Beautiful, plastic people manoeuvring their Bentleys through traffic heading to the next rooftop patio party where they’ll pop bottles of Moet to salute the smoggy sunset. Have I forgotten any L.A. stereotype? The City of Angels gets a pretty bad rap not only from the East Coast of the US, but the rest of the world as well. Ok, so the stereotypes are partly true (that’s how stereotypes are made), but those who visit L.A. with the expectations of it being a walking stereotype will grossly miss the point of this city. In my humble opinion, there is much to see, do, and experience in L.A. Let me walk you through this rationale.
It’s no secret that Los Angeles is spread out far and wide, from the coast to the valley to the mountains (with lots of concrete in between). While the city is pretty dense, the sites to see are just as spread out as the city limits, and connected by way of highways. Highway after highway after highway. You definitely need a car (or luxury SUV if you want to live the stereotype) to get from one area to the next. I’ve often heard people say that L.A. lacks character and (ironically) warmth, and I’d say that urban sprawl is to blame for that misconception. If you always have to get into your car to get from point A to point A.1, then how can you feel any sense of community?
The key to getting the warm and fuzzies is to realize that they exist in more contained pockets around the city a.k.a. neighbourhoods! Los Angeles is a city of neighbourhoods that function as individual ecosystems, and with the size and demographic makeup of the city, you can certainly bet that there is something for everyone. If you’ve ever visited a city of neighbourhoods (like say, New York City), you know that the whole point is to enjoy what each area offers, sometimes as active participant, other times as detached observer. The key is to recognize where you should slip into each role.
Do you love…
…a hot scene? Head to West Hollywood or Beverly Hills.
…the great outdoors? Hike up a canyon or surf the Pacific coast.
…museums? Stay central in Mid-Wilshire.
…theatre? Come on guys, this is Tinseltown!
But you don’t have to drink the Kool-Aid to enjoy a particular neighbourhood.
What if you’re not into hiking and find yourself at Runyon Canyon? Keep an easy pace and eyes peeled for celebrities.
Not a hipster but you’re in Echo Park? Pack yourself a picnic and head to Echo Park Lake!
Don’t like museums but stuck on Wilshire? Take a selfie at LACMA’s Urban Lights.
Not a coffee fan? Have a smoothie!
Cities like L.A. might not be obvious at first cursory glance. They might require a less “laissez faire” attitude and a lot more patience to deal with the drivers and traffic, but the beauty starts once you park that car (rental or not) and step out into the ubiquitous sunshine. L.A. is very walkable, not in the “able to get to various places by foot” kind of way but in a “leisurely constitutional” kind of way. You can check out the Walk of Fame, celebrity hand/footprints and iconic theatres along Hollywood Blvd., spend some cash at the shops and restaurants as you walk down Melrose Avenue, walk through Griffith Park to stargaze at the Observatory, walk the historic canal district in Venice, check out the buskers along the Venice boardwalk, in fact walk all along the boardwalk from Santa Monica to Marina Del Rey! That was a lot of walking in that sentence right there, and there’s a lot more walking to do. So what if you need a car to connect the dots? Consider it the equivalent of hopping a cab.
Being a big city tends to be a draw for immigrants for its opportunities, and Los Angeles is no exception. I sometimes joke that L.A. is “big Armenia” as it is the third largest Armenian diaspora in the world, but it isn’t just my people who have flocked by the hundreds of thousands to the area. L.A. was originally part of Mexico and has seen many waves of immigrants settle in over the years, from the many Hispanic countries to the south, to the Europeans of the early 20th century, and East/Central/South Asians. I have never seen so many ethnic enclaves within a city, and they aren’t just the usual Chinatowns and Little Italys (and I live in the world’s second most diverse city)! You’ve got Historic Filipinotown, Little Armenia (*represent*), Thai Town, Little Saigon, Little Ethiopia, Little Moscow, even Little Bangladesh… Now that’s what I call adding extra spice to the local culture (not to mention to the local cuisine). If that doesn’t make L.A. even just a little bit more interesting…
Sometimes the key to enjoying a city is to immerse yourself and live like a local. With a bit of research, you can find an area that fits your lifestyle and preferences, and before you know it, you too will like (perhaps even love?) the beautiful City of Angels.
More on visiting L.A. like a local: https://whatdoesntsuck.com/2015/08/visit-los-angeles-like-local/
Check out my Instagram @portjam and search for #PortjamInLA for more of my pics!