I’m back in Los Angeles for the 2011 LA 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 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 LA is like that. My friends keep telling me that too. “Just live here for a while,” they say, “you’ll see why LA is so great.”
One thing I do love about LA (and this is at odds with everyone who lives here) is the downtown area. There may not be much down there, but when I’m there, I feel like I’m in a city. There are high rises, buses, a train, lots of people, and some shops. It feels urban, like a metropolis should. There’s a lot of potential, 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 LA. 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 are some of my favorite activities:
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 there, and a lot of good venues to see music acts.
Santa Monica: Hollywood may be Hollywood, but I loved Santa Monica even more. It’s right on the beach, there are great restaurants and cool bars, and it’s a bit less pretentious. Plus, the main drag 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, see the TCL (Grauman’s) Chinese Theater and the Egyptian Theater, pretend you met stars at Madame Tussaud’s, and eat at lots of good restaurants. Take some time to explore the boulevard. It’s worth it.
Celebs-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. Sit at the bar and have an overpriced drink while you spot 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 plus a theme park for one package price. It’s the most famous place to take a studio tour but not your only option.
Tour the stars’ 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 LA, 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. It has great art, but what I like the best are the sweeping views of the city and the building’s architecture. This was a highlight of my time in LA.
Take a walk on the beach: Los Angeles’s beaches are a great place to go for a walk, people-watch, or just lounge in the sun, especially Santa Monica or Venice Beach.
Griffith Park: The second largest park in the US, this is a great place for hikes, picnics, or hanging out with friends. The hiking trails lead up to Mulholland Drive and provide great views of the city. Griffith Park has many activities, including the LA Zoo, the Autry Western Museum, pony rides, a golf course, a driving range, and The Griffith Observatory.
LA has no shortage of things to do. 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 LA 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. LA still isn’t quite that city yet — but it’s getting closer.