Los Angeles: our Insider’s Guide for what to see & do

San Diego is a Great Attraction

San Diego’s greatest appeal is our miles of beautiful beaches.

Local don’t go to L.A., except when they must.  So,  if you must go,here are the places you have to see. Many vacationers take the California Loop, which is to be home based in San Diego and then to take a day trip to Los Angeles. Then they hurry home to refreshing San Diego. Once you go there and experienc the incredible freeway traffic and their maze of freeways, you’ll be happy to get back to peaceful San Diego.

Los Angeles attractions and tours offer everything from state-of-the-art rides to walks through historic neighborhoods. Experience world-class thrills at Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Disneyland, still the “happiest place on Earth.” LA’s cultural attractions include the Getty Center, LACMA and Walt Disney Hall. Take flight with the Space Shuttle Endeavor at the California Science Center and Air Force One at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Time travel via Dinosaur Hall at the Natural History Museum and the ancient La Brea Tar Pits. Film and TV fans can’t miss Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures. Explore LA with Starline Tours and the infamous TMZ Tour.

Los Angeles Attractions

Los Angeles might be the epicenter of entertainment when it comes to film and television, but it is also the land of awes for art, architecture, atmosphere and eye candy. So any visit to the L.A. should include these top ten Los Angeles attractions in the plans.

The Getty Center in the Pacific Palisades opened in 1997 as not only one of the foremost research centers and museums for pre-20th-century European art collections; and 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs, but also as an icon of what brilliant architecture, a sweeping mountain view and 1.2 million square feet of travertine will do. The expansive Richard Meier-designed campus sits on a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains, just off the San Diego Freeway, a spread of curvilinear design elements and natural gardens. While visitors amble through galleries of paintings and art renderings from pre-Renaissance to Impressionist periods in Europe, works are viewed through a complex system of natural lighting, casting the works in much the same tones in which they were created. While the permanent collections are impressive enough, this Los Angeles attraction runs rife with temporary exhibitions Admission is free. Parking must be reserved. Excellent dining options and gift shops onsite.

The Getty Villa in Malibu is as much one of the top ten Los Angeles attractions as the Center’s Palisades sister. This Classical villa across the street from the beach was once the location of J. Paul Getty’s ornate Spanish ranch house before it became a classical labyrinth of the collector’s antiquities and pre-Renaissance acquisitions. The Villa closed in 1997 to reopen in 2006 as a glorious hall of Roman, Greek, and Etruscan antiquities, some 44,000 pieces with more than 1,200 on view in permanent exhibitions world class collection that can hold its own against New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Admission is free. Parking must be reserved. Excellent dining options and gift shops onsite.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (ACMA) has long been considered one of L.A.’s top ten attractions. Its location in the Miracle Mile District in mid-town is convenient to Downtown as well as Beverly Hills and Hollywood and its collection runs the gamut: Renaissance, Impressionism, Modern Expressionism, Islamic, Egyptian, modern American, pre-Columbian, Ancient Near East art… The museum receives rare collections on tour; most recently the latter-day works of Renoir were on view. Admission is generally $15 but second Tuesdays are free. The museum is located on what is known as Museum Row, sharing the boulevard with the Page Museum of Natural History, The Peterson Auto Museum, The L.A. Craft and Folk Art Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits.

Hollywood & Highland (at the confluence of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue) has the comedy, the characters, the stars and the theaters, making for a hub of buzz at almost any hour. On a tour taking in the top ten Los Angeles attractions, Hollywood & Highland is a good place to start. It’s on the Metro Red Line, one of the few places in LA you can target on that train and end up somewhere interesting. The busy Hollywood intersection includes the Renaissance Hotel and famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which flank Hollywood & Highland on either side. Hollywood & Highland itself is a three-story maze of boutiques, cafes, shops and souvenir kiosks in a Babylon-themed homage to D.W. Griffith’s “Intolerance.” Spilling over from the Chinese Theater are comic and movie-themed characters posing for tips upon a cemented walkways of bronzed star awards and famous celebrity hand and foot prints. The Kodak Theater, home of the Academy Awards, is located here and gives tours every 45 minutes for $15.

Santa Monica Pier is a fun place to go and an easy way to take in the beach when trying to see the best attractions in Los Angeles. The 1,600-foot-long pier opened in 1909 and still contains the circa 1922 carousel with 44 hand-carved horses, and the 1938 gate built by the WPA. A working roller coaster and Ferris wheel add to the amusement park atmosphere. Thursday nights during the summer bring on the Twilight Dance Series with top-notch bands rocking the pier.

Beverly Hills usually makes it onto a top ten for LA list, if only because it’s an original. This was the place that started it all – the must-have Gucci’s and Fendi’s; the salons and spas of the stars and the hangout cafes, such as Nate ‘n Al’s Deli where gossip columnists grabbed inside bites at the surrounding booths. Today, as in the 50’s and 60’s, the stars still stop by Nate n’ Al’s, and make their special orders at La Perla and D&G. Rodeo Drive is still dotted with bistros, such as The Farm and Spago where some name or two will be sipping coffee behind an LA Times. But things are much more casual now. Stars dine, buy shoes, drink wine, and no one really cares. The neighborhood remains a compact mile of style with Rodeo Drive and Beverly Drive concentrating the boutiques and stores while Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman-Marcus anchor the zone on Wilshire Boulevard. A hop-on hop-off trolley runs around the area and some great walking tours through the mansions along the palmed boulevards north of the shopping district can be found through the Beverly Hills Visitors Bureau.

The Grove/Farmer’s Market is a wonderful one-stop attraction that contains a modern multiplex cinema, the largest Barnes & Noble west of the Mississippi, an Apple Store, and a Nordstrom in an open pedestrian wonderland attached to the historic Farmer’s Market. The new Grove element comes with plenty of places to sit, patches of green, musically-inclined fountains, bridges, and community spirit flanked by an avenue of brand boutiques and flagships while the Farmer’s Market is as it always was – a quiet corner of LA to by really good doughnuts, freshly roasted nuts, steaming jambalaya, DuPar’s pies or just a simple no-name cup of coffee. It’s an outdoor bazaar or food stalls – many that have been around since the 1930s, while others, such as the Banana Leaf, serving healthy kosher Singapore cuisine, that have been around only a few years. Celebrity sightings are practically guaranteed. This is a favorite spot for just about everyone in L.A. and it never gets old.

Universal Studios Hollywood is a must-see Los Angeles attraction if there are young kids in tow. The park is an easy drive, just a few minutes from downtown or Hollywood. Parking is easy. The CityWalk avenue of themed shopping outside the park is gloriously entertaining. But the theme park is fun for anyone who wants to get a behind-the-scenes view into movie making and then hit the thrill rides. The backstage tour changes day to day, depending on what is being filmed and available for show. And patrons always get to see such iconic sets as the Psycho house, the Jaws lake, and the clock square from Back to the Future. Just this summer the park’s latest ride, a revamped King Kong thrill experience, opened and puts the edgiest, gripping technology to work for an immersive confrontation with Jurassic beasts.

The Hollywood Bowl brings in the concerts and the crowds every summer. The listings are as likely to contain Tchaikovsky conducted by Gustavo Dudamel as they are to feature Lady Gaga or the Buena Vista Social Club. Box seats and exquisite boxed dinners are available. It is traditional for parties to bring their own picnic and wine and enjoy the open environment at picnic tables or from their seats under the stars. Cheaper seat purchases usually require binos but the sound quality is excellent. Parking is problematic so concertgoers often walk from the Metro subway station at Hollywood and Highland or park at the Metro lot at Lankershim at take the shuttle.

The Griffith Observatory sits on a mountain peak overlooking Hollywood and old L.A. with much the same pan of lights that played in Rebel without a Cause. Although it closed for a time and reopened in 2007 with a new planetarium show (we’re talking Zeiss star projector, laser digital projection system, state-of-the-art aluminum dome, comfy seats, sound system, and special theatrical lighting all contributing to what is considered the finest planetarium in the world currently), it still has all the Art Deco touches of the 1935 original and many of the original spaces. On clear nights the observatory opens its Zeiss telescope for public viewing and on clear days they can see forever through three solar telescopes in operation. The observatory stays open Wednesday to Sunday until 10 pm and can be accessed for free, although there is a small charge for the planetarium sky show. There is a café and gift shop onsite as well.

Discover the Magic of Hollywood

The best new wax, Madame Tussads Hollywood, 6933 Hollywood Boulevard (866-841-3315) is located next to the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Get up close and personal with more than 100 incredible, lifelike wax figures, step onto memorable movie blockbuster sets spread over three floors of attraction space and be sure to bring a camera and take home the ultimate souvenir photo. Madame Tussauds Hollywood is redefining celebrity encounters. Who do you want to meet?

Don’t miss out on the Hollywood Behind-The-Scenes Tour at 6708 Hollywood Boulevard (323- 402-1074). Hollywood Revealed! Expert guides expose what other tours miss. Visit the movie palaces that host the most star-studded Hollywood movie premieres today. Place your hands and feet onto your favorite celebrity’s cement prints at the legendary Chinese Theatre. Let us help you find your favorite celebrity on the Walk of Fame, as we walk to the perfect spot for viewing the Hollywood sign. Follow the pathway of the stars (Awards Walk), to the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards (the Oscars)! Visit filming locations. We change Hollywood from the ordinary to the extraordinary!

Let Starline Tours 6925 Hollywood Boulevard (800-959-3131) take you where the stars live, shop, hang out and play in famous Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby Hills and Hollywood Hills. See over 40 celebrity homes from an air-conditioned or “convertible” mini-bus. See the mansions of today’s superstars and Hollywood legends, as well as the Hollywood sign and sights on Sunset Strip and Rodeo Drive. Tours depart daily from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

The Dolby Theatre Guided Tour 6801 Hollywood Boulevard #180 (323-308-6300) is where it’s your turn to step beyond the red carpet…and explore the world famous home of the Academy Awards® Ceremonies and host of Hollywood’s most glamorous events.

See 10,000 real showbiz treasures at the Hollywood Museum 1660 North Highland Avenue (323-464-7776)! Your favorite stars + 100 years of Hollywood! Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, I Love Lucy, Superman, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Glee, High School Musical, Sopranos, Rocky, star cars, DiCaprio, Clooney, J Lo, Brangelina & more. Vintage photo gallery. Hannibal Lecter’s jail cell. Max Factor’s world-famous makeup rooms where Marilyn Monroe became a blonde & Lucille Ball a redhead. Visit Hollywood’s largest collection of costumes, props, posters & photos!

The Top Restaurants in Los Angeles

Animal at 435 N. Fairfax Ave. (323-782-9225) is where the meat-heavy menu—crispy pig head and even a bacon chocolate bar—attracts big crowds. Also try its sister restaurant—a fish spot—Son of a Gun.

Bazaar by José Andrés at 465 S. La Cienega Blvd. (310-246-5555) is where a well-heeled crowd settles into Philippe Starck banquettes at this indoor piazza to try award-winning Spanish chef José Andrés’s inventive molecular gastronomy, including a Philly cheesesteak made on top of air bread and topped with Kobe beef.

Since 1908, Cole’s at 118 Sixth St. (213-622-4090) has been serving its famed french dips—they claim to be the originator of the beef sandwich—in a dim lit space with original penny-tile floors, red banquettes, and a 40-foot mahogany bar. Sneak into the door marked with a cocktail glass and you’ll find The Varnish, a speakeasy-like back room.

The Ivy at 113 North Robertson Blvd. (310-274-8303) is where Hollywood power-lunchers convene, inside The Ivy’s white picket fences, for crab cakes and butterscotch sundaes, though with all the famous faces surrounding you (Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck, and Tom Cruise, to name a few) it will be difficult to focus on the food.

Lucques at 8474 Melrose Ave. (323-655-6277) is a West Hollywood classic. chef Suzanne Goin serves a fresh, market-driven Cal-Med (roasted fish and lots of vegetables) menu. On Sunday nights, she whips up a delicious family-style supper.

Nobu at 903 North La Cienega Blvd. (310-657-5711) is where a stylish spot that celebrities choose quite often. Their sushi temple is popular due to its “new-style sashimi” (thinly cut fish that’s flash-cooked in an oven), Wagyu beef tacos, and tempura. Look around the glamorous dining room and you may spot a celebrity or two.

strong>Spago Beverly Hills at 176 North Canon Dr. (310-385-0880) is Wolfgang Puck’s seasonal restaurant, a Beverly Hills staple, as well as the chef’s flagship restaurant. In the chic dining room, the star chef serves classic American dishes with a twist, including Maine lobster served “Hong Kong” style.

Umami Burger has several popular locations in Los Angeles. Umami is known as the fifth flavor (after salty, sweet, bitter, and sour) and Umami Burger is known as one of L.A.’s best burgers, topped with topped with shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomato, a Parmesan crisp, and the chef’s special umami sauce. Grab one in between shopping marathons at Fred Segal or The Grove.

Staying in Los Angeles Hotels

Los Angeles needs no introduction. The skies are sunny, the celebrities are plentiful and the traffic is horrendous. Whether the goal of your trip is to get a behind-the-scenes look at the movie industry, cruise the beaches or shop your heart out, you’ll discover that Los Angeles is unlike any other city in the world.

But your impression of L.A. will depend on where you rest your head, whether it be in one of the boutique motel-style spots lining breezy Santa Monica’s Ocean Avenue, or one of the city’s historic hotels–with glamorous film roots–that rise grandly against the Hollywood Hills. Pick West Hollywood’s intimate enclaves on quaint tree-lined streets near sweet cafés, or head to the trendy Sunset Boulevard hotels with exotic architecture, buzzing bars and celebrity-filled eateries. We’ve done the legwork in amassing the city’s most noteworthy lodgings–the rest is up to you.

The city’s finest, most luxurious accommodations are found in Beverly Hills. Hotels here have a long history of catering to the most discerning travelers and the most demanding guests, so it’s doubtful you can present them with a challenge they haven’t already passed with flying colors.

As the name suggests, The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows (9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-276-2251) is famed for its private cottages. But it’s also just as well-known for its pale pink coloring and the legendary Polo Lounge–still a power-broker spot after all these years. The bungalows are known for housing celebrities, the tropical gardens are gorgeous and the rooms are elegant and have extra comfy beds. Add impeccable service and you have a place that’s every bit as magical as you hope it to be.

The unusually spacious guest rooms and suites at Raffles L’Ermitage Beverly Hills (9291 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, 310-278-3344 ) draw guests who appreciate the hotel’s space and quiet, intimate atmosphere.

The Peninsula Beverly Hills (9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-551-2888) recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation, adding cutting edge technologies to rooms that were already some of the plushest in town.

Montage Beverly Hills (225 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, 310-860-7800), a Spanish Colonial-Revival style luxury property, delivers a great location right in Beverly Hills, a top-notch spa and supremely comfortable rooms.

Among the city’s most iconic hotels is the The Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel (9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-275-5200; ). When Warren Beatty was a swinging bachelor during the ’60s and ’70s, he lived at the hotel for nearly 15 years. This spot was also made famous when it was featured in the film Pretty Woman. It’s still one of the top hotels in the city, with great restaurants and an unbeatable location at the mouth of Rodeo Drive.

For a lively scene book a room at Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-466-7000). The lavish Art Deco lobby frequently hosts after-parties for movie premieres, and its refurbished old Hollywood celebrity suites are used by current A-listers for award show preparation. Celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie often eat in the restaurants, and The Tropicana Bar has hosted the cast of Entourage.

Or check out the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills (465 S. La Cienega Blvd., Midtown, 310-247-0400), the first hotel from Sam Nazarian, owner of hospitality giant SBE. He’s launched most of L.A.’s hottest restaurants and clubs, and the SLS is the place to drink and eat in the city right now.

If poolside relaxation tops your to-do list, The Beverly Hilton’s (9876 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-274-7777) enormous Aqua Star pool is the place to be. The pool has been a hot spot since 1955, and even today is often filled with sunning executives who appreciate the wireless Internet.

Perhaps L.A.’s most unique decor can be found at Palihouse Holloway (8465 Holloway Drive, West Hollywood, 323-656-4100). Entering this longer-term, lodge-style hotel is like discovering a private club. The furnishings are distinctive, with an eclectic living-room-style lounge with distressed leather chairs and unusual relics. Rooms have rain showers and hardwood floors, and amenities include a washer and dryer and a cleaning supply kit.

op boutique hotels include the London West Hollywood (1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, 310-854-1111). The sibling of sister property The London NYC has been revamped with Hollywood glamour in mind. The spectacular views are still there, but now the rich brown-and-cream rooms have Waterworks jet and raindrop shower heads, gadget docking stations and an open floor plan.

When presidents come to town, they check into the enormous Hyatt Regency Century Plaza (2025 Avenue of the Stars, Century City, 310-228-1234). After just completing a significant renovation, the swanky spot features brand-new suites, which include the use of the Regency Club (a private lounge with complimentary refreshments) and a new pool and deck with posh cabanas. You can hang out in the new Lobby Court and Patio for afternoon coffee or evening cocktails, or hit the new X bar to nibble on tapas amid outdoor fire pits and greenery. The best perk is the adjoining multi-tiered Equinox Fitness Club + Spa, the company’s West Coast flagship gym (although there is a $20 fee to access the club, unless you have a spa treatment booked).

he Hollywood Travelodge is located in the heart of Hollywood, Travelodge Vermont Sunset (1401 North Vermont Ave., Hollywood, (323-665-5735). easily accessible through Metro Red Line at the Vermont-Sunset Station. The Hollywood Travelodge is located across the street from the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. The famous Hollywood sign, Mann’s Chinese Theater, The Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive are all just a few minutes from the Hollywood Travelodge.

Beach bums should book at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel (1700 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, 310-458-6700). One of the bigger hotels in the area, it stands tall along the ocean. From your room, look out onto white sand and blue water, sparkling cityscape, or even–from the Presidential Suite–the entire Santa Monica Pier, complete with nostalgia-inducing Ferris wheel.

Before Manhattan Beach visitors could take refuge in the Shade Hotel (1221 N. Valley Drive, Manhattan Beach, 310-546-4995), the beach town didn’t have a luxury hipster hotel. Now, lobby bar Zinc Lounge has become the place to party in Manhattan Beach, and rooms book up for the Tempur-Pedic mattresses, fireplaces and Lavazza espresso machines.

Movie buffs will love Chateau Marmont Hotel and Bungalows (8221 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 323-656-1010). Sophia Coppola recently wrapped a movie that was filmed here, set for release in December 2010, titled Somewhere.

Numerous movies have been filmed at Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles (506 S. Grand Ave., Downtown, 213-624-1011), including scenes from Wedding CrashersSpidermanOcean’s 11GhostbustersSplash and Rumor Has It. The hotel also hosted eight Oscar ceremonies in the ’30s and ’40s; in 1960 JFK turned the Music Room into his headquarters for the DNC; and in 1964 the Beatles landed on the rooftop in a helicopter and stayed in the presidential suite while on their first U.S. tour.

The Neighborhoods of Los Angeles

Los Angeles has no center, no one place from which to measure its pulse. Instead, each neighborhood has its own distinct heart. Some of what we consider L.A. neighborhoods are actually separate cities within LA’s boundaries, like Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Some Los Angeles neighborhoods can be visited in a few hours while others warrant a day or two. Visitors tend to spend most of their time in Santa Monica, Venice, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. In Hollywood, it’s all about the stars and the movie industry. Travelers hang out in Santa Monica and Venice to soak up the sun and in Beverly Hills, it’s all about living the high life.

Downtown Los Angeles

The revival of downtown Los Angeles has been touted for so long that its actual arrival has come as a bit of a surprise. The openings of the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, the new cathedral, and the L.A. Live complex have encouraged a rash of condo conversions, trendy restaurants, wine bars and nightspots. Chinatown has sprouted edgy art galleries and Little Tokyo has the Japanese American Museum. Downtown is rich with architectural gems like the Bradbury Building, Union Station and the Biltmore Hotel, along with the historic adobes of Olvera Street, and the Los Angeles Conservancy runs excellent walking tours. The one thing downtown lacks? Good shopping.

West Los Angeles

Prosperous, leafy and filled with large homes, Brentwood, Bel Air, Pacific Palisades, and Westwood are the main neighborhoods on LA’s west side. Attractions include the Getty Center, UCLA, and the Hammer Museum. Westwood Boulevard to the south of Wilshire is dotted with Iranian restaurants and shops. Montana Avenue, which connects Brentwood to Santa Monica, is another popular shopping strip lined with clothing and shelter boutiques, and the Brentwood Country Mart is a favorite casual shopping stop for local celebrities.

West Hollywood

West Hollywood has some of L.A.’s best shopping and restaurants. If you’re looking for edgy designer boutiques, not to mention decadent shelter shops, these streets are your best bets: Robertson Boulevard, the west end of Melrose Avenue, Third Street and Beverly Boulevard. Santa Monica Boulevard (WeHo’s main drag) is known as Boys’ Town due to the large number of gay residents. There’s also a sizeable Russian population here and, consequently, you’ll find plenty of delis offering Russian black breads, cheeses, and memorable prepared foods. It was feared the big outdoor Grove shopping center would kill the historic Farmer’s Market, but instead it has brought new energy to the collection of produce stalls, shops, and eateries that offer some of LA’s most affordable good food. On its north side, WeHo includes the outdoor cafes and trendy shops of Sunset Plaza, and the now tame, but once roaring Sunset Strip.

The Valley

he mainly laid-back, working class San Fernando Valley (on the north side of the Santa Monica Mountains from the Los Angeles Basin) is vast and includes Studio City, Burbank, North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Reseda, and Woodland Hills. For most visitors, the main attractions are the Warner Brothers Studios, Universal Studios (including Universal City and the Universal tours), the Disney Studios, and NBC and CBS lots. The Valley is positively bucolic compared to the rest of traffic-clogged LA, and is marked by ample free parking and casual restaurants and shops.

Beverly Hills/Century City

Manicured, haughty Beverly Hills is LA’s center for nosebleed-expensive designer boutiques and aging-celebrity-magnet restaurants like Spago. Outside of the Golden Triangle of designer shops, however, Beverly Hills has all the usual chain stores, from Anthropology to Crate and Barrel. Just west is Century City, which is built on the former back lot of Fox Studios. The main attraction in the maze of office towers and condos is the expansive Westfield shopping mall. Many celebrities and pop stars live in the neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and Holmby Hills.


The city just east and north of downtown Los Angeles is most famous for its annual Rose Parade. But historic Old Town is a popular outing for Angelenos for shopping and restaurants. The Norton Simon Museum is renowned for its collection. Next door in San Marino is the Huntington, known for its collection of rare manuscripts, European paintings, and botanical gardens. Once a month, the Rose Bowl is home to one of the world’s great flea markets. Pasadena is manna for architecture buffs, particularly for lovers of the Craftsman style, best exemplified by the Langham Huntington Hotel, Castle Green, and the Greene-and-Greene-designed Gamble House. Mediterranean and Spanish Renaissance architecture are embodied in the City Hall and Pasadena Public Library.


There’s so much romance associated with this world-famous beach town north of Santa Monica that you almost expect to be disappointed when you visit. In spite of the fact that Malibu has become ground zero for well-to-do ocean-worshippers, it retains the aura of possibility from its days as surf central. Aside from Getty Villa (a faux Roman villa built on the hillside), the main attractions for visitors lie in ocean-front restaurants and the legendary beaches, like Surfriders and Point Dume. Don’t want to spend the equivalent of a car payment to sit near celebs at Nobu? A short drive north of Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway is Neptune’s Net, the legendary fish shack that’s a favorite of surfers and bikers. Though Malibu’s beaches are all open to the public, it can be difficult to figure out how to access some through the apparent unbroken line of multi-million-dollar houses fronting the ocean.

Santa Monica/Venice/Marina del Rey

Santa Monica and Venice are legendary beach towns, but they couldn’t be more different: the first is spotless and well-to-do, the second is scruffy, bohemian and full of fun. Shopping in Santa Monica is centered on the pedestrian-only Third Street Promenade. In Venice, Abbott Kinney Boulevard and Main Street are great shopping for everything from women’s summer frocks to zen-inspired home wares and rare books. But Venice is most famous for the strip of boardwalk that stretches from Santa Monica on the north to Marina del Rey on the south, which on weekends turns into a carnival of street performers, body builders, skaters, craft stalls, and funky shops. Even on a cloudy weekday, the boardwalk is lively and amusing. The Marina is packed with restaurants and hotels that are an easy 15-minute drive from LAX, the Los Angeles International Airport.

Culver City

Not long ago, dowdy Culver City had little to offer beyond safe, affordable housing. But the historic home of MGM studios (and now Sony) has become one of the hottest corners of the city, sprouting restaurants, wine bars, and shops by the dozens. The old Helms Bakery, a Deco landmark, is home to a variety of shelter shops and restaurants. On the eastern end of the city, enough art galleries line Washington Boulevard and L.A. Cienega to constitute a scene.


The legendary town that gave the American film industry its name was, not long ago, a gritty, depressed area where crestfallen tourists gazed about in confusion. Then the opening of the Kodak Theatre brought the Academy Awards back to Hollywood, and gentrification has continued a mile a minute. These days Hollywood is the center of L.A. nightlife, with an ever-changing list of celebrity-populated restaurants and clubs. A glitzy W Hotel has opened at the iconic intersection of Hollywood and Vine and the historic Roosevelt Hotel has been turned into trendy digs. Hollywood is home to many tiny, equity-waiver theaters, as well as the ornate movie palaces, Grauman’s Chinese, the Egyptian, and El Capitan. Then there’s the Walk of Stars, Paramount Studios, the Hollywood sign, the wilds of Griffith Park, Thai Town, and Little Armenia.