Los Angeles

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It's hard to know where to start in such a sprawling city (467 square miles!), and there's really no one right way to do it. We suggest beginning in old Hollywood before heading to downtown L.A. Then, as an antidote to the concrete jungle, hit the beach! A trip to Santa Monica Beach and adjacent Venice Beach before heading back to Hollywood by way of Beverly Hills will round out your trip nicely.

Things to do in Los Angeles

Beverly Hills Trolley Tours

See block after block of celebrity mansions on this 40-minute drive, including the late Lucille Ball's ranch house that starred in an episode of I Love Lucy. Tours depart on the hour, every hour, from 11am-4pm. Every Sat and Sun; Summer (July 5-Sept 1) Tues-Sun; Winter (Nov 23-Dec 30) Tues-Sun.

corner of Rodeo Dr. and Dayton Wy., CA, www.beverlyhills.org
Tags: things to do | culture | architecture | tour

Chinatown

Adjacent to downtown, L.A.'s bustling Chinatown is packed with great dim sum restaurants, markets, curio shops, and a new spate of innovative art galleries (most situated on Chung King Road).

CA, www.chinatownla.com
Tags: art | things to do | culture | culinary

Fashion District

Though much of this district is wholesale-only, over 1,000 stores do sell discounted togs to the general public; Santee Alley is your best bet for famous-brand knock-offs.

Santee Alley, CA, www.fashiondistrict.org
Tags: shopping | things to do | walking district

Formosa Café

Opened in 1934, this storied West Hollywood watering hole, festooned with classic black-and-white Hollywood headshots, has had numerous celluloid moments, including the famous Lana Turner scene in L.A. Confidential. We recommend comandeering one of their dark booths for happy hour ($4 well drinks, Mon-Fri 4-7pm).

7156 Santa Monica Blvd., CA, 323-850-9050, www.formosacafe.com
Tags: nightlife | editor pick | local favorite | things to do | bar | bar menu | happy hour

Getty Center

L.A. owes much of its reinvention as a high-brow culture capital to starchitect Richard Meier's travertine marble art institution, perched in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. A tram ride up the hill followed by a stroll through the museum's gorgeous gardens makes one forget all about the traffic snarls below. Tues-Fri 10am-5:30pm; Sat 10am-9pm; Sun 10am-5:30pm.

1200 Getty Center Dr., CA, 310-440-7300, www.getty.edu
Tags: family | editor pick | great value | art | things to do | culture | architecture

Griffith Observatory

Positioned near the Hollywood Sign, this recently renovated Art Deco-era marvel offers great views of the heavens (on a clear night) and astronomy shows narrated by the likes of Leonard Nimoy. Tues-Fri noon-10pm; Sat-Sun 10am-10pm.

2800 E. Observatory Rd., CA, 213-473-0800, www.griffithobs.com
Tags: family | editor pick | things to do | culture | architecture

Hollywood Boulevard

Tour the Kodak Theater, home of the Academy Awards show (stop at the attached Hollywood & Highland retail complex, a tourist trap akin to Time's Square and Fisherman's Wharf, only long enough to snap a photo of the iconic Hollywood sign); see where the stars left their mark at the Grauman's Chinese Theater; then hop across the street for a show at the glittering El Capitan Theatre. For more suggestions on what to do on Hollywood Boulevard, check out our Top 10 Tourist Trap Tips.

Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave., CA, www.hollywoodchamber.net
Tags: family | things to do | culture | architecture

Hollywood Hills

Hiking trails in Runyon Canyon, a 130-acre public park and former '20s housing development, afford awesome views of the Hollywood sign, downtown L.A., and iconic Hollywood architecture like the Capitol Records building, not to mention the occasional celebrity sighting. You can even look down into the yards and pools of several large estates tucked into the hills.

Mulholland Dr., between Laurel Cyn. and Cahuenga Blvd., CA, www.lamountains.com
Tags: hiking | things to do | outdoors

Rodeo Drive

Shopping is a serious sport in Beverly Hills. Pop into the Dutch-architect-designed Prada "Epicenter," jeweler-to-the-stars Harry Winston, Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Valentino, and Christian Dior in this three-block stretch.

Rodeo Dr., CA,
Tags: shopping | expensive | things to do | designer

Santa Monica Beach

Groove to the vibe of SoCal beach culture on this 3.5-mile-long stretch of sand. Kids will love the Santa Monica Pier, which is topped with snack bars, carnival games, and amusement park rides, including a vintage carousel.

Santa Monica Beach, CA, www.santamonicapier.org
Tags: beach | family | things to do | outdoors

Sunset Plaza

Don your shades and hit this strip of hip designer boutiques like Tracey Ross, Nicole Miller, Armani A/X, and Anna Sui. Recover at one of many nearby sidewalk cafes.

Sunset Blvd. between La Cienega Blvd. and San Vicente Blvd., CA,
Tags: shopping | moderate | things to do | designer

The Grove

Ersatz main street of Anytown U.S.A. offering everything from iPod accessories (at the Apple Store) to fresh vegetables (at the adjoining historical Farmer's Market), a dancing fountain, a double-decker trolley, and a supersized outpost of the American Girl doll store.

189 The Grove Dr., CA, 888-315-8883, www.thegrovela.com
Tags: family | shopping | things to do | shopping mall

Universal Studios

See the actual sets of some of Hollywood's biggest movies, including the ominous Bates house from Psycho, on the studio backlot tour. Thrill rides include Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park, and, new in 2008, The Simpsons Ride.

100 Universal City Plaza, CA, www.universalstudioshollywood.com
Tags: family | things to do

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