Trip Coach: December 4, 2007

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Tony Pierce, editor of LAist.com (a blog covering local news, events, food, and entertainment), answered your questions on Los Angeles.

Milwaukee, Wis.: My two friends and I will be in L.A. the weekend of the Oscars. We are all college students, so we'll be on a tight budget. What can you recommend in terms of relatively cheap restaurants and sightseeing? None of us have been to L.A. before, so we definitely want to try to hit some of the "classic" spots.

Tony Pierce: Whaddup Milwaukee!

You are talking to the king of cheap eats. Most people don't know that LA has an excellent culture of hamburgers and tacos. And we're not talking that crap they serve in Oconomowoc. You've probably heard of In-N-Out Burgers, which has definately got its fanbase (and long lines), but throughout our fair city you will see Fatburgers, and Tommy's Burgers. Both of these are very different type of hamburgers. Fatburgers are probably the most expensive hamburgers you will come across, but still cheap when considering what dinner normally cost. And when was the last time you were asked if you'd like an egg on your burger? Meanwhile Tommy's Original *comes* with chili on top. But warning - beware of imitators like Tomy's and Tony's.

When you get sick of that, don't overlook LA's biggest secret cheap eat - our taco trucks. Yes, they might look like everyday "roach coaches", but for a dollar a taco (on average) you can get some of the most delectable soft tacos you've ever had. And it will be a dining experience that 99.9% of tourists here will never have. This is where the real Eastside and Hollywood locals eat after a night of clubbing, working, or just hanging out. If you're really letting your hair down, may I recommend the tounge taco - the Lengua. Me, I usually get three tacos, the asada (steak), the pastor (because of the carmalized onions), and a pollo (chicken) and dress it with some hot salsa.

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Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: We will be spending Sunday Night and most of Monday January 13 & 14 at a hotel very near LAX. What can we do to pass the time near LAX?

Tony Pierce: OK most locals would laugh at this question and say RUN AWAY RUN AWAY. But they're missing out. Head northwest towards the ocean and the first thing you'll see is an In-N-Out burger right next to the airport. Please have one of these burgers. It's a California staple that will soon sweep the nation.

Then take Linocln blvd North (yes you will be driving - thats what we do here) to nearby Marina Del Rey, if you like boats and fancy condos, knock yourself out and walk around during the sunset. If you want something to actually do, keep going North and in a minute or two you will find yourself in Venice. Head toward Venice Beach and buy some cheap sunglasses. Venice Beach is the 2nd most visited spot by tourists next to Disney Land and the best part is it's Free. But yes, get away from that Airport.

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New York, N.Y.: Pinkberry: Hot or not?

Tony Pierce: Pinkberry is hot. But so was the hula hoop in its day. It's yogurt. Big whoop. And it cost $5 for a good sized cup that can be split between two people. Eat one, laugh, and get back outside.

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Seminole, Fla.: I am going to New Zealand in a few weeks and have an 11 hour layover in LA. What can I do during that time? I really don't want to rent a car. Is there public transportation?

Tony Pierce: I'd recommend renting a car and driving down Lincoln (north) to Venice and Santa Monica. Car culture in LA is like the jazz and creole food culture of New Orleans. Even if you got stuck in traffic, at least you can say, so THIS is what they're talking about.
If you really don't wanna rent a car, take a cab to Venice Beach ($25 each way - told ya to get a cab)and walk around at a leisurely pace. Yes there is public transportation. You can take Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus sorta from LAX but they don't make it easy. If by some miracle you can get on one they're super cheap (75 cents each way) and it will take you down Lincoln (if you get on the right one) and you can explore safe and clean Santa Monica. But I totally stand behind my tip to rent a car. And get the insurance.

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Denver, Colo.: We will be in the Newport Beach area for New Year's eve. Do you have a suggestion for two adults and a 15 year old boy?

Tony Pierce: If the boy likes skateboarding, Google for "skate parks" in Newport Beach or surrounding communities. The OC is gorgeous, so sunsets, quaint shops, and beautiful houses to gawk at might interest you, but your boy is probably going to be bored stiff. Have him work the internet before you go and have him tell you what things might be of interest to him in nearby Irvine or Anaheim. But this would be a challenge even for me.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: If I want to stroll around a neighborhood to get a good vibe of how the locals live, where would I go? WeHo? Beverly Hills?

Tony Pierce: You will find two things in Beverly Hills, tourists and people who look like tourists. It's a great city to stroll in, but LA locals don't spend a lot of time there. So stroll but realize you're in a really bizarre (in a good way) faux city. Like Venice, Italy without the charm.

WeHo has two different major strolling areas. If you're gay or just appreciate alternative lifestyles, you're going to have a great time strolling down Santa Monica Blvd. Start at Doheny which is right at the West Hollywood city limits and stroll East. See if you can get a drink at the Troubadour, one of our many famous rock clubs. Then as you head East enjoy that culture.

The other street is Sunset. Find out where the Key Club is. That used to be Gazarri's. All your favorite hair metal bands like Guns N Roses and Motley Crue got their start on the Strip. Knock back a drink at the Rainbow Room which is not even a half block next to the Key Club, say hi to the Roxy, walk past the Hustler store for some giggles, check out the famous (and gorgeous) Viper Room, as well as the classic Whisky. All of these are within a very very short walk of each other. If the night is still young by the time you make it there, keep walking up Sunset (east) and the party will go on at the many swanky bars on that road.

But if you find yourself really wanting to enjoy a nice stroll, please consider walking west on Melrose (starting at La Brea) and then turn left (south) down Fairfax. From there you can keep walking (if you still have it in ya) to Wilshire which will take you to Beverly Hills, or after you eat at Canter's on Fairfax (amazing Jewish deli), you can head north up Fairfax and turn left (west) at Santa Monica and bam you're back in West Hollywood.

One more neighborhood that's fun to walk in (although not as large) is Los Feliz, but the locals will hate me for telling tourists to go there. It's where all the cool kids live and they wanna keep it a secret so shhhhh. Have a slice at the House of Pies, thumb thru the hi end clothes at X-Large, and enjoy an evening at the Dresden. You'll thank me and my friends will curse me.

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N.Y.: My buddies and I want and only-in-LA experience. We've gone to Vegas for a bachelor party, we're thinking of catching a concert in LA and hanging out, but not sure what to do there. Help.

Tony Pierce: Concerts in LA are like concerts anywhere if you go to huge arenas like Staples. So if you come in the Summer, figure out when a band you love is playing at the Hollywood Bowl or the Greek Theatre. Two awesome outdoor venues in wonderful locations. If you like smaller acts, go to one of our many rock clubs - The Troubadour, The Viper Room, The Roxy, The Key Club, in West Hollywood. If you are adventurous and you can figure out how to get there Spaceland in Silver Lake is one of my favorites - it's small, packed with hip locals (god i hate that word) and you can find really great bands that you hear on the radio playing there for low prices and its super small.

In Echo Park there are also some really great clubs like The Echo and the Echoplex that are also small, filled with the cool kids who live and breath indie rock. Beck played the Echoplex just a few weeks ago for $20. Have a PBR for me!

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New York, N.Y.: What's the biggest mistake outoftowners make when they visit L.A.?

Tony Pierce: They go to the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica or City Walk at Universal and pretend that they're not at an outdoor mall with palm trees. You're in an outdoor mall with palm trees. Get out. In fact City Walk will even charge you to park there. I call it the Tourist tax. If you really neeeed to shop and you love outdoor malls, fine, go to the Grove in the Fairfax District. But on your way there drive down Melrose and I betya you will say Oh This Is Where I Should Be Shopping! Cuz it is.

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Brooklyn, NY: Nightlife! What's the best listings source, online or in print, for finding out the best hangouts for music, for a few different types of genres/scenes¿ or if you can name a few venues, that'd be even better. Thanks!!!

Tony Pierce: For decades the LA Weekly has been a Must for locals and tourists. It's free, they have great great listings, and you can pick it up anywhere. They have also just renovated their online presence and their calendar is killer. The blog that I edit doesn't have as many listings, but we trim the fat and tell you 5-10 of the best shows (in our opinion) that you should see that night. We usually post our list around noon each day.

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Bronx, N.Y.: Advice for two Asian American twentysomethings visiting town?

Tony Pierce: If what you mean is you'd like to hang out with other Asians, may I recommend our hugely overlooked Koreatown, which is in the center of LA and conveniently located on Wilshire. Depending on where you are staying you can even take our subway (yes we have one!). Get off at Wilshire / Western. If you're lucky theres a good concert at the Wiltern, if not stroll around Wilshire, or better yet, head north up Western. Little Tokyo downtown is a little safer (sorry, keeping it real), Chinatown is also downtown and usually totally overlooked by tourists.

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NYC, N.Y.: What's my best strategy for putting myself somewhere where I'd see a celebrity? (The stars! They're just like us! Some of them even pick up their own drycleaning!)

Tony Pierce: Go where the paparazi go: The Ivy on Robertson in Beverly Hills, the Urth Cafe, and Kitson.

In Hollywood on Sunset there's a grocery store called Ralphs. No I'm not crazy, go to the Ralphs. It's nickname is The Rock n Roll Ralphs because so many old and new rock stars get their groceries there. (You're right, they ARE just like Us!)

Also camp out at LAX (the club, not the airport), Hyde, and/or the Mondrian's Sky Bar.

But just keep your eyes open, they're everywhere.

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Heber City, Utah: How difficult is it to use public transportation to sightsee in LA? In particular, to get to the Getty (not the villa in Malibu) and the LAMA?

Tony Pierce: With planning you can take public transportation anywhere in LA. Don't believe the hype. Go to this web site and play around with the Trip Planner on the right hand side.

The Getty is great but there's probably only one bus that will get you to where you need to go to get their free monorail up that hill. So ask for it by calling the Getty first (because most of us sadly don't take the bus).

Please do try the subway, it will get you to Chinatown, Hollywood & Highland, Downtown, and Staples Center. But plan out your day BEFORE you get here because if you ask anyone while you're here you will be met with laughter or blank stares.

Also be careful with the subways cuz they close around midnight.

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Vancouver, BC, Canada: Where does the subway and other public transit go? Is it safe? Kathleen

Tony Pierce: The subways are safe. They go from North Hollywood, thru Hollywood, thru Mac Arthur Park to Koreatown (to the West) or Downtown (to the East) from there you can take our new Gold Line to Pasadena (recommended if you are concerned with safe) with a stop off at Chinatown.

The busses go everywhere and just like in any city you will be assaulted by the aromas of some of your fellow passengers, but there are cameras in the busses and other passengers, so yes it's safe.

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Lowell, Mass.: Will be at the LAX marriott for 3 days in April. I don't drive. Any suggestions for what two seniors can do?

Tony Pierce: This might come across as snarky. But if you're here for 3 days and you don't drive, please relocate to Santa Monica. The hotels aren't as cheap as at LAX, but there is nowhere to walk to for seniors near that location. Spend a few extra dollars and actually Enjoy your stay here. Get away from that airport. Those hotels are meant for one-night layovers for business travelers, not people who will be here for multiple nights who don't drive. If a travel agent booked that for you, call them up and ask, "why do you hate me?"

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Philadelphia, Pa.: I will be in Santa Clarita for a business trip, and will have one full day to myself in January. Considering this is a Friday, what do you suggest I do to maximize my LA sightseeing, especially in light of traffic concerns? I was planning on taking a train to Hollywood, view some of the sites around Grumman's theater, jump on the on-again-off-again trolley and hit a few more Hollywood sites, including a studio tour. Is this possible? Which studio tour would you recommend? Wish I had more than a day!

Tony Pierce: I believe Metrolink goes from Santa Clarita to Union Station in Downtown LA. From there take the Red Line (get a $5 all day pass) to Hollywood / Highland, when you see a super freaky Batman smoking a cigarette with a bucked tooth Superman you have made it to The Chinese Theater (hi!). Yes you will also see tourists from around the world, which is fine (hi!). If you have time check out a movie there - something no one does, but the old theatre (not the new multiplex inside the mall) is a classic and has recently been remodeled without losing the charm.

Studio Tours are hit n miss. Universal Studios is an amusement park more than a real Studio Tour. Get yourself (free) tickets to a show taping at Jimmy Kimmel (which is right across the street from the Chinese) if you really wanna see what a tv taping is like, and the best part is its over in an hour so you can enjoy the rest of your trip.

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Fort Wayne Ind.: What do you know about a restaurant called Abode in Santa Monica? It is getting really good reviews and we are staying at the Marriott Marigot--so it seems it would be in walking distance. Thanks for your assistance--Linda

Tony Pierce: Hi Linda. I've never been there but we have a great food-only website in LA called Eater LA. Search their site for a review of the place and any other restaurants you might be interested in, and also email the editor if you cant find what you're looking for. I edit LAist and our food editor Lindsay will also give you her two cents. Chow Down!

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