Millions of visitors arrive each year in Los Angeles, eager to experience first-hand the famed land of modern mythology, wondrous optimism and immense creativity. The fantasy worlds of Disneyland and Hollywood, the extravagance of Beverley Hills and Malibu, and the sun-soaked beach culture are just some of the attractions within the 'City of Angels'.
Los Angeles is not really a city but rather a sprawling metropolis constituting more than 80 smaller city areas woven together by a daunting network of traffic-congested freeways without a clearly defined centre. LA is just one of these cities with Downtown at its heart, and lying outside the city limits is the surrounding conglomeration of cities that comprise LA County.
Los Angeles offers a dazzling variety of attractions and world-famous amusements. Downtown is a mixture of cultures and local communities: the traditional herbalists of Chinatown's Bamboo Lane; Little Tokyo with its sushi bars and Japanese gardens; and the narrow Latino-influenced Olvera Street. Los Angeles County is endowed with a rich diversity of backgrounds and a mix of people from 140 countries speaking 96 different languages.
West Hollywood: the focal point of gay and lesbian culture, the posh beachside resort of Santa Monica, body-builders at Muscle Beach and the childhood fantasy of Disneyland all add to LA's diversity. There are exciting museums, cinemas featuring every conceivable production, fashionable boutiques, comedy clubs, poetry readings and coffee house recitals, and music of every kind played in various venues throughout the city.
Underneath the huge 'Hollywood' sign on the crest of the Hollywood Hills, the high energy and pleasure-seeking atmosphere, bold billboards, beautiful sun-bronzed people, bright lights and fancy cars are images of a city that everyone loves to hate; but whether one likes what one finds or not, Los Angeles must be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
Los Angeles is the film and entertainment capital of the world and the name 'Hollywood' is the embodiment of glamour, success and money; the place where films are made, television shows are recorded and stars take up residence. The famous Hollywood sign on the hills above the city has become the enduring symbol of the movie industry and of Los Angeles itself - the 50-foot-high (15m) white letters can be seen from miles away. The historic heart of the movie industry is centred on Hollywood Boulevard where millions of visitors flock to see landmark attractions and museums.
The impressive Mann's (Grauman's) Chinese Theatre is famous for its courtyard where over 200 stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood and Frank Sinatra have set their signatures and imprints of their hands or feet in cement. For many years the theatre has been the spot for movie premieres and is modelled on a Chinese temple with columns, dragons and an ornate interior. Passing in front of the theatre is the mile-long Walk of Fame, the world-famous sidewalk embedded with the names of legendary television, film, radio, theatre and recording greats engraved within pink granite stars. More than 2,500 celebrities are honoured here, including Elvis Presley, Charlie Chapman, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson.
The cylindrical Capitol Records Tower is one of the most recognisable buildings in the city and is supposed to resemble a 12-storey stack of records with a needle on top that blinks out 'h-o-l-l-y-w-o-o-d' in Morse code. Other attractions include the Kodak Theatre (designed to host the Academy Awards) and the Hollywood Guinness World Records Museum, as well as the Hollywood Wax Museum and the Ripley's 'Believe It or Not!' Museum.
One of the most popular attractions in Los Angeles is Universal Studios Hollywood, reputedly the world's biggest film studio and theme park. The main attraction is the Studio Tour, a tram ride narrated by Jimmy Fallon that traverses the huge complex, passing stars' dressing rooms and famous back-lot sets, including an Old West town, the original house and motel from Hitchcock's Psycho, and the plane wreckage from Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds. Along the way visitors will experience several realistic staged-disasters such as an earthquake, an avalanche, an attack by 'Jaws' and a meeting with an enormous version of 'King Kong'.
Besides the tours there is a theme park that provides a thrilling introduction to the principles of special effects with several attractions and movie-related rides. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a undoubtedly a firm favourite, featuring a recreation of the village of Hogsmead complete with shops and attractions, the state-of-the-art Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, and the rustic Three Broomsticks tavern offering up hearty meals and butterbeer. Other attractions include the spectacular 'Waterworld' live action stunt performance, the Transformers 3D ride, the incredible immersive Walking Dead experience, The Simpsons ride. For younger visitors the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride is both heart-warming and utterly exciting.
The tour at Warner Bros offers a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at an authentic working studio and provides more of a technical slant than the Universal Studios tour, focussing on the authentic filmmaking procedure. Explore the sets used in productions like Gilmore Girls, The Big Bang Theory and Friends. The informative two-hour tour takes visitors to view the sets, prop construction, wardrobe and sound department, as well as visiting active film and television sets where it is sometimes possible to watch actors in the midst of filming. There is also an introductory film and museum depicting the studio's film history.
Claiming to be 'The Happiest Place on Earth', Disneyland is an integral part of an American childhood and was the world's first mega theme park designed for the family by Walt Disney in 1955. It is one of America's most famous attractions and despite competition from other similar parks in Florida, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai nothing can compare to the original. It is an enchanted kingdom of fantasy and imagination filled with magical entertainment and attractions.
The park is divided into eight 'lands' and each one features different rides, dining experiences and entertainment as well as daily live-action shows and parades. Adventureland, Fantasyland, Critter Country, Frontierland, Mickey's Toontown, Tomorrowland, New Orleans Square and Main Street USA offer such attractions as a boat trip through the underground caverns of Pirates of the Caribbean, an experience of the Wild West on the Thunder Mountain Railroad, a visit to Sleeping Beauty's Castle and flying with Dumbo the elephant, a giddy journey with Indiana Jones, a spooky tour of the Haunted Mansion, or the experience of a pitch-black rollercoaster ride inside Space Mountain, and a wet ride on Splash Mountain.
There is also a shopping, dining and entertainment district called Downtown Disney. Adjacent to Disneyland is California Adventure Park, a separate park minus the cartoon characters that offers further rides and rollercoasters, but an additional ticket is required. The parks are busiest during summer from mid-June to mid-September and during school holidays and there are usually long queues at the popular rides. The Fastpass system allows visitors to reserve a place in line at the park's busiest attractions. No day at Disneyland is complete without watching the nightly fireworks show with an appearance by Tinkerbell.
West LA is famous for its trend-setting style; the place where the 'stars' live, shop and go out on the town. The area includes some of the most prestigious neighbourhoods in Los Angeles, particularly Beverly Hills and Bel Air. Home of the rich and famous, and one of the world's most expensive residential areas, Beverly Hills flaunts its wealth with luxurious manors, tree-lined streets, grand estates and security gates concealing landscaped grounds that are home to the likes of Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford. Scheduled tours are available or Star Home Maps can be picked up at any street corner vendor for the latest on who lives where. The neighbourhood is also home to the famous shopping district centred on Rodeo Drive with expensive shops oozing designer labels such as Gucci, Armani and Louis Vuitton.
West Hollywood, between Beverly Hills and Hollywood, is the centre of LA's gay community and boasts the area's best restaurants, trendiest shops, eccentric boutiques and modern galleries along Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. Sunset Strip, a section of Sunset Boulevard, is famed for its nightlife with rock clubs, bars and posh hotels attracting a huge variety of characters, and many places have a history of big names. In the 1930s Errol Flynn and Rita Hayworth went dancing at nightclubs like Trocadero, by the 1970s it had become the focus of rock and roll with stage performances by the Doors and Elton John at Whisky-a-Go-Go club.
The miles of sandy beaches along the Pacific Ocean are a celebration of the Californian lifestyle with distinct neighbourhoods and oceanfront walks linking the communities. Malibu is popular with the privacy-seeking rich and famous and their mansions line strips of privately-owned shoreline; the wide sandy beaches, rocky outcrops and green open-spaces make Malibu the most scenic neighbourhood in LA. It presents the classic Californian beach babe image immortalised by The Beach Boys and Baywatch. LA's premiere beach community, Santa Monica, is known for its alternative beachfront atmosphere, as well as its famous hideaway Hollywood residents. The palm-lined cliffs, once the location of the homes of Clark Gable, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo, are today home to celebrities like Meryl Streep, Rod Stewart and Michelle Pfeiffer. The neighbourhood's famous landmark is the Santa Monica Pier, boasting old-world carnival attractions, including a wooden 1920s carousel with painted horses, and plenty of seafood restaurants.
Third Street Promenade is a lively pedestrian mall bustling with buskers, street vendors, evangelists and original shops, and is the heart of Santa Monica's cafes, restaurants and bars. Venice is best known for its Ocean Front Walk that is a non-stop parade of jugglers, artists, vendors, musicians and joggers. Venice Beach provides a classic Los Angeles lifestyle experience where beautiful sun-bronzed bodies on bicycles and rollerblades cruise along the walkway to Muscle Beach, where the outdoor gym is packed with weightlifters flexing for the onlookers. The area is full of laid back cafes and restaurants, health food shops, bike and blade rentals, and second hand record stores.
Located within the Griffith Park area, the Los Angeles Zoo is a large facility boasting 1,100 animals from around the world. The Zoo is currently adding naturalistic habitats for the animals, making the facility more attractive to both visitors and occupants. It is also a botanical garden, holding 800 plant species. Apart from the myriad natural life to be seen, there are animal shows, workshops and a petting zoo in store for visitors.
One of the world's most significant fossil sites, the tar pits in central Los Angeles have revealed fossils of plant and animal life preserved in the pits for tens of thousands of years. The fossils themselves are on display in the Page Museum on the site, while replicas of some of the animals, mammoths and sabre-toothed cats found there have been creatively re-placed in and around the pits. La Brea Tar Pits and museum also features interactive events, informative tours, exhibitions and 3D screenings.
The Griffith Park extends for 4,210 acres (17 km²) of well-kept public grounds and is often referred to as the 'Central Park' of Los Angeles. Rent a bicycle, take a hike or have a picnic under the iconic Hollywood sign. Within the park is the Griffith observatory, which apart from being a familiar filming location, is filled with attractions of its own and a significant site for the study of astronomy. The park has a gift shop and the 'Cafe at the End of the Universe'.
It's worth heading into downtown Los Angeles to see this strange Frank Gehry-designed concert hall. The silver-plated building can be described as art deco meets surrealism, and while it derives mixed admiration from visitors, its uniqueness is never argued. A walking tour with an explanation for the intricate design is on offer free of charge to anyone curious to know how the hall came about. There is also a restaurant in the building. Live performances change frequently. Check the website for a current list of what's on and for ticket prices.
Fantasy and illusion come alive at Magicopolis, where magic, music and special effects inspire awe and wonder. The shows at Magicopolis run between 90 minutes and two hours and feature comedy, magic, music, illusions, special effects and audience participation. Magic trick kits can be purchased to take home, and there are treats and refreshments available from the theatre's café.
A great attraction for kids in Los Angeles, Castle Park has a number of enticing entertainment options to offer adventure-seeking children. The arcade boasts hundreds of games with fun prizes to be won and a snack bar. The park's roller-coasters, antique train tours and mini-golf are also exciting for kids. There are souvenir shops and family restaurants, as well as a weekly magic show.
For kids who really want to get their hands dirty, Peach Tree Pottery offers children's pottery lessons in a friendly, relaxed environment. Aside from learning to use a potter's wheel, children will also be shown how to make pinch pots, coil pots and tile trivets - a world of ceramic fun.
When Walter Knott began selling berries, berry plants and pies from a roadside stand beside State Route 39 in the 1920s he could never have known what his stand would eventually become. As the highway developed over time, so did his stand, becoming a roadside eatery with entertainment and eventually turning into America's first theme park, Knott's Berry Farm. The park features a multitude of fun for visitors of all ages and boasts nine world-class roller coasters, a plethora of thrill rides, family rides, children's rides, water rides, a Ghost Town, Fiesta Village (portraying Spanish California), Indian Trails, Wild Water Wilderness and the Sky Cabin Tower where fabulous views can be enjoyed by those brave enough to climb to the top. Each October the park transforms into a spooky Halloween-themed 'haunted theme park' called Knott's Scary Farm.
Originally completed in 1974, then rebuilt in 1997, the Getty Villa is a faithful replica of a Roman villa that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in the year 79. Perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Villa was built to house the expanding art collection of oil tycoon J Paul Getty, and now has one of the world's finest displays of ancient Greek and Roman artefacts, comprising over 44,000 pieces. The best known item is Victorious Youth, one of the only surviving life-size Greek bronzes in existence. The Getty Villa also has over 20,000 books in its library, and collections of jewellery and coins. The free guided tours of both the exhibits and the gardens are highly recommended.
It is said that the Getty Center in Brentwood, Los Angeles is less a museum with artworks inside, than an artwork with a museum inside. Certainly the building, designed by Richard Meier and costing $1.2 billion to build in 1997, is celebrated for its architecture and gardens, while the wonderful views over LA are breathtaking. With over 1.3 million visitors, the Getty Center is one of the most visited museums in the USA, and it is well worth allocating a day to explore. It houses a premier collection of pre-20th century European paintings and artworks, and a leading archive of photography from the 19th and 20th centuries. The most famous work on display is undoubtedly Irises by Vincent van Gogh, although there are hundreds of other notable works, including Paul Gauguin's Arii Matamoe.
Hollywood's celebrities are a major tourist attraction in Los Angeles long after they're dead. Several cemeteries in LA are known for their famous residents, and visitors flock to pay homage to their idols at their final resting places.
One of the most famous cemeteries in Los Angeles is Westwood Village Memorial Park, home to the graves of Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, Billy Wilder, Natalie Wood and Walter Matthau. Forest Lawn Glendale houses the graves of Walt Disney, Nat 'King' Cole, and Humphrey Bogart. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard are here as well in the Great Mausoleum, but it isn't open to the public.
Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills has the graves of Lucille Ball, Liberace, Bette Davis and Buster Keaton; while Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City is home to celebrities like Bing Crosby, Bela Lugosi, John Candy, Rita Hayworth and Ray Bolger. Hillside Memorial Park in Baldwin Hills is the final resting place for Al Jolson, Jack Benny and Michael Landon.
The most famous celebrity cemetery, however, is Hollywood Forever, located on Santa Monica Boulevard in a scenic location under the HOLLYWOOD sign. Celebrity gravesites in Hollywood Forever include Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B DeMille, Mel Blanc and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Tourists looking for celebrity graves should always be respectful of other cemetery visitors who may be grieving. To find out where a specific celebrity is buried, visit www.findagrave.com.
A wildly popular family attraction in Los Angeles, Medieval Times is a dinner event that combines food and entertainment. Guests are treated to a four-course 11th-century feast while being entertained by six knights competing in the joust and other contests. The castle features a tower, courtyard, gift shop, torture museum, indoor stable, and a club with two bars and deejays.
Los Angeles is surely the entertainment capital of the world, and as such has a wealth of interesting attractions for children in the city and surrounds. There is no end to the abundance and variety of fun to be had by kids on holiday in Los Angeles.
If parents manage to drag their children away from the wonders of Disneyland, or the theme park at Universal Studios, there are also a number of beaches, parks, museums and shows to enjoy while on holiday in LA. There are also various tour buses offering a comprehensive Los Angeles sightseeing experience.
The weather in Los Angeles is generally sunny and warm, perfect for a holiday, but summers do get a little too warm and and there's more rain in winter. The best time to holiday with kids in LA is spring or autumn, when the weather's at its most pleasant and the holiday crowds haven't inundated the city.
Los Angeles' Mediterranean climate is generally warm and pleasant all year round. Protected from extremes of temperature and humidity by the Santa Monica and San Gabriel mountains, and influenced by the warm, moist air from the Pacific, its summers are dry and sunny and winters cool and wet with winter temperatures averaging between 48°F (9°C) and 68°F (20°C). Offshore breezes cool the beach communities during the hot summer months when coastal highs reach 74°F (23°C), but inland temperatures can rise to well over 90°F (32°C), especially in the numerous canyons and valleys of the area. Smog often gathers in low-lying areas and sometimes the hot, dusty Santa Ana winds blow in strongly from the surrounding mountains.
Dining in LA is as exciting and varied as the rest of the city's offerings. LA's restaurants cater to every cuisine and budget imaginable, from 12-course feasts with celebrities on the side, to delicious Mexican burritos from a sidewalk café. Apart from the wonderful variety of ethnic food, there is a strong emphasis on organic and health foods and many eateries now cater to this market. Another distinctive LA trend is eclectic and experimental food, making this city the proud progenitor of the Thai Chicken Pizza as well as its own distinctive style of fusion sushi.
Many top restaurants and their celebrity chefs are clustered on the Westside, while the vintage restaurants are located downtown and in Hollywood. With its year-round mild climate outdoor dining is popular, helping to make power lunches the stuff of ritual among locals.
Tips of 15 to 20% are expected; console yourself with the thought that your generosity may be funding a future Oscar-winning script. Smoking is banned in all restaurants and transgressors may be fined.
Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck wows the rich and famous at his flagship restaurant that boasts a reputation as one of the finest in LA. Centred in an outdoor courtyard, the olive tree shaded tables are the most desirable and the place for celebrity sightings. Chefs recreate Puck's classic dishes, including his famous designer pizzas, and Spago classics such as Wolfgang's Original Veal Weinerschnitzel. Creative desserts add a special finish to any meal. Advanced reservations essential. Open for lunch from Monday to Saturday, and dinner every day.
A Santa Monica institution, this is one of the top Italian restaurants in the country, boasting an impressive wine cellar, complementing the exquisite modern Italian cuisine. Piero Selvaggio has raked in numerous awards for his flagship restaurant, attracting an elegant clientele. The menu tempts guests with delicious options such as grilled veal chops with garlic and wild mushroom sauce, or seafood ravioli. Closed on Sundays, open for dinner the rest of the week and lunch on Fridays, reservations essential.
Patina is the flagship restaurant of chef Joaquim Splichal, whose nouvelle cuisine has long been a favourite with Hollywood's elite. The style is understated elegance, with beautifully presented food and superior service. There are exquisite seasonal tasting menus including wild game and seafood, as well as garden dishes for vegetarians. Patina is justifiably famous for its service and outstanding wine list. Reservations essential, closed on Mondays.
Japanese chef/owner Nobuyuki Matsuhisa creates fantastic dishes by blending South American spices and salsas with Japanese cuisine, presenting diners with one of the most creative menus in the city. Tuna filled with black truffles and capped with caviar, or sautéed squid in a garlic and soy sauce are examples of the delicacies available in addition to delicate sushi rolls with garlic, fresh chilli and special sauces. Matsuhisa is popular with celebrities and gourmets, reservations are essential. Open all week for dinner and for lunch Monday to Friday.
Considered by many to be the best seafood house in LA, Water Grill is always packed with downtown business folk who are joined in the evening by concert and theatre patrons. It is known particularly for its fish and shellfish, and boasts a great oyster bar, as well as a superb wine cellar. Irresistible desserts include maple cheesecake and caramel bread pudding. Reservations recommended. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
This is one of LA's most crowded restaurants and also one of the noisiest, packed with locals, celebrities and visitors who come in awe of Wolfgang Puck's reputation and leave enchanted by the food. The style of cuisine is a mixture of different ethnicities, particularly a fusion of Chinese and French ingredients and technique. The menu includes signature dishes such as the Whole Sizzling Catfish, dramatically presented, as well as seasonal creations that include Shanghai lobster with a spicy ginger-curry sauce or roasted Cantonese duck. Reservations essential. Dinner daily and lunch Wednesday to Friday.
Border Grill is a trendy, pleasantly raucous and brightly painted eatery whose atmosphere perfectly complements the vibrant flavours and bold, colourful foods of Mexico as presented by celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger. The menu features authentic dishes learnt in the homes and markets of Mexico with an added touch of gourmet ingenuity, and ranges from tamales, empanadas and tacos to daily ceviche specials and stuffed tortillas, accompanied by excellent margaritas and fine tequilas. Lunch and dinner daily, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
Overlooking the Maguire Gardens, Café Pinot is ideally located for a business lunch or pre-theatre dinner (offering a free shuttle to the Music Centre), with an outdoor terrace shaded by old olive trees. One of the city's most popular restaurants, it is modelled after Patina: the top-ranked flagship restaurant, but is designed to be less formal with lighter bistro-style meals. The tender mustard-crusted rotisserie chicken is superb, and there is also fresh fish, pastas and lamb shank to enjoy. Reservations essential. Lunch Monday to Friday, and dinner Monday to Saturday.
This luxurious restaurant is set in an Italian Romanesque-styled building, constructed in 1928, which still retains its Art Deco elegance and charm. Its tempting menu offers delicious Italian fare such as basil gnocchi or porcini mushroom stuffed ravioli. The linguini with lobster and the braised short ribs are also good. Reservations are essential, open for dinner Wednesday to Saturday.
The Ivy is a world-famous Los Angeles restaurant, having had a reputation for being the best place to spot Hollywood celebrities and insiders, the restaurant has fed everyone from Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise to Paris Hilton and Beyonce. Although no longer the go-to spot for A-listers, the New York-style food and cocktails are good, with cheeful decor and a lively atmosphere. Reservations are essential, prices tend to be excessive.
Imagine eating a gourmet meal in total darkness, experiencing the food and your dining partners in a whole new way. That's the magic of Dining in the Dark at Opaque, guaranteed to be one of the most interesting and enjoyable restaurant experiences of your life. The wait staff are all legally blind, but their service is impeccable, and highly skilled. They guide the dining guests to their tables, bring the food, orientate one to the table layout and cuisine, and generally serve as host and chaperone.
The dishes, which guests select in the lighted lobby before being lead into the darkness, includes Ahi tuna tartar, beef tenderloin, and chocolate dessert cake. Expect to abandon your silverware around the main course when most diners report using their hands and loving every minute of it. At around $90 per person, it's not cheap but the overall experience is truly priceless.
With great views of the sea and pier in summer, and cosy, warm booths in winter, the Beachcomber Café is a local favourite on the rapidly regenerating Malibu Pier. The service is friendly and attentive, and the eclectic fusion menu is strong on seafood (try the Ahi Tuna burger). A good value wine list as well as fantastic cocktail choices are available.
This festival has been a Pasadena tradition for over a century and is one of the most colourful events in the world. The New Year's Day celebrations feature the Rose Parade, which is a breathtaking spectacle of marching bands, equestrian units and magnificent floats, completely covered in flowers and petals. Float construction takes about a year to complete and the Post Parade is an opportunity for the public to admire the fantastic workmanship and the floral creativity from close up. After the parade the Rose Bowl Game takes place between two college champions and is renowned as the 'Superbowl' of college football.
Known as the 'other' parade, the Doo Dah Parade began as a parody of the Rose Parade. Where the latter had a list of rules and regulations and invited performers, the former decided to exult in the opposite with no theme, no judges, and no commercials.
Every year, thousands of marching groups and acts travel through the streets in a colourful procession of humour, eccentricity, and mayhem. They do almost anything they please and attract enormous crowds of spectators along the route.
Entries are unusual and entertaining, and have included Dead Rose Queens, The Spawn of Captain James T. Kirk, the Royal Doo Dah Orchestra, the Invisible Man Marching Band, Caesar's Circus, BBQ and Hibachi Marching Grill Team, and Bungee Barbies, among others.
During the annual migration of the Californian Gray Whale from Alaska to Mexico, whales can be seen passing along the California Coast and numerous whale watching excursions are available from Los Angeles city harbours or further south from the city of Dana Point. In January, the annual Whale Fiesta celebrates the start of the season at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, with a family day filled with activities, exhibitions, contests, arts and crafts, food, music and talks. In March the Dana Point Festival of Whales features fairs, street processions and non-stop entertainment for the whole family.
The greatest annual spectacle in Chinatown is the colourful Chinese New Year celebrations, which is famous for its Golden Dragon Parade involving a magnificent procession of painted, undulating dragons. Contests, fairs, firecrackers, and lots of authentic food highlight the festivities.
The annual presentation of the Oscars is the biggest movie-related event in the world that recognises excellence in the film industry among producers, actors, directors, technicians and writers. Every year the world's attention is on the entertainment community to see who will receive the celebrated gold statuettes representative of the highest honour in filmmaking.
Although Knott's Berry Farm is a year-round family attraction in Los Angeles, locals and tourists flock to the park each October when it puts on its annual Halloween Haunt to become Knott's Scary Farm. Rides and attractions are converted to fit the macabre Halloween theme, and more than a dozen mazes and 'scare zones' are constructed. Park employees dress as werewolves, vampires, zombies and other ghoulish creatures, and there are seven special live shows. Visitors are encouraged to dress in costume as well. Knott's Scary Farm is not appropriate for small children.
Although it is actually a Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo (5 May) is equally big in the United States, especially in those states near to the border or with a large Mexican population. The day commemorates Mexican victory over the French in the battle of Puebla in 1862. Throughout various cities across the United States there are many celebrations in bars, pubs, cantinas and restaurants, much like St. Patrick's Day in March however with more tequila and less green beer. In cities with stronger Mexican populations there may be numerous festivals and traditional dancing.
Home of all things cool and the birthplace of pop culture, the nightlife in Los Angeles is second to none with some of the edgiest bars and clubs in the world. Whether watching world-class shows, dining alongside some of Tinsel Town's hottest stars, or drinking at the hippest clubs in the world, a night out in LA is never dull.
On any given night there will be band performing somewhere, whether a local and upcoming band or the hottest international act, the choices are endless. The only problem is getting tickets, so it is wise to plan ahead if you're set on catching a concert. The club scene is absolutely overflowing with variety and those looking for anything from a trendy night sipping on mojitos to dancing the night away will have no problem finding something to suit their tastes.
Los Angeles' chaotic layout means there is no central nightlife district. Instead, there is a variety of different options scattered around the city. The streets of Hollywood offer a dizzying choice of clubs and bars. Swing down to Westwood for cocktail and dive bars, or for rooftop lounges head to the Valley. Los Angeles' nightlife scene is always changing so you are always bound to find something new and hip.
Head down to Largo and catch one of America's hottest new acts performing. The world famous Orpheum Theatre hosts a multitude of theatrical productions, concerts and film festivals, while across town the Geffen Playhouse is the place to see dramatic and comedic shows. The Kodak Theatre hosts not only the Academy Awards, but also big name headliners.
For sheer variety and scale, LA shopping is hard to beat. This is a fashion-conscious, trend-setting consumer paradise with the shopping options to match.
Your best buys are fashion items, sporting goods and gear, locally produced wine from the Napa Valley, movie paraphernalia and collectables.
If you're looking for both designer wear and celebrity sightings, head for Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive where big name jewellery and haute couture stores are in abundance. For more unusual and eccentric items, head for Venice Boardwalk or Melrose Avenue. Nearby Main Street is good for trendy but affordable attire, as well as antiques and collectables.
Certainly the best-value LA shopping can be found at the discount outlet complexes on the edge of town. Here you can find all the big name brands at substantial discounts - up to 70 percent off the list price. Check out Ontario Mills and Desert Hills Premium Outlets for some great bargains. The Grove is an attractive outdoor mall with a host of high-end and reasonably-priced brands, its sister centre The Americana, situated in Glendale, is bigger and equally pleasant.
Of course LA, like every big American city, has its share of mega-malls. The best of these are the Beverly Center, with nine floors of stores and restaurants, and Westside Pavilion, which includes a wonderful three-floor Barnes and Noble bookstore. Due in part to its almost year-round sunny weather, LA embraces markets as an integral part of the local shopping experience; weekend shoppers can take their pick from a range of eclectic flea markets, curated vintage pop-ups, farmers' markets, swap meets and markets specialising in delectable food and drink.
A Sales Tax of 8.25 percent is built into the purchase price. However, as such sales taxes are set at state level, there is no way to obtain a refund from the federal government for non-US visitors.
The city of LA sprawls over such a large area that getting around without a car can be frustrating and time consuming. The complex network of freeways connecting the sprawl can be intimidating, especially for those not used to driving in big cities, but with a map or good directions, hiring a car is the best and most popular way to see LA. If possible, visitors should avoid rush hour traffic, which is heaviest from 7am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm, when freeways often come to a standstill.
It is also possible to get around by bus, but frequent transfers and long distances can make this slow and impractical, and it is not recommended for late-night travel. The Metro rail system has three lines, which cover only a small area of LA, but it is frequent and efficient. Taxis are also available, but they can be expensive due to the long distances. Ride-hailing taxi services, like Uber, are a good option.
Sightseeing in LA presents certain challenges. For one, the city is immense, stretching out in every direction, and its various attractions are often miles apart. Also, since it's an agglomeration of small and previously separate towns, LA lacks a definite focal point, making it hard to get to grips with the city's character.
The best way to go about your sightseeing is to use the various tour buses that connect the attractions, hail a taxicab or an Uber. LA is a year-round destination, although it can get pretty hot during the summer months of July to September. Key sights are the tours of the great movie production houses of Universal Studios and Warner Brothers, experiencing the glamour of Hollywood, the original Disneyland, and the vibrant beach communities of Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Walking tours focused on downtown LA's art deco architecture and historic theatres is also worthwhile.
If you're in town for a few days it might be worth purchasing the Go Los Angeles Card which gives you free entry to over 35 attractions, as well as shopping and dining discounts, free tours and a guidebook. From $85 per day.
The name itself suggests images of all that is harsh, inhospitable and hellish, and it is not by chance that many of the park's features have names like Coffin Peak, the Funeral Mountains, Dante's View, the Devil's Golf Course and Furnace Creek. These are the topographical features of a waterless desert landscape that is as hot as Hades. Average summer temperatures are 112°F (44°C); eggs can be fried on the baking ground and the hottest temperature in the world was recorded here at 134°F (56.7°C) - in the shade. Yet despite this hostile wilderness, it is a heavily visited tourist destination with spectacular desert scenery, interesting wildlife, remarkable geological formations and sites of historical interest.
There are miles of rippled sand dunes, the sheer black walls with ancient petroglyphs of Marble Canyon and incredible views from Zabriskie Point and Dante's View. Amazing kaleidoscopes can be found at Artist's Palette where the intensely coloured hillside has been eroded into a tableau of red, gold, black and green, and the mineral-rich waters of the saline Badwater Lake that evaporate into sharp crystal formations. At the Devil's Golf Course, the saltpan on the valley floor is littered with lumps of crystallised salt. In the centre the pan drops to almost 300ft (91m) below sea level, the lowest point in the western hemisphere. Hoards of people wait to tour the Spanish-Moorish luxury of Scotty's Castle, a bizarre mansion with indoor waterfalls and a remote-controlled piano player that was built by 'Death Valley Scotty' in the 1920's for Albert Johnson, a Chicago insurance tycoon. Unfortunately, Scotty's Castle is closed until 2020 due to flood damage.
Although winter is the peak season, many tourists are beginning to tour Death Valley from the comfort of air-conditioned cars, visiting sites at sunrise or sunset, booking into comfortable hotel accommodation and cooling off in the pool at Stovepipe Wells Village.
Located approximately 25 miles (40km) southeast of Los Angeles and founded in 1857 by grape farmers and wine makers, Anaheim (meaning 'home by the Santa Anna River' in German) is known as the home of California's Disneyland. This Orange Country town farms walnuts, lemons, and, of course, oranges and offers visitors a range of fun and exciting activities to enjoy. Take the kids to Disneyland to enjoy a magical world of fun and rides with all their favourite Disney characters; enjoy a day of thrill rides at America's first theme park, Knott's Berry Farm; go back to the Middle Ages at Medieval Times; take a tour of Universal Studios Hollywood; explore the fascinating marine life at the Aquarium of the Pacific; soak up the sun on Laguna or Newport Beach, or splash out in a day of shopping, dining and exploring the shops at Anaheim GardenWalk. Another fun day out is catching an Anaheim Angels baseball game at Angels Stadium.
Even with the stiff competition among Southern California theme parks, Six Flags Magic Mountain has a solid reputation for the biggest, most thrilling rides in the area. This world-class theme park was recently named Roller Coaster Capital of the World with 18 coasters, including Apocalypse, the Green Lantern, Batman, The Riddler's Revenge, and the Road Runner Express.
The park offers many other rides for all ages, and kids will love meeting their favourite Looney Tunes characters and Justice League superheroes at the family shows. Magic Mountain is dotted with restaurants, snack stands, souvenir shops and other stores, and the park will even hold your parcels at the exit while you enjoy yourself. Attached to the park is Hurricane Harbor, a water park with more than a dozen rides ranging from the thrilling Black Snake Summit waterslides to the family-friendly Castaway Cove play area.