Los Angeles: Recreation


The immense size of Los Angeles and the innumerable activities offered by the city make its attractions seem limitless. Different sections of the city offer a wide range of sights and diversions, from the more than 40 miles of city-operated Pacific beaches in the west to the mountains in the east and the vast urban areas in between. The downtown district not only forms one of the nation's most modern skylines, but also preserves many historic buildings. Some of the original structures in the city can be found in El Pueblo de los Angeles State Historic Park. To the east is Olvera Street, a Hispanic district that recreates the atmosphere of old Mexico's open-air markets. Chinatown is just north of the downtown area, and to the south Little Tokyo is the social, cultural, religious, and economic center for southern California's more than 200,000 Japanese American residents, the largest concentration of Japanese people outside of Asia.

Hollywood and other districts devoted to the film and television industry are among the most popular attractions in Los Angeles. Universal Studios Hollywood features guided tours of some of the world's most famous imaginary places, and live tapings of television shows can be viewed at several studios. The world's first psychological thrill ride—the Revenge of the Mummy—opens there in June 2005. Nearby Beverly Hills, an independent community completely surrounded by the city, is home to many film stars, where opulent mansions enjoy proximity to some of the world's most exclusive stores and restaurants. A trip to Los Angeles is not complete without a visit to the newly refurbished Mann's Chinese Theatre and the "Walk of Fame" sidewalk featuring the handprints and footprints of movie legends.

Griffith Park, the city's largest, features the Los Angeles Zoo, with more than 2,000 animals; Griffith Observatory, which contains two refracting telescopes; and the Greek Theater, a natural outdoor amphitheater. Hancock Park contains the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits, where prehistoric fossil remains are displayed alongside life-size renditions of the species common to the area in prehistory.

Three of the nation's most popular theme parks are located in the Los Angeles area. Six Flags Magic Mountain is 25 minutes north of Hollywood in Valencia and features 260 acres of rides and family-oriented fun. Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park offers rides, attractions, live entertainment, shops, and restaurants. World-famous Disneyland, located in Anaheim, is home to eight imaginary lands, rides, adventures, and the famous Disney characters.

The Pacific oceanfront provides a variety of attractions, including carnival-like Venice Beach and Muscle Beach, home to hundreds of bodybuilders. Marina Del Ray, known as "L.A.'s Riviera," is the world's largest man-made marina. Catalina Island features island tours and a casino.

Arts and Culture

The performing arts thrive in the city of Los Angeles. Many consider it the entertainment capital of the world, where

The Capitol Records building stands near Los Angeless famous Hollywood sign.
The Capitol Records building stands near Los Angeles's famous "Hollywood" sign.
major television and film projects develop daily. One of America's premier symphony orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, performs during the winter at the new Walt Disney Concert Hall; the orchestra gives summer concerts at Hollywood Bowl, an open-air amphitheater designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Los Angeles Opera and Master Chorale performs at the 3,197-seat Dorothy Chandler Pavillion.

Theater in Los Angeles benefits from the motion picture and television industry. Famous personalities can often be seen in area theaters, including the Henry Fonda Theatre, the Ahmanson Theatre, and the Center Theatre Group at the Mark Taper Forum. The internationally acclaimed Joffrey Ballet performs and maintains offices in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles area is filled with museums for every taste. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County features displays of paleontology and history, minerals, animal habitats, and pre-Columbian culture. The Page Museum located at the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits is one of the world's most famous fossil localities, recognized for having the largest and most diverse collection of extinct Ice Age plants and animals in the world. The Hollywood Wax Museum houses more than 350 wax figures depicting famous people. The California Museum of Science and Industry, one of the most visited museums in the West, includes the Mitsubishi IMAX Theatre, the Gehry-designed Aerospace Hall, Technology Hall, the Kinsey Hall of Health, and the California Science Center. The Los Angeles Children's Museum is a hands-on museum, designed to help children learn as they experiment with a number of exhibits. The history of California comes alive at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum in Griffith Park, the Southwest Museum, the Hollywood History Museum, and the Wells Fargo Museum. The early Spanish colonial history of the region can be experienced by visiting one of nine mission churches located in and around the city. The Museum of Tolerance is a high-tech, hands-on experiential museum that focuses on racism and prejudice in America and the history of the Holocaust through unique interactive exhibits.

The Museum of Contemporary Art houses a large permanent collection of approximately 5,000 objects in all visual media, ranging from masterpieces of abstract expressionism and pop art to recent works by young and emerging artists. Paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs are on display at the J. Paul Getty Museum, which is undergoing a major construction project scheduled for completion in 2006. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art features permanent installations of pre-Columbian, Far Eastern, European, and American artwork, as well as a number of traveling exhibits. Other museums in the region include the California Afro-American Museum, the Armand Hammer Museum of Art at UCLA, and the many museums to be found on "Museum Row" on the city's west side.

Festivals and Holidays

Los Angeles' events calendar begins with the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena on New Year's Day, an event featuring floral floats decorated by hand. Chinese New Year is celebrated each February in Chinatown with the Golden Dragon Parade and other celebrations. In March or April Olvera Street is host to a Blessing of the Animals festival on the Saturday before Easter. April features the spectacular Easter Sunrise services at the Hollywood Bowl and the annual Academy Awards event sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican festival in May, is celebrated in a number of places throughout the Southern California area. May also brings the Calico Spring Festival at Calico Ghost Town in Yermo and the elegant Affaire in the Gardens, a fine arts and crafts show in Beverly Hills. June features the Ojai Wine Festival in Ojai and the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. The Fourth of July is celebrated in a variety of ways throughout the city, including fireworks on the oceanfront. July also features the Orange County Fair in Costa Mesa and the International Surf Festival on the South Bay. One of the oldest Japanese American festivals, the Nisei Week Japanese Festival occurs each August in Little Tokyo.

Los Angeles celebrates its birthday each September in the downtown Plaza, and Catalina Island hosts the Annual Art Festival, a September tradition since 1958. September also brings the L.A. County Fair in Pomona, a two-week celebration of agriculture and livestock featuring horse races and prize pies. Mexican Independence Day is also celebrated with a fiesta for three days in mid-September in El Pueblo de los Angeles State Historic Park. November features the Dia de Los Muertes, the "Day of the Dead," a traditional Mexican festival on the first of November. The holiday season begins in December with the Christmas Afloat Boat Parade and the L.A. Art Fair, offering for sale museum-quality artworks from around the world. Los Posadas, a traditional Mexican festival recreating the New Testament story of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, takes place each year during the week before Christmas.

Sports for the Spectator

The 21,000-seat Staples Center is home to the National Basketball Association's Clippers and Lakers, and the National Hockey League's Kings. Baseball's National League Dodgers play an April-October season at a refurbished Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles is also home to the Women's National Basketball Association team, the Sparks, and Major League Soccer team, the Galaxy. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim professional baseball team and the Mighty Ducks professional hockey team play in nearby Anaheim.

Collegiate sports are represented by UCLA and USC, both Division I National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) institutions; they field championship caliber teams in every major sport. The annual Rose Bowl, one of the major traditional post-season college football games, is played on New Year's Day in Pasadena. Hollywood Park and Santa Anita Park are both nationally known thorough-bred racing facilities.

Sports for the Participant

The Los Angeles area offers a broad range of activities for the athletically inclined. The miles of city-operated beaches along the Pacific are popular for swimming, surfing, and all forms of boating. Winter skiing areas are less than an hour's drive away from the city. The Los Angeles Parks and Recreation Department operates several hundred parks that feature swimming pools, playing fields, golf courses, and tennis courts.

Shopping and Dining

Los Angeles is a shoppers' paradise, with more than 1,500 department stores as well as countless smaller specialty shops, a number of fashionable shopping plazas, and many large urban malls. An exclusive group of stores along Rodeo Drive is the most famous shopping district in the area, but there are a number of others, including Melrose Avenue, offering the latest and wildest trends in fashion. Westwood Village is a collection of interesting boutiques and restaurants that offers a thriving night life. The Beverly Center in West Los Angeles is one of the nation's busiest malls. Celebrity sightings there are not uncommon, and Japanese tourists come by the thousands to shop as part of planned sightseeing tours.

Ethnic specialty shops can be found in Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Chinatown, East Los Angeles, and on Olvera Street. The Farmer's Market and Shopping Village in downtown Los Angeles offers fresh produce, import shops, and elegant cafes. Westwood Village and the neighboring UCLA campus are a cultural and entertainment hub filled with shops, bistros, and architectural landmarks.

The Los Angeles area, home to some of America's finest restaurants, enjoys some 20,000 dining establishments, from fast food chains to exclusive gourmet restaurants frequented by Hollywood stars. Ethnic specialties from nearly every country in the world can be found in Los Angeles. Fresh seafood and beef, as well as produce from the nearby agricultural regions, are served in most of the city's restaurants.

Visitor Information: Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau, 633 West Fifth Street, Suite 6000, Los Angeles, CA 90071; telephone (213)624-9746