Slice of LA: A newcomer’s guide to the City of Angels

by Jeffrey Loewe

LA, City of Angels, La La Land — Los Angeles goes by many names, but they all refer to a city teeming with things to do. From the city’s many attractions, museums and beaches to the mountains that border the city to the north and west, choices on where to go can seem virtually limitless. Thus, to narrow things down, this list of locations details various destinations that allow visitors to experience different aspects the city has to offer as well as gives inspiration for closer exploration.

Attraction: Santa Monica Pier

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Sitting at the westernmost point of the iconic U.S. Route 66 is Santa Monica Pier, the poster child of Los Angeles and Santa Monica in particular. Containing everything from rides to arcades to restaurants, the Pier has something for everyone. With nearby biking and walking routes making it easy to access the beach and surrounding areas, the pier is perfect for a day trip as well as exploring the greater Los Angeles area.

On the pier, Pier Burger serves delicious grub daily, and visitors can buy tickets to go on the rides as well as play various carnival games. To the south lies Venice, a neighborhood containing a bustling promenade of street performers and vendors, and Muscle Beach, an outdoor gym famous for being the birthplace of the U.S. physical fitness boom in the 1930s and hosting some of the biggest names in film and bodybuilding, with even the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger calling the place home at one point.

Food: Grand Central Market

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Located in the heart of Downtown LA, Grand Central Market is an assortment of food vendors that epitomizes the city’s status as a food mecca. With multiple walkways allowing easy visibility of different stalls, Grand Central Market offers food from a variety of cultures under a fresco of neon lights and hanging signs. Infusing diverse cuisines with bold flavors, Grand Central Market has something to offer for even the pickiest eaters, showcasing everything from carnitas to bratwurst and even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches filled with artisanal jams and superfoods.

Not sure where to start? Lucky Bird’s light and crispy chicken sandwiches are a delicious bet, as well as Sari Sari, which features savory Filipino rice bowls, and Ramen Hood, a ramen joint selling selections of soup ramen with vegan ingredients. For those with a sweet tooth, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams has unique flavors such as honey and cornbread or whiskey and pecan that vary seasonally, allowing you to elevate your dessert experience each visit.

Sightseeing: Griffith Observatory

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Towering over the whole of Downtown LA, Griffith Observatory is the centerpiece of Griffith Park and is one of the best locations to snag views of the city and the night sky. Easily accessible by car or shuttle bus, Griffith Observatory, with its myriad of railings and nearby hiking trails, allows visitors to enjoy the view of the city at their own pace. With free telescope viewing sessions available to guests each evening and the Hollywood Sign nearby, it becomes all too easy to spend hours sightseeing.

Inside Griffith Observatory, the Samuel Oschin Planetarium hosts daily shows on the cosmos that are projected onto the planetarium’s aluminum dome and presented by a live storyteller, immersing guests in gorgeous stories ranging from the building blocks of life to the farthest expanses of the universe. Furthermore, the Zeiss and Solar telescopes located in the Observatory’s copper-clad domes are free to view in the evening and give visitors a unique chance to observe the night sky in high definition.

Art: The Getty

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Perched atop the Santa Monica mountains is The Getty, an art museum free of charge and accessible through various trams carved in the mountainside. Renowned for its beautiful architecture and impressive array of exhibits that feature various paintings, photographs and other mediums of art, The Getty rotates its galleries periodically, ensuring visitors always have something new to experience. Whether you’re poring over old inscriptions in the quiet rooms of the museum’s exhibits or taking a stroll in the museum’s idyllic gardens, The Getty is a surefire way to have a relaxing and fun afternoon in LA.

In addition to the exhibits, for lunch, consider visiting the Garden Terrace Cafe, an eatery that serves food made from fresh ingredients and offers picturesque views of The Getty’s gardens to the east. The Central Garden is great for walking, featuring waterfalls that trickle down to a botanical hedge-maze which is further rimmed with flowers and shaded sitting areas. Passing reflective pools in the Museum Courtyard to the South Promontory, guests can view The Getty’s garden of succulents and the backdrop of the Los Angeles skyline with views of neighboring Santa Monica as well as Downtown LA in the distance.

Nature: Malibu

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Malibu is a city just north of LA and is a favorite weekend destination for many Angelenos, properly known for its white-blasted beaches and blue skies. With many miles of coastline and trails rising high into the Santa Monica mountains, Malibu has options for both casual beachgoers and avid hikers, offering picturesque views and tranquil afternoons for anyone venturing out from the city.

Here, sunbathers can go to Zuma Beach, a large strip of sandy coast outfitted with various showering stations, bathrooms and volleyball courts, offering the best amenities for a day at the beach. For something on the quieter side, at Leo Carrillo State Park, visitors can explore tide pools and walk along several miles of rocky bluffs, sea caves and pelican nesting areas, and they can even see an archway carved by the waves. Climbing up Sandy Dune, a several-hundred-foot-tall sand dune hugging the edge of the highway, beachgoers can catch sights of the Pacific coast as well as the Channel Islands in the distance.

In the sprawl of Los Angeles, it can be difficult to decide where to go. Hopefully, with this guide, you can get a taste of what the city has to offer and find some inspiration for your next adventure.

Cover photo via Adobe Stock

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