Occupying a prime slice of real estate between mountain ranges and the sea, Los Angeles lives up to its reputation as America’s dream factory. From the iconic Hollywood sign to Griffith Observatory, the second-largest city in the United States inspires visitors and locals alike to reach for the stars. This is the place of silver screen icons and studio moguls, of exceptional educational opportunities and stories of devastating failure turned into blinding success. Throw in a surfer dude or two, and LA becomes everyone’s dream town.
Do the ’Bu
Malibu is the ultimate playground for surf and sand, with booming waves and ample opportunities for sandcastle construction. Make sure the castle is gargantuan, however, if you want it to compare with the many million dollar homes along this section of coast. Hit the Malibu Pier, take a surfing lesson or pick up a souvenir from one of the shops that line the coast.
Pier Pressure in Santa Monica
The Santa Monica Pier sits at the end of America’s Mother Road, Route 66, which originates in Chicago. It’s also home to Pacific Park, the city’s oceanfront amusement park, located on the Santa Monica Pier. Plan on a trip around and around, and around on the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel, then get in line for the historic carousel for a galloping good time.
Park It Here
Encompassing 4,500 acres, Griffith Park in the heart of Los Angeles is one of the largest urban parks in North America. It is located at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains and houses everything from the Los Angeles Zoo to Griffith Observatory. So, whether it’s a night under the stars or an exhilarating hike on over 50 miles of trails, the park is a great way to get an overview of LA from above.
The Hollywood Bowl is a historic and cultural icon in Los Angeles, carved out of a rural hillside in the 1920s as the city grew around it. The outdoor venue experienced many revisions over the years, but despite its age, artists love performing under the art deco-inspired band shell.
For a sense of the importance of the music industry in Los Angeles, one has only to look at the Capitol Records Building downtown. Shaped like a stack of vinyl records, it was HQ of recording artists like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and many other singers who helped to make the building “Unforgettable.” Drive by this unique tower of music near Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.
Wanted, Dead or Alive
For those who enjoy a guided tour, several providers whisk visitors to interesting parts of the city. Many companies offer outings through Beverly Hills and Bel Air with the hopes of seeing celebrity homes. But where else can you take the “Dearly Departed Tragic History Tour of Los Angeles,” tracing the steps of movie stars as they met their demise? And if that isn’t ghostly enough, guests can join a horror film location tour, a rock ’n’ roll circus tour and many other quirky excursions.
An idyllic day at the beach doesn’t necessarily entail surfing or sunbathing. Between Santa Monica and Playa del Rey, Venice Beach is home to local eccentrics, colorful entertainers and vendors hawking everything from T-shirts to glass sculpture. Take a bike ride along the Venice Beach Boardwalk to gander at weight lifters hoisting barbells in an outdoor gym and street performers coaxing smiles from passersby. Sit down and enjoy some street food, then put on a pair of roller skates and cruise around like a local.
Written in the Stars
The entertainment industry bolsters the Los Angeles economy, and what better way to pay homage to its celebrity stars than finding your favorite entertainers on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, stretching 15 blocks along Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks along Vine Street? Find the sidewalk tribute to your favorite star, and leave flowers in an act of tribute. At the TCL Chinese Theater at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, you can see where legendary celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant and Paul Newman left handprints in wet concrete. It’s a vital link to Hollywood’s iconic past.
That’s A Wrap
Originally home to the Chumash and Tongva tribes for several hundred years, Los Angeles was discovered by Europeans in 1542, when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed along the southern coast of California, claiming land for Spain. But it wasn’t until 1781 that El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula was created by a group of 44 settlers. The City of Angels was born, with ranching as its most popular occupation.
A visit to Universal Studios and the surrounding area fuses three classic LA experiences: a studio tour, an amusement park and a flashy shopping promenade. On a guided tram ride, you can view dozens of actual Universal movie sets and props. Movie-themed thrills include the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Cap your visit with a stroll down the Universal CityWalk, a strip of brand stores and chain restaurants located adjacent to the park.
LA Mountain Majesty
Just 32 miles northwest of downtown LA, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is the world’s largest urban national park, with over 500 miles of trails woven amid native California grassland, chaparral, riparian and coastal sage scrub. There are trails for all levels, ranging from novice loop trails to more challenging ascents that reward agile hikers with spectacular 360-degree Pacific Ocean views. As well as terrific hiking, the area draws local mountain bikers, rock climbers and horseback riders.
Los Angeles combines cutting-edge cultural institutions with eclectic dining, around-the-clock nightlife, breath taking architecture and the glitter of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Downtown’s crown jewel is Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, a stunning fusion of art, architecture and sublime acoustics. Next door, the Broad’s $140 million building houses more than 2,000 works by 200 contemporary and postwar artists. In Hollywood, the three-hour Warner Bros. Studio Tour allows visitors to explore outdoor sets and sound stages and view original props and costumes used in films such as “La La Land,” “Argo” and “Batman.”
Get Me to the Getty
For an artistic experience that rises above it all, visit the Getty Center, a sprawling museum complex in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking Los Angeles. The 24-acre campus exhibits some of the finest artworks in the world. From Greek and Roman sculpture to Impressionist paintings, the works on display will dazzle you. Stroll the gardens and take in views of the metropolis below.
For more wide-open spaces close to the city, check out the stellar Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanic Gardens in the suburb of San Marino east of downtown. Peruse art by the masters, then stroll the lily pond garden and Japanese garden.
Can’t get enough of wide-open spaces? Get A-list views from some popular trails. In Culver City, burn some calories as you ascend to the top of the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, a 511-foot peak that’s accessed by concrete stairs or hiking trails. Get some more trail work by walking the switchbacks of Runyan Canyon Park, a 160-acre park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains that is frequented by celebrities. Set out for Inspiration Point, where hikers can get stunning views of Los Angeles in the distance. Get a dose of contemplation at Rock Mandala, a public artwork created in 2008 that consists of large rocks, some as heavy as 300 pounds. The site is popular for meditation and yoga.
Mayberry by Way of LA
Fans of classic TV should amble over to Franklin Canyon Park, located near Benedict Canyon north of Beverly Hills. The centerpiece of the 605-acre park is Franklin Lake — the very Lake into which Sheriff Andy Taylor and his son, Opie, visit on a fishing trip during the opening credits of the 1960s sitcom, “The Andy Griffith Show.” Although the show was based in a small North Carolina town, this slice of Los Angeles served as a nice stand-in. East of Los Angeles, the suburb of Hacienda Heights attracts hikers to the trails that snake through the hills rising in the south. Hit the Buddhist Single Track Trail, which gives hikers beautiful views of Los Angeles skyline as the trail rolls past the majestic Hsi Lai Temple.
The Sporting Life
Los Angeles has put its stamp on the sports world with top teams. Two NFL franchises, the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, bring football thrills, while the Lakers and Clippers serve up lots of NBA action. Get a Major League Baseball fix at Dodger Stadium, and watch top-notch NCAA competition when UCLA and USC squads duke it out in one of the hottest rivalries in sports.
For More Information
LA Tourism and Convention Board