If you love sunshine, showbiz, and shopping, Los Angeles is an unbeatable destination. The City of Angels has a unique appeal thanks to its superb climate, sandy beaches, and movie-making history.
You can tour showbiz sights and hear tales about the lives of celebrities, enjoy the thrills provided by rides at Universal Studios, or treat the kids to a trip to Disneyland California.
Fashion lovers also flock to LA for its boutiques. Hit the stores on Robertson Boulevard, and discover the latest designs by Chanel, Kitson, or Tommy Hilfiger, or head to malls like the Beverly Center.
It doesn’t matter whether you are there to shop, catch a glimpse of your favorite actor or perfect your tan, Los Angeles is a year-round destination like no other.
Across the world, Los Angeles is most famous for its movie industry. Check out the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, take snaps of the Hollywood Sign, watch a movie at the Chinese Theater or dive into the mall at Hollywood and Highland. You can also take guided tours of stars’ homes and the studios which launched their careers.
LA isn’t always thought of as a family destination, but it should be. Kids will love getting to know the characters and experiencing the rides at Disneyland, while Universal Studios features attractions based on popular kids’ movies like Despicable Me and Shrek.
Only Phoenix and Las Vegas can boast more sunny days a year than Los Angeles and the average temperature in the city is a comfortable 71 degrees. Rainfall is rare, storms aren’t a factor outside of the middle of winter, and the beaches of Santa Monica or Venice are almost always packed.
It’s not all about blockbuster movies and Disney in LA. The city also has some excellent galleries. You can see Impressionist masterpieces at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, see Asian artworks at the Chinese American Museum (425 N Los Angeles St), or check out lesser known artists at contemporary galleries like Perry Rubenstein (1215 Highland Ave) or Marc Selwyn (9953 S Santa Monica Blvd).
LA is the place to go for America’s best Mexican food, so be sure to taste the tacos at Guisados Tacos (2100 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue) or a bowl of chilli from Chili John’s (2018 W. Burbank Blvd). There’s plenty of Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, Jewish, Greek, American, and even British-style pubs to discover as well.
Universal Studios have been responsible for some of the most popular blockbuster movies, such as Jurassic Park and Jaws. At their theme park in Hollywood, you can relive movie experiences like being pursued by a killer shark or a T-Rex, or if you prefer, something less stressful like the Simpsons Ride.
The Bowl is one of America’s most beautiful outdoor arenas, set against the backdrop of the Hollywood Hills and the famous Hollywood Sign. In the past, it has hosted everyone from Monty Python’s comedy show, Kanye West, and the Beach Boys, and there will probably be a high-profile event during your stay.
LA is almost as famous for its laid-back beach culture as the movies. Head to Santa Monica and roller-skate down the promenade. Rent a surfboard and head to nearby surfing spots like Malibu, or visit the amusements on Santa Monica pier. Alternatively, just relax all day on the sand.
Santa Catalina Island is just 26 miles away by boat from LA harbor and it’s well worth a visit. You can take a flying fish tour or dive beneath the waves in a submarine to see the wildlife that call the island’s reef home. There are also miles of riding trails and stables that rent horses by the hour.
During the Golden Age of Hollywood (1920 to around 1950), a cluster of extraordinarily beautiful movie theaters were built that are still open. There’s no better place to watch the latest releases than the Chinese Theater, the brightly illuminated Los Feliz, or the massive Palace Theater.
Los Angeles has a wonderfully warm, sun-drenched climate, but the mid-summer temperatures can be too much for some visitors. If you want to walk between sights without feeling too hot, visiting between March and May makes sense. The fall is almost as pleasant, with temperatures rarely going above 70 degrees and hardly ever less than 60. For budget hotel deals, consider a trip in December or January. The weather will probably still be sunny (though rain is a possibility) and there are festive markets at Grand Cental and Pasadena to explore.
Los Angeles has five commercial airports within a short distance, but the major entry point for visitors is Los Angeles International (LAX). When you touch down, the best way to reach the city center is via the LAX FlyAway bus link which runs to Hollywood, Union Station, and Santa Monica and costs $8. You can also catch the LA Metro from nearby Aviation Boulevard. To get to the center take the Green Line to Willow Brook and change onto the Blue Line towards 7th Street/Metro Center. If you need to take a taxi, expect it to cost around $75 and to take half an hour outside of rush hour.
If you land at Burbank, Bob Hope Airport, LA/Ontario, or Long Beach Airport, the best option is to book a cab or rent a car at the airport as there are very few bus or Metro connections.
Los Angeles’ Amtrak station is Union Station (800 N. Alameda St) and offers a wide range of connections to other U.S. cities. Services stopping at Union Station include the Coast Starlight (which runs north to Seattle and San Francisco), the Southwest Chief (to Kansas City and Chicago), and the Sunset Limited (to San Antonio and New Orleans). MetroLink also operates a commuter train service that links the city to nearby towns like San Bernardino and Oceanside.
Los Angeles is famous as a city of highways, and getting there by road is easy. If you are coming from the east, take I-10, while I-5 connects LA to San Francisco to the north and San Diego to the south. I-15 links the city to Las Vegas, while Route 101 runs along the California coast.
Greyhound runs buses into the LA terminal at 1716 East 7th Street. However, the terminal is next door to Skid Row, a potentially dangerous neighborhood, so it may be wise to use Greyhound’s other bus terminals in the city. There are alternative stops in North Hollywood (11239 Magnolia Boulevard) and El Monte (3501 North Santa Anita Ave), which provide good access to city center hotels.
Other bus services include:
Bolt Bus – Stops at Union Station and link LA to Las Vegas, Bairstow, Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose.
El Paso - Los Angeles Limousine Express – stops at 260 E 6th St and connects Los Angeles to Phoenix and El Paso.
Megabus – Runs buses into Union Station from Las Vegas, Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco, with onward connections to most American cities.
Los Angeles is massive, and there are plenty of great districts to stay in (and some you should probably avoid). There’s also a huge variety of hotels to choose from. In the Downtown District, the Standard (550 S Flower St) is a stylish option with a rooftop pool and cocktail parties while the Biltmore (506 S Grand Ave) is a stunning luxury Art Deco hotel. In Hollywood, the Redbury (1717 Vine St) is a comfortable family-oriented hotel, and in Wilshire, the Kimpton (6317 Wilshire Blvd) is the finest place to stay. Budget travelers may also want to check out Backpackers Paradise Youth Hostel (4200 W Century Blvd), which is handy for Venice Beach and has a free airport shuttle.
Downtown Los Angeles – Home to the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Disney Concert Hall, and the Japanese-American Museum, Downtown is the place to go for cultural activities. It’s also home to Chinatown. Don’t miss the marketplace where tourists are expected to negotiate with stall holders. Other can’t-miss attractions include the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and the Bradbury Building – a late 19th century office block whose wrought iron stairways are some of the most beautiful in the world.
Hollywood – A site of pilgrimage for movie fans from across the world, Hollywood includes famous streets like Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard, with its walk of fame. Visit Grauman's Chinese Theater, the venue for the Academy Awards, hike to the Hollywood Sign. or catch a show at the Hollywood Bowl. For a trip back in time, head to Jane's House (6541 Hollywood Boulevard), one of the rare survivals from the days before Hollywood was the world’s movie capital.
Westside – One of Los Angeles’ most affluent areas, Westside is a conveniently located, safe district for families to stay in. It also includes famous beaches like Venice, Santa Monica, and Playa del Rey, as well as the Bel Air neighborhood. Attractions include the Getty Museum with its unusual villa architecture and sculpture collection, the amusement park on Santa Monica Pier and the Strand, a promenade that stretches along the bay at Santa Monica.
Getting around Los Angeles by public transit is possible, but not as easy as it could be. Buses have pretty good coverage, but may only serve particular stops every 30 minutes or so, while the Metro doesn’t cover the whole of the inner city. If you do plan to get around by public transportation, get hold of a Metro Pass ($7 for a day, $25 for a week) or a TAP Card that can be recharged (only applies to rail and subway connections). However, Metro passes won’t apply for DASH or FlyAway airport buses, so you will need to buy separate tickets to use those services.
Taxis are an excellent way to get around Los Angeles. Expect to pay $2.85 for the meter drop, then $2.70 for every additional mile, as well as $0.30 for every 37 seconds of delays. There’s also a $4 surcharge for all trips that involve the airport. For a cheaper option, you can give Uber a try. Their cheapest cars have no base fare and only charge $0.15 per minute after that, so they can be a good way to save money.
Renting a car is even better than taking taxis for most visitors to LA. You can rent vehicles from major rental companies like Avis, Enterprise, and Budget at LAX and LA’s other airports and the cost can be as little as $20 per day. Gas costs around $3 per gallon in Los Angeles, so factor this into your budget as well.
If you do choose to drive, remember that seat belts are mandatory under California law, right turns on red lights are allowed unless signs indicate the contrary, but pedestrians have right of way at all intersections. Parking in central LA costs around $7 per hour, but it’s cheaper near out of town Metro stations, which may be a better place to leave your vehicle.
Los Angeles tends to be cheaper than most large American cities. You’ll probably pay around $20-30 for a medium-range meal, $4.00 for a cappuccino coffee or around $50 for a pair of jeans. There are also plenty of great places to shop for souvenirs and bargains. Beverly Boulevard is packed with boutique clothing, fragrance and furniture stores, with big fashion names like Stella McCartney and Erica Courtney. For works of art and crafts, visit La Brea Avenue. The ornaments at Mortise and Tenon will excite interior design fans, and La Brea Bakery is a wonderful spot to break up your shopping with a snack. Celebrities love to hit the stores on Robertson Boulevard where you’ll find boutiques like Lisa Kline and Kitson. But for the height of LA fashion, head to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, where fans of high-end labels like Missoni, Dolce and Gabbana, and Louis Vuitton hang out.
Los Angeles has plenty of department stores like J.C. Penney, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue as well as supermarkets like Ralph’s, Wal-Mart, Albertson’s and Safeway. There are also 7-Eleven convenience stores on every street, so finding places to shop for groceries shouldn’t be hard.
Los Angeles has a constantly evolving dining scene, with superb chefs from every corner of the world. For great Thai, head to Jitlada (5233 Sunset Blvd) or Ruen Pair (5257 Hollywood Blvd). Crown of India is a fantastic Indian option near the coast (6755 Santa Monica Blvd), Sushi Komasa serves up fine Japanese cuisine (351 E 2nd St), and Angelini Osteria is an excellent Italian eatery (7313 Beverly Blvd). For an authentic American diner experience, head to Nickel Diner (524 S Main St) while for a budget meal that has gourmet appeal, try the Middle Eastern dishes available from the Halal Guys (3432 Wilshire Blvd). Foodies should also head to Grand Central Market (317 S Broadway), which hosts farmers’ markets, bars and restaurants.