Moving to Los Angeles? The Insider’s Guide to L.A. Neighborhoods

car hire los angeles neighborhoodsAre you thinking of moving to Los Angeles? You’re not alone. Los Angeles is booming. People are moving to the greater Los Angeles area from all over the country, and the world. Los Angeles is now home to almost 4 million people. That makes it the second-most populous city in the country, after New York City.

Los Angeles has been featured in countless movies and television shows. That can make it seem instantly recognizable to new visitors. However, once you make it out of the airport, take care of car hire, and start tooling around, you quickly realize that Los Angeles is huge. Greater Los Angeles is the largest part of Los Angeles County, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. More than 10 million people call Los Angeles County home. To put it in perspective, the population of Los Angeles County is larger than 41 different states. And at over 4,000 square miles, Los Angeles County is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island put together.

The size of greater Los Angeles can be daunting for newcomers looking for a place to live. The city has many miles of big freeways connecting all its neighborhoods, but heavy traffic can make Pasadena seem a thousand miles away from Hollywood.

That’s why new arrivals to greater Los Angeles should shop around for a neighborhood in Los Angeles that suits their age bracket, their lifestyle, and their budget. In some ways, Los Angeles is more like a cluster of small towns than a big city, so it’s smart to choose your location wisely. You’ll probably spend most of your time close to where you live.

What To Look for in a Los Angeles Neighborhood

Public transportation is improving in Los Angeles, but you’ll soon discover that everyone drives everywhere in Los Angeles. Unless you want to be isolated in a very small footprint of the city, car hire is the smart way to see the sights, and check out the various neighborhoods. Here are some of the more important things to look out for as you’re checking out potential neighborhoods:

Parking

Since cars are an integral part of the Los Angeles lifestyle, you’ll want to keep parking in the front of your mind while searching for a place to live. It used to be fairly easy to find parking in almost any area of the city, but those days are long gone. Compared to a place like New York City, it’s still easy to find a place to park, but free parking is getting rare. If you’re shopping for a house or apartment anywhere in the city, it’s smart to ask about parking first.

Child-Friendliness

Los Angeles is a great place to raise kids. There’s a lot of activities for children of all ages, and playgrounds are usually easy to find. That being said, some neighborhoods are predominately older, or cater more to young, single people. That can make finding nearby friends for you and your children more difficult. If you want to avoid long trips in the car for everything to do with your kids, choose a kid-friendly neighborhood. And don’t forget to check out the rankings of the local schools  before plunking down a deposit.

Night and Day Differences

Some areas of Los Angeles have a totally different vibe when the sun goes down. Some commercial-centric areas are ghost towns after dark. Other neighborhoods really hop after nightfall, but seem sleepy during the day. Make sure to visit potential neighborhoods at night as well as during the daytime to get a true picture of the area.

Keep Your Friends Close

If you’re moving to Los Angeles on the recommendation of a friend who already live there, you might want to look nearby for a place to live. If your only friends in the city live in the Valley, and you live in Long Beach, you may not get to see each other very often.

Check That Commute

If you’ve already got a job lined up, make sure to check that commute. Don’t rely on the number of miles on a map to see how far you are from work. Rush hour traffic can turn a few miles into a big expedition. Try different routes to make sure you can get to work in a reasonable amount of time.

The Skinny on Los Angeles Neighborhoods

With these details in mind, let’s take a look at a selection of the most popular neighborhoods and see how they stack up:

Downtown

If you’re a committed urbanite, Downtown L.A. might be your only chance to find anything that looks like a city in Los Angeles. Even Downtown isn’t a single place. It’s a series of loosely connected neighborhoods like:

  • Arts District
  • Chinatown
  • Civic Center
  • Fashion District
  • Flower District
  • Little Tokyo
  • South Park
  • Wholesale District
  • Olvera Street
  • Gallery Row
  • Bunker Hill

Each of these little niche neighborhoods has something to offer. If you’re used to city living, and like to walk instead of drive, Downtown L.A. might be for you. Art lovers flock to the area. Keep in mind that there isn’t a lot of green space anywhere, and some of these areas can be potentially dangerous at night. If you’re a young urban hipster, Downtown fits the bill.

Hollywood

Hollywood isn’t for everyone. It’s one of those neighborhoods where there’s less than what meets the eye. On the surface, there’s a lot of familiar landmarks like the Walk of Stars and the Chinese Theater. Once you’re done trying to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, the area takes on a whole different feel. Hollywood still has lots of little bungalows and cottages that used to be quite common in Los Angeles. Small houses and apartments suit the population, who are generally more likely to be young and single than in other neighborhoods. There’s plenty of nightlife, and foodies won’t be disappointed, but traffic can be a bear, and there isn’t much to attract families. Crime is also higher here than in some of the sleepier areas of the city.

Hancock Park

Hancock Park had dreary beginnings. It was once covered with nothing but oil derricks, when Los Angeles was still a big oil producer. Luckily, when the oil ran out, the owners of the land decided to parcel it off as single family homes. A lot of the charming Mediterranean style homes still stand in Hancock Park, and the streets are very walkable. The area is fairly pricey, and the residents prefer a quieter lifestyle than other neighborhoods in the city.

Hancock Park is centrally located, which can be good and bad. While you’re close to many other areas of the city, commuters can make rush hour challenging when they cut across city streets to get home faster.

Beverly Hills/Brentwood

If you’d like to live in Los Angeles while having next to nothing to do with the city, these neighborhoods are for you. They’re immaculate, crime-free, with easy parking, tree-lined streets, and beautiful homes. They’re also some of the most expensive real estate on the West Coast. Beverly Hills has some interesting retail, and both areas have a few well-regarded restaurants. But if you’re looking for nightlife, or even everyday services like supermarkets, car hire, cleaners, etc., these tony suburbs might not be for you.

Miracle Mile

The Miracle Mile in West Los Angeles is a great neighborhood if you’re raising a family, or for people who prefer a slightly more sedate lifestyle. The neighborhood is close to the freeways, but it quiet and walkable. The housing stock is still mostly 1920s and 1930 bungalows, along with duplexes and some small apartment buildings. Many houses have usable yards, a rarity in many Los Angeles areas. Streets and sidewalks allow long walks with nice streetscapes.

The Miracle Mile might be too boring for young singles. It’s very quiet at night, which can make pedestrians nervous after dark.

Echo Park/Silver Lake

If you want to live on the East Side of L.A., the trendy areas of Silver Lake and Echo Park might suit you. Sometimes called the Williamsburg of the West Coast, Echo Park is more affordable than a lot of neighborhoods in the West Side. It has a diverse, artistic, edgy sort of vibe that young singles like. Some areas in Echo Park and nearby Silver Lake seem like the boonies compared to all the pavement west of there. Parking is a challenge, day or night, and there’s more crime than some other areas. The young-ish population churns regularly, so there’s less of a sense of community than in some other areas of the city.

Culver City/West LA

Culver City is home the movie business in Los Angeles, but you’d never know it. Movies get made in nondescript soundstages that look like big warehouses, after all. Culver City has more than its share of big, bland commercial buildings mixed in with move studios. The area is enjoying something of a renaissance, however, so you’re just as likely to find a good restaurant in West LA as anywhere else in the city. Young singles are making their way into the area in greater numbers now, but Culver City and West LA continues to be a great place to raise a family. It’s right in the heart of the city, so traffic is a bear, however. If you’re flying in to the city, LAX is very close, so a car hire and a short trip is all you need to look around the area.

West Hollywood

West Hollywood is not quite like any of its surrounding neighbors. It’s not nearly as upscale as Beverly Hills, exciting as Hollywood, family-friendly as the Miracle Mile, or scenic as the Laurel Canyon area. It’s a great place to live if you want to live right in the heart of L.A., like to bike or walk, and want easy access to shops and stores. The area is filled with substantial apartment blocks, so finding a place isn’t that hard. Finding a parking spot is nearly impossible, though. It’s a noisy place at night, too.

Westwood

Westwood is home to UCLA, which gives it a different feel than nearby Beverly Hills and Bel Air. It’s a great neighborhood for students and families. There’s lots to do in Westwood Village, and the beaches are close by. There are excellent public schools in the area, and it’s well kept and very walkable. Parking can be a problem, however.

Venice

Like many of the “neighborhoods” on this list, Venice is its own city with its own set of mini neighborhoods. It was always a funky place. It was founded in the early 20th century as the Venice of America, and you can still see the canals that wend their way through some of its neighborhoods. For decades, funky equaled seedy, and the area was considered quite downscale. That’s changed, and Venice is now one of the hottest real estate markets in Los Angeles County. Despite its upscale makeover, it’s still a charming place with a big oceanside boardwalk, funky shops, art galleries, and eateries. Residents seem to stick in Venice, so it has more of a sense of community than some other areas. Houses and apartments are usually small and expensive, and commutes anywhere inland can be challenging. There’s more crime than some other areas, too.

The Insider’s Guide to L.A. Neighborhoods rentavaluecar.com

Affordable Car Hire for Los Angeles

Remember, for great rates on car hire in the greater Los Angeles area, contact Value Rental Car, with convenient locations in Los Angeles and Pasadena.

Discover Lost L.A. at These Historic Los Angeles Restaurants

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The city of Los Angeles is fairly old, but it doesn’t always seem that way. Its history goes way back to 1781, when 44 settlers came to the area with Father Junipero Serra and named the place, “El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula.” The City of Angels as we now know it wasn’t incorporated until 1850, however, and today a lot of Los Angeles looks like it was built so recently that the paint might still be wet.

Constant real estate churn and a fetish for modernity is a hallmark of California in general, and Los Angeles in particular. That makes landmarks disappear pretty quickly as new ones are established. It also makes Los Angeles seem sort of timeless.  Our customers rely on us for car rental near Disneyland, and they often ask us to suggest historical landmarks of interest in the area. It’s fun to see how a city has grown over the years, and Los Angeles has a lot of points of interest that are worth a visit.

Perhaps one of the best time machines to discover the real Los Angeles are its many historic, iconic restaurants. Los Angeles isn’t as old as cities like New York or Boston, but it has a rich history of eateries and nightspots that make a great story all by themselves. It even spawned its own architectural style for eateries: Googie Architecture. Visiting one or more of L.A.’s famous restaurants might give you a better idea of the history of the city than any museum tour could. Enjoy our list of the Top Five Historic Los Angeles Restaurants:

The Tam ‘O Shanter

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Photo courtesy of the Tam ‘O Shanter

You might think a Tudor-style Scottish-themed restaurant looks out of place in today’s Los Angeles. It fit right in back in 1922 when it was founded. Not only has the Tam been going strong for almost 100 years, it’s still run by the same family.

Back in the 1920s, Los Angeles was filled with movers and shakers in the booming movie industry. Many preferred some old world charm over the Art Deco style that was also en vogue just after World War I.

The Tam ‘O Shanter was especially popular with Walt Disney and his workers. The restaurant still has a plaque at Walt’s favorite table (Table 31), and you can find Disney drawings scratched into the tables here and there.

The Tam ‘O Shanter

The Pig ‘N Whistle

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Photo courtesy of the Pig ‘N Whistle

Many old timers used to call any nightspot that served liquor and food a “pig and whistle.” That generic name for a casual eatery/pub was made popular by the Pig ‘N Whistle on Hollywood Boulevard, next to the famous Egyptian Theatre. The Pig ‘N Whistle is almost as old as the Tam ‘O Shanter. The Pig ‘N Whistle opened in 1927, designed to feed theater-goers before and after shows at the Egyptian.

The restaurant has had its ups and downs over the years, and changed hands several times. Its elaborate interior was mostly covered over at one point. It was restored to its original splendor with a complete renovation in 1999, so you can really get a flavor of old Hollywood along with your cocktails and meals. It’s not a stodgy place, however. The renovation also included updates that make it a fashionable destination for hip party crowds from the neighborhood. There’s a Back Room with live entertainment, and Karaoke in the main room twice a week.

The Pig ‘N Whistle

Pacific Dining Car

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Photo courtesy of Pacific Dining Car

The original Pacific Dining Car opened up in in 1921. It moved to its current location in downtown Los Angeles two years later. It also has a satellite location in Santa Monica. The restaurant has a fascinating decorative motif. It looks like the inside of a railway dining car. Comparisons to diners stop there. It’s about as plush a restaurant as you’ll find in the city, and it has prices to match.

Superb food served in elegant surroundings make the Pacific Dining Car a Los Angeles favorite. It’s their night owl hours that make them a Los Angeles icon. Where else can you get a filet mignon at 4 AM for forty bucks? It’s a great place to see plenty of late night movers and shakers in the entertainment industry after a night of clubbing.

Pacific Dining Car

The Musso & Frank Grill

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Photo courtesy of Musso & Frank Grill

Plenty of things in Hollywood are old. The Musso & Frank Grill is older than the Hollywood sign up in the hills. It’s been a fixture in the area and the entertainment industry since 1919. It changed hands in 1927, but it’s been in the same family since then. It’s an entirely old-school steakhouse, but over the years it became so square that it’s entirely hip again. Everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Steve McQueen has held court in one of Musso & Frank’s booths, and untold Hollywood deals have been made under its beamed ceilings. It even boasted the first payphone in Hollywood.

The menu isn’t adventurous, but their open-fire grill turns out steaks and chops to perfection. It’s a worthy destination for a cocktails and conversation, too.

The Musso & Frank Grill

El Paseo Inn

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Photo courtesy of the El Paseo Inn

The El Paseo Inn opened its doors in 1930, but its vibe is much older. It has more in common with Father Serra and his settlers than the naugahyde booths of some of the other old restaurants in town. The Inn is near the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument on Olvera Street. The whole neighborhood is basically a slice of Old Mexico, and a haven for tourists.

The building that houses the El Paseo used to be a winery, and it has a casual indoor/outdoor ambiance. The dance floor in the photograph above is gone, but the restaurant has strolling mariachi players and folk musicians. For down home Mexican cuisine and authentic decor, the El Paseo can’t be beat.

The El Paseo Inn

Discover Lost L.A. at 5 Historic Restaurants rentavaluecar.com

Car Rental Near Disneyland and Pasadena

Rely on Value Rental Car for great prices and service for car rental near Disneyland, LAX, and in nearby Pasadena.

Top 10 Fun, Free Activities in Los Angeles

The Smarter Travel website recently named Los Angeles the #1 Best Value Destination in the world. That’s true, but it doesn’t tell you the whole story about visiting Los Angeles. One of the reasons Los Angeles area offers so much value for your vacation dollars is that the region is so large, and it has so many different attractions. Value Rental Car is happy to be a little part of why it’s so affordable to visit L.A. But cheap SUV rentals will only get you so far. To make your travel budget last, especially for a family, you need more than just “value” for your money. You need inexpensive, or just plain free things to do.

Luckily, there may be more fun, free things to do in Los Angeles than you’ll find anywhere else. Check out our list of the Top 10 Free activities in Los Angeles to find out more!

The Beaches

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It’s hard to pick just one thing that defines what Los Angeles is about, but its beaches are certainly in the running. The movie, music, and TV industries have been based in Los Angeles for many decades, and their depictions of sun and surf has made L.A. synonymous with beachgoing. The Los Angeles area has more than 70 miles of beaches of all kinds. That makes it easy to find the perfect spot for your preferred leisure activities. It’s easy to find the perfect beach for surfing, sunbathing, people watching, or just enjoying the seaside scenery.

Perhaps the best part of Los Angeles beaches is that regular admission is always free. Some beaches even offer free parking. Many Los Angeles beaches have seaside strands full of shops, eateries, and nightspots, so it’s still possible to drop some coin during a day at the beach. However, with the money you save on admission, you can relax and enjoy yourself instead of worrying about money.

Walk of Fame

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The Hollywood Walk of Fame isn’t really a place. It’s a trail of plaques embedded in a terrazzo  sidewalk that’s dedicated to stars from radio, television, theater, recording, and movies. The Walk runs all along Hollywood Boulevard, and then turns and continues along Vine Street all the way to Sunset Boulevard. There are  now over 2500 stars featured on the Walk, so you’re bound to find familiar favorites as you roam around. Looking for favorites can also become a kind of scavenger hunt that keeps things interesting.

There are other free attractions along the way. You can visit the forecourt of the famous Chinese Theatre, and have fun comparing your handprints and footprints to the various movies stars who have been honored with sidewalk markers. You can also amuse yourself by looking at the other tourists and locals. Downtown Hollywood is a vibrant, offbeat place with lots to see and do.

TV Shows

Visitors to Los Angeles are usually surprised when they find out that attending the taping of a television show is usually free. If you’re the type of fan that likes to see stars up close and personal, sitting in the audience for a live show is the best way to enjoy an intimate entertainment experience. Unlike like live music concerts and standup comedy tours, TV show tapings have fairly small audiences with great sightlines.

Some shows are more popular than others, so you have to be flexible if you want to sit in an audience. In some cases, the shows send out buses and production assistants to round up audience members to fill up an underbooked studio. If you want to see a particular show, it’s smart to get reserved tickets well in advance. You’ll have to be prepared for a long afternoon, too. Even taping a one-hour show can take up to six hours to complete.

Venice Beach Boardwalk

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Many Los Angeles beaches have a boardwalk, pier, or strand. Santa Monica has a famous pier with amusement park rides on it. Many other beaches have seaside bike and walking paths. Venice Beach has perhaps the most enjoyable and offbeat boardwalk of all. The paved Ocean Front Walk is bordered on one side with long stretches of beach. The land side has tons of shops, restaurants, and other attractions.

Ultimately, it’s the people that make Venice Beach so interesting. The area is home to lots of artistic venues, and the public art on the buildings and other surfaces is wild and interesting. Numerous street performers, bodybuilders, skaters, and just plain freaks contribute to the funky vibe. You can pocket the money you saved on cheap SUV rentals if you park a little ways from the beach for free instead of paid lots right at the water’s edge.

Los Angeles City Hall

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City Hall isn’t the average person’s idea of fun. In most cities, city hall is a nondescript building where you pay your water bill. Los Angeles, however, has a beautiful City Hall building that’s worth a visit. The interior of the building is beautifully designed and decorated, and the iconic exterior will be familiar from hundreds of TV shows and movies.

The City Hall is 32 stories high, and for a long time was the tallest building in L.A. There’s a free observation deck on the 27th floor, which offers great views of the city. There’s also an art gallery that contains the city’s art collection.

Outdoor Concerts

The weather is usually nice in Los Angeles. That allows for more outdoor music performances than other vacation destinations. Of course you can always pay top dollar to enjoy performances from big artists at venues like the Hollywood Bowl. Smart vacationers can take advantage of cheap or free entertainment if they poke around a little.

Many parks, museums, and other venues have free performances, usually in the summer. Discover Los Angeles keeps a running list of available performances.

Hiking

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Los Angeles has a lot of pavement, and is famous for its car culture. However, it also has lots of rural scenery that’s perfect for hiking and sightseeing. There are well-marked, dog-friendly hiking trails at Griffith Park, with over 4,000 acres of hilly terrain to clamber over. The trails also supply great views of the Hollywood Sign. Runyon Canyon is another great spot for a scenic walk, with a 3-mile trail that takes an hour or two.

While you’re in Griffith Park, you can also enjoy a free peep through the big telescope at the Griffith Observatory, although the lines can be long.

Kayak on the LA River

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Not many people know that Los Angeles has a river. Even fewer know that you can kayak on it. You can rent a kayak inexpensively at various places along the river, but access to the river is free. It’s an amazing way to see this little-known side of the Los Angeles landscape. It’s also a refreshing way to spend a hot summer afternoon, away from the bustle and noise of the freeways.

California Science Center


If you’re on a budget, and you have kids along, it can be hard to keep them amused without vacuuming out your wallet. The California Science Center in Exposition Park is a great place to spend the afternoon, and general admission is free. The center has many interactive exhibits that children and adults will love. It also has some amazing science artifacts, including the Endeavor Space Shuttle. There’s also an IMAX theater and special attractions you can see for a fee.

The Broad Museum

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The Broad Museum is located in the heart of the Los Angeles Arts District. The building itself is an attraction, with an unusual pierced facade and ultra-modern appearance. It’s a museum for contemporary art, so the exhibits are just as funky as the building. That makes it more fun for young adults who might find traditional art galleries too stuffy for their tastes. Many of the exhibits in the Broad are more art installations than objects, so the museum has an interactive feel. There are many whimsical pieces like Jeff Koons big, blue, Balloon Dog that are fun to take a selfie with, too. Admission is free, although you might have trouble finding parking without resorting to a paid lot.

Photos courtesy of the The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Top 10 Free Things In LA rentavaluecar.com

Top 10 Things To Do and See in Santa Monica

Los Angeles is a big city, both by population and by the area it covers. Despite its growing population, it’s still relatively spread out and low-density. If you’re visiting the Los Angeles area for the first time, it’s useful to think of greater Los Angeles as a series of neighborhoods, not one big city. In L.A., however, the neighborhoods are really independent cities of their own. One of the most beautiful cities in the greater Los Angeles area is Santa Monica. You can arrange Santa Monica car rental right at LAX when you fly in. You might find better lodging deals in less popular neighborhoods, but you’ll find everything from shopping to beaches to nightlife, all within easy walking distance of the city’s main attractions.

When most people think of Santa Monica, they think of the famous Santa Monica Pier. But the area has a lot more to offer, whether you want to spend a fun day or a whole week. Besides being a beautiful seacoast spot, Santa Monica has a relaxed, laid-back, friendly vibe. It’s easy to feel like a local after just a few hours of poking around. Here’s a list of the Top 10 Things To Do and See while you’re in Santa Monica from your friends at Value Rental Car:

Santa Monica Pier

No mention of visiting Santa Monica landmarks would be complete without a mention of the Santa Monica Pier. The pier is great fun whether you’re a young, single person or a family with small children. It’s not a huge destination like Disney World or one of the other amusement parks in the greater Los Angeles area. You can see the whole thing in half an hour if you’re in a hurry, but there are so many things to do you can spend several days if you like.

The Santa Monica pier juts out into the Pacific Ocean, so it’s a great place to catch a cool breeze on a hot day. Of course there is lots more to the pier than watching the waves. There’s an arcade, carnival rides, souvenir stands, restaurants, food stalls, and even concerts and movies. If you’ve got a big family in the back of your Santa Monica rental car, you’ll appreciate the free admission to the pier’s attractions. You will have to pay for each ride on the famous Ferris wheel, and any of the other dozen or so rides. Still, it’s a bargain.

Santa Monica Beach

The Los Angeles area has a lot of beaches. The Santa Monica Beach is probably the most popular beach there is. It’s not quite as picturesque as some other nearby beaches. The beach is basically a very wide, flat expanse of sand between the Pacific Coast Highway and the waves. It’s really big, and even when it’s crowded, there’s plenty of room to relax and sunbathe. The swimming is first-rate, and you can take surfing lessons to increase your fun.

There are many parking lots within an easy walk to the seashore. There are several pedestrian bridges straddling the highway that make crossing to the sand a breeze. The beach has a lot of amenities that many beaches lack. There are a dozen public restrooms, many with showers. There are a handful of volleyball courts on the shore, great for playing or just watching. If you have a family in tow, you’ll appreciate the playgrounds and gymnastic equipment in several places along the shore. There are lots of picnic tables, but no fire pits. You’ll find lifeguards on duty during the day, so swimming and surfing is safer than at some out-of-the -way beaches in the area.

Marvin Braude Beach Trail

If you want to roll along the beach instead of sunning yourself, you’ll love the Marvin Braude Beach Trail. Good luck asking the locals for it by name, though. Everyone in Santa Monica just calls it “The Strand.” It’s a 20-mile ribbon of pavement that runs from nearby Will Rogers State Park to Torrance. You can park your rental car at any number of lots along the strand, and rent bicycles or skates to make the scenery pass by faster. There are a handful of skate and cycle rental stalls right at the Santa Monica Pier as well. Here’s a nifty video of a ride down The Strand:

Museum of Flying

The Museum of Flying is housed at the Santa Monica Airport. It has a nice blend of educational exhibits and fun activities to amuse visitors of all ages. The museum was founded by Donald Douglas Junior in 1976. It contains many examples of planes made by the Douglas Aircraft Co. The exhibits are interesting to look at, and some are interactive. You can climb into the cockpit of a cargo plane, and for a nominal fee, you can also enjoy the Maxflight Simulator. Unlike flying simulators designed for home computers or gaming consoles, the simulator also physically pitches and rolls as you steer it. It will even turn all the way around if you do a barrel roll. Catch a guided tour for the most fun.

Annenberg Community Beach House

The Annenberg Beach House looks like a private country club, but it’s open to the public and has no membership fees. It’s more of a community recreation location than tourist destination, but all are welcome. There’s a wide range of activities available, including swimming in their historic pool, tennis, volleyball, splash pad, and various cultural events. There’s also a game room that’s perfect for children who’ve had enough fun and sun outside. You can also rent a stand up paddle board for use in the ocean just outside the beach house fence.

Third Street Promenade

The Third Street Promenade is one of the liveliest pedestrian malls anywhere in Los Angeles. Over the years, many of the food stalls and quaint local shops have been pushed out by franchise stores and eateries, but the promenade is still a great place for people watching, strolling, and shopping. The Third Street Promenade is especially fun after sunset, with lots of buskers along the walking route. There’s also a walking tour of the area held by the Santa Monica Walking Tours every Saturday morning.

Bergamot Station

The Bergamot Station is a funky converted warehouse space that houses numerous art galleries and related cultural activities. It’s not within walking distance of the seaside attractions we’ve listed, but it’s easy to get to from the 10 Freeway in your Santa Monica car rental, and there’s lots of parking nearby.

The warehouse buildings are huge, and cover an 8-acre area. The location is named after the trolley station that served the area, and a flower that grows in the area. It’s been an art complex since 1994, and  is currently the largest attraction of its kind in California. It’s fun to visit any or all of the forty or so art galleries at Bergamot, and there’s a cafe onsite if you want to make a day of it. The Bergamot has recently been purchased, and it’s soon to be known as the 26th Street Art Center. The new owners plan to keep the existing galleries, plus add new 120-room hotel.

The Santa Monica Playhouse

Other theaters in the Los Angeles area are better known than the Santa Monica Playhouse. However, The Santa Monica has the best live entertainment for children and families in the city. The playhouse is modestly sized, but has a long pedigree of entertaining productions since it was founded in 1960 by local actors, including the actor who starred in TV’s Gunsmoke. You can also sign up kids and teens for theater workshops that will help them with their budding performance skills.

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is a throwback attraction. It’s a small, interactive aquarium that’s short on big exhibits but big on fun. Admissions ranges from cheap for adults to free for kids under 12, so it’s an inexpensive way to spend an afternoon if you have a big group to amuse. The aquarium stressed education about marine conservation, but it’s more fun than a typical aquarium. There are over 100 exhibits, and many allow you to touch the fish, shellfish, and plants on display. You’ll have to plan your excursion to the aquarium to make sure they’re open. They’re closed to the public on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays to make way for local school groups.

The Broad Stage

The Broad Stage is a large (500+ seats) venue located at Santa Monica College. It’s a state of the art performing arts space that has everything from traditional stage plays to avant-garde music performances. There are actually two stages at the Broad (pronounced “Brode”), including a smaller stage called The Edye. It’s a less casual place than the Santa Monica Playhouse, but it still has lots of performances that are suitable for the whole family. If you’re searching for directions, be sure to avoid confusing the Broad Stage for the Broad Museum. They’re both named after the same patrons.

Value Rental Car has Santa Monica car rental rates that can’t be beat. Rent a car at LAX, and you’ll be able to visit all the attractions that nearby Santa Monica has to offer!

Photo courtesy of the The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

The Definitive Guide to Los Angeles Area Beaches

Los Angeles is a very diverse city. Many other cities in the United States have a definable vibe that’s based on a few landmarks or traditions. Los Angeles is so big, and its citizens and its economy is so varied, that it’s hard to pin a single tag on it. Of course many tourists visit Los Angeles with a specific destination in mind. Perhaps it’s a week in Disneyland, or one of the many movie studio tours in the city. Business travelers often fly in, look for affordable car rental, a comfy place to stay, and a few reliable restaurants they can visit until they fly out again without giving the rest of the city a second thought.

That’s understandable, but it’s a shame. Los Angeles has a lot to offer visitors and locals alike. But if there’s one natural resource that gets overlooked by almost everyone who lives or visits the area, it has to be its beaches. Los Angeles has some of the most interesting and beautiful beaches in the world. Unfortunately, most people forget they’re there.

One of the reasons that Los Angeles beaches don’t get the respect they deserve might be because there are so many of them, and they’re so different from each other. We’ve assembled a comprehensive list of all the major beaches in the Los Angeles area, along with a short rundown on what makes each one special. We hope it makes it easier to find the seaside spot that’s just right for you.

Will Rogers State Beach

We put Will Rogers State Beach first on our list, because it’s the Swiss Army Knife of beaches in the Los Angeles area. The beach itself is a slender sliver of sand, almost two miles long, with the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the Pacific Coast Highway on the other. Will Rogers is closer to LAX and Los Angeles proper than beaches like Malibu, but it’s far enough from the middle of the city to avoid huge crowds.

Even if you’ve never been here before, you might feel like you have. The beach has been featured in so many movies and TV shows that it looks familiar to almost everyone. At the very least, you’ve probably seen the Baywatch beauties run up and down it in slow motion at least once.

Will Rogers is great for most any seaside activity, from swimming to surfing to scuba diving. There’s usually a lot of volleyball, picnics, and bike riding going on, too. That makes the beach a bit noisy for people who prefer quiet strolls by the water. The water quality is generally good, although there are occasional warnings during wintertime months. Use the money you saved on affordable car rental to pay for parking near the beach. There aren’t enough no parking signs to warn unwary out-of-towners, and the cost of a ticket and towing is a lot more than the available parking lots.

Zuma

Zuma beach is in Malibu, so it’s a little more upscale than beaches closer to the heart of Los Angeles. It’s another beach that’s appeared in countless TV shows and movies, so people on vacation from anywhere might feel like they’ve been there before. Zuma’s iconic lifeguard stations are a great place to take a selfie, but they’re not just for show. Zuma has the best surfing in Malibu, and the lifeguards aren’t ornaments.

Zuma is huge, so despite its popularity, it’s easy to stake out a place on the sandy beach and relax. The local scenery is wonderful, and you’re more likely to spot a celebrity here than at Will Rogers, for instance. If you’re in the mood for a more energetic workout than sunbathing, you can hike up Point Dume and get a view fit for scattering the ashes of Theodore Donald Kerabatsos.

Here’s Zuma Beach from the air:

Venice Beach

Technically, Venice Beach isn’t a Los Angeles beach. Venice is its own city, and for many local people, Venice Beach is its own universe. If you’re in the mood for a beach that’s a much a social phenomenon as a seaside retreat, Venice Beach is perfect for you. The beach itself is really big, with wide expanses of unbroken sand to stretch out on. Just off the sand is the famous Venice Beach Boardwalk, a strip of vendors, street performers, weightlifters, skaters, skateboarders, and free spirits.

The beach is one of the few in the area that’s has eating, drinking, and shopping within easy walking distance of the ocean. If you’re in the mood for a lively street scene to go with your sunburn, head to Venice Beach.

Leo Carillo

Leo Carillo Sate Park might be more your style if you’re more interested in tidepools than getting a tan. The beach has a much more complex mix of cliffs, crags, and inlets than a typical Los Angeles beach. The beach is great for swimming, windsurfing, fishing, or just sunbathing, but it’s especially suited to just poking around for sea life and beautiful landscapes.

There’s a campground at Leo Carillo, but you’ll be disappointed if you think that means you can camp surfside. The campground is well-kept, and you can bring even big trailers onsite, but it’s located across a busy highway from the beach itself. Leo Carillo State Park is located almost 30 miles north of the city, so be prepared to spend a while in your rental car looking at the taillights of the commuter ahead of you. The bright side is the beach is less crowded than beaches located closer to LAX and Santa Monica.

Here’s an overflight view of Leo Carillo:

Oxnard

Oxnard doesn’t fit the description of your usual tourist beach. It’s actually a series of many distinct beaches that make up almost 20 miles of sandy coastline in Oxnard, California, in Ventura County. Oxnard is about an hour’s drive from Los Angeles. It’s more of a daytripper’s destination than a short trip to the beach. If you want to get out of the city and enjoy a relaxed vibe and cool seashore temps, Oxnard is perfect.

Oxnard knows it needs to keep you amused to attract you to their beaches, so there’s lots to do. The surfing is excellent, or you can rent jet skis or other watercraft and putter around. The Pacific Coast Bicycle Route wends its way through Oxnard’s waterfront. You can rent beach cruisers, tandem bikes, and assorted pedal mobiles to cruise far and wide.

Santa Monica State Beach

The Santa Monica beach is another location that’s familiar to people who’ve never been to Los Angeles before. The iconic Santa Monica Pier is a miniature amusement park that sticks out over the Pacific, and offers hours of fun for kids of all ages. The beach itself is really, nice, too, with long, unbroken stretches of white sand. Santa Monica is a compact and pedestrian friendly area, so you can venture off the beach to shop and eat without too much trouble.

Hermosa Beach

Hermosa means “pretty” in Spanish, and Hermosa Beach is appropriately named. If you’re looking for a romantic beach getaway, a late afternoon excursion to Hermosa Beach is just the ticket. The views of the sunset over the water from the pier are astonishing. There are lots of walking and biking paths if you feel like stretching your legs. The Strand, a paved offstreet path, runs along the beach from Torrance all the way to Santa Monica. There are plenty of places to shop, eat, and enjoy your favorite mixed drinks.

Laguna

The Laguna beach is located right in the middle of the downtown area of Laguna Beach, the city. That makes the beach a bustling place almost all the time. Laguna Beach is known for the predictability of its climate. It’s about the same, winter and summer, which makes it a great destination when other beach areas are seasonally too hot or cold. The beach itself is a great people watching destination, although it’s a much more sedate crowd than a beach like Venice or Santa Monica. There are lots of volleyball and basketball games, and a long boardwalk that’s perfect for poking around. There’s a substantial artist colony in the area, so you can mix in some gallery browsing into the general fun.

El Matador

El Matador gets lumped in with a handful of other beaches in Malibu, but it has a different vibe than all the surrounding areas. It’s usually crowded in the summer. During the off season, you might find you have the place mostly to yourself. It’s a tiny, “pocket” beach, but there’s plenty of room for strolls with picturesque scenery around. There are lots of nooks and crannies in the cliffs, and the sea stacks, towers of sandstone that have been eroded by the surf, make this beach a great selfie destination. The swimming and bodyboarding is great, but El Matador is really shines for long, romantic walks. You can see some great pictures of El Matador here.

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach is a worthy competitor for Hermosa Beach when it comes to sunsets. There’s a big pier and a concrete bikepath, too. The beach itself is really wide and flat, and seems to go on forever compared to some of the pocket beaches we’ve featured. The beach does eventually morph into big sand dunes at Sand Dune Park, but most people stay on the long, flat stretches of soft sand.

If you’re into people watching, Manhattan Beach has been voted the #1 place for the Rich and Single, and placed high on the Travel Channel’s list of the Sexiest Beaches. If you’re a surfer, Manhattan is a kind of paradise, although it can be pretty crowded. The city hosts a yearly volleyball tournament and surfing festival that keeps things hopping.

Dockweiler

If you’re staying close to LAX, Dockweiler State Beach in Playa Del Rey is really handy. It’s just a little south of LAX, and it’s easy to find. If you’ve got an affordable car rental deal, the $12 parking fee won’t hurt your budget. Unlike a lot of the beaches in the Los Angeles area, the parking lot is really big, so you’re unlikely to get shut out.

Visitors to everything you can think of at Dockweiler Beach. It’s a long, sandy beach with very clear water, great for surfing, boogie boarding, or just swimming. There’s a bike path that runs for miles.  There’s hang gliding for the more adventurous, too. The beach allows beachside barbecues, another treat if you’re looking to spend the whole day at the beach. Even bonfires are permitted on the beach.

Bolsa Chica

Bolsa Chica State Beach is one of the most interesting beaches in the greater Los Angeles area. It’s near Huntington Beach, California, so it’s not a long drive from downtown LA. The beach is popular for family outings, and allows fire rings and grills on the beach.  Surf casting is a local specialty. During certain times of the year, you can even catch fish with your bare hands. The beach is popular with wildlife and bird watchers, too. Across the highway from the sandy beach is the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, where you can enjoy wetland areas filled with fish, birds, waterfowl, and interesting plants.

Photo courtesy of the The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

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9 Surefire Strategies To See a Celebrity While You’re in Los Angeles

charlize-theron-lax-car-rentalThere’s a lot to see and do when you visit Los Angeles. Greater Los Angeles covers a big area, and you can find everything from sandy, sunlit beaches to quiet mountain hiking trails. Millions of people visit Los Angeles every year, from every corner of the world. Unlike many popular travel destinations, Los Angeles has more than one or two vacation attractions to tempt a traveler. The economy isn’t a one-trick pony, either. The Los Angeles area is a hotbed of commerce, too.  You’ll find everything from manufacturing to e-commerce startups. However, if there’s one thing Los Angeles is known for, it’s the entertainment industry. If seeing a celebrity is the first thing on your mind when you leave the LAX car rental counter, you’re in luck. You’d be surprised how often people spot their favorite celebrities out and about in L.A.

You’ll be disappointed if you expect movie stars to be standing on every corner in Hollywood, however. People who work in the movie, TV, and recording industry value their privacy. In order to lead any kind of normal life, they have to put up barriers between themselves and their fans. As the crush of paparazzi and autograph hounds has increased, so have the steps celebrities take to avoid unwanted attention.

Don’t worry. If you have your heart set on seeing one of your favorite stars while you’re in Los Angeles, you can still do it. You simply have to know where to look. Here’s our list of 9 Surefire Strategies To See a Celebrity While You’re in Los Angeles:

Visit the Chinese Theater

The Chinese Theater changes its name every so often, but it’s still the number one destination in Hollywood for film fans. It was originally called Grauman’s Chinese Theatre due to its elaborate, Oriental design motif. In the 1970s, it was renamed Mann’s Chinese Theatre, and since 2013 it’s been called the TCL Chinese Theatre. Naming rights aside, the movie theater is still as exotic and fun as it ever was. The interior is very opulent by today’s strip-mall movie theater standards. The real fun happens just outside.

The sidewalk outside the Chinese Theater is filled with the impressions of the shoes and hands of dozens of famous celebrities, with more being added all the time. It’s fun take a selfie standing in the same spot as your favorite actor or actress. Even if you never rub elbows with a celebrity at the LAX car rental counter or the Ralph’s supermarket parking lot, it’s still fun to stand in the same place they once stood.

While the handprint-footprint ceremony doesn’t happen very often, but it’s a blast to see one. The ceremonies don’t get held very often, but if you see one announced, get there early for the best views. Regular folks don’t get much of a view of the imprint process itself because of the crush of celebrities and press. You’ll get to see dozens of notable people arriving and departing. Installation ceremonies are reserved for the biggest stars, often during the premieres of their newest movies, which leads to another great way to see celebrities:

Movie Premieres

Hollywood is still the heart of the movie business. Although movies are made all over the world, Los Angeles is the favorite place to hold movie premieres. That presents a great opportunity to see the biggest stars walk the red carpet into famous movie houses.

One of the best things about movie premieres is that they’re designed to attract the maximum number of fans. The producers of movies desperately want you to pay attention, and they do everything they can to attract big crowds. Movie houses like the TCL Chinese Theatre post upcoming movie premieres right on their website. It’s next to impossible to get tickets to attend the biggest openings, but you’ll be able to hang outside and watch all your favorite stars come and go. Movie stars understand that publicity is important, and they attend the premieres of their own movies as well as the openings of movies made by their colleagues.

Walk of Fame Ceremonies

The handprints and footprints outside of the Chinese Theatre started the craze for commemorating big stars, but the Walk of Fame has taken over as the biggest collection of movie, TV, and music stars in the world. Famous entertainers get pink terrazzo stars embedded into the sidewalks all along Hollywood Boulevard, as well as on nearby Vine Street all the way to Sunset Boulevard. Some celebrities get more than one star, depending on their contributions to different kinds of entertainment.

It’s fun to simply wander around Hollywood and discover the stars for your favorite entertainers as you walk. If you want to be more organized, you can use the search box on the Walk of Fame website to find the address of your favorites before heading out. If you prefer live celebrities to sidewalk icons, just check the list of upcoming ceremonies. It’s always free to attend a Walk of Fame ceremony. It’s fun to see celebrities and their families bask in the glow of their new sidewalk stars. Movie and TV actors have a tendency to be less aloof at Walk of Fame ceremonies than other occasions. It’s common to get a handshake or a selfie if you play your cards right.

Academy Awards Cheap Seats

If you’re not in the movie industry, you have no chance to sit inside at the Academy Awards. Just because you can’t get in doesn’t mean you can’t attend. Hollywood stars love to walk the famous red carpet at the Oscars, and you can watch them do it from bleacher seats. The awards ceremony is in late February or early March, but you’ll have to plan a lot farther ahead to get a seat outside the auditorium. You can visit the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website to sign up for coveted bleacher seats.

Comedy Clubs

If your taste in entertainment tends more towards sitcoms, Los Angeles is the place for you. Los Angeles is a hotbed of comedy clubs and other intimate venues. It’s very common for comedians who got their start in the standup world to return to the clubs that got them their first break to tell a few jokes. It’s not likely that you’ll see top names on the billboard outside, however. Most appearances by household word stars are unannounced.

You’ll have the best chance to see a star if you visit one of the premier comedy clubs. You can find a list of some of the best comedy clubs in Los Angeles here on the Value Rental Car Travel Guide blog. Insider’s hint: Many stars choose off nights to perform, so don’t be afraid to try a Monday night instead of a Saturday show.

LAX Car Rental Dropoff Area

If you’re flying into LAX, you’re already at ground zero for celebrity sightings. Many movie and TV stars live in the Los Angeles area. Others live elsewhere, but still fly in for business meetings, award shows, and interviews. While some celebrities shun the terminal and stick to private gates and flights, many others walk through LAX like any other passenger. Los Angeles natives are more low-key about seeing celebrities in public than visitors are. A polite wave or a smile is the best way to acknowledge your favorite performers if you see them in their natural habitat near the LAX terminal dropoff and pickup door. Say something pleasant, and you might even get a selfie with your fave. Check out all these showbiz movers and shakers making their way through the LAX terminal.

Studio Audiences

It’s fun to see celebrities at the supermarket or a restaurant, but it’s not that common anymore. Why not watch them work? Plenty of TV shows are recorded in Los Angeles every day, and it’s not that hard to get a ticket to a taping if you look around. If you’ve never been in a studio audience before, you’re in for a treat. The actors usually address the audience directly before the show, and you’d be surprised how informal the productions can be.

Game shows and talk shows have the most reliable schedules, because they’re on most every day. If you plan well ahead, you may be able to get tickets to a taping of your favorite situation comedy.

Location Shoots

If you don’t mind standing around a little, you can watch a location shoot of a movie or TV show. Newcomers to the entertainment world might be surprised at the slow pace of filming, but if you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of movies and TV shows, location shoots can’t be beat. Of course you might spend more time looking at the outside of the star actor’s trailer than the actor. You can rest assured that sooner or later they’ll show up, however, which is more than you can say for public functions. Check online for websites that list filming locations in real time to schedule a day trip.

Playhouses

Many actors get tired of only performing their craft to a camera lens and a bunch of stagehands. Even the biggest celluloid stars try to get in front of a live audience whenever they can, for the love of acting as much as the paycheck. Sometimes the easiest way to see a big star up close is to attend a live stage performance. Luckily, the Los Angeles area has many fine playhouses that stage a wide variety of shows. Nearby areas like Pasadena also have highly-regarded venues for live performances, like the Pasadena Playhouse. If music is more your bag, don’t forget the Hollywood Bowl, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Remember, it’s Los Angeles, so the audience might have as many stars as the stage on any given night!

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Don’t Miss These 5 Venice Beach Attractions While You’re in L.A.

venice beach cheap rental cars at LAX value rental carThe Los Angeles area is really big and spread out. If you just flew in and took advantage of cheap rental cars at LAX, you might not know where to drive first. For L.A. newbies, it can be hard to know one neighborhood from another, and where to go to find the kind of fun you’re searching for.

While you’re trying to decide, it’s important to remember that the Los Angeles area is more than just one city. Many of the locations you know from television and movies are actually their own cities. Each of these cities has their own unique vibe. Venice Beach is one of the most intriguing places in the L.A. area, and many tourists end up spending a lot of time there. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most rewarding destinations to visit in Venice while you’re in town.

Take a Walking Tour

Venice is an interesting place, so it’s no surprise that a walking tour of the area is interesting, too. There are a bunch of walking tours available. One of the most highly rated is the Real To Reel Vintage Walking tour. The guide knows their way around, of course, but that’s only half the fun. At each stop on the tour, you can see movie and TV show snippets that feature the site over the years. If you’re only familiar with Venice from seeing it on the silver screen the tour is a great way to match up your memories with the actual places.

Real To Reel Vintage Walking Tour

Walk Along the Venice Canals

Venice California really does have canals! Of course, they’re not as elaborate as the canals in Venice, Italy, but as Venice has become more upscale, residents and businesses have taken better care of their waterways. The canals wend their way through a residential neighborhood, so it’s important to respect people’s privacy. However, there are well maintained sidewalks on both side of the canal, and footbridges here and there to get from one side to the other. Here’s an aerial view:

Venice Canals Association

Hit the Boardwalk

If Venice Beach is famous for one thing, it’s got to be the Boardwalk. Like everything else in Los Angeles, the Venice Boardwalk is paved, but that doesn’t detract from its charm. It’s a broad walking boulevard that runs along a strip of interesting shops of all kinds, restaurants, and other attractions. It’s a great place to see and be seen. You’ll always see lots of street entertainers, and a constant assortment of interesting people. There’s a winding path along the beach that’s popular with skaters, too.

If you’ve taken advantage of cheap rental cars at LAX, you can usually find on-street parking within a few blocks of the beach.

Venice Beach Boardwalk

Which Way To Muscle Beach?

Technically, there’s more than one Muscle Beach in the Los Angeles area. Hardcore lifters prefer the Venice Beach version of Muscle Beach. Towards the southern end of the Venice Boardwalk, there’s a big outdoor gym that’s a favorite for exhibitionists of all kinds. If you’ve got the nerve to work out in front of hundreds of spectators, and next to guys that look like Aahnold, the Venice Muscle Beach is for you.

Muscle Beach Venice

Shop on Abbot Kinney Boulevard

Abbot Kinney Boulevard has become one of the most famous shopping destinations in the world. It’s palm-tree-lined sidewalks are bustling with shoppers all year round. There are also yearly festivals that turn the street into a full-time bazaar. There are many great eateries along the boulevard. If you’re feeling informal, there’s always a ton of food trucks parked there, too.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard

Photo of the Venice Canals courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

5 Garden Spots in Pasadena You Don’t Want To Miss

car rentals in pasadena gardens and parks value rental carPasadena is an unusual place. The city is probably best known for its Tournament of Roses parade, held every year on New Year’s Day. It’s also home to the highly regarded Cal Tech University, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Even though Pasadena is home to so many important institutions, it still retains its reputation for quiet, elegant streets and architectural charm. However, it’s easy for tourists to find rental cars in Pasadena, good restaurants, beautiful historic architecture, and exciting nightlife.

Pasadena has nice weather throughout the year. Newcomers to the area might find that the summer temperatures are hotter than many parts of nearby Los Angeles. Luckily for nature lovers in Pasadena, there are many public gardens and parks where you can spend some time and beat the heat. We’ve assembled a list of 5 garden spots you won’t want to miss, whether you’re in Pasadena for a business trip, vacation, or a permanent resident.

Wrigley Gardens

The Wrigley Gardens is one of the best examples of old Pasadena you’ll find. The house, called Wrigley Mansion, has 22 rooms and more than 18,000 square feet of total floor space. The house is mostly converted to the headquarters for the Tournament of Roses parade, but it’s still a beautiful destination. While the parade only lasts a few hours, once a year, planning this enormous spectacle keeps almost 1,000 people busy all year round.

Outside the mansion you’ll find an astonishing arrangement of roses, camellias, and various other beautiful annual plants. If you’re a fan of the yearly parade, you’ll love to see where many of the cultivars of roses were developed for the elegant parade floats.

Wrigley Gardens

Arlington Garden

Pasadena and nearby Los Angeles are generally green all year round. Don’t let that fool you. They’re basically a desert when it comes to yearly rainfall. Gardeners in the area manage water restrictions by growing many types of drought-resistant plants. Arlington Garden is a great place to see how a community can establish and care for a drought-tolerant garden.

The garden is only about an acre, but it feels like more. It’s a peaceful retreat from urban street scene, and a great place to relax or meditate. The park seems larger than it is, because the paths take long, winding routes to show off all the plantings. Go in the spring to see the best flowers.

Arlington Garden

Eaton Canyon

Eaton Canyon is more wilderness than park. The canyon is a wonderful place to hike and sightsee. If you’re in town on business, the canyon makes a nice break from pavement and buildings. The San Gabriel Mountains allow for both easy and challenging hikes, depending on your mood. It’s a great place for birdwatching, too.

Don’t let Eaton Canyon’s proximity to the built-up parts of Pasadena fool you. It can get wild really quick. It’s easy to get lost if you wander off the trails. Luckily, the trails are clearly marked, and you can follow trails for any level of exertion you prefer.

Eaton Canyon

Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden

Parts of Los Angeles borrow heavily from Japanese culture, architecture, and gardening. The Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden is an excellent example of  a Japanese style tea house and garden. Like many Japanese gardens, it’s small in size but packed with interesting yard architecture, water features, and lush plantings. It’s refreshing to sit next to the pond and forget you’re in the center of a city. The garden is a great way to recharge your mental batteries, especially on a hot day.

Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden

The Huntington Library and Gardens

Finally, the Huntington Library is a great destination any time of the year. This urban oasis is split evenly between an interesting interior art museum and a beautiful outdoor garden. The museum has a nice mix of European and American art. For novice art lovers, it’s nice to find familiar works like The Blue Boy by Gainsborough, or one of Edward Hopper’s famous paintings of sailboats.

The museum has American art from the 17th to the 20th century, and it’s interesting to follow the development of art in the United States over its history. The European collection is eclectic, and has many fine sculptures and bronzes to go along with its fine art paintings. There’s a library that will interest any book lover as well. Parking is easy for rental cars in Pasadena, and there’s lots of dining and shopping nearby.

Huntington Library and Gardens

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5 Overlooked Destinations for Fun in Los Angeles

walt disney concert hall rentavaluecar.comLos Angeles is a very big city. Its growing population isn’t the only thing that makes it big. Los Angeles is a sprawling place compared to cities like New York or Chicago. Greater L.A. has oceanfront, hills, riverfront, rich farmland and deserts. There are dozens of definable neighborhoods that have their own particular vibe. If doesn’t matter if you’re a Los Angeles native or a visitor, it would be hard to run out of things to do and see. Los Angeles makes it easy to accommodate extended trips to the area. You’ll find affordable car rental, lodging for all budgets, and a foodie culture that suits any taste or budget.

Even though the weather’s almost always pleasant, Los Angeles is very in tune to the calendar as well. You can find exciting and interesting events during most any time of the year. In fact, there are so many things to do in the city that it’s easy to overlook places that would be essential destinations in a less diverse city. Here’s a list of five of the most overlooked destinations for fun when you’re in Los Angeles:

The Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles has a long history, but it can seem brand new compared to east coast cities. The city also is associated with the movie industry, which is also constantly re-inventing itself. Don’t let that fool you into thinking there’s nothing cultural to do in the city. The Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale are world class performers, and they hold court in the astonishing Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Many visitors to the city only take pictures of the exterior of the Walt Disney concert hall. Don’t miss out! The Frank Gehry design is as iconic as the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Step inside, and you’ll find out that the sound is as amazing as the architecture.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic

The Derby Dolls

Looking for something a little less sedate to do? Los Angeles has its very own roller derby team, the Derby Dolls. The all female squad has charming stage names like Thora Zeen, Amber Alert, and Carmen Monoxide. They deliver lots of action and laughs at their new location, the Dolloseum on Alhambra Avenue in Los Angeles.

The Derby Dolls aren’t really just one team. They’re a league with over 150 skaters and other volunteers, and they field five full roller derby teams on their banked track. The whole organization is run by volunteers, and the teams rely on the local community and the fans to keep the doors open. If you’re looking for 100% fun, with real spills and thrills, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the derby dolls. The Dolloseum is handy to the 101 freeway, and you’ll find plenty of affordable car rental places, hotels and motels, and eateries in the area.

The Derby Dolls

Dodger Stadium

The Los Angeles Dodgers are a hot team again. They were sort of an afterthought in decades past while the Lakers reigned supreme. Their stadium wasn’t considered a baseball cathedral like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. Even though the stadium is close to downtown L. A., it seems a bit out of the way in the middle of Elysian Park. Don’t let that fool you. Dodger Stadium is one of the best places in the country to watch an MLB game.

The stadium  has aged well since it opened in 1962, and over the decades it’s hosted eight World Series. There’s plenty of nightlife and restaurants in the area, so the stadium makes a great place for an excursion while you’re in town.

The Los Angeles Dodgers

The Santa Monica Pier

Los Angeles is famous for its great beaches. Don’t restrict visits to the beach to sunbathing and swimming. There’s lots to do and see along the waterfront. The Santa Monica Pier is a great place to take the whole family, and there’s enough activities to keep you busy all day and night.

Sadly, most people just take Instagram pictures outside the gate that leads to the pier without entering. They’re all missing out. One of the most memorable rides in the world is at the end of the pier. It’s a blast to ride the world’s only solar powered Ferris wheel and look out over the ocean. If heights aren’t your thing, you can always stick to riding the carousel from the famous ’70s movie The Sting.

The Santa Monica Pier

The OUE Skyspace

Most people wouldn’t expect to find any fun in a bank building. The US Bank Tower in Los Angeles is an exception. The top of this tower has a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city, plus a very unusual twist. The building has a transparent slide on its exterior that lets you experience the city from midair. It’s a blast to test your bravery in the glass chute that makes it appear you’re flying between floors. There’s plenty of other activities and shopping destinations in the downtown area when you’re done with your thrill ride and sightseeing.

The OUE Skyspace

Photo of the Walt Disney Concert Hall courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

How To Find the Best Hollywood Tours in Los Angeles

paramount pictures hollywood tours valuerentalcar.comLos Angeles is a big city with a bright future and an interesting past. The local economy is incredibly diversified. Industries of all kinds thrive in southern California, and Los Angeles is home to many famous brands. There’s one industry that stand above all others, however. For some people, Los Angeles is synonymous with Hollywood, and Hollywood means the movie and TV industry. Hollywood tours are some of the most popular reasons to visit Los Angeles. True to the city’s reputation, there are many to choose from. Value Rental Car welcomes many visitors from all over the world who want to rent a car, find a hotel, and then see where their favorite movies and shows are made. We’ve assembled a handy list of Hollywood tours to make it easier to find what you’re looking for:

Paramount Studios Tour

Paramount Studios are a great destination for tourists who want to visit a working movie studio. Technically, it’s the only remaining major movie studio still operating in Hollywood. Visitors to Paramount will enjoy a more old-school feel than some of the other studios. The studio is right next door to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and it can seem like the great names in Hollywood history never left.

The tour covers a lot of ground, so there’s a lot of walking and riding in golf carts to see the whole thing. One of the big highlights is passing through the iconic Bronson Gate, which is instantly recognizable from many movies and TV shows.

Make sure you stick around for the part of the tour that features Paramount’s back lot. There’s a maze of little street the studio uses to represent cities like New York, Chicago, and Saint Louis. There’s also a giant water tank used for water scenes like the parting of the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments.

Paramount Studio Tours

Universal Studio Hollywood Tours

If you’re more in the mood for a theme park experience than a history lesson, Universal Studio Hollywood Tours is for you. The studio tour is free with your admission to the Universal Theme Park. There’s a tram that takes you past familiar blocks of studio buildings from many different movies. Unlike other Hollywood tours, at Universal, the exhibits get up and perform. You won’t just see memorabilia from Jaws. The shark will jump right out of the water and give you a toothy smile as you pass by.

Universal Studios Hollywood Tours

Sony Pictures Studio Tours

Sony Pictures tours are held at the old Metro Goldwyn Mayer lot in nearby Culver City. The tour is more compact than some of the others, so there’s more walking and less riding. MGM had a long and illustrious history before Sony Pictures added to it, so there’s a lot to see.

Sony is big in television, as well, and the tour visits the set of familiar shows like Jeopardy for a backstage look. The whole tour is interesting for the nuts and bolts look at making entertainment over the decades.

Sony Pictures Studio Tours

Warner Brothers Studio Tour

Warner Brothers Studio is located in “The Valley” in Burbank, California. The Warner’s tour has the best mix of movie-making history and real-time fun of any of the Hollywood tours. The tour begins on an open bus, and takes you past familiar streetscapes from countless movies and TV shows. The tour stops at a warehouse for props and costumes from such familiar hits as Harry Potter and Batman.

Further along the tour, you’ll see demonstrations of the process of CGI effects. There’s also an interactive exhibit of cinematic steps that show you how the studio takes an idea from script to screen.

The Warner Brothers tour lets visitors do more things than many other tours. It’s fun to sit on an original set from Friends, or even be filmed in front of a green screen and placed in a movie scene.

Warner Brothers Studio Tour

Photo of the Melrose Gate to Paramount Studio courtesy of the The Jon B. Lovelace Collection of California Photographs in Carol M. Highsmith’s America Project, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division