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LA for everyone: Hollywood

Thursday, September 3, 2009
Natalie Gruzlewski got to have a look around Hollywood for our Los Angeles special episode. She found it to be like one giant movie set, and happened to be there on the biggest day of the year. She was in Tinseltown the day of the Academy Awards nominations were announced, and the town was buzzing. It was all about cruising limousines, crowds packing the footpaths, helicopters whirring overhead and cameras flashing.

The melting pot that is Hollywood has something for everyone, no matter the budget.

The Hollywood & Highland complex is in the heart of touristy Hollywood. It is the quintessential retail and entertainment centre attracting locals and visitors alike. There are 9m-tall elephant statues and glitz to make your jaw drop.

The huge Babylon Courtyard is adorned by mosaic tiles depicting tales of Hollywood dreams and woes, in an enclave of palm trees. The five-storey temple of retail fantasies and tourism features more than 70 restaurants and retail stores will the labels you know and some new ones.

Outside is the Walk of Fame, anchored by Grauman's Chinese Theater. Also nearby is the Hollywood Wax Museum, the El Capitan and Ripley's Odditorium. The Kodak Theatre is the official venue for the Academy Awards ceremony, and at the top of the palatial structure is the Grand Ballroom, venue for the post-Oscar Governor's Ball.

As you wander around the area, there's every chance you will see some filming going on, and actors in their costumes. Others are just there to entertain, and for a small fee, Marilyn Monroe will sing 'Happy Birthday' for you.

Starline Tours have been providing sightseeing excursions since 1935. Their Grand Tour of Los Angeles and The Movie Stars' Homes Tour are the favourites with visitors.

They run from Grauman's Theater and cruise along Sunset Strip passing House of Blues, Chateau Marmont and other favourite haunts. Hyde Lounge is a brat pack hang-out where Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen twins go.

The closer you get to Beverly Hills, the bigger the houses and garages get. All are immaculately maintained and there's never a blade of grass out of place. They all have high security and it is unusual to see anyone — just the odd car coming and going through the huge gates.

Starline drivers know who lives where, what the houses are worth and all the latest gossip such as the former Osbourne house being sold to Christina Aguilera for $11.5 million. The house Michael Jackson was renting for $100,000 a month at the time of his death is worth $38 million. Just in case you always wanted to know!

If you want to be in a television studio audience or pilot screening there are a number of websites you to register your interest at. Here are a few for you to try before you go: www.tvtix.com; www.tvtickets.com; www.studioaudiences.com and www.hollywoodtickets.com.

Apart from having a great time, there are two other things you can be certain of. This city has no shortage of restaurants or souvenir shops — so go for it.

Cost

Starline Bus Tours' Movie Star Homes Tour takes two hours and cost around $50 for adults and $35 for children. They offer round-trip transfers from most major hotel areas for around $6 per person. Fully narrated tours are in open top mini buses or air-conditioned limo vans. They start at 9.30am and run around every half hour.

Air New Zealand flies daily to Los Angeles.

One-way fares from:

  • Sydney $1447
  • Melbourne $1429
  • Adelaide $1715
  • Perth $1729
  • Brisbane $1453

On sale until September 8, 2009, and for travel between January 26 and March 27, 2010.

Prices correct at September 3, 2009

If you are planning a trip to the US we've found a great book with lots of useful information: America Over Easy. It covers national parks, camping, shopping and gives time-saving tips, great places to eat, how to make significant savings and where to find free attractions. It has an excellent fold-out map for road trips. It's been put together by American-born now Australian-resident Mark Sheehan who has 25 years' travel experience. Available from New Holland publishers and book stores for $19.95. For more information, visit www.newholland.com.au.

For Further Information

Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476
www.airnewzealand.com.au

Hollywood & Highland Center

6801 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles CA 90028-6128
United States
Ph: +1 323 817 0220
www.hollywoodandhighland.com

Starline Tours of Hollywood

6925 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood CA 90028
United States
Ph: +1 323 463 3333
http://www.starlinetours.com

Visas: Most Australians do not need a visa, providing they have a machine-readable passport with at least six months validity after the departure date, have a round-trip non-refundable ticket and do not intend to stay longer than 90 days. From January 2009, Australians need to complete a pre-travel authorisation at www.cbp.gov/esta

Electricity: Electric current is 110V to 115v, 60Hz AC. Outlets take two-parallel, flat prongs. Australian visitors will need a US adapter and converter.

Time zone: The United States has nine standard time zones. California is GMT -7 hours.

Currency: The American dollar.

Telephone code: International dialling code is 0011 1

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