Spend too much time perusing the cute cafés in Brentwood and you'll miss out on the sushi bars and noodle houses along West L.A.'s Sawtelle Boulevard. Once you've discovered the great running path around Silver Lake Reservoir, someone will tell you how much you should be exploring the hills above Echo Park. The typical beach experience of Malibu and Santa Monica never gets old, but the mystery and cultural history of San Pedro are worthy, too. And what about Koreatown? L.A. is the ultimate moving target.
Los Angeles Highlights
Don't leave without tasting...
A Double-Double cheeseburger with animal fries at In-N-Out, a West Coast burger chain. Don't ask what animal fries are—just order them. You can go for a jog later. You could also do worse than a French Dip sandwich at Philippe the Original downtown.
Where locals go to relax
Malibu. Take a walk on the beach at Topanga, go surfing at Surfrider Beach or sit and enjoy some fried shrimp with a group of bikers at Neptune's Net at County Line.
Exposition Park is full of them, between the Natural History Museum, the California African American Museum and the California Science Center. But for an only-in-L.A. museum experience, you have to visit either the Petersen Automotive Museum for a fascinating view into local car culture or the Getty Center for, if nothing else, the astonishing views.
Want to stay up late?
The cross-section of people queuing to buy a hot dog from Pink's in Hollywood at 2 a.m. or eating at Canter's Deli in the Fairfax district around midnight will tell you more about Los Angeles than any guidebook ever will.
Your child will always remember...
His or her first trip to the Griffith Observatory, whether it be for the astronomy show or the interactive exhibits.
If you want to fit in...
Do: go hiking in Runyon Canyon and shop at one of the neighbourhood weekly farmers’ markets. Don't: ask celebrities for autographs or jaywalk (cross a street illegally or in a reckless manner). Seriously, you might get a ticket.
Both the California Science Center and Griffith Observatory can be thoroughly explored without spending a penny, just like a trip to Venice Beach, a self-guided architectural tour through Silver Lake, a hike up Temescal Gateway Park and a sunset drive across Mulholland Drive or on Pacific Coast Highway. Another free activity: watch a TV taping of shows like 'Dancing With the Stars', 'Dr. Phil' and 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'.
Films shot here
If you land at LAX and come through the right terminal, you'll retrace the steps of Dustin Hoffman in the opening scene of the 1967 film The Graduate. Arrive by train at Union Station, and you're ‘on location’ for films ranging from Blade Runner to The Hustler. Venture downtown and you're on scene for Spiderman and Batman. L.A. is one big film set.
One awe-inspiring building
The Bradbury Building in the downtown area doesn't impress from the street and it wasn't designed by a world-famous architect (George H. Wyman did the honours in 1893), but it’s an absolute stunner, with sky-lit hues, wrought-iron railings and a church-like, otherworldly atmosphere.
For your first visit...
You can't visit L.A. without getting a view of the Pacific, no matter what time of year. You have a lot of choices—San Pedro, the South Bay, Venice, Santa Monica or Malibu. All have different vibes. Regardless, there's no quicker way to feel like an Angeleno—even if it's temporary—than by dipping your toes in the sand.