L.A. Tours (tel. 323/460-6490; www.latours.net) operates regularly scheduled tours of the city. Plush shuttle buses pick up riders from major hotels for morning or afternoon tours of Sunset Strip, the movie studios, the Farmers Market, Hollywood, homes of the stars, and other attractions. Different itineraries are available, from Downtown and the Music Center to Disneyland or Universal Studios. Tours vary in length from a half-day Beaches and Shopping tour to a full-day Grand City tour. Advance reservations are required.
The other major tour company in L.A. is Starline Tours (tel. 800/959-3131; www.starlinetours.com) -- you'll see their air-conditioned minibuses, double-decker Big Red buses, and open-air trolleys all over the city -- from Santa Monica into Downtown L.A. Since 1935 Starline has been offering a wide selection of L.A. tours, including the first-ever Movie Stars' Homes tour. Its most popular tour, the 2-hour neighborhood jaunt, departs every half-hour from the front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre between 9:30am and 4pm (you'll see the Starline kiosk to the right of the theater entrance at 6925 Hollywood Blvd.). If you really like driving tours, sign up for the pièce de résistance: the 5 1/2-hour Grand Tour of L.A. Check out the website for more tour information.
If you want the classic Hollywood walking tour, Red Line Tours (tel. 323/402-1074; www.redlinetours.com) offers daily sightseeing expeditions to all the famous (and infamous) landmarks in Hollywood. Its unique "live-audio" system allows customers to hear the tour guide even over the city noise; customers wear an audio headset receiver while the tour guide wears a headset microphone transmitter (pretty clever, actually). Trips depart from the Egyptian Theatre (6708 Hollywood Blvd.) at 10am, noon, 2, and 4pm, 7 days a week. Rates are $25 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, and $15 for children ages 9 to 15. Log on to the Red Line Tours website for more information.
The L.A. Conservancy (tel. 213/623-2489; www.laconservancy.org) conducts about a dozen entertaining walking tours of historic Downtown L.A. In Pasadena, Pasadena Heritage (tel. 626/441-6333; www.pasadenaheritage.org) offers a walking tour of Old Pasadena.
Santa Monica Conservancy Walking Tours (tel. 310/496-3146; www.smconservancy.org) explore the history, architecture, and culture that give Santa Monica its distinctive quality. Choose from docent-guided tours, self-guided tours, and group tours.
Perry's Beach Café and Rentals in Santa Monica offers 1 1/2-hour bicycle tours of the Santa Monica and Venice beach communities. It's a great way to explore the area while learning about its history and landmark architecture. The package costs $45 for adults, $40 for students and seniors, and $25 for children 12 and under and includes a tour guide, an additional 1 1/2-hour bike rental with protective gear, water, and a bike lock. Note: A minimum of three people is required for the tour. For more information or to make a reservation, call tel. 310/939-0000.
Touring L.A. from above is certainly a unique perspective. Just the thrill of riding in a helicopter is worth the price. Celebrity Helicopters (tel. 877/999-2099; www.celebheli.com) offers a wide array of themed trips, ranging from a 35-minute Celebrity Home Tour ($189) to a 25-minute fly-by of the L.A. coastline ($149). Other tour packages are available as well; check the website for more information.
Off 'N Running Tours (tel. 310/246-1418; www.offnrunningtours.com) combines sporting with sightseeing, taking joggers on guided runs through Los Angeles. The themed tours, such as "Running from the Paparazzi," are customized to take in the most entertaining areas around the city and can accommodate any skill level for 4 miles. Another popular option is the Mansion Tour, which starts at Santa Monica Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, with a midpoint break at Greystone Mansion, where runners can stroll the grounds while winding down, before taking a route through different neighborhoods on the way back. It's a fun way to get the most out of your morning jog. Tours cost about $60 and include a technical T-shirt, bottle of water, and a cupcake at the end.
Beverly Hills Trolley Tours
The city of Beverly Hills offers inexpensive trolley tours that detail the city's history as well as little-known facts and celebrity tidbits. The tour takes visitors on a 40-minute docent-led tour through the tony avenues of Beverly Hills, including Rodeo Avenue and the Golden Triangle. It runs every Saturday and Sunday on the hour from 11am to 4pm. The fare is a mere $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. The trolley departs at the "Trolley Stop" at the intersection of Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way. For more information, call tel. 310/285-2442 or log on to www.beverlyhills.org.
Urban Shopping Adventures
Shopping may be a casual pastime in other cities, but in the urban jungle of Los Angeles, it's a competitive sport. If you're a shopping rookie, you might consider an outing with Urban Shopping Adventures, which offers custom guided shopping tours of the L.A. Fashion District -- more than 100 sprawling blocks loaded with wholesale and retail venues -- and celebrity-frequented boutiques in Westside neighborhoods along Rodeo Drive, Robertson Boulevard, West Third Street, and Melrose Heights. Hosted by shopping expert Christine Silvestri, the 3-hour walking tours start at just $36 per person, and merchants are sometimes willing to provide deep discounts to her tour guests. All shopping excursions include a shopping bag, district map, bottled water, snack bar, and plenty of time to browse at your own pace. She also offers round-trip transportation options such as shuttle, bus, or limousine service from your hotel or your chosen location for an additional cost. Advance reservations are required for all tours, and additional shopping districts are also available upon request. Call tel. 213/683-9715 or log on to www.urbanshoppingadventures.com.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.