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Ready for your Close-Ups, Southern California?

June 27, 2012|Los Angeles Times staff
  • This page from the new SoCal Close-Ups app features a light-filled night shot of Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.
This page from the new SoCal Close-Ups app features a light-filled night… (Ricardo DeAratanha/ Los…)

Just in time for your summer vacation, the Los Angeles Times unveils two new digital projects, each designed to help locals and visitors alike get the best of Southern California.

“SoCal Close-ups: Your Vacation Guide,” an e-book for Kindle, Nook and iPad (via the iBookstore) by Christopher Reynolds, is available for $4.99 starting Wednesday (today). You can find details at It includes about 40,000 words of expert advice on exploring, eating and sleeping in Los Angeles and Orange counties, all from Los Angeles Times writer Christopher Reynolds, who has sampled more than 300 hotels, museums, parks, piers, trails, restaurants, bars and shops.

The e-book’s image-rich sibling, “Los Angeles Times SoCal Close-Ups,” is an interactive app for iPad, the text joined by about 600 photos and a dozen videos from Times photographers. The app breaks L.A. and Orange counties into 12 territories (downtown Los Angeles is one territory; Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu are another.), each with a set of suggested itineraries, a video and about 50 photos, including an interactive 360-degree panorama shot. Beginning Wednesday (today), it is available at Apple’s App Store--search for SoCal Travel--at 99 cents per territory. More info:

For a hint of what these digital projects hold, here’s a summertime cheat sheet of 25 questions and answers from author Christopher Reynolds.

1. Where can I sleep safely and affordably outside Disneyland? I like the Ramada Maingate, which is about $119-$189 nightly.

2. By LAX? The Sheraton Gateway LAX (affiliated with Starwood) or the Renaissance Los Angeles Airport Hotel (affiliated with Marriott). The Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel (Starwood again) runs a close third, in my book. At all three, weekends are usually cheaper than weekdays. But nobody should ever spend more than one night at a time on charmless Century Boulevard. Consider Manhattan Beach or Hermosa Beach instead; they’re closer than you might imagine.

3. Is Universal Studios the best place to learn how TV shows and movies actually get made? No. It's a fine theme park but you’ll see and learn more and pay less, at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank.

4. My sources tell me that Yamashiro, a Japanese restaurant in the Hollywood Hills, has the best city-lights view in Los Angeles. Does it? No, although it's nice, and its $12 cocktails are tasty. For a wider panorama, absolutely free, head to the Griffith Observatory  in Griffith Park. But be ready to walk a bit; the parking lot fills up as the sun sinks.

5. Is there really a horse stable tucked into the canyon beneath the Hollywood sign, or is that an urban myth, like the big orange balloon that supposedly hovers over Orange County? Yes, there’s a stable — Sunset Ranch. Guided rides are usually $40 an hour. And that hovering orange is no myth. It’s the Great Park Balloon, designed to promote the conversion of an Irvine military base into the Great Park of O.C. Rides are free, and a 400-foot tether keeps you connected to terra firma. Nice view.

6. I come from money and I’d like a pleasant hotel on the beach, price no object. Which one? Check out Santa Monica’s Casa del Mar (cool historic building) or its next-door sibling, Shutters on the Beach, which gets a lot of celebrity dining and drinking traffic. Along the O.C. coast, the Montage Laguna Beach has amazing grounds. (Golfers, however, may prefer the Resort at Pelican Hill or the St. Regis Monarch Beach. If you’d like to see the Pacific but don’t need a sandy beach, head for the bluff-top Terranea Resort on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

7. Nevermind the beach. Where can I sleep in proximity to wealth and fame?  For old-school glitz, go to the Pink Palace, a.k.a. the Beverly Hills Hotel. For 21st century glitz, the Montage Beverly Hills is footsteps from Rodeo Drive. For highflying nightlife access (and a witty, pseudo-British setting), there’s the London West Hollywood, a short stroll from the Sunset Strip. Or there’s the Redbury, a new place at Hollywood and Vine, just around the corner from the Pantages Theatre.

8. I am the 99%, under 25 and underemployed. Where can I possibly afford to sleep out there? Look into Hostelling International's 260-bed headquarters on 2nd Street in Santa Monica. Its dorm beds begin around $35 nightly. Private rooms for two start at $89 but increase in summer and book up fast.

9. I am the 99% too, but I'm over 25 with a decent job. Can I get a presentable hotel near the beach for under $200 a night? In the summer, maybe not. But the rest of the year, especially on weeknights, it’s doable. You'll do well, for instance, at the Inn at Laguna Beach or the Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel in Newport Beach.

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