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Travel Guides: Los Angeles
Millions of visitors arrive each year in Los Angeles eager to experience for themselves the epitome of the American Dream: to find the self-indulgent living soap-opera lifestyles, experience firsthand the images that are strangely-familiar thanks to the 'big screen', and walk in the footsteps of the stars. The fantasy worlds of Disneyland and Hollywood, the famed extravagance of Beverley Hills and Malibu, and the sun-soaked beach culture are just some of the attractions within this 'City of Angels'.
Los Angeles is not really a city but rather a sprawling metropolis constituting more than 80 smaller city areas woven together by a daunting network of traffic-congested freeways without a clearly defined centre. LA is just one of these cities with Downtown at its heart, and lying outside the city limits is the surrounding conglomeration of cities that comprises LA County.
Los Angeles offers a dazzling variety of attractions and world-famous amusements. Downtown is a mixture of cultures and local communities: the traditional herbalists of Chinatown's Bamboo Lane; Little Tokyo with its sushi bars and Japanese gardens; and the narrow Latino-influenced Olvera Street. Los Angeles County is endowed with a rich diversity of backgrounds and is a mix-and-match of people from 140 countries speaking 96 different languages, of those who have left home to seek acceptance for ideas or unconventional lifestyles not tolerated in the more conservative parts of the country, and would-be stars with dreams of fame and fortune. West Hollywood is the focal point of gay and lesbian culture, and the posh beachside resort of Santa Monica and body-builders at Muscle Beach, as well as the childhood fantasy of Disneyland are all a part of the diversity, although not always a harmonious one. There are exciting museums, cinemas featuring every conceivable production, swanky boutiques with the latest fashions, comedy clubs, poetry readings and coffee house recitals, and music of every kind played in various venues throughout the city.
Underneath the huge 'Hollywood' sign on the crest of the Hollywood Hills, the high energy and pleasure-seeking atmosphere, bold billboards, sexy sun-bronzed people, bright lights and fancy cars are images of a city that everyone loves to hate; but whether one likes what one finds or not, Los Angeles must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
The city of LA sprawls over such a large area that getting around without a car can be frustrating and time consuming. The complex network of freeways connecting the sprawl can be intimidating, especially for those not used to driving in big cities, but with a map or good directions, hiring a car is the best and most popular way to see LA. The city was designed with the automobile in mind and is more driver-friendly than most big cities with wide streets and plenty of parking. If possible, visitors should avoid rush hour traffic, which is heaviest from 7am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm, when freeways often come to a standstill. Many, however, are equipped with HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes for those cars carrying more than one person - an attempt to curb vehicle emissions, these lanes tend to move more quickly. LA is one of the cheapest places in the country to rent a car. It is also possible to get around by bus, but frequent transfers and long distances can make this slow and impractical, and it is not recommended for late-night travel. The Metro rail system has three lines, which cover only a small area of LA, but it is frequent and efficient. Taxis are also available, but they can be expensive due to the long distances.
Medieval Times, Los Angeles
A wildly popular family attraction in Los Angeles, Medieval Times is a dinner attraction that combines food and entertainment. Guests are treated to a four-course 11th-century feast while being entertained by six knights competing in the joust and other contests. The castle features a tower, courtyard, gift shop, torture museum, indoor stable, and a club with two bars and deejays.
$57.95 adults, $35.95 children under 12, includes dinner and show.
Getty Center, Los Angeles
It is said that the Getty Center in Brentwood, Los Angeles is less a museum with artworks inside, than an artwork with a museum inside. Certainly the building, designed by Richard Meier and costing $1.2 billion to build in 1997, is celebrated for its architecture and gardens, while the wonderful views over LA are breathtaking. With over 1.3 million visitors, the Getty Center is one of the most visited museums in the USA, and it is well worth allocating a day to explore. It houses a premier collection of pre-20th century European paintings and artworks, and a leading archive of photography from the 19th and 20th centuries. The most famous work on display is undoubtedly Irisesby Vincent van Gogh, although there are hundreds of other notable works, including Paul Gauguin's Arii Matamoe.
Tuesday to Friday 10am-5:30pm, Saturday 10am-9pm, Sunday 10am-5:30pm. Closed Mondays.
Free; parking: $15 per car although free after 5pm
Celebrity Gravesites, Los Angeles
Hollywood's celebrities are a major tourist attraction in Los Angeles long after they're dead. Several cemeteries in LA are known for their famous residents, and visitors flock to pay homage to their idols at their final resting places.
One of the most famous cemeteries in Los Angeles is Westwood Village Memorial Park, home to the graves of Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, Billy Wilder, Natalie Wood and Walter Matthau. Forest Lawn Glendale houses the graves of Walt Disney, Nat 'King' Cole, and Humphrey Bogart. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard are here as well in the Great Mausoleum, but it isn't open to the public.
Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills has the graves of Lucille Ball, Liberace, Bette Davis and Buster Keaton; while Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City is home to celebrities like Bing Crosby, Bela Lugosi, John Candy, Rita Hayworth and Ray Bolger. Hillside Memorial Park in Baldwin Hills is the final resting place for Al Jolson, Jack Benny, and Michael Landon.
The most famous celebrity cemetery however, is Hollywood Forever, located on Santa Monica Boulevard in a scenic location under the HOLLYWOOD sign. Celebrity gravesites in Hollywood Forever include Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B DeMille, Mel Blanc, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Tourists looking for celebrity graves should always be respectful of other cemetery visitors who may be grieving. To find out where a specific celebrity is buried, visit www.findagrave.com.
Six Flags Magic Mountain, Los Angeles
Even among the stiff competition among Southern California theme parks, Six Flags Magic Mountain has a solid reputation for the biggest, baddest rides in the area. This world-class theme park was recently named Roller Coaster Capital of the World with 18 coasters, including Superman, the Green Lantern, Batman, The Riddler's Revenge, and the Road Runner Express. The park offers many other rides for all ages, and kids will love meeting their favourite Looney Tunes characters and Justice League superheroes at the family shows. Magic Mountain is dotted with restaurants, snack stands, souvenir shops and other stores, and the park will even hold your parcels at the exit while you enjoy yourself.
Attached to the park is Hurricane Harbor, a water park with more than a dozen rides ranging from the thrilling Black Snake Summit waterslides to the family-friendly Castaway Cove play area.
Hours vary according to season. Check the website for specific dates.
Magic Mountain: Adults $61.99; children under 48" $36.99. Hurricane Harbor: Adults $37.99, children under 48" $29.99. Discounted tickets are available from the website.
Getty Villa, Los Angeles
Originally completed in 1974, and rebuilt in 1997, the Getty Villa is a faithful replica of a Roman villa that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Villa was built to house the expanding art collection of oil tycoon J Paul Getty, and now has one of the world's finest displays of ancient Greek and Roman artefacts, comprising over 44,000 pieces. The best known item is Victorious Youth, one of the only surviving life-size Greek bronzes in existence. The Getty Villa also has over 20,000 books in its library, and collections of jewellery and coins. The free guided tours of both the exhibits and the gardens are highly recommended.
Metro Bus 534 stops at Coastline Drive and Pacific Coast Highway directly across from the Getty Villa entrance.
Daily 10am-5pm, closed Tuesdays
Free. An advance, timed ticket is required. Login to the website to book. Parking is $15 per car or motorcycle; free for all evening public programming.
Anaheim, Los Angeles
Located approximately 25 miles (40km) southeast of Los Angeles and founded in 1857 by grape farmers and wine makers, Anaheim (meaning 'home by the Santa Anna River' in German) is known as the home of California's Disneyland. This Orange Country town farms walnuts, lemons, and of course oranges and offers visitors a range of fun and exciting activities to enjoy. Take the kids to Disneyland to enjoy a magical world of fun and rides with all their favourite Disney characters; enjoy a day of fun and thrill rides at America's first theme Park, Knott's Berry Farm; enjoy the Middle Ages at Medieval Times; take a tour of Universal Studios Hollywood; explore the fascinating marine life at the Aquarium of the Pacific; soak up the sun on Laguna or Newport Beach, or enjoy a day of shopping, dining and exploring the Shops at Anaheim GardenWalk. Another fun day out is catching an Anaheim Angels baseball game at Angels Stadium.
Knott's Berry Farm, Los Angeles
When Walter Knott began selling berries, berry plants and pies from a roadside stand beside State Route 39 in the 1920s he could never have known what his stand would eventually become. As the highway developed over time, so did his stand, becoming a roadside eatery with entertainment and eventually turning into America's first theme park, Knott's Berry Farm. The park features a multitude of fun for visitors of all ages and boasts nine world-class roller coasters, a plethora of thrill rides, family rides, children's rides, water rides, a Ghost Town, Fiesta Village (portraying Spanish California), Indian Trails, Wild Water Wilderness and the Sky Cabin Tower where fabulous views can be enjoyed by those brave enough to climb to the top. Each October the park transforms into a spooky Halloween-themed 'haunted theme park' called Knott's Scary Farm!
Opening times vary according to season. Check the park's website for current information.
Full day regular: $57.99; Full day Junior: $28.99 (age 3 and up and under 48 inches). Discounted tickets are available on the website.
Castle Park, Los Angeles
A great attraction for kids in Los Angeles, Castle Park has a number of enticing entertainment options to offer adventure-seeking children. The arcade boasts hundreds of games including Ghost Blasters, Time Crisis 3 and Dance Dance Revolution, with fun prizes to be won and a snack bar. The park's roller-coasters, antique train tours and mini-golf are also great fun for kids. There are souvenir shops and family restaurants, as well as a weekly magic show.
Ride Park: $24.99 adults, $16.99 kids under 48 inches (122cm).
Peach Tree Pottery, Los Angeles
For kids who really want to get their hands dirty, Peach Tree Pottery offers children's pottery lessons in a friendly, relaxed environment. Aside from learning to use a potter's wheel, children will also be shown how to make pinch pots, coil pots and tile trivets - a world of ceramic fun!
Three blocks west of Centinela, off Venice
$45 and up
Disneyland Resort, Los Angeles
Claiming to be 'The Happiest Place on Earth', Disneyland is an integral part of an American childhood and was the world's first mega theme park designed for the family by Walt Disney in 1955. It is one of America's most famous attractions and despite competition from other similar parks in Florida, Paris and Tokyo, nothing can compare to the original. It is an enchanted kingdom of fantasy and imagination filled with magical entertainment and attractions. The park is divided into eight 'lands' and each one features different rides, dining experiences and entertainment as well as daily live-action shows and parades. Adventureland, Fantasyland, Critter Country, Frontierland, Mickey's Toontown, Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square and Main Street USA offer such attractions as a boat trip through the underground caverns of Pirates of the Caribbean, an experience of the Wild West on the Thunder Mountain Railroad, a visit to Sleeping Beauty's Castle and flying with Dumbo the elephant, a giddy journey with Indiana Jones, a spooky tour of the Haunted Mansion, or the experience of a pitch-black rollercoaster ride inside Space Mountain, and a wet ride on Splash Mountain.
There is also a shopping, dining and entertainment district called Downtown Disney. The latest appendage to Disneyland is the adjacent California Adventure, a separate park minus the cartoon characters that offers further rides and rollercoasters, but an additional ticket is required. (A new Cars-themed attraction is currently under construction at California Adventure.) The parks are busiest during summer from mid-June to mid-September and during school holidays and there are usually long queues at the popular rides. The new Fastpass system allows visitors to reserve a place in line at the park's busiest attractions. No day at Disneyland is complete without watching the nightly fireworks show with an appearance by Tinkerbell.
Both parks are open daily, but opening hours vary according to days and seasons; check the official website for up to date information.
One-day passes start at $80 adults, $74 children under 10.
Warner Bros Studios, Los Angeles
The tour at Warner Bros offers a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at an authentic working studio and provides more of a technical slant than the Universal Studios tour, focussing on the authentic filmmaking procedure. The informative two-hour tour takes visitors to view the sets, prop construction, wardrobe and sound department, as well as visiting active film and television sets where it is sometimes possible to watch actors in the midst of filming. There is also an introductory film and museum depicting the studio's film history.
Open for tours from Monday to Friday between 9am and 6pm (9am-3pm in winter). Reservations are required.
Different tours vary in price, check the website for details.
Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles
One of the most popular attractions in Los Angeles is Universal Studios Hollywood, reputedly the world's biggest film studio and theme park. The main attraction is the Studio Tour, a narrated tram ride that traverses the huge complex, passing stars' dressing rooms and famous back-lot sets, including an Old West town, the town square in 'Back to the Future' films, as well as Jurassic Park III and 'Curse of the Mummy's Tomb' sets. Along the way visitors will experience several realistic staged-disasters such as an earthquake, an avalanche, an attack by 'Jaws' and a meeting with an enormous version of 'King Kong'. Besides the tours there is a theme park that provides a thrilling introduction to the principles of special effects with several attractions and movie-related rides. The popular 'Back to the Future' ride is a simulated jerky flight in a time machine with exceptional special effects and is one of the park's best rides. The 'Jurassic Park' ride is a tour through a jungle full of frightening dinosaurs ending with an 84-foot (26m) near-vertical drop into water. Other attractions include the spectacular 'Waterworld' live action stunt performance, a realistic warehouse fire in 'Backdraft', a 'Terminator 2' 3-D show, and animal tricks on 'Animal Planet Live!' Universal CityWalk is a separate venue with shops, restaurants, cinemas and nightclubs.
Universal City station on the Metro Red Line, or numerous public bus routes to Universal City
Opening times vary according to season and visitors are advised to check beforehand. Generally open daily in summer 8am-10pm (June to September), and in winter 10am-6pm (September to June).
$77 (adults), $69 (children smaller than 48 inches/122cm). Combination tickets are available. Universal CityWalk has free admission.
Magicopolis, Los Angeles
Fantasy and illusion come alive for kids at Magicopolis, where magic, music and special effects inspire awe and wonder. The shows at Magicopolis run between 90 minutes and two hours and feature comedy, magic, music, illusions, special effects and audience participation. Magic trick kits can be purchased for children to take home, and there are treats and refreshments available from the theatre's café.
Monday to Friday, 11am-8pm; Saturday and Sunday 11am-10pm.
Evening shows (8pm) $34; Saturday matinees (2pm) $24.
Hollywood, Los Angeles
Los Angeles is the film and entertainment capital of the world and the name 'Hollywood' is the embodiment of glamour, success and money; the place where films are made, television shows are recorded and stars take up residence. The famous Hollywood sign on the hills above the city has become the enduring symbol of the movie industry and of Los Angeles itself - the 50-foot-high (15m) white letters can be seen from miles away. The historic heart of the movie industry is centred on Hollywood Boulevard where millions of visitors flock to see landmark attractions and museums.
The impressive Mann's (Grauman's) Chinese Theatre is famous for its courtyard where over 200 stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood and Frank Sinatra have set their signatures and imprints of their hands or feet in cement. For many years the theatre has been the spot for movie premieres and is modelled on a Chinese temple with columns, dragons and an ornate interior. Passing in front of the theatre is the mile-long Walk of Fame, the world-famous sidewalk embedded with the names of legendary television, film, radio, theatre and recording greats engraved within pink granite stars. More than 2,500 celebrities are honoured here, including Elvis Presley, Charlie Chapman, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson.
The cylindrical Capitol Records Tower is one of the most recognisable buildings in the city and is supposed to resemble a 12-storey stack of records with a needle on top that blinks out 'h-o-l-l-y-w-o-o-d' in Morse code. Other attractions include the Kodak Theatre (designed to host the Academy Awards) and the Hollywood Guinness World Records Museum, as well as the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Ripley's 'Believe It or Not!' Museum.
The Guinness World Records Museum opens daily 10am-midnight; Wax Museum daily 8am-midnight; Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum open daily 10am-11pm (until midnight on weekends).
Mann's Chinese Theatre movie tickets $12.75. Guinness World Records Museum and Wax Museum $15.95 each. Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum $14.99. Concessions are available.
La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles
One of the world's most significant fossil sites, the tar pits in central Los Angeles have revealed fossils of plant and animal life preserved in the pits for ten of thousands of years. The fossils themselves are on display in the Page Museum on the site, while replicas of some of the animals, mammoths and sabre-toothed cats found have been creatively re-placed in and around the pits.
Monday through Friday, 9:30am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm.
$7 (adults), $2 children; free on the first Tuesday of each month.
Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles
Located within the Griffith Park area, the Los Angeles Zoo is a large facility boasting 1,100 animals from around the world. The Zoo is currently adding naturalistic habitats for the animals, making the facility more attractive to both visitors and occupants. It is also a botanical garden, holding 800 plant species. Apart from the myriad natural life to be seen, there are animal shows, workshops and a petting zoo in store for visitors.
Open daily 10am-5pm. Closed December 25th.
$16 (adults); $11 (children)
Beach Communities, Los Angeles
The miles of sandy beaches along the Pacific Ocean are a celebration of the Californian lifestyle with distinct neighbourhoods and oceanfront walks linking the communities. Malibu is popular with the privacy seeking rich and famous and their mansions line strips of privately owned shoreline; the wide sandy beaches, rocky outcrops and green open-spaces make Malibu the most scenic neighbourhood in LA. It presents the classic Californian beach babe image immortalised by The Beach Boys and Baywatch. LA's premiere beach community, Santa Monica, is known for its alternative beachfront atmosphere, as well as its famous hideaway Hollywood residents. The palm-lined cliffs, once the location of the homes of Clark Gable, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, are today home to celebrities like Meryl Streep, Rod Stewart and Michelle Pfeiffer. The neighbourhood's famous landmark is the Santa Monica Pier, boasting old-world carnival attractions, including a wooden 1920s carousel with painted horses, and plenty of seafood restaurants.
Third Street Promenade is a lively pedestrian mall bustling with buskers, street vendors, evangelists and original shops, and is the heart of Santa Monica's cafes, restaurants and bars. Venice is best known for its Ocean Front Walk that is a non-stop parade of jugglers, artists, vendors, musicians and joggers. Venice Beach provides a classic Los Angeles lifestyle experience where beautiful sun-bronzed bodies on bicycles and rollerblades cruise along the walkway to Muscle Beach, where the outdoor weightlifting gym gleams with the sweat of muscle-bound hunks flexing their pecs for the onlookers. The area is full of laid back cafes and restaurants, health food shops, bike and blade rentals, and second hand record stores. After dark however the area becomes the haunt of street gangs and drug dealers; and visitors are advised to exercise caution in the area.
West LA, Los Angeles
West LA is famous for its trend-setting style; the place where the 'stars' live, shop and go out on the town. The area includes some of the most prestigious neighbourhoods in Los Angeles, particularly Beverly Hills and Bel Air. Home of the rich and famous, and one of the world's most expensive residential areas, Beverly Hills flaunts its wealth with luxurious manors, tree-lined streets, grand estates and security gates concealing landscaped grounds that are home to the likes of Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford. Scheduled tours are available or Star Home Maps can be picked up at any street corner vendor for the latest on who lives where. The neighbourhood is also home to the famous shopping district centred on Rodeo Drive with expensive shops oozing designer labels such as Gucci, Armani and Vuitton.
West Hollywood, between Beverly Hills and Hollywood, is the centre of LA's gay community and boasts the area's best restaurants, trendiest shops, eccentric boutiques and modern galleries along Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. Sunset Strip, a section of Sunset Boulevard, is famed for its nightlife with rock clubs, bars and posh hotels attracting a huge variety of characters, and many places have a history of big names. In the 1930s Errol Flynn and Rita Hayworth went dancing at nightclubs like Trocadero, by the 1970s it had become the focus of rock and roll with stage performances by the Doors and Elton John at Whisky-a-Go-Go club. The actor River Phoenix died of drug-related problems at the Viper Room, and Thunder Roadhouse was where Mickey Rourke bought his Harley-Davidson.
Getting around by car is by far the easiest way to tour the area as public transport doesn't reach everywhere.
Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
It's worth heading into downtown Los Angeles to see this strange Frank Gehry-designed concert hall. The silver-plated building can be described as art deco meets surrealism, and while it derives mixed admiration from visitors, its uniqueness is never argued. A walking tour with an explanation for the intricate design is on offer free of charge to anyone curious to know how the hall came about. There is also a restaurant in the building - in one of those nooks and/or crannies.
Griffith Park and Observatory, Los Angeles
The Griffith Park extends for 4,210 acres (17 km²) of well-kept public grounds and is often referred to as the 'Central Park' of Los Angeles. Rent a bicycle, take a hike or have a picnic under the iconic Hollywood sign. Within the park is the Griffith observatory, which apart from being a familiar filming location, is filled with attractions of its own and a significant site for the study of astronomy. The park has a gift shops and the 'Cafe at the End of the Universe'.
Open Wednesday to Friday 12pm-10pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am-10pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
During the annual migration of the Californian Gray Whale from Alaska to Mexico, whales can be seen passing along the California Coast and numerous whale watching excursions are available from Los Angeles city harbours or further south from the city of Dana Point. In January, the annual Whale Fiesta celebrates the start of the season at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, with a family day filled with activities, exhibitions, contests, arts and crafts, food, music and talks. In March the Dana Point Festival of Whales features fairs, street processions and non-stop entertainment for the whole family.
January to March annually
Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival
The world's largest lobster festival is one of the city's great food events, in deference to the Maine lobster. The focus is on fresh steamed hot lobster meals, but in addition there is a variety of other seafood done the Californian way, as well as many international dishes. The festival also features non-stop live entertainment and activities for all ages, from magicians and lobster-calling contests, to music, dancing and arts and crafts, and the Lobster Dog Pet Parade, in memory of Bob the official mascot of the lobster fleet, where costumed dogs are invited to compete for the grand cash prize.
14 - 16 September 2012
Ports O�Call village, Harbourfront, San Pedro
Doo Dah Parade
Known as the 'other' parade, the Doo Dah Parade began as a parody of the Rose Parade - where the one had a list of rules and regulations and invited performers, the other decided to exult in the opposite with no theme, no judges and no commercials. Every year thousands of marching groups or acts are led through the streets in a colourful procession of humour, eccentricity and mayhem, doing almost anything they please and attracting enormous crowds of spectators along the route. Entries are unusual and entertaining, and have included Dead Rose Queens, The Spawn of Captain James T. Kirk, the Royal Doo Dah Orchestra, the Invisible Man Marching Band, Caesar's Circus, BBQ and Hibachi Marching Grill Team and Bungee Barbies, among others.
28 April 2012
Pasadena Old Town
Tournament of Roses Parade
This festival has been a Pasadena tradition for over a century and is one of the most colourful events in the world. The New Year's Day celebrations feature the Rose Parade, which is a breathtaking spectacle of marching bands, equestrian units and magnificent floats, completely covered in flowers and petals. Float construction takes about a year to complete and the Post Parade is an opportunity for the public to admire the fantastic workmanship and the floral creativity from close up. After the parade the Rose Bowl Game takes place between two college champions and is renowned as the 'Superbowl' of college football.
1 January annually
Rose Parade: Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena. Rose Bowl Game: Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena
Parade 8am; Rose Bowl Game 2pm
Cinco de Mayo
Although it is actually a Mexican national holiday, Cinco de Mayo (5 May) is equally big in the United States, especially in those states near to the border or with a large Mexican population. The day commemorates Mexican victory over the French in the battle of Puebla in 1862. Throughout various cities across the United States there are many celebrations in bars, pubs, cantinas and restaurants, much like St. Patrick's Day in March however with more tequila and less green beer. In cities with stronger Mexican populations there may be numerous festivals and traditional dancing.
5 May annually
Knotts Scary Farm
Although Knott's Berry Farm is a year-round family attraction in Los Angeles, locals and tourists flock to the park each October when it puts on its annual Halloween Haunt to become Knott's Scary Farm. Rides and attractions are converted to fit the macabre Halloween theme, and more than a dozen mazes and 'scare zones' are constructed. Park employees dress as werewolves, vampires, zombies and other ghoulish creatures, and there are seven special live shows. Visitors are encouraged to dress in costume as well. Knott's Scary Farm is not appropriate for small children.
Knott's Berry Farm, Beach Boulevard, Buena Park
The annual presentation of the Oscars is the biggest movie-related event in the world that recognises excellence in the film industry among producers, actors, directors, technicians and writers. Every year the world's attention is on the entertainment community to see who will receive the celebrated gold statuettes representative of the highest honour in filmmaking.
February 2013 TBA
Kodak Theatre, Hollywood
Chinese New Year Festival
The greatest annual spectacle in Chinatown is the colourful Chinese New Year celebrations, which is famous for its Golden Dragon Parade involving a magnificent procession of painted, undulating dragons. Contests, fairs, firecrackers and lots of authentic food highlight the festivities.
February 2013 TBa
$1,000,000 in prize money is up for grabs for those death-denying stunt devils that enthral spectators annually in displays of gravity-defying manoeuvres. The competitors attend in their specialisations of skateboarding, Moto X, BMX, and climbing to set new records of madness, in this, the world's number one experience for alternative sports. Spectators from all over the globe come to watch this ESPN covered event which is showing no signs of slowing down.
July 2012 TBA
Staples Center and Home Depot Center
With great views of the sea and pier in summer, and cosy, warm booths in winter, the Beachcomber Café is a local favourite on the rapidly regenerating Malibu Pier. The service is friendly and attentive, and the eclectic fusion menu is strong on seafood (try the Ahi Tuna burger). Good value wine list, too.
23000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Los Angeles, CA 90265
Famed chef Thomas Keller has brought his Le Bouchon French bistro concept to LA. The food is inventive, decadent and delicious, and the extensive wine list is tempered by a recent offering of in-house artisanal beers. Reservations recommended.
235 North Canon Drive, Beverley Hills, CA 90210
Patina is the flagship restaurant of chef Joaquim Splichal, whose nouvelle cuisine has long been a favourite with Hollywood stars. The style is understated elegance, with beautifully presented food and superior service. There are three five-course, exquisite seasonal tasting menus including wild game and seafood, as well as garden dishes for vegetarians. Patina is justifiably famous for its mashed potatoes and potato-truffle chips, and there is an outstanding wine list. Reservations essential, closed on Mondays.
141 S. Grand Avenue, Downtown LA
Valentino Santa Monica
According to the Wine Spectatormagazine, this is one of the top Italian restaurants in the country, boasting a wine cellar that ranks as number one, complementing the exquisite modern Italian cuisine. Piero Selvaggio has raked in numerous awards for his flagship restaurant, attracting an elegant clientele. The menu tempts guests with delicious options such as grilled veal chops with garlic and wild mushroom sauce, or honey-spiced pork fillets. Closed on Sundays, open for dinner the rest of the week and lunch on Fridays, reservations essential.
3115 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica
The Ivy is a world-famous Los Angeles restaurant, but not for its food. Known as the best place to spot Hollywood celebrities and insiders, the restaurant has fed everyone from Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise to Paris Hilton and Beyonce. The New York-style food and cocktails are good, but be prepared for movie star prices. Reservations are essential, and try to book a table on the sought-after terrace for the best people-watching.
113 N Roberston Blvd
Spago Beverly Hills
Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck wows the rich and famous at his flagship restaurant that boasts a reputation as one of the finest in LA. Centred in an outdoor courtyard, the olive tree shaded tables are the most desirable and the place for celebrity sightings. Chefs recreate Puck's classic dishes, including his famous designer pizzas, and Spago classics such as Wolfgang's Original Veal Weinerschnitzel. Creative desserts add a special finish to any meal. Jacket and tie suggested, though not required. Advance reservations essential. Open for lunch from Monday to Saturday, and dinner every day.
176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills
Originally built as the private offices of Charlie Chaplin in 1928, Campanile is a multi-level restaurant with balconies, a lovely courtyard and a central skylight affording views of the bell tower above. The menu consists of a creative blend of Mediterranean flavours and Californian cuisine, including excellent grills and roasts, complemented by homemade bread and pastries, and some of the best desserts in LA - try the strawberry cobbler with fresh cream. Saturday and Sunday brunch should not be missed either. Open for lunch weekdays and dinner Monday to Saturday. Reservations essential.
624 South La Brea Avenue (Miracle Mile)
Border Grill is a trendy, pleasantly raucous and brightly painted eatery whose atmosphere perfectly complements the vibrant flavours and bold, colourful foods of Mexico as presented by celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. The menu features authentic dishes learnt in the homes and markets of Mexico with an added touch of gourmet ingenuity, and ranges from tamales, empanadas and tacos to daily ceviche specials and stuffed tortillas, accompanied by excellent margaritas and fine tequilas. Lunch and dinner daily, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
1445 Fourth Street, Santa Monica
Chinois on Main
This is one of LA's most crowded restaurants and also one of the noisiest, packed with locals, celebrities and visitors who come in awe of Wolfgang Puck's reputation and leave enchanted by the food. The style of cuisine is a mixture of different ethnicities, particularly a fusion of Chinese and French ingredients and technique. The menu includes signature dishes such as the Whole Sizzling Catfish, dramatically presented, as well as seasonal creations that include Shanghai lobster with a spicy ginger-curry sauce or roasted Cantonese duck. Reservations essential. Dinner daily and lunch Wednesday to Friday. Jacket and tie suggested.
2709 Main Street, Santa Monica
Considered by many to be the best seafood house in LA, Water Grill is always packed with downtown business folk who are joined in the evening by concert and theatre patrnos. It is known particularly for its fish and shellfish, and boasts a great oyster bar, as well as a superb wine cellar. Irresistible desserts include blueberry mascarpone cakes and a mandarin orange creamsicle. Reservations recommended. Open for dinner daily and for lunch on Monday to Friday.
544 South Grand Avenue, Downtown
Japanese chef/owner Nobuyuki Matsuhisa creates fantastic dishes by blending South American spices and salsas with Japanese cuisine, presenting diners with one of the most creative menus in the city. Tuna filled with black truffles and capped with caviar, or sautéed squid in a garlic and soy sauce are examples of the delicacies available in addition to delicate sushi rolls with garlic, fresh chilli and special sauces. Matsuhisa is popular with celebrities and gourmets, reservations are essential. Open all week for dinner and for lunch Monday to Friday.
129 North La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Hills
This luxurious restaurant is set in an Italian Romanesque-styled building, constructed in 1928, which still retains its Art Deco elegance and charm. Its tempting menu offers delicious Italian fare such as asparagus pizza with bresaola (air-dried, salted beef), or smoked chicken ravioli with asparagus. The ahi(yellow fin) tuna with avocado, piquillo peppers and wasabi caviare is also good. Reservations are essential, closed Tuesdays.
617 S. Olive Street, Los Angeles
Overlooking the Maguire Gardens, Café Pinot is ideally located for a business lunch or pre-theatre dinner (offering a free shuttle to the Music Centre), with an outdoor terrace shaded by old olive trees. One of the city's most popular restaurants, it is modelled after the top-ranked flagship restaurant, Patina but is designed to be less formal, with lighter bistro-style meals. The tender mustard-crusted rotisserie chicken is superb, and there is also fresh fish, pastas and lamb shank to enjoy. Reservations essential. Lunch Monday to Friday, and dinner daily.
700 West Fifth Street, Downtown LA