Los Angeles is a great place to begin a California road trip. Chris Schulz has done the reconnaissance and has a few suggestions for what you should tick off before you hit the road.

1 Ribs

There's only one way to kick off a visit in the muggy peak of Los Angeles' summer weather, and that's by heading straight to the nearest diner for all-you-can-eat ribs. There are two main styles: slow-cooked and sticky, the meat falling off the bone; or seared over charcoal fires and slathered in fabulous, sticky barbecue sauce.

Fries and slaw are compulsory sides, as are napkins. And if you're ever deciding whether or not to get a half or full serve, choose the full. You're in America, you're going to eat a lot. Go easy on the bread, and go hard with the ribs. You flew 12 hours in cattle class to one of the dustiest cities on the planet, so you deserve to kick off your road trip adventures in classic American style.

2 Celebrity spotting


It's often said that there are celebrities on every corner in Los Angeles - and it feels true: if the people you see on the corner aren't actual celebrities, you can be sure they're working on it.

If you're trying to spot stars while wandering around Los Angeles, all you have to do is keep your eyes open. I've had Jane Lynch smash into me outside a furniture shop. I've dined next to Iggy Azalea in a restaurant that used to be a hardware store. I've watched rapper The Game cruise through Beverly Hills blasting booming hip-hop from his jet black SUV. But watching bratty rap crew Odd Future, including front man Tyler, the Creator, skate down Beverly Blvd, blow past me then kick-flip off the kerb remains a highlight.

3 The Grove/Farmer's Market

It's a foodie's dream. And a shopper's. Plan to spend a full day on this massive site, because there's just so much to do. Firstly, head there for the shopping - pick up your shoes at Nordstrom's, stock up on gym gear at the Nike store that takes up three levels, grab your kitchen supplies at Crate + Barrel (leave anything wooden on the shelf) and grab candy for your kids at the giant confectionary shack on the corner. Then get lunch at the Farmer's Market, which, handily, is right next door. Everything you could ask for is there, including fresh smoothies, huge slices of pizza, slow braised cuts of meat and corned beef sandwiches. But be warned, the longest queue is for the Brazilian barbecue team. You'll be back shopping in no time - and planning to stick around for dinner.

4 The great coffee hunt

You will not find good coffee in Los Angeles. I repeat. You. Will. Not. Find. Good. Coffee. In. Los. Angeles. So don't even bother trying. They do awful, horrible coffee in two ways: filtered dregs that sits around for hours and is served with glugs of gluey cream, or sickly sweet milky coffees served in buckets from chains like Starbucks. Amazingly, many of them have started serving flat whites but be warned, these are not the flat whites you'll find in New Zealand, just more overly sugared milkshake-sized coffees. My suggestion is to grab a cold brew instead - there's a great range at Whole Foods, and it's the perfect way to beat the Los Angeles heat.

5 Random hotels

You could stay at a gigantic hotel chain, but where's the fun in that? Find yourself a random boutique instead, like Maison 140 in Beverly Hills, a former hostel for aspiring actors that's within walking distance of the main stretches of Beverly Hills. It's decidedly old-school, with a lift that fits three at a pinch and feels like it's being handwinched up levels, and rooms decked out with giant pink quilted headboards, wall-sized mirrors and giant lampshades. Historic? Yep. Vintage. For sure. Ghosts? Apparently there's at least one lurking in these hallowed halls so you would be advised to always watch your step.

6 No one walks

Everyone drives in Los Angeles. No distance is too short to call a cab, or app for an Uber. If you enjoy walking, or jogging, you'll find you have the footpaths to yourself. And you'll see more of the city too. On a mission to exercise one day, I randomly stumbled into a park and watched the most committed dad I'd ever seen smash his two sons at basketball, then happened across two soccer teams playing in a dust bowl without one blade of grass visible.

7 Terrifying taxi rides

Everyone has a horror story, and mine was being crammed into a Beverly Hills Cab ride featuring the Angriest Man I've Ever Met. He drove too fast, he swerved in and out of traffic, he sped up to go over judder bars, and sped down to shake his fist at those who enraged him. It was easy to do - you'd probably just have to smile at him. Getting to our destination, I'd never been so happy to get out of a taxi. It was proof that not everyone deserves a tip in LA.

Watch your turn on the 710 Long Beach and 105 Century freeway interchange. Photo / 123RF
Watch your turn on the 710 Long Beach and 105 Century freeway interchange. Photo / 123RF

8 Amazing sandwiches

After that taxi ride, I consoled myself with the greatest thing I have ever eaten. It was a sandwich, but it wasn't a simple combination of bread and fillings. This was a masterpiece, the kind of thing that deserved an entire episode of Netflix show Chef's Table devoted to it, something that should be on display in a dedicated art gallery. Firstly, it was huge, easily the equivalent of two trifling sandwiches you'd find back home. Crammed between a split sourdough roll were deep-fried chicken pieces, pickles and coleslaw oozing mayonnaise, thick slabs of cheese, and a delicious spicy barbecue dressing. But here's the thing that made it next level: on top of all of that lay slices of pork crackling. That will keep you going until you find someone serving your next meal of ribs.

All you need to know for driving in the US
House of Travel's top tips for Kiwis heading off on a US road trip.

You must have a valid New Zealand driver's licence to drive in the United States.

If you're hiring a rental car, it's recommended you take out the maximum insurance cover on offer. Hertz has a great offering of maximum cover without the pesky "per day" charge.

Petrol is cheap! It does vary but over the past few months the cost of petrol in the US has ranged from US63c-US68c a litre. At many petrol stations you need to pay first before you pump gas.

Most rental car companies have a minimum rental age of 20, but renters aged between 20 and 24 are often required to pay a daily surcharge.

Drink-driving rules in the US are very strict. All states define driving with a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 per cent as a crime, but specific laws and penalties vary substantially from state to state.

The LA freeway is big and can be intimidating for travellers from little old New Zealand. When you pick up your rental, tune the radio to one of the traffic stations (KABC 790AM, KFWB 980AM, KFI 640AM and KNX 1070AM).

Getting there
House of Travel has one-way Economy Class fares to Los Angeles on sale from $599, including all taxes with Air New Zealand.