Free Recession Buster Getaway: Los Angeles
We know you love Milwaukee. We do, too. Sometimes, though, it's good to get on plane and head out of town.
And we're happy to help. This summer and fall, OnMilwaukee.com is teaming up with AirTran Airways to offer six free "Recession Buster Getaways." Every two weeks, we'll preview a great destination, report on some of the bars, restaurants, shops and events that make them unique.
All you have to do is read our guide, then write your own Readers Blog about why you deserve a trip. If we pick your submission as the best, we'll give you a pair of roundtrip tickets, a brand new netbook and a little cash to buy in-flight Wi-Fi.
For this destination, staff writer Julie Lawrence visited Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES -- When 11 Spanish families founded Los Angeles in 1781, they had no way of knowing that their modest settlement, then known as El Pueblo de Nuesta Señora Reina de los Ángeles, would evolve into the Entertainment Capital of the World.
What might have shocked them even more is the idea of the remnants of their existence -- cobblestone streets, adobe buildings and a gorgeous plaza on Olvera Street -- would one day contribute to modern tourists' fascination with the city.
Olvera Street, the quaint brick-paved thoroughfare cutting through the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument, is the oldest part of Los Angeles and an interesting juxtaposition to the modern architecture and movement of the mega metropolis surrounding it.
If you've been to small pueblos in Central and South America, you'll appreciate the authenticity here -- and have a hard time remembering you are mere block away from Union Station. Sampling food and perusing the rows of vendors and 19th-century buildings lining the walkways of what was first a Spanish, then Mexican community is a fun way to spend the day, but to understand that this is but one street in a city that specializes in sprawl is to recognize your need for a serious plan when visiting Los Angeles.
You could spend days exploring the various downtown districts, go star hunting in Hollywood or stay seaside and soak up the sun along the bounty of beaches. The tourist attractions are seemingly endless and so are your possible itineraries. But no matter which route you chose, remember this piece of advice: In Los Angeles, a map is your best friend.
Reveling in Downtown Revival
What was for decades a mostly blighted area with little to offer in the way of nightlife has really turned around within the last decade. Thanks to new additions like the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Staples Center, residential developments and an abundance of new restaurants like the upscale Italian Bottega Louie, the affordable Casa Cocina y Cantina and the 100-plus selection of tap beers at the Yard House, downtown L.A. is again alive after 5 p.m.
Staying downtown proved to be a smart move logistically, as it's close to a couple important interstates -- the 101, which takes you to Hollywood, and 10 -- which shoots you westward to the 405 and, eventually, the Pacific Coast Highway.
We had the pleasuring of staying at the Figueroa Hotel, a stunning Moroccan-themed hotel that pops with vibrant colors and exotic charm in the form of hand-painted tiles and Persian rugs. In the 1920s the building was a YWCA. After the Great Depression, it was converted into a hotel and, thankfully, the renovations haven't totally destroyed its historical feel. An a la carte breakfast is set up daily in the lobby, but just across the street at 877 S. Figueroa St. the Los Angeles Downtown News voted The Original Pantry Cafe as "best breakfast 2009."Conveniently, the hotel is located across the street from L.A. LIVE, a relatively new entertainment complex that covers six square blocks and virtually has it all in the way of eating and entertaining. This is the kind of place where Prince comes and performs for an intimate crowd at The Conga Room before rocking the Staples Center; the kind of place where Justin Timberlake lands in a helicopter to have a private at Club Nokia before hitting a Lakers game.
That said, the array and fun spots like the Nokia Theatre, host of the Grammy Awards, the ESPN Zone, the ultimate sports, dining and entertainment complex, and Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge, a high-end bowling house and bar, make it a fun place for the rest of us, too.
The restaurants are all chains, but each one has individual appeal. The Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill sees the famous Austrian chef there on a regular basis; The Farm of Beverly Hills has all the comforts of a home-cooked meal in a very hot spot; Katsuya boasts the prodigious pairing of master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi and designer Philippe Starck. And those are just a few examples.
A personal highlight was the Grammy Museum, which is Mecca for any music lover, regardless of genre preferences. If you hate gaudy collections of artifacts behind glass, you'll love that this four-floor interactive tribute to music's rich cultural history has none. Give yourself plenty of time here; you'll need it if you want to create your own beats, record your vocals, lay down a track and receive professional feedback. If the timing's right, stay for a live performance in the Museum's state-of-the-art Grammy Sound Stage. We were lucky enough to catch an intimate acoustic set from Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs (remember her from her days with The Bangles?), who recently released their second collaborative effort of cover songs, "Under the Covers Vol. 2."
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Good job on finding the lesser known, but still quintessential L.A. spots! I had forgotten a lot of them since I've been out of L.A. for 9+ years; you brought back some good memories!
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