San Fernando Valley Guide

Photo courtesy of dj murdock photos, Flickr

As home to the world’s major movie studios, the San Fernando Valley is where celebrities live, work and play. Here’s a 24-hour behind-the-scenes itinerary of the Valley’s sizzling attractions, restaurants and nightspots.The San Fernando Valley has it all. It’s made up of gorgeous suburbs and mini-malls. Major network and movie studios call it home. Then there are the tremendous opportunities for dining and entertainment. The Valley has anything you need or want: great food, great fun, and definitely great shopping.

    Primary image for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)


    The region is conveniently accessible from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) via the FlyAway Van Nuys bus service for $8, or you can fly directly into the Valley via Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. If you’re coming from Downtown, the Metro Red Line stops in both North Hollywood and Universal City.

      Universal Studios Hollywood The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle
      The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts™ Castle | Photo: Universal Studios Hollywood
      Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Lowe, Flickr 

      Universal Studios

      If we had to choose a central hub for the Valley, it’d most likely be Ventura Boulevard, a strip of high-end restaurants and shops that stretches from Universal City to Thousand Oaks. Here you’ll find everything from diners and fast-food joints, boutique shopping to traditional clothing stores, grocery stores, coffee shops and lots of retail shopping.

      And if Ventura Boulevard is the Valley’s backbone, Universal Studios Hollywood is probably its heart. No trip would be complete without a visit (or several) to this LA icon. Take a studio tour or spend the day on thrilling rides in the theme park. Be sure to check out Universal’s 3-D ride, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.Then there’s Universal CityWalk Hollywood, an outdoor center with restaurants, entertainment and shopping galore. Now visitors can experience the thrill of skydiving at one of CityWalk’s newest attractions, iFLY. LA’s first indoor skydiving wind tunnel uses two high-power electric fans to suspend guests up to 30 feet in the air for a thrilling, authentic free-falling sensation.

        Mulholland Drive
        Mulholland Drive Instagram @ryanlongnecker

        Mulholland Drive

        Of course, you can enjoy a roller coaster ride just by driving up (and down) Mulholland Drive, which meanders along the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains. The drive takes you past beautiful homes surrounded by eucalyptus trees, sporting views of West Los Angeles out one window and Valley cities such as Woodland Hills and Sherman Oaks out the other.

        In other words, you don’t have to drive “over the hill” to get to the excitement in Hollywood or Beverly Hills. It’s all right here.There’s always something to do in the San Fernando Valley! From museum exhibitions, live theatre, film festivals, kid-friendly events, and more – there’s something for everyone.
        Plan your visit to the San Fernando Valley with this helpful map of attractions, venues and shopping destinations.

          Versailles on La Cienega | Photo courtesy of puregroove:dot:org, Flickr


          The cuisine in the Valley mirrors its diversity. Anything you can think of, the Valley’s got it.

          Are your taste buds speaking Cuban? Try Versailles Restaurant on Ventura Boulevard in Encino. There are tons of choices on the menu, but we recommend the staples: roasted chicken or pork (or the combination plate!). Get a side of black beans and rice along with fried plantains and you will be in heaven, we promise.

          Want to, as they say, have “A Bit of London in LA?” Go to Robin Hood on Burbank Boulevard in Sherman Oaks for the best fish and chips this side of the pond. Add some malt vinegar and a Guinness draught.

          Head to "Sushi Row" (a.k.a. Ventura Boulevard) for noteworthy sushi restaurants. Katsu-ya is always a local favorite, while Zagat Survey named Sushi Nozawa (Studio City) and Saddle Peak Lodge (Calabasas) among the top five best food picks in Los Angeles.

          You’ll find upscale Italian at the Drago brothers’ Sicilian oasis, Panzanella, in Sherman Oaks. Parlez vous Francais? Enjoy country French cuisine at Pinot Bistro in Studio City.

          To take full advantage of the Valley’s culinary diversity, go to Universal CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood, which offers dozens of dining choices, including Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood, Buca Di Beppo and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

          Just need to make a quick stop? Surprisingly — in light of LA’s insatiable appetite for being thin — you will find burger joints on just about every corner. Try a Fatburger or a classic In-N-Out Burger to get a real taste of Los Angeles.Visit DineLA for more information.

            Westfield Topanga
            Photo courtesy of Westfield Topanga


            If the mall wasn’t invented in the Valley, then the Valley perfected it. There are mini-malls, mega-malls, outlet malls — if there were ever a new type of mall, then the San Fernando Valley would have it.

            For the traditional mall experience bumped up a notch, go to Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks for Bloomingdale’s and Banana Republic (and almost 140 other stores). Or try the newly expanded Westfield Topanga in Canoga Park, which features more than 300 stores and boasts the largest Nordstrom in the Los Angeles area. You can buy trendy clothes at Planet Funk, fashionable shoes at Aldo or something in a little blue box at Tiffany & Co. Of course, you'll have to visit the 120,000-square-foot Neiman Marcus, one of the shopping center's jewels. And if you're looking for a complete entertainment experience to complement your shopping spree, visit the Glendale Galleria.

            Meanwhile, the $400 million Americana at Brand features a vibrant blend of shopping, dining and entertainment with creative residential living in a beautiful park-like setting in downtown Glendale. The project occupies 15.5 acres and approximately 900,000 square feet of retail/commercial space, including 475,000 square feet of contemporary shops, restaurants, and an 18-screen Pacific Theatres Cinema.

            True fashionistas head to Ventura Boulevard, where you can find dozens of boutiques that will make the fashion-hungry shopper drool. Try Maxine to get fully outfitted or drop into Belle Gray by Lisa Rinna to don the latest fashions. Also look for vintage clothing shops all along the Boulevard.Are you the kind who likes new gear from head to toe, but doesn’t have a lot to spend? In nearby Ventura County, the Camarillo Premium Outlets have just what you need. For the feet, get some vintage-style shoes from Puma, stylish kicks from Skechers, or be more traditional and shop at the Nine West outlet. Deck yourself out in attire from Diesel, Calvin Klein or any of the other hundreds of stores. Trust us, you need a full day to get through this outlet mall, and it’s totally worth it!l

              NoHo Arts District
              NoHo Arts District

              Art and Culture

              Looking for things to do in the San Fernando Valley? With live theater, music and two major amusement parks, you’ll have no problem staying busy.

              The NoHo Arts District can offer you a huge variety of choices. More than 20 theatres in NoHo feature classics to improv, guaranteeing top-notch performances.Art galleries abound on Lankershim Boulevard. Make sure to check out NoHo Gallery LA, which presents a wide variety of artists working in various mediums. Live music and other performances make the area an artist’s paradise.

                Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
                Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
                Six Flags Magic Mountain


                For some outdoor time, head to Ahmanson Ranch, a 2,983-acre wildlife refuge and natural park just north of Calabasas. The pristine park features 15 miles of recreational trails and several rare and endangered species. Made up of oak forest, wetlands, canyons, rolling hills and pastures, the land was slated to become a housing development before the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy stepped in and bought it in 2003.

                Bringing the whole family? At Universal Studios Hollywood, you can get both the studio experience and everything you would ever want in a major theme park. Kids will love the Shrek 4-D experience and the all-new all-new 3-D ride, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. This is just the beginning, of course.

                Go behind the scenes on the world famous Studio Tour to explore where Hollywood movies are made and see firsthand the world’s largest 3-D experience, King Kong 360 3-D, created by Peter Jackson. Then, face action head-on in heart-pounding rides, shows and attractions that put you inside some of the world’s biggest movies. And be part of the battle as you embark on a mission to defend the Allspark from the evil clutches of the Decepticons™ in TRANSFORMERS™: The Ride-3D.

                Ever wanted to be treated like a movie star? With the VIP Experience you can enjoy just that. This unique experience includes an extensive guided tour of the immense Universal Studios Hollywood℠ and its motion picture studio with access to areas of the studio lot that the general public never sees. Your VIP guide will also escort you to the Park’s most popular rides and attractions, taking you in via special exclusive VIP entrances. Afterwards, enjoy time to explore the vast Park on your own, when you can skip the queues at every attraction, get the best seats in the house for every show, enjoy a delicious gourmet lunch, and more.

                For more about how “the industry” works, take a tour of NBC Studios, where they film The Tonight Show. Or take the Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tours, where you might see film or television productions in progress.

                Looking for spine-tingling thrills? Make sure you go to Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Los Angeles in Valencia. Featuring more than 40 different amusements, including roller coasters, water rides and others, Magic Mountain is an all-day experience. The world's first fourth dimension coaster ride, X2, redefines the thrills of conventional roller coasters. Just make sure you save room for funnel cake!

                If after a long day of thrills and excitement you need something a little more low key, visit the Japanese Garden for a tranquil walk among peaceful ponds and intricate landscaping. Various municipal golf courses in the Valley are available to take advantage of LA's perfect weather.As you can see, you’re going to be tired after doing all there is to do in the San Fernando Valley. ote

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