Seeing the top sights of Los Angeles in a single day requires an early start and a bit of stamina, but it's quite doable. This "greatest hits" itinerary begins with L.A.'s sine qua non attraction, Hollywood. After lunch, you'll cruise along Sunset Boulevard to the beach and spend a few hours on foot touring the Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach. You'll conclude your, like, most excellent day with a live performance under the stars at the legendary Hollywood Bowl. Start: Corner of Gower Street and Hollywood Boulevard, and walk west.
Forget the culture/museum stuff -- it's time to see for yourself all those famous Hollywood sites you've watched on TV since you were a toddler. Start the day by spending the morning on Hollywood Boulevard, following the path of bronze and marble stars along the Walk of Fame. Since 1960, more than 2,000 celebrities have been honored along the world's most famous sidewalk, but you'll need an old-timer to explain who a lot of the now-long-dead entertainers were. For a few bucks you can buy a map that lists every star; better yet, log on to www.hollywoodcoc.org and plan your own "Favorite Celebrities" route.
On Hollywood Boulevard, between Highland Avenue and La Brea Avenue, you'll find:
It's sort of a tourist-rite-of-passage to compare your hands and feet with the famous prints set in cement at the entrance court to Grauman's Chinese Theatre, a tradition started when silent film star Norma Talmadge "accidentally" stepped in wet cement during the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille's King of Kings. Since it's along the Hollywood Walk of Fame you're already here. Go ahead -- compare your boots/pumps to Humphrey Bogart or Marilyn Monroe. There's about 160 celebrity squares to scrutinize: See if you can find Whoopi Goldberg's dreadlocks, Bob Hope's nose, Betty Grable's gams, and R2D2's wheels.
Stay at Grauman's for the:
Oh, c'mon! You know you want to do it. It's not like you're the only one who feels slightly guilty by paying to peek into the private lives of Harrison Ford, Barbara Streisand, and Richard Gere (hey, nobody forced them buy a home around Hollywood). Besides, you're already here -- the 2-hour tours leave every half-hour between 9:30am and 5:30pm in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Just buy a ticket at the Starline kiosk in front of you, hop into an air-conditioned minibus, and let the voyeur-age begin.
Take a Break--Musso & Frank Grill
Time for lunch. Walk down the street to Musso & Frank Grill, Hollywood's oldest restaurant (since 1919) and a paragon of Hollywood's halcyon-era grillrooms. Part restaurant, part museum, this is where Faulkner, Hemingway, and Orson Welles derived liquid inspiration during their screenwriting days. Slither into one of the red-leather booths, order one of the legendary martinis or bloody marys from the gruff red-coated waiters, and work on that Atkins diet with a fat rib-eye. 6667 Hollywood Blvd. (at Cherokee Ave.). tel. 323/467-7788.
After lunch, waddle to your rented convertible red Mustang (you did rent a convertible red Mustang, didn't you?), put in a Best of the Beach Boys CD, and slowly cruise the legendary:
This 45-minute-or-so drive takes you from sorta-seedy Hollywood to flamboyant West Hollywood, past the moneyed minimansions of Beverly Hills, through neighborhoods most people can't afford to live in such as Westside and Brentwood, winding your way into the secluded enclave of Pacific Palisades toward Malibu, and finally the Pacific Coast Highway ("PCH," if you're hip). The entire drive takes you through a cross-section of nearly everything the western side of Los Angeles has to offer.
Drive south on the PCH into the big-city beach town of Santa Monica, and park at the:
Built in 1908 for passenger and cargo ships, the pier does a pretty good job of recapturing the glory days of Southern California. Buy an ice cream cone at one of the snack shacks and stroll seaward past the wooden carousel, roller coaster, and arcades, then buy a ticket to ride the Ferris wheel (c'mon, when's the last time you rode on a Ferris wheel?).
From the pier, walk south to the carnival-like stretch known as:
For first-timers this pseudo-bohemian scene is a bit of a shock to the senses: a surreal assemblage of street performers, musicians, muscle men pumping serious iron, apocalyptic evangelists, break dancers, stoned drummers, and endless schlock shops. By now your feet are probably talking to you, so stop at one of the outside cafes and have beer while taking in the scene. This is also where you can rent a bike and cruise along the 8-mile bike path that runs along the beach.
Take a Break--Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom
Along the Ocean Front Walk is a brightly colored food stand called Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom (look for the line), a favorite among sausage-worshiping locals. The all-natural, preservative-free "haute dogs" come in all sorts of flavors -- Toulouse garlic, Bombay curried lamb, orange-garlic-cumin -- served on a freshly baked onion roll and smothered with grilled onions and peppers. No matter which one you choose, they're all wieners. 2011 Ocean Front Walk (north of Venice Blvd.). tel. 310/822-5639.
Pile into the convertible and cruise northeast on Santa Monica Boulevard all the way across town (or take the I-10 east to Hwy 110 north to Hwy 101 north) to the:
I've saved the best for last: The Hollywood Bowl. I've yet to meet anyone who hasn't had a wonderful experience at the Bowl, an elegant Greek-style natural outdoor amphitheater cradled in a small canyon northeast of Hollywood. Truly, it's one of L.A.'s grandest traditions, watching a live performance under the stars on a warm summer night while noshing on caviar and champagne. It's the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Hollywood Bowl orchestras, and often hosts internationally known conductors, soloists, and popular acts ranging from Radiohead to Garrison Keillor. Here's how you do the Bowl right: Reserve a box seat section as far in advance as possible, then preorder a gourmet picnic basket filled with hot and cold dishes, desserts, and fine wines from the excellent on-site catering department, which will deliver to your box.
For more on what to see and do in Los Angeles, visit our complete guide online at www.frommers.com/destinations/losangeles.
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