Let’s face it, Los Angeles sometimes gets a bad rap. On the surface, LA has it all. So why do so many people bad mouth the City of Angels? I think there are two reasons… a simple misunderstanding and simple jealousy.
First, the misunderstanding. What is LA most known for? Well sure, beaches and good weather are up there but if you had to pick one thing it would have to be the entertainment industry… Hollywood! There are lots of places that have beaches and good weather, but not many who have the history and sheer volume of entertainment related stuff around. And what are the people in the entertainment business known for? Greed, excess and superficiality. So it is completely understandable why an outsider, even if they have visited LA, would think that that is what LA is all about. I mean, of course the most obvious and in-your-face thing you notice about LA are the rich, superficial snobs! They want to be noticed. So its no surprise. However, here is where the misunderstanding comes into play, the mistake most people make is assuming that because that part of LA is on the surface that it represents all of what this city is about. Sure, you might have to dig below the surface layer of slime a bit more than some cities to find the rose garden, but its there. There is just about every type of person, everything you could dream of doing and every scene you could be into in this city, you just have to search them out… they won’t necessarily come to you.
Then of course there is the simple jealousy. I mean who wouldn’t want to live where there is great weather year around, natural beauty and just about everything you could want to find within driving distance? OK, well that is one of the reasons the price of living is a bit high… but that’s another story altogether.
So here it is… my list of the top things I love about LA.
- Food: Okay, I admit, I’m a foodie, so food is important to me and not a surprise that it would top the list. There is simply a staggering number and variety of restaurants in LA, from tiny authentic taco stands to the fanciest of fancy French cuisine. Sure, I could find some things I could complain about the food scene here, but it doesn’t change the fact that for just about every cuisine you want you can find dozens, or more, of great restaurants.
- Weather: This is a no brainer. The weather here rocks. Unless you like freezing your teats off half the year.
- Diversity: No, LA isn’t just Hollywood and Mexico. Sure, with our proximity to our southern neighbors there are lots of great Mexican-related things to do, food, Olvera Street, etc. But there is a staggering diversity of everything in LA. Food from everywhere you could imagine, art, culture, different “scenes”, etc. One day you could be attending a Swedish meatball festival and competition and the next singing along with reggae bands on the beach.
- Weather: Yeah, its that good.
- Natural Beauty: This is bound to be one of the most controversial points. Los Angeles is not known world-wide as a bastion of nature. It is seen as a big, sprawling urban metropolis but again this is quite a misconception. First of all, the city itself, well, at least most of it, is beautiful. Trees are everywhere. Rolling hills and the beautiful beaches (see below) fill the geography. The city simply looks good (again, most of it… there are certainly ugly parts as in any city). Is it the most beautiful city in the world? No. But it ain’t the worst either. Now, I must admit that access to nature, not just trees interspersed in the city but actual nature, is not as easy as in some places. Most “parks” in LA are nothing more than a sports center with baseball and soccer fields. However, everywhere around the area, and easily accessible by car, are gorgeous natural areas. Whether enjoying the stunning Pacific coastline, the Santa Monica mountains, the apple orchards in Oak Glenn, the Angeles National Forest (whats left of it after the fires this year), or the Topanga State Park (and much more) you cannot deny the natural beauty of our surroundings. Whether you like to just look, hike, picnic, climb, fly or whatever, its all within a short drive.
- Beaches: Okay, I know this could fall under the natural beauty section, but the coastline and beaches in LA deserve special mention. Dozens of public beaches up and down the county, each with their own personality and advantages, are free natural attractions for any season. If you haven’t seen it, the sheer grander of the Pacific is something to behold. Being able to bask in its glory while enjoying a picnic and some beach volleyball each weekend is almost too good to be true.
- Its Huge! Some people might say this is a bad thing. But if you like diversity, novelty and variety, then having a huge city is an amazing resource I wouldn’t be able to give up. Sure, there is something to be said for a quaint little community far from the hustle and bustle of the city (isn’t that what weekends at Lake Arrowhead are for?), but, frankly, I (and most of you… admit it!) would get bored eventually.
- Getting Lost: Wherever you live, whether a tiny town or a giant city, we all tend to get stuck in our own ruts of our day to day lives. Even with the infinite possibilities for dinner each night, most people have 4 or 5 favorites they frequent 95% of the time. But what I like about LA is the ability to stir things up periodically, to let yourself go, explore new things and be surprised. Once every few weeks I like to pile the family into the car and just drive. Not following maps or GPS, no destination in mind, just head in an unfamiliar direction. The things you discover in a place as big as LA can be thrilling. Some of the places we’ve discovered this way have some of our favorite places to visit. In fact, we discovered the area we now live this way years ago!
- Griffith Park: San Francisco has Golden Gate Park, New York has Central Park, why isn’t Griffith Park more well known? This hillside park overlooking Hollywood and Los Feliz is well over 4,000 acres! Thats about 4 times bigger than Golden Gate Park and almost 5 times bigger than Central Park! Hiking, picnicking, the Griffith Observatory, concerts in the park, the Greek Theater, pony and train rides, carousels and the LA Zoo is right behind it! This natural monument overlooks our city and is a wonderful escape right in our own backyard.
- Hollywood Bowl: Tucked away in the hills behind Hollywood, the Hollywood Bowl is a part of LA history. This large outdoor amphitheater hosts just about every kind of show you can imagine, from orchestral music to plays to dance to rock concerts. But the best thing about it is its summer programs which happen almost every night all summer long. What’s so great about them? Besides the excellent program of diverse acts, you can bring your own food and drinks into the Bowl! You can enjoy a picnic and wine with your loved ones under the starry sky while listening to the LA Philharmonic and viewing a fireworks display. Simply one of the most fun and relaxing summer activities I can imagine. And the tickets start at only around a buck! Sure, they are in the nosebleed section but, when you’ve got tons of food, wine and friends, who cares!
- Shopping: I’m a guy. Shopping isn’t really on my top list of fun things to do. So I don’t mean going to a mall and “shopping”. What I mean is you can get anything here. Look it up. There is probably a factory for what you are looking for downtown! If you are looking for a [insert random weird thing here], there is likely to be an entire store devoted to it somewhere in the LA area. Try it, you might be surprised.
So give LA another chance before you knock it. If you keep an open mind you may just realize that this is one heck of a great town!