The first timer's guide to visiting LA

Hundreds of films have been made and books and songs written about the entertainment capital of the world - Los Angeles. So here's what you need to know about LA.

Hollywood Sign (c) Discover Los Angeles

What's it like?

If you like a holiday that involves sightseeing, shopping, music and art, you’ll probably like LA. Likewise, if your idea of a good time involves lying on beaches and spending time outside, this is a good option. With sunshine nearly all-year round, 75 miles of beaches and coastline, famous theme parks and a huge sprinkle of Hollywood movie magic - Tinseltown truly lives up to all the hype. You've probably seen it on the screen - so it's probably about time you experience it for yourself. And remember to keep your eyes peeled for Hollywood A-Listers in the queue for an almond milk short foamed macchiato behind you.

What can you do in LA?


Bradbury Building Downtown (c) Discover Los Angeles

There are more than two hundred buildings in Los Angeles on the National Register of Historic Places, and you'll recognise many of them from TV and film shows.

  • The giant white Hollywood Sign was originally one big advert for a housing development. You can hike all the way up to the top.
  • You might recognise the Bradbury Building (above) from the film Bladerunner. It’s Victorian-styled building is filled with marble staircases and iron railings. Ennis House was in the same film - a remarkable Mayan style concrete home.
  • Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is so big, it’s broken attendance records for baseball and American football.


  • Time your visit to the Hollywood Walk of Fame well, and you might catch one of the stars placing their hands in cement. Here's a handy (sorry) guide to the star ceremony.
  • A Beverly Hills Segway Tour will take you through palm tree-lined neighbourhoods where the celebs live - so you can have a nose at their houses.
  • All the major film premieres happen at the TCL Chinese Theatre. If no one's looking, you can pretend you're on the red carpet (the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are at the front).
  • Visit LA in February for the Academy Awards. The Oscars are currently held at the Dolby Theatre if you want to see all the biggest film stars in one place.

Art and culture

Walt Disney Concert Hall Downtown (c) Discover Los Angeles

Do the theme parks

Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour (c) Discover Los Angeles
  • Universal Studios Hollywood is full of crazy stunts, incredible rides and heaps of film industry . We recommend the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and The Walking Dead zone.
  • The original Disneyland opened back in 1955 in nearby Anaheim. Walt Disney wouldn't recognise the place now, but it's brilliant - here's how to get tickets.
  • Los Angeles Zoo has got lions and tigers and bears (oh my!).

Explore the great outdoors

View of Downtown LA from Griffith Park in Autumn

Burt Bacharach might have said "LA is a great big freeway" - but in fact it does have an enormous amount of parks, gardens and mountain ranges to go and discover.

  • Griffith Park is one of the largest in the world. Explore on foot of horseback and get cracking views from the Santa Monica mountains.
  • The film Rebel Without A Cause was filmed on location here - there's a bust of actor, James Dean, next to the Griffith Observatory in the park.
  • While you're there take a look through the most popular telescope on the planet.
View of the Griffith Observatory Hollywood (c) Discover Los Angeles
  • Some brave people jump off Hermit Falls, but you can just follow the trail and see the stunning waterfall without getting wet.
  • Runyon Canyon is a popular running spot for local. Followed up to the top, it gives you a view of the whole of LA.
  • For a scenic drive and plenty of super mansions, jump in the car and head along Mullholland Drive (also the name of the influential David Lynch film).
  • Here's the official guide to all the Parks and Recreation areas in Los Angeles to find the one nearest to you.


Lifeguard at Venice Beach

Let's be honest, who hasn't imagined running in slow-motion, Baywatch-style along the Californian beach like David Hasselhoff or Pamela Anderson. So do it - there's a huge coastline full of huge, popular beaches and small, secluded coves.

  • Venice Beach boardwalk - there are lots of things to do including shopping, biking, swimming at the beach and plenty of cafes and bars to choose from. 
  • Hotel Erwin's rooftop is a good spot to perfect for watching the sunset on the strip, listen the local DJs as you sip tequilas.
  • If you're there in the evening you should try the Venice Whaler which is a wild beach bar known for its amazing food.
  • Muscle Beach is where proper bodybuilders work out.
  • Santa Monica Beach - especially near the Pier - is a two mile stretch of sun, sea and surfing.
  • If you want somewhere more secluded, try the rocky and compact El Matador beach.

Where's the Party?

This is a party city. Whatever music you're into we're pretty sure LA will have it covered.

See what's on when your there at the LA Weekly music page.  

Arts District Street Art (c) Discover Los Angeles

Do some serious shopping

There isn't a trend you can't find, buy or invent in LA. They've got high-fashion areas, vintage stores, bargain outlets and super malls.

  • Rodeo Drive  might have got a bad rep in Pretty Woman, but in reality the shop staff at Louis Vuitton, Prada, Jimmy Choo and Gucci.
  • If only visit one mall, make it The Grove - it's super cool and a part-shopping, part-entertainment experience - they've got dancing fountains for goodness sake.
  • Celebrity stylists like to browse the racks in Sielian's Vintage Apparel store. Their clothing collection goes back to the 1920s.
  • Shareen Vintage is rather fun if you're looking for a posh frock.
Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills

See some sports in Los Angeles

David Beckham might have made soccer cool in LA, but baseball, basketball and American Football are still the main ones to watch

  • You've probably seen  David Beckham and Jay-Z taking their places on the front row of the basketball, cheering on the LA Lakersbook NBA tickets during the winter season.
  • Head to Dodger Stadium for a hot dog, beer and a game featuring the LA Dodgers - just maybe don't mention the fact that the team started out in Brooklyn before moving to LA in 1958.
  • And if you want to watch American FootballThe Los Angeles Rams are back in the city, playing at the Los Angles Memorial Coliseum after spending 20 years in St Louis - so go see them.
Dodger Stadium (c) Discover Los Angeles

Here's your essential LA information:

When's the best time to visit Los Angeles

There's not really a bad time to visit LA. From April through to September it doesn't really rain, so you'll have sunshine and average temperatures in the late twenties. If you want to go off-peak, then the winter is pretty mild. Expect temperatures in the late teens and even 20s.

Getting around LA:

There's a subway (tube) as well as rail and different bus routes. But you'll probably find it easiest to get around by hiring a car. Discover Los Angeles has a great guide to transport as well as different self-guided drives and bike rides

Getting there:

We're talking long-haul here, Los Angeles flights take around 11 hours from London. The time difference is different - LA and the West Coast of America is eight hours behind the UK.

Where to stay

If you want more of a steer on where to stay - find out more about LA's diverse neighbourhoods - whether down by the beach in Santa Monica or Downtown LA, browse our range of Los Angeles hotels.

Silver Lake (c) Discover Los Angeles

Where else can I go nearby?

You can fly to both Las Vegas in nearby Nevada or the hippy capital of California, San Francisco in just over an hour from LAX.

Before you go

Listen to this:

Sort your pre-holiday playlist out before you go, as Los Angeles has inspired a decent back catalogue of tunes over the years. These are some of our favourites to give you an LA flavour.

  • Rock: LA Woman (The Doors),  Welcome to the Jungle (Guns N' Roses), All I Wanna Do (Sheryl Crow)
  • Indie: Electrolite (R.E.M), Under The Bridge (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)
  • Rap: To live and Die in LA (Tupac), Straight Outta Compton (N.W.A)
  • Pop: Surfin' Safari & California Girls (Beach Boys), Celluloid Heroes (The Kinks), California Dreamin' (Mamas & The Papas), Do you know the way to San Jose (Burt Bacarach)

Watch this:

Understandably the home of Hollywood has been captured on celluloid in countless cases - so there are plenty of movies to give you a feel for the city. So in no particular order here are some of our favourite flicks set in Los Angeles.

  • Singing in the Rain - 1952 (Sidney Donen)
  • Rebel Without A Cause - 1955 (Nicholas Ray)
  • Sunset Boulevard - 1950 (Billy Wilder)
  • Chinatown  - 1974 (Roman Polanski)
  • Shampoo - 1975 (Hal Ashby)
  • The Player - 1992 & Short Cuts - 1993 (Robert Altman)
  • Speed - 1994 ( Jan De Bont)
  • The Big Lebowkski - 1998 (The Coen Brothers)
  • Mulholland Drive - 2001 (David Lynch)
  • Drive - 2011 (Nicolas Winding Refn)

For some TV teenage angst - Beverley Hills 90201 (both versions) and The O.C. will show you the LA youth scene.

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