Do you want to walk on the beach or hunt for the Hollywood sign? Maybe catch a football game or set sail to Catalina Island. The hardest part about planning a trip to Los Angeles is deciding what’s at the top of the must-do list. Having a rental car, and staying off the roads during rush hour, makes exploring Los Angeles countless colorful neighborhoods easier. Spots like Rancho Palos Verdes might not be as well-known as Malibu, but they all offer something to make you smile when you roll out of bed in the morning.
Whether you’re looking to make a splash, or just stroll in some soft sand, Malibu’s Zuma Beach won’t disappoint. Bring a Frisbee, snooze in the sand, or take the plunge. But be forewarned, the water can be chilly!
Pepperdine University is just 15 minutes away. Even if your days of higher education are long over, it’s worth heading to campus to take-in the Pacific ocean views. Exhibitions change every semester at the on campus Frederick R. Weisman Museum. Open Tuesday through Sunday, admission is free. If you want to experience the beach like a local, a Malibu vacation rental can be a good option for traveling families or anyone who simply wants more room to spread out.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Just a 30-minute drive from the Los Angeles International Airport, Rancho Palos Verdes and Terranea Resort, (pronounced terra-NAY-a) could be one of L.A.’s best-kept secrets. Along with a spa and many tasty onsite eateries, the resort’s coastal location means guests can take in both sunrise and sunset views. On clear days, Catalina Island dominates the seaside view. But don’t just settle for a look, set sail. Catalina Express ferries run from the Long Beach Port throughout the day. You’ll need about 20 minutes to make the drive from Terranea to the port.
Catalina’s main port, Avalon, is a fun to simply stroll and have lunch by the beach. For folks who enjoy being on the go, there ziplining, kayak rentals, or island tours in an open-air biofuel H1 Hummer. If you’re lucky, you might spot one of Catalina’s resident bison.
Why would you want to stay in Hollywood? Because it’s Hollywood. Trendy, hip hotels abound. Find your favorite celebrities’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, take in a movie at the TCL Chinese Theatre, (formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre), and snap a shot of the cement hand and footprints of some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars. If it’s the iconic sign you seek, head to the hills of Griffith Park to take in some of the best views.
Westwood & West Beverly Hills
When you walk into the lobby of the W Los Angeles – West Beverly Hills, it’s hard to believe the hotel was once a college dormitory for UCLA students. Offering 297 rooms that range from studios to a suite with a state-of-the-art theater room, the hotel is located right on the edge of the college campus, and quiet, residential West Beverley Hills. Guests can wander through Westwood and grab a bite to eat, drinks or catch a movie. But simply staying put and lounging by the W pool isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon either.
Once you’ve soaked up some Southern California sun, see where dinosaurs once roamed at the La Brea tar pits, or race to the Petersen Automotive Museum. The museum is home to a unique collection of vehicles, including the red Ferrari made famous by Tom Selleck in the television series Magnum PI, and a custom Popemobile. There’s even a vault for uber select sets of wheels. Both spots are about a 20-minute drive from the hotel.
Downtown Los Angeles
There was a time when folks did little more than drive through downtown Los Angeles. Now downtown is the talk of the town. After checking into the Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC), you can get in a workout in the 80-thousand square feet of athletic space, or simply grab a drink before making the 15 minute or so walk to L.A. LIVE. The bustling entertainment complex includes The Grammy Museum, restaurants, a bowling alley, movie theaters and more. Sports fans will want to check out who’s playing at STAPLES Center. It’s the home turf for four professional sports franchises: the NBA’S Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. Professional football is about a 15-minute drive away at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the temporary home of the Los Angeles Rams.
Pasadena & San Marino
Looking to escape from the hustle, bustle and traffic that comes with LA living? Head just 12 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. With specialized gardens covering 120 acres, you’ll forget all about sparkling skyscrapers. The private, nonprofit institution was founded in 1919 by businessman and railroad tycoon Henry E. Huntington. In addition to the gardens, the onsite library houses a collection of rare books and manuscripts, and The Huntington Art Collections feature 650 paintings and 440 sculptures.
You also have Huntington to thank for Pasadena’s iconic hotel, The Langham Huntington. Opened in 1914, the more than 100-year-old property has a way of making you relax the moment you arrive. There are crystal chandeliers and antique paintings, but fun pink amenities and unexpected touches like a copy of the book Alice in Wonderland in rooms, prevent the property from feeling stuffy.
Star spotting is part of the Los Angeles experience, no matter what neighborhood you roam, but it takes on even more glam when you spot the who’s who of Hollywood, spending a day at the horse races. Santa Anita Park is about a 15-minute drive from the hotel. If you want to look the part, be sure to bring a hat.