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Lonely Planet Los Angeles, San Diego & Southern California (Travel Guide) Paperback – January 1, 2015
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Top Customer Reviews
Lonely Planet puts out guides for regular people, meaning I think anyone can get into a guide, learn with they want, and get busy enjoying. And since I got the soft bound version, it's a size that really fits under your arm to be carried, yet, not too big, or I could have opted for digital chapters for my iPhone or iPad device, those work well too. I like maps that keep me where I'm going. I use a rental car gps, but I still want to know on a bigger scale the area, what sights I'm after, and this book was perfect, for they could go to areas - like Palm Springs & the Deserts, Santa Barbara, and give detailed suggestions, San Diego's Balboa Park - home to museums, parks, and nearby places to stay or eat, well done. The book shows what's FREE, what's a Top Choice, the map of that area was right on. I just went there a few months ago, and boy, I wish I'd had this book with me! The Survival Guide aspect, really helps get you into the proper head space, meaning understanding the locals, their mind set.
Because architecture and culture are gaining in popularity in the area, I went through the author's suggested ideas as Must See's, and again, right on the money. So interested in Post Modernism @ the 1997 Getty Center created by Meier or the Getty Villa, a recreation of an Italian villa in Malibu, it talks about it. The coverage of festivals, there are so many, from the awesome Festival of the Swallows or also known as Fiesta de la Golondrinas with website link included. This is a thinking person's guide, when I anticipated a question, it was answered most of the time. I think you'll use this book, not just put it on a shelf, and want to share it with friends also traveling to Southern California.
Want to visit Disneyland, the guide is thorough in it's multi-page planner with many insights that will save the visitor time and money, and cranky kids. Since the authors know it's a popular site, they created a special trip planner. Helpful information for your cell phone, websites of local interest, or even where to spot a celebrity is there. Amazing breadth of information for the reader. Take Santa Monica, maps, suggested places to go the best beaches, eat, walk, bike, bike rentals, stay by area and price, rated by real people, excellent. I can't wait to try so many new places since our last visit, that's what I am attempting to convey, the book really sets the stage for a well planned trip, Lonely Planet pays for the places it reviews, no freebies, no pay for a review stuff, and you get good quality advice you can count on. Thanks!
Get the book, or digital chapters directly from Lonely Planet, great value.
- Eating/Drinking/Entertainment recommendations - I've noticed Lonely Planet seems to be most tuned in to the latest & greatest hot spots, and this guide is no exception (and if there's one city you want that kind of info, it's trend-obsessed LA). All the local institutions seem accounted for, too.
- Outdoor Activities - Good job here as well (another of Lonely Planet's strengths), particularly with surfing... I have a feeling the author is a fan. The hiking coverage is good - better than any other guidebook I've seen, certainly - but I kind of wish there were a bit more actual trail recommendations in the San Gabriel & San Bernardino Mountains (the latter of which is barely mentioned at all) which, along with the San Jacinto Mountains, are generally considered LA's premier hiking destinations. It also doesn't mention you can hike to the Hollywood sign (the "Mount Lee" trail). If you're interested in winter sports, Big Bear Lake is mentioned briefly, but it could be more in-depth on the subject.
- Los Angeles & San Diego coverage - Very good. All the essential sights are here, from neighborhoods both famous and those still up-and-coming. Orange County, including Disney Land + the beach cities, and Palm Springs have strong coverage - plus there's bonus Central Coast info, centered around Santa Barbara & the surrounding wine country (featured in "Sideways"). And although Las Vegas gets a brief look, you'll definitely want a separate guide if you plan on staying a while (and it's debatable if it should even be included here, imho, when there's other stuff missing - see below).
Could be better:
- Writing - The best travel guides are engaging and filled with the kind of insight and knowledge you'd get from a savvy local - here the book falls short (especially the San Diego chapter, but with LA too, to a degree). It's the same spiel you'd find in other LA guides from lesser publishers... certainly not bad, but not outstanding either.
- Layout - The LA neighborhoods are listed in a strange order (I can't figure out the logic at all), which can make things tricky to find. Also, some of the more "minor" neighborhoods are not shown in the any of the maps, so it's hard to tell where they are are in relation to each other just from the book.
- Coverage Outside of the Major Cities - LA and San Diego get top billing on the cover, as well as the lion's share of attention in the book - not surprising, since they are the biggest tourist destinations. On the other hand, this is Lonely Planet - known for going off the beaten path and getting that insider scoop - yet here, they dig only slightly deeper than mainstream competitors like Frommers and Fodor's. Comprehensive it ain't.
For example, Idyllwild - a peaceful mountain community that's a fantastic base for hiking - isn't mentioned. Nor are the quieter gems of San Diego county: Warner Springs, Palomar Mountain and Observatory, nor Cuyamaca Rancho State Park. How about the Carrizo Plain National Monument or the California Poppy Reserve? Or the Tule Elk Reserve? The Devil's Punchbowl? Jenk's Lake? Vasquez Rocks? Mormon Rocks? Ventura's Serra Cross? Rose Valley Falls & Piedras Blancas north of Ojai? Figueroa Mountain Road (big views and, incidentally, MJ's Neverland Ranch)? Jalama County Beach and its delicious burgers? Santa Maria's local barbecue? Nojoqui Falls? Of course I wouldn't expect all of them to be mentioned, but there are so many lesser-known nooks and crannies begging to be explored, and I was hoping for much more (luckily I found them from other sources).
The desert chapter, which should cover Death Valley, Mojave National Preserve, old Route 66, etc. - an essential part of the SoCal experience, in my opinion - gets short shrift as well. For more coverage of Death Valley, as a little blurb in the book will tell you, you need to buy the full-fledged California guide. Huh?! Why should the less-specific guide - "California" - have better information than the more-specific guide - "Southern California"? You may think it's due to space constraints, but Lonely Planet also sells a Northern California guide that covers a much larger area than this and does an admirably thorough job of it. (Also: Trona Pinnacles! Desert Tortoise Natural Area! Red Rock Canyon State Park!)
Minor Stuff I Would Add:
There's a box of text that mentions the best places to see celebs (the hip restaurants du jour mostly, which are constantly changing), but I'd also add reliable places like the Arclight Theatre, the West Hollywood Farmer's Market, and the trails of Runyon & Franklin Canyons. There's also a section for TV audience tickets - how about info on tickets to world-famous events like the Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys? It is possible for mortals such as ourselves! There are farmer's markets scattered throughout the guide but it would be nice if they were gathered in their own section, perhaps with a comment on which are the best (California is known for its agricultural bounty, after all). And although the restaurant recommendations are good, the "Flavors of SoCal" section in the back feels shallow, filled with more generalities than the average LP guide (I think we all know what enchiladas are by now). Give examples! Be specific! I'd name check Oxnard strawberries. Discuss the differences between Tex-Mex (the de facto national standard) and Cal-Mex. Or the obsession with tri-tip. Or In-N-Out. I'd list the best places to get a San Diego-style fish taco... there is surprisingly no mention of this. The best local microbrews. The best coffee and bakeries. You get the idea; all I'm saying is it can go way deeper.
Overall: This is a great resource with plenty of useful information - we've already done several excellent day trips with this guide! Despite some room for improvement, it is still my pick for best guide to the region.