Downtown is surrounded by freeways with 1-5 on the east and the San Diego Freeway (1-405) to the west. The downtown business area contains the LA. versions of Japantown, Koreatown, and Chinatown. This is where the Music Center offers both music and drama at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Mark Taper Forum. The Disney Concert Hall is here. Exposition Park features several notable museums and galleries, including the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Museum of Science and Industry, and the California AfroAmerican Museum, in addition to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Staples Center and L.A. Live are gathering places for sports and music fans.
There's a Garment District and a Jewelry District. Include the Los Angeles Children's Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Southwest Museum, the Wells Fargo Museum, the Japanese American National Museum and El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Park, and you have not one but several days of activity without leaving the main and not-so-mean streets of downtown L.A.
Olivera Street, the Spanish birthplace of the area, is a cobblestone avenue that features cafes with outdoor areas and a Mexican shopping district. The historic park is here as a reminder of the sleepy little outpost of Mexico which was the original "City of the Angels."
Hollywood: Hollywood can no longer be called the "Entertainment Capital of the World." Much of the L.A. show-business interests have moved, or have built new studios in the west and northeast valleys. But there is enough in Hollywood to give you a good warm feeling about being in the historic boomtown of the movie industry. The Walk of Fame stretches down Hollywood Boulevard. Mann's Chinese Theater still exhibits its eccentric design. Hollywood also boasts about the newer Kodak Theater, a part of the Hollywood at Highland shopping and hotel development. You can take in a concert at the Greek Theater or at the Hollywood Bowl.
The most popular attraction in the L.A. area is Universal Studios—the movie studio and the theme park that is constantly inaugurating new rides and shows. One of the most interesting and more bizarre additions is the Universal CityWalk, a fantasized Hollywood streetscape that is antiseptically clean, with polished colors, fountains (soda and otherwise) and thousands of tourists who come to people-watch. Only Hollwood would know how to turn a street into a theme park where the main attraction is the horde of visitors looking at one another. Oh, and don't forget the fabled kitsch: Frederick's of Hollywood, the Wax Museum, Guinness and Believe It or Not museums and the Hollywood Palace theater.
One way to get away from the artificial streetscapes and frenetic theme parks is to drive to Griffith Park, the green oasis that is home to the Los Angeles Zoo, Griffith Park Observatory, and the Museum of the American West, part of the Autry National Center, founded by Hollywood western movie star Gene Autry. The park is located south of Interstate 5 and north of Highway 101.
West Side: Many of the celebrities who work in Hollywood and the western part of L.A. live and shop on the west side. Westwood, near UCLA, is the newer, hipper part of town with outdoor cafes and shops catering to younger people. Beverly Hills is synonymous with Rodeo Drive, the most famous shopping blocks in the world. This is where you pick up a map on the street corner for your your celebrity home tour and, if you wish, catch a scheduled bus tour of the more prominent homes.
The former back lot for 20th Century Fox is a large outdoor shopping center, Century City Marketplace. The cultural attractions in this community include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Beit Hashoa Museum of Tolerance, and the Armand Hammer Museum and Cultural Center in Westwood. The J. Paul Getty Center's 100-acre art museum site is perched atop the Brentwood Hills, easily reached by freeways.
Mission San Fernando is a far cry from the cultural invasion of the Valley Girl cult of the 1980s. It's a serene link to the beginnings of settlement in what was (and still is) a dry, high desert between the San Gabriel Mountains and the Santa Monica Mountains of the coast range.
Pasadena is the largest city in the valley area, home to the NBC Studios where visitors to the Tonight Show start lining up early in the morning. Tours of the studios are given daily, taking visitors backstage to see special effects demonstrations, to visit a soap opera set (with the hope of maybe catching a peek at some soap opera stars on set), to walk through a working newsroom, and to view the Tonight Show in rehearsal.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is located in Media City Center in Burbank. This 12,000-square-foot museum features a hands-on Discovery Center and has room for an ongoing series of traveling exhibits. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena is the home of the annual Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game.
Six Flags Magic Mountain is the region's largest amusement park, located off Interstate 5 in the Santa Clarita Valley, near the epicenter of the Northridge earthquake. This place has more roller coasters per square mile than any theme park in the cosmos.
Los Angeles County has 72 miles of Pacific shoreline, much of it beaches. From Malibu in the north to Santa Monica Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes and Cabrillo Beach (San Pedro) in the south are beaches that are as famous as the Hollywood stars. To the south of Santa Monica and Venice are Playa del Rey, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach. Manhattan Beach, in particular, offers miles of long, sweeping beaches with picnic areas.
The Cabrillo Marine Museum is located next to the beach in San Pedro, a part of Ports O'Call Village, a chic seaside shopping district. Marina Del Rey, just south of Venice, is the largest man-made small boat harbor and includes Fisherman's Village, a reproduction of a New England whaling village. The northern beaches are covered in the Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice pages.
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