Hollywood, Los Angeles: Where you'll find the world's most entertaining tour guide

"A reporter's lot is not easy, making exciting stories out of plain, average, ordinary people like Robin and me."

These are the words of Batman, played by Adam West in the '60s TV series.

They come to mind in Griffith Park – high in the Hollywood Hills – as we discover the original bat cave. Our guide is Eric from Bikes and Hikes LA. Eric is quite the joker. During our spectacular ramble, he weaves a tale of murder most foul. The billionaire who once owned this park was a delusional alcoholic who shot his wife in the eye because he thought she was having an affair with the Pope. His name was Griffith J. Griffith. Yes, you read that right. After serving time in jail he died of liver disease, bequeathing the bulk of his estate to the city for construction of the Greek Theatre and Griffith Observatory.

The story is so entertaining – with a liberal dose of hooks, pauses and teases – the children don't realise they've walked for 2½ hours. Some stretches are straight uphill, scrabbling over rocks, but there are no complaints: they're hanging on his every word. 

Eric punctuates our perambulations with scenes filmed in these thar hills, from Who Framed Roger Rabbit to Back to the Future. He plays the clips on an iPad with a case so tough it would survive the more than 500-metre drop to the bottom.

Suddenly we spot the famed sign, which used to read Hollywoodland. A real estate agent built the first sign. After it deteriorated, Hugh Hefner erected a second sign. An earthquake damaged this one, so the playboy hosted a fundraiser to re-erect it.

Our tour ends at the observatory with its Zeiss refracting telescope, the most popular in the world for viewing events like Halley's Comet. Downstairs is an interactive display of our solar system, where the children weigh themselves on Mars and Venus. (Seriously, ditch the diet. The next time you're asked to write down your weight, give 'em the measurements on Mercury…)

There is also a seismograph with a pressure plate, which you jump on to simulate an earthquake, and an enormous reproduction of the Foucault pendulum.

It's worth the walk for the view alone: a panorama of the city of angels, all smog and sprawl. While the hike is a little expensive for a family – plus the customary 20 per cent tip – it's the highlight of our trip to LA because of the combo of soft adventure, educational travel, and popular culture.


Then there's Eric. He is, without a doubt, the most entertaining guide we've ever had. After regaling us with tales of the caped crusaders – KAPOW! BAM! ZAP! – he looks wistfully into the middle distance.

"Eric loves Batman," he says, to no one in particular.

"He's referring to himself in the third person," Taj whispers.

"It's OK," I say, shushing him. "It's VERY Hollywood."

Let's face it: Folks like Eric make this reporter's job easy.


Tracey Spicer and family visited the city with the assistance of Discover Los Angeles.