My apathy towards the city of angels known as Los Angeles has allowed me to occasionally forget that I also happen to live in one of the most frequented tourist destinations in the world, though I would gladly trade the poop-covered, smoke-filled streets of LA for the majestic beauty of the Scottish countryside or the sparkling streets of Paris. Contrary to any perceived images of LA, we are not dancing and singing with joy along the 405 Freeway, nor having a romantic, yet technically illegal, date at the Griffith Observatory after hours with a Ryan Gosling look-alike. Seriously, where is that LA?
OK. Back to reality. Our brand of tourism here in LA is very specific. It's called Hollywood. Our claim to fame is that timeless, transcendent industry that brings thousands of tourists each year in hopes of seeing famous stars like Julia Roberts or Denzel Washington, or YouTube stars that anyone over the age of 25 has never heard of. So naturally after residing in this hub of Hollywood for some years now, I thought it only fitting that I share some insight into my own local tourist destination.
If you're the Hollywood fan...
Alright. Well, even if you aren't so much into Hollywood entertainment, you can't come to LA and not experience at least some of our famous industry. The first must-see is Hollywood Blvd. What you need to see on Hollywood Blvd. is the hand and footprints at the Chinese Theatre, followed by the Hollywood Walk of Fame which has all the famous stars on the ground with the names of various celebrities. Warning: Do not, I repeat, do not at all lay on the ground or put your hands on the ground to take photos with the actors' stars. Most people do not realize that there's a lot of people who go to the bathroom or their pets do all over the streets of this city and Hollywood is no exception. The germs you will be touching make me cringe simply thinking about it. Just please don't do it. Another spot on Hollywood Blvd. to see is the Dolby Theatre, formerly known as like 3 other names before that because this place keeps getting bought out. This is where the Academy Awards are held now every year. You get to walk up the same stairs as the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio.
Then of course there's the Hollywood sign. What they don't tell you is that the hike to this is pretty rough, so if you're into hiking, then give it a go. If not, there's plenty of spots around Hollywood to get the sign in your photo. If you come to LA you'll also see lots of Hollywood tour vans and buses driving tourists around town. Because LA is annoyingly so spread out, this is a way to see lots of sights around the city without paying hundreds of dollars in Lyft rides or hours on our unreliable public transportation system. I'd recommend maybe renting a car while you're here, but the drivers here will make you go grey earlier than necessary...
Universal Studios Hollywood is a fun theme park attached to the famous movie studio, which also offers a really fun studio tour as one of their rides. Other studios like Warner Bros and Paramount offer tours of their lots as well. You can also check out television show tapings here in town. From talk shows with Ellen DeGeneres and Jimmy Kimmel to competition/game shows like The Price is Right and Dancing with the Stars, we definitely have plenty to catch while you are here. The good news is that these shows need full audiences, so tickets are usually all free. If you somehow find a way to actually get tickets to The Ellen Show, consider yourself super lucky as these sell out really quickly....and please feel free to bring me along.
If you're into a good view of the city...
My favorite spot in Los Angeles is the Griffith Observatory, made famous in the iconic film Rebel without a Cause. It also happens to be a great spot to get some nice shots of the city. You can even get some photos of the Hollywood sign up there as well. James Dean fans in particular will appreciate this site, which includes a monument dedicated to him.
Another spot to get views of the city is Runyon Canyon just north of Franklin St. in Hollywood. Here's where many 20-something model/actors go to exercise, but more so to be seen. The cool thing for tourists though? You may actually catch a celebrity hiking around here too.
If you're into expensive shopping...
I can tell you in full honesty that the only thing I have ever bought near Rodeo Drive is a slice of pizza. But for those of you on a much different budget than me, this is where you can find that famous high-end shopping. You may even catch celebrities over on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. I once saw Mischa Barton on Rodeo Drive, but then again, I also saw her in a Kinkos as well so you never know.
If you're into the beach...
Alright. Let's get this out of the way. Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Yes, you should absolutely see them. The Santa Monica Pier and the Venice Beach Boardwalk are some of the most iconic beach spots in the world. That being said, they aren't necessarily the nicest. So, if you have the time and really want to experience the California surfer lifestyle or some of the nicest beaches Southern California has to offer, take a Metrolink or Amtrak train down to Orange County. Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente, Dana Point. These are all very beautiful beach spots. The thing about LA is that it's not kept clean, which is frustrating. These beach areas in Orange County are especially nice for families visiting as well. Salt Creek beach near Laguna is gorgeous. I was there this summer and it's a really pretty spot to visit.
Last but not least...
Get out of LA! Seriously though. Come to LA, but then get the hell out. California is one the most beautiful places on Earth. While I'm not crazy for Los Angeles, the state of California is stunning. The Redwoods, Yosemite, Big Sur, San Francisco, San Diego. These are all incredible places to visit if you come here. San Diego has the awesome zoo and safari park. San Francisco feels like a slice of the east coast here in California and has lots of great sights of its own, like Chinatown, Fisherman's Warf, and of course the Full House house. My biggest advice for visiting San Francisco is to go over Thanksgiving weekend when they do the Christmas tree lighting. It's really fun and will get you into the holiday spirit. Then of course there's also Disneyland down in Anaheim. The original Disney theme park in fact!
All in all, LA is definitely worth seeing. When my bitterness of this city gets to me, because let's face it, I'm a Midwest girl living in a very shallow environment, I have to check my attitude and remind myself that I'm also in the same city where they made I Love Lucy and then all is right with the world.
My next adventure will be international. But where? Well, stay tuned! Coming soon...
About the author
Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer, comedian, and television producer who has been featured on Amazon, truTV, The New York Times, Matador Network, BUST Magazine, Tiplr, ARTRPRNR Magazine, YourTango, Thought Catalog, GoMad Nomad, Mashable, The Daily Mail UK, the Cannes Film Festival, LaughFest, Women's Lifestyle Magazine, and the Funny Women Festival LA. For more info visit: http://www.jillzwarensteyn.weebly.com