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At play in L.A.

If you'll be attending the American Forestry Association's Fifth National Urban Forest Conference in Los Angeles this month (November 12-17), you'll find a city that may look familiar--probably you've seen it in any number of movies. Surely no other city has been filmed more than Los Angeles, the motion-picture capital of the world.

The conference headquarters, the Biltmore, besides being a grand hotel, served as a filming location for The Poseidon Adventure, A Star Is Born, Rocky III, Roots, Ghostbusters, and episodes of television shows such as "Moonlighting." The hotel's Crystal Ballroom is thought to be the most filmed room in the city, and hardly a week goes by without a movie crew showing up to shoot somewhere on the premises.

The Westin Bonaventure, a modern shopping complex just one long block west of the Biltmore along 5th Street, is another Los Angeles landmark made recognizable by exposure on the silver screen. Buut Los Angeles has so much more to offer visitors, especially urban forest conference-goers, than what we see so often in films. Within an hour's drive of downtown are sunny beaches, large public parks, forested mountains, two famous amusement parks, museums, and arboretums.

If your spouse or travel companions are more interested in shopping than in seminars, downtown opportunities range from a garment district where wholesalers offer discount prices to an expanding jewelry district along Hill Street. Or you might send your shoppers to the Seventh Market Place at Citicorp Plaza, a three-level complex with 54 specialty stores anchored by two department stores and featuring a gourmet food pavilion where you can dine outside shaded by palm trees.

In just about any direction from the Biltmore, you can find any number of rooftop gardens. These open spaces in the downtown cityscape offer a cool respite for visitors and locals alike. The designs are interesting--some are atop parking garages, others jut from office or apartment buildings at different floors like steppingstones to the sky.

If you want to tour downtown Los Angeles, do it during the day. Life seems to roll out of the city with the cars at rush hour, and downtown dining within walking distance is mostly (but not exclusively) confined to the hotels.

A good idea for evening is to stay at the Biltmore and sample the pasta bar in the hotel's Court Cafe or dine in elegance at Bernard's, an award-winning restaurant on the premises. At some point during your stay, you will probably feel compelled to stroll through the hotel's grand rooms and magnificent hallways. Don't resist.

Later in the evening, you might meet colleagues in the hotel's Cognac Room, challenge a friend to billiards in the Gallery Bar, or listen to jazz in the Grand Avenue Bar. The Biltmore also has a health club where you can work out, go for a swim, or treat yourself to a massage.

If you've scheduled some time before or after the conference to take in the sights, you may want to begin by having the hotel help you with theater reservations. With the talent pool created by the television and film industries, Los Angeles has become the nation's second-largest theatrical city. Or you might choose to head out to Santa Monica or Burbank for a few laughs at a comedy club. If you didn't rent a car at the airport, factor in cab fare. Los Angeles is just now building an underground rail system, but the Blue Line to Long Beach is completed.

A ferry provides access to Catalina Island, and you might want to visit the Queen Mary, largest ocean liner afloat. Furnished in Art Deco style, it was a premier cruise liner before WW II and now operates as a hotel and restaurant.

Conference field trips may give you ideas for other places where you might like to spend more time. Tree enthusiasts will find the metropolitan area peppered with green spaces such as 4,063-acre Griffith Park--one of the nation's largest municipal parks. Griffith's peaks, one of whch rises to 1,625 feet, bring mountain scenery and vegetation inside the city limits. Within the park's boundaries are the Griffith Observatory and Planetarium, the Los Angeles Zoo, the L.A. Equestrian Center, and the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum.

In Elysian Park you will find Chavez Ravine Arboretum, featuring exotic trees from around the world, and adjacent to the park is Dodger Stadium. Rose Hills Memorial Park, with over 7,000 rose bushes of more than 600 varieties, is the focal point of the annual Pageant of Roses. Descanso Gardens, located in a live-oak forest, harbors thousands of rare plants. The Los Angeles State and County Arboretum reflects southern California history as much as it does vegetation from around the globe.

On the campus of California State University at Fullerton (south of L.A. in Orange County), Fullerton Arboretum includes plants from the various climatic zones of California, palm trees from Mediterranean and tropical regions, a rare fruit orchard, a carnivorous plant bog, and a pond and stream system.

If you want to enjoy the coastline, visit Palisades Park in Santa Monica and meander along a two-mile stretch of oceanside cliffs. Farther north and south you have your pick of state and municipal beaches where you can catch a few rays before heading back home to gray November skies. You won't have to search for a place in the sand to lay your towel, since Los Angelans are spoiled by year-round warm wheather and prefer to visit the beaches in summer. So go ahead and dip your toes in the Pacific--or take the plunge.

In addition to municipal parks and beaches, Los Angeles is fortunate to have several national forests and parks in its backyard. The Angeles National Forest, the San Bernardino National Forest, and the Santa Monica National Recreation Area are all within an hour's drive of downtown Los Angeles, yet they offer a striking contrast to the city environment.

If you brought the kids along, they probably won't let you leave town until you have taken them to see Mickey and Minnie. The famed Disneyland, south of Los Angeles in Anaheim (an hour's drive), is open at this time of year from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to midnight on the weekend. One-day admission is $27.50; children 3-11 get in for $22.50. Two-day admission: $50, children $41. Parking for the day is $4.

A second major amusement park in Orange County is Knott's Berry Farm in neighboring Buena Park. The original berry farm was run by Walter Knott, who nurtured a new strain of blackberry vine grafted with red raspberry and loganberry. Jams and jellies from that Knott's Berry Farm shops or from the farmers' market in L.A. are great souvenirs to pack in the suitcase or ship home. The farm is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $21.95; ages 3-11, $ 9.95; age 60 and over, $14.95.

The farmers' market is located at Fairfax and 3rd streets near Hollywood and charges no admission. In addition to fresh vegetables, it offers specialty shops and eateries. It is open every day, but hours vary depending on the season. Best to check.

For the star-struck members of your group, there are tours galore. Warner Bros. Studios has a two-hour, small-group tour that features live filming, scoring, and dubbing when available. Tours by reservation only (818/954-1744), $24 per person, and no children under 10 are admitted. At Universal Studios Hollywood, visitors are transported by trams through special-effects sound stages and sets. The five-hour, behind-the-scenes visit includes audience participation and performances by stunt men--members of a tour company called Hollywood-on-Location. Admission is $22.50; over 60 and ages 3-11, $17. Another option is to call NBC Television Studios (818/840-3537) to find out the availability of free TV show tickets.

If you want to catch a glimpse of celebrities on their own turf, combine stargazing with window shopping on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Wander past the shopping district or a few streets to either side of Rodeo Drive, and you'll see street trees of the rich and famous. Beverly Hills annually spends more than $50 per capita on its trees, compared with a national average of $2.60.

For another version of celebrity spotting, you might head to Hollywood Wax Museum, which offers 170 figures and videos of new and old movies. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and children under six enter free.

But don't give up on seeing a real star. Even if you don't consider yourself a stargazer, it's fund to spy someone you have seen only on television or in the movies. It wan't until I was sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight out of Los Angeles that I caught a glimpse of my first celebrity: Jay Leno. Okay, so he isn't Mel Gibson, but maybe this month at the Biltmore, your favorite star will be filming his or her next movie. Lucky you!

Freelance writer Deborah Boerner-Ein of Pleasantville, New Jersey, is the former managing editor of AMERICAN FORESTS.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Los Angeles, California
Author:Boerner-Ein, Deborah
Publication:American Forests
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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