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Los Angeles at a glance: 7 quick tips for military travelers

February 19, 2017 (Photo Credit: Reed Saxon/AP)
After spending last month in Anchorage, Alaska, this month’s Military City is Los Angeles, just in time for those in other parts of the nation to be digging out of the snow, thinking about escaping to warmer climates — and maybe grabbing a map to the stars’ homes along the way.

Unsure where to start as you plan your L.A. adventure? Check out our seven basic tips below:



TAKE THE HIGH GROUND

From its perch 1,134 feet above sea level, Griffith Observatory’s museum and telescopes are free to the public year-round. Even the parking’s free — you will have to pony up for planetarium tickets.

While the observatory may point you toward the stars, it’s the view of the city that draws many to its location — including a clear line of sight to the iconic Hollywood Sign. Griffith Park also serves as home to the Los Angeles Zoo, a number of hiking and horseback-riding trails, even two separate miniature-scale train tracks that carry 600,000 passengers a year, according to the operator’s website.

HIT THE BEACH

But which beach? Choosing a spot along 75 miles of coastline can be daunting. El Porto, part of Manhattan Beach, consistently ranks near the top of many best-surf lists, but waves at Venice Beach may suit surfers of all levels. Venice also has offerings beyond the waves: “drum circles, roller skaters, hula hoopers, and a host of other colorful characters,” as one Discover Los Angeles (sponsored by the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board) review put it, as well as Muscle Beach Venice, home to open-air fitness fanatics since long before CrossFit.

Other top locations, per Discover Los Angeles, include Sunset Point (good for beginners), Surfrider Beach (in Malibu, popular for its family-friendly “kiddie bowl”) and Topanga Beach (waves topping 10 feet, but crowded).

Los Angeles 02
Photo Credit: Discover Los Angeles

KNOW YOUR HISTORY

Los Angeles may not be buzzing with active-duty service members, but head to San Pedro — south of downtown — to get your military fix.

The Battleship Iowa Museum offers multiple types of tours designed for newcomers, history buffs and everyone in between. The ship earned 11 battle stars from its launch in 1942 through its third and final decommissioning in 1990.


About 10 minutes by car south of the ship sits the Fort MacArthur Museum, which preserves the history of the fort that guarded the L.A. harbor for 60 years before its 1974 closing.

ON THE MARCH

The city’s hiking trails are extensive. Some spots pointed out by Military Times readers:

  • Runyon Canyon. Popular among tourists and locals alike, it’s just a few miles from Hollywood Boulevard and offers a three-mile loop. It’s crowded, so wannabe-wilderness wanderers should probably take a different approach, but it offers tourist-friendly views and opportunities for people-watching.
  • Angeles National Forest. More than 557 miles of hiking and riding trails, including 176 miles that belong to the Pacific Coast Trail, await outdoors-lovers who make a short drive north of the city. The five-mile Bear Canyon Trail ends beneath Switzer Falls, a 50-foot waterfall.
  • Hollywood Sign hikes. You can see the letters from multiple vantage points throughout the city, but you’ll need to climb for an up-close view. The 3.5-mile Hollyridge Trail is one option; for others, and for more trail details, Discover Los Angeles offers guides suited to hard-core hikers and those just out for a stroll.
BASE BASICS

About 1,200 active-duty military members serve at Los Angeles Air Force Base, the only active-duty installation in the metropolitan area. It’s home to the Space and Missile Systems Center, which bills itself as the “birthplace of military space” and has been on the leading edge of missile and satellite technology.

The installation rests two miles south of Los Angeles International Airport. Tours are available, per the installation’s website, which also points out what isn’t available — no long-term airport parking for leisure flights, and no RV parking.

The Seal Beach RV park, about 25 miles south of the city, may be the best bet for service-connected RV visitors.

TARGETS OF (TV) OPPORTUNITY

Maybe you’re not dreaming of Hollywood superstardom, but you wouldn’t mind taking in a TV taping, even appearing on a game show? You’re in the right town, but it’s best to come prepared.

Most shows offer free tickets, but if you haven’t ordered in advance, you’ll likely be on a waiting list. On Camera Audiences offers a variety of pre-trip ticketing options, including tickets for "The Price is Right," starring former Marine Corps Reserve member Drew Carey. But pay attention — shows are taped all over the area and could throw a wrench into your travel plans.

NAVIGATE BY THE STARS

While some tourists are taking in the sights on Hollywood Boulevard, others are staring at their feet, likely at one of the more than 2,600 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

It stretches 1.3 miles, having grown from its slightly more humble beginnings in 1960 (with a mere 1,558 stars).

Want a photo of your favorite icon’s plaque, but not interested in spending hours doing on-site recon? Head to WalkOfFame.com, type in a name and get an address. 
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