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Welcome to Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Millions of visitors arrive each year in Los Angeles eager to experience for themselves the epitome of the American Dream: to find the self-indulgent living soap-opera lifestyles, experience firsthand the images that are strangely-familiar thanks to the 'big screen', and walk in the footsteps of the stars. The fantasy worlds of Disneyland and Hollywood, the famed extravagance of Beverley Hills and Malibu, and the sun-soaked beach culture are just some of the attractions within this 'City of Angels'.

Los Angeles is not really a city but rather a sprawling metropolis constituting more than 80 smaller city areas woven together by a daunting network of traffic-congested freeways without a clearly defined centre. LA is just one of these cities with Downtown at its heart, and lying outside the city limits is the surrounding conglomeration of cities that comprises LA County.

Los Angeles offers a dazzling variety of attractions and world-famous amusements. Downtown is a mixture of cultures and local communities: the traditional herbalists of Chinatown's Bamboo Lane; Little Tokyo with its sushi bars and Japanese gardens; and the narrow Latino-influenced Olvera Street. Los Angeles County is endowed with a rich diversity of backgrounds and is a mix-and-match of people from 140 countries speaking 96 different languages, of those who have left home to seek acceptance for ideas or unconventional lifestyles not tolerated in the more conservative parts of the country, and would-be stars with dreams of fame and fortune. West Hollywood is the focal point of gay and lesbian culture, and the posh beachside resort of Santa Monica and body-builders at Muscle Beach, as well as the childhood fantasy of Disneyland are all a part of the diversity, although not always a harmonious one. There are exciting museums, cinemas featuring every conceivable production, swanky boutiques with the latest fashions, comedy clubs, poetry readings and coffee house recitals, and music of every kind played in various venues throughout the city.

Underneath the huge 'Hollywood' sign on the crest of the Hollywood Hills, the high energy and pleasure-seeking atmosphere, bold billboards, sexy sun-bronzed people, bright lights and fancy cars are images of a city that everyone loves to hate; but whether one likes what one finds or not, Los Angeles must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.

Information & Facts


Los Angeles weather is generally warm and pleasant all year round. Protected from extremes of temperature and humidity by the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains, and influenced by the warm, moist air from the Pacific, its summers are dry and sunny and winters cool and wet. Offshore breezes cool the beach communities during the hot summer months, but inland temperatures can rise to well over 90°F (32°C), especially in the numerous canyons and valleys of the area. Smog often gathers in low-lying areas and sometimes the hot, dusty Santa Ana winds blow in strongly from the surrounding mountains.

Eating Out

Dining is LA is as exciting and varied as the rest of the city's offerings. LA's restaurants cater to every cuisine and budget imaginable, from 12-course feasts with celebrities on the side, to delicious Mexican burritos from a sidewalk café. Apart from the wonderful variety of ethnic food, there is a growing fascination with organic and health foods and many eateries now cater to this market. Another distinctive LA trend is eclectic and experimental food making this city the proud progenitor of the Thai Chicken Pizza as well as its own distinctive style of fusion sushi.

Many top restaurants and their celebrity chefs are clustered on the Westside, while the vintage restaurants are located downtown and in Hollywood. With its year-round mild climate outdoor dining is popular, helping to make power lunches the stuff of ritual among locals.

Tips of 15 to 20% are expected; console yourself with the thought that your generosity may be funding a future Oscar-winning script. Smoking is banned in all restaurants and transgressors may be fined.

Getting Around

The city of LA sprawls over such a large area that getting around without a car can be frustrating and time consuming. The complex network of freeways connecting the sprawl can be intimidating, especially for those not used to driving in big cities, but with a map or good directions, hiring a car is the best and most popular way to see LA. The city was designed with the automobile in mind and is more driver-friendly than most big cities with wide streets and plenty of parking. If possible, visitors should avoid rush hour traffic, which is heaviest from 7am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm, when freeways often come to a standstill. Many, however, are equipped with HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes for those cars carrying more than one person - an attempt to curb vehicle emissions, these lanes tend to move more quickly. LA is one of the cheapest places in the country to rent a car. It is also possible to get around by bus, but frequent transfers and long distances can make this slow and impractical, and it is not recommended for late-night travel. The Metro rail system has three lines, which cover only a small area of LA, but it is frequent and efficient. Taxis are also available, but they can be expensive due to the long distances.

Kids Attractions

Los Angeles is surely the entertainment capital of the world, and as such has a plethora of interesting attractions for children in the city and surrounds. There is no end to the abundance and variety of fun to be had by kids on holiday in Los Angeles.

If parents manage to drag their children away from the wonders of Disneyland, or the theme park at Universal Studios, there are also a number of beaches, parks, museums and shows to enjoy while on holiday in LA. There are also various tour buses offering a comprehensive Los Angeles sightseeing experience.

The weather in Los Angeles is generally sunny and warm, perfect for a holiday, but summers do get a little too warm and and there's more rain in winter. The best time to holiday with kids in LA is spring or autumn, when the weather's at its most pleasant and the holiday crowds haven't inundated the city.

English is the most common language but Spanish is often spoken in south-western states.

The US Dollar (USD) is the unit of currency and is divided into 100 cents. Only major banks exchange foreign currency. ATMs are widespread and credit cards and travellers cheques are widely accepted. Travellers cheques should be taken in US Dollars to avoid hassles. Banking hours are Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm.


Home of all things cool and the birthplace of pop culture, the nightlife in Los Angeles is second to none with some of the edgiest bars and clubs in the world. Whether watching world-class shows, dining alongside some of Tinsel Town's hottest stars, or drinking at the hippest clubs in the world, anyone who parties in Los Angeles is generally the envy of everyone.

On any given night there will be band performing somewhere, whether a local and upcoming band or the hottest international act, the choices are endless. The only problem is getting tickets so it is wise to plan ahead if planning to catch a concert. The club scene is absolutely overflowing with variety and those looking for anything from a trendy night sipping on mojitos to dancing the night away will have no problem finding something to suit their tastes.

Los Angeles' chaotic layout means there is no central nightlife district, but there is definitely something for everyone to be found somewhere. Head to the streets of Hollywood for a dizzying choice of clubs and bars, swing down to Westwood if a martini bar is your thing, or if rooftop lounges floats your boat the Valley is the place for you. Los Angeles' nightlife scene is always changing so you are always bound to find something new, hip and happening.

Head down to Largo and catch one of America's hottest new acts performing. The world famous Orpheum Theatre hosts an multitude of theatrical productions, concerts and film festivals, while across town the Geffen Playhouse is the place to see dramatic and comedic shows while the Kodak Theatre hosts not only the Academy Awards, but also big name headliners, including all the hottest acts.


For sheer variety and scale, LA shopping is hard to beat. This is a fashion-conscious, trend-setting consumer paradise with the shopping options to match.

Your best buys are the aforementioned fashion items, sporting goods and gear, locally produced wine from the Napa Valley, movie paraphernalia and collectables, and - of course - videos and DVDs of the movies and stars that make tinsel town famous the world over.

If you're looking for both designer wear and celebrity sightings, head for Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive where big name jewellery and haute couture stores line up like A-list stars at an exclusive beach. For more unusual, arty and eccentric items, head for the potpourri of Venice Boardwalk or Melrose Avenue. Nearby Main Street is good for trendy but affordable attire, as well as antiques and collectables.

Certainly the best-value LA shopping can be found at the discount outlet complexes on the edge of town. Here you can find all the big name brands at substantial discounts - up to 70% off the list price. Check out Ontario Mills and Desert Hills Premium Outlets for some great bargains.

Of course LA, like every big American city, has its share of mega-malls. The best of these are the Beverly Center, with 9 floors of stores and restaurants, and Westside Pavilion, which includes a wonderful 3-floor Barnes and Noble bookstore. On the other end of the scale are the vibrant flea markets, the best of which are the Rose Bowl Flea Market & Swap Meet, and the sparkling Jewellery Mart.

A Sales Tax of 8.25% is built into the purchase price. However, as such sales taxes are set at state level, there is no way to obtain a refund from the federal government for non-US visitors.


Sightseeing in LA presents certain challenges. For one, the city is immense, stretching out in every direction, and its various attractions are often miles apart. Also, since it's an agglomeration of small and previously separate towns, LA lacks a definite focal point, making it hard to get to grips with the city's character.

The best way to go about your sightseeing is to use the various tour buses that connect the attractions, or hail a taxicab. Unless you are a thrill seeker, avoid driving and public transport, especially at night. LA is a year-round destination, although it can get pretty hot during the summer months of July to September. Key sights are the tours of the great movie production houses of Universal Studios and Warner Brothers, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the original Disneyland, and the vibrant beach communities of Venice Beach and Santa Monica.

If you're in town for a few days it might be worth purchasing the Go Los Angeles Card which gives you free entry to over 35 attractions, as well as shopping and dining discounts, free tours and a guidebook. From $45 per day. Tel: (1)800 887 9103 or purchase online at www.golosangelescard.com.

Located approximately 25 miles (40km) southeast of Los Angeles and founded in 1857 by grape farmers and wine makers, Anaheim (meaning 'home by the Santa Anna River' in German) is known as the home of California's Disneyland. This Orange Country town farms walnuts, lemons, and of course oranges and offers visitors a range of fun and exciting activities to enjoy. Take the kids to Disneyland to enjoy a magical world of fun and rides with all their favourite Disney characters; enjoy a day of fun and thrill rides at America's first theme Park, Knott's Berry Farm; enjoy the Middle Ages at Medieval Times; take a tour of Universal Studios Hollywood; explore the fascinating marine life at the Aquarium of the Pacific; soak up the sun on Laguna or Newport Beach, or enjoy a day of shopping, dining and exploring the Shops at Anaheim GardenWalk.

The miles of sandy beaches along the Pacific Ocean are a celebration of the Californian lifestyle with distinct neighbourhoods and oceanfront walks linking the communities. Malibu is popular with the privacy seeking rich and famous and their mansions line strips of privately owned shoreline; the wide sandy beaches, rocky outcrops and green open-spaces make Malibu the most scenic neighbourhood in LA. It presents the classic Californian beach babe image immortalised by The Beach Boys and Baywatch. LA's premiere beach community, Santa Monica, is known for its alternative beachfront atmosphere, as well as its famous hideaway Hollywood residents. The palm-lined cliffs, once the location of the homes of Clark Gable, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, are today home to celebrities like Meryl Streep, Rod Stewart and Michelle Pfeiffer. The neighbourhood's famous landmark is the Santa Monica Pier, boasting old-world carnival attractions, including a wooden 1920s carousel with painted horses, and plenty of seafood restaurants. Third Street Promenade is a lively pedestrian mall bustling with buskers, street vendors, evangelists and original shops, and is the heart of Santa Monica's cafes, restaurants and bars. Venice is best known for its Ocean Front Walk that is a non-stop parade of jugglers, artists, vendors, musicians and joggers. Venice Beach provides a classic Los Angeles lifestyle experience where beautiful sun-bronzed bodies on bicycles and rollerblades cruise along the walkway to Muscle Beach, where the outdoor weightlifting gym gleams with the sweat of muscle-bound hunks flexing their pecs for the onlookers. The area is full of laid back cafes and restaurants, health food shops, bike and blade rentals, and second hand record stores. After dark however the area becomes the haunt of street gangs and drug dealers; and visitors are advised to exercise caution in the area.

Camp Monkey Muffin is a creative day-camp for kids offering a range of artistic activities, from graffiti and painting murals to sculpture and performance arts. There's even a chance for children to try out their cookery skills! While all projects are supervised, the young artists are given the freedom to create their own masterpieces. Camps are open to children entering grades 4-7.

Castle Park has a number of enticing attractions to offer adventure-seeking children. The arcade boasts hundreds of games including Ghost Blasters, Time Crisis 3 and Dance Dance Revolution, with fun prizes to be won and a snack bar. The park's roller-coasters, antique train tours and mini-golf are also great fun for kids. There are souvenir shops and family restaurants, as well as a weekly magic show.

Claiming to be 'The Happiest Place on Earth', Disneyland is an integral part of an American childhood and was the world's first mega theme park designed for the family by Walt Disney in 1955. It is one of America's most famous attractions and despite competition from other similar parks in Florida, Paris and Tokyo, nothing can compare to the original. It is an enchanted kingdom of fantasy and imagination filled with magical entertainment and attractions. The park is divided into eight 'lands' and each one features different rides, dining experiences and entertainment as well as daily live-action shows and parades. Adventureland, Fantasyland, Critter Country, Frontierland, Mickey's Toontown, Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square and Main Street USA offer such attractions as a boat trip through the underground caverns of 'Pirates of the Caribbean', an experience of the Wild West on the Thunder Mountain Railroad, a visit to Sleeping Beauty's Castle and flying with Dumbo the elephant, a giddy journey with Indiana Jones, or the experience of a pitch-black rollercoaster ride inside Space Mountain, and a wet ride on Splash Mountain. There is also a new shopping, dining and entertainment district called Downtown Disney. The latest appendage to Disneyland is the adjacent California Adventure, a separate park minus the cartoon characters that offers further rides and rollercoasters, but an additional ticket is required. The parks are busiest during summer from mid-June to mid-September and during school holidays and there are usually long queues at the popular rides. The new Fastpass system allows visitors to reserve a place in line at the park's busiest attractions. No day at Disneyland is complete without watching the nightly fireworks show with an appearance by Tinkerbell.

It is said that the Getty Center in Brentwood, Los Angeles is less a museum with artworks inside, than an artwork with a museum inside. Certainly the building, designed by Richard Meier and costing $1.2 billion to build in 1997, is celebrated for its architecture and gardens, while the wonderful views over LA are breathtaking. With over 1.3 million visitors, the Getty Center is one of the most visited museums in the USA, and it is well worth allocating a day to explore. It houses a premier collection of pre-20th century European paintings and artworks, and a leading archive of photography from the 19th and 20th centuries. The most famous work on display is undoubtedly Irisesby Vincent van Gogh, although there are hundreds of other notable works, including Paul Gauguin's Arii Matamoe.

Originally completed in 1974, and rebuilt in 1997, the Getty Villa is a faithful replica of a Roman villa that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Villa was built to house the expanding art collection of oil tycoon J Paul Getty, and now has one of the world's finest displays of ancient Greek and Roman artefacts, comprising over 44,000 pieces. The best known item is Victorious Youth, one of the only surviving life-size Greek bronzes in existence. The Getty Villa also has over 20,000 books in its library, and collections of jewellery and coins. The free guided tours of both the exhibits and the gardens are highly recommended.

The Griffith Park extends for 4,210 acres (17 km²) of well-kept public grounds and is often referred to as the 'Central Park' of Los Angeles. Rent a bicycle, take a hike or have a picnic under the iconic Hollywood sign. Within the park is the Griffith observatory, which apart from being a familiar filming location, is filled with attractions of its own and a significant site for the study of astronomy.

Los Angeles is the film and entertainment capital of the world and the name 'Hollywood' is the embodiment of glamour, success and money; the place where films are made, television shows are recorded and stars take up residence. The famous Hollywood sign on the hills above the city has become the enduring symbol of the movie industry and of Los Angeles itself - the 50ft-high (15m) white letters can be seen from miles away. The historic heart of the movie industry is centred on Hollywood Boulevard where millions of visitors flock to see landmark attractions and museums.

The impressive Mann's (Grauman's) Chinese Theatre is famous for its courtyard where over 200 stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood and Frank Sinatra have set their signatures and imprints of their hands or feet in cement. For many years the theatre has been the spot for movie premieres and is modelled on a Chinese temple with columns, dragons and an ornate interior. Passing in front of the theatre is the mile-long Walk of Fame, the world-famous sidewalk embedded with the names of legendary television, film, radio, theatre and recording greats engraved within pink granite stars. More than 2,500 celebrities are honoured here, including Elvis Presley, Charlie Chapman, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson.

The cylindrical Capitol Records Tower is one of the most recognisable buildings in the city and is supposed to resemble a 12-storey stack of records with a needle on top that blinks out 'h-o-l-l-y-w-o-o-d' in Morse code. Other attractions include the Kodak Theatre (designed to host the Academy Awards) and the Hollywood Guinness World Records Museum, as well as the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Ripley's 'Believe It or Not!' Museum.

When Walter Knott began selling berries, berry plants and pies from a roadside stand beside State Route 39 in the 1920s he could never have known what his stand would eventually become. As the highway developed over time, so did his stand, becoming a roadside eatery with entertainment and eventually turning into America's first theme park, Knott's Berry Farm. The park features a multitude of fun for visitors of all ages and boasts nine world-class roller coasters, a plethora of thrill rides, family rides, children's rides, water rides, a Ghost Town, Fiesta Village (portraying Spanish California), Indian Trails, Wild Water Wilderness and the Sky Cabin Tower where fabulous views can be enjoyed by those brave enough to climb to the top.

One of the world's most significant fossil sites, the tar pits in central Los Angeles have revealed fossils of plant and animal life preserved in the pits for ten of thousands of years. The fossils themselves are on display in the Page Museum on the site, while replicas of some of the animals, mammoths and sabre-toothed cats found have been creatively re-placed in and around the pits.

Located within the Griffith Park area, the Los Angeles Zoo is a large facility boasting 1,100 animals from around the world. The Zoo is currently adding naturalistic habitats for the animals, making the facility more attractive to both visitors and occupants. It is also a botanical garden, holding 800 plant species. Apart from the myriad natural life to be seen, there are animal shows, workshops and a petting zoo in store for visitors.

Fantasy and illusion come alive for kids at Magicopolis, where magic, music and special effects inspire awe and wonder. Magic trick kits can be purchased for children to take home, and there are treats and refreshments available from the theatre's café.

For kids who really want to get their hands dirty, Peach Tree Pottery offers children's pottery lessons in a friendly, relaxed environment. Aside from learning to use a potter's wheel, children will also be shown how to make pinch pots, coil pots and tile trivets - a world of ceramic fun!

Even among the stiff competition among Southern California theme parks, Six Flags Magic Mountain has a solid reputation for the biggest, baddest rides in the area. This world-class theme park was recently named Roller Coaster Capital of the World with 18 coasters, including Superman, the Green Lantern, Batman, The Riddler's Revenge, and the Road Runner Express. The park offers many other rides for all ages, and kids will love meeting their favourite Looney Tunes characters and Justice League superheroes at the family shows. Magic Mountain is dotted with restaurants, snack stands, souvenir shops and other stores, and the park will even hold your parcels at the exit while you enjoy yourself.

One of the most popular attractions in Los Angeles is Universal Studios Hollywood, reputedly the world's biggest film studio and theme park. The main attraction is the Studio Tour, a narrated tram ride that traverses the huge complex, passing stars' dressing rooms and famous back-lot sets, including an Old West town, the town square in 'Back to the Future' films, as well as Jurassic Park III and 'Curse of the Mummy's Tomb' sets. Along the way visitors will experience several realistic staged-disasters such as an earthquake, an avalanche, an attack by 'Jaws' and a meeting with an enormous version of 'King Kong'. Besides the tours there is a theme park that provides a thrilling introduction to the principles of special effects with several attractions and movie-related rides. The popular 'Back to the Future' ride is a simulated jerky flight in a time machine with exceptional special effects and is one of the park's best rides. The 'Jurassic Park' ride is a tour through a jungle full of frightening dinosaurs ending with an 84ft (26m) near-vertical drop into water. Other attractions include the spectacular 'Waterworld' live action stunt performance, a realistic warehouse fire in 'Backdraft', a 'Terminator 2' 3-D show, and animal tricks on 'Animal Planet Live!' Universal CityWalk is a separate venue with shops, restaurants, cinemas and nightclubs.

It's worth heading into downtown Los Angeles to see this strange Frank Gehry-designed concert hall. The silver-plated building can be described as art deco meets surrealism, and while it derives mixed admiration from visitors, its uniqueness is never argued. A walking tour with an explanation for the intricate design is on offer free of charge to anyone curious to know how the hall came about. There is also a restaurant in the building - in one of those nooks and/or crannies.

The tour at Warner Bros offers a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at an authentic working studio and provides more of a technical slant than the Universal Studios tour, focussing on the authentic filmmaking procedure. The informative two-hour tour takes visitors to view the sets, prop construction, wardrobe and sound department, as well as visiting active film and television sets where it is sometimes possible to watch actors in the midst of filming. There is also an introductory film and museum depicting the studio's film history.

West LA is famous for its trend-setting style; the place where the 'stars' live, shop and go out on the town. The area includes some of the most prestigious neighbourhoods in Los Angeles, particularly Beverley Hills and Bel Air. Home of the rich and famous, and one of the world's most expensive residential areas, Beverley Hills flaunts its wealth with luxurious manors, tree-lined streets, grand estates and security gates concealing landscaped grounds that are home to the likes of Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford. Scheduled tours are available or Star Home Maps can be picked up at any street corner vendor for the latest on who lives where. The neighbourhood is also home to the famous shopping district centred on Rodeo Drive with expensive shops oozing designer labels such as Gucci, Armani and Vuitton. West Hollywood, between Beverley Hills and Hollywood, is the centre of LA's gay community and boasts the area's best restaurants, trendiest shops, eccentric boutiques and modern galleries along Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. Sunset Strip, a section of Sunset Boulevard, is famed for its nightlife with rock clubs, bars and posh hotels attracting a huge variety of characters, and many places have a history of big names. In the 1930s Errol Flynn and Rita Hayworth went dancing at nightclubs like Trocadero, by the 1970s it had become the focus of rock and roll with stage performances by the Doors and Elton John at Whisky-a-Go-Go club. The actor River Phoenix died of drug-related problems at the Viper Room, and Thunder Roadhouse was where Mickey Rourke bought his Harley-Davidson.

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