If you love theme parks, Los Angeles is a fabulous, fun, action-filled destination. From the terrifying heights of Six Flags Magic Mountain to the more sedate thrills of Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World”; from the movie-themed excitement of Universal Studios to the water-logged enjoyment of Knott’s Soak City Water Park: you could easily fill a week-long (or longer) holiday in Los Angeles and do nothing but visit theme parks.
But to do so would be to miss out on all the other amazing experiences that this mega-city has to offer. Here are our top five:
It’s more or less compulsory to spend a half day driving around the streets of Hollywood, Bel Air and Beverly Hills, looking at what may or may not be a movie star’s home and hoping to spy someone famous or just fabulous. Whether you prefer to take a guided tour and let the driver/guide name-drop their way around a specific route, or you prefer to pick up one of the “authentic” movie stars homes’ maps that are spruiked on every Hollywood street corner, it’s a fun way to get your bearings and see some amazing real estate.
Whether you want to channel your inner Pretty Woman on Rodeo Drive or pick up some bargains at the outlet malls, you really are spoilt for choice in LA. Pedestrian-only 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica is the perfect place to combine great shopping with al fresco restaurant and bars, and there are tour operators and shuttle buses that will take you to the best factory outlets.
We may not think of Los Angeles as a traditional beach holiday destination, but there are plenty of great beaches to choose from. Look for movie stars going incognito at Malibu or head south to ride the ferry from Newport Beach to pretty Balboa Island (be sure to try the famous Balboa Bar ice creams while you’re there). Hire a bike or a set of roller blades to cruise the boardwalk from Santa Monica Pier for some great people-watching at quirky Venice Beach, or look for dolphins playing with the surfers from the pier at Huntington Beach.
When you’re ready to leave the big city, hire a car or buy yourself a bus ticket and head out on Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. Pick it up at Santa Monica and head north through Malibu, Santa Barbara, the quaint village of Cambria and up to San Simeon (home of Hearst Castle and a roadside colony of elephant seals). Storms in early 2017 have closed the highway north of San Simeon until further notice so if you want to go any further you’ll need to inland detour and the head back out to the coast once you reach Salinas. Carmel-By-The-Sea is a beautiful ocean-side town and well worth the journey to watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
North from Carmel and Monterey you’ll follow the coast all the way to San Francisco, stopping to chat to the California sea lions that line the pier at Santa Cruz.
If you don’t have enough time to make the road trip to San Francisco, you may like to consider a day trip instead. There are plenty of tour operators that offer day trips to both San Diego and Mexico, or you may prefer to self-drive. In clear traffic you can get to Palm Springs in under two hours: play a round of golf on one of the many manicured and impossibly green courses that have been created in this desert environment, or escape the heat and soak up the views by riding a cable car into the mountains on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Another less well-known option is to catch the Catalina Express: it takes roughly an hour to reach this pretty island that feels half a world away from LA.
This is just a small selection of our favourite things to do in Los Angeles: talk to your personal travel manager about planning your own itinerary and be sure to ask for their own favourite recommendations.