Los Angeles: Beyond “The Hills”
To many of us living outside of California, Los Angeles seems to the focal point of negative press, regarding anything from the smog to Botox, gridlocked traffic and celebrity debauchery. While its true all of these things run rampant in Los Angeles, there is a positive side to Southern California as well, like the beaches, the food, the famous sights and last but not least, the incredible shopping.
It is difficult to even begin to list all the sight-seeing possibilities in Los Angeles. Hollywood alone boasts several museums, theaters and famous or rather infamous hotels and nightclubs. An entire day’s worth of sight-seeing can be done on Hollywood Boulevard, visiting the tourist sites like Grauman’s Chinese Theater and stepping in the cement footsteps of famous actors and actresses. Stop at the Kodak Theater to see the home of the Academy Awards, or visit the Hollywood Wax Museum and take pictures with your new, almost real looking boyfriend, Brad Pitt. All along both sides of Hollywood Boulevard is the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a pedestrian walkway of celebrity’s star plaques. The famous Roosevelt Hotel on the boulevard also has an array of Hollywood memorabilia. The Sunset Strip, a section of nearby Sunset Boulevard, is the epicenter of nightlife in Los Angeles. This West Hollywood hot spot is where legendary hotel and bar Chateau Marmont hides away in the hills, which one can expect to see Mary Kate Olsen stumbling out of frequently. Also nearby, is the Hollywood Bowl, a dome -shaped outdoor amphitheater where some of the most remembered musical acts have taken the stage.
One of the most well known attractions in Hollywood is Griffith Park and Observatory. It has been called the Central Park of Los Angeles, located at the bottom of the Santa Monica Mountains in the neighborhood of Los Feliz. Hiking and bike trails wind throughout the park and up through the Hollywood Hills to the Griffith Observatory. At the top is a spectacular view of the Los Angeles skyline and those large white letters that create the Hollywood sign.
If you are an art or history buff, visit the J. Paul Getty Museum where European sculptures, photographs, paintings, such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises, and many other works are displayed. The Getty’s detailed architecture, gardens and view alone make it worth the trip.
West Cost Eats:
There is nothing like a warm spring day at Dodger Stadium. Have some Dodger Dogs at the game or grab a bit downtown after the game at Philippe’s, the birthplace of the French dipped sandwich and one of the oldest restaurants in the city. Also part of the oldest section of downtown is Olvera Street, the colorful Latino pedestrian Street and Mexican marketplace. Chinatown is close to this area, as well as the Los Angeles Union Station, where countless movies have been filmed. As far as restaurants go in Southern California, there are a few places any native will recommend. The West Coast drive thru In-N-Out Burger is so delicious that only the basics are available on the menu: burgers, shakes and fries. Other West Coast fast food staples are Tommy Burgers and Fatburger. The new sensation has been Pinkberry, a modernized ice cream shop offering frozen yogurt, smoothies and all kinds of toppings.
Because Los Angeles is the world entertainment capital, there are several theme parks such as Disneyland, Sea World, Universal Studios, and Knott’s Berry Farm. Another action-packed way to spend the afternoon is at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, for a $12 admission fee.
Of course there is no point in traveling to Los Angeles without seeing the Pacific Ocean. A drive along Pacific Coast Highway is a breathtaking way to soak up the coastline. The artistic and circus-like atmosphere of Venice Beach Pier is where many LA residents escape the city to jog, bike or rollerblade along the ocean front walk. There are canals like those in Venice, Italy, and sidewalk vendors all along the boardwalk. In the sixties, this was the hangout for the Beatnik poets, artists, and musicians. Another popular LA beach is Santa Monica, which holds “Pacific Park”, a mini amusement park with a Ferris wheel, carousel, aquarium, entertainers, and restaurants.
Near the pier is the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade, a large outdoor pedestrian shopping mall. The Grove is another boutique outdoor shopping center, a favorite weekend destination for many celebrities, where the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market is located. Old Town Pasadena also has several shops and boutiques, and hosts the Norton Simon Museum, where Andy Warhol made his West Coast art debut. It is impossible to discuss shopping in Los Angeles without mentioning the several blocks of Rodeo Drive, in Beverly Hills lined with couture fashion and designer stores such as Lisa Kline. In between Santa Monica Boulevard and Beverly Hills is Melrose Avenue, another high-end fashion district and home of Paramount Pictures.
It would be easy to spend weeks in Los Angeles, visiting all the famous sights of the Hollywood elite, laying back at the beach, shopping at trendy high-fashion boutiques, or just checking out downtown.
By Carrie McCloud