Los Angeles may be famous for its car culture but there are plenty of other ways to experience all the city has to offer. Check out some of these alternative options for exploring the City of Angels, whether you’re visiting for a week or even just a few hours…
Ocean Express Trolley
This is a great way to get a feel for Los Angeles if you’re on a layover between flights, or if you have time to kill before you need to get to the airport. The hop-on hop-off Ocean Express Trolley service operates between Century Boulevard, which is where most LAX airport hotels are located, and Manhattan Beach and Plaza El Segundo shopping and dining district. A round trip ticket costs just $5 and the service runs every 30 minutes in summer (9am – 10.45pm) and hourly in winter (9am – 8.45pm).
Rent a bike
Rent a bike down on the beach at Santa Monica and you’ll have two equally appealing options for a great morning or afternoon’s cycle ride. To spy on California’s boho set and their skateboarding dogs, head south to Venice Beach along the designated bike path. This will take you past Muscle Beach – ex-outdoor gym of Arnold Schwarzenegger – and alongside t-shirt vendors, juice bars, skate and surf shops, fortune-tellers and street performers. Lining the beachfront towards the Venice Fishing Pier are an assortment of diverse and architecturally-exciting residences – it’s Southern California in microcosm. In the other direction, the bike path leads north towards Malibu. Head this way for fantastic views of Santa Monica State Beach, with its colourful lifeguard huts, wide expanse of sand, rolling surf and great sunsets. For bike rentals, try Spokes n Stuff or Perry’s Cafe.
Take the Metro Red Line
The Metro Red Line connects Union Station and Downtown Los Angeles to Universal City and North Hollywood, via Pershing Square – the historical core of LA – and the districts of Mid-Wilshire, Koreatown and Hollywood. The journey from Downtown to Universal City takes around 25 minutes. Best of all, there’s no traffic or parking to worry about and it costs just $1.50 per ride (or $5 for a Metro Day Pass).
Get a bird’s eye view
Pretend you’re one of LA’s primetime radio traffic reporters (or at least get a great feel for the layout of the city) on one of Adventure Helicopter Tours‘ nine different tours. Outings range from the Sneak Peek ($50 per person) which flies over the city, the San Fernando Valley and the Angeles National Forest, to a number of different adventure tours, including the Hollywood Sign Tour, the Twilight Tour and the Extreme, which allows you to experience uninterrupted views of Los Angeles at 110mph when the helicopter doors are safely removed!
Whale watching at Long Beach
Seeing as the Pacific Ocean is right on your doorstep, it would be a crying shame not to get out on the water. For whale-watching excursions, check out Harbor Breeze Cruises who have 18 years experience offering seasonal sightings; blue whales typically from May to November and grey whales from December to April. On most cruises you’ll be joined by a biologist from the Aquarium of the Pacific in addition to a regular guide, and it’s not unusual to also spot dolphins cavorting alongside the boat. Cruises depart from the port of Long Beach, about 20 miles south of downtown LA, and cost $30 per adult (2 hr trips) and $50 per adult (3 hr trips).
Virgin Atlantic operates daily direct flights to Los Angeles from London Heathrow.
Many thanks to Irina Patrascu for the header photo.