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