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Visitors Guide to Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (LA) VISITORS
Background and Ten Tips for Making the Most of Your Time in LA
From the Center for Global Education at CSUDH

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Background About the "City of the Angels" – Los Angeles

The Los Angeles coastal area was first settled by the Tongva (or Gabrieleños) and Chumash Native American tribes thousands of years ago. The first Europeans arrived in 1542 under Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, a Portuguese-born explorer who claimed the area as the City of God for the Spanish Empire. Los Angeles was founded September 4, 1781, by Spanish governor Felipe de Neve as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de la Porciúncula (The Village of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of Porziuncola). It became a part of Mexico in 1821, following its independence from Spain. In 1848, at the end of the Mexican-American War, Los Angeles and California were purchased as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, thereby becoming part of the United States. Today, LA County has a population of 10 million, including people from more than 140 countries speaking 224 different languages, making Los Angeles a mirror of the world.

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Find Your Los Angeles

The City of Los Angeles is only a small part of what many think of when they come to LA. For travelers, it might be easier to look at Los Angeles as a group of villages or cities in the Los Angeles area, sometimes referred to as LA’s Greater Metropolitan area or the Southland. Chances are that your visit to the Los Angeles area will include stops at many LA area landmarks, including the Getty Museum (Brentwood), the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Santa Monica Pier, and Disneyland (Anaheim), each offering different things to do and see. All combined, the area has about 13 million people. Make sure you are informed to find the part of the Southland that meets your interest and makes you feel at home in LA.

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People of Los Angeles

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world. It includes the second largest population of Koreans, Mexicans and Samoans outside of their home country and is home to numerous ethnic neighborhoods that define the city’s multilingual character. The many different cultures create a melting pot that is hard to find in other cities across the world. It wouldn’t be a typical day in LA without eating an exotic dish, hearing a foreign language, or soaking up all the other flavors the city has to offer.

There is no one "LA story" - while you're here, talk to people from "LA" and get their "LA stories" to better appreciate "LA." Many LA people are independent individuals, many are a part of the LA one-person, one-car commute and fight the battle of driving from home to work each day. Sometimes, what brings LA people together are things like sports teams in LA (professional: Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, Kings, Ducks, and university teams), competition with other regions (Southern California vs. Northern California or US West Coast vs. US East Coast). Although LA people may say hello and how are you, they may be moving fast and not slow down long enough to hear your answer (it’s not personal). Try to slow them down and have a conversation, but be cautious about asking about religion or politics.

Some questions that might help you get a conversation started and understand “their LA story”:

Place and Time in LA:

  • What part of LA do you live in?
  • What part of LA do you work in?
  • Have you lived and worked in different parts of LA (if yes, what did you like and dislike about the different places)?
  • Were you born and raised in LA - if not, where are you from and when did you move here?
  • How far do you have to drive from home to work (or do you take public transportation)?
  • What's the difference in your transportation time with no traffic vs. rush hour (busy) traffic?
  • How far is it from Downtown LA to where you work and live?
  • How are the public schools where you live?
  • How diverse are the people where you live?
  • Do you live close to nature, entertainment, shopping malls?
  • What are your favorite things to do and places to go during the weekend in LA?

Opinions connected to LA:

  • What are your favorite things to do in LA?
  • What do you love and hate about LA (many people don't find a middle ground - they either love or hate things about LA)?
  • What LA college and university sports team(s) are you a fan of (and which do you not like)?
  • LA is seen by many to be a car culture. If you care about cars, what kind of car do you drive, did you give it a name, and what's your favorite type of car?
  • More Complex Question: What do you think of the materialistic label some people connect to LA and the divide between rich and poor (some kids who grow up in LA don't ever get to the beach, a hiking trail or the mountains - and may not complete middle or high school and turn to gangs instead of higher education or the mainstream economy)?

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Transportation

Planning your transportation in and around LA will help you enjoy your time here. If you are renting a car, it is best to avoid rush-hour, Monday to Friday from 7 – 9am and 3 – 6pm. If you take a taxi from the airport (LAX) to downtown LA, you should be charged a fixed rate (ask for the rate at the airport before you take the taxi). While most public transportation in LA is limited to buses, there is also a growing metro (subway) which reaches a variety of tourist attractions. The subway, for example, connects the downtown area with Hollywood. No matter how you travel, planning your routes in advance by using online trip planners will make transportation in LA much smoother.

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Entertainment

Los Angeles is often called the entertainment capital of the world. From the TV and movie studios to indoor and outdoor venues for plays, musicals, concerts, and sporting events, LA will keep you entertained. In addition, the many bars, night clubs, comedy clubs (oftentimes featuring Hollywood stars), and a variety of shows and musicals are other trademarks of LA nightlife. You can also spend a day or more at many of our entertainment attractions, including Disneyland, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, the Long Beach Aquarium, Magic Mountain, etc. For those of you who prefer shopping as your form of entertainment, you will find many place to shop in LA as well:

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Nature

LA is built amidst breath-taking nature: From the Pacific Ocean to canyons weaving in and out of the city to the Hollywood Hills, there are endless opportunities to escape the noise and traffic. If you drive for two hours, you can reach the mountains or the desert from Downtown LA. Nature also provides a great venue to stay active. LA’s Parks and Recreation Department supports a city-wide network of places where you can play sports for free and spend time outside. There are numerous hiking trails throughout LA and many feature breathtaking vistas of different parts of the city.

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Educational Institutions

Los Angeles colleges and universities host the largest number of international students of any higher education institutions in the world. Visit one of our colleges or universities: Community Colleges, including the Los Angeles Community Colleges and Santa Monica College, the California State Universities from Cal State Los Angeles to Northridge to Long Beach, to the University of California at Los Angeles and famous private universities including USC, Cal Tech, LMU, Pepperdine, the Claremont Colleges, FIDM, etc.

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Culture and History

Along with its historical background, Los Angeles is the home to many museums and art galleries, including the LA County Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Petersen Automotive Museum.

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Food

The large variety of cultural groups who live in LA are one reason for the wide variety of cuisines that provide delicacies from all over the world. From original Chinese dim-sum in Chinatown, to authentic Mexican dishes on Olvera Street, to fresh seafood near the beach – LA has something for everyone. You can find many different types of food all across the Southland and find special meals from around the world by visiting the correlating ethnic neighborhoods.

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Sports

Sports are a big part of LA life - whether you want to catch one of LA’s professional basketball, baseball or hockey teams (another place to see celebrities), watch the horse races at Santa Anita or Hollywood Park or choose to attend one of the many college or university teams play across town, a high level of entertainment is guaranteed. You can also get exercise in LA by visiting a local park to play soccer, throw a Frisbee, jog, hike, or ride a bike by the beach or rent a kayak or sail in the Pacific Ocean.

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Safety

Despite being one of the largest cities in the world, LA is very visitor friendly. LA is in a large Metropolitan area and has all good things you find in the big city, but visitors need to be careful to avoid crime as well. We suggest using common safety practices like finding out about the area where you’re going and the safest way to get there, finding out which areas have higher crime rates, limiting your travel at night, using the buddy system and traveling with others, being careful when getting cash from an ATM, and using a map and planning your trips in advance to know where you are going. We suggest having a cell phone with you to be able to communicate at all times. The emergency phone number in LA is "911". Be prepared to tell the person who answers what city and address you're calling from and what type of emergency you have.

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Feedback

We hope that this has helped introduce you to Los Angeles and helps you during your visit. We look forward to your feedback so that we can help other enjoy their visit to "The City of the Angels" - Los Angeles.

Sincerely, Gary Rhodes, Ph.D., Director, Center for Global Education, University of California, Los Angeles

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