Los Angeles is a city that lives up to its stereotype: pretentious, brash and glitzy. Yet if you scratch its superficial surface you'll discover a culturally diverse metropolis politely sitting beneath.
First-time travellers coming off their flights to Los Angeles will be overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city, making hiring a car a necessity. The easiest way to get to know LA is by exploring its famous neighbourhoods including Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Santa Monica. Home of the omnipresent Hollywood sign, Hollywood and West Hollywood exude a certain old Hollywood glamour with Frank Gehry-designed homes overlooking the city and convertible 1960s Comets parked in the driveways. Down the road is Beverly Hills where the most famous street in the world resides: Rodeo Drive. Here celebrities, tourists and the paparazzi stroll along the designer shops and cafes.
The relaxed beach towns of Los Angeles draw thousands of tourists each year to its chilly Pacific shores. Santa Monica’s Pier and the Third Street Promenade shops have become even more famous than the actual beach, while Venice Beach remains a firm favourite for people-watching. Although LA residents are fitness fanatics they never walk around the city, instead they’ll drive to the beach and bike along the coastline or hike the trails of Topanga State Park. Outdoor enthusiasts who book flights to Los Angeles should definitely pack some comfortable shoes and of course a camera – you never know when or where you’ll spot a celebrity.
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Los Angeles climate
The climate is Mediterranean with hot summers hitting about 23 degrees Celsius and cool winters (with some rain) of about 18 degrees. The Pacific Ocean is a moderating influence so the closer you get to the coast, the cooler the temperature. Watch out for the "June Gloom" in late spring which makes for overcast conditions for much of the day.
When to fly to Los Angeles
With mild weather year round and abundant sunshine from April through October, LA is always busy. But to avoid the highest prices on flights to Los Angeles, hotels and entertainment, plan your trip around major events, such as the Academy Awards, which will be presented in Hollywood this February.
There really isn’t an off season in LA However, you might find slightly lower airfares or hotel rates for LA during the rainy season. LA is wettest in January.
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Getting around Los Angeles
Los Angeles is so large and spread out that driving is the only way to get anywhere efficiently. Renting a car is your best option, and it’s one of the cheapest places in the country to do so. Don’t let the network of freeways scare you; you’ll be fine as long as you have a map or good directions. The city is very driver-friendly with wide streets and lots of parking. Rush hour is very crowded, and its best to avoid the freeways from 7am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm. If you’re not a driver, you can take the bus, but you’ll need to transfer several times and travel long distances, making bus travel extremely time-consuming. Avoid taking a bus late at night. The MetroRail consists of five subway lines that run frequently and quickly but only cover a small area of the city. Taxis are not advised, since the long distances rack up costs quickly.
Los Angeles insider information
- For an archetypal LA beach experience, you’ve got to visit Manhattan Beach at the south end of Santa Monica Bay. The beach has a 283-metre (928-ft) pier from which to fish, an aquarium, nine-hole golf course, surfing, volleyball and Sunday afternoon concerts. But, most importantly, it’s the place to swim, bronze, in-line skate, see and be seen.
- The biggest and best museum in LA is the Getty, which houses an impressive collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present day. But though entrance is free, be aware that parking costs $7 for the day. To avoid the costs, take the Metro bus 761, which stops right outside the main gate.
- The Formosa Café, next door to the The Lot (formerly Warner Hollywood Studios) is a must-visit if you want to dine with the stars. Once frequented by all the biggest names – Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and Elvis – the diner still visits from today’s stars such as Bono, Nic Cage, Jodie Foster and Michael Douglas. The café even has a part in the film L.A. Confidential… The café has been open since 1925 and its walls are adorned with signed photographs of all those of note who have eaten there since.
- For something a little more unusual, take your pet along to Olvera Street in downtown LA in the springtime for the blessing of the animals. The event is held every Easter Saturday and has been running for several years. All kinds of animals are blessed, from dogs and cats to horses and snakes.