Image credit: Visit California
Encourage clients to ditch the motor and discover a different side of the City of Angels, says Ella Buchan
One big car park. A sprawling, faceless, beep beep metropolis. That’s Los Angeles, right?
It can be, if you spend your time there on four wheels and stuck in traffic jams.
For those who can’t drive or simply prefer more chilled-out modes of transport, the City of Angels can seem like a hellish nightmare. But it is possible to get around without a car, and residents and tourists are cottoning on to that fact.
Many neighbourhoods have everything you need within walking distance. The Metro lines have vastly improved in recent years, opening up relatively unexplored areas such as East LA, North Hollywood and Pasadena.
And it’s surprisingly safe for cyclists, with designated lanes and most motorists giving a wide berth.
And, as more visitors opt not to hire a car, more tours have become available, and with hotel pick-ups too.
Reflecting the trend, community group CicLAvia organises car-free days in neighbourhoods, allowing cyclists, skaters and walkers to take over.
Encourage clients to ditch the wheels, leave the freeways to the huge Hummers and limos, and unearth some gems in the process.
For those looking to immerse themselves in the local culture, recommend a stay in one of LA’s vibrant, foot-friendly neighbourhoods.
After a taxi from the airport or arrival via the bus and Metro network, clients can relax and explore without worrying about driving, or parking fees.
West Hollywood is a classic option, with posh boutiques, brunch spots and retro emporiums.
The art deco rooms of The Chamberlain make the perfect base here, tucked down a leafy residential street between the restaurants of Sunset Strip and busy bars of Santa Monica Boulevard.
Suites start at £180 per night and include use of the rooftop pool lined with cabanas. Another chic option is Hotel Angeleno, at the gateway to Beverly Hills and near the Getty Museum, from £110 a night.
Downtown has whizzy transport links for people who want to explore. Several Metro stations take you as far as Long Beach and Pasadena, up to the bohemian cafes and record stores of North Hollywood and a few stops to Union Station, for Amtrak trains.
Recommend Barrel Down brew pub’s wide selection of local, American and imported beers poured from a row of 24 unmarked taps (the bartenders have big memories). The French dip sandwiches (with a side of gravy) at Cole’s are legendary, as are the breakfast scrambles at Nickel Diner.
Hotel-wise, Downtown is home to luxury option The Standard, which has a chic rooftop pool, German beer garden, ping-pong club and enormous rooms from £150 a night.
Those on a budget can always pop into The Standard for a drink on the terrace, or join the queue for Perch bistro and bar, on the corner of Pershing Square. The view from Perch’s terrace is seriously impressive, and somewhat improved by the addition of a French Maid (cognac, mint and cucumber) cocktail and live jazz.
For a beach break with character, suggest Santa Monica, where rooms at upscale Loews Santa Monica cost from around £200 a night. And at quirky, laid-back Venice Beach, the slap of flip-flops is more prevalent than the roar of engines.
Blush pink, oceanfront Venice on the Beach hotel has simple, cosy rooms from £130 a night.
Now that visiting LA without a car is no longer an alien concept, many companies offer hotel pick-up and drop-off options.Cruise through Beverly Hills on a Movie Stars’ Homes Tour (£39 from Do Something Different including transfers).
The two-hour minibus route takes in the residences of Tom Cruise, Al Pacino and the Beckhams, the former estates of Elvis and Michael Jackson, and celebrity hangouts on Sunset Strip and Rodeo Drive.
For those celebrating a special occasion, recommend the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Experience (£202 with Do Something Different). This once-in-a-lifetime treat takes guests behind the scenes of movie and TV sets, and for a nosey around the prop warehouse before a slap-up lunch and priority access to rides.
The Los Angeles Grand Tour (£42 from Attraction World) ticks off highlights like the Walk of Fame, Kodak Theatre, the oldest farmers’ market in LA and, of course, the Hollywood sign.
Shopping can be tricky without a car to ferry all those bargains back to your hotel. Attraction World’s Palm Springs & Outlet Shopping Day Trip (£116) combines sightseeing with time at Desert Hills Premium Outlets, including tour guide and transport in an air conditioned minibus.
Many companies offer walking tours too. We took Melting Pot Tours’ half-day East LA Latin Flavours trip (£50). The bellyful of South American treats included churros (crisp finger doughnuts with pillow-soft insides) and birria (Mexican goat stew).
There was time to browse the indoor market, El Mercado, with a cup of ‘tuna’ (cactus) sorbet, blinking in awe at the array of mole sauces, candied fruits and pinatas in every incarnation from donkeys to SpongeBob SquarePants.
Do Something Different has a similar Ethnic Neighbourhoods Food Tour (£51), which takes in cuisines ranging from barbecue in Koreatown to bakeries in Little Armenia.
To walk off all those treats, the Arts District is perfect for a stroll while gawping at the impressive, intricate street murals and tiny motifs.
Hiring a bike makes attractions on and off the beaten path easily accessible. There are decent cycle lanes and it’s permitted to take bikes on the Metro and buses, outside rush hour.
Route maps are available from LA Tourism and LA Metro. Some of the most popular include the coastal path from Pacific Palisades to Redondo Beach, and the San Gabriel River Trail. Or clients can pedal around parks including Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon, where the celebs go jogging.
Perry’s Cafe and Rentals has nine locations in Santa Monica and Venice, with hire from £6.50 an hour. For those who wish to weave along the promenade like a local, rollerblades are available for the same price.
Bikes and Hikes on Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, has rentals from £5.50 an hour or £95 for the week, with drop-off/pick-up if needed.
The company also offers a range of tours, including LA in a Day (£105) with bike hire and lunch. This involves 32 miles of pedalling, mostly at a leisurely pace. You get to see everything from beautiful Greystone Park, where hundreds of movies, including X-Men, were filmed, to Muscle Beach.
It’s a perfect introduction to LA, allowing clients to get their bearings and adjust to cycling on the roads.
On our tour, we pedalled up and down Beverly Hills before hitting the flat roads and empty riverbeds (where the drag-racing scene in Grease was filmed) towards the sea.
The many unscheduled, unexpected stops included a chat with The Dreamer, a Native American who served in Vietnam and now hands out free haircuts and words of wisdom to veterans from his barber truck.
“That’s the beauty of the bike,” said our guide Eric, as we scooted off.
“Most people will just drive right past and not even know what’s here.”
Funway offers five nights at four-star Hotel Angeleno in West Hollywood from £789, including Virgin Atlantic flights from Heathrow on January 21. funway4agents.co.uk
North America Travel Service has seven nights at The Standard Downtown from £1,269, including flights with Virgin Atlantic from Heathrow in January and February. northamericatravelservice.co.uk
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