Making it in Los Angeles

Making it in Los Angeles: Los Angeles from Griffith Park
Los Angeles from Griffith Park

Famous American author and traveller Jack Kerouac called Los Angeles, California, ‘the loneliest and most brutal of American cities’ and it seems many travellers still agree, with it recently being voted the most disappointing travel destination in the world, on Reddit. So why is it such a tough nut to crack? What’s the big let down with L.A? And, how can you make the most of your trip to the City of Angels?

Making it in Los Angeles

Perhaps the big problem, with Los Angeles and travellers, is the expectation. Known as the home of the stars, famous for its glitz and glamour, year-round sunshine and beautiful people, what most holiday-makers are actually confronted with on arrival are a maze of impenetrable highways, long car journeys in heavy traffic, rundown neighbourhoods and a strong sense of disappointment.

Making it in Los Angeles: Los Angeles Highways
Not what you came on holiday for?!

Like with any travel destination you have to go in prepared. LA is not the kind of city you can just rock up to, hop on some public transport (definitely don’t do this; definitely hire a car) to the centre and wander round some sights. Los Angeles is a mass of neighbourhoods and urban sprawl and is not well set up for tourists at all. But it’s not all doom and gloom! Go in with a game plan, know what you’re up against and you’ll find loads to do and have a great time. Here are just a few things to get you going.

Hit the Los Angeles beaches

While far from tropical paradise, the beaches of LA are a great place to base yourself. Fun and bustling with a wealth of places to eat, drink, relax and enjoy the sunshine. Each beach town has its own vibe so check out which suits you best before you book accommodation. Many of the beaches are also conveniently located for the airport and staying here helps keep you away from the maze of the centre, giving you a nice place to relax on days between long car journeys seeing sights.

Making it in Los Angeles: Manhattan Beach Pier
Manhattan Beach Pier

Food and Drink in LA

You might well have to search, and drive, far and wide but do some research and L.A. will reward you with a fantastic restaurant and bar scene. Hit some of the ‘in’ spots and you may also catch a glimpse of a star or two (although I wouldn’t count on it).

LA Sports

Los Angeles doesn’t have an American Football team but the Dodgers (baseball), Lakers (basketball) and Kings (ice hockey), all play regularly in season. Tickets aren’t too pricey and, even if you’re not that interested in the game, there’s always plenty of classic American junk food, overpriced beer and giant sodas to get stuck into.

Making it in Los Angeles: The some baseball at Dodger Stadium
Take me out to the ball game! At Dodger Stadium.

Parks and Gardens

There are some great parks and gardens around L.A. One of the most famous is Griffith Park, with it’s well-known observatory and great views of the city and Hollywood sign. The Los Angeles Arboretum is another great place for a wander, with plants from all over California, and the world, and some old Californian buildings to check out.

Making it in Los Angeles: Sunset at the Griffith Observatory
Sunset at the Griffith Observatory

Visit a Californian Mission

It might seem like Los Angeles doesn’t have much history beyond the movie industry but search around and you can find hints of California’s Spanish past in the form of the religious missions, outposts set up by Catholic priests to spread Christianity among the indigenous people of the state. The San Gabriel Mission is the most central but there are others in striking distance for a great day trip.

Making it in Los Angeles: Mission San Juan Capistrano, south of LA
Mission San Juan Capistrano, south of LA

California coastal walks

Get yourself away from the city and see some of that stunning California coast, with great walks such as this one at Ranchos Palos Verdes.

Making it in Los Angeles: Coastal Walk at Ranchos Palos Verdes
See the stunning California coast

Disneyland, California

It’s not for everyone, and Disneyland makes for an expensive day out, but the self-proclaimed ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ is definitely a unique piece of Los Angeles, and American, history, with fun rides to boot!

Making it in Los Angeles: Disneyland
Disneyland

Hollywood Tour

This is top of many people’s list and, while you can pick up a little Hollywood history from your guide and you’ll get to see the famous Hollywood/Beverley Hills area from the cramped seat of a tour van, it’s bound to be a disappointment. Engage in this one at your own risk and don’t say you weren’t warned. I’d opt for a short wander around Hollywood one afternoon and finding a decent book to read up on your Hollywood history instead.

Making it in Los Angeles: The Hollywood walk of fame
The Hollywood walk of fame

Love it or hate it? Let us know your experiences of Los Angeles below.

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About James Gill

Born and raised in the UK, James got his first taste for travel on an inter rail trip, round Europe. Since completing his English Lit. degree, he has spent most of his time working and traveling in Asia. As well as the UK, James has lived in Thailand and southern China and is now trying his luck in Australia. He has backpacked throughout Southeast Asia and China and travelled in America, Australia and Europe. He is a keen reader and loves eating spicy food.

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3 Responses

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    […] South Central Los Angeles, while on assignment chasing a star high school basketball player, I was careful to stop my car at […]

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    Michaela Gill

    Engaging article which opened up my pre-conceived ideas about LA.! I thought it was well written too – short and snappy but informative. Interesting about it being voted the most disappointing destination.

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