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What to see and do in Los Angeles – a guide to notable attractions and activities

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A stay in L.A. will never be dull. Whether you crave the bright lights of Hollywood, the great outdoors of Pasadena, the designer boutiques of Rodeo Drive or the sandy expanses of Santa Monica and Venice Beach, you’ll find the L.A. magic scattered wherever you look. Getting around is easier if you hire a car; with a set of wheels you can explore beyond the well-trodden tourist trail and get under the skin of this sunshine city.

Deborah Kriger

My Destination local expert on

Los Angeles

Santa Monica

 

On Los Angeles’s sandy coast, Santa Monica buzzes with surfers, shoppers and street performers. Santa Monica Beach features the world-famous strand – skate or bike your way down to Venice Beach, where the people-watching is unrivalled. Also worth a visit is the old-fashioned Santa Monica Pier, where vintage rollercoasters and an iconic Ferris wheel silhouette the sky. If you’re in need of a brain workout, head to the south of the pier, where the International Chess Park challenges players with plenty of tables, tournaments and a giant chessboard.

 

Hollywood

 

Los Angeles’ most famous district – shouted from the Hollywood Hills in 45 foot letters - Hollywood is the historical home of America’s film industry. It’s a fascinating place to explore whether or not you’re a movie fan; first head to the iconic Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd and search out your favourite stars amongst the 2,400+ performers celebrated here. Up next is the Hollywood Wax Museum, chock full of classic celebrities, plus the thrilling Universal Studios – try and leave a whole day for all the rides and tours.

 

Downtown L.A.

 

Home to the city’s main business district Downtown LA isn’t just for suits and skyscrapers. Home to many themed ‘shopping districts’ you can browse for jewelry, toys and fashion, while the ‘flower district’ lures you in with its delectable scents. Union Station is with a visit, whether you are taking the train or not, and the historic center, Olvera Street, is a good area to explore as you make your way northwest to Chinatown.

 

Theme parks

 

Aside from Universal Studios in Hollywood, the county is brimming with hair-raising rollercoasters and magical themed adventures. Disneyland in Anaheim is perhaps the most famous, including Disney California Adventure, a park to thrill those past puberty. In Valencia, you’ll find Six Flags Magic Mountain - Los Angeles’ most extreme theme park, with some of the fastest rollercoasters on the globe – while Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier combines sparkling ocean views with fairground frolics.

 

Unusual attractions

 

Expect the unusual in Los Angeles, a city which celebrates the weird and the wonderful. Some of L.A.’s most unique attractions include Watts Towers, sculptures of scrap metal built by an Italian immigrant; the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, which runs original and innovative puppet shows; and the Museum of Jurassic Technology – not a dinosaur exhibition but a collection of scientific wonders and bizarre relics.

 

Outside the city

 

Hire a car and you can explore the districts just outside Los Angeles, where adventure sports and relaxing pastimes mingle together in the mountains. You don’t have to travel far to discover vales dotted with wineries; head north up Antelope Valley to explore the vineyards and taste some fruity Californian wine. You don’t even have to venture outside the city for your next adventure – go horse-riding at Sunset Ranch Hollywood Stables, where scenic trails lead you past the iconic Hollywood Sign. If you need more of an adrenaline fix, hit the slopes at Mt Baldy Ski Resort, only an hour’s drive from downtown Los Angeles.