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Sanborn GuestHouse (Los Angeles, California)

Sanborn House is the ideal retreat for business and holiday travelers. The guest house provides many of the amenities you would find at home and is located in LA's charming residential Silverlake and Los Feliz neighborhoods. It is accessible to many attractions like Hollywood, Universal... [more]
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Travel Bytes

(Travel Bytes are local area descriptions provided by people who live in the area or have travelled through it. These comments are provided as is so please excuse the odd spelling or gramatical error.

Feel like adding your 2 cents? Click here to edit or add to the comments below. )

L.A. is the quintessential American 21st century city with a lot of alcohol and drugs  embracing and absorbing everything in its path from culture to food to people and making its own. It reflects and (to some) warps it back in a manner that is uniquely L.A. 

L.A. is Americas Dream Factory and the creating of that fantasy rubs off on its citizens actually here. Take the base of the American spirit that anything is possible, add in the belief that life is like a movie and add lots of sunshine you can reinvent yourself and anything is really possible. No matter what your nationality really is you too can travel halfway around the world to win an Oscar®, live in Beverly Hills or come from a small Austrian village penniless and become governor of the state. 

The city has everything whether youre jet set, roughing it or in between it is ALL here. L.A. is cosmopolitan, quaint, crazy, quiet sophisticated, down-home and everything in between. It got riches and poverty sometimes only blocks away. You can have and see it all.

First geographically, L.A. County really encompasses hundreds of suburbs and other cities. Los Angeles itself is just the downtown area that you often see and maybe ten miles west. For instance, Beverly Hills is really its own city not legally part of L.A. But of course, outside of city politics, no one really makes that distinction. So, while were really crosses legal boundaries, well just call most of it all L.A.

L.A. is all about the neighborhoods (though some are technically cities) some are world famous BEVERLY HILLS, HOLLYWOOD, UNIVERSAL CITY, MALIBU, SANTA MONICA, VENICE, BURBANK, SAN FERNANDO VALLEY, PASADENA, CENTURY CITY, SOUTH CENTRAL (now SOUTH LOS ANGELES)  including world famous streets such as SUNSET, MELROSE, OLIVERA, RODEO, SANTA MONICA, MULHOLLAND and even infamous such as FLORENCE and NORMANDIE. And these are just the world famous ones there are literally hundreds of other cities, places and streets equally interesting.

The question is where to begin?


The obvious are the entertainment related. Lets start northeast and work our way south. 10 miles north of downtown is GLENDALE & BURBANK. Not as well know but thats where the inside work of entertainment is. Glendale is home to DreamWorks Animation and Nickelodeon Animation studios (no tours) and hundreds of small production studios, special effects and prop houses. As we move to Burbank, NBCs West Coast HQs & Disneys main HQs are there (both on Olive St.). A block away is Disney Animation and Disney Channels building. The Disney HQ features the 7 dwarves holding up the roof the lot also houses a small studio. It is closed to the public but you can photograph from the street. The Tonight Show is taped at the NBC studios. There is a queue out front on taping days starting by early afternoon. If you look up to the mountain range, the back part of Griffith Park that is where MASH was filmed. A few blocks further west is the WARNER BROS. STUDIO you cant miss the mammoth advertising it is also a working studio and there are tours. I believe you have to call ahead to reserve (unlike Universal Studios). As you continue along Ventura Blvd., there are other studios (mostly TV) that are discreet in appearance such as the CBS STUDIO CENTER where there are always dozens of sitcoms being taped there (Seinfeld was there). You can get free tickets sitcoms usually tape Friday nights. At that point, you can swing south and no more than a few miles away is UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. No great detail needed here, as its internationally known.


Yes, there really is a neighborhood called Hollywood. Its about 3 miles south of Universal City. As you exit the freeway, the Hollywood Bowl is hidden in the hills to your right and a few blocks away is the famous CAPITOL RECORDS round building (that resembles a stack of records) that we know. At that point you are at the famous HOLLYWOOD & VINE. A few blocks to your right is the (Graumanns) Manns Chinese Theater and the Hollywood WALK OF FAME. They also added a new mall and the now-famous KODAK THEATER where the Academy Awards are now permanently. The JIMMY KIMMEL SHOW also tapes across the street. While they have fixed up the neighborhood a bit and the streets with the theaters are packed day and night the other streets are still a bit shady at night so the tourist stuff is best done by day. A couple blocks south is HOLLYWOOD HIGH SCHOOL. Going south to Melrose Avenue, if you turn left, you will soon hit PARAMOUNT. The gates are instantly recognizable but no tours. There is the HOLLYWOOD CEMETARY by Paramount Studios. There are also many other TV studios in the area but from the outside, they pretty much just look like office buildings. If you turn right on Melrose and then turn left on Fairfax, you can see CBS TELEVISION CENTER (more TV show tapings).


About 10 miles west is Century City. It used to all belong to Fox but they had to sell it allegedly to pay off debts from the production of Cleopatra. You can see glimpses of the Fox lot (no tour) and on the AVENUE of THE STARS is the famous Nakatomi building from DIE HARD (now known as the Fox Tower). AVENUE of the STARS also is west coast HQs for most cable companies and ABC (no tours). Nearby in Culver City is Sony & MGM (no tours and not much of a back lot).

Now, you can overlay the next-level tourist destinations while youre visiting some of the entertainment related sites.


Downtown is recognizable for the tallest building on the west coast the Library Tower and many iconic buildings seen in countless TV shows and movies including the round glass tower Bonaventure Hotel (TRUE LIES), the Arco Towers and the Wells Fargo Building (LA LAW). Even the streets in the area are often featured as they rise up and down on different tiers so a) the chase scene in a confined area can look different with every new shot and b) Downtown is pretty much deserted on the weekends. The Museum of Contemporary Art is here as is the new Frank Gehry Disney Symphony Hall. Other architectural showpieces are the Italianate Renaissance-style Biltmore Hotel, facing renewed Pershing Square, and the Beaux Arts-style Central Library, and the Mission-style Union Station captures the heyday of train travel. You can also catch the ANGELS FLIGHT cable car here doesnt really travel very far. LA DOWNTOWN is slowly evolving into more residential but for a huge massive metropolitan area, its essentially deserted past 6 PM and on the weekends. As its tilted towards financially related companies, they do tend to keep bankers hours in DOWNTOWN. There are some hidden (night) clubs and other hangouts for artists but you have to know where to look.

There are also dozens of great high-end business hotels in the area if youre conventioning here, staying downtown is the most convenience with the best hotels. If youre doing the usual LA tourist thing, theres no particularly reason to stay downtown. Its really far from most of the action though the Metro Rail has shortened that distance somewhat. For people from other countries or cities, they usually think of downtown as the hub of the city in LA, unless youre at a convention or you have financial business downtown is nearly an hour to two hours away from everything else during rush hour commute and frankly, the LA commute is almost longer than non-commute hours so be warned.


Going a few blocks is the Convention Center. While the Convention Center is nice, the blocks are VERY, VERY long around there so keep in mind once youre at the convention center, you need a car or a cab to get out of there. For the adventurist, you can visit the Wholesale/Latino district a few blocks east. During the day, it is teeming with life, south of the border music, and crowded with food and color. Its an amazing contrast to the sterility of the area around the convention center or the serious suits in downtown. There are some streets you swear that you are in Mexico City or Guatemala. You are expected to speak Spanish but everyone is friendly in the shops and restaurants if youre a gringo :- ) this is probably not a neigborhood to wander around along at night like any big city at night but its great fun and good eating during the day.

Further south is USC and the Coliseum.


Slightly east and north of downtown. To be honest, L.A. Chinatown is much better seen in the movies in reality, its 4 or 5 drab looking streets with a few touristy looking Chinese gates and arches. There are very few actual Chinese people in Chinatown. They have nearly all moved east to Hacienda Heights/Rowland Heights. So, with the exception of the Dim Sum in the Empress Palace, dont not eat here unless you think TV-dinner quality fried rice is exotic. There are some amusing trinket stores and other gewgaw stores but its pretty much nothing. Chinatown is really more Vietnamese than anything so if you love Vietnamese noodles, you cant go wrong with many choices. Japantown is not much better. L.A. offers hundreds if not thousands of excellent Japanese restaurants some internationally famous - ironically enough, in Japantown, theres not much to recommend. Olvera Street, the historic Latino/Hispanic community is a worthwhile stop however. It is a bustling community of colorful shops, restaurants and street vendors. El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument encompasses 27 buildings of historical or architectural significance. You can also tour the 1818 Avila Adobe, the city's oldest home.

The world famous CITY HALL is in this area. On the freeway and one exit north is Dodger Stadium.


As you go further west along OLYMPIC BLVD, you will run into Koreatown, its not contiguous but its a working community again full of people doing business, shopping and eating. If you love your kimchee and BBQ you really cant go wrong. There are several huge malls with many shops and giant supermarkets. Most of the signs are in Korean but that hardly matters.


East of Burbank is Pasadena. World class Ritz Carlton is there old money L.A. Rose Bowl and the famous Rose Bowl flea market no way can you take it all in a day. Most of the restaurants in Pasadena are excellent.


In Glendale, there are several huge malls including the Glendale Galleria (not THAT Galleria), as well as North Brand Street, which features hundreds of shops and restaurants. Theres also a great only-known-to-local chicken eatery ZANKOU CHICKEN in Glendale (as well as other cities).

Further north in Burbank downtown is even greater shopping another huge Media Center Mall, Ikea and near the Burbank Airport another massive mall with dozens of stores.

On the other side of Glendale is GRIFFITH PARK where you can find an oasis of green. There is a Gene Autry museum; some kids attractions and best of all Griffith Park Observatory. If the skies are clear and the smog not too bad, its definitely worth a winding road drive to see both LA from a great vantage point and of course, the setting for countless movies (TERMINATOR, BOWFINGER, et al).


For those who want to explore the hidden L.A., nearby are three cities with artisan communities with hip movie stars, offbeat shopping, fun nightclubs and great restaurants.


As you continue west, you reach Hollywood. The real Hollywood is a down-on-the-luck town way past its prime especially during the day. Other than its famous few blocks, for those that do not want to see behind the curtain, its best to stick to famous streets. Up in the hills are some still-famous restaurants and its a fun (if hidden) drive to the Hollywood Reservoir. At night, there are some 30-40 clubs in the area. Pick up a copy of the LA WEEKLY to get an idea of whats going on.


Above West Hollywood and further west, this is where the famous and rich houses in the hill start. A daytime driving activity for those so inclined.


One of the first upscale gay communities, it is not really so defined now. People of all persuasion call it home but only if youre wealthy and stylish :- ) The famous Sunset Strip is in the area. It is not surprisingly full of great restaurants and star watching (original Wolfgang Pucks Spagos is here).


South of West Hollywood is the segment of Melrose Avenue made famous. It really just runs from about 3rd Street to Fairfax full of one-of-a-kind-shopping, it is less unique than it once was but still fun to check out. A few blocks south is on Fairfax is the Farmers Market (Next to CBS TV Center noted above) along with L.A.s latest upscale mall the Grove. A few blocks south is the La Brea Tar Pits and the LA County Museum. Forget the fancy restaurants stop by Roscoes Chicken & Waffle House! (not really on Melrose but in the area). There are also more 3-star/4-star restaurants in the area (not on Melrose itself) so pick up a ZAGAT guide to see what fits your bill. Again, everything from a $3 lunch to $300 lunch is in the area.


Another fabled LA street. Here youll find the Beverly Center and the internationally famous sushi restaurant, Matsuhisa along with dozens of excellent to amazing restaurants. The Ivy is a few blocks west. Frankly, the food is not that great but if you want to eat where the movie power brokers eat be warned you will not get a table M-F during regular lunch hours unless youre somebody.

There are also many 5-star hotels in the area.


Its a cliché but its also all-true. The streets are filled with Bentleys and Ferraris. There are drop-dead gorgeous women who are walking a French poodle wearing a diamond collar worth more than most people. Its all fake but very real. Rodeo is only a few blocks long and perhaps not as ritzy and unique as before but still the embodiment of the leisure life. There is of course, more shopping everywhere including a Barneys across from Rodeo. There are less discreet 5-star hotels right on Wilshire (PRETTY WOMAN) and more discreet 5-star hotels closer to the mountain range too many to name. The Merv Griffin Beverly Hills Hilton is nearby where the Golden Globes are held every year.

Above Santa Monica Blvd are where the mansions start. Buy a star map to catch some older star homes.

WESTWOOD (further West)

Westwood Village is UCLA a sprawling beautiful campus and a mini city in front of the campus full of student restaurants and shopping.


South of Westwood. Another huge mall (CENTURY CITY PLAZA ) and much shopping. Theres another Galleria mall a few blocks away.


North of Westwood is Bel Air and Holmby Hills (where the Playboy Mansion is). You cant see much from the street.


West of the 405 Freeway is Santa Monica. A huge sprawling city itself of immense economic diversity with its own neighborhoods.

For teens and tourists, the mall, the pier and the boardwalk are big draws for other LA natives not so much. But LA natives will tolerate the 3rd street promenade as its one of the few areas of Santa Monica with nice restaurants AND parking. For shopping, Santa Monica has little hidden pockets like Montana Street and others who are willing to venture off the beaten path.

Santa Monica has some world class resorts, spas and hotels near the beach.


South of Santa Monica is Venice Beach/Muscle Beach. Its not so much a cliché but people who live and hang there are there to play their part in the LA movie of life. Its something everyone has to do its amusing and at some point or another, you have to do it. Parking is difficult. Venice also has a nice Farmers Market on the weekends with great breakfasts. You can also drive around the canal area to see some excellent Post-Modern homes as well as Frank Gehrys house along with his fun design of the ad agency Chiat/Day Mojo on Main Street.  On the weekdays Venice is frequented by one-man shows of all types. You have rappers, musicians and street-magicians all along the boardwalk performing for tips. (You can generally see these same acts on the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica on the weekends.) The boardwalk sports shops as well, sunglasses, convenience stores, tatoo parlors and eateries of many different stripes. There's even a bar, The Venice Bistro, just south of Rose on the boardwalk. There's a nice ambience there where you can watch the passers-by while knocking back a couple of cold ones. (They also have excellent cheese fries.)


Going north of Santa Monica. The Getty Museum is north of Pacific Palisades. Parking is still limited but you dont need to call anymore and theres even a bus line there its definitely a half-day event and almost a full day (if your museum visit is brief) but the view on a sunny day is worth it.


Way north of Santa Monica. The beaches are excellent and if you have a convertible, fun to drive through the canyons to hook up with the 101 in the valley but most of the community is hidden from view and its mostly residential so if seeing expensive homes is your thing then pay a visit to Malibu otherwise, its a quaint seaside community with not much to do or really see.


LAX is next to El Segundo and if you enjoy an oil refinery on the beach, heres your chance to be reminded of what LA needs to put its 10 million cars on the road. Hawthorne is also the new location of the hip Japantown though its not all that touristy and its not all in one contiguous clumping, youll find great Japanese/Asian shopping and restaurants scattered throughout the area. You can continue along Highway 1, which goes back towards the coast to check out some of the upscale beach communities of MANHATTEN BEACH/HERMOSA BEACH & REDONODO BEACH. If you continue south, youll soon enter another very upscale beach town of PALO VERDES and the even more exclusive PALOS VERDES ESTATES multi million dollar on cliffs overlooking the Pacific. Further south is LONG BEACH home to the LONG BEACH Grand Prix.


While the movies and TV shows show you differently, once youre pass the age of high school and definitely college most people in LA do NOT go to the beaches. During the summer, the only people who tend to go to the beaches (besides boys and girls being boys and girls) are people without pools. Yes, people will jog along the beach in the morning in Malibu but once the sun comes out, the best beaches are pretty sparse.


To the locals, ORANGE COUNTY people do not think of themselves as ANGELINOS and vice versa. But of course, to the visitor, its just all just one mass of humanity connected in a geographic basin.

ORANGE COUNTY cities (for the most part) are bedroom suburban communities and the upscale communities out number the poor ones probably 10 to 1.

Of course, the most famous city in Orange County is un-doubtedly Anaheim with a little tourist destination called DISNEYLAND. Theres not much more that needs to be said about Disneyland except just a few tourist hints. Presuming you have a car, your best bet is to stay at a Disney hotel property you get extra privileges though their Anaheim hotels are older. If youre not staying at a Disney hotel there is NO NEED to stay in Anaheim. Get a map and look around. Disneyland is smack-dab in the middle of a city with grids as streets you will have zero trouble driving there in the morning as long as you dont need to get on the freeway so its fine to stay in a neighboring city where the same rate might you get a much better hotel. Do NOT think you have to stay in a motel nearby. DISNEYLAND is nothing like DISNEY WORLD in terms of distance. There are also thousands of restaurants in Anaheim and the cities around there no need to eat at the park for every meal.

The rest of ORANGE COUNTY is really pretty much just shopping. The shopping center may not have been invented in Southern California but OC pretty much perfected it. One of the largest and most upscale mall in America is called the SOUTH COAST PLAZA in COSTA MESA. The OC AIRPORT is also next to COSTA MESA as you continue west, youll be entering NEWPORT BEACH with two dazzling upscale malls and plenty of other shopping. It has a nice beach and a very upscale marina and yacht club. There are also plenty of resorts and expensive restaurants not as world famous as the LA ones more in the line of upscale chains.

If you continue south, its LAGUNA BEACH (multi-multi-million dollar cliff homes), SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, DANA POINT (resort), et al

On the north side of Orange County is the new and true Chinatown for the upscale new expats from Singapore, Taiwan and China (as well as the suburban Chinese in Southern CA) they are not all connected or contiguous but the malls and strip malls all bear Chinese words and its 99% eating and shopping so if you want authentic and you are a true foodie, the new Chinatown within the cities of ROWLAND, FULLERTON or HACIENDA HEIGHTS and the places to be.  

In Orange County, there is also KNOTTS BERRY FARM but its not in the world-class of a DISNEYLAND or UNIVERSAL STUDIOS.


And for those with much more time, in wintertime, there is the resort community of PALM SPRINGS (also outlet shopping).

In spring or fall, theres JOSHUA NATIONAL FOREST and YOSEMITE (summer also) and of course for those who have the urge to drive 4 hours (at top speeds :- ), theres LAS VEGAS (of course, not really California).


If youre here for more than a day, you will need a car. Unless you are seasoned Angelino visitor or have a savvy travel agent, there are very, very few parts of the towns I listed above that you walk to. The only taxis are at the airport and at hotels. Everything you must call for a cab and its very expensive since nearly everything is far away. There is a new train line called the METRO RAIL, which does take you from downtown to parts of Hollywood and up to the Valley. Its pretty limited but acceptable if youre downtown and youre only in town for a day or two.

There is some LIGHT RAIL and many buses but unless youre savvy, you will save so much more time having your own car.

Because LA drivers are used to having thousands of cars at their sides everyday, they are actually pretty good drivers (unless its raining). They realize that people sometimes need to merge three lanes because thats the only exit to the next freeway. Keep in mind that all the freeways essentially merge back up together so dont panic and yes, there are certain parts you do not want to exit at night true of almost all big cities. Just carefully map out where you want to go.

Keep in mind that commute hours M-F start at about 5:30 AM and end around 10:30 AM and start back up at 2:30 PM to 7:30/8:00 PM. So plan carefully what you want to do and where you want to go. In almost all cases, theres really no such thing as a reverse commute anymore but in some spots, youre okay.


But speaking of driving, for those who have the time and want to see more of LA, there is nothing better than driving through large parts of it to get a flavor of the city.


A street that runs on the top of the LA mountain range on one side LA, the other side, the San Fernando Valley. You can drive it during the day and later at night to see the sky (if its clear) and the bright lights of both cities below. Its best to travel in a westerly direction. As you past West Hollywood, it starts to become almost rural drive that part during the day, as it can be treacherous at night.


For those who want to genuflect on the city that is LA. Start in the poor part of town in the SILVER LAKE area and go west on either street and watch as the city and the street becomes richer and richer. Melrose is the shorter drive. If you keep going on Sunset, eventually you wind up near Malibu.


Both daytime drives - The best drive is to either go south from Newport to San Diego or north from Santa Monica to Highway 23 which can then take you through the LA mountains (youll be amazed this FOREST is only 15 minutes away from 20 million people) until it reaches the 101 and you can loop back east towards civilization.


LA & OC are served by five airports: LAX, Burbank, Orange County, Ontario and Long Beach.

LAX is the international airport and gets the most domestic long distance flights so you may not be able to avoid it. Its like every other major US airport. Lots of carriers but also lots of people and maze to get a rental car and exit the airport. If youre here in the US and your preferred destination is LA, if you can Burbank is a great airport and much easier to get in and out of than LAX. Its really only about 15 minutes from downtown (most people forget that). SOUTHWEST AIRLINES has a lot of Burbank flights.

LONG BEACH & ORANGE COUNTY because of sound restrictions have much more limited flights and tend to cost more. Long Beach airport is only about 15 miles south of LAX & 20 miles north of OC Airport. So its not a bad way to go if Disneyland/OC is where youre headed. Dont dismiss it straight away.

OC Airport is a mini LAX. With sound restrictions, not a lot of flights so it tends to cost more to fly directly to OC Airport plus there are lot of corporations near the airport so fares are more business oriented. Geographically, I think Long Beach airport is actually closer to Disneyland than the OC airport though people naturally presume you should land in the same county where you are going. So, dont feel you have to fly to OC Airport.

Ontario is only a good choice if a) you intend to stay in the Inland Empire area or b) youre landing and leaving on a weekend. Traffic to and from Ontario during M-F is a nightmare in hell on a hot day. Its really only about 40 miles from downtown LA but it can be a 2-3 hour drive during commute times. So, if you must land on a weekday, land and be out of the airport after 10:30 AM and your flight must leave in the morning or at the latest 2:00 PM unless you enjoy a 3-hour 40-mile drive.

LA (and OC) is the great America city of the 21st century. Its is built on dreams and the dream factory. In some places, it is a miles wide but only an inch deep but sometimes, a little fantasy is a good thing. Have fun! 


LA tends to confuse people because it can get up to 80-85 degrees in the middle of winter so people presume summers must be blazing - strangely enough, it's not that much hotter during the summer. Maybe up to 80 on average and up to 95 degrees on average during most heat waves - in fact, during most years, I'll bet New York gets more 100+ days than Los Angeles ... and

rarely is it ever humid. L.A. is pretty much sunny and once you're past the beach, proably 72 to 80 during fall & winter and 75 to 95 during the summer. There it's not that smoggy anymore ... okay, most of it is blown and settles in RIVERSIDE COUNTY (east of LA) but in LA, it's quite nice now. The beaches tend to be a few degrees cooler and with a breeze but not a huge difference, unlike SF. About the only way to really tell is that it cools down much faster at night during winter so between November and March 1, bring a sweatshirt if you're near the beaches - otherwise, you can pretty much see why people move to LA and never leave

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