The best of Los Angeles
The best of Los Angeles
Depending on your flight and the time of year you're travelling, you could arrive late morning or sometime in the afternoon.7 days
per person one way from Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch
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We recommend you stay west or northwest of the CBD, to be close to the best things to do in Los Angeles. Settle into your accommodation, then head out for some fresh air and sunshine.
Things to do when you first arrive
- Stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the most star-studded sidewalk in the world
- Walk around Echo Park in central LA, then hire a paddle boat to explore the lake in more detail
- Eat at Mel's Drive-in, the supreme Californian diner. Choose from a menu of sliders, burgers, open-faced sandwiches, hot dogs and salads. Finish with a double-crusted pie or double-cream cheesecake. It's all about as American as you can get
- Alternatively, have a hotdog dinner at Pink's on the corner of La Brea and Melrose. It's the most famous hotdog restaurant in LA. The menu also includes a jaw-stretching selection of burgers
Don't linger over breakfast, because today's going to be action-packed. To use public transport - Metro trains and buses - get a TAP card and load it up. Alternatively, catch a cab to the coast. Dress comfortably, because you'll be biking from Venice Beach to Santa Monica and back today. It's one of the new top things to do in LA. Finish the day back at Venice, with a casual meal on the waterfront or along Abbott Kinney Boulevard.
Things to see and do today
- Find a bike rental operator at the southern end of Venice Beach and ride north to Santa Monica Pier
- Head inland a little to the Venice canals to see gorgeous homes and get the feeling that you might just be in Italy
- Continue along the boardwalk, taking in all the sights - street performers, unique shops, palm trees and all kinds of eateries. If the biking's making you hungry, pause for a poke bowl, French fries, sushi, pizza or tacos
- In Santa Monica, check out the fun on the pier. There's an amusement park and an aquarium. Outdoor film and music events often happen here too
- See the original Muscle Beach, where locals do their resistance training on outdoor equipment. In the weekend, gymnasts put on free shows on the parallel bars and rings
- Secure your bike and head to the beach for a swim. The waves are great for bodysurfing at Santa Monica Beach, which is still one of the best beaches in California
- Ride back to your rental operator, then trawl the shops in Abbott Kinney Boulevard. Lots to see here - boutiques, galleries and a multitude of places to eat and drink. Find yourself a laid-back dinner, then bus, train or taxi back to your hotel
Today is earmarked for an LA must-do - either a movie studio tour (Warner Brothers or Universal) or Disneyland. Choose the attraction that feels right to you. Later on there might be time for shopping and people watching on Hollywood Boulevard and/or Rodeo Drive.
Your options for today
- Universal Studios can easily be planned as a full-day experience. You can take a tram tour around four acres of studios, with some big surprises along the way (don't get too close to the water…), explore a bunch of Harry Potter-themed attractions, meet King Kong in 3D and much, much more
- The Warner Brothers is less about amusement park-style rides and more about the business of making movies. The immersive five-hour option lets you see backlots, soundstages, costume departments, props and post production. You'll begin with breakfast and finish with a slap-up lunch where the actors eat
- After your movie studio experience, head to Hollywood Boulevard or the Rodeo Drive area for shopping and an evening meal. Some of the best restaurants in LA are around here
- Disneyland…well, what can we say? It's the happiest land of them all - the world's most famous amusement park. Buy a one-day ticket and see how far you get around the eight areas, which include Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Mickey's Toontown, Frontierland, Critter Country and Adventureland. Arrive early and stay late, to get maximum value for money. The park opens at 8am and closes at midnight
Time to get active again, this time on two feet rather than two wheels. Behind the glitz and glam of Hollywood are some fantastic hills for hiking. After a day of adventure, you'll be ready for a drop of culture. We recommend attending a performance at the Disney Concert Hall or the Hollywood Bowl. Alternatively, you could get tickets for a baseball or basketball game.
Places to go for a hike
- Take a hike through Runyon Canyon Park adjoining the Hollywood Hills. There are several trail options, but the ultimate workout is reaching the 402 metre peak of Indian Rock for blockbuster views of the city
- Get yourself up to the top of Mount Hollywood on the Charlie Turner Trail. Start on the north side of the observatory car park. After about 15 minutes of walking you'll see the Hollywood sign on the left. Photo opportunity!
- Instead of the Hollywood Hills, you could hike the Sara Wan Trailhead at Corral Canyon - it's over by Malibu, so the sea views are pretty special
- For lunch and a dose of retail therapy, check out Westfield Century City, the Beverly Centre or Glendale Galleria. The shopping mall was invented in America, so expect to be impressed
- Catch a live performance tonight - either at the Disney Concert Hall or Hollywood Bowl. You'll need to plan ahead and buy your tickets online before you arrive in Los Angeles
- If you prefer sports to music, get tickets for basketball at the Staples Center or baseball at Dodger Stadium
You'll stay tonight and tomorrow night in Palm Springs, one of the best places to visit near Los Angeles. There are various ways to make the journey - bus, train, domestic flight or rental car.
There's a retro quality to this desert oasis. Silent movie stars started building their hideaways here in the 1920s, then in the 1940s and 50s various Hollywood heavyweights made it their weekend getaway of choice. You may or may not see stars during your stay, but you can be certain of sunshine - Palm Springs gets an average of 360 sunshine days a year.
Things to do in Palm Springs
- Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, a gondola ride up a canyon that reveals Coachella Valley in its entirety
- Check out all the mid-century architecture. Palm Springs is something of a time capsule for an architectural style called Desert Modernism - simple, elegant, low structures that merge with pools and shaded areas
- Admire the vintage aircraft at the air museum. You can even splurge on a flight in a P-51 Mustang
- Walk to Tahquitz Canyon, which has a tall waterfall. It's on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians reservation
- Dress in your best Mad Men outfit and dine somewhere retro like Norma's, King's Highway, Mr Lyons or Escena Lounge & Grill. From oyster shooters and shrimp cocktails to bone-in ribeye, it's all deliciously mid-century
This national park will introduce you to desert wildlife. The land has been sculpted by extreme weather over millions of years and it's home to a fascinating range of plants and animals. There's the potential to see mule deer, bighorn sheep, bobcats, lizards, jackrabbits, coyotes, bats and foxes. Snakes too. Bring plenty of snacks and water for your day of exploration.
What to do in Joshua Tree National Park
- Start by stopping off at the visitors' centre for an old-fashioned paper map, then check with the ranger about the state of the trails. Ask for advice about which walks to do, based on your fitness level
- Trail choices include Lost Horse Mine, Skull Rock, Hidden Valley, Arch Rock, Cholla Cactus Garden and Mastodon Peak Loop. There are roads in the park that get you to the various starting points. Barker Dam's a great place for a picnic and creative photography around the rock formations
- Refresh and refuel at one of the restaurants bordering the northern boundary of the park
- Late afternoon or early evening, get yourself back to Los Angeles by plane, train, bus or car
Los Angeles likes to do things differently, especially when it comes to museums, so there will be nothing boring about today. Choose two or three of these experiences for a few hours of oohing, aahing and mind-broadening. Finish the day off with food that's quintessentially LA - Spanish fried chicken, Mexico-City-style tacos, grilled snook (it's a fish!) or enchiladas smeared with spicy mole (Oaxacan sauce).
Some of the best museums in Los Angeles
- The Getty Center - a hilltop art museum that cost a billion dollars and took 13 years to build. Must-sees include Van Gogh's 'Irises', the outdoor sculptures, an extraordinary central garden and the Department of Photographs
- The La Brea Tar Pits - an archaeological site where scientists are excavating ancient creatures that were trapped in the tar many thousands of years ago
- The Broad - a contemporary art collection of 2,000+ works by artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and Jeff Koons
- Petersen Automotive Museum - a high-tech salute to car culture in Southern California with about 150 vehicles on display
- MOCA - contemporary art from 1940 until now. Look for Jackson Pollock's splattery masterpieces and Mark Rothko's multiform works
- Norton Simon Museum - made over by Frank Gehry and his team in the late 1990s. A beautiful, calm place to see an impressive collection of Old Masters
You might need a pre-paid extra bag for our next suggest activity - shopping. Whether you're an active-wear kind of person, a boho bargain hunter or someone who hunts down haute couture, Los Angeles can deliver retail heaven. You just need to know where to go.
Where to shop in LA
- Find The Americana at Brand, for Nordstrom (iconic US department store) and international brands like Topshop, Nike and Sephora. There's even a Tesla store here
- Discover Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, where more than 200 shops and eating places are ready to win you over
- Enjoy fresh air fun at Hollywood & Highland - it's a shopping destination, Hollywood landmark and tourist attraction all in one
- If you're into vintage, look for second-hand bargains at Jet Rag or Buffalo Exchange
- Choose carefully for your last supper in LA. Hopefully you'll have enough credit limit remaining to splash out on one of the best restaurants in LA - like Spago of Beverly Hills, Hatfield's, Providence or Mélisse. Otherwise, find a cheap-and-cheerful Asian fusion, burger, pizza or taco restaurant
- After dark, head up to Griffith Observatory to check out the cosmos. There's a planetarium, exhibits and telescopes for star gazing. It's all free, which will offset the taxi or bus fare nicely