Los Angeles holiday highlights

Surf beaches, sunsets, special effects studios and some pretty impressive museums and galleries are going to be top of your list on holidays to Los Angeles. Take a tour of celebrity mansions in Beverly Hills, spend a day at Universal Studios and drive the windswept route to Mulholland Drive for incredible LA views. Visit the elaborate City Hall, hike the Hollywood Hills in search of a photo opportunity under that famed sign and have a drink at an iconic Hollywood bar. Head to the Griffith Observatory for an amazing planetarium experience, Malibu’s Getty Villa for an extraordinary collection of Greek and Roman antiques and Walt Disney Concert Hall for an LA Philarmonic concert.

Feel the salty breeze in your hair on a bicycle ride along the 22 miles of beachfront in South Bay, head out to San Marino for the exquisite Huntington Botanical Gardens, or grab an oversized beach towel and lounge on Santa Monica Beach for the day. Make like ‘Pretty Woman’ and shop the Rodeo Drive route, take a studio tour of Paramount Pictures Studio, book a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium and grab a couple of bottles of water and hike celebrity favourite Runyon Canyon.

Where is Los Angeles?

On the Pacific coast of southern California, Los Angeles is a sprawling county encompassing mountains, lakes, desert and forests. It incorporates 88 cities, including Beverly Hills, Long Beach and Pasadena, but the Los Angeles Basin, San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley are where most of the population presides.

Getting around

At first sight you’re going to be overwhelmed by the traffic-laden highways of Los Angeles county. This is a car-loving sprawling city, and most travellers find hiring a car the best option when it comes to getting around. This gives you the freedom to explore local neighbourhoods including Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Mulholland Drive and lets you go further afield to Palm Springs and Santa Barbra. If you’re travelling by public transport in the Greater Los Angeles area, you’ll find taxis, buses, light railway, subways and buses easy to navigate. The Metro takes you from Downtown to Hollywood in about 15 minutes and everywhere from Santa Monica to Universal Studios. Taxis are available only in their authorized ranks or by calling ahead. You can hire, use and then park Bike shares in the Santa Monica area or book an Ebike tour to the Hollywood sign.

Beaches

Santa Monica Beach Pacific Ocean hotels line the beachfront and there’s a fantastic shopping promenade, the iconic Pier, soft sands and always lots going on.

Venice Beach Busy, vibrant and full of character this is the famed people-watching beach of Los Angeles.

Zuma Beach Los Angeles' northernmost beach is popular with locals and is great for surfing, swimming and winter whale watching.

Will Rogers State Beach For a peek at where early Baywatch episodes were filmed, great swimming, and beginner surfing.

El Matador Beach At the west end of Malibu, this beautiful south-facing beach may be tiny, but it’s a beautiful spot great for evening strolls, sea cave exploring and photography.

Malibu Lagoon White sands, mild waves, lots of marine life and right next to the exclusive celebrity houses of the Malibu Colony.

Food and drink

There’s the breathtaking 25 course tasting menu from LA’s most famous sushi chef, hip diners where gourmet burgers and cocktails go hand-in-hand and celebrity favourite midnight drive-thru’s. Expect Art Deco design, fairy-lit courtyards, Michelin star dining and a burgeoning food truck scene. There’s the classic American comfort food, but also a huge choice of upscale restaurants, farm-to-table cuisine and A-lister hot spots. You’ll find Californian-style eateries with Mediterranean cuisine, evocative bars where the likes of Clark Gable once came to drink and iconic Hollywood nightclubs that have made the news over the years.

Shopping

Expect to find lots of antique and vintage shops favoured by glossy magazine stylists who come to LA to scope out unique items of clothing and jewellery for fashion shoots, as well as cool, contemporary labels and super glitzy designer flagship stores. In Beverly Hills, there’s the movie star glamour on Rodeo Drive with its luxury brand labels and up market salons, but also Wiltshire Boulevard for the big American department stores of Neiman Marcus, Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue.  In the Fairfax District head to super stylish shopping and dining destination, The Grove, for stores including Anthropology and Nordstrom and the famous LA Farmers Market. Venice and Abbott Kinney are flooded with creative and independent boutiques and Santa Monica’s shopping promenade is perfect for a spot of high street shopping before hitting the beach.  There’s more high-end stores on Melrose Avenue, and in Downtown’s Fashion District, Friday is sample day, when designers open up their showrooms to sell sample clothes at discount prices.

Los Angeles key facts

Time difference

GMT -8 hours

Currency

US Dollar ($)

Flying time to destination

11½ hours

Language

English is the official language, although many other languages are widely spoken in certain cities and communities. America has its own written US English spellings.

Passport & visas

•  Brits must have a full 10-year British Passport that's valid for six months after you return to the UK.
•  You will also need a USA visa or waiver form/ESTA. Apply for your ESTA at least 72 hours before travelling (http://esta.cbp.dhs.gov).

Voltage & electricity

The domestic electrical supply is 110V, 60 cycles AC. Sockets are for plugs with two flat pins.

Los Angeles good to know

Tipping

Tipping is an established and accepted custom in America. For good service, waiters and taxi drivers expect 15-20%, and counter and bar staff 10-15%. Porters can expect from $3-$5 per case, while tour guides can be given the equivalent of £2-£3 per day.

Public holidays

• 1 January: New Year's Day

• Third Monday in January: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

• Third Monday in February: Presidents Day

• Last Monday in May: Memorial Day

• 4 July: Independence Day

• First Monday in September: Labor Day

• Second Monday in October: Columbus Day

• 11 November: Veterans Day

• Fourth Thursday in November: Thanksgiving Day

• 25 December: Christmas Day