Flights To 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'.

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.

Getting around

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.

Nightlife

Home of all things cool and the birthplace of pop culture, the nightlife in Los Angeles is second to none with some of the edgiest bars and clubs in the world. Whether watching world-class shows, dining alongside some of Tinsel Town's hottest stars, or drinking at the hippest clubs in the world, anyone who parties in Los Angeles is generally the envy of everyone.

On any given night there will be band performing somewhere, whether a local and upcoming band or the hottest international act, the choices are endless. The only problem is getting tickets so it is wise to plan ahead if planning to catch a concert. The club scene is absolutely overflowing with variety and those looking for anything from a trendy night sipping on mojitos to dancing the night away will have no problem finding something to suit their tastes.

Los Angeles' chaotic layout means there is no central nightlife district, but there is definitely something for everyone to be found somewhere. Head to the streets of Hollywood for a dizzying choice of clubs and bars, swing down to Westwood if a martini bar is your thing, or if rooftop lounges floats your boat the Valley is the place for you. Los Angeles' nightlife scene is always changing so you are always bound to find something new, hip and happening.

Head down to Largo and catch one of America's hottest new acts performing. The world famous Orpheum Theatre hosts an multitude of theatrical productions, concerts and film festivals, while across town the Geffen Playhouse is the place to see dramatic and comedic shows while the Kodak Theatre hosts not only the Academy Awards, but also big name headliners, including all the hottest acts.

Shopping

For sheer variety and scale, LA shopping is hard to beat. This is a fashion-conscious, trend-setting consumer paradise with the shopping options to match.

Your best buys are the aforementioned fashion items, sporting goods and gear, locally produced wine from the Napa Valley, movie paraphernalia and collectables, and - of course - videos and DVDs of the movies and stars that make tinsel town famous the world over.

If you're looking for both designer wear and celebrity sightings, head for Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive where big name jewellery and haute couture stores line up like A-list stars at an exclusive beach. For more unusual, arty and eccentric items, head for the potpourri of Venice Boardwalk or Melrose Avenue. Nearby Main Street is good for trendy but affordable attire, as well as antiques and collectables.

Certainly the best-value LA shopping can be found at the discount outlet complexes on the edge of town. Here you can find all the big name brands at substantial discounts - up to 70% off the list price. Check out Ontario Mills and Desert Hills Premium Outlets for some great bargains.

Of course LA, like every big American city, has its share of mega-malls. The best of these are the Beverly Center, with 9 floors of stores and restaurants, and Westside Pavilion, which includes a wonderful 3-floor Barnes and Noble bookstore. On the other end of the scale are the vibrant flea markets, the best of which are the Rose Bowl Flea Market & Swap Meet, and the sparkling Jewellery Mart.

Sightseeing

Sightseeing in LA presents certain challenges. For one, the city is immense, stretching out in every direction, and its various attractions are often miles apart. Also, since it's an agglomeration of small and previously separate towns, LA lacks a definite focal point, making it hard to get to grips with the city's character.

The best way to go about your sightseeing is to use the various tour buses that connect the attractions, or hail a taxicab. Unless you are a thrill seeker, avoid driving and public transport, especially at night. LA is a year-round destination, although it can get pretty hot during the summer months of July to September. Key sights are the tours of the great movie production houses of Universal Studios and Warner Brothers, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the original Disneyland, and the vibrant beach communities of Venice Beach and Santa Monica.

Kids Attractions

Los Angeles is surely the entertainment capital of the world, and as such has a plethora of interesting attractions for children in the city and surrounds. There is no end to the abundance and variety of fun to be had by kids on holiday in Los Angeles.

If parents manage to drag their children away from the wonders of Disneyland, or the theme park at Universal Studios, there are also a number of beaches, parks, museums and shows to enjoy while on holiday in LA. There are also various tour buses offering a comprehensive Los Angeles sightseeing experience.

The weather in Los Angeles is generally sunny and warm, perfect for a holiday, but summers do get a little too warm and and there's more rain in winter. The best time to holiday with kids in LA is spring or autumn, when the weather's at its most pleasant and the holiday crowds haven't inundated the city.

Dining

Dining is LA is as exciting and varied as the rest of the city's offerings. LA's restaurants cater to every cuisine and budget imaginable, from 12-course feasts with celebrities on the side, to delicious Mexican burritos from a sidewalk café. Apart from the wonderful variety of ethnic food, there is a growing fascination with organic and health foods and many eateries now cater to this market. Another distinctive LA trend is eclectic and experimental food making this city the proud progenitor of the Thai Chicken Pizza as well as its own distinctive style of fusion sushi.

Many top restaurants and their celebrity chefs are clustered on the Westside, while the vintage restaurants are located downtown and in Hollywood. With its year-round mild climate outdoor dining is popular, helping to make power lunches the stuff of ritual among locals.

Climate

Los Angeles weather is generally warm and pleasant all year round. Protected from extremes of temperature and humidity by the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains, and influenced by the warm, moist air from the Pacific, its summers are dry and sunny and winters cool and wet. Offshore breezes cool the beach communities during the hot summer months, but inland temperatures can rise to well over 90°F (32°C), especially in the numerous canyons and valleys of the area. Smog often gathers in low-lying areas and sometimes the hot, dusty Santa Ana winds blow in strongly from the surrounding mountains.