1. Get active on Venice Beach
Venice Beach has long been known as the kooky Mecca of California and while it has been getting more than a fair share of mainstream tourists, the area nurtures its eccentric spirit. Skateboarders, radical pamphleteers and body builders: the visibility is great if you enjoy people watching. Gobble lunch at the local Figtree’s Café (429 Ocean Front Walk, 1-310 392 4937) before scanning the shelves at Small World Books. The bohemian district welcomes the gay community, as does the sparkling clean Laguna Beach.
2. Hotfoot it to Hollywood sights
Hollywood celebrities are never far away in LA. To catch a glimpse of stardust, take the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where 2,000 figures from the entertainment world are immortalised in pink terrazzo with symbolic gold lettering. If you’re a film buff, look out for the famous hand and footprints atGrauman’s Chinese Theatre. Countless premieres and galas have passed through, adding to the renowned pagoda’s star quality.
3. Marvel at big budget modern art
The Getty Center is the envy of museums worldwide for its generous endowments. Although it doesn’t match the rich collections of Old World galleries, it has some impressive works covering a vast sweep of history, from the Renaissance times to the present day. Among them are several paintings by Rubens, a couple by Gainsborough, and a sprinkling of Impressionists, including Monet, Renoir, Cézanne and Van Gogh. The French decorative arts and an expanding photography collection are definitely worth visiting. And don’t forget to hunt out Miró and Moore in the fine new sculpture gardens.
4. Shop in style on Rodeo Drive
Many people dream of being Julia Roberts shopping on Rodeo Drive, but few can afford to buy from the array of high-end designers seen in the film ‘Pretty Woman’. So window-shopping is the order of the day. Along the $200-million ersatz European cobbled walkway Two Rodeo, browsing tourists mingle with serious spenders. A hop away is Anderson Court, which is the only shopping mall designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
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5. Power walk to conserve energy
Take a fuel-efficient walking tour that can help to preserve Los Angeles’ urban architectural heritage. The Los Angeles Conservancy Walking tours (www.laconservancy.org/tours) take in the city’s top sights, from Downtown’s historic theatres (on a weekly basis) to the collage of architecture in San Pedro (bi-monthly). Be sure to reserve a place well ahead, because the tours are incredibly popular.
6. Squeeze in the Jurassic experience
Despite the misleading name, this scientific nook has nothing to do with the ‘Jurassic Park’ film of Steven Spielberg. The Museum of Jurassic Technologyis home to a repository of curiosities: scientific wonders include a bat that can fly through walls and artistic miracles, such as impossibly tiny sculptures. The institute is an intriguing combination of fact and fiction, and much more exciting than chasing CGI dinosaurs.
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7. Marvel at Los Angeles museum village
The collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art are housed in a vast 20-acre complex of buildings. It used to be a jumble of architectural styles, but thanks to a recent renovation things are becoming clearer. The focal point is now the entrance of the BP Grand Pavilion, which includes the stunning installation of Chris Burden’s ‘Urban Light’. But the most exciting development is the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, which is home to a dazzling selection of modern works.
8. Wise up at the Griffith Observatory
You could happily spend a few hours browsing around the Griffith Observatory, even though you can’t see anything through the telescope because of the relentless smog that hovers over LA. There’s the popular Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, a pair of complementary displays that explores the connections between people and space. The star attraction is the building itself, which featured in the film ‘Rebel Without a Cause’.
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9. Draw from towers of strength
Italian-born tile-setter Simon Rodia began building the Watts Towers using nothing but scrap metal in the 1920s. Gradually he progressed upwards, reinforcing them with steel and cement to prevent neighbourly interference over the next three decades. Scaling the towers with a window-washer’s belt and bucket, he decorated them with consumer objects, such as green glass from bottles of 7-Up or Canada Dry and tiles from Malibu Pottery, as well as jewellery, marble and seashells. There are 17 of these intriguing structures, the tallest stretches 30 metres (99 feet) into the sky. They still exude a kind of spectral beauty years after they were built. For details of tours, call 1-213 847 4646.
10. Get animated with Mickey and Minnie
You’re never too old for Disneyland. This legendary theme park is packed with cool things to do, spread over seven lands. Stroll down Main Street USA to experience turn-of-the 19th century America, head Westwards at Frontierland and tune into the music of New Orleans square, minus the floods, poverty and booze. All your favourite cartoon characters come to life in dream-like environments: you can step into the wooded home of Winnie the Pooh at Critter Country, go behind the scenes of Disney films at Fantasyland and chase the iconic mouse, who’ll be scurrying around Mickey’s Toontown. Great rides include the stomach-churning Space Mountain and the epic Indiana Jones Adventure.
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