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Ally and Riley Kittle had carefully planned out the attractions they wanted to see on a visit to Los Angeles. Then came the coronavirus crisis.
The Griffith Observatory? “That’s closed,” said Ally. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art? “That’s closed” as well. And perhaps the biggest disappointment of all, no chance to see the Lakers play after the NBA put the season on hold. “We didn’t get to go to that,” she sighed.
In Los Angeles and New York, the nation’s two biggest cities, visitors have continued to arrive despite the closure of just about every draw — from museums and theme parks to restaurants and nightclubs.
It’s not the Spring Break vacations many had imagined, but all seemed to be managing.
Ally, 24, and her brother Riley, 22, from Cincinnati, Ohio, visited colorful Venice Beach and rode bicycles, and they went hiking in the hills above Hollywood.
New York’s governor ordered all Broadway theaters to shut their doors in the face of ongoing coronavirus concerns, plunging into darkness one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and causing turmoil in the run-up to the Tony Awards. (March 12)
Instead of enjoying the city’s vibrant restaurant scene, they adjusted to the takeout-only policies that have come with the coronavirus crackdown. Dining rooms are closed, so they opted to “sit on a lot of random curbs to eat,” she said.
Not exactly the trip they had envisioned, but “we’ve made the best of it,” she said. “We still had a great time, ” but only “after we got over the initial disappointment.”
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On Hollywood Boulevard, a must-see destination for many tourists, the sidewalks are largely empty. The closed TCL Chinese Theatre had fenced off one of Hollywood’s most famous destinations, the handprints and footprints of movie stars in cement out front. Closed, too, were tourist attractions like the Hollywood Wax Museum and some of the famous restaurants, like the Musso & Frank Grill.
Tourists look over the footprints in cement at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, where they are barred from stepping in amid the coronavirus crisis. (Photo: Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY)
What few tourists are left ambled down Hollywood Boulevard and occupied themselves by trying to track down celebrities’ stars on the Walk of Fame, ducking to one of the few souvenir shops still open or simply enjoying the springtime sunshine.
One of the few paid attractions left in operation were van tours of movie stars’ homes. Business was, as one might expect, slow. “It’s a downer,” said Joe Dragon, a salesman for the All Around Hollywood Tour, as he sat in an empty van.
Tourists were painfully aware that they were traveling during a pandemic. They were generally careful to separate themselves from others — easy to do with the streets so vacant. And they took precautions.
Owen Kees, 62, of Perth, Australia, was quick to produce one of the six bottles of hand sanitizer he had brought on the trip. It’s “just sanitize and sanitize and sanitize,” he said.
Just like its landmarks, one of things for which Los Angeles is best known is its traffic congestion. But it has disappeared with so many closed businesses and others working from home. “That’s the plus side” of being a tourist now, said Victor Dmonte, 60, of Bangalore, India, touring the city with wife Annie, 54.
The downside was being denied one of his favorite traveling pleasures: Being able to to just sit in a cafe and watching the world around him.
Some of the same frustrations played out for visitors to New York City who found their itineraries shaken up. Museums, Broadway shows, and bars and restaurants around the city were all shuttered.
Mai Ito, from Japan, traveled to New York to visit her fiancé, who lives there. The couple hoped to visit the New York Botanical Garden, but that didn’t happen. Also off the table was their chance to see Japanese basketball player Rui Hachimura in action since the Brooklyn Nets game against the Washington Wizards was scotched when the NBA suspended its season.
She was also surprised at how few people she encountered when she walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, which she tries to do every time she visits, and in New York’s Chinatown.
Danielle Bella, a content creator and interior designer who is also an actress, travels from Brazil to New York City often. But given all that is happening with the coronavirus, she thinks she may cut her trip short instead of returning April 8 as planned.
Instead of going out, she has been doing yoga, meditating, stretching, reading and calling her friends. She is also ordering delivery. Now if she has to go out, she wears a mask and carries hand sanitizer.
And when she goes out, there isn’t much to see. On Saturday she saw mostly “empty” yellow cabs on the streets. And while she’s had to cancel “everything” she had planned for her trip, she supports social distancing.
“Just stay at home,” she said. “So we can flatten the curve and hopefully everything goes back to what it was.”
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