10 Tips for the Beginner Traveler

10 Tips for the Beginner Traveler

For the past two years I’ve lived and worked in over a dozen countries, spending most of the year as a digital nomad living out of a backpack. It’s awesome. I talk to a lot of people back home that have never traveled, and have lots of questions about the basics. I compiled these into 10 tips to make that first international adventure go as smoothly as possible.

1) Start somewhere easy

Some places are easier to travel to than others. If this is your first time out of the country, it might be worth considering one of the easier destinations over, say 6 weeks on Bouvet Island or a quick jaunt up K2. But hey, if that’s what you want, go for it.

2) Get your phone sorted out

There are few things more freeing than an unlocked smartphone. If your phone is unlocked you can get, probably, a local SIM card for cheap high-speed data, wherever you go. Forget overpriced travel data plans like those from Sprint and Verizon. Local SIM cards are the way to go.

Unless you have T-Mobile. Their Simple Choice plans get you unlimited international data in nearly every country. It’s pretty slow, however. I wrote about them in The Best Cellular Plan for Travelers.

10 Tips for the Beginner Traveler

3) The right luggage

Buy a smaller bag than you think you might need (more on this in #5). Personally, I prefer a good travel backpack. Some people like the hybrid backpack/rolly-bags, but I find them cumbersome. Avoid regular rolly bags, they’re more trouble than their worth. Big suitcases should be avoided at all costs (unless you’re going skiing or something and need to bring a lot of bulky gear).

4) The right gear

I love a good, cheap, travel laptop. A USB battery pack is invaluable. I love noise cancelling headphones, but they’re probably a luxury for most people.

5) Pack light

This will be the hardest thing about travel. There are few harder urges to overcome than overpacking. “But I might need this!!!” is so common there are industries built around needless junk and charging you for heavy bags. Aim for 30 pounds, tops, for everything. If you don’t bring a lot of electronics, aim for under 25. You don’t need more than a week’s worth of clothes. You can do laundry everywhere. Seriously, travelling light will change everything about how you travel.

10 Tips for the Beginner Traveler

6) Cloud data backup

I had one friend drop her camera in a taxi and lose 3 weeks’ worth of photos, nearly her entire multi-country trip through Asia. Cloud backups are cheap and easy to use. I like Google Photos, but there are a ton of other options.

7) Apps for you and your family

Google Translate is the greatest app for any traveler, by FAR (download languages when you’re on WiFi, and it will work without a data connection). Google Maps is a close second (download an area on WiFi, and it too will work without a data connection).

What I also recommend is hooking your family with apps too, specifically WhatsApp and Instagram (or Skype or Messenger, etc). Keeping in touch while on the road is key for your mental health, and theirs. I mention Instagram because it’s easy to use for those who aren’t too tech savvy, and it allows cross posting to Facebook, Twitter and the like if you don’t usually use Instagram. Tumblr is another easy way to share photos and info, and I’ve met several travelers that use that as an easy way to blog goings on to share with the folks back home.

8) Don’t be afraid of hostels

Hostels aren’t things that Americans consider. There’s a mistaken perception that they’re dirty, rowdy, dangerous places. I guess some are, but most of the ones I’ve stayed at in the two years I’ve been travelling full time are nicer than most hotels.

Review websites like Hostelworld.com and Hostelz.com give you an idea about a place before you ever set foot in it. Best of all, they’re a great way to meet new people.

9) Lock your phone

Your phone, and what’s on it, is probably the most valuable thing you have on you. Phones are easily replaced. Personal data theft is way worse. Pictures, addresses… how many banking apps and websites do you have that automatically log you in?

Lock your phone. The swipey geometry designs may seem great, but after you use them a few times, the screen will be smudged in the exact shape of your passcode. Numbers and biometrics are safer.

10) Don’t make it easy for thieves

I met a first-time traveler from a tiny mid-west town. She walked around London with her iPhone 6 sticking half out of her back pocket. Theft is rare, but don’t make it easy. Don’t leave your bag on a table at a sidewalk café. Don’t leave your backback on your back on a crowded train. You’d be surprised how often I see people not doing these things. There’s nothing wrong with being a little cautious.

You don’t need to lash your belongings to your chest with steel cables every time you leave the hostel. Just, you know, be aware of your surroundings. If someone could casually pick up something, or pull it out of your hands without any effort, maybe that’s not the best place for it.

Best Dating Ideas for Los Angeles

Best dating Ideas for Los Angeles

Dating Ideas Los Angeles offers weekly tips on the best places for a date in your city. Check out for the unique and romantic dates in LA.

Bowling at Spare Room

In high school, the hottest dates were always the bowling dates. The parents would drop you off at a place that usually served alcohol and horribly delicious food. Nothing was more erotic than strapping on some smelly shoes, sticking your fingers into those holes, and having them put on the laser show to 70s disco. You can reenact that whole scenario at The Spare Room in Hollywood, only this time with pricey cocktails, and bowling lanes so clean and slippery they would make a porn star proud.

Rental shoes are handmade by Esquivel. On top of having games like backgammon, checkers, chess, Monopoly, Scrabble, and Connect Four, The Spare Room’s also has delicious handcrafted cocktails like a Bull’s Eye with Tapatio Blanco Tequila and what they claim to be the best Moscow Mules ever.

Best dating Ideas for Los Angeles

Santa Monica Pub Crawl

For the sixth year in a row, more than 30 of Santa Monica’s best bars and restaurants are offering a night of food and drink specials for the Santa Monica Pub Crawl. Benefitting the Westside Food Bank, the Santa Monica Pub Crawl highlights four distinct dining and entertainment districts of the beach-side city, which for only $12, you can navigate at will.

Your wristband will get you access to discounts at everywhere from Areal to Del Friscos to Barney’s, plus entry into the Instagram photo contest and the Santa Scavenger Hunt. And don’t let the pub crawl theme fool you. The emphasis at this crawl is on “Santa,” who you are all but expected to dress up as — or at least don your best holiday attire.

Roof on Wilshire

Dinner and drinks atop the Wilshire Hotel will take anyone’s breath away.

Griffith Observatory

From afar, this white-washed building and its domes stand out as an ever-present mountaintop landmark, but up close, you can stargaze with your date, and take in the gorgeous views of the city below. Shows are offered daily except for Mondays, noon to 10 PM weekdays, 10 AM – 10 PM weeknights — come at night, it’s worth it!

Broadway: The Longest and Most Fantastic Street in the World

Broadway: The Longest and Most Fantastic Street in the World

Broadway, the longest and most fantastic street in the world, starts its 16-mile journey from the tip of Manhattan as a shipping lane, moves a few blocks north to the Wall Street financial center, passes by the civic buildings of the city, and takes a diagonal course from Union Square through the needle-trades area between 34th and 39th Streets.

Between 42d and 53d Streets, Broadway is the Great White Way —renowned as an amusement and theatrical center. From 53rd Street to Columbus Circle it cuts through Automobile Row, center of the auto retail trade. It changes its diagonal course at 79th Street to parallel the island’s high escarpment facing the Hudson River.

Here it is lined with hotels, apartment houses, cafeterias, beauty salons, movie houses, and churches. At 114th Street it strikes a new note in the buildings of Columbia University, and another at 155th Street in a group of museums. From this point on it is a nondescript thoroughfare, ending as a semisuburban road as it approaches the city’s limits.

Two American Symbols: Hot Dog and Hamburger

Two American Symbols: Hot Dog and Hamburger

No description of food in the United States should omit those two products of roadside stands – the hot dog and the hamburger. These popular snacks are consumed by the million in the smallest hamlets and most sophisticated communities.

If the national drink of the country is not a glass of cold milk or a chocolate malted, then it must inevitably be a cup of coffee. Served with cream and sugar, in defiance of experts the world over who advocate only unsweetened black coffee, it is the one beverage that almost everyone drinks for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

To end on a note of complete confusion, calculated to send the theorical French gourmet screaming into the streets, in the Boston and New England area generally, coffee is served with the main course. Naturally no gourmet would permit such a mixture of flavors in his native France.

Two American Symbols: Hot Dog and Hamburger

Arizona: Hot climate, desserts and very mild winters

Arizona: Hot climate, desserts and very mild winters

Arizona is the 48th state of United States of America. It is located in the southwestern region of United States. The capital of Arizona is Phoenix which is the largest city of Arizona. It was the last state declared by the government of United States in the United States of America. Arizona does not have a very moderate climate and therefore it is liked by the people who are interested in spending their vacation in hot summers.

Arizona is known for its hot climate, desserts and very mild winters. It was also termed as the fastest growing state of United States of America in terms of population. It consists of about 4 million people. Phoenix is the most popular part of Arizona and also its capital. The other important cities in Arizona are Mesa, Glendale, Peoria, Chandler, Sun City, Sun City West, Fountain Hills, Gilbert, Avondale, Tempe Tolleson and Scottsdale.

Arizona is a state which solely follows American culture. However, the weather affects its culture. The food pattern is the same as that of the rest of United States of America. Arizona is very famous for its cooking patterns. The tourists here can also enjoy desserts. Arizona is one of safest places in United States of America. The infrastructure is developed in a very good and secure manner. Arizona is also very famous for its sports. It has its own teams for different sports, just like the other States of United States of America. Arizona is a very wealthy state in terms of education and sports. People who like educational and sports activities come to Arizona to study and learn.

The top attractions in Arizona are Bisbee, Canyon de Chelly, Jerome, Lake Powell and Monument Valley. These are the most beautiful places to visit in Arizona. The most famous hotels in Arizona are Anthem, Bellemont, Page, Paradise Valley, Parker, Oak Creek Canyon and Oro Valley. These hotels are the best and most luxurious hotels in Arizona. They are very well developed and have the best and the latest amenities.

These hotels serve various types of cuisines to their guests. The hotel management takes care of maintaining different types of cuisines according to the type of the guests from different countries. The music is also very diverse in Arizona. It is based on the native English music which is followed all over America. However, it also contains some French and Spanish words in it.

As far as sport is concerned, there are many popular players who are now playing as professionals in the American teams. These teams play at the world level championships and leagues. Arizona is also famous for having the maximum number of female governors, than any other state in the country. It follows a very rich education pattern. The universities and schools are very sensitive about their education level and student management. The state government is also very active in maintaining law and order in the state to make the natives as well as the tourists feel safe and secure.

Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

A few decades ago, nobody wanted to touch DTLA. There simply weren’t enough things to do in Downtown Los Angeles, aside from being a firsthand witness to the decline of a once great city center. These days, it’s a different story. While Downtown is still a little bit rough around the edges, it’s in the midst of a cultural and architectural resurgence that’s turning the area into a walkable, Metro-friendly destination dotted with museums and beautiful buildings. Get to know Bunker Hill, the Historic Core and beyond with these 20 things to do in Downtown Los Angeles.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

As the $274-million crown jewel of the LA Music Center, Disney Hall opened in 2003 to rave reviews. The novelty hasn’t yet worn off: both inside and out, this is a terrific venue. Designed by Frank Gehry, the hall features a 2,265-capacity auditorium with an open platform stage. The hall is the home of the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale, but the schedule is surprisingly varied throughout the year. The complex also includes the 250-seat Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre, a gallery and a roof garden.

Music Center

The Center Theatre Group programs two of the halls that make up DTLA’s original cultural complex. At the north end, the Ahmanson Theatre presents pre- or post-Broadway fare, while the smaller Mark Taper Forum stages a wide range of new plays. Also part of the Music Center, the grand Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is the home base for LA Opera, as well as occasional concerts and dance events. Last, but certainly not least, the Center also includes the previously mentioned Disney Concert Hall.

Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Bradbury Building

Walk through the archway entrance of this otherwise nondescript brick building and you’re greeted with a stunning, light-flooded alley of wood, iron and brick. You’ll have to do all of your gawking from the ground floor (and half a flight of stairs) as the rest of the building is private office space. History buffs will appreciate its place as Downtown’s oldest commercial building (1893); movie buffs will recognize the zigzagging staircases from the climax of Blade Runner.

Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours

We could fill an entire list with nothing but Downtown’s stunning architecture (unsurprisingly, quite a few of our picks for the most beautiful buildings are in DTLA). Instead, we’ll point you in the direction of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s acclaimed walking tours. Choose between tours of modern skyscrapers or the Historic Core, Art Deco icons or Victorian mansions. Most tours meet at Pershing Square, near the mini-groves of orange trees.

Grand Central Market

This European-style food hall has been operating on the ground floor of the iconic Homer Laughlin Building since 1917. Even if you’re not there for the food, it’s worth a trip; people from all corners of LA mix and mingle among rows of spices, produce and vintage neon signage. Of course, if you’re hungry it’s a great place to get cheap pupusas, carnitas tacos and aguas frescas, as well as food from handsome, trendy eateries like Sticky Rice, Horse Thief BBQ, Eggslut and G&B Coffee.

Things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Grand Park

The slow, lumbering mission to turn Downtown LA into a vibrant cultural hub got a lift when a portion of Grand Park’s 12 acres officially opened to the public in July 2012. Dotted with fountains, picnic lawns, bright pink benches and plenty of nooks from which to sit and people-watch, Grand Park is a bright urban oasis that proves the city has a sense of romance. The park plays host to performances, gatherings and other community events.

The Broad

LA’s newest contemporary art museum, the Broad, is the public home for Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection of 2,000 post-war works. The free museum, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, has added yet another cultural anchor to Grand Avenue. Find out more in our complete guide to the Broad.

Union Station

Train travel has gone in and out of fashion, but the last of the great American rail stations is just as handsome as the day it opened: its Mission-style exterior opens up into a grand waiting area with marble tiles, faux-wood beamed ceilings and Art Deco touches. Wander through its halls and courtyards and you’ll find a building rich with history, locomotion and—with the coming of a high-speed rail and a new concourse—progress.

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument

As the oldest section of Los Angeles, where the city was first established in 1781 as a farming community, El Pueblo has an authentic, Spanish-style feel. The area comprises 26 historical structures, 11 of which are open to the public, as well as the famous Olvera Street, which is full of local independent vendors selling a range of goods.

A History of Travel in America

A History of Travel in America

The many years of early exploration throughout the whole extent of the continent, carried on by brave individual adventurers and trappers chiefly from Spain and France before the year 1620 had almost no effect in shaping the after-history and development of America’s travel system.

The significance of any discovery in its relation to the subject, whether of route or method of travel, did not lie in the earliest information respecting that route or method, but in the popular impulse which was later — sometimes much later — to recognize its value and demand its use. It was necessity or comprehension, not knowledge; the needs or desires of the people rather than the exploits and achievements of individuals that always influenced the progress of the system and led on, little by little, to what now exists.

Hence it was that definite and visible progress in creating established methods of getting about the country did not begin until several English colonies had found firm foothold along the Atlantic coast. There were three motives that caused the first travel movements among the early population. One was the natural wish of a settlement to get into touch with its neighbors; another was need of betterment and growth; and the third was an occasional impulse, due to differences of one sort or another, which sometimes caused part of a colony to separate from the rest of it and go elsewhere to set up for itself.

The five principal localities from which radiated the first travel movements of the country were the Chesapeake Bay region; eastern Massachusetts; New York Bay and the Great River of the Mountains; the Connecticut River valley and Long Island Sound; and Delaware Bay and the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers. Three of these, the Chesapeake, New York and Delaware Bays, are important among those gateways already referred to through which the interior of the country is accessible from the Atlantic seaboard.

But the two biggest entrances of all—the Mississippi River with its tributaries and the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes — were destined to play a much smaller part in the story than their importance warranted. For it so happened that the course of wars and politics in Europe produced conditions in America which deprived the Mississippi, the St. Lawrence River and the lakes of much of the influence they might otherwise have had in shaping the development of travel in America.

For generations five mutually jealous and conflicting groups were quarreling and fighting in an effort to get control of the continent. Each of three nations— France, Spain and England — was scheming to extend its own possessions and oust the others; the English colonies were trying to secure the administration of their own affairs; and the Indians were doing what they could to be rid of the lot or restrict their movements.

The continuous control of the St. Lawrence by the French for nearly a hundred and fifty years after the arrival of the first English colonies, and the similar uninterrupted holding of the Mississippi by France and Spain until some time after the Revolution, long prevented the use of those two gateways as factors in any progress in which the English speaking inhabitants were interested. And the impulse which was finally to result in giving the Mississippi a place in the free and unobstructed travel system of the country came, not from its mouth, but from the upper valley of the stream, where a vigorous English speaking population had become established and demanded the use of the river.

By about the year 1636, then, the movement of the population in and from all of the five regions named had already begun and some action had been taken, both by the guiding minds of the colonies and by the people on their own impulse, to make such travel as easy and rapid as was possible under the conditions that surrounded them. On order of the authorities of Plymouth Colony all creeks and rivulets were bridged by felling trees across them, and canoe ferries were established for the passage of the larger streams.

A few of the first canoes used by the people of Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth Colony were doubtless of the birch variety, bought from the Indians, but the prompt and unfortunate results of the unstable equilibrium of those canoes under the unpracticed guidance of the white pioneers quickly decided them to shift to the less graceful, but more calm and sedate type of craft such as was made by hollowing a log.

It is not difficult to picture the inward emotion of an Indian as he sold a birch-bark canoe to a high hatted Pilgrim, and then, standing on the river bank, watched his customer step into the craft, only instantly to leave it from the other side and disappear head first into the water. Having fished out the white interloper the red man would buy back his canoe, enter it, and depart. After the adoption cf log canoes became general, and as population increased, trees especially suitable for canoe making were often marked by the authorities and protected by orders which forbade their use for any other purpose.

Focusing on San Francisco

Focusing on San Francisco

Go ahead, leave your heart. You can’t help leaving a piece of it, anyway. It will get lost in the crowded, bustling streets of Chinatown, the picturesque Victorian “painted ladies,” the vast green expanse of Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco is a photographer’s paradise, with its endless array of impossible-seeming angles, ever-changing show of light and shadow and treasure trove of old and new architecture. It is also a city that will make a photographer out of the uninitiated – one simply must capture a part of San Francisco.

Reduce the country’s most beautiful city to a mere few images? Impossible. But for starters, here are a few favorite shots from photographer J’vIark E. Gibson-who’s lucky enough to make a living at it. Gibson has been using Canon equipment for 22 years. “It’s performed extremely well for me-I’ve never been tempted to switch,” notes Gibson.

Cable Cars… Poetry in Motion

They are the only National Historic Landmarks that move-and perhaps the single most recognizable icon of the City by the Bay. The cable car system represents the charming contradictions of San Francisco at its best: functional frivolity, 120-year-old remnants of the old world stubbornly and happily bustling along with the new. Adventurers can still ride along on the outside-just hold on tight around those curvy streets and plunging hillsides.

Focusing on San Francisco

California Street, at the crest of Nob Hill

Gibson explains, “The perspective is from the top of Nob Hill, looking downtown. From here, you can get a great front end view, because tbe cable car runs up and down California. And, if you’re at tbe right cross streets, you can get wonderful sideviews of other moving cars, or people getting on and off. In the background, tbe view stretches all the way downtown, and beyond to the towers of the Bay Bridge. It’s a fantastic mixture of visual elements.”

According to Gibson, time of day is important for this shot. It’s best with good frontal lighting, so make sure the sun is behind you.

Fisherman’s Wharf… The Fabled Dock of the Bay

The pungent aroma of fresh seafood and the irrepressible pulse of seafaring commerce beckon us to discover the sights and sounds of the incomparable Fisherman’s Wharf. The Wharf draws in 87 percent of San Francisco’s visitors-unquestionably its perennial catch of the day. Enjoy the teeming humanity right along with the succulent crab, shrimp and fresh sourdough, as you stroll through the waterfront marketplace. But calm tranquillity is always as near as the water’s edge, where colorful fishing boats punctuate the horizon.

Docked fishing boats

“The vantage point of this shot is from the pier, approximately eight feet above the water. This tight close up shot emphasizes the repetitive pattern of the fishing vessels. Use a slow shutter speed and a tripod or pier railing to prevent camera movement and to get a clear sharp-focused shot,” advises Gibson.

Golden Gate Bridge… Gates of Heaven

“I don’t know who decided to paint it orange, but God bless them,” declared the author Susan Cheever, speaking of the Golden Gate Bridge. And whether it provides your doorway into the great city or your conduit to the neighborly delights of Sausalito and Marin County, the sight of its 4,200 foot expanse at sunset is not one you’re likely to forget. But bring your camera just in case.

From north of the Bridge-Marin headlands road

“Drive across the bridge and get on the elevated road that goes along the Marin headlands shoreline,” says Gibson. “As you drive west along that road, looking back you can find a spot on the road where you align the north pair of towers of the Golden Gate Bridge with downtown San Francisco-it’s a great shot with the bridge in the foreground and the skyline behind it. You can get a detail of the Bridge tower with the Bank of America and the Transamerica Pyramid behind it. It’s a very popular shot for people who want both elements.”

When conversing with Mark Gibson about shooting San Francisco, his excited reverence is irrepressible. “Visually, this is an incredibly rich place. There is such variety, with the hills and the water, the bridges and the architecture. And the lighting is phenomenal-fog, clouds and clear blue skies in rapid succession. There’s always another perspective. How could anyone get tired of it?” Here are a few tips for shooting in San Francisco:

Don’t let San Francisco’s trademark fog make you camera-shy. It can add a dramatic mood to your shots, but use a fast film for clarity.
When photographing a moving cable car-or from a moving cable car-be sure you’re holding the camera steady and press the shutter release gently.

Here on the Marina Yacht Harbor jetty at the foot of Baker Street, our feathered friend offers a slightly different angle of a familiar landmark: the majestic Golden Gate Bridge.

Hawaii: The Waikiki Beach the white sand shoreline

Hawaii: The Waikiki Beach the white sand shoreline

Waikīkī is a beachfront neighborhood of Honolulu, on the south shore of the island of Oʻahu, in Hawaii, United States. Waikiki is best known for Waikīkī Beach, the white sand beach shoreline fronting the neighborhood. Waikīkī is home to public places including Kapiʻolani Park, Fort DeRussy, Kahanamoku Lagoon, Kūhiō Beach Park, and Ala Wai Harbor.

The name Waikīkī means spouting fresh water in the Hawaiian language, for springs and streams that fed wetlands that once separated Waikīkī from the interior. The area was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty in the 1800s who enjoyed surfing there on early forms of longboards.

A few small hotels opened in the 1880s. In 1893, Greek-American George Lycurgus leased the guest house of Allen Herbert and renamed it the “Sans Souci” (French for “without worries”) creating one of the first beach resorts. Later that year Robert Louis Stevenson stayed at the resort; subsequently it became a popular destination for tourists from the mainland. The area at coordinates 21°15′49″N 157°49′17″W is still called “Sans Souci Beach”.

Today, the area is filled with large resort hotels, such as the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the Halekulani hotel, the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī and Hyatt Place Waikiki, the Sheraton Waikīkī, and historic hotels dating back to the early 20th century (such as the Moana Surfrider Hotel and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel). The beach hosts many events a year, including surf competitions, outdoor performances, hula dancing and outrigger canoe races.

Santa Monica: Famed resort town by the early 20th century

Santa Monica: Famed resort town by the early 20th century

Santa Monica is a beachfront city in western Los Angeles County, California, United States. The city is named after the Christian saint, Monica. Situated on Santa Monica Bay, it is bordered on three sides by the city of Los Angeles – Pacific Palisades to the north, Brentwood on the northeast, Sawtelle on the east, Mar Vista on the southeast, and Venice on the south. The Census Bureau population for Santa Monica in 2010 was 89,736.

Partly because of its agreeable climate, Santa Monica had become a famed resort town by the early 20th century. The city has experienced a boom since the late 1980s through the revitalization of its downtown core, significant job growth and increased tourism. The Santa Monica Pier remains a popular and iconic destination.

Attractions and cultural resources

The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome (carousel) is a National Historic Landmark. It sits on the Santa Monica Pier, which was built in 1909. The La Monica Ballroom on the pier was once the largest ballroom in the US and the source for many New Year’s Eve national network broadcasts. The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium was an important music venue for several decades and hosted the Academy Awards in the 1960s. McCabe’s Guitar Shop is still a leading acoustic performance space as well as retail outlet. Bergamot Station is a city-owned art gallery compound that includes the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The city is also home to the California Heritage Museum and the Angels Attic dollhouse and toy museum.

Santa Monica has three main shopping districts, Montana Avenue on the north side of the city, the Downtown District in the city’s core, and Main Street on the south end of the city. Each of these districts has its own unique feel and personality. Montana Avenue is a stretch of luxury boutique stores, restaurants, and small offices that generally features more upscale shopping. The Main Street district offers an eclectic mix of clothing, restaurants, and other specialty retail.

The Downtown District is the home of the Third Street Promenade, a major outdoor pedestrian-only shopping district that stretches for three blocks between Wilshire Blvd. and Broadway (not the same Broadway in downtown and south Los Angeles). Third Street is closed to vehicles for those three blocks to allow people to stroll, congregate, shop and enjoy street performers. Santa Monica Place, featuring Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom in a three-level outdoor environment, is located at the south end of the Promenade. After a period of redevelopment, the mall reopened in the fall of 2010 as a modern shopping, entertainment and dining complex with more outdoor space.

The oldest movie theater in the city is the Majestic. Also known as the Mayfair Theatre, the theater which opened in 1912 has been closed since the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The Aero Theater (now operated by the American Cinematheque) and Criterion Theater were built in the 1930s and still show movies. The Santa Monica Promenade alone supports more than a dozen movie screens.

Palisades Park stretches out along the crumbling bluffs overlooking the Pacific and is a favorite walking area to view the ocean. It includes a totem pole, camera obscura, artwork, benches, picnic areas, pétanque courts, and restrooms.

Tongva Park occupies 6 acres between Ocean Avenue and Main Street, just south of Colorado Avenue. The park includes an overlook, amphitheater, playground, garden, fountains, picnic areas, and restrooms.

The Santa Monica Stairs, a long, steep staircase that leads from north of San Vicente down into Santa Monica Canyon, is a popular spot for all-natural outdoor workouts. Some area residents have complained that the stairs have become too popular, and attract too many exercisers to the wealthy neighborhood of multimillion-dollar properties.

Natives and tourists alike have enjoyed the Santa Monica Rugby Club since 1972. The club has been very successful since its conception, most recently winning back-to-back national championships in 2005 and 2006. Santa Monica defeated the Boston Irish Wolfhounds 57-19 in the Division 1 final, convincingly claiming its second consecutive American title on June 4, 2006, in San Diego. They offer Men’s, Women’s and a thriving children’s programs. The club recently joined the Rugby Super League.

Every fall the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce hosts The Taste of Santa Monica on the Santa Monica Pier. Visitors can sample food and drinks from Santa Monica restaurants. Other annual events include the Business and Consumer Expo, Sustainable Quality Awards, Santa Monica Cares Health and Wellness Festival, and the State of the City. The swanky Shutters on the Beach Hotel offers a trip to the famous Santa Monica Farmers Market to select and influence the materials that will become that evening’s special “Market Dinner.”

Santa Monica has two hospitals: Saint John’s Health Center and Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center. Its cemetery is Woodlawn Memorial. Santa Monica has several newspapers and magazines, including the Santa Monica Star, Santa Monica Daily Press, the Santa Monica Mirror, the Santa Monica Observer, Santa Monica Magazine, and the Santa Monica Sun.