The rambling metropolis of LOS ANGELES sprawls across the thousand square miles of its great desert basin, knitted together by an intricate network of freeways between the Pacific Ocean and snowcapped mountains. Its colourful melange of shopping malls, palm trees and swimming pools is both surreal and familiar, thanks to the potent celluloid self-image it has spread all over the world.
Los Angeles is thrilling and threatening in equal proportions – abundant with places to visit that pick you up and sweep you along whether you like it or not. While it has its fine-art museums, unexpected swaths of parkland and quintessential fun-in-the-sun beach life, what people really come here for is to experience the fantasy worlds of Disneyland and Hollywood, as well as the gilded opulence of Beverly Hills and Malibu. And as you might expect, if you want to experience as much as possible, you’ll need a set of wheels.Read More
Disney Hall, First Street at Grand Avenue, is Frank Gehry’s grand spectacle of modern architecture, a 2300-seat acoustic showpiece with a curvaceous, stainless-steel exterior and an interior with rich, warm acoustics and a mammoth, intricate pipe organ. It’s one of the best places to hear music in the country, which you can do courtesy of the LA Philharmonic (w http://www.laphil.com) during the music season.
Pro sports in LA
Pro sports in LA
The LA Dodgers (t 323/224-1500, w http://www.dodgers.com) play at Dodger Stadium near downtown; the LA Angels of Anaheim (t 1-888/796-4256, w http://www.angelsbaseball.com) at Anaheim Stadium in Orange County; seats for both $10–150.
The Lakers (tickets $20–260; t 213/480-3232, w http://www.lakers.com), Clippers ($18–250; t 213/742-7430, w http://www.clippers.com), and women’s Sparks ($10–55; t 1-877/44-SPARKS, w http://www.wnba.com/sparks) all play at the Staples Center, south of downtown.
The 102,000-seat Rose Bowl (t 626/577-3100, w http://www.rosebowlstadium.com) is the site of Pasadena’s New Year’s Day college football game, but LA hasn’t had a pro franchise in 17 years.
There’s a huge range of places to stay in LA: downtown has both upscale and mid-range hotels (along with numerous fleabag dives), Hollywood has plenty of cheap motels, West Hollywood is a swanky boutique zone, and the Westside and Malibu are mid- to upper-range territory. If you’re not driving, choose your base carefully to avoid lengthy cross-town journeys.
Eating in LA covers every extreme, whatever you want to eat and however much you want to spend. Try to take at least a few meals in the higher-end restaurants, many of which serve superb California cuisine in chic surroundings. At the cheaper end of the scale, the options are almost endless, and include terrific burger stands where you can scarf down mountains of fries, outstanding ethnic diners, and free food available for the price of a drink at happy hours.
Nightlife and entertainment
Nightlife and entertainment
Exploring the jungle of LA nightlife can be great fun. Even the quietest venue offers a chance to eavesdrop on the doings of the city’s clubkids and hipsters; the most raucous ones will take your breath away. In all the bars, clubs and discos, you’ll need to be 21 and will be asked for ID. The best sources of listings are LA Weekly (w http://www.laweekly.com) and Friday’s LA Times (w http://www.latimes.com).
LA’s bars provide a wide range of choices, from the funky dives of Hollywood to the chic enclaves of West LA and Santa Monica. As elsewhere along the West Coast, coffeehouses are established all over the city as popular meeting places.
Clubs and discos
LA’s clubs range from posy hangouts to industrial noise cellars. The trendier side of the club scene is, as always, elusive, with some venues changing names and clientele every six months, but listed below are some of the more established names. Gay and lesbian clubs are centred around West Hollywood and are noted below. Check the LA Weekly before setting out.
LA has an overwhelming choice for live music: ever since the 1960s, the local rock scene has been excellent, with up-and-comers in mainstream or indie rock getting their first break here; jazz is played in a few authentic locales; and salsa is quite popular. Cover charges can vary widely, so call ahead.
Classical music, opera and dance
LA has a number of choices for classical music and, in the last two decades, has surprisingly established itself as an international force in highbrow music. The Los Angeles Philharmonic (t 323/850-2000, w http://www.laphil.org), now led by wunderkind Gustavo Dudamel, and Los Angeles Master Chorale (t 213/972-7282, w http://www.lamc.org) perform regularly during the year at Disney Hall; the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (t 213/622-7001, w http://www.laco.org) performs at assorted venues; and the Da Camera Society (t 213/477-2929, w http://www.dacamera.org) offers chamber works in stunning settings, from grand churches to legendary modernist homes to renovated movie palaces.
As for opera, LA Opera (t 213/972-8001, w http://www.losangelesopera.com), led by general director Placido Domingo, stages productions at Downtown’s Music Center, but the region’s most exciting company is Long Beach Opera (t 562/432-5934, w http://www.longbeachopera.org), which puts on challenging but well-regarded performances of modern and lesser-known operas, at rotating venues. Finally, Los Angeles Ballet (t 310/998-7782, w http://www.losangelesballet.org) is a recent attempt to fill a serious hole in the LA cultural scene, also performing at rotating venues.
The comedy scene in LA has long been a national proving ground for aspiring jokesters and inspired clowns, and it’s also a good place to catch live performances by established names as well as up-and-comers. The better-known places are open nightly, but are often solidly booked on weekends. Cover typically ranges from $10–30.
Not surprisingly for a place loaded with actors, LA has a very active theatre scene, with countless venues spread all over town; ticket services like LA Stage Alliance (t 213/614-0556, w http://www.lastagealliance.com) have discount tickets for given shows, under its LA Stage programme. The LA Weekly and the Friday LA Times both offer listings and reviews.
Many films are often released in LA months (or years) before they play anywhere else. You can catch mainstream releases in any mall-based multiplex, but if you’re after a golden-age-of-film atmosphere, head for one of the historic moviehouses or evocative second-run houses listed below – or check out the excellent Last Remaining Seats festival in June (tickets $20; w http://www.laconservancy.org) in classic movie palaces.
Not surprisingly for a city identified with mass consumerism, you can buy virtually anything in LA. The big department stores and exclusive Rodeo Drive are the first options for many tourists, along with the city’s massive malls. Big names in central LA include West Hollywood’s Beverly Center, at Beverly and La Cienega boulevards (t 310/854-0070, w http://www.beverlycenter.com); Westside Pavilion, Pico and Westwood boulevards, West LA (t 310/474-6255, w http://www.westsidepavilion.com); the Century City Marketplace, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd, West LA (t 310/553-5300, w westfield.com/centurycity); The Grove, 6301 W 3rd St, West LA (t 323/900-8080, w http://www.thegrovela.com) and Hollywood and Highland, at the eponymous Hollywood intersection (t 323/960-2331, w http://www.hollywoodandhighland.com). Many chic boutiques line Melrose Avenue between La Brea and Fairfax avenues.