A Beginner’s Guide to Los Angeles

Los Angeles is one of America’s most well-known, most populous and most diverse cities. The California city spans a full 472 square miles, and features 88 separate incorporated cities, each with its own distinctive character. L.A. is a veritable melting pot of cultures. There is no majority population here; people from 140 countries speaking 86 different languages all call the city home.

L.A. is a fantastic place to visit for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the mild climate. The average high temperature for Los Angeles is 75 degrees, and the city boasts 292 sunny days a year, with only 15 inches of rainfall.

Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world, and celebrities, movie sets and Hollywood are a huge draw for visitors from everywhere imaginable. While celebrity spotting and seeing the Tinseltown sights is definitely worth a trip out to L.A., the city has much more to offer. Los Angeles features 300 museums, and is home to the largest historical theater district on the National Register of Historic Places. There are also numerous historic sites to visit, as well as interesting cultural centers, beautiful parks, sun-dappled vineyards and sun-soaked beaches.

Going Back in Time

Before it was ever a city, the Los Angeles area was populated by Native Americans, who created settlements of small villages along the rivers. A permanent settlement was created in 1781 at the behest of King Carlos III of Spain. Los Angeles was owned by Spain until Mexico gained its independence in 1821, at which time it became part of Mexico.

As a result of the Mexican-American war, California was ceded to the United States in 1847, and Los Angeles became part of the U.S.A. The city saw a population boom in the 1870s, and eventually grew into a thriving metropolis.

The film industry came to L.A. in the early 1900s, and quickly grew beyond the capacity of the downtown urban area. It eventually expanded into Hollywood, Burbank and the surrounding areas, and became a huge part of Los Angeles’s identity as a city.

Popular Attractions

If you want to have the classic L.A. experience, there are a few spots you must see. Watch the skateboarders and bodybuilders on Venice Beach; take a stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and shop (and hopefully spot a celebrity or two) on Rodeo Drive. If you don’t manage to get up close and personal with any living, breathing celebrities, you can always visit the Hollywood Wax Museum and make it look as though you did.

If you’re bringing the whole family to L.A., or if you’d just like to indulge your inner child for the day, Disneyland is the perfect place to spend a day. Hobnob with Mickey and Minnie, visit Toontown in Fantasyland, or catch the parade on Main Street U.S.A.

Los Angeles is also home to Universal Studios Hollywood, a mega-theme park that features thrill rides, shows, restaurants, shops and a working theater, all with a Hollywood theme.

Amazing Museums

Los Angeles features a wealth of museums of every kind, where you can experience everything from art, to history, to antique cars.

L.A.’s finest art museum is arguably the Getty Center, a six-building museum where visitors can see works by famous luminaries such as Cezanne, Monet and Van Gogh. The Center’s lush gardens are also worth a quick tour in and of themselves.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is a must see for curious kids and natural history enthusiasts. The museum features fantastic exhibits on birds, mammals and butterflies, as well as a new dinosaur hall with interactive dinosaur exhibits and three T-Rex specimens.

Another fascinating Los Angeles natural history museum is the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. Visitors can tour the actual tar pits, which makes for a pleasant walk and an educational experience. But the real interest is the museum, which displays numerous artifacts that were excavated from the pits, including bones from mammoths, giant sloths and saber tooth cats.

Music lovers will enjoy the Grammy Museum, which showcases the history of the Grammy Awards and those who have won them. And for those looking to find out more about the history of Hollywood, the museum explores the lives and works of Hollywood’s biggest legends, and features the largest collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world.

Outdoor Activities

Los Angeles is far more than an urban sprawl. There are several great places to enjoy the outdoors, some of which also offer cultural, spiritual, or artistic experiences.

Griffith Park is perhaps L.A.’s most famous park. Spanning 4,000 acres, it’s one of the world’s largest urban parks, and features everything from a zoo, to an observatory, to a display of antique trains.

Runyon Canyon Park is a favorite of locals. This beautiful park is tucked into the Hollywood Hills, and features challenging hiking trails and a leash-free dog area. The best thing about this park, however, is the view: At the top of the hiking trails you can see the whole city, including the Hollywood sign.

Topanga State Park is the perfect way to really immerse yourself in Los Angeles’s natural setting. This 9,000-square foot park spans several different terrains, and features beautiful overlooks, great hiking trails and the opportunity to spot all kinds of native wildlife.

Thinking of visiting L.A.? Shop for the lowest fares and the best accommodations at SmartFares.

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Seeing the Best of Santa Fe With SmartFares

Santa Fe is easily one of the Southwest’s most interesting and eclectic cities. While it’s decidedly steeped in Western cowboy culture, it’s also a fusion of European, Mexican and indigenous elements. Beyond its roots, Santa Fe has become well known as a haven for artists, and features numerous galleries with works spanning centuries, countries and styles. One of the most interesting things to do in Santa Fe is to explore the smaller galleries that feature works by local artists.

What to See

San Miguel Mission: When you take a step into the San Miguel Mission, you take a step far back in time. This church was built for the Spanish in 1610 by Tlaxcalan Indians, in what is now an iconic Southwestern style. This is a working church, and people still faithfully attend mass here on Sundays. In fact, this is the oldest working church in the United States.

St. Francis Cathedral: This stunning cathedral is one of Santa Fe’s landmarks, and a testament to the city’s unique cultural heritage. Built between 1869 and 1886, it features a dramatic Romanesque Revival style that is truly worth seeing.

Museum of International Folk Art: A favorite spot for travelers, this museum features the largest collection of international folk art in the world, including Africa, Asia and Latin America. There are also Spanish colonial items as well as a selection of textiles and costumes.

New Mexico History Museum: New Mexico’s past is one wild, rocky and romantic adventure. The New Mexico History Museum offers a glimpse into times gone by, from a number of different perspectives and experiences.

Museum of Indian Arts and Culture: This popular museum explores the history of native people of the Southwest through art from prehistoric to contemporary times.

What to Do

Ski Santa Fe: Located in the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Ski Santa Fe is one of the highest elevation ski areas in the United States, and boasts one of the most spectacular views. There is something here for everyone: Novices, experts and those in between will find a slope and an adventure to their liking.

Canyon Road: Art lovers shouldn’t miss taking a walk along Canyon Road. The buildings are beautiful in and of themselves, but they also house amazing galleries filled with works from some of New Mexico’s best artists. There are also charming restaurants and quaint shops up and down the road, so it’s easy to make an afternoon of it.

Hyde Memorial State Park: This park’s serene mountain setting is ideal for picnicking, bird watching and camping. There’s also a hiking trail and a swimming beach perfect for warm summer days.

If you’d like to see the best of Santa Fe, SmartFares can get you there for less than you think, and you’re sure to get a selection of the best available flights.

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Seaside Fun and Entertainment Await You in Galveston

Galveston is a seaside city that spans two Texas islands. This is the perfect place to hang out on the beach or head to the pier for some prime fishing. It’s also a quirky and charming city that’s full of fantastic things to see and do.

What to See

Moody Gardens 3D Theater: This amazing theater features a six-story screen, which portrays vivid 3D images designed to delight viewers and make them part of the action. A superior sound system offers an extra touch of realism. This is a great venue for kids and grownups alike.

Grand 1894 Opera House: Built in 1894, the Opera House is now used as a performing theater. Not only is this a beautiful, richly decorated building inside and out to look at, but it’s also an elegant and comfortable theater that routinely runs popular shows of all kinds.

Tree Sculptures: This self-guided sculpture tour is a fun experience for those who have a little bit of patience and enjoy a good scavenger hunt. The sculptures are crafted from trees destroyed during 2008’s devastating Hurricane Ike, and are a symbol of the city’s resilience. They have been placed around town, and it’s up to you to find them. The trees have been crafted into amazing shapes and are really worth seeing.

Moody Mansion Museum: Spanning 28,000 square feet and four stories, the Moody Mansion is an exquisitely restored late 19th-century private home that offers a peek into the life of a famous, prominent and wealthy Texas family. There’s a lot to see, including fine furnishings, silver, and artwork. And, of course, there’s the building itself, which is built from red brick, terracotta and limestone.

What to Do

Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier: This amusement park by the sea offers exciting rides and roller coasters, some of which extend right over the water for an added thrill. Choose to dine in a cool local restaurant or sample delicious fair food. Try your hand at some midway games, and browse for souvenirs in the park’s shops.

S-n-G Horseback Riding: S-n-G Horseback Riding offers a great ride for novices and experts alike. Head down the beach or across beautiful private land, or have some fun in a wild game of horse tag.

Galveston Island State Park: The perfect place for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, Galveston Island State Park offers a beach landscape perfect for camping, hiking, swimming, bird watching and hiking.

Magic Carpet Golf: This golf course features two colorful 18-hole courses, and is great fun for the whole family.

The Strand: This section of Galveston’s historic district offers a wealth of things to do, from dolphin watching to dining to museums and galleries. The district gives you a sense of Galveston’s history while being a part of the current action.

If you’re looking to explore the best of coastal Texas, head to SmartFares for the best flights, at the lowest possible rates.

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SmartFares Has Lowest Online Pricing

SmartFares Has Lowest Online Pricing

With all the hype about “discount” travel sites these days, it is hard to know whether you are getting the best deal for your money. Many travelers book a “great deal” with one website only to find out too late that they could have saved money by visiting another. Travelers don’t have to worry about this problem with SmartFares, a site that consistently offers the lowest online fares for both domestic and international travel. While international travelers save more money, domestic travelers can also find amazing deals through the SmartFares website. With the help of supportive staff, travelers will be astounded at the travel discounts they find.

SmartFares Specializes in Multi-City Trips

SmartFares blows the competition away with its multi-city travel services. Many travel websites make it easy to book point-to-point tickets, but adding multi-city arrangements makes the process much more difficult. With the help of SmartFares’ flexible, easy-to-use website, travelers can book up to 30 “legs” for a trip, even if the airports for arrival and departure are different. The Multi-City Mega Flight Search Tool allows travelers to build complicated international itineraries including takeoffs and landings from many different airports and still get the lowest prices on all travel needs.

SmartFares Has Lowest Prices for International Travel

SmartFares certainly offers low prices on airfare for domestic travel, but customers can save even more when they book international travel. SmartFares partners with hundreds of airlines and travel companies to ensure that customers always receive the lowest prices on international travel, even if their travel plans include multi-city stops in separate countries. With the help of this user-friendly international travel website and the supportive, knowledgeable staff, customers can easily book international travel to all major locations and save money on their worldwide trips.

SmartFares Is Best in Customer Service

Many travel websites take a “you’re on your own” attitude to customer service. SmartFares, on the other hand, believes that good customer support is so important that the company built it right into their mission statement. Every employee of SmartFares is knowledgeable and ready to serve the customer in finding the perfect itinerary for domestic or international travel. With the help of these friendly, courteous professionals, customers can find answers to their travel questions and even find previously unpublished fares that further lower their overall travel costs.

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