See & Do

Outsiders often degrade Los Angeles with nicknames such as LaLaLand and Forty Suburbs In Search Of A City. Nonetheless, the city constantly and vigorously re-invents itself. Even its harshest critics concede LA is in the midst of a dramatic renaissance that is revitalising surrounding communities and reshaping its urban core (take a walk down Grand Avenue between Temple and 5th and see for yourself). Of course, there are also the miles of beaches, a mild Mediterranean climate and the largest urban park in the country (Griffith Park). Add to that some of the finest museums, restaurants and bars on the planet and you’ll understand why Angelenos love their city so much.

The city’s architecture is familiar to movie and television audiences worldwide. More than 800 feature productions were shot on city streets in 2007, and on any given day a visitor cruising Downtown will likely encounter a location production. The city’s near future was famously realised in Blade Runner.

In the 1930s, Hollywood became a favoured destination for exiles who fled pre-war European tensions, among them Bertolt Brecht, Aldous Huxley and Thomas Mann. Their enduring legacies continue to undermine the views of those who claim the only culture in LA is in the yogurt. The 1930s also saw the rise of the movie palaces, and two of the finest in the country are Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Egyptian, both of which have been restored to their full glory on Hollywood Boulevard.

The city’s core decayed in the waning decades of the 20th century but Los Angeles’ stunning comeback is perhaps best symbolised by the Gehry-designed Disney Center, which has become an instant urban icon. Downtown also features a vibrant new nightlife scene that rivals the fabled Sunset Boulevard.

At just shy of 500 square miles Los Angeles is big. It is divided into dozens of townlets annexed as the city expanded. Within these massive boundaries lie shopping centres such as Rodeo Drive and unique institutions that don’t fit easily into a single category, such as The Huntington gardens and library. LA can also boast the best performing arts west of New York, whether it is among the temples to high culture atop Bunker Hill (at the Dorothy Chandler and the Ahmanson) or at new venues such as the Kirk Douglas Theater. Despite all of that, it is the family destinations for which Los Angeles is most well-known, and Disneyland and Universal Studios are the most obvious. Thankfully, there are more thoughtful attractions, such as the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, that offer experiences to satisfy everyone.

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