From celebrity-spotting to clothes shopping, the fabled heartland of the film industry offers substance as well as style.
Los Angeles started out as a dusty, rural Mexican cattle station situated between the mountains and the ocean. The gold rush of the 1840s and the oil rush a decade later brought the first wave of wealth to this undeveloped part of the American West Coast. Then the film studios arrived with the new century, drawn by the availability of cheap parcels of flat, scrubby land on which to build their extensive backlots. From the Wild West to Hollywood, LA had suddenly transformed itself into the showbiz capital of the world.
The city today takes in over eighty districts, each with its own character. The glamour of the golden age lives on in upmarket residential areas like Bel Air and the shoppers’ paradise of Beverly Hills. Enjoy the al fresco workouts and carnival atmosphere of bohemian Venice Beach and go autograph-hunting in the exclusive celebrity hangouts on Rodeo Drive.
Take the easy route to the stars by following the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which immortalises famous actors and musicians in pavement plaques, or book a tour of Universal Studios for an action close-up of your favourite cinema characters. For family fun, plan a trip to Disneyland Resort.
LA boasts an impressive cultural pedigree, with world-class venues such as the stunning Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, and fascinating museums housed in landmark buildings. The Getty Center owns a priceless collection of artworks including masterpieces of French impressionism. Families will love the interactive exhibits at the Aquarium of the Pacific, where you can stroke sharks and watch penguins feeding.
Travel to the far corners of the universe at Griffith Observatory and go back in time to the Ice Age among the skeletons at the La Brea Tar Pits. Learn about the part played by the USS Iowa in many important US Navy campaigns, then visit some of the vintage rides on historic Santa Monica Pier, where Route 66 meets the Pacific Ocean.