Los Angeles: An Insider's Guide

Recommendations from a longtime resident of America's second lagrest city

I reckon that most people who live outside of California's iconic "City of Angels" have many images about the place.

With shows like Baywatch and Beverly Hills, 90210, along with the Rose Parade dominating the TV screen in places where it's below zero - while that parade is a virtual picture postcard - how could they not?

Having lived in the Los Angeles area for roughly 3/4 of my life, I can safely say there is more to my hometown than what Hollywood producers and the Chamber of Commerce chooses to show the public - a lot more.

Most tour guide articles like this will tell you about the obvious tour traps; in this case places like Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Venice Beach would get all of the attention.

I understand why they would; if I was from, say, South Dakota or Idaho, I'd make those attractions a top priority in my L.A. vacation. However, I imagine that there are some who want to know about other attractions, places that are not as geared to tourists as Santa Monica Pier or the Hollywood sign.

For instance, if you are the type of person who's dying to spot some celebrities, here are two places where you have a good chance to encounter a few...

Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica

At first glance, you might be saying, "Why is he telling me about some mall? I can go to malls back home!"

Having worked at this outdoor shopping center for a time back in the 1990s, I can state that I saw many a celeb on this three block radius. Here's a small partial list:

Sean Penn

Tom Hanks

Pamela Anderson

Muhammad Ali - I met him at a Borders book promotion of his and got to shake his hand, it was one of the most thrilling moments of my life.

Although many of the stores are a bit on the pricey side, it's one of those shopping centers where you can stroll around and not get bored. The street performers are good, too.

Celebrities often haunt this Promenade, which is three blocks from the ocean, because it's convenient for them; many celebs make their home in L.A's Westside, where the 3rd Street promenade is located, especially in this next place...

Malibu

If you want to spot celebs doing normal everyday things like walk their dogs or hang with their kids, check out this community.

At roughly 20 miles up the Pacific Coast Highway from Santa Monica, it's a bit of a schlep to get there, but once you're there, don't be surprised to see Pamela Anderson doing her grocery shopping or watching her kids play baseball, or Charlie Sheen, who grew up there, hanging out at the beach.

A surefire way to spot celebrities there, or anywhere else, is to look for spots where there are a lot of cameramen. Those are the infamous paparazzi, and where there are paparazzi, there are celebs.

If you are someone who just wants the regular tourist experience, I've got some recommendations for that, too...

Olvera Street

Located in the downtown area, this is a good place to go if you and your family is interested in how Los Angeles began, as this is reportedly the spot where L.A. was founded in 1781.

The big highlight here is an adobe house that people actually lived in during those days, where you can go inside and check out. It's a part of history that not enough folks seem to know about.

Most importantly, this site shows that at the same time that England was surrendering to George Washington at Yorktown, other things were hapening 3,000 miles away; a good history lesson for the kids.

La Brea Tar PIts

If you and yours want to go back 100,000 years or so and see what the Los Angeles area was like during the dinosaur era, this place in the Mid-City is good to see.

It's made of tar pits, just like the name suggests, where bones and fossils from prehistoric times can be found, and it's also adjacent to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, so one can spend the day checking out tyrannosaurus rex fossils and priceless works of art and not get bored.

Hollywood

I know, I know, most folks can't see coming to L.A. without going to the place synonymous with glamourous, red carpet movie premieres.

Located about six or seven miles northwest of downtown, after going throgh a seedy period in the 1970s and 80s, Hollywood has made a real comeback and has done well in cleaning itself up and becoming a desirable place for tourists to go.

Two landmarks that people should see are Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Nokia Theater.

Grauman's is the place where celebrities' footprints ranging from Marilyn Monroe to Jennifer Anniston are located. ceremonies are still held there periodically, as well as those red capret events.

The Nokia Theater is merely home to the Academy Awards, as Oscar night is held there yearly.

Oh, and how can I not mention the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located throughout that comumity where actors and other famous people from the past hundred years are honored?

I hope this serves as a guide of sorts for all those who want to know what those travel books won't tell you.

Oh, and by the way, I recommend Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - the two fastest roller coaster rides - Pirates of the Carribean and Autopia for Disneyland patrons. I should know - I've been there over a dozen times since I was five.

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