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Think of Los Angeles and what comes to mind? The Hollywood sign, tall palm trees lining the streets of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica's iconic coastline, homes of the stars up in "the hills", and of course the history of motion picture.
A film lover's first visit to LA is bound to be action-packed, especially if you're only pit-stopping here for a couple of days. Here's a mini-break guide to the famous scene of California, and yes, it really is just like in the movies…
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Take a snap of the Hollywood sign while you're in town
After landing in the Californian sunshine, change into appropriate denim shorts attire and head straight down to Santa Monica. The panoramic view of the Pacific is breathtaking, with over three miles of glistening golden sand. There you'll find the instantly recognisable pier, "The Hoff's" Baywatch huts, as well as beautifully tanned locals playing beach volleyball or exercising on the original Muscle Beach.
Take in this spectacular coastline by hiring a bike from just $7 an hour. Head north towards Malibu or south to Venice Beach to soak up the exciting vibe from street performers, music bursting from portable stereos and vibrant boutiques and cafes.
The iconic Santa Monica Pier is worth seeing at night
Back in Beverly Hills, take a stroll down the renowned shopping street Rodeo Drive. All the big fashion brands are here – Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors, Bvlgari and Chanel to name a few – and you immediately feel like an extra in a modern day Pretty Woman.
Oliverio, the Avalon hotel's chic Italian restaurant serves a delicious mix of plates from homemade pastas and antipasti to sumptuous dishes like lamb ragu and Gnocchetti, and is also open for breakfast and lunch.
Dinner poolside at Oliverio comes with mouthwatering Italian delights
Start the day with a pre-booked tour of Paramount Pictures Studio, the only major working studio remaining in Hollywood. This tour offers an excellent behind-the-scenes look at the studio's legacy. Not only do you get to walk in the footsteps of legends and sit on Forrest Gump's bench, you might be lucky enough to witness some live action.
After an early lunch, head north to Hollywood Boulevard to see your favourite stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as the foot and hand prints outside the Chinese Theatre. The Hollywood Highland next door offers great views of the world-famous Hollywood sign and you can also tour the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards.
Don't miss the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Next, hop on an open-air bus tour to breeze through Beverly Hills and up to the Hollywood Hills to catch a glimpse of where the movie stars live. If he's at home, Al Pacino might give you a little wave!
Spend the evening in the uber-trendy district of West Hollywood, starting off with a cocktail at the iconic Chateau Marmont, a fantastic place to people watch, followed by dinner at one of the many fine eateries on offer. Try Gordon Ramsey at The London West Hollywood to enjoy cocktails late into the evening in a wonderfully glamorous setting.
Check out the foot and hand prints of the stars outside the Chinese Theatre
After an American-style breakfast at Oliverio, pay your respects to Hollywood icons including Marilyn Monroe and Dean Martin at the intimate Pierce Bros Westwood Village Memorial Park, before heading on to Los Angeles International Airport for your flight home.
Where to stay
The Avalon hotel in Beverly Hills is inspired by the relaxed "patio lifestyle" of Californian life during the mid-20th century, with a vintage hourglass-shaped pool, stylish accommodation and private poolside cabanas. So it's no wonder the Avalon is increasingly becoming the new place to see, and be seen. Plus – Marilyn Monroe lived here for many years, adding fantastic history to this art-deco style hotel.
Travelbag (travelbag.co.uk, 0845 543 6615) offers five nights at the 4* Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills from £899 per person including flights with British Airways from London Heathrow. Book by 11 December for selected travel dates between 20 October-12 December 2014.
For more on what to see and do in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills visit santamonica.com and lovebeverlyhills.com.
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