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For many people, Los Angeles IS California. Some people visit this amazing and diverse state and remain the whole time in Los Angeles, and really, there's nothing wrong with that because the city really has SO much to offer. If you are a shopoholic, you will find your urges temporarily relieved in L.A. History buffs can also find plenty to fill their minds. And then people that like to really take it easy and chill out can just spend their days on any one of L.A.'s amazing beaches.
This article will help you sort out for yourself exactly what you want to do in L.A.; with so much to offer, how do you choose? Well, we'll try to sort out the cream of the crop here, so that you'll have a smaller amount of things to choose from, knowing that whichever you choose, a great time will be had.
Ok, so where to start? I think everyone can agree that one of the things which Los Angeles is known most well for is its beaches, of which there are over twenty. In West Los Angeles on the Santa Monica Bay lies one of L.A.'s most famous beaches; Venice Beach. This may have the most to offer in way of variation of all the L.A. Beaches, because it doesn't just offer a great place to sunbathe, but also an excellent place to do some people watching. In fact, if you don't even bother to strip down to your bikini and work on your tan, you'll still have a great time exploring its other points of interest. Firstly, there's the Venice Boardwalk, where street performers, artists and people selling something or another, all take center stage. Then, onwards to Muscle Beach where you can watch people sweat or do so yourself. This is where Arnold Schwarzenegger once worked out to his famous Terminator proportions. The rest of your time can be spent visiting the Venice Canals, the hip Abbot Kinney Boulevard and the beautiful Venice Beach House.
The other beaches of Los Angeles may interest you more or less, depending on your tastes, and likes and dislikes. Zuma Beach is found north of Malibu and is a great area for surfing, boogie-boarding and body-surfing. Great surfing can also be had at Manhattan Beach, which is also where there is a paved walking path with great views. The title of the home of the world's first beach volleyball tournament goes to Manhattan Beach which is another reason to visit this beach. Famed for its appearance on quality shows such as Baywatch and The O.C., Paradise Cove is also a must-visit place. It does have an entrance fee as it is privately owned, but is very beautiful and worth going to, especially for the Fourth of July fireworks.
Onwards and upwards, out in the waters of Los Angeles county, you'll find Santa Catalina Island. Ferries depart from San Pedro, Long Beach and Marina del Rey, and take about an hour, so a visit to the island makes for an excellent day trip. The beaches here are heavenly and six species of plant are found here and only here. For the more adventurous, there is a helicopter journey out to the island which will take fifteen minutes. You can horse-ride, cycle, sunbathe, hike and also partake in water activities such as scuba diving on the island. A cultural activity could consist of a trip to the Catalina Island Museum which is found in the interesting Casino Building. The museum will educate you on the long history of the island, and it also offers walking tours of Avalon, which is the largest city on the island, as well as lectures and classes for students.
You can't visit Los Angeles without going to Hollywood, that would be just bad manners. To get there you just head to the west-northwest corner of Los Angeles and keep an eye out for the iconic Hollywood sign. Erected in 1923, the sign's letters stand 50 feet high, and it is protected by its own trust; the Hollywood Sign Trust. Hollywood is also referred to tenderly as 'Tinseltown', referring to the glitzy, glam and sometimes sometimes fake ideal sold by the area. In the area, you’ll find the Hollywood Bowl where you can catch excellent music performances, the famous Sunset Strip, Paramount Studios, and of course, the amazing Hollywood Walk of Fame where more than 2,000 stars featuring the names of celebrities, both real and fictional alike; both Kermit the Frog and the Simpsons have a star.
Anyone looking for a quick fix of retail therapy will find that and then some in Los Angeles, because shopping is one thing that goes quite unrivaled in the city. Venice Beach is a great place to find very affordable souvenirs, sunglasses and original arts and crafts. Retro Row in Long Beach is where fans of vintage and retro clothing will feel right at home. Referred to sometimes as the 'Soul of Long Beach', Retro Row is made up of three blocks of more than a dozen vintage and retro shops. You can literally spend an entire day browsing these shops, searching for that perfectly unique find. People of all budgets are welcome here, with costs ranging from $2 to upwards of $250 for true vintage treasures. If you want to spend some serious cash, head to Rodeo Drive and with just one purchase you will have completed your personally set challenge. Beginning at Wilshire Boulevard and running three blocks down to Santa Monica Boulevard, this is where the very affluent and very famous do their shopping. You'll find the cream of the crop in brand names on Rodeo Drive, including Channel, Gucci, Valentino and Christan Dior, to drop but a few famous names. Famous for its extremely expensive and beautiful jewelry, the Tiffany store will also happily accept your money.
Los Angeles is colorfully packed with people of all races, with a particularly large Hispanic community. So, walking around the city, you will certainly experience different cultures and languages, and that is one of its charms. To get that feeling in abundance, you can head to Los Angeles' Chinatown, where you will not so much experience diversity, but rather experience a whole new culture, right in the heart of the city. With a tough history dating back to the coming of the first Chinese immigrants (thought to be around 1852), the Chinatown which stands today in Los Angeles is now a flourishing Chinese community and quite a tourist attraction.
The main streets running through what is known as New Chinatown, since the area was relocated from its original location less than a mile away from where it is now in the 1930's, are Spring Street, Hill Street and Broadway. So, what can you do in Chinatown? Well, just wandering around for an entire day will provide more than enough amusement, with all the different smells, tastes and colors on show. But specifically, here are some very special things which you could go see. Firstly, every Thursday there is a farmer's market from 2 to 6 pm. It is found at the Public Parking Lot at 727 North Hill, between Alpine and Ord, Adjacent to the United Commercial Bank building, and here you will have a wonderful time meeting people and maybe purchasing the odd vegetable which you may never have seen before. When you are peckish you can head to the famous Phoenix Bakery which has existed since 1938 and which sells excellent Chinese and American pastries and desserts. To learn a little or a lot (depending on your capacity for absorbing information) about the history of the Chinese in L.A., you can head to the Chinese Heritage and Visitor's Center on Sundays from 12-4pm.
In Los Angeles there are more than enough museums to keep anyone going for days and days on end. But which are the best? Well, for a broad taste of the history and culture of the area, the following museums are recommended. Firstly, the Getty Center is an absolute must-see. It is located in Brentwood, L.A., and is the home of the J. Paul Getty Museum, which houses a permanent collection of "pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs". This is a beautiful museum, not just for its art, but for its architecture, view overlooking Los Angeles and its charming gardens.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is the largest museum in western U.S.A. and strives to educate its visitors on the amazing cultural and natural history of the area. Many of its animal specimens on display come from the famous La Brea Tar Pits. You could pass two solid days here and still not get it all done. Onto the next two museums; you know that you can't go to L.A. without getting a solid education on the strange and wonderful Hollywood. Firstly, head to the Hollywood Heritage Museum which displays photographs and memorabilia of the silent era of film, taking you back to the very beginning of Hollywood. Afterwards you should visit the Hollywood Wax Museum which has a generous display of 180 wax figures of celebrities, both real and fictional, such as Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, John Wayne and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
There are some things which you can catch in L.A. if you're lucky enough to be around at the right time. For ten days in June, you can enjoy the Los Angeles Film Festival which “showcases the best of American and international independent cinema “. With a capacity for just 100,000 visitors, you're gonna want to book ahead if you want to attend and, if you do, it will be well worth it.
Aside from its beaches, L.A. isn't a city that most people would connect with nature, and its beaches don't really give you the feeling of 'getting out in nature' anyway. But don't be fooled, if you look for something, you will find it; there are plenty of beautiful parks in L.A. where you can head out to to clear your head, bring a picnic or go for a hike. One of the largest urban parks in North America is Griffith Park which covers 17 km2 of land and is found in Los Feliz in L.A. Known sometimes as the 'Central Park of California', Griffith Park offers plenty to do and see. Aside from just having the prospect to get out in nature, you can can also see concerts at the Greek Theater, star gaze at the Griffith Observatory, animal gaze at the Los Angeles Zoo, and check out the Hollywood sign from up close at Mount Lee which is found in the park.
Just a twenty minute drive from downtown Los Angeles, you'll find the 'Descanso Gardens', which is Spanish for 'Gardens of Rest'. The gardens are located in a dip between the San Rafael Mountains, which offer the area natural seclusion, and are open daily between 9 am and 5 pm. Some of the charms of the gardens include the International Rosarium which is a five acre area boasting more than 3,000 roses; a bird observation station from where you can easily catch a glimpse of up to 40 of the 150 species which have been spotted in the park; hop on the enchanted railway which is a small replica of a diesel train that takes you around a section of the gardens; and the recently renovated Boddy House, which is where E. Manchester Boddy, the founder of the Descanso Gardens, once lived.
And now onto what you can do at night in Los Angeles. Naturally, there is as much to do in the darker hours as there is during the day. Firstly, you'll want to get a bite to eat, which is always good fun in L.A. as there is just so much variety. If you like your garlic, and are not planning on courting anyone, then head to the humorously named 'Stinking Rose' in Beverly Hills, which serves Italian-Californian fusion cuisine, with a little or a lot of the delicious herb mixed in. Located in Santa Monica, I Cugini ('The Cousins', in Italian) is said to serve up the “finest Italian seafood cuisine in Southern California, and there is also an extensive wine and grappa selection. Finally, located on Santa Monica Boulevard you'll find Kula Sushi Bistro where you'll find the finest selection of mostly organic, natural foods, coming together to form wonderful sushi dishes. The produce in Kula is fresh and the atmosphere is very relaxing, so this restaurant is a must-try for sushi buffs.
Then, to work your way a little further into the night, well, your choices really are endless. As a wine producing region, we recommend you head to a wine bar, at least once on your trip to Los Angeles. Located on Hillhurst Avenue, Vinoteca Farfalla has a selection of more than forty five wines, as well as European beers on tap and an Italian/Brazilian food menu. You can sample the wine by the glass and slowly fill up on the various antipasti on offer. A different flavor of wine bar is found at Monsieur Marcel which is located in the Farmer's Market in L.A. It has a list of over five hundred wines to choose from and the staff is very pleasant and really know their stuff. The bar also offers monthly wine tasting classes, so if you're around at the right time, that would be a very interesting thing to do during your holiday in Los Angeles.
And finally, to really dance and drink the night away you can head to one of Los Angeles' various night clubs. There is a very wide selection to choose from, and whichever you choose will inevitably be good. On Venice Boulevard you have Saints and Sinners, which is a great place to go for cocktails. The décor is very interesting and fun, and a DJ will be there to provide excellent music which could be anything from indie to punk to 70's music. If you hope to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, you should definitely dress up as much as possible, and try to get into The Kids Cotton Club where you may catch big names such as Christina Aguilera, Leonardo di Caprio or Demi Moore. It's located on Cahuenga Boulevard and it's advised that men wear ties and ladies wear dresses to get in. Once in, you'll have a wonderful time.
We hope this extensive run down on what to do in Los Angeles will give everyone a few good ideas and that you all have an excellent time in the wonderful City of Angels.
(Pictures from Flickr users: ShooterD, Nogwater, Chang-er, Omar Omar, Jeffkingla and Sheillaellen)