Los Angeles County, California

So glamorous it hurts, the city of Los Angeles is famous for its sun-soaked beaches, stylish shopping, supermodel-friendly dining and celebrity residents. This is a buzzing metropolis that will never let you forget its movie-making heritage: its world famous Hollywood sign, easily the most photographed LA landmark, can be seen from many points in the city and will be in the background as you stroll the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.
Other iconic LA experiences you won’t want to miss include swaggering down Sunset Strip, shopping (or window-shopping) in Beverly Hills and dosing up on Hollywood magic at Universal Studios. Hike to the top of Mount Lee, the hill on which the Hollywood sign’s 45ft-tall letters are planted, and you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of a city that’s constantly on the move.

Just outside the city, there are beaches, mountains, forests and lakes to explore, great for lazy sun-worshipping, gentle hiking and supercharged winter sports.

Los Angeles lies in Southern California on the Pacific coast. The city extends from Malibu in the north to Long Beach in the south. To the east are the mountains and deserts of San Bernardino County. LA is California’s most populated city, but outdoor adventurers will find plenty of open space nearby, such as the Santa Monica Mountains, the charming island of Santa Catalina and of course the glorious beaches that line the coast. Immediately north of the city, in the San Gabriel Mountains, is the 655,000-acre Angeles National Forest which contains the San Gabriel Dam and Castaic Lake. This unspoilt region is popular for hiking, fishing and swimming in summer and skiing in winter.

Enjoy the city, but don't miss out on conservation mined trips to Catalina Island and Angeles National Forest

With low rainfall, low humidity and plenty of sunshine, Los Angeles is an excellent year-round destination. Even in high summer, daytime temperatures remain comfortable and the evenings are warm and pleasant. Even in August and September, the hottest months, the thermometer rarely climbs too much beyond 77°F / 25°C, although occasionally it can rocket up to 95°F / 35°C. It stays mild all winter and frost is extremely rare, except on the mountains outside the city, where snow and flash floods can occur. January and February are the rainiest months.

Things to do

Visit the Griffith Observatory and the Getty Center
Both have great architecture, beautiful gardens and breathtaking views of Los Angeles. The Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, Mount Hollywood, is a science museum devoted to astronomy and space exploration. The Getty Center in Brentwood features a museum of photography and pre-20th century European art.

Walt Disney Concert Hall Take in a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall or the Hollywood Bowl
The architecture of the Hollywood Bowl and the Disney Concert Hall couldn’t be more different, but both venues are well worth seeing. The Hollywood Bowl, the largest natural amphitheatre in the United States, is known for its simple arched band shell. It has hosted a catalogue of greats including Fred Astaire, The Beatles, Luciano Pavarotti, Elton John and Kylie Minogue. The Disney Concert Hall’s mixture of sharp edges and curving lines make it a work of art in its own right. Designed in the 1990s by Frank Gehry, it has recognisable similarities to his other great project, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Pay your respects to the stars at the Westwood Village Cemetery

Many of Hollywood’s former stars and starlets are buried in the beautiful Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. The cemetery’s permanent residents include Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, Farrah Fawcett, Eva Gabor, Gene Kelly, and Dean Martin.

Fill up for a few dollars in the Farmers’ Market
LA has plenty of glamorous but pricey places to eat. If you’re in the mood for something more down to earth, head for the 1930s Farmers’ Market (which proudly calls itself The Original) on the northeast corner of Third Street and Fairfax Avenue. It sells fresh produce, of course, but it’s also the place to go for a quick fix of Cajun gumbo, Mexican burritos, French crepes, Spanish paella, Italian pizza, Korean beef or Texan barbecued ribs. Just about every major ethnic group in LA is represented.

Order a round of beer and brats
LA’s latest after-dark foodie buzz is a sexed-up version of the humble German sausage. The city now has several eateries which specialise in gourmet bratwurst. The varieties on offer are inventive, from the truly tempting, such as duck and bacon or apple and sage, to the utterly bizarre, like rattlesnake. Inspired by Berlin street food, they’re best paired with a stein of cold beer, imported from Germany or Belgium. If you’re in LA in October, you can indulge to the full at one of the Oktoberfest celebrations that take place every weekend, complete with traditional oompah music.

Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Bowl and Venice Beach
Go hiking in the Hollywood Hills
For a breath of fresh air, make for the Runyon Canyon Loop in the Hollywood Hills, a favourite place for locals to stretch their legs and compare designer trainers. The views from Cloud’s Rest at the top are so panoramic, you’ll feel like the king of the city. The round trip from the entrance on Fuller Avenue takes around an hour and a half.

Rent a beach cruiser bike and ride along the boardwalk
Start off at the Santa Monica Pier and then cruise south to funky Venice Beach. The boardwalk is wide, smooth and perfect for a leisurely ride and there’s always a carnival atmosphere when the sun shines on the Venice Beach boardwalk. From there, take the time to wander along the waterside footpaths of the Venice canal district.

Escape to Catalina Island
Catalina is about an hour away via a ferry from Long Beach. Catalina Island’s one and only city, Avalon, is built on a hillside and is reminiscent of a Mediterranean village. You can spend a relaxing day strolling around the island or you can opt for adventure and go zip lining, kayaking, or diving. Over three-quarters of the island is protected land, so there is plenty of rugged terrain to explore.

Catalina Island
Catalina Island
Tobey, who runs Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour, talks about the landscape, wildlife and adventure on Catalina Island, off the coast near Los Angeles. [02:37]

Find more information on California geography and 10 things to see and do in California.
Written by Emma Gregg and Katie Cook
Responsible Travel would like to thank the California Tourist Board for their sponsorship of this guide
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