I have experienced Los Angeles from two different viewpoints and I can tell you that living in L.A. is a totally difference experience from visiting it.
As you drive around L.A. you see the buses with tourists being shown all the “sights”: Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills; the Hollywood sign; Griffith Park Observatory; The Magic Castle; Venice Beach; Hollywood Bowl; The Chinese Theater; Disney Hall, and of course the stars homes. These are some of the main examples, and I feel sorry that these tourists may not experience the real essence of Los Angeles. Say what you will about Los Angeles, but it is a beautiful city, and it would take more than a few days for visitors to appreciate it fully.
So, after you have been given “the tour” consider renting a car and exploring further.
Malibu: the drive from Santa Monica to Malibu will give you a flavor of the Southern California coastline, and depending on the day, you can see the Pacific Ocean when it is at its sparkling blue best. You could drive up into the many canyons off Pacific Coast Highway and get a panoramic view down the coast.
The Hills: most communities in the northern part of the city have their hills. Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Beverly Hills and, of course, Hollywood. Driving up into these canyons with their narrow streets will afford you some spectacular views of the city. You will not believe you are in the heart of Los Angeles in these areas. If you get a chance you should take Mulholland Drive one of the most scenic drives in the country.
Downtown L.A.: this will probably be on your original tour, but it is worth going back and appreciating the diversity. There are walking tours where you will be able to experience some of the best preserved art deco buildings in the country. You should also visit the Arts District which, like much of Downtown, has gone through a gentrification process. Enjoy the street art and trendy eateries. Also be sure to visit the Fashion District, a 100 blocks of retail and wholesale businesses and the largest flower market in the country.
Echo Park: enjoy a paddle boat ride on the lake and take time to visit the magnificent Victorian era homes on Carroll Avenue in Angelino Heights.
Museums: there are actually more museums in Los Angeles than any other city in the country. The most famous are the two Getty museums and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. There is a museum for almost every interest you can think of.
Entertainment: cultural wasteland Los Angeles is not. We have the world class Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Opera, Performing Arts Center and numerous theaters around town. And if you are lucky enough to be here during the Hollywood Bowl season from around mid-June to late September you should take advantage. Enjoy top entertainment under the stars. You can even bring your own food and picnic at the many tables around the arena. On a more intimate scale there is also the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park.
Dining: Los Angeles is a dining mecca with every menu imaginable and something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. The problem is going to be choosing one.
Shopping: shopping is becoming a destination experience in Los Angeles right now. With the development of the outdoor malls of The Grove and Santa Monica others are following suit. Westfield’s Century City Mall is in the middle of an overhaul to be followed by Westside Pavilion which will become open air and the Beverly Center which is getting a huge facelift.
Outdoor Activities: there are several beautiful city golf courses around Los Angeles that offer reasonable green fees for non residents. From Monday to Thursday the fees are $35. You can play a full round at the Twilight rate of $22. Rent a bike in Santa Monica and cycle down to Venice, Marina del Rey or maybe as far as Redondo Beach. This is a 40+ mile round trip, but great exercise with lovely views. If you are a surfer and the weather is cooperative you could head to Malibu and ride the waves there. And if you are a hiker there are numerous trails to choose from.
Don’t forget the magnificent weather we have here. No there are no seasons, but having grown up in the U.K. I can do without them.
Another plus to living in Los Angeles is its proximity to other places of interest. It is only a two hour drive to San Diego and Palm Springs and a 4 1/2 hour drive to Las Vegas. And there are many other day trips you can do in a day such as Santa Barbara, Solvang, and Hearst Castle. Maybe you want to take a boat ride to Catalina, although you will need a strong stomach for that trip as the water tends to be choppy.
A complaint often heard is that Los Angeles a megalopolis without a center. The community in which you live becomes the center, a small city within a city.
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