The reputation of America’s second-largest city precedes itself. It’s where aspiring actresses wait tables in between auditions. It’s where cutthroat agents lose their hair over the next big script. It’s where you can make it big or fall hard out of the spotlight. Though dotted with lazy palm trees, warm beaches and trendy coffee shops, the first visit to Los Angeles can be a bit overwhelming. With literally thousands of things to do and see, LA offers visitors a plethora of experiences for just about every interest.
For those who want to catch a glimpse of the rich and famous, there is no better place than Tinseltown, where you might be standing behind Leonardo Dicaprio while in line for your latte. In LA, even ordinary people look like famous celebrities, and plastic is the preferred type of payment (and often the preferred type of surgery).
Visitors interested in expensive cars and glamorous houses will have a field day driving around Beverly Hills. Besides its importance to the entertainment and shopping industry (see Rodeo Drive), LA is a center of culture, trade and business. The city is composed of several districts, including the Downtown central business district, Hollywood, South Central, and the Westside. It’s said to take two hours to drive across the entire city, and that’s without traffic.
Home to some of the most famous designers, shoppers won’t be disappointed by the selection of department stores, trendy boutiques and other unique shops. Stroll down Melrose place or windowshop along Third Avenue, Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Boulevard. For more expensive price tags, be sure to visit Rodeo Drive, where you might catch a glimpse of celebs and socialites on shopping sprees. For those with slightly shallower pockets, Downtown LA’s Fashion District is much more appealing.
While at first it may seem that this megalopolis has developed every inch within its city limits, Los Angeles actually has several preserved natural areas. With such diverse environments, including beaches, wetlands and mountains, LA is wonderful for those interested in hiking, biking and exploring these nuggets within
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a huge urban city. Most of LA rests between the San Gabriel and Santa Monica Mountain ranges, where winds famous Mulholland Drive. Art enthusiasts will enjoy Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood, while the Bronson Caves on Canyon Drive attract nature loves and movie buffs, as the caves have been featured in several famous films. Another worth exploring is LA’s biggest park, Griffith Park, which covers more than 4000 acres and features two golf courses, pony rides, a museum and an Observatory.
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As one of the most culturally diverse cities in the country, Los Angeles has a museum for just about anyone. Science fans will enjoy the California Science Center, a museum near the USC campus in Exposition Park. For those with kids in tow, spend the afternoon inside this interactive museum. Check out the Getty Center art museum, which became famous for Richard Meier’s stone and glass design, or the Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown Los Angeles.
Another family-friendly activity, zoos and aquariums offer opportunities to see weird and wild creatures up close. The Los Angeles Zoo, while smaller than the world-renowned San Diego Zoo, makes for an ideal way to spend the afternoon. Aquarium of the Pacific, located south of LA in Long Beach, has 17 major tanks and 30 smaller ones, which feature iridescent jellyfish, the rare dragonfish and the edgy Shark Lagoon. For those who seek less expensive entertainment, the Orange County Zoo costs only $2 for admission for ages. The zoo boasts animals such as mountain lions, ocelots, hawks, black bears and island foxes.
No trip to LA is complete if one has never visited Disneyland. While no longer the only or most unique theme park, Walt Disney’s creation certainly captures the hearts of children (and adults) who visit. Favorite movies are brought to life and it’s hard to ignore the exciting energy in the air–even while waiting on line, rides like Indiana Jones entertain visitors with moving ceilings and walls. For those desiring taller and faster coasters, Disneyland’s next-door neighbor, California Adventure, will get the adrenaline pumping. Knott’s Berry Farm takes it a few steps further, offering visitors 160 acres of thrilling rides and attractions. Legoland is another stop for those with young kids, though adults might be fascinated by the fact that almost everything in the park is made of legos. For the movie lovers, Universal Studios is a must-see, offering entertaining simulations, rides and factoids about Hollywood’s most famous motion pictures.
Where to even begin? With a diverse population comes a diverse nightlife. You can people-watch at swank bars in Hollywood or Westwood, look over the city from rooftop bars in the Valley or spot the paparazzi as they try to snap valuable pictures of celebrities at places like Area. Places like The Laugh Factory are great for those in the mood to laugh until they cry.
Cruise along the Walk of Fame at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Jog along Long Beach or explore tide pools at Cabrillo Beach. Cruise along the scenic Mulholland Drive. Grab a cheap lunch at the LA Farmers Market. Rollerblade along the boardwalk at Venice Beach. Be part of a television audience (and maybe win a prize). As you can see, it’s almost impossible to be bored in this city that never sleeps.
photo by themikebot on Flickr