I love Los Angeles! The weather, the food, the scene, the vegetation, the wildlife, the different neighborhoods … I love it all. On a recent visit, this was my usual morning experience: Eat breakfast, then walk my son’s dogs to a hipster coffee shop for a delicious cup of joe. (Oh, that’s another thing I love about L.A. — the coffee. It’s like Rome — it’s hard to get a bad cup.) Chat with locals and let them pet the dogs. (Another plus: People are pretty friendly in L.A., and dogs are welcome almost everywhere.) On the walk back, enjoy the beautiful jacaranda trees with their purple blooms; bright pink bougainvillea and other lovely flowers spilling over fences; the lemon, orange, and pomegranate trees that grow in so many yards along with the palm trees and tall, thin cypress trees. Admire the creative drought-resistant gardens that some people have installed. I saw hummingbirds flitting about, hills with homes set into them like little jewels, and mountains in the distance. And this is Los Angeles, my friends! I’m walking, and I’m surrounded by nature, and I’m still in the city. Of course I also see grit, plain dirt lawns, and homes that are fading right along side the perfectly restored craftsman houses and Spanish villas. I even see a hawk grab a dove and fly away. Yikes. And this is all in the morning. Later in the day I might go to lunch in West Hollywood, the beach in Santa Monica, shopping in Pasadena, or hiking on any one of the numerous trails throughout the city, such as Runyon Canyon, Griffith Park, or Eaton Canyon. I can visit art museums like LACMA or the Getty Center, take in a live show at the Greek Theatre, or stroll through the beautiful Descanso Gardens. I’ll enjoy a glass of wine out on the patio in the evening and marvel at the ant-eater crawling up a tree right next to me. I can walk to a neighborhood restaurant for a delicious dinner made with fresh, organic ingredients, or I might go downtown for a drink and late-night udon noodles. The possibilities are endless. There’s so much to see and do in LA, but it’s not an easy city to get to know quickly because it’s large, sprawling, and comprised of different neighborhoods with different vibes. You can’t just visit one place and think you know L.A.
How to Enjoy Los Angeles
Step 1: Get Away from the Airport!
Chances are, you’re going to fly into LAX, but the smaller Burbank airport is a good option if you can get there. Assuming you end up at LAX, the first thing you need to do after collecting your luggage is to get out of there. Don’t stay in a hotel near the airport; don’t look for a restaurant there. Get out! There’s nothing there but pollution. Most airports and shipping ports around the world are located in industrial areas that tend to be the ugliest, most polluted parts. These areas aren’t where the nice hotels, restaurants, and neighborhoods are. They aren’t where people like to hang out. Get out right away! Ways to leave the airport in order of most expensive to least expensive:
- Rent a car. When you leave baggage claim, cross to the median and get on the appropriate bus that will take you to your rental car provider.
- Take a taxi. Wait outside the baggage claim.
- Take Lyft or Uber. (I’m a Lyft fan.) Go to the upper level departure area for pick up.
- Take the FlyAway Bus. Cross to the median outside baggage claim and look for the FlyAway bus pickup point. You’ll need to know which bus you’re looking for, e.g., Union Station, Hollywood, Santa Monica, etc. The buses are clearly marked and are $8 – $10 per person, credit cards only. They store your luggage in the bottom so you don’t have to lug it on board with you, and it’s a pretty comfy ride in a big, air-conditioned bus. You can buy a ticket online in advance or do it in person when you get off the bus before you pick up your luggage.
Step 2: Pick a Neighborhood and Get to Know It
Where do you want to go? Most people visiting Los Angeles for the first time want to see Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and that’s a great place to start. But don’t forget the beach towns like Santa Monica, Venice, and Malibu, or the hip northeast neighborhoods of Silver Lake, Los Feliz, Eagle Rock, and Highland Park. Downtown has a lot of cool new bars and restaurants. If you want to be near it all but a little removed, Pasadena is a great spot, too. There’s too much to say in one blog post, so click on a specific area, and the link will take you to more details and photos.
How Is the Drought in Los Angeles?
It’s real. Look at this comparison of photos from 2011 and 2016. Most restaurants won’t give you water unless you ask. Remember to conserve when you’re running water to brush your teeth, shower, etc.
What to Wear
Los Angeles has it’s own cool but casual style. Almost everybody looks great, so put a little effort into it. You will see people in full makeup at Trader Joes. Google Los Angeles street style and you’ll get an idea. It’s casual, but not sloppy. Bring layers to navigate through the cool mornings, hot afternoons, and cool evenings. Jeans can go almost anywhere, and sunglasses are de rigueur. When hiking, women seem to wear black tights no matter what the weather. Men wear shorts or whatever they want on the trails. In the beach towns you’ll see more shorts than you will in other places. Wherever you go, wear comfortable shoes for walking around — the broken sidewalks can really trip you up. For evening, you might wear heels with those jeans and a nice top, or if you’re going to a club or better restaurant, dress up.
Staying Fit on the Road
Walk! If you’re in a walkable neighborhood, do as much on foot as possible. If not, drive to Griffith Park or one of the many canyon hiking trails. You can hike a different spot every day. There are plenty of gyms, Pure Barre, Soul Cycle, yoga studios, boot camps, etc., everywhere, so there’s no excuses!
What are your favorite places in Los Angeles? Leave a comment below.