"A haven for shoppers donning oversize purses, ladies who lunch, and anyone who appreciates the city's history and elegance."—Rebecca Brown, editor, 944 (Los Angeles). Old-school shoppers plumb Rodeo (pronounced Ro-DAY-o) Drive and its European-style boutiques; those into celebrity gawking—or just unique shopping—check out Lisa Kline, 7 for All Mankind, Kitson, and the other local L.A. labels sprouting up along S. Robertson Blvd. Stop at The Ivy and sit on the patio for lunch or coffee.
Celebrity Helicopter Tours
Stunt helicopter pilot Robin Petgrave's (Broken Arrow, The Circuit) popular tours fly a maximum of three up the coastline, over Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Brentwood, Hollywood, and the sparkling Hollywood Reservoir. See Aaron Spelling's 21-car garage, and Eddie Murphy's new 77,000-square-foot mansion from the air—without privacy gates or hedges, says Petgrave. In an ironic twist: proceeds go towards a worthy cause—a Compton-based children's flight program. 961 West Alondra Blvd.; tel. +1 310 618 1155; www.celebheli.com
The Getty Center Los Angeles
"LA's fabulous outdoor living room that happens to have some old art."—Matthew Flynn, co-author, Fodor's L.A. Perched high above Los Angeles, Richard Meier's architectural triumph of travertine and white granite contains European and American art, sculpture, and manuscripts. Better still, go for the hilltop vistas of mountains, ocean, the span of the city, and the white Hollywood sign. Happenings include a summer outdoor concert series. Admission is free, though parking is $8. 1200 Getty Center Dr.; tel. +1 310 440 7300; www.getty.edu
"Often considered intimidating, this city is an amalgamation of everything from the indie hipster to the obnoxious socialite."—Rebecca Brown. Don't miss the Walk of Fame (hand and footprints of the stars), Grauman's Chinese Theater (over-the-top pagoda), the Egyptian Theater (art deco behemoth now hosting classy retrospectives), El Capitan Theatre (Disney screening venue with ornate, authentic detail), and the Erotic Museum (small but interesting).
Stately museum housing American and European paintings and decorative art. The highlight is outside: 120 acres of exquisitely manicured gardens, including an extensive desert garden with countless otherworldly aloe plants, a sprawling Japanese garden with arched bridges and bonsai trees, wild Australian parkland, and a children's garden. Massive new Chinese garden opened in 2008. 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino; tel. +1 626 405 2100; www.huntington.org
"Ultimate insider's beach community. Billionaires and beach bums sharing sand."—Matthew Flynn. 21 miles of precarious coastline. The marshy Malibu Lagoon State Beach is ideal for bird-watching or surfer-watching; the Malibu Pier makes for a rustic fisherman's sunset perch; and Zuma Beach is paradise for sunbathers and volleyball players.
Norton Simon Museum
"Per square foot, the highest quality paintings of any public institution in Southern California."—Whitney Ganz, director, William Karges Fine Art. European and American paintings from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, including many masterpieces of the baroque and renaissance eras (Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt), Impressionism (Degas), and Picasso. Huge sculpture garden is gorgeous in all seasons. Tip: Don't miss ancient sculptures of Hindu and Asian deities downstairs, representing a passion of Simon's famous wife, actor Jennifer Jones. 411 W. Colorado Blvd.; tel. +1 626 449 6840; www.nortonsimon.org
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Sunset Boulevard and Sunset Strip
"A drive-thru billboard that has seen its heyday"—Matthew Flynn. 22-mile, four-lane thoroughfare twisting east-west from Pacific Palisades through Brentwood, Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Hollywood. The mile-and-a-half portion designated Sunset Strip (Crescent Heights to Doheny Drive) is legendary for its nightlife, which includes the Roxy, Whisky A Go-Go, Chateau Marmont, the Skybar, and the House of Blues.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour
"Forget phoney Universal Studios! WB delivers a real studio from the charm of a golf cart."—Matthew Flynn. The city's most thorough, candid studio tour has two versions: VIP (2 ¼ hours) and Deluxe (5 hours, including lunch). Highlights include Friends and E.R. sets, backlots for Casablanca, Million Dollar Baby, and Gilmore Girls, and the studio's famous museum. Deluxe tour recommended for movie lovers: Guides are astoundingly knowledgeable, and you might run into George Clooney or Clint Eastwood at the excellent commissary. 3400 Riverside Dr., Burbank; tel. +1 818 972 8687; www.warnerbros.com
Walt Disney Concert Hall
It's hard to know which feature of this Frank Gehry-designed concert hall is more marvelous: the huge cedar stage, curved wooden ceiling, sail-like billows of the matte steel exterior, 36-foot-high windows, or massive pipe organ that looks like an abstract forest. Take a tour or dine at Patina, followed by a symphonic or choral concert. 111 S. Grand Ave.; tel. +1 323 850 2000; www.laphil.com