It’s hard to describe Los Angeles without descending into the same cliches you’ve heard before. Yet cliches are cliches for a reason, and everything you’ve heard about the City of Angels is true – this is a place of hazy sunshine, fun, glamor and a sense of opportunity. The home of Hollywood packs in cinematic landmarks, world-class art and food, incredible neighborhoods and natural beauty. Here’s where to start your time in La-La Land…
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More info: https://www.lacma.org/
The fun starts outside here, as you walk through and around Chris Burden’s Urban Light installation, which used 202 reclaimed cast-iron streetlamps to illuminating effect. Inside is one of the country’s great museums with a collection that roams the world and spans the ages. Key pieces from Magritte and Cezanne share a roof with Spanish colonial art, jewelry, fashion and Greek ceramics. There are timeless sculptures from Henry Moore, Miro and Giacometti.
More info: http://www.griffithobservatory.org/
Even if the sight of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone dancing among the ceiling stars in La-La Land didn’t make you fall in love with Griffith Observatory, a visit here will. It has perched here on Mount Hollywood since 1935 and affords staggering views both down to the LA basin, over a swathe of California, and up to the skies. Explore the planetarium and the much-photographed Art Deco dome, then wander the beauty of Griffith Park with its many trails and fascinating flora and fauna.
More info: https://www.huntington.org/
A visit to a library may not be at the top of many people’s LA bucket list, but then again the Huntington is no ordinary library. It’s set with 120 acres of truly inspired gardens, a destination in their own right. The Japanese and Chinese gardens are particularly majestic, while the gentility extends to tea in the Rose Garden. After that, you can admire art by Warhol and Edward Hopper in the galleries before the library proper. They don’t have room for the entire, vast collection, but make do with glimpses of rare pieces like a Gutenberg Bible, of which there are fewer than 50, and an original Canterbury Tales manuscript.
Some go for Disney, some go for Universal. Don’t worry – you can do both. Universal has the edge in terms of thrilling rides, with modern ingenuity going a long way to make Revenge of the Mummy and The Simpsons rides both exciting and immersive. In recent years, the main attraction here has been The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an area that will enchant all fans of J. K. Rowling’s hero. Lines can drag in peak seasons – have a look at the Express Pass to help cut the waiting time down.
More info: https://walkoffame.com/
Despite the modern obsession with celebrity, the Hollywood Walk of Fame still grows at a relatively glacial pace, ceremonies marking the addition of a new star taking place only once or twice per month. You can take a guided tour of the signatures and handprints of stars past and present or see it at your own pace as the route takes you past LA landmarks like the Chinese Theatre, Musso & Frank’s Grill and the Capitol Records Building. It’s the magic of Hollywood condensed.
More info: https://www.thebroad.org/
A relatively recent addition – it was built in 2015 – to both the Los Angeles skyline and art scene, The Broad was an instant hit on both counts. The arresting, angular building with its honeycomb elements is an aesthetic delight all on its own, but inside there’s an eclectic and expansive collection of modern art. Book your slot for the Infinity Mirrored Room, seek out the pieces by Basquiat, Warhol, Haring and Koons, and set your retinas to ‘dazzled’ for the vivid work by Takashi Murakami, who has collaborated with Kanye West among others.
More info: https://www.santamonicapier.org/
Santa Monica is where many Los Angelenos go to escape the city, a cool playground of beaches, mountains and more. The golden sand of the long beach is the perfect place to spend the day, and you can don your best red swimwear and run through the surf like you’re in Baywatch, which was filmed here. The pier is a ton of fun, with its classic Ferris wheel, primary colors, coaster and carnival games giving it retro appeal and ensuring fun for all. Stay for the sunset – always an Instagrammable moment.
These Venice Canals aren’t the tributes to the original that you’ll encounter in Las Vegas. Instead, they form the nexus of a neighborhood only a stone’s throw from the famed boardwalk of Venice Beach. While visitors love them, this is very much a place where people live, which adds to the charm. Once you’ve walked alongside the three miles of waterways and fed the ducks, the busy but lovely beach – very much one where some locals live by the motto ‘see and be seen’ – is there for the taking.
More info: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/
Disneyland itself is in Anaheim, perhaps 30 miles to the southeast of LA and, decades after its opening, it remains one of the biggest shows in town. Over the same years, rides that were once cutting edge are now park classics and exude the Disney charm that children lap up. There are new additions too – the recent Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area has breathed fresh life into the park as has a Guardians of the Galaxy ride. As ever, there are lines for the most popular rides but stay on site and you can slash waiting times.
More info: https://www.rodeodrive-bh.com/
One of the US’ most iconic shopping streets, Rodeo Drive is just like you’ve seen it in the movies – whether it was Pretty Woman, Clueless or even Beverly Hills Cop – it’s exclusive, swanky and perfect for people watching. There are designer stores you’ll be familiar with, but also one-off boutiques, many of which expect you to make an appointment to enter. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a celebrity or two kitting themselves out, and lavish cars parked up on Rodeo Drive is pretty much guaranteed.