Things to do in LA
Universal CityWalk is an entertainment and shopping area leading towards the Universal Studio theme park. The CityWalk décor and design incorporates the magic of Hollywood’s movie industry. The area covers three blocks and forms an entrance plaza or promenade lined with restaurants, movie theatres, IMAX cinemas, stores and places of entertainment like indoor skydiving, an interactive outdoor concert venue and a dancing musical fountain. CityWalk has many fun features like the giant guitar above the Hard Rock Café, a big screen showing previews of up-coming movies and King Kong gripping the side of a building. You can see street performers along the CityWalk as you approach the Universal Studio Hollywood theme park.
The Universal Studios theme park began as a tour of the actual working Universal studios and grew into a theme park. The park is split into two levels connected by elevators and stairs. Both the Upper Lot and Lower Lot have theme park rides, live performances, eateries, merchandise stores and play areas. In the Upper Lot you can take the Studio Tour, a 45 minute tram ride which takes you into the theme park’s back lot through famous scenes from movies like Jurassic Park, through a flash flood effect, Old Mexico, the parting of the Red Sea, little Europe, an earthquake, the Bates Motel and into the King Kong: 360 3D Experience. The live shows at the park include a special effects show, a Live Sea War Spectacular and Shrek 3D. In the Lower Lot there are theme rides including the Revenge of the Mummy, The Ride an indoor water ride. Transformers: The Ride 3D recreates a battle between Autobots and Decepticons with 4K-3D screens and flight simulators. Throughout the park you will encounter costumed employees dressed as characters from famous films.
Warner Brothers Studios
The historic Warner Bros Studios is one of the major movie, TV and media companies in America. It was founded in 1903 and was responsible for producing many famous movies, including Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Matrix, The Hangover, The Lego Movie and Batman. While in LA you can go on a 2 hour guided tour of the studios and see where some of the films were created. The tour takes you across the 110 acre Warner Bros Studio in Burbank.
The journey starts at the VIP Tour Center where you see a short film about the history of Warner Bros. Then groups of 12 visitors get on electric carts and are taken on the exclusive tour through the TV and movie studios. If you are a real enthusiast you could take the Deluxe 5 hour tour which gives you an even more in-depth look at the studios and the back lot.
The tour guide describes how many of the famous film scenes were created. You go down a recreated Midwest Street to the town square and Hennesy Street and then in to the jungle, through forests and passed a lagoon all of which were used in famous films. You get to go on the set of well known TV shows and visit the costume and props department. There is a museum with historic costumes, props, sets and scripts. You see Stage 16, the tallest sound stage in North America. Using a green screen you can take a photo of yourself standing in one of your favorite movie scenes. Each tour is different as the studios are in use as crews film TV shows and films around you.
Natural History Museum
This is one of the largest natural history museums in the USA, it holds a collection of almost 35 million specimens and artifacts some of which go back 4.5 billion years. The museum originally opened in 1913 and today the main building is an impressive historic Beaux-art style structure with marble walls, a central dome and colonnaded rotunda. Three stories are devoted to the permanent collections and there are more temporary exhibitions as well.
The museum is divided up into many sections including: African Mammals, Age of Mammals, Ancient Latin American Art, Becoming LA, Birds, Discovery Center, Gems and Minerals, North American Mammals and Shells. In addition there is the very popular Dinosaur Hall, a huge space with many dinosaur skeletons. The highlight is the T. rex growth series featuring the skeletons of a baby, juvenile and sub-adult T. rex. The Insect Zoo has 9 terrariums with live bugs and creepy crawlies. In the Nature Gardens you can go outside and dig around to discover edible plants, pollinating birds and bees, fish and creatures in the pond and see the butterfly and spider pavilion. In the Zuni Fetish section you can see how this unique Native American Indian tribe creates carvings out of almost anything.
The most recognizable iconic landmark in Los Angeles is the Hollywood Sign. The sign is located on the southern slope of Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills overlooking the city. The word “Hollywood” is spelled out in 14 meter high white letters forming a 110 meter long word. The sign was originally erected in 1923 as an advertisement for a local property development. The sign became popular and so remained. The Mount and the surrounding land is part of Griffith Park but visitors cannot get within “touching” distance of the sign. The sign is surrounded by barriers and monitored by security cameras. The only way to get a photo of the sign is from a distance and there are several viewing points where you can get a good shot.
The exact location of the sign is north of Mulholland Highway, south of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery within the grounds of Griffith Park. Some of the best places to see the sign are at the junction of Hollywood Blvd and North Highland Ave at the Hollywood & Highland Center and from the Griffith Park Observatory. You can see the sign from Mulholland Drive at the official Hollywood Bowl Overlook viewpoint. You could also take a shuttle to the Hollywood Sign Viewing area on Mount Hollywood Drive and to the Griffith Observatory from the Greek Theatre. If you like hiking there are three hike trails which take you up to behind the sign which is the closest you can get to the sign. The Mount Hollywood Trail is accessible from the Griffith Observatory; Canyon Blvd Trail includes the Bronson Caves and the Cahuenga Peak Trail is for most experienced hikers.
The Getty Center is the central campus for the Getty Museum, Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute, Getty Conservation Institute, Getty Foundation and a branch of the Getty Museum. It is not at the same location as the Getty Villa. The center’s architecture, surrounding gardens and art work are the main attractions. The center and museum sit on a hill and are connected to the parking lot at the bottom of the hill by a hovertarain funicular.
The museum holds valuable international 19th-20th century artwork from Europe, America and Asia. There are paintings, sculptures, decorative art, illuminated manuscripts and photographic art. The art is displayed indoors and in a sculpture garden designed by Robert Irwin and on the roof of the museum. Once you have taken the cable car up to the buildings you arrive in a plaza between the administrative buildings and the museum. You enter the rotunda building to the museum information desks, theatres and museum shops. Then you take a staircase to the second floor where the paintings are located. The museum has five pavilions each displaying art. Highlights of the museum art include Paul Guaguin’s Arii Matamoe and Irises by Van Gogh among many other well known works.The museum has a family room where you can enter five activity coves and try the treasure hunt walls.
Venice Beach is a district of LA and is best known for its boardwalk although there is a lot more to do than just stroll along the edge of the beach. The area was conceived in 1905 by Abbott Kinney who wanted to recreate Venice by building a complex system of canals,, today only a few of the original canals have survived. In the 50s and 60s the people from the art, culture and entertainment industry flocked here making it a hot bed of creativity, radical activism and liberal free thinkers. It remains an area of cultural diversity and creativity.
The boardwalk is the main destination for most tourists but you should also try to see the canal streets and unusual architect along the canals. The trendy artists and hipsters hangout in restaurants, bars and stores between Main Street and Washington Blvd in the Abbot Kinney district. You can follow the Ocean Front Walk (boardwalk)from Washington Blvd to Navy Street. The route is lined with craft stalls, snack stalls, fortune tellers, massage parlors, street performers, bike rentals, souvenir stores and cafes. The most famous part of Venice Beach beach is Muscle Beach where you can see muscle men showing off their talent in outdoor gyms on the sand. The walk along the boardwalk will open your eyes to bohemian hippies, gurus and characters which should be in the circus! On Venice Pier at the end of Washington Blvd you can dine, drink, shop and watch the fishermen.
Sony Pictures Studio Tour
It was here at the Sony lot in Culver City that famous films like Ben-Hur, Grand Hotel, Mutiny on the Bounty, Singin’ in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz were shot. The studio continues to be the site of many films and TV programs produced on the sound stages, in the post-production facilities and the sets. It is the base of Sony’s film and television production and distribution departments. The site includes 22 sound stages each approximately 700 to 4,000m². In addition to being a functioning film studio and venue for live events and private screenings it also welcomes guests on a studio tour.
The 2 hour guided tour takes you through the legendary gates for a behind-the-scenes look at how the studio works. On the tour you see where many of the famous films were made and you may get to visit the set of the TV game show Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, The Queen Latifah Show and see where the yellow brick road was filmed. Each tour is different depending on what is being filmed on the lot that day.
Although there is little to do on Rodeo Drive for tourists except people watch and ogle at the super-rich it is still a must-see attraction. We have all seen Rodeo Drive on numerous TV programs and films. This is where Julia Roberts got turned away in a fancy store in Pretty Women. The junction of Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way is the most photographed point along the drive. This is where there is a “Spanish Steps” staircase and the famous silver torso sculpture.
The Drive took on its superior status in the 60s starting with the opening of Giorgio Beverly Hills and followed by Aldo Gucci, Van Cleef & Arpels and Vidal Sassoon. The Drive is home to several prestigious hotels including the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills Hotel and the Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel.
The 2 mile (3.2km) Drive is in Beverly Hills and runs from Sunset Blvd to the junction with Beverwil Drive in LA. The section most TV watchers and film goers are familiar with runs for three blocks north of Wilshire Blvd and south of Little Santa Monica Blvd. The palm tree lined street is famed for its luxury stores selling all of the biggest names in luxury goods. In addition to posing next to the street sign and pressing your nose up against the glass to see the luxury goods you could also visit the Rodeo Collection, a 45 store shopping mall at 421 N. Rodeo Drive. The Walk of Style is a section which is lined with plaques honoring fashion icons just as the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd honors those in the entertainment industry.
Hollywood is a district in Los Angeles and a huge exciting travel destination in itself but most people combine a trip to LA with the sites of Hollywood. Hollywood is primarily known for the thriving entertainment industry. Hollywood is bordered by Hollywood Hills West, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, East Hollywood, Larchmont and Hancock Park, Fairfax and West Hollywood. Start your visit to Hollywood at the intersection of Highland Avenue and Hollywood Blvd where you can take photos standing next to the stars in the sidewalk along the Walk of Fame. Each star bears the name, hand prints and foot prints of a famous actor, musician or celebrity. This will bring you outside Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre (Chinese Theatre). This historic movie theatre at 6706 Hollywood Blvd opened in 1922 and was the site of Hollywood’s first film premier. Today it is run by American Cinematheque and has two movie theatres. Also along the boulevard is the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held each year, El Capitan Theatre movie palace and the Hollywood Masonic Temple. The Madame Tussauds Hollywood is also on Hollywood Blvd.
Another famous movie theatre is the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard which screens 3D movies. Also on Sunset Blvd is the Crossroads of the World, a huge complex designed to look like a ship. On Highland Avenue you can visit the Hollywood Heritage Museum (Hollywood Studio Museum) which displays historic movie props, photos, documents and movie memorabilia. Hollywood is home to many celebrities and you can pick up a map of the “stars’ homes” or take a tour which drives passed the homes of the stars. Go up to Universal CityWalk to get views across the city in a magical atmosphere and easy access to Universal Studios theme park.
If you are in Hollywood in the evening try to catch a show at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. The ultimate Hollywood attraction is a photo with the Hollywood sign on Mount Lee. You can take a guided tour to the sign or find a good vantage point to get a shot. The sign has no address and can’t be reached up-close. There is a shuttle bus which takes people to the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood sign viewing area on Mount Hollywood Drive. The shuttle can be arranged through the Griffith Park Visitors Center for $10.
Santa Monica is not in Los Angeles city but is in Los Angeles County and bordered on three sides by the city of Los Angeles and Santa Monica Bay on the fourth side. The beach area is home to many celebrities and affluent families.
The well-maintained beach runs for 5.6km (3.5 miles) and is very wide. There are areas for volleyball playing and there are lifeguards on duty during daylight hours. The lifeguard headquarters is on call 24/7. Apart from just enjoying the 340 days of beach weather a year there are plenty of activities available on and around the beach. You can swim, surf, fish and play ball on the beach and along the promenade which runs the length of the beach you can do people watching, bike and skate. The Annenberg Community Beach House serves as the visitor’s center where there is also a café and rental items like umbrellas, beach chairs etc. This is also the place to go if you want to use the public pool or water park. The South Bay Bicycle Trail travels along the beach for 35km (22 miles). At the end of the pier you can rent fishing rods and buy bait. No need for a fishing license you can just go fish.
While in Santa Monica visit the Santa Monica Pier where you can ride the Looff Hippodrome (a carousel), a National Historic Landmark. Other interesting sites in the vicinity are the California Heritage Museum; Palisades Park on the cliff tops overlooking the sea and the Angels Attic doll and toy museum.
This zoo has been a home to animals since it opened in 1966. Today it houses more than 1,100 creatures representing more than 250 species including 29 endangered species. In the botanical gardens there are more than 800 plant species and almost 8,000 plants. The entire site covers 133 acres.
The many sections of the zoo include the Rainforest of the Americas, a state-of-the-art exhibit which immerses visitors into a recreated rainforest. This section holds animals like cotton top tamarins, piranhas and harpy eagles. Living Amphibians, Invertebrates and Reptiles is an exhibit with different habitats for each kind of creature from rainforest canopies to arid deserts. Elephants of Asia, Gorilla Reserve, Sea Life Cliffs home to harbor seals, Australia, Chimpanzees, Dragons of Komodo are other exciting sections. There is the Children’s Zoo where kids can follow a trail, explore a cave and watch animals through special pop-up bubbles in the middle of the creature’s habitat. The Unique Creatures section is home to animals like Sumatran Tigers, Visayan warty pigs, mandril, okapi, flamingoes (the largest zoo flock in the world) and snow leopards.
LA Marathon Course
The “Stadium to the Sea” course not only includes a net elevation drop of 430 feet, but it also incorporates many iconic landmarks for which Los Angeles is world renowned.
After circulating around historic Dodger Stadium, the third oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball, the course negotiates past Chinatown and its famous Twin Dragon Towers Gateway, El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Park, the oldest section of the city, and two of the latest additions to the city’s cutting-edge architectural heritage: the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, designed by Rafael Moneo. At mile six, the course winds through the communities of Echo Park and Silver Lake before linking up to Sunset Boulevard, where it offers runners a picturesque view of the celebrated Hollywood sign.
For the next eight miles, the course guides runners past such other notable Hollywood landmarks as the Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Comedy Store, the House of Blues Sunset Strip and Whiskey A Go Go. After leaving West Hollywood, the course winds through the heart of Beverly Hills and straight down Rodeo Drive, one of the most affluent, highest profile shopping thoroughfares in the world.
From Beverly Hills, the course continues west to Century City, a commercial and residential district originally developed on land which comprised the backlot for 20th Century Fox studios. The “Stadium to the Sea” course includes six miles along Historic Route 66, a celebrated national highway that for decades spanned 2,451 miles from Normal, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. It also traverses through the grounds of the Veterans Administration, a sprawling facility originally founded in 1887 which now houses, among other things, the VA’s West Los Angeles Healthcare System. After leading race participants into the community of Brentwood, the course continues along San Vicente Boulevard, a popular, pedestrian-friendly street which attracts runners of all abilities 365 days a year. The final three miles of the marathon are set in Santa Monica, where the course eventually runs along scenic bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and it concludes on Ocean Avenue near the Santa Monica Pier and its stunning solar-powered Ferris wheel.