On a cool, breezy midsummer afternoon, we found ourselves facing the daunting task of exploring the sprawling city of Los Angeles (LA), USA, in three days. Our itinerary had been made weeks in advance, but that preparation seemed pointless as we drove out of the LAX, or the Los Angeles International Airport, in a cab.
Miles of grey highway led to the centre of the Californian capital, which stretched as far as the eye could see. It culminated in a sudden outcrop of skyscrapers – downtown LA.
“This city is like Mumbai. It has Hollywood,” my father promptly announced, to which my sister said, “No, LA is more like Delhi. It’s spread out.” The metropolis, however, is that, and much more. It is beautiful, spacious, and people here are crazy about their movies. Here’s how you can make the most of the city in three days.
One of the city’s star attractions is, of course, the Hollywood Sign. It overlooks a prime neighbourhood by the same name. That is the first place most city guides recommend visitors to head to. But while we only had time to view the sign from a residential lane, those who wish to get closer can trek to the landmark, which is situated on Mount Lee (a peak in the Santa Monica mountains). Or, head to Sunset Boulevard (an iconic road flanked by palm trees), which also gives you a glimpse of the sign.
Movies and more
The moment we arrived at Hollywood Boulevard — home to the TLC Chinese Theatre, the Dolby Theatre where the Academy Awards are annually held, and the Hollywood Walk Of Fame — we knew this was the most commercial and probably the most densely crowded area of the city. Actors impersonating popular film characters such as Wolverine (from the X-Men series) and the Joker (from The Dark Knight; 2008) were strolling around the pavements, snapping pictures with anyone they could find.
The Walk Of Fame featured names of several Oscar-winning industry members, including film-maker Steven Spielberg and actor Nicole Kidman. But the most exciting bit about the over 2.1km walk is the area inside the Chinese Theatre complex. Here, actors such as the late Robin Williams and Marilyn Monroe have left their handprints and footprints on cement slabs. While Williams’ slab reads, ‘Carpe diem’ (seize the day), Monroe’s has ‘Prefer Blondes’ written across it.
By the ocean
LA county has several beaches. Most of them, including Venice Beach, Santa Monica Beach and Manhattan Beach, are crowd-pullers. We made our way to the Santa Monica Pier. The most prominent structure here is the multicoloured Ferris wheel. Several restaurants line the road opposite the pier.
If you are fond of amusement parks and aren’t afraid of roller coasters and 3D rides, you could dedicate a day to The Universal Studios. The minimum price for a ticket is $95 (Rs 6,398) per person. While that may be on the expensive side, if you are a fan of the movies, this park will take your breath away. They also recently opened The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter.
Hop on, hop off
They say walking is the best way to see a city. But we covered LA by foot and cab rides, simply because of the distances between places. You can pass through the unbelievably plush Beverly Hills (you often see open-air tourist vehicles that offer tours of the expensive houses of Hollywood celebrities from the outside here) by car, or walk around the shopping hub on Rodeo Drive. You can also drive to and back from Malibu, a beach city in LA county, via the stunning Pacific Coast Highway. The travel time from Santa Monica is about 30 minutes.
How to get around
The cabs in LA are expensive. If you want to sightsee, or travel from one spot to the other in a car, it’s best to Uber it. The metro services are also a good option.
You may hire a car, which also turns out to be reasonable, provided you aren’t worried about accidentally driving on the wrong side of the road.