40 things to do in L.A. (that won’t make you hate L.A.)

Verdi's Requiem at sunset at the Hollywood Bowl

#10. Verdi’s Requiem at sunset at the Hollywood Bowl.

I recently had dinner in D.C. with a former Los Angeles Times intern whose excitement for data journalism — a combination of programming, document-based reporting and storytelling — inspired me to approach some people on the NPR data desk and ask to shadow them. I highly recommend checking out her blog.

We spent a good chunk of our dinner talking about how much we miss the city. I suspect that was because it’s a rather rare occurrence, getting to reminisce about it. Unfortunately, L.A. is a city that people love to hate. I get it: It’s full of cars, paparazzi, obscene wealth and dire poverty. We can project our distaste for all things manmade, from highways to Hollywood, and pat ourselves on the back for not being quite as self-destructive and shallow as that.

But there’s so much more to L.A. than celebrities and pollution. These naysayers might not realize that the city and surrounding area is home to mountains, forests and beaches — it’s some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen outside of Europe, with consistent 75-degree weather to boot. And the scenery of people is beautiful too. It’s a complete melting pot of cultures and nationalities, which means a) every neighborhood of the city makes for a new experience, and b) amazingly authentic ethnic restaurants.

So what can you do to appreciate Los Angeles as much as I do? Root for an underdog, and carry this list with you on your next trip to Southern California.

  1. Watch the sunset on the beach in Santa Monica
  2. Rent bikes along Venice beach
  3. Cruise through Beverly Hills (and gape)
  4. Watch enthusiastic cyclists at CicLAvia
  5. See an indie rock band at Los Globos in Silver Lake
  6. #16. Bonus: It takes you up to the place where the guy in "500 Days of Summer" sits on a bench and ponders Zooey Deschanel.

    #16. Bonus: It takes you up to the place where the guy in “500 Days of Summer” sits on a bench and ponders Zooey Deschanel.

    Hike across from the Hollywood sign at Griffith Park

  7. Eat Brazilian food
  8. Hike at Temescal Canyon — it’s a fantastic trail that is a serious workout for a Midwestern flatlander like me. If you have time, take the full trail (4 miles or so) that goes into the Valley.
  9. Go Israeli folk dancing
  10. Attend a performance at the Hollywood Bowl
  11. See panoramic views from the top of city hall (free!)
  12. Eat with your hands in Little Ethiopia
  13. Picnic at LACMA on Friday nights while listening to free jazz
  14. Dance at West Hollywood’s gay bars
  15. Cover your ears for the neighborhood Fourth of July fireworks
  16. Ride in the funicular at Angels Flight
  17. Tour the architecturally preserved Gamble House in Pasadena
  18. Hike at Topanga Canyon in Malibu. Like all hikes, this is free — unless you happen to park next to a fire hydrant along Highway 1 (but who would do that?!).
  19. Eat at taco trucks. Repeat.
  20. Shop the 80% discounts at the American Apparel warehouse
  21. Pick out fresh produce at one of the 200 farmers markets
  22. Yoga, yoga, yoga
  23. Eat Kosher Persian food in Pico-Robertson
  24. Find weird, experimental art during a Downtown Art Walk
  25. Nosh next to a food truck
  26. See a live (and free) taping of Conan O’Brien. Harrison Ford was a guest when I was there — my one major celebrity sighting.
  27. Drink a Guinness milkshake at Hollywood Boulevard’s Roosevelt Hotel
  28. Delightful Degas statues at the Simon Museum

    #28. Delightful Degas statues at the Norton Simon Museum

    Visit the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, where they have an impressive collection of Impressionist art (free with a student ID!)

  29. Walk around the Caltech campus
  30. Tour the Los Angeles Times newspaper presses
  31. Find a Trader Joe’s near you.
  32. Don your hippest attire for a fashion line release party. You can find similar events here.
  33. Road trip into the Valley for a wine tasting
  34. The following I didn’t get to do, but they’re on my list for next time. First off, museums: Getty, LACMA, La Brea tarpits
  35. Enjoy a drink at the rooftop bar of the Standard Hotel
  36. Watch a movie at the Hollywood Forever cemetery
  37. Take a free tour of Eagle Rock Brewery
  38. Find the canals in Venice. They do exist, apparently.
  39. Hike Point Dume in Malibu
  40. Check out the Korean Friendship Bell along the coast

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