Hollywood and Vine is getting a makeover. Long called the Boulevard of Broken Dreams and having a penchant for attracting wild types, Hollywood is experiencing a much needed resurgence, getting cleaned up and polished with new restaurants, residential buildings and refurbished hotels. Los Angeles is also becoming more affordable with discounts at hotels, new events, outdoor food courts, and open-air shopping malls.
A City Pass (tel. 707/256-0490; www.citypass.com) for Los Angeles can be bought online or at the following famous Hollywood attractions -- the Hollywood Wax Museum, Starline Movie Stars Homes Tour, the Red Line Hollywood Behind the Scenes Tour, the Kodak Theater Tour, and the Hollywood Museum in the Max Factor Building. The pass also gives you discounted entry at all of these locations, offering a pay-one-price deal for Hollywood tourists. For just $49 for adults and $39 for children from four to eleven years old, purchasers get admission to four of the above five attractions, having to choose between the Kodak and the Hollywood Museum. Valid for nine days, the City Pass saves you approximately $38 per adult ticket.
When in Los Angeles, everyone wants to see the stars. With studio tours, you can often see famous people and where they work. NBC (tel. 818/840-3538; www.studioaudiences.com/tvstudios) has a 70-minute walking tour which visits the sets of The Tonight Show, Days of Our Lives, wardrobe areas, make-up rooms, sound effects studios and special effects departments. Offered weekdays from 9am to 3pm, the tour costs $7.50 for adults, $4 for children from five to 12, and free for kids under five.
The grand-daddy of studio tours is the Universal Studios Hollywood (tel. 818/622-3801; www.universalstudios.com) visit. The tram studio tour, considered the biggest and best motion picture available, has a new narration from Whoopi Goldberg, and visits recent movie sets with sequences from hot new movies such as King Kong. It also has rides featuring old favorites such as Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park, and Shrek. Adults cost $53, children under four feet tall cost $43 and kids under three get to go for free.
Hollywood does have some affordable, well-located, and quaint hotels. The Farmer's Daughter (tel. 800/334-1658; www.farmersdaughterhotel.com) is a boutique hotel on Fairfax Avenue directly across the street from the Farmer's Market and the Grove Shopping mall. Extremely low-key, non-Hollywood, and unassuming, the Farmer's Daughter has an open-air courtyard flanked by chairs, tables, and a swimming pool to add to the ease and comfort level of this hotel which is about a ten-minute drive to the heart of the Sunset Strip. Rates for double rooms start at $159 for a mid-August stay and slightly less expensive for a king-sized room and less expensive for a single standard room. For example, if you book online you can get a standard room starting at $124.
If you stay at the Farmer's Daughter, you can even get away without renting a car. The Farmer's Market (tel. 323/933-9211; www.farmersmarketla.com) has been serving fresh food, fruits, meats, fish and vegetables since 1934. You can get anything from home-made Mexican food to ribs and fried chicken to apple pie to fresh sushi at this L.A. institution. The adjacent and upscale Grove shopping mall is an outdoor shopping center with J. Crew, Abercrombie and Fitch, a big movie theater and even a tram to take you quickly through the crowds at this people watching hot-spot. Until September 8, 2006, enjoy a Summer Music Series for free on the Market's West Patio from 7pm to 9pm. Another bonus, several top bars and restaurants are located in walking distance to the Farmer's Daughter on Fairfax, making the hotel a quick walk from nightlife, another rarity in Los Angeles.
To get to Los Angeles and other destinations in California, Jet Blue (tel. 800/538-2583; www.jetblue.com) has a special sale summer sale. With fourteen-day advance ticket purchase, you can fly to Los Angeles Long Beach or Burbank airports (both very small and manageable) for $39 one way from Vegas, $49 from Oakland, $79 from Salt Lake City, $149 from Washington D.C. and Ft. Lauderdale, $154 from Boston, and $179 from New York. Security taxes and fees can reach up to $19 for domestic travel with a $30 flight change fee.
For cheap eats in Los Angeles, the Apple Pan (tel. 310/475-3585) is an old school counter-only hamburger joint right out of the 1950s. The menu is more than simple. They only serve hamburgers, homemade ham sandwiches, tuna fish salad, chicken salad, French fries, and a host of pies including apple and chocolate cream. Prices per person rarely exceed $10. The burgers come in a paper wrapper with the sauces and fries coming on little cardboard plates. The countermen seem to have been there forever, and they know how to move the crowd without rushing the busy eaters, still amazed at the taste of the burgers. Located on Pico just north of Westwood and the UCLA campus, the Apple Pan is open till midnight during the week and till 1am on weekends. It's closed on Monday.
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