Go beyond the tourist trail and discover the real LA with this local’s guide on where to eat, stay and play in the city.

LA is used to being stereotyped: it’s the city of broken dreams, plastic surgeries and casting couches. Or it’s the one town where lives can change overnight: mailroom clerk brokers a deal and goes from assistant to big cheese; aspiring actress morphs from one in a line of hopefuls to overnight star.

But to the residents of this sprawling city, LA is so much more: an oasis (so long as you avoid rush hour) with perfect weather for almost 365 days, where you can ride the waves in Malibu and ski Big Bear’s slopes in the same 24-hour period; see a movie at Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema or Grauman’s Chinese Theatre; and sample every delicacy, from fried oysters in Santa Monica to a world-class pastrami on rye at a downtown deli. In short, the city that everyone else thinks they can summarise in just a few words has so much to offer it’s actually impossible to characterise.

A Feast for Eyes, Ears and Tastebuds

While it’s not possible to drive directly to The Hollywood Sign, visitors have a lovely time getting to it. The easiest way to reach the sign that spells out LA’s best-known district in 14-metre letters is by turning onto North Beachwood Drive from Franklin Avenue, parking and walking to the fence that surrounds it (it should take about half an hour).

Get to the top of another of LA’s high spots by taking the tram up to the Richard Meier-designed J Paul Getty Museum , which has, in addition to an impressive art collection, a lovely garden area that’s perfect for a picnic.

Speaking of picnics, pick up one from Joan’s On Third before heading to The Hollywood Bowl for a night under the stars at the famous modern concave amphitheatre on the hillside that’s featured The Beatles, Pavarotti and everyone in between.

Local Flavours

It’s ironic that a city known for its green juices and body-fat-free population has such delicious decadence. While there may be a lot of talk about veganism and gluten-free eating, the carnivores in LA are never at a loss for tantalising options.

One: What it lacks in ambience, Pink’s Hot Dogs more than makes up for in taste — which should be obvious to anyone who has ever stood in its long lines. Arguably the world’s best-known hot-dog stand, Pink’s serves chili beef dogs with mustard and onions so good even chef Martha Stewart approves (a dog with bacon, sour cream and sauerkraut is named after her).

Two: Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali’s pizza house Pizzeria Mozza is famous for serving the best crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside crust outside of Naples. Go there for the bacon, salami and sausage on the Meat Lover’s pizza — as well as the meats served next door at their companion restaurant (the high-end and almost-impossible-to-get-into Osteria Mozza).

Three: Musso and Frank Grill, and Dan Tana’s may be the steakhouses that attract the tourists, but Angelenos wanting a New York cut head to Taylor’s, a low-lit, old-school joint that’s been around for more than 50 years and is known for its quality cuts of beef, red booths and dirty martinis.

Checking-in

The City of Angels offers some world-class accommodation options.

Opulent: Not just the home of the infamous Polo Lounge, LA institution The Beverly Hills Hotel is also where Howard Hughes lived, on and off, for 30 years. With enormous bungalows that include every service and amenity imaginable (even dog walking), this 101-year-old pink palace resides on five hectares.

Hip: Featuring a rooftop pool, beer garden, nightly DJs, Spin ping-pong club, a 24-hour gym, waterbed cabanas and hipsters innumerable, The Standard Downtown is not an ideal spot for those looking to catch up on some shut-eye.

Historic: One of LA’s official historical and cultural landmarks, Chateau Marmont is a gothic, bohemian, seven-storey West Hollywood gem built in 1927, where the glitterati can go to get away from it all (without actually going too far).

Boutique: Centrally located on Sunset Boulevard (happily, away from the riffraff), The Grafton boasts a saltwater pool and excellent customer service (they’ll drive guests anywhere within three miles — which, in LA, gets you far).

Sophisticated: Richard Gere romanced Pretty Woman Julia Roberts at the Beverly Wilshire. It’s perfect for those who want to be in the heart of Beverly Hills. A white marble lobby with carved wooden elevators leads to Cut steakhouse, the ideal spot to unwind after hitting Rodeo Drive.

Eclectic LA

Venice Art Crawl is Venice Beach’s monthly celebration of its local artists — see street performers (such as glass-walkers) or take a ride on the boardwalk’s Ferris wheel.

In the heart of West Hollywood, visit the Pacific Design Centre. It’s home to a branch of Museum of Contemporary Art, where you can see works by emerging and established artists in architecture, design and photography.

Those interested in seeing a different side of Hollywood can cuddle up under the stars and watch a movie at one of Cinespia’s outdoor screenings, which take place every Saturday night from May to October. Locals bring a picnic dinner, their warmest blankets and even alcohol.

Leaving LA

Seventeen kilometres from downtown LA, Pasadena is not only home to the glorious monthly Rose Bowl Flea Market — where shoppers start showing up at 5am to peruse more than 2500 booths of clothing, furniture, books and other collectibles — but also boasts Old Pasadena, a business district of rustic brick façades on historic streets, with a shopping mall, cafes and comedy clubs.

There’s arguably no better movie-going experience than at iPic Theaters, which offers reclining seats, table service, an outside bar, even blankets and pillows.

Day or weekend trippers also stop off in nearby San Marino to visit the stunning Huntington Library for its 83 hectares of botanical gardens.

My City

Producer Aaron Kaplan has sold more TV shows than perhaps anyone else out there — but he had the right training, having run the William Morris Agency’s TV department for years. While travel is part of the job (he’s logged plenty of hours in Australia, overseeing sci-fi mystery show Terra Nova), Kaplan also knows how to make the most of Los Angeles, and life.

What do you love most about LA?

I’m a third-generation Angeleno — my 99-year-old grandmother went to high school here. So what excites me the most about LA is the evolution I’ve seen it take. I also love the weather and topography.

Where do you go to get away from it all?

I love to escape with my wife to [luxury hotel] Shutters in Malibu, or to Santa Barbara. But there’s really no better escape than being on the beach in Malibu.

What’s one of the perks of LA most people don’t know about?

Burbank Airport. It’s the greatest airport in the world. Parking and security are so easy to deal with that you can get to the airport 30 minutes before your flight.

What can you do in LA that you can’t do anywhere else?

You can go to so many places where a movie or TV series is filmed, or see the old legends’ homes. And the Sunset Strip is one of the coolest places in the US, just for the sheer impact it had on music alone.

If you had to recommend one restaurant in LA, which would it be?

I love Providence. I should mention I’m one of the owners. I’d recommend it anyway, though.

Don’t Miss

The Magic Castle may be the Academy of Magical Arts’s private clubhouse and thus meant for magician members, but anyone can go — just buy a $100 membership, good for a month, and catch a show or simply have a meal.

Shoppers will find terribly good deals on the last Friday of the month at Cooper Design Space, home to LA designers such as Splendid and Cynthia Vincent. Those who bring cash, their own shopping bags and a willingness to try on clothes with no dressing rooms, are rewarded with rock-bottom prices.

Just above Los Feliz Boulevard is Griffith Park Observatory, a spot where hikers hike, lovers kiss and people gaze at LA through telescopes or visit the planetarium.