The Saturday City: Los Angeles

hollywood walk of fameI’m back in Los Angeles for the 2011 L.A. Times Travel Show. Now, as you know, I’m no fan of Los Angeles. There’s just something about it that rubs me the wrong way. But, I keep coming back here because I have friends who live here and I’m never one to fully write off a city without giving it a chance.

I think Los Angeles is one of those cities you either love or hate until you live here and then you simply love it. Bangkok was like that for me. I hated the city for a long time but after moving there, I saw that there was more to it than traffic and pollution. I get the feeling L.A. is like that. My friends keep telling me that too. “Just live here for awhile,” they say, “you’ll see why L.A. is so great.”

One thing I do love about L.A. (and this is at odds with everyone who lives here) is the downtown area. There may not be much down here but when I’m here, I feel like I’m in a city. There’s high rises, buses, a train, lots of people, and some shops. It feels urban like a metropolis should. There’s a lot of potential here and it’s shame they aren’t really building the downtown up more. They should- it’s easy to get around. And maybe that is it. Maybe that’s what I hate about L.A. I love cities that are easy to get around. Even giant cities like New York, Tokyo, and Bangkok all have some sort of transportation system that doesn’t rely on a car. Los Angeles is not like that. You can’t walk around or take the metro anywhere. You need a car here. And I’m simply not a car guy.

But Los Angeles has a lot to do and, if you do have a way to get around, here’s some of my favorite activities to do here:

Sunset Boulevard: Perhaps one of the world’s most famous streets, it began as a route between the stars’ posh neighborhoods and the Hollywood studios. It runs from downtown to the ocean, passing through the “Sunset Strip” on its way. You’ll find a lot of high end stores, restaurants, and clubs here too. If anything, there are a lot of good venues to see music acts here.

the end of route 66Explore Santa Monica: Hollywood may be Hollywood but I loved Santa Monica even more. It’s right on the beach, there’s great restaurants, it’s a big less pretentious, and there’s cool bars there. Plus, the main drag here has a lot of great shopping.

Hollywood Boulevard: Hollywood Boulevard has recently being going through some urban renewal and renovation. You can stroll the The walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, pretend you met stars at Madame Tussauds, the Egyptian theater, and lots of good restaurants. Take some time to explore here. It’s worth it.

Celeb Spot at the Chateau Marmont: The Chateau Marmont is where all the celebrities come and hang out to do things we read about in TMZ the next day. Come down here, sit at the bar, and have an overpriced drink while you spot out the celebrities. Even if you don’t see any, the Chateau Marmont is one beautiful hotel to look at.

Universal Studios Hollywood: This famous studio offers tours of the studio plus a theme park for one package price. It’s the most famous place to take a studio tour but not your only option out there.

Tour the Star’s Homes: Sure, it’s super cheesy but there’s something fun about driving around and seeing where all the celebrities live. I mean it’s L.A. and part of the attraction of the city is all the famous movie stars, the glitz, the glamor. So be a super tourist and go see where Brad Pitt calls home!

Getty Museum: The Getty’s architecture is so beautiful that it keeps me fascinated. They have a great art exhibit but what I like the best are the sweeping views of the city and the building’s architecture. Visiting here was a highlight of my time in L.A.

Take a walk on the Beach: Los Angeles beaches are a great place to go for a walk, people-watching, or just lounging in the sun. Head down to Santa Monica or Venice beach for some of the best beaches in the area.

the end of route 66

Griffith Park: This is the second largest park in the U.S, this place has a great place for hikes, picnics or hanging around with friends. The hiking trails lead up to Mulholland Drive, and provide great views of the city. Griffith park has many activities in it including the L.A. Zoo, the Autry western museum, pony rides, a golf course, driving range, and The (Space) Observatory.

L.A has no shortage of things to do. There’s so many people here from so many different places around the world that you also get a wide variety. I simply wish I didn’t have to get stuck in traffic to do them all. Everything is too spread out here! Yet the more I visit, the more appealing L.A. becomes. It’s still just a place to visit though. To me, the cities I love the most are the cities I would live in. L.A. still isn’t quite that city yet but it’s getting closer.

  1. Hi there, Matt! I’m glad you’re not in the crowd that just loves to hate LA without being open-minded about it. Every large city has its positives and negatives, after all.

    You can delete this if it’s spammy, but I’d like to point out that downtown LA is already right in the midst of a renaissance of sorts. There are lots of things to see and do downtown, when people an urban feel to their LA vacations.

    See you later, Matt.

    • I was about to say the same, Jennifer. I don’t live in LA but I do the Frommer’s guide on the area every year or two, and from what my informants tell me, the Downtown area is being revived.

      Matt, if you hate LA for the lack of transportation, you must REALLY hate San Francisco. It’s what I dislike most about living here: The main transit lines are along Market (ew), so unless you live along there, which a lot of people don’t, it’s insanely difficult to get around town–and unlike LA, this is a really small city, size wise (seven miles by seven miles).

  2. Matt,

    I’m born and raised in LA. There’s tons of great stuff on the Eastside and Downtown.

    If you’re basing yourself downtown, the Rivera bar has insanely good cocktails. However, if you want something funkier, I would highly recommend heading over to the Tiki-Ti. It’s a tiny, family-owned and operated Tiki bar that’s been around forever. It is about 5 miles from downtown on Sunset Blvd. Try the Blood and Sand or if you are overwhelmed by the extensive drink menu, spin the wheel and see what you get.

    If you’re looking for some tasty food, Little Tokyo has lots of places open late on weekends. My favorite is Koraku. The Katsu Curry Rice is outstanding. On par with what you get in Japan. They’re open late but cash only. Or you can always hit up one of the numerous Food Trucks. Grill ‘Em All, Grilled Cheese, and Taco Zone are all definitely worth a try.

    If you’re craving the best Hainan Chicken Rice this side of Bangkok, shoot me an email and I’ll let you know where it is. I can’t have that information falling into the wrong hands.

    Have a great visit and hopefully see you at the Travel Show.

  3. Yeah, I always try to warn travelers about the having-a-car necessity in Southern California. We’re sorry about that by the way!

    I’m so glad you included the Getty; it really is my favorite place in L.A.

  4. When LA starts to kill my soul I head to the beach. Granted I haven’t spent tons of time there, but I can say when you get your toes in the sand and face the Pacific, suddenly everything is OK!

    Have fun at the Travel Show.

  5. Hey, Matt! Thanks for coming to LA and sharing your ideas on things to do in this megalopolis we call home! I’m going to disagree with you, though, on going to the beaches in Santa Monica and Venice. While they _are_ nice beaches, they are also packed with locals and tourists alike trying to catch some sand and sun. The result: traffic, noise, bums, and an environment that is far from relaxing. When I talk to folks that are coming to LA for the beaches, I steer them to the Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach. Known collectively as “the Beach Cities”, they’re clean, homey, and much more accesible than Santa Monica and Venice. Of course, its all about what visitors are looking to get from their visit. If its a relaxed day at the beach, these three beaches will have it! :) (sorry for sounding like a commercial but I’m serious; these beaches are great. Cheers!)

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  7. I used to live in L.A. as a kid. I’m in San Diego now, which I completely agree is America’s Finest City and it’s quite difficult to compare the two… L.A. is a place I like to see, then get the heck out. A couple/few days and I’m good. Sort of like Vegas. I prefer the outskirts – Topanga Canyon is pretty cool. Kind of like Malibu’s hippie cousin. Still not completely sold, but I can make a good time of it – especially in Beverly Hills at Spago – if forced. 😉

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