“As for so many people, I think my favorite thing about LA is the weather. The sun is almost always shining, and the temperature is usually between 20-25°C. June might be my least favorite month, on account of the ‘June Gloom’ (cloudy and cool). I also like that within two hours’ drive you can go from surfing to skiing, or vice versa. And people here smile. I don’t care whether it’s genuine or fake – it’s just nice to see cheerful faces in the morning.
Here are some of the things I don’t like: One is the sheer size of the city; you can’t get around town without a car. It’s also a city with an ugly exterior, and the good and beautiful things are well hidden, so you really need to look hard to find them. LA is not an easy place for tourists, as it’s more interested in the comfort of its rich inhabitants than with tourist visitors. Before you travel you should prepare in advance a list of the things you want to see.
Public safety generally depends on the area – these can range from very safe to extremely dangerous.
For someone traveling to LA for the first time, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and Malibu are probably the most interesting and safest districts. Hollywood can be a little more dangerous at night.
Visiting Los Angeles with children is very easy, as everything is ‘child friendly’. Before my first child was born I considered ‘drive-thru’ shops to be the enemy of sociable shopping. When my two kids were sleeping in the back seat, however, and I wanted something from the pharmacy, it was so convenient not to have to drag them out of the car and into the shop – I just had to roll down my car window and tell the cashier what I needed.
There are plenty of children’s activities, and most museums also have things for kids to do. It’s worth checking this out online in advance if it’s going to be relevant for you.
Malibu has some of my favorite beaches, but I also like Zuma Beach and El Matador Beach.
I know it’s a stereotype, but I found that whenever I asked for help in a shop, black members of staff were less helpful. It’s not that they weren’t friendly, it’s just that they always wanted to get the task over and done with as soon as possible. There are many exceptions, of course.
You can buy expensive goods and cheap goods in LA, but in general, the quality seems to be high. I buy good quality food at Trader Joe’s, and there are fantastic outlet clothing stores in the area. It’s never worth paying full price for anything. (I speak from experience)
“With hindsight, I think it would have been spending more than a week in LA. That’s about how long it takes to adjust to the size, mood, and energy of the city. You’ll also have to get used to spending a lot of time in your car, and navigation will slowly begin to make sense (GPS is essential, and even with it, getting around isn’t straightforward!) It’s important to plan your day’s activities in advance, so you don’t end up spending all day in your car.
As with all big cities, it’s worthwhile familiarizing yourself with the sights before you travel, to plan what you want to see, and this is true ten times over for LA.
Driving is great, especially in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica… These are charming areas, with beautiful houses, huge palm trees, and almost always perfect weather.
1. People are very friendly, helpful and direct
2. The weather is almost always fantastic (we were there in December)
3. Going to the In-N-Out burger bar by LAX just after landing, and ordering a shake while huge planes take off and land just a few meters above us.
4. Walking and eating breakfast on Rodeo Drive, where some scenes from the film Pretty Woman were filmed
5. Shopping on Melrose Avenue, and driving down Sunset Boulevard
6. Going up to the Griffith Observatory before sunset, then watching as night fell and the lights of the city came on.
7. Going up to the sky bar at SOHO HOUSE for a cocktail in the evening, with its beautiful views over the city
8. A tour of Universal Studios is a must
9. The Christmas fireworks at Manhattan Beach (we were there on December 9th, 2013)
10. Santa Monica Pier and the surrounding area. Also, walking on Abbot Kinney Blvd.
11. Walking the length of Venice Beach, walking the skaters, sitting on a bench, and strolling in the Venice Canal district.
12. Eating lunch in Silver Lake with a Mexican friend of ours, who took us to one of the best local Mexican restaurants – Casita del Campo (www.casitadelcampo.net)
13. Eating dinner at Mr. Chow’s, surrounded by Hollywood actors
14. Driving in the city at any time of day (except when there are traffic jams, of course)
1. It takes a long time to get anywhere by car, and there are lots of traffic jams
2. It’s almost impossible to find a parking space, and when you do it’s expensive
3. The Walk of Fame and the Kodak Theater were disappointments
4. Without a car it’s almost impossible to get the most out of the city
5. Because there’s no center, there isn’t really a party district either, just bars and clubs scattered throughout the city
6. The public transport system isn’t great, so if you’re out partying a taxi is really your only option.
“For me, Los Angeles was a total disappointment. The Walk of Fame was extremely long, and 95% of the names meant nothing to me. It’s close to the studios, but most of them are off-limits to tourists since they are company headquarters too. The tours were funny, because they always point out the houses of famous people, even though you usually can’t see the house at all – just a high wall or fence. It is possible to buy a tourist map if you’re in the mood for walking.
“Personally, I’m dubious about Los Angles – it seemed to have a bigger reputation than was justified by the reality. It’s true, though, that the city has a lot of luck: the weather conditions are extremely pleasant, and the sunshine made it an ideal place to make films without artificial lighting. It is sunny at least 330 days a year, meaning almost constant blue skies, and even in winter the minimum temperature is about 10°C, while it is warm in summer. Who wouldn’t want to live in constant warmth and sunshine? It’s no accident that movie stars love LA.
And then there are the beaches – who wouldn’t want a long stretch of oceanfront?
The stars will live in LA so long as LA lives off the stars. If I ask myself, what comes to mind when I think of Los Angeles? What’s the first thing that pops into my head? Cool, and full of movie stars? Something like that.
So, yes. Sure. During my stay, everyone said about five times over that you really have to keep your eyes open in this city. “You never know when you’ll bump into a celebrity.” This is the place where you have the most chance of that happening. Ever since I’ve been scanning everyone I pass on the street, seeing every stranger as a potential Tom Cruise. No luck so far, but maybe next time.”