L.A. Feature_Overview

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Los Angeles: America's Dream Machine

LOS ANGELES _ Basking in a sunny, semitropical climate, and blessed with a diversity of cultures and conceits, this singular city mixes and matches settings, scenes and styles like no other. It is America's dream machine in living Technicolor. Rich in history, celebrating today, hinting at tomorrow.

Here is a city facing an ocean, encircled by mountains, where in a day, a weekend or a week you can meander from world-famous amusements to a wealth of museums, hip hop from pop to high culture, or view what's in vogue in the arts and entertainment. Here you can glimpse the stars in the heavens and the stars in Hollywood, shop for the latest fads and fashions in bargain centers or boutiques catering to every whim and budget, taste an exotic array of ethnic flavors, or simply bike, rollerblade or veg out at the beach.

What becomes most evident as one wanders from wacky wonders to delightful diversions is that Los Angeles' surprises cannot be described in one phrase, or absorbed in one day. Nor can it be experienced in one community, be it the beach or Beverly Hills, Downtown or Hollywood, museum row or the Valleys. To appreciate and enjoy the Los Angeles area, one approach is think of it as five distinct regions: Downtown, Hollywood, the Valleys, Westside and the Beaches. Each is a vacation destination on its own_a distinct experience as diverse as the cultures and lifestyles it celebrates.

Downtown is where Los Angeles began in 1781 by a mix of settlers under the Spanish flag. Today, historic remnants of early settlement remain around El Pueblo de Los Angeles and its Olvera Street. The area's tradition as an ethnic gateway continues nearby, in the sights and sounds of Latinoflavored Broadway, Chinatown and Little Tokyo. In addition to the taste of Japan, Little Tokyo offers the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, with a sunken garden oasis, and the Japanese American National Museum, appropriately housed in a converted Buddhist Temple. For additional taste of Asia, Koreatown is a few miles west.

The city's burgeoning performing and visual arts scene

can also be experienced Downtown_at the Music Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and in the artworks that enliven the plazas, parks and walkways of the area. Pedestrian-friendly Bunker Hill winds to the city's magnificently restored Central Library. Also of

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