WHEN TO GO
Los Angeles is at its best in the early spring, starting in March, when the wildflowers are in blossom, the hills are green, and the gardens are exploding in color. In June, the jacarandas bloom. August and September can be fiery hot and hazy, with smog warnings. Starting in October, the late fall usually features clear skies, hot days, and crisp nights. The rainy season generally lasts from December to February. And then there are the mythic Santa Anas, the hot, dry winds that blow in from the desert.
HOW TO GET THERE
LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) lies just south of Marina del Rey, about 30 minutes from downtown or from Beverly Hills (double it during rush hour). While you should prepare for long waits and confusion at the airport, thankfully the sorry selection of shops and restaurants is set to improve within the next couple of years. A plan to roll out a spate of trendy stores and eateries (including a Hugo Boss and a Wolfgang Puck) was announced in early 2011, so at least you'll soon have somewhere decent to dine while you wait out those delays.
Bob Hope Airport is a hub for Southwest Airlines, and JetBlue recently inaugurated direct flights to New York's JFK. Much less frazzling than LAX and just 13 miles from downtown L.A. (www.burbankairport.com).
Ontario International Airport on the I10 Freeway 45 minutes west of downtown, hasn't yet become the hub that everyone hopes it will be to take pressure off of LAX. It's awaiting the arrival of long-haul carriers. Stay tuned (www.lawa.org/ont).
Long Beach Airport is equidistant between LAX and Orange County Airport and about 25 miles from downtown L.A. This airport services American Airlines, as well as smaller lines including Alaska Airlines and America West Airlines (www.longbeach.gov/airport).
Union Station, one of the last great rail stations, was completed in 1939 and is a fine example of mission style architecture. The glory days of train travel are long gone, but Amtrak West does pull in to this landmark downtown. And it's still popular among location managers; you can see the station in Bugsy and Blade Runner. (800 N. Alameda St., 800-872-7245; www.amtrak.com).
Public Transportation MTA (the Metropolitan Transportation Authority) runs the Metro subway, the bus connections and the light rail lines between commuter cities (213-922-6000; www.metro.net). Ferry to Catalina: One hour via Catalina Express, Berth 95, San Pedro, also from Long Beach and Dana Point (310-519-1212 or 800-481-3470; www.catalinaexpress.com).
For tourist information, go to www.seemyla.com, LA INC., The Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau website. To find your way around the Los Angeles maze, pick up a copy of the Thomas Guide, L.A.'s bible of street maps, sold at bookstores and newsstands. On Thursdays, free copies of the L.A. Weekly (or visit www.laweekly.com) appear at newsstands, libraries, outside restaurants, and some shops. The Calendar section is an excellent guide to what's happening. Or buy the Los Angeles Times (www.latimes.com), which on Thursdays includes the Calendar Weekend section, with comprehensive listings of all events and venues.