Los Angeles is one of America’s most well-known, most populous and most diverse cities. The California city spans a full 472 square miles, and features 88 separate incorporated cities, each with its own distinctive character. L.A. is a veritable melting pot of cultures. There is no majority population here; people from 140 countries speaking 86 different languages all call the city home.
L.A. is a fantastic place to visit for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the mild climate. The average high temperature for Los Angeles is 75 degrees, and the city boasts 292 sunny days a year, with only 15 inches of rainfall.
Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world, and celebrities, movie sets and Hollywood are a huge draw for visitors from everywhere imaginable. While celebrity spotting and seeing the Tinseltown sights is definitely worth a trip out to L.A., the city has much more to offer. Los Angeles features 300 museums, and is home to the largest historical theater district on the National Register of Historic Places. There are also numerous historic sites to visit, as well as interesting cultural centers, beautiful parks, sun-dappled vineyards and sun-soaked beaches.
Going Back in Time
Before it was ever a city, the Los Angeles area was populated by Native Americans, who created settlements of small villages along the rivers. A permanent settlement was created in 1781 at the behest of King Carlos III of Spain. Los Angeles was owned by Spain until Mexico gained its independence in 1821, at which time it became part of Mexico.
As a result of the Mexican-American war, California was ceded to the United States in 1847, and Los Angeles became part of the U.S.A. The city saw a population boom in the 1870s, and eventually grew into a thriving metropolis.
The film industry came to L.A. in the early 1900s, and quickly grew beyond the capacity of the downtown urban area. It eventually expanded into Hollywood, Burbank and the surrounding areas, and became a huge part of Los Angeles’s identity as a city.
If you want to have the classic L.A. experience, there are a few spots you must see. Watch the skateboarders and bodybuilders on Venice Beach; take a stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and shop (and hopefully spot a celebrity or two) on Rodeo Drive. If you don’t manage to get up close and personal with any living, breathing celebrities, you can always visit the Hollywood Wax Museum and make it look as though you did.
If you’re bringing the whole family to L.A., or if you’d just like to indulge your inner child for the day, Disneyland is the perfect place to spend a day. Hobnob with Mickey and Minnie, visit Toontown in Fantasyland, or catch the parade on Main Street U.S.A.
Los Angeles is also home to Universal Studios Hollywood, a mega-theme park that features thrill rides, shows, restaurants, shops and a working theater, all with a Hollywood theme.
Los Angeles features a wealth of museums of every kind, where you can experience everything from art, to history, to antique cars.
L.A.’s finest art museum is arguably the Getty Center, a six-building museum where visitors can see works by famous luminaries such as Cezanne, Monet and Van Gogh. The Center’s lush gardens are also worth a quick tour in and of themselves.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is a must see for curious kids and natural history enthusiasts. The museum features fantastic exhibits on birds, mammals and butterflies, as well as a new dinosaur hall with interactive dinosaur exhibits and three T-Rex specimens.
Another fascinating Los Angeles natural history museum is the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. Visitors can tour the actual tar pits, which makes for a pleasant walk and an educational experience. But the real interest is the museum, which displays numerous artifacts that were excavated from the pits, including bones from mammoths, giant sloths and saber tooth cats.
Music lovers will enjoy the Grammy Museum, which showcases the history of the Grammy Awards and those who have won them. And for those looking to find out more about the history of Hollywood, the museum explores the lives and works of Hollywood’s biggest legends, and features the largest collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world.
Los Angeles is far more than an urban sprawl. There are several great places to enjoy the outdoors, some of which also offer cultural, spiritual, or artistic experiences.
Griffith Park is perhaps L.A.’s most famous park. Spanning 4,000 acres, it’s one of the world’s largest urban parks, and features everything from a zoo, to an observatory, to a display of antique trains.
Runyon Canyon Park is a favorite of locals. This beautiful park is tucked into the Hollywood Hills, and features challenging hiking trails and a leash-free dog area. The best thing about this park, however, is the view: At the top of the hiking trails you can see the whole city, including the Hollywood sign.
Topanga State Park is the perfect way to really immerse yourself in Los Angeles’s natural setting. This 9,000-square foot park spans several different terrains, and features beautiful overlooks, great hiking trails and the opportunity to spot all kinds of native wildlife.
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