Los Angeles is known by many names; Hollywood, City of Angels, by its districts; Venice, Santa Monica, Malibu… although many see Los Angeles as Califorina, it is actually just a city, within a really large state. But its a major, cultural hub that draws in millions of visitors every year.
If you’ve always wanted to go, perhaps our travel guide can help. From how to get there and getting around, to the things you should consider for your LA travel bucket list. We hope you enjoy it.
Shopping in LA
Although LA is most known the movie scene, as you’d expect from a city crawling with celebrities and studio big-wigs, shopping should be pretty high on your LA bucket list. If you’ve ever wanted to have your Pretty Woman moment, well there’s only place to go….’Rodeo Drive, baby’.
Rodeo Drive is a much smaller street than you’d imagine but still worth a look. There’s a combination of luxury high-end brands as well as high street retailers, plus, the boutiques are just divine.
If you’re looking to do some serious shopping though, I’d recommend heading to Santa Monica Boulevard where there are a whole host of shops and restaurants you’re sure to enjoy, including most of the designers you’ll find over on Rodeo Drive.
If you’re heading over to Malibu for the day (check out our beach guide below) head to Malibu Country Mart for shopping and dining- it’s probably the place you’re most likely to see celebrities too!
Spend a day at one of the many theme parks in the city.
There’s Disneyland California and Disney California Adventure Park, the very first Disneyland theme park.
If you’ve not been to a Disney park before, I’d recommend allowing at least a day for each so you can really experience it. Plus you can usually get a good deal on 2+ days. But if you’ve to Disney before, you can probably do both parks in one day (especially as they’re considerably outside of the city and getting around quite tricky!).
Universal Studios, Hollywood
Universal is a park you can absolutely fit into one day, especially if you pick the right day. A day in the week is more likely to be quieter than a weekend and visiting during term times (theirs differs to ours) will also ensure you get to go on all the desired rides.
Having been to Orlando, it is a considerably smaller theme park but there is still something for everyone. The lands created around the rides are also seemingly larger than the Orlando counterpart creating a completely immersive experience in these different attractions.
The backlot tour here is absolutely essential. Not only do you get an insight into the workings of film, the films actually created at Universal Hollywood, but it’s an interactive experience and there is nothing quite like it.
Warner Brothers Studio Tour
LA is the home to all of our favourite movies and television shows and so a trip to LA is not complete without a visit to the WB Studio Tour.
It’s incredibly interesting to find out just how they create phenomenal movies and the intrinsic details that go into each and every set created to give us that sense of realism. What is perhaps so outstanding is how so many of our favourite films are created all on one street and we’re none the wiser. You’ll find out facts that’ll astound you and some of the biggest highlights are visiting the actual sets of your favourite shows/movie scenes.
Tip: If you’ve a favourite TV or film, make sure you let your tour guide know as they’ll be able to give you some great insight into it and you may even get to visit the set.
LA is of course known for their golden sands and you could spend your entire holiday touring them all. However, if your time is short and you want to cover some of other touristy aspects too, then it’s not going to be possible.
In LA itself the three most famous beaches are: Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Malibu.
Santa Monica & Venice Beach
Santa Monica and Venice Beach are the most accessible (we’ll cover getting around later) and can even be squeezed into one day, like we did. We started off at Santa Monica Pier (not going on it at this point) and followed the path down to Venice Beach and back up again. Even on a cloudy day the views are striking and the sounds calming. We can see why it’s loved so much.
Something worth noting here though, on your approach to the Venice Beach area we were quite startled by the amount of homeless people, trash and generally how more eccentric it all was compared to the Santa Monica end.
On Santa Monica pier, you’ll find old arcade machines, fairground rides and carnival stands, lots of fresh fish eateries and churros.
If you’re looking for a spectacular beach, Malibu is the place to go. It’s stunning. We could have spent forever there. The sands are even more golden than the central city beaches, the air cleaner, the sea bluer and generally warmer.
It takes approximately 40 minutes from the Santa Monica end of LA and anywhere up to 1hr if you’re staying further away but it’s well worth making the journey. If you want a glimpse at some of the most expensive properties in LA, the famous Malibu seafront properties, head over to Broad Beach Road.
We’ve all seen the association of hiking and LA. It’s one of the top ways to stay in shape in the area and it’s not hard to see why. The hills in particular are striking, the views they offer over the city, whatever time of the day are a perfect excuse.
If you want to get a feel for LA living, team a hike with your visit to the Hollywood sign at Griffith Park. There are many hiking trails to get you up close and personal to the personified form of the city. Note: you can’t actually go right up to the sign as it’s fenced off but you can still get pretty close- and prepared to be astounded. Lots of picture capturing is essential.
If you get the timing right, you’ll be able to get remarkable view of the sun setting and the city glistening at nighttime- it’s really quite breathtaking.
Griffith Park Observatory
Once you’ve finished, your visit to Griffith Park isn’t complete without a visit to the Observatory.
Wander around the many exhibits exploring seasons, time and space or take a look through one of their many telescopes and go star gazing. Of course, a visit to the Observatory isn’t anything without sitting in their incredible planetarium and one of their talks. Admission to the observatory is completely free but some of the lectures/access to the planetarium shows are at a cost (usually $5 per person).
LA is a huge city and it’s not the easiest to navigate. The public transport systems are not brilliant and it’ll simply take you an age to get anywhere.
Really, the only way of getting around to see any of it is by hiring a car. But I can totally appreciate how scary it is so if you really, really can’t face it (we managed to avoid it for most of our trip), then I’d highly recommend downloading the Uber app. It’s so much cheaper than relying on mainstream taxi services which are astronomical.
Don’t forget about parking costs!
If you do go for the car hire option (plan for this in advance), see what your hotel will charge to park your vehicle. Some hotels do offer free parking so this is the recommended option obviously but if you can find a really good deal with a hotel (as we did) this is where the prices are likely to shoot up. Also bear in mind that you’ll have parking charges wherever you park on days out too (WB tour is $10 I believe as is Universal and Disney also charge etc.).
If you need to get from the airport to the hotel, I’d highly recommend using SuperShuttle which operates throughout most cities in the US. I’ve found them super reliable and reasonably priced.
Where to stay
On the above, really research where it is you’re staying and what it is you’re looking to do whilst there.
A lot of the attractions: Hollywood Sign, Universal, Walk of Fame, WB Studio Tour and Beverly Hills/Rodeo Drive, are all easily accessible in the Hollywood area and if you’re looking at getting taxi’s around/public transport this area is the most beneficial for that. You could also look at Koreatown to help bring down the costs.
Near the airport
Santa Monica, Anaheim (Disney) and Malibu are further out so you could either plan to stay in these areas for the time you’d like to spend there if you’re going all out to avoid getting a car, or face that it’ll cost a little more in taxi’s or time on public transport (the bus from Santa Monica to Hollywood takes around 1hour 20 minutes each way).
Personally, LA is one of those destinations where you can DIY- I highly recommend looking at hotels through sites like booking.com and filtering the search based on preference. My recommendations are: search by 3, 4 or 5 stars, free cancellation (giving you more flexibility for if your ideal hotel becomes cheaper, you change the number of days and or if your plans change entirely), hotels rather than any other accommodation type and 7+ on the review ratings. You can also search based on area though I personally don’t find this function as useful.
Fly direct and daily from London Heathrow to LAX. I’d recommend taking a look at SkyScanner.net to compare flight length and price to get the best deal.
Before securing, check directly with the airline that’s come up cheapest and ensure you check the reviews on unfamiliar airlines. The flight is approximately 10 hours long.
- 8 hours time difference
- 10 hour flight from London direct to LAX
- Average temperature is always 19° or above
- Lowest rainfall between May and October.
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out our other guides below!