Just west of Hollywood, this city-within-a-city flaunts its wealth with
opulent manors on manicured grounds and streets overflowing with designer
labels. For the latest on who lives where, grab a 'Star Home Map' from
a street-corner vendor.No star-studded tour is complete without a visit
to Beverly Hills, home of the rich and famous. The Hills' Golden Triangle
is bisected by that locus of conspicuous consumption, Rodeo Drive, where
retailers such as Tiffany, Vuitton and Armani flog their wares.
The Hollywood Fwy lies to the north, the Harbor Fwy to the west, the Santa
Monica Fwy to the south and a bird's nest of other freeways intertwine
beyond the Los Angeles River to the east. Just as you'd imagine, LA's
downtown area is framed by freeways rather than any particular geographic
boundary. In the thick of all this concrete and congestion, however, intrepid
urbanites will find a number of pockets worth exploring.
Extending eight blocks east to west, the city's Civic Center is America's
largest complex of government buildings after Washington, DC. It contains
the most important of LA's city, county, state and federal office buildings,
including the Criminal Courts Building, where the infamous OJ Simpson
murder trial took place in 1995, and the 1928 City Hall, which served
as the Daily Planet building in the TV show Superman and the police station
North across Temple St from City Hall is the excellent LA Children's
Museum. A few blocks east of the Civic Center, El Pueblo de Los Angeles
is a state historic park commemorating the site where the city was founded
in 1781 with 44-acre (18ha), preserving many of its earliest buildings.
In addition to its restaurants, Olvera St teems with the shops and stalls
of vendors selling all manner of Mexican crafts, from leather belts and
bags to handmade candles and colourful piñatas. Its central attraction
for most visitors is Olvera Street, a block-long, narrow passageway that
was restored as an open-air Mexican marketplace in 1930.
Near to El Pueblo is Union Station, one of LA's oft-overlooked architectural
treasures. Here, the businesses of traditional acupuncturists and herbalists
mingle with scores of restaurants and shops whose inventories vary from
cheap kitsch to exquisite silk clothing, inlaid furniture, antique porcelain
and intricate religious art. Built in 1939 in Spanish Mission style with
Moorish and Moderne details, it's worth a stop even if you aren't hopping
a train. A few blocks north of the station, the 16 square blocks of Chinatown
comprise the social and cultural nucleus of LA's 200,000 Chinese residents.
In the southeast of the Civic Center is Little Tokyo. Thanks in part
to an injection of investment from the 'old country,' Little Tokyo is
again the locus for LA's Japanese population of nearly a quarter million.
First settled by early Japanese immigrants in the 1880s and thriving by
the 1920s, the neighbourhood was effectively decimated by the anti-Japanese
hysteria of the WWII years. Housed in a historic Buddhist temple, the
Japanese American National Museum exhibits objects and art history of
Japanese emigration to, and life in, the USA. Among its streets and outdoor
shopping centers, you'll find sushi bars, bento houses and traditional
The Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by Japanese architect Arata
Isozaki is in the southwest of the Civic Center. It houses what is considered
one of the world's most important collection of paintings, sculptures
and photographs from the 1940s to the present. Just west of MOCA is The
Westin Bonaventure hotel, a quintet of cylindrical glass towers that are
instantly recognizable to any regular moviegoer.
In the south of the Civic Center, LA's Hispanic shopping district is
a deliciously cluttery mix of cheap restaurants, frilly wedding dress
shops and blaring Latin pop. You've seen it in detail if you've seen the
movies Blade Runner or Wolf. Across the street from the Bradbury, between
Broadway and Hill St, Grand Central Market is LA's oldest (1917) and largest
open-air food market. For a shocking contrast to the bustling street scene,
step inside the 1893 Bradbury Building, where a skylit, five-story atrium
is surrounded by Mexican tiles, Belgian marble, ornate French wrought-iron
railings, glazed brick walls, oak paneling and a pair of open-cage elevators.
The European, photography and other collections are on display at the
stunning 110-acre Getty Center in the Santa Monica mountains, opened in
1998, costing a cool billion. Contrary to popular belief, LA does have
an intellectual, refined side. Head to the John Paul Getty collection
of museums. Admission is free, making this one of the best bargains in
Hollywood itself (in northwestern LA) is no longer the movie mecca it
once was, but it certainly holds plenty of historic interest. Los Angeles
has built its reputation on the glamour of the movies, and most visitors
want at least a little of its glitz to rub off on them. Take a walk down
Hollywood Blvd and you'll pass by famous sights such as Mann's (née
Grauman's) Chinese Theatre, where more than 150 of the glitterati have
left their prints on the sidewalk out the front. Soak up a bit of 1930s
ambience: this is where the first Academy Awards were held in 1928 and
where Errol Flynn, Salvador Dali and F Scott Fitzgerald often propped
up the bar.Head east along the Boulevard, stepping on those famous bronze
stars, and you'll find yourself at the Roosevelt Hotel.
The corner of Hollywood and Vine was once the heart of off-screen action
for the Industry, but you wouldn't know it now. If you don't manage to
spot a real star while you're in Hollywood, drop by the Hollywood Wax
Museum or (for real stars' knickers) Frederick's of Hollywood Lingerie
Museum. If you want a memento of those golden days, the Collectors Book
Store on the corner is a treasure trove of memorabilia.
Malibu is the archetypal Southern California babe beach, and your best
bet for sunning and swimming. Nonetheless, some of them are definitely
worth a look. Immortalized by the Beach Boys and Baywatch as miles of
golden sand awash with babes of both sexes, in reality the city's beaches
are often polluted and sparsely populated. It can be quite difficult to
find a stretch of sand, as much of the shoreline is privately owned, but
there are some very pleasant state beaches.
Malibu's beaches are backed by the rugged mountains of the Santa Monica
Mountains National Recreation Area.
Santa Monica is one of the city's most appealing neighborhoods. The heart
of Santa Monica is the 3rd St Promenade, a lively pedestrian mall packed
with movie theaters, buskers, bars and cafes. Although the beach only
comes to life on the hottest summer days, the surrounding area is a very
pleasant place to spend an afternoon.
Built between 1909 and 1916, the Santa Monica pier, is the oldest pleasure
pier on the West Coast. The neighborhood is home to some excellent museums
of modern art. It has plenty of old-world carnival attractions, including
a 1920s carousel, and seafood restaurants.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Its famous theme park, one of LA's top attractions, has gut-wrenching
rides, mind-blowing special-effects shows and the Backlot Tour, a part-educational,
part-thrill ride behind the scenes of moviemaking. Universal Studios is
the world's largest movie studio. Universal City Walk, adjacent to the
park, is a fantasy promenade of restaurants, shops, nightclubs and movie
theaters. After dark when vibrant neon signs transform it into a miniature
Las Vegas Strip.
The beach's Ocean Front Walk is a human circus of jugglers and jug-band
musicians, acrobats, tarot readers, pick-up basketballers, oiled-up fitness
freaks and petition circulators. Venice pretty much sums up the LA lifestyle.
Most of the canals have now been paved over, but the playland atmosphere
is hanging in there. It's a great place to shop and an even better place
to down a freshly-squeezed juice while the human tide washes over you.
A hundred years ago, this place was just swampland, until an enterprising
cigarette tycoon turned it into a network of gondola-poled canals and
dubbed it the 'Playland of the Pacific.'
1313 S Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92802; Tel: 714.781.4565
Disneyland is a masterpiece of picture-perfect choreography - even the
litter bins are themed. The park is divided into four different lands:
Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. High-sugar
The Granddaddy of all amusement parks still packs them in - and that's
the problem. But despite the crowds, the great rides--Pirates of the Caribbean,
The Matterhorn, Splash Mountain, The Haunted House, It's a Small World--still
make it worth an annual trip. Just try to do it on a weekday or during
off-season, otherwise, the lines are eternal. Tip: to get a good meal,
make reservations in advance at the Blue Bayou, which has the best food
at the park. Ask for a table near the water. Seriously.
1313 S Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, CA 92802; 714.781.4565
Disney's newest edition, a theme park based around California smack dab
next to Disneyland, hasn't really caught on with natives or tourists.The
acclaimed Electric Parade, which for years turned on visitors at Disneyland,
has re-ignited here every evening. The attractions worth visiting are:
Paradise Pier, a recreation of a beachside boardwalk with a screaming
coaster, Ferris wheel, and arcade games; Grizzly River run, a water romp
down a bear-shaped mountain; and an "Aladdin" stage show that's
a hoot (except for a required parking-lot wait that's almost as long as
the show's 45-minute running time). The good news is that this means few
lines and a swift trip through this Tragic Kingdom.
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608; Tel: 818.622.3801
The most popular attractions here are based on either aged film franchises
("Back to the Future") or major box-office flops ("The
Waterworld" show). The Mummy Returns: Chamber of Doom is simply a
glorified Haunted House and the Terminator 2: 3D show is as needlessly
harsh and grating as Ahnold's accent. But there are plenty of reasons
to check this place out: Jurassic Park: The Ride is a water-logged blast
and the Special Effects Stages offer a hilarious look at the way films
made and enhanced. An added benefit is the adjacent Universal Citywalk,
which has far better restaurants than those found at most theme parks.
Special Offer! Book a 1 Day Ticket and get your second day for free.
Six Flags Magic Mountain
26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Valencia, CA 91355; Tel: 661.255.4100
A recent scientific study reported that riding intense roller coasters
can cause minor brain damage. If that's the case, then this SoCal theme
park will make the synapses misfire more than just about any other park.
X, the latest in what has become a tradition of stomach-churning coasters,
features 360-degree rotating seats. And the Batman ride is not only a
great thrill, but its Gotham Park waiting area is captivating. A popular
teen hangout since The Thompson Twins were rocking out here in the early
1980s, MM is frequented more by locals than by tourists, so try to hit
it on a weekday. In terms of sheer thrill rides, this place can't be matched.
The DejaVu coaster is a white-knuckler that encourages a stress-relieving
scream--that way, your head won't explode.
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802; Tel: 562.590.3100
Located south of L.A, in the seaside city of Long Beach, this sparkling
aquarium is far less populated than the more famous fish tank up in Monterey.
Nevertheless, it's one of the Los Angeles area's best bets for a great
time. Its 17 major tanks and 30 smaller tanks can be taken in an afternoon,
and along the way there are some amazing specimen to be found in an ocean
of more than 12,000 species. None of the fish here seem to be complaining,
but then again, in modern saltwater tanks no one can hear you scream.
There is an iridescent jellyfish exhibit, a rare dragonfish that has to
be seen to believe, and an array of toothy mammals in the Shark Lagoon,
where one can get up close and personal with the feared predators.
Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401; Tel: 310.260.8744
There's a rickety roller coaster and a slew of arcade games, and the park's
perch allows it to feature what may the best view in Los Angeles--from
the top of its tall Ferris Wheel riders can see up and down the beautiful
Pacific Coast. This old-school amusement park is small but its spectacular
location on the Santa Monica Pier along the ocean makes it worth a visit.
Tip: For those wanting great lunch or dinner, the recently refurbished
The Lobster at the top of the pier has great seafood.
Los Angeles Zoo
5333 Zoo Dr., Hollywood, CA 90027; Tel: 323.644.6400
This is not the greatest zoo in the world by a long shot, but nice flowing
grounds, far fewer crowds than at the more acclaimed San Diego Zoo, and
great weather make this a perfect mid-day getaway. They also have an Animal
Encounters program that encourages interaction between visiting kids and
the residents of this wild kingdom.
4730 Crystal Springs Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90027; Tel: 214.913.4688
Covering more than 4000 acres, L.A.'s biggest park makes NYC's Central
Park look like a median strip. The park features two golf courses, pony
rides, a train museum and the stunning L.A. Griffith Observatory (which
is currently closed for renovation). It's great to get lost in this green
oasis in the gray land lined with freeways.
1 Lego Dr., Carlsbad, CA 92008; Tel: 760.438.5346
There are plenty of kids around 5 or 6 who consider this their favorite
theme park. And, for the first hour or so, anybody would be fascinated
by the fact that virtually everything here is built from Legos. But once
it sinks in that grown men and women spent countless hours making this
world out of small plastic bricks, everything starts to seem downright
creepy. There is a children's driving school that is not only fun for
the kiddies, it's hilarious for adults to watch their offspring run though
traffic lights and hit other cars. It's like watching an episode of World's
Best Car Chases. Sequestered away in Carlsbad (a 45 minute drive from
L.A.) near an Ostrich farm, this is definitely a unique experience - especially
for anyone still using a sipper cup.
Off the Beaten Track
Knott's Berry Farm
If lining up to have your photo taken with an acned teen in a mouse suit
isn't your idea of fun, you might prefer Knott's Berry Farm, a more bucolic
theme park 4mi (6km) northwest of Disneyland. Originally a fried chicken
dinner and berry eatery, the Knotts set up a little Old West display to
keep the diners entertained. There's also a Mexican-themed Fiesta Village,
Camp Snoopy for the littlies and plenty of chicken-regurgitating rides.
You can get here by bus, hotel shuttle or by car on I-5 and Hwy 91. The
place has grown a bit since then, but gunfightin' and gold pannin' are
still all the rage.
La Brea Tar Pits and The Page Museum
Kids and science geeks love watching palaeontologists examine the remains
of 40,000 year-old dire wolves, prehistoric camels and sabre-toothed tigers.
Ongoing excavation of La Brea's oozing asphalt pits has so far yielded
over a million fossilised skeleton parts, many of which are mounted inside
this natural history museum.
Palm Springs is a 2-hour drive east of LA and is accessible by Greyhound
or train. Once famous as a winter retreat for Hollywood stars and increasingly
as a well-scrubbed retirement home for the moderately wealthy, Palm Springs
is the original desert resort city in the Coachella Valley east of LA.
There's a growing gay scene in Palm Springs, and college kids in the thousands
flock here for a riotous spring break, but even so, there's not much to
do in town except lounge around the pool or play golf. To put things in
perspective, the valley has about 250,000 people, 10,000 swimming pools,
85 golf courses and more plastic surgeons per head than anywhere else
in the US.
Real interest is in visiting the nearby canyons, mountains and desert.
Highlights include hiking trails in the Andreas, Murray, Palm and Tahquitz
canyons, which are shaded by fan palms and surrounded by towering cliffs,
and taking the aerial tramway which climbs 1800m from the desert floor
up into the San Jacinto mountains. There are a number of museums in town,
including the Living Desert outdoor museum and botanical garden and the
Museum of the Heart, the informative Palm Springs Desert Museum, which
explains heart attacks while giving you the chance to step inside a giant
Never mind that the neighbouring foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains
often sit shrouded in a mantle of smog; once you get over your wheezing,
there are few areas of Los Angeles more redolent of LA's 'golden years'
than Pasadena. Among the treasures is local architects Charles and Henry
Greene's sprawling Gamble House, considered the consummate Craftsman bungalow,
and even the persnickety genius of Frank Lloyd Wright has been locally
preserved in the Millard House, La Miniatura. Its oak-lined avenues wind
past superbly maintained turn-of-the-century homes, from Mission-style
stucco squats to column-clad mansions of every persuasion - even 'stately
Wayne Manor' from the original Batman TV series.
Old Town Pasadena, the heart of the city, centres on Colorado Blvd at
Fair Oaks Ave. This 14-block historic district underwent a major facelift
around 1990, ushering in a bustling renaissance of upscale boutiques,
restaurants, coffeehouses and the odd antique and rare-book dealer. Look
for Rodin's The Thinker out front. On the south side of the district,
the Moorish/Spanish Colonial Hotel Green rises up like an elaborate Errol
Flynn movie set, while at the western end of Colorado, the Norton Simon
Museum houses a different brand of eye candy: one of the finest collections
of European art in the country.
San Gorgonio Wilderness
The area takes in Mt San Bernardino and San Gorgonio Peak, both over 10,000ft
(3000m) high, and a multitude of hiking and equestrian trails. High in
the San Bernardino National Forest, south of the popular outdoors destination
of Big Bear, San Gorgonio is 90 sq mi (150 sq km) of trees, lakes and
barren slopes. At low elevations, the area is especially arid and full
of rattlesnakes; at higher elevations, oak and manzanita are joined by
cedar, fir and pine trees. Jenks Lake, between Mt San Bernardino and San
Gorgonio Peak, is a scenic spot for picnicking and easy hiking. Black
bears, coyote, deer and squirrel are common, and even bald eagles fly
frequently over the area's campgrounds. There are several campgrounds
in the wilderness, with minimal facilities and sites for tents and RVs.
For those not so keen on roughing it, there are also cabins with sports
facilities. If you don't have wheels, buses run as far as nearby Big Bear,
but you'll probably need to organize a ride along Hwy 38 to San Gorgonio.
San Gorgonio is about 90 minutes' drive from LA.
Santa Barbara is just over an hour's drive along the coast north of Los
Angeles and is accessible by Greyhound or train.
Between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara
is often called the California Riviera because of its affluent population,
outstanding Mediterranean architecture and gorgeous seaside location.
Highlights include the delightful Spanish Moorish revival style Santa
Barbara County Courthouse, the stately Mission Santa Barbara and the Santa
Barbara Museum of Art. Rising abruptly and majestically to the north,
the Santa Ynez foothills offer great camping and hiking opportunities.The
city boasts half a dozen decent beaches, the oldest continuously operating
wharf on the west coast (once owned by James Cagney), botanical gardens,
zoological gardens and arguably one of the most pleasant downtown areas
in Southern California.
Santa Catalina Island
Visited the firts time by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542, Santa Catalina
(known simply as Catalina) is one of the largest of the Channel Islands,
a chain of semi-submerged mountains between Santa Barbara and San Diego.
Most of the island has been privately owned since 1811, when the Native
American population was shipped off to the mainland. The island is now
preserved against development, and its unique ecosystem, with 400 plant
species (eight of which are endemic), 100 species of birds and numerous
animals (including wild American bison), is protected by law. Tourists
have been sailing in since the 1930s, but the privately owned areas remained
largely untouched until 1975, when they were bought out by the Santa Catalina
Avalon is the only town on Santa Catalina. It's dominated by the white
Spanish-Moderne Casino, built by chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr
in 1929, when he owned the island. The casino is no longer open for gambling,
but it does have a grand ballroom (Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller both
played here), a huge theatre, the Catalina Island Museum and an art gallery.
Other highlights of the town include the Chimes Tower, which is covered
in inlaid tiles; the old Wrigley Mansion, now a hotel; and the Wrigley
Memorial & Botanical Gardens.
Most visitors to Santa Catalina come for the fantastic watersports,
including diving, snorkelling, sea kayaking, ocean rafting and sailing.
There's some great hiking, horseback riding and bicycling trails. You
can get to Catalina on one of the regular cruises from Long Beach, San
Pedro, Redondo Beach or Newport Beach, or you can take a (very pricey)
helicopter from Queen Mary Seaport. Catalina has plenty of hotels and
resorts, as well as four campgrounds, but most are fairly expensive.