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.
- Watch the sunset on the beach in Santa Monica
- Rent bikes along Venice beach
- Cruise through Beverly Hills (and gape)
- Watch enthusiastic cyclists at CicLAvia
- See an indie rock band at Los Globos in Silver Lake
Hike across from the Hollywood sign at Griffith Park
- Eat Brazilian food
- 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.
- Go Israeli folk dancing
- Attend a performance at the Hollywood Bowl
- See panoramic views from the top of city hall (free!)
- Eat with your hands in Little Ethiopia
- Picnic at LACMA on Friday nights while listening to free jazz
- Dance at West Hollywood’s gay bars
- Cover your ears for the neighborhood Fourth of July fireworks
- Ride in the funicular at Angels Flight
- Tour the architecturally preserved Gamble House in Pasadena
- 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?!).
- Eat at taco trucks. Repeat.
- Shop the 80% discounts at the American Apparel warehouse
- Pick out fresh produce at one of the 200 farmers markets
- Yoga, yoga, yoga
- Eat Kosher Persian food in Pico-Robertson
- Find weird, experimental art during a Downtown Art Walk
- Nosh next to a food truck
- See a live (and free) taping of Conan O’Brien. Harrison Ford was a guest when I was there — my one major celebrity sighting.
- Drink a Guinness milkshake at Hollywood Boulevard’s Roosevelt Hotel
Visit the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, where they have an impressive collection of Impressionist art (free with a student ID!)
- Walk around the Caltech campus
- Tour the Los Angeles Times newspaper presses
- Find a Trader Joe’s near you.
- Don your hippest attire for a fashion line release party. You can find similar events here.
- Road trip into the Valley for a wine tasting
- 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
- Enjoy a drink at the rooftop bar of the Standard Hotel
- Watch a movie at the Hollywood Forever cemetery
- Take a free tour of Eagle Rock Brewery
- Find the canals in Venice. They do exist, apparently.
- Hike Point Dume in Malibu
- Check out the Korean Friendship Bell along the coast