Think Los Angeles (LA), USA, and the iconic Hollywood sign may be the first to come to mind. Theatres, museums, the Walk Of Fame and party spots frequented by stars are on most tourist’s agendas on their visits here, but there’s a lot more to LA. For those keen on exploring further, here’s a guide to food, shopping, and the best cultural offerings.
Self-guided walking tours
If you don’t care much for what the gates of celebrity homes look like (trust us, you won’t be able to look beyond them), Beverly Hills star house tours are a waste of time and money. Instead, download your own walking tour of the upscale neighbourhood from www.lovebeverlyhills.com, with which you can check out art, culture, history, shooting locations and even the best sweet shops in the area. Enticed by the latter, we checked out Edelweiss Chocolates — the seven-decade-old store whose chocolate conveyor belt even once featured on the famous sitcom, I Love Lucy — and Sprinkles, which has the world’s first cupcake ATM. Also, take a stroll down the super-expensive Rodeo Drive stretch, where every designer you can think of has a store with an elaborate window display. In case you’re too lazy to walk around, $5 can get you a 40-minute ride across town on the Beverly Hills Trolley, along with a narrated tour of the city.
The state of California is known to have the steepest taxes across the US, so mainstream shopping is an avoidable affair — especially if your trip includes visiting other states in the country. Instead, we’d recommend heading to some cool flea markets for eclectic finds at throwaway prices.
Sundays see the parking lot of the Fairfax High School turn into a flea market termed the Melrose Trading Post. Two hundred-odd vendors set up stalls selling vintage furniture and clothing, knick knacks for your house, film and TV memorabilia, great food and more, while live bands complete the setting. As for those who are up for some jostling, vintage store Jet Rag’s legendary Sunday sale has huge crowds clamouring over bags full of clothes priced at a measly $1 each. Walk along the same stretch and you’ll find plenty of other vintage stores with graffiti-laden walls.
TV show tapings
Everyone’s aware of just how many TV shows are filmed in front of live audiences in LA. What doesn’t strike tourists is that it’s very easy — and absolutely free — to attend such shoots, provided you book your spot in advance. Browse through audience casting websites like www.1iota.com and www.tvtix.com, and put in ticket requests for tapings of shows such as The Odd Couple and 2 Broke Girls, among others. We had our heart set on watching Jimmy Kimmel tape his live show with Keira Knightley as a guest, but his recordings tend to get booked well in advance.
Theme park thrills
There are lots of great amusement parks in and around Los Angeles — Universal Studios Hollywood, Sea World, Disneyland, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbour, and the more whimsical, carnival-like Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier. A little further, towards San Diego, there’s LegoLand. On our day trip to Universal, we noticed it had some great rides for kids as well as adults, and a studio tour that takes you through the sets of various TV shows and films. Our favourite part was the ride through Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, where the houses of all the leading cast members are left intact.
Not many speak of Los Angeles as a gourmand’s haunt, but once they’ve been to the Farmer’s Market — side by side with the high-end shopping and dining complex, The Grove — they’ll never forget the experience. From burgers at Short Order to burritos at Loteria, the food here is great, and you’ll have a hard time choosing your meal. Also check out rows of vendors selling organic produce, pricey gourmet food and even fancy snacks for pets. If you love a good spicy meal, be sure to visit the Light My Fire store, which is dedicated to all ingredients fiery. Don’t forget to try the salted caramel ice cream at Bennett’s before you leave.
The writer’s trip to Los Angeles was sponsored by AXN India and hosted by CBS Studios.