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Things to do in Los Angeles

Explore the Los Angeles Stairs

Now largely overlooked, LA has a network of staircases that once helped pedestrians climb its steep hills. One, in Silver Lake, was made famous by Laurel and Hardy while others once housed thriving street communities. Street Stairs LA (www.secretstairs-la.com) run interesting tours to visit the best of them.

Go wine tasting in the O.C

Orange County boasts a long history of winemaking, a legacy of the 19th century French vintners who decamped here. Although larger establishments exist, smaller vineyards offer wine-tasting sessions for much less. OC Wine Tours (tel: +1 949 203 3891; www.ocwinetours.com) can take thirsty tourists to the county's best.

Learn to surf and catch a wave

LA's lengthy coastline and balmy days means surfing has become staple part of the lifestyle. Venice Beach and Santa Monica both have great surfing beaches, as does Malibu, where Malibu Makos (tel: +1 310 317 1229; www.malibumakos.com) offer lessons. Surfboard hire and professional tuition is also available.

Play cowboy and hike through Death Valley

Death Valley's (www.nps.gov/deva) magnificent mesas and arid dunes of once provided the backdrop for Western films. Today, its network of hiking trails will take you close to many of the park's memorable rocky outcrops. Go early in the summer – it can get unbearably hot in the afternoon.

Visit carless Catalina Island

Just 35km (22 miles) across the ocean from Long Beach is Catalina Island (www.catalinachamber.com), a peaceful retreat where cars are banned. Start at Avalon, the island's capital, which boasts the imposing Catalina Casino building, now a museum, before earning a bird's eye view of the island courtesy of a zip line eco tour.

Featured Hotels

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Farmer’s Daughter Hotel

Featuring denim duvets, distressed hardwood floors and wrought iron artwork, this funky boutique hotel in West Hollywood is heavy on the rural theme. Located opposite LA's historic Farmer's Market, it also has a smart pool and sundeck, high speed Wi-Fi and air-conditioning. Its onsite restaurant, TART, serves up deliciously healthy hipster treats.

Sheraton Universal

Bang next door to Universal Studios, the Sheraton Universal has something of a corporate air to it but is relaxed enough to offer a poolside bar. Rooms are reasonably sized, with plenty of creams and browns keeping things neutral. It also has a small pool and modern gym facilities. Ask for a room with views of the Hollywood Hills.

The Standard

Chic and affordable, The Standard is a glimpse into the mind of hotel designer André Balazs. Young sophisticates gather in the floor-to-ceiling shag-carpeted lobby for live DJs and performance art shows, while its poolside cafe and 24-hour restaurant serve up quality American comfort food. Rooms offer kitsch furniture, including beanbag chairs.

The Beverly Wilshire

Popularised by its appearance in Pretty Woman, this Four Seasons hotel is renowned for its classical grandeur and impeccable service. An ornately carved entrance leads to a magnificent lobby and a choice between the elegant Boulevard Restaurant, a wood-panelled piano lounge and Cut, the Wolfgang Puck steakhouse. Luxurious rooms have marble bathrooms and the spa is stunning.

Shutters on the Beach

One of two luxury hotels on the beach, Shutters combines sophistication with a beach holiday atmosphere. The lobby has esteemed modern art, including pieces by David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein, and each room has a veranda. All have four-poster beds, plus a copy of Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea.

Howard Johnson Inn and Suites Reseda

A clean and affordable option in the San Fernando Valley, this hotel features free Wi-Fi, an outdoor pool and complimentary continental breakfast. Parking is free and access to the rest of California is made easy with Interstate 405 and Highway 101 running nearby.