Los Angeles has something for all who visit. This city has an unlimited stretch of neighbourhoods to enjoy, sunbaked hills and soft beaches, cultural art museums and galleries plus multiple theme parks. Put up in 1923 and originally spelling ‘Hollywoodland’, the unmistakeable Hollywood Sign was only supposed to last for 18 months. With the arrival of the Golden Age of Hollywood everything changed and the sign has remained on Mount Lee in Griffith Park ever since. The ‘land’ portion of the name was later dropped in 1949 and in 1978, it was rebuilt in steel and is one of the most recognisable sites of the world.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is where you can see the brass and terrazzo stars laid out on the pavement applauding actors, musicians, directors, musical and theatrical groups and even fictional characters. Beginning in 1958, The Walk of Fame started with an initial 1,588 honourees, over 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three blocks of Vine Street. Each star costs approximately USD $40,000 and honourees are obliged to show up to their unveiling ceremony. Hollywood history permeates the exquisitely decorated Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on the Walk of Fame. This monument is designed to resemble a Chinese Pagoda, guarded by a pair of Ming Dynasty lions and has hosted a multitude of premieres.
When visiting Los Angeles, a celebrity homes tour is a must. Either get a map and conduct your own search or take one of the local bus tours, which travel through West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Malibu. Many of the tours included the Dolby Theatre, the Playboy Mansion and places on the Sunset Strip like Château Marmont, the Viper Room and the Roxy.
Sunset Boulevard runs from Downtown Los Angeles to opulent Malibu. In West Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard encompasses the neon glare of the Sunset Strip, famous for its bright billboards. Continue west the road twists past the film stars’ mansions and gated estates of Beverly Hills and Bel Air.
Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is the leading luxury emporia with brands that include Giorgio Beverly Hills, Cartier, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. The palm lined street from north of Wilshire to south of Little Santa Monica Boulevard was immortalised in movies, most famously Pretty Woman (1990) with Julia Roberts. For all except the extremely wealthy, Rodeo Drive is more a visual experience, with Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and Bugatti’s gracing its streets.
Mulholland Drive is a twisting two lane road along the ridgeline of the eastern Santa Monica Mountains. The area vibrates with luxurious homes (some of the most expensive in the world), hairpin bends and stunning lookouts. Mulholland Drive is a thrill to negotiate by car, however, remember to slow down to deal with the many blind turns and be ready to stop every few minutes to appreciate the views over the Los Angeles Basin, the Hollywood Sign, the San Fernando Valley, Burbank, Universal City and Santa Susana Mountains.
The J. Paul Getty Museum is located in Brentwood. The museum’s founder was petro-industrialist Jean Paul Getty, who left USD $661 million to the institution when he passed away in 1976. This went towards the spectacular Getty Centre Complex, which opened in 1997. Connected to its lower car park by a Hovertrain, the Getty Centre is a multifaceted attraction.
In 1896 the Welsh mining magnate Griffith J. Griffith presented over 3,000 acres of Rancho Los Feliz to the City of Los Angeles as a Christmas present. Since then, Griffith Park has added another 1,000 acres, making it one of the largest urban parks in the United States. This park incorporates a portion of the Santa Monica Mountains with walking trails and horseback riding. The Los Angeles Zoo and the Harding and Wilson public golf courses sit within the park. In a second Christmas present in 1912 Griffith J. Griffith put up the funds for the park’s Greek Theatre and the Griffith Observatory, which was completed in 1935 and this three domed Art Deco monument holds a certain mystique.
The eccentric neighbourhood and seaside resort of Venice Beach is a 2.5 mile Boardwalk and is stalked by outlandish characters and swarms with tattoo parlours, cannabis shops, international cuisine, countless street vendors and a big cast of street performers. The boardwalk is the second most visited place in Southern California and incorporates a Skate Plaza, Venice Muscle Beach and the Strand trail.
Universal Studios started offering tours of its studios in 1964, which has now been inscribed in movie and television history at Universal City. You can find everything here from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to Jurassic World the Ride on the Lower Lot. A tram ride through the Upper Lot, the Studio Tour takes you through sets like Courthouse Square (To Kill a Mockingbird, Back to the Future and Gremlins) and the house from Psycho.
Warner Bros. is situated close by in Burbank and is more about the craft of making films and TV shows. The standard tour lasts between two and three hours and packs in a visit to the Sound stage where the Big Bang Theory was shot, as well as the Archive and Prop House, bursting with props and costume from countless movies including the Harry Potter series and the DC Universe. The Backlot has jungle, Midwest town, New York and Western sets, while the Picture Car Vault holds a fleet of cars from Warner Bros. productions including several Batmobiles. Another attraction is Stage 48: Script to Screen, a self-guided walk through an interactive sound stage and displaying the set from Central Perk in Friends.
Dating back to 1912, the corporation that became Paramount Pictures moved its 26 acre site to 5555 Melrose Avenue in 1926. The stages where Sunset Boulevard, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Rear Window and Sabrina were shot are still used today. Join a studio tour to discover the lots on the site including the Prop Warehouse and the New York Backlot.
In 2015 The Broad opened financed by philanthropist Eli and Edythe Broad. This contemporary cube shaped building is an architectural statement that houses over three levels modern and contemporary paintings, photography and sculptures from the mid-20th Century to the present.
The Santa Monica Pier is a beautiful 3.5 mile sandy beach, recognisable from both TV and movies. The northern part of the pier is followed by the 660 miles of scenic coastline known as the Pacific Coast Highway that leads to Santa Monica’s famous sandstone cliffs. Here you can get down to the ocean via the footbridges from the lush Ocean Park and Palisades Park. There are glossy residences perched high on the cliffs, surf communities and dozens of beaches, drawn by elegant homes.