David Mcnew  /  Getty Images file
A stateboarder rides in Venice, California. Created in the early 20th century with canals like those of Venice, Italy, the city later became a haven for the beatnik culture in the 1950s. Venice then attracted the 1960s counter-culture, artists, musicians and bodybuilders such as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The beach is now an international tourist destination.
updated 8/7/2006 1:56:37 PM ET 2006-08-07T17:56:37

Cruising Along the Coast: Driving along the sunny coastline with the top down and your hair blowing in the warm wind is the quintessential Southern California experience -- one that never loses its appeal, even for the locals. Stop and visit whatever interests you: a Malibu cantina, the famous Santa Monica pier, or a South Bay beach -- a casual cruise along the shoreline is good for the soul (B.Y.O. Mustang convertible).

Visiting Venice's Ocean Front Boardwalk: You haven't visited L.A. properly until you've rented some skates in Venice and embarrassed yourself in front of thousands while taking in the human carnival around you. Nosh on a Jody Maroni's "haute dog," buy some knock-off sunglasses, and realize how pathetically out of shape you are compared to all the tan and trim locals -- all while enjoying the wide beach, blue sea, and assorted performers along the boardwalk. Can't skate? Sissies can rent a bicycle and pedal along the bike path.

Basking at the Beach: This is, after all, L.A. -- so get thy buttocks to a beach. Watch a volleyball tournament at Hermosa Beach, take surf lessons at Manhattan Beach, or gawk at the world's vainest weight lifters pumping iron at Venice Beach. Surfers are always spotted at the Malibu beaches, and local families prefer to pitch their umbrellas at Zuma Beach.

Visiting the "Happiest Place on Earth," the Disneyland Resort: The resort's worldwide appeal is evident in the virtual United Nations of revelers traipsing through Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and the Disney's California Adventure park. And don't forget to constantly hum the "It's a Small World" song that's now stuck in your head.

Dining at Spago (or The Ivy or Koi or Mastro's): Far less expensive than a day at Universal Studios or Disneyland, dining at one of L.A.'s übertrendy A-list celebrity haunts is an experience to be filed under "Only in L.A." Hear dialogue straight out of The Player while eating fine food prepared for the world's pickiest eaters ("I can't eat that! Take it away.").

Cruising Sunset Boulevard: It's a must for first-time visitors because you'll see a cross-section of everything that is L.A.: legendary clubs, studios, hotels, and zip codes that you'll instantly recognize from the silver screen and TV shows. The journey ends with a trip to Malibu's fabled beaches, where those classy Baywatch episodes are filmed (how perfect).

Touring the Getty Center: See the result of unlimited funds and very expensive taste at this multifaceted cultural center looming large over the city. The ultramodern facility, more airy and inviting than it looks from below, features a museum housing the impressive art collection of deep-pocketed industrialist J. Paul Getty, a postmodern garden, and breathtaking views of L.A. A sleekly high-tech funicular whisks you from freeway level to this city in the clouds.

Spending a Day Downtown: If you're looking for a healthy dose of ethnic culture, you'll find it in Downtown L.A. Take a self-guided tour of the mind-blowing Walt Disney Concert Hall or cutting-edge Museum of Contemporary Art, stop in for a snack at the bustling Grand Central Market, pick up some inexpensive Mexican handcrafts along colorful and historic Olvera Street, and have dim sum in Chinatown.

Power Shopping: You'll see "I'd Rather Be Shopping at Nordstrom" license-plate frames on Lexuses all over L.A., evidence that spending money is a major pastime here. Whether it's $5 vintage bowling shirts, $10,000 Beverly Hills baubles, or anything in between, you're sure to find it in L.A.'s cornucopia of consumerism. My favorite shopping zones are the eclectic shops along Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the endless ethnic oddities at the Grand Central Market in Downtown L.A., and the ultratrendy stores such as GR2 and Giant Robot along Sawtelle Boulevard in Japantown.

Strolling Wilshire Boulevard's Museum Row: Natural history meets pop culture meets modern art along Museum Row. The La Brea Tar Pits, Petersen Automotive Museum, Craft & Folk Art Museum, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art are all shoulder-to-shoulder in the heart of L.A. The only problem is that it's too much to see in a day.

Taking a Gourmet Picnic to the Hollywood Bowl: What better way to spend a typically warm L.A. evening than under the stars with a picnic basket, a bottle of wine, and some world-class entertainment? In addition to being the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Bowl hosts visiting performers ranging from chamber music quartets to jazz greats to folk humorists. The imposing white band shell always elicits appreciative gasps from first-time Bowl-goers.

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Take a Tour of the Walt Disney Concert Hall: Built with a lot of Disney money but without a trace of goofiness, this stunning accomplishment of art and architecture is the crown jewel of Downtown (you'd have to fly to Spain to see architect Frank Gehry's similar architectural masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum). The dramatically curvaceous stainless-steel exterior houses one of the most acoustically perfect concert halls in the world. The self-guided audio walking tour narrated by actor John Lithgow is superb.

Taking a Studio Tour: It's why you're vacationing in L.A. -- to see where movie magic is being made. Studio tours are an entertaining opportunity to see the actual stage sets for shows such as ER and Desperate Housewives (sometimes during filming), and you never know who you're going to see emerging from his or her star wagon.

Visiting Santa Catalina Island: Taking a day trip to Catalina makes for a most adventurous day: a scenic boat ride; oodles of shopping, snorkeling, and scuba diving; golf; hiking trails; waffle cones; sunburns; and DUI-free barhopping. Tip: The helicopter taxi is a lot cheaper than you'd expect.

For a complete listing of what to see and do in Los Angeles, visit the online attractions index at Frommers.com.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

Photos: Los Angeles: City of Angels

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  1. Los Angeles has a stunning and recognizable skyline and is a great spot to see Hollywood's A-listers, but is also known for sprawl and smog. L.A. is home to nearly 10 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2008 figures). (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. The East Pavilion at the Getty Center is pictured in L.A. "The J. Paul Getty Museum seeks to further knowledge of the visual arts and to nurture critical seeing by collecting, preserving, exhibiting and interpreting works of art of the highest quality," according to The Getty's Web site. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Venice Beach has the boardwalk, Muscle Beach, volleyball courts, a bike trail and many other attractions that have been luring people for decades. "Venice has always been known as a hangout for the creative and the artistic," boasts venicebeach.com. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. If you're a nut about pumping iron, you'll want to one very specific part of Venice Beach. "Muscle Beach is a special area where fanatic bodybuilders pump iron in a public show of strength," according to L.A.'s Department of Recreation & Parks. This photo shows Larry Pollock striking a pose in the finals of the annual Venice Classic bodybuilding competition at Venice Beach back in 2003. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Two women walk past businesses that cater to high-end luxury item consumers along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. "The famed shopping street is known throughout the world as the epicenter of luxury fashion," claims Rodeo Drive's official Web site. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Looking for stars in L.A.? You need not look beyond The Griffith Observatory. OK, maybe these aren't the stars you had in mind, but the observatory overlooks Los Angeles from atop the Hollywood Hills. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland is the centerpiece of Fantasyland, and one of the most recognizable structures in the world. (Paul Hiffmeyer for Disneyland) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Visitors raft through realistic looking hot springs and geysers on the ''Grizzly River Rapids'' ride at Disney's California Adventure theme park in Anaheim, Calif. The 55-acre park next to Disneyland is based on California themes, and opened to the public in 2001. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A Cownose Ray glides past as divers feed tropical fish in the Tropical Pacific Gallery at the Aquarium of the Pacific. The Aquarium features a shark lagoon and three main viewing galleries where visitors can learn about ocean issues and conservation. (Mark Ralston / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. A simulated "Jaws" shark attack is just one of the attractions that draws in visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood. Park rides include Revenge of the Mummy, Shrek 4-D, Jurassic Park, The Blues Brother, The Simpsons, and more. (Universal Studios) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The Hollywood Sign was refurbished in 2005. The sign is one of the better-known landmarks in America, and sits atop Mount Lee in the Santa Monica Mountains. (David Livingston / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is best known for the Oscars, an annual telecast set to run for the 82nd time. "More than 6,000 of the most accomplished men and women working in cinema" make up the Academy's membership, according to oscars.org. (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The Galleria Studio Hollywood sells merchandise along the Walk of Fame, where Hollywood's icons are immortalized. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Stars have left their hand and foot prints in concrete for more than eight decades at the original Graumans Chinese Theatre forecourt. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Dodger Stadium, opened in 1962, has seen more than 125 million fans come through its gates. Baseball fans can purchase a famed Dodger Dog and a beer, soak up some sun, take in a breathtaking view of downtown L.A., look for celebrities -- oh, and watch America's favorite pasttime. (Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. The Museum of Contemporary Art houses more than 500 pieces of art created by more than 200 artists. MOCA was founded in 1979 and "is the only museum in Los Angeles devoted exclusively to contemporary art," its Web site says. (Ted Thai / Time & Life Pictures via Getty Image) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Visitors to Olvera Street can stroll around the marketplace and shop for Mexican-inspired souvenirs. On weekends, revelers can enjoy entertainment by roaming musicans, Mariachi bands and performances by Aztec Indians. (L.A. Convention & Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. The 2,265-seat Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, designed by architect Frank Gehry, is clad with more than 6,000 steel panels. The hall is home to the Music Center of Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. (David McNew / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. The Farmers Market started in July of 1934 when some farmers pulled their trucks onto some empty land known as Gilmore Island. The farmers displayed their wares, and customers came, parked, strolled around and purchased fruit, vegetables and other goods. "The atmosphere was casual, the open air commerce enticing, the goods fresh, and the result remarkable," farmersmarketla.com claims. "Farmers Market became an instant institution." (Farmers Market) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. This diorama of a mastodon trapped in the La Brea Tar Pits is featured at the Page Museum. "Rancho La Brea is one of the world's most famous fossil localities, recognized for having the largest and most diverse assemblage of extinct Ice Age plants and animals in the world," the Page Museum's Web site claims. (David Peevers / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A surfer heads toward the water at Laguna Beach in Orange County, Calif. The state's myriad beaches draw a large number of tourists and surfers from across the country. (Jewel Samad / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The $1.5 million solar-powered ferris wheel runs at Pacific Park amusement park on the Santa Monic Pier. Even with its 160,000 lights, the ride is 75 percent more energy efficient than the Pacific Wheel -- the ride it replaced -- which was auctioned off on eBay for $132,400. (Andrew Gombert / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Music Director Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl on Oct. 3, 2009, in Hollywood. The Philharmonic regularly performs at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. (Mathew Imaging / WireImage) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Manhattan Beach is located about 20 miles southwest of Los Angeles, and features more than 2 miles of beach front, 40 acres of recreational beach area. The scenic 928-foot-long pier at the end of Manhattan Beach is easily recognizable, and fishing is permitted all year long. (Richard Cummins / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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