peruvian, Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese . . . well, you get the point. Half the fun of visiting Los Angeles is experiencing worldly dishes that only a major metropolis can provide. Whatever you're in the mood for, this town has it covered, and all you need to join the dinner party is an adventurous palate. And since it's L.A., there's always the bonus of spotting celebrities.
 
Although it's those famous celebrity chef and celebrity-owned restaurants that attract most of the media limelight, the majority of L.A.'s best dining experiences are at its small neighborhood haunts and minimalls, the kind you'll never find unless someone lets you in on the city's dining secrets -- and this section is full of them.
 
The restaurants listed are classified first by area and then by price, using the following categories: Very Expensive, dinner from $75 per person; Expensive, dinner from $50 per person; Moderate, dinner from $35 per person; and Inexpensive, dinner from $20 per person. These categories reflect prices for an appetizer, main course, dessert, and glass of wine.
 
Universal City -- You can choose from among more than three dozen dining options at Universal Studios, including chains like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Bucca di Beppo, and Saddle Ranch in Universal CityWalk. But just in case you need a respite from the frenzied theme-park atmosphere, we've also included some of our favorite San Fernando Valley restaurants, which are within easy driving distance of Universal Studios.
 
Lucy Florence Coffe House -- 3351 West 43rd Street, Los Angeles (00 1 323 293 1356; www.lucyflorence.com). This is a great place to hear live music over a slice of moist coconut cake.
 
Paradise Cove Beach Cafe  -- 28128 Pacific Highway, Malibu (00 1 310 457 2503; www.paradisecovemalibu.com/beachcafe). Bob Morris's Paradise Cove Beach Café serves vintage diner food. Great for post-lunch walks on the beach.
 
Sprinkles -- 9635 Little Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 274 8765; www.sprinklescupcakes.com). Sprinkles bakery only sells cupcakes, but they are by far the most toothsome cupcakes money can buy. These little beauties come in 21 basic varieties, each one decorated with its signature 'modern dot'. They look like something Jasper Johns might produce after a month under the tutelage of Martha Stewart. If you ever tire of flavours such as 'chai latte' or 'red velvet', then try a seasonal pumpkin-flavoured Halloween cupcake topped with an orange frosted ghost, or an unleavened Passover cupcake crowned with a sugar Star of David.
 
The  Cheesecake Factory -- 364 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills (00 1310 278 7270; www.thecheesecakefactory.com). This is the original Cheesecake Factory restaurant, which opened in 1978, and is a popular lunch stop with cheesecakes to die for. Try the Chocolate Oreo Mudslide cheesecake.
 
Toast Bakery Cafe -- 8221 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles (00 1 323 655 5018; www.toastbakerycafe.net). As well as doing great pastries, Toast specialises in breakfast served all day, featuring French toast, pancakes and omelettes. There are also salads, sandwiches and quiches and a take-away service.
 
Urth Caffe -- 8565 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 310 659 0628; www.urthcaffe.com). Organic café with great people-watching patio for celeb spotting.
 
Restaurants
 
Ago --8478 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 655 6333; www.agorestaurant.com). At Robert De Niro's restaurant the food is a bit disappointing, but it is good for star-spotting. Read more about Robert De Niro in A-List Approved.
 
Cut-- Beverley Wiltshire Hotel, 9500 Wiltshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 275 5200; www.fourseasons.com). Wolfgang Puck's CUT restaurant at the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel is easily the hottest address in Los Angeles. It calls itself a steakhouse, but that description - like the name of the place - is a deliberate understatement. Everything about CUT declares that it is a huge evolutionary step up from a traditional grill. The interior, for example, was designed by Richard Meier, architect of the Getty Center, and it shares that building's clever juxtaposition of crisp angles and wavy lines. But the real genius is in the menu, a series of virtuoso variations on the steak-and-chips theme. The signature dish, Puck's culinary cadenza, is rib-eye of wagyu beef imported from Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan.
 
Hirozen -- 8385 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 323 653 0470; www.hirozen.com). LA is the sushi capital of the western world; nowhere in the hemisphere will you eat better Japanese cuisine. Some of the finest restaurants are so understated as to be practically invisible. Hirozen is hidden like a buried treasure within an anonymous mini-mall, but people come from miles around for its softshell crab tempura.
 
IL Fornaio
1551 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica (00 1 310 451 7800; www.ilfornaio.com). This airy Italian restaurant has its own deli, which sells a variety of breads and olive oils.
 
IL Pastaio -- 400 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 205 5444). This charming restaurant serves spectacular ravioli.
 
Kecxhup -- 8590 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 310 289 8590). West Hollywood's Ketchup, from the Dolce Group, serves vamped-up classics, Kobe beef burgers, mini fish tacos and mama's meatloaf, alongside soups, salads and seafood. The decor is bright-white with tomato-inspired lighting and artworks.
 
Koi Restaurant -- 730 North La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 659 9449; www.koirestaurant.com). Don't be surprised to be dining next to George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Douglas or Cameron Diaz at this dining hotspot with intimately-lit, tropical patios, blazing fireplaces and Buddha statuary. Signature dishes include miso-bronzed black cod, soft shell crab with spicy cream and succulent lobster tail with miso spinach.
 
Matsuhisa  -- 129 North La Cienaga Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 659 9639; www.nobumatsuhisa.com). Chef Nobu Matsuhisa's best restaurant is here in LA. The cuisine has been described as 'Asian food from God' and 'orgasmic'. It's where he started and it's the cheapest of all his places, which is why you'll need to book ahead.
 
Philllps BBQ -- 4307 Leimert Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 323 292 7613). Take away some ribs tips or chicken from here, it's the best in town.
 
Ritual Supper Club -- 1743 North Cahuenga Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 463 0060; www.ritualsupperclub.com). Formerly known as White Lotus, Ritual serves Pacific Rim fare in a picturesque oriental setting with tables inside or on a leafy patio. Try the Mystical Chef Andy Roll (named after head chef Andrew Pastore) topped with caviar and goldflake, and the lychee and pineapple Martini. Both the restaurant and nightclub attract a starry clientele including Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Britney Spears.
 
Sushi Roku -- 8445 West 3rd Street, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 655 6767; www.sushiroku.com). Sushi Roku is stylish, albeit brasher than many of its more minimalist competitors. The food (which includes dishes such as sea bass with truffle-miso glaze) is proof that when it comes to east and west, the chubo kitchen is where the twain shall meet.
 
The Grill On Alley -- 9560 Dayton Way, Beverly Hills (00 1 310 276 0615; www.thegrill.com). This is a Beverly Hills power-lunch spot. Very clubby and elegant with lots of wood and leather.
 
The Ivy -- 113 North Robertson, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 274 8303). The Ivy provides a rare outdoor-lunch opportunity. Huge star-spotting potential.
 
The Lobster -- 1602 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica (00 1 310 458 9294; www.thelobster.com). This is a former fish shack converted into a glass-walled cube overlooking the beach. Excellent seafood and service.
 
Yamashiro -- 1999 North Sycamore Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 466 5125; www.yamashirorestaurant.com). Yamashiro makes searingly powerful cocktails, and the view over Hollywood is unrivalled.
 
Zen Grill -- 8432 West Third Street, Los Angeles (00 1 323 655 9991). This is a secretive lunch spot favoured by young actresses. Sample the blissful Saigon noodles.
 
Shopping
Whether you're looking for trendsetting fashions or just some tourist schlock mementos, Los Angeles has your shopping needs covered like no other place in the world. Heck, Los Angeles practically invented the shopping mall.
 
But to really shop L.A.-style, you need to combine your outing with a trip to a day spa and make it an all-day event. For example, if you're planning an outing to the Grove, an outdoor mall (highly recommended), you should first make a lunch reservation at Morels French Steakhouse and Bistro (tel. 323/965-9595), and then go online to buy movie tickets to the Grove Theatres (tel. 323/692-0829; www.thegrovela.com). When the big day arrives, you meet your friends for coffee in the morning, hit the shops, check your packages with the Grove concierge, have lunch, see a matinee, pick up your purchases, and call it a day. Nicely done.
 
A note on shopping hours: Street shops are generally open Monday through Saturday from 10 or 11am to 5 or 6pm. Many are open Sunday, particularly those near the beaches, movie theaters, or clusters of other stores. In addition, quite a few offer extended evening hours 1 night a week, often Wednesday or Thursday. Mall shops take their cue from the anchor department stores and generally open from 10am to 8 or 9pm. On Sunday, shave an hour or two off each side, while holiday periods increase mall hours substantially.
 
Sales tax in Los Angeles is 9.75%; savvy out-of-state shoppers know to have larger items shipped directly home to save the tax.
Stellar Shopping -- If you want to mix in some celebrity sightings along with your shopping spree, head to the Beverly Center. A handful of high-end shops here cater to the famous and wealthy, particularly Hugo Boss and D&G. Other shops like Ed Hardy cater strictly to hopeless fashion victims.


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