Universal offers daily 1-hour tram tours of its studio lot as part of the general admission price to the amusement park, which is open from 9am to 7pm in the summer and from 10am to 6pm in the winter.
Six Flags California - Magic Mountain & Hurrican Harbor
Magic Mountain daily Apr to Labor Day, and weekends and holidays the rest of the year; Hurricane Harbor daily Memorial Day to Labor Day, weekends May and Sept, closed Oct-Apr. Both parks open at 10:30am, and closing hours vary btw. 6pm and midnight.
Magic Mountain $60 adults, $30 children under 48 in. high, free for kids 2 and under; Hurricane Harbor $30 adults, $21 children under 48 in. high, free for kids 2 and under; 2-park combo ticket $70.
Magic Mountain Pkwy. (off Golden State Fwy. [I-5 N]), Valencia.
Santa Monica Pier
Built in 1908 for passenger and cargo ships, the Santa Monica Pier does a pretty good job of recapturing the glory days of Southern California. The wooden wharf is now home to seafood restaurants and snack shacks, a touristy Mexican cantina, a gaily colored turn-of-the-20th-century indoor wooden carousel (which Paul Newman operated in The Sting ), and an aquarium filled with sharks, rays, octopus, eels, and other local sea life. Summer evening concerts, which are free and range from big band to Miami-style Latin, draw crowds, as does the small amusement area perched halfway down. Its name, Pacific Park (tel. 310/260-8744; www.pacpark.com), hearkens back to the granddaddy pier amusement park in California, Pacific Ocean Park; this updated version has a solar-powered Ferris wheel, a mild-mannered roller coaster, and 10 other rides, plus a high-tech arcade shootout. But anglers still head to the end to fish, and nostalgia buffs to view the photographic display of the pier's history. This is the last of the great pleasure piers, offering rides, romance, and perfect panoramic views of the bay and mountains.
The pier is about a mile up Ocean Front Walk from Venice; it's a great round-trip stroll. Parking is available for $6 to $8 on both the pier deck and the beachfront nearby. Limited short-term parking is also available. For information on twilight concerts (generally held Thurs btw. mid-June and the end of Aug), call tel. 310/458-8900 or visit www.santamonicapier.org.
The Hollywood Sign
These famous 50-foot-high white sheet-metal letters have come to symbolize the movie industry and the city itself.
Officially completed in 1978, the 450-foot-long installation is now protected by a fence and motion detectors. The best view is from down below, at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Bronson Avenue. Tip: It may look like it on a map, but Beachwood Drive does not lead to the sign. If you want to reach the sign on foot, it requires a rather arduous 5-mile round-trip hike on the Brush Canyon Trail in Griffith Park -- the trail head is at the end of Canyon Drive. For more information call the Griffith Park headquarters at tel. 323/913-4688 .
La Brea Tar Pits & Page Museum
An odorous swamp of gooey asphalt oozes to the earth's surface in the middle of Los Angeles. No, it's not a low-budget horror-movie set -- it's La Brea Tar Pits, a truly bizarre primal pool on Museum Row where hot tar has been bubbling from the earth for more than 40,000 years.
Mon-Fri 9:30am-5pm; Sat-Sun 10am-5pm (museum).
5801 Wilshire Blvd. 323/934-7243.
Museum admission $7 adults, $4.50 seniors 62 and older and students with ID, $2 children ages 5-12, free for kids 4 and under; free for everyone the 1st Tues of every month.
Los Angeles Zoo
Regular hours are 10am to 5pm. The Zoo is open every day of the year except December 25. Please note that the Zoo starts putting animals in for the night at 4pm. Ticket sales cease one hour prior to closing time.
5333 Zoo Dr, Griffith Park.
Admission $10 adults, $7 seniors 62 and over, $5 kids ages 2-12, free for children 1 and under.
Farmers Market & The Grove
Mon-Thurs 10am-9pm; Fri-Sat 10am-10pm; Sun 11am-8pm.
6333 W. 3rd St,
At Fairfax Ave, Hollywood.
888/315-8883, 323/900-8080. Now entering its 8th decade, the original market was little more than an empty lot with wooden stands set up by farmers during the Depression so they could sell directly to city dwellers. Eventually, permanent buildings grew up, including the trademark shingled 10-story clock tower. Today the place has evolved into a sprawling marketplace with a carnival atmosphere, a kind of "turf" version of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. About 70 restaurants, shops, and grocers cater to a mix of workers from the CBS Television City complex, locals, and tourists brought here by the busload. Retailers sell greeting cards, kitchen implements, candles, and souvenirs, but everyone comes for the food stands, which offer oysters, hot doughnuts, Cajun gumbo, fresh-squeezed orange juice, corned beef sandwiches, fresh-pressed peanut butter, and all kinds of international fast foods. You can still buy produce here -- it's no longer a farm-fresh bargain, but the selection's better than at the grocery store. Don't miss Kokomo (tel. 323/933-0773 ), a "gourmet" outdoor coffee shop that has become a power breakfast spot for showbiz types. Red turkey hash and sweet-potato fries are the dishes that keep them coming back. The seafood gumbo and gumbo ya ya at the Gumbo Pot (tel. 323/933-0358 ) are also very popular.
Norton Simon Museum of Art
Named for a food-packing king and financier who reorganized the failing Pasadena Museum of Modern Art, the Norton Simon displays one of the finest private collections of European, American, and Asian art in the world (and yet another feather in the cap of architect Frank Gehry, who redesigned the interior space). Comprehensive collections of masterpieces by Degas, Picasso, Rembrandt, and Goya are augmented by sculptures by Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin, including The Burghers of Calais, which greets you at the gates.
Wed-Mon noon-6pm (Fri until 9pm).
411 W. Colorado Blvd,
Admission $8 adults, $4 seniors, free for students and kids 17 and under; free for everyone the 1st Fri of each month 6-9pm.