Los Angeles: Thrill Rides, Great Food, and Sea-side Getaways
If you stayed for a month, you would still only have scratched the surface of Los Angeles, the world’s movie and cultural trendsetter. There is more to do here than anyone can experience in one visit, from families escaping to the coast for adrenaline-inducing thrill rides and stargazers following the dotted lines to the homes of the rich and famous, to jet setters hoping to drop in and spend a couple of thousand dollars for haute couture on Rodeo Drive and naturalists planning a seaside kayak adventure. The city is known by many names — “La La Land,” “the City of Angels,” “Tinsel Town,” amongst others — because it is many things to many people, a multi-cultural melting pot of cultures, influences and classes.
If you are visiting Los Angeles for the first time, there are basics that need to be considered when planning an itinerary. The following is a quick list of recommended destinations worth considering, but don’t expect to complete everything on your first trip. Plan it out and leave room for spontaneous activities and excursions while there.
The $1-billion Getty Center is home to European collections of art, sculpture and paintings on display. The well-stocked art gallery is especially popular with families, with its interactive displays, costumes, books, CD-ROMs and games aimed at children and adults alike. The California Science Center is also a favorite with families, having undergone some major renovations, with new interactive exhibits including World of Life, Creative World, World of the Pacific and Worlds Beyond exhibits. An IMAX 3-D theater also plays marquee films at the center.
Universal Studios Hollywood is a destination all by itself. Many visitors make the trek out West with this theme park in mind, traveling thousands of miles just to glimpse the real-life sets used in television shows and films. A featured ride is the Jurassic Park flume with animatronic creatures from the movie. Passengers experience an 80-foot descent at high speed, with a rampaging T-Rex in hot pursuit to really put the scare into even the best sceptic. Other rides include Terminator 2: 3D, Water World, E.T. Adventure and Back to the Future, The Ride. Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm top off the city’s offering of amusement parks, with ultimate thrill seekers enjoying roller-coaster rides and other themed entertainment.
Santa Monica is a seaside escape, a hop away from LA, where you can enjoy the beach from the pier or the sandy tourist promenades. You’ll also find all the beach activities that you would expect, like rollerblading, fishing and hiking. Malibu, Venice Beach and Newport Beach are other great seaside communities with plenty to do and see. Spend an afternoon in famous Venice Beach watching people on the newly renovated boardwalk, or catch a day cruise from Malibu to enjoy sun and water.
At Newport Beach, experience a unique escape with Adventures At Sea Charters. Take on one of their romantic champagne and chocolate or dinner gondola cruises. With a gondolier singing in Italian, and gently rowing the beautifully hand-crafted gondola along the channel, you can watch the sunset or gaze at the stars above. The gondolier will remind you that it’s customary to kiss when passing under a bridge. Greg Mohr and his wife, who own the enterprise, really go out of their way to ensure that couples will have a lasting memory of their cruise. Greg has even learned a couple of Italian operettas, and with enough coaxing from the passengers, he will croon in between his jokes and stories of gondola history and Italy.
To add to the Venetian experience, Greg has brought over a couple of “real” Venetian gondoliers who have mastered the trade. Kathy Leek, Director of Public Relations, recounts the numerous times she ducked out to the local flower shop to make last minute arrangements for forgetful husbands or boyfriends. They have a number of different types of gondolas, of which some are propelled by oar and oarlock, or “remo é forcola,” in the manner that authentic Venetian gondolas have been rowed for over 900 years. The crafts are usually uncovered for guests to enjoy an unobstructed view of the surroundings and to experience the passing scenery. The only operating “wedding gondola” west of the Atlantic, originally built in Venice and beautifully hand-crafted, is available for passengers looking for that special setting to pop the big question, or just to rekindle a flame.
A Paradise for the Palate
Los Angeles is one of the most culinary diverse cities in North America, from ethnic street food to the best fine dining anywhere. The best way to experience ethnic food is to head out to any of the different community quarters, such as Little Italy or Little Tokyo, where you can walk the streets, soak in the culture and enjoy some great home cooking. In Little Tokyo, if you are daring, find one of the establishments frequented by locals and order something from the Japanese-only menu. For the less inclined, enjoy any of the Americanized sushi bars along the main strip in the colorful part of downtown.
If it’s Eastern spices that make your taste buds dance, Los Angeles is peppered with great Indian restaurants. One of the more authentic cuisines is offered in an intimate setting at The Clay Pit. Owner Sunil Vora takes special care to offer a great selection of delectable vegetable appetizers, including seasoned vegetables, snow peas, potatoes, spinach and mushrooms, in addition to the usual samosas and pakoras. Ordering a vegetable dish with a meat main course is always a good idea; the contrast in taste, especially with the way they prepare their fresh vegetables dishes, enhances the dining experience. Enjoy some mouth- watering curry prawns, or the intricate mélange of lamb or beef cooked and sautéed in Eastern spices. The ambiance of the restaurant is an intimate blend of sun-yellow colored walls accented with Indian artwork, and small private tables that enhance the general dining mood. With the spices and eclectic taste of the meal, Sunil recommends a good chilled lassi (an Indian yogurt mix drink), either salty or sweet. Every good patron knows that this is an absolute must for a real Indian meal experience.
Downtown there is another place where you can dine on sushi or sashimi, at the New Otani Hotel. The hotel features the Garden Grill and Thousand Cranes, both of which carry an East Asian theme in décor and cuisine. The Thousand Cranes offers fine dining at hotel’s upper floor, with an overlooking view of the elaborate Shinto gardens and a skyline view of downtown. Enjoy California-style and Japanese dining in one of the restaurant’s private tatami rooms while the soothing song of waterfalls cascades from the garden. If you are fond of Japanese art, then you will enjoy the hotel’s elegant collection, as well as the decorations and furnishings, which include futons on tatami floors, sliding rice-paper shoji screens and ofuro bathrooms with extra-deep bathtubs. The hotel can arrange special one-night or two-night Japanese Experience cultural packages, which include room accommodations, welcome sake, shiatsu massages, dinner and in-suite breakfast.
For more information:
Adventures At Sea Charters
The Clay Pit
145 S. Barrington Ave.
The New Otani Hotel & Garden
The Getty Museum
Universal Studios Hollywood
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Knott’s Berry Farm