One of the world’s entertainment capitals, Los Angeles is at the heart of SoCal culture, with mountains and desert within easy reach. While there’s far too much to do in L.A. than can be encapsulated here, try these five things as good places to start your exploration into the heart of the City of Angels.
1. Do the Strand on two wheels
With its web of freeways, there’s no question that L.A. is a car-centric city. But one of the best ways to see the city is by bicycle. This is especially true along the coast, where The Strand runs for 35 kilometres along the city’s beaches and coastal communities from Santa Monica in the north to Redondo Beach in the south. Rent an old-school, one-gear beach cruiser and you can soak up the SoCal sunshine, stopping along the way to explore the marvellous piers. Try Hermosa Cyclery (20 13th Street) or Jeffers (39 14th Street) in Hermosa Beach or rent an electric bike from Pedego (701 ½ S. Pacific Coast Hwy) in Redondo Beach.
Stroll the shops and restaurants at Redondo Beach Pier, and watch the surfers and beach volleyball players at Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach. Continue up the Strand with the rolling surf of the Pacific on your left, taking in the sights and sounds of Marina Del Rey and the funky cavalcade of Angelenos on the boardwalk at Venice Beach. End your ride at Santa Monica Pier where you can try the Ferris wheel and the roller coaster, play the midway-style games and enjoy some tasty treats – a perfect spot for family entertainment.
And it’s not just along the coast. There’s a growing cycling culture in L.A., with 350 kilometres of new bike lanes added recently. Considering the terrain is fairly flat, it’s a great way to see the city.
2. Take a tour of Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Bel Air
A trip to L.A. would not be complete without seeing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. While some might say it’s more a metaphor or a fantasy than an actual location, you’ll find no better starting point than the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly known as Grauman’s) on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s the origin of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which runs for more than 2 kilometres along the sidewalks of the boulevard, featuring the handprints of more than 2,600 stars of stage, screen, TV and music.
At the Chinese Theatre you can also get tickets for guided bus tours of Beverly Hills and Bel Air to see how the rich and famous live, and where many legendary Hollywood movie stars and other celebrities have their mansions. Try Starline Tours or the infamous TMZ Tour. Many of the tours also take you to Rodeo Drive, perhaps the richest shopping address on the planet, where the price tags might be a little shocking, but you won’t find better window shopping anywhere!
Sunset Boulevard runs west from Hollywood to the Pacific Ocean, and along the fabled Sunset Strip in West Hollywood you’ll find many legendary music clubs and nightclubs such as the Whisky a Go Go, the Roxy, the Viper Room and the Troubadour.
3. Go for thrills at legendary amusement parks
While L.A. has no shortage of big-time theme parks, including Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags Magic Mountain, you really need to start with the king of them all. Disneyland is Walt Disney’s original theme park vision, which has since grown to include seven “lands” as well as California Adventure next door, which features more contemporary Disney characters and movie-themed attractions. “The Happiest Place on Earth” is a thrilling place for young and old alike, from Mickey and Main Street U.S.A. to epic rides like the thrill-a-second Space Mountain and the blockbuster Indiana Jones Adventure. Go here for eight essential tips for making the most of your time at Disneyland.
4. Take a movie studio tour
For film and TV fans, a tour of one of the big movie studios is not to be missed.
The Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood is the theme park’s main attraction, where visitors board a special tram to get a guided behind-the-scenes look (narrated by Jimmy Fallon) at active and legendary film sets. Over the course 45–60 minutes, you’ll part the Red Sea, escape from dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, get a little too up close and personal with the gigantic Great White Shark from “Jaws,” experience the biggest 3-D attraction in the world, Peter Jackson’s breathtaking King Kong 360 3-D and then hold on for the grand finale, Fast & Furious – Supercharged.
On the Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour, you’ll see how Hollywood works behind the curtain on an intriguing two-hour tour that takes you through soundstages, sets, backlot streets and craft shops. You’ll get to saunter through the set of a hit TV series, see how sets are built and just how many items there are in the prop department (hint: millions), how Foley artists make sound effects, and much more.
5. Take in the view at Griffith Park and Observatory
If you’ve seen the film “La La Land,” you’ve seen Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dancing in Griffi
th Park. The park is easy to get to from the city, and one of the best ways to get there is to hike up Mount Hollywood, a route that provides incredible views of the entire L.A. basin and the Hollywood Sign along the way. Griffith Park also offers an 85-km network of trails and bridle paths. Another great way to see the park is on horseback via marked paths. There are stables situated on the park’s southwest and northwest corners.
At the Griffith Observatory, you can explore the complementary exhibits, Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, which trace mankind’s relationship with the cosmos. And even though the observatory is there to let us see into space, the best view you’ll get there is the one of Los Angeles itself, especially at night when the lights of the L.A. basin stretch as far as the stars in the night sky.
What are your favourite things about L.A.? Let us know in the comments below!