Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, commonly referred to as the ‘City of Angels’ or L.A., is infamous for its entertainment, warm weather, and beautiful beaches. This sprawling metropolis is also the center of the nation’s film and television industry, which is the home of illustrious movie production studios such as Paramount Pictures, Columbia, MGM, Fox, and Universal and Warner Brothers. These attributes are what have led to the city being celebrated and referred to as the Entertainment Capital of the World. Los Angeles is also the second most populace city in the United States, behind New York City, and is the most populated municipality in California. The city has a longstanding history that is rich with cultural heritage and vibrant multicultural neighborhoods. The neighborhoods of Los Angeles can be broken up into 5 districts: Downtown, Hollywood, Beach Cities, Westside, and The Valley. For geographical convenience, I will use these districts to organize the various points of interest:
Walt Disney Concert Hall – The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located on Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles and became a city icon the moment it opened its doors in the fall of 2003. The concert hall has a capacity for over 2,200 people and is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. The Walt Disney Concert Hall has received worldwide critical acclaim from concertgoers and visitors for its stunning architecture and extraordinary sound. What makes this building distinctive are its stainless steel exterior forms that look like the sails of a clipper ship filled with wind. The concert hall is especially photogenic in early morning or late evening when the surrounding lights accentuate its curves amidst the gleaming city backdrop.
4th Street Bridge – The 4th Street Bridge provides a great street view perspective of the L.A. skyline along with an interesting perspective of the 110 Freeway. The location for this vantage point is from the overpass of 4th Street between Beaudry Avenue and Figueroa Street. Early to late evening is the best time to photograph the skyline from the bridge. This is due to how the fleeting sun highlights the buildings and the contrast that’s created between the city lights and car light trails along the freeway. Parking in the area is limited, so be vigilant as there are a handful of metered parking spots near the corner of 4th Street and Beaudry Avenue, as well as 4th Street and Boylston Street.
Griffith Observatory – The Griffith Observatory is one of Los Angeles’ greatest cultural attractions, offering unrivaled panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles, the Hollywood Sign, and the Pacific Ocean. The observatory resides on the peak of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park and is accessible 24-hours a day. Despite the grounds being open 24-hours, the Observatory building’s operating hours fluctuate based on the day of the week: closed on Monday, 12pm-10pm Tuesday-Friday, & 10am-10pm Saturday-Sunday. Admission to the grounds and the Observatory building is free; however, there may be a fee for parking depending on where you park. Once on the grounds, take the time to appreciate the architecture of the Observatory, the well-manicured lawn, and the spectacular view from one of the many telescopes that are scattered throughout the grounds. Whether you’re a local or a first time visitor, the Griffith Observatory is a beloved gathering place to watch a sunrise, sunset, or gaze at the stars on a clear night.
Hollywood Sign – The Hollywood Sign is a landmark that overlooks Los Angeles from its tallest peak, Mount Lee, in the Hollywood Hills. The sign is one of the world’s most evocative symbols, which has become a universal beacon for those aspiring for success, glamour, and prestige. Each letter is made of aluminum and measures approximately 45-feet tall, with the entire sign spanning roughly 450-feet from end to end. Since access to the Hollywood Sign is prohibited, the best places for viewing it are from the Lake Hollywood Park for head-on views or via the Wonder View Trial for an outlook from behind the sign. The Wonder View Trail is a moderate 3-mile round-trip hike that culminates on the backside of the sign and offers a perspective of the Hollywood Sign in the foreground and a panoramic view of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. If arriving by car, the best place to park is along Lake Hollywood Drive and then trek up Wonder View Drive before arriving at the trailhead on your right.
Hollywood Reservoir – Located high in the Hollywood Hills sits the scenic Hollywood Reservoir, also known as Lake Hollywood, which is a reservoir that is held back by the Mulholland Dam. The reservoir and surrounding neighborhood is overshadowed by the Hollywood Sign, as well as a classic California mix of pine, sage, oak, and eucalyptus trees. The Hollywood Reservoir is circled by a paved pedestrian trail, which provides visitors with wonderful scenic views as they walk, jog, or bike along the path. The trail is an easy 3.5-mile round-trip loop that is open from 6:30am to sunset every day. The easiest places to park are in the small dirt lot off of Weidlake Drive or along the street on Lake Hollywood Drive, but arrive early as spots become harder to find due to this location’s popularity.
Hollywood Bowl – The Hollywood Bowl is an iconic amphitheatre and music venue with a capacity of nearly 18,000 attendees. The distinctive arch of the band shell, that has become synonymous with the Hollywood Bowl, is carved into the Hollywood hillside with views of the Hollywood Hills and the Hollywood Sign. The amphitheatre is one of the most famous venues in the world, with a stage that has hosted hundreds of nationally renowned musical acts such as the Beatles and Prince. It is said that there are few experiences more quintessentially Los Angeles than spending an evening watching performers showcasing their artistic greatness in front of sold out crowds. For those unable to get tickets, try the Hollywood Bowl Overlook (known as the Jerome C. Daniel Overlook above the Hollywood Bowl), which is open from 7am to 7pm and provides visitors with an elevated view of the Bowl. Parking spaces are limited and there are frequent tour buses that stop at this location, so arriving early is beneficial to capture the photograph you want without feeling rushed.
Hollywood Walk of Fame – The Hollywood Walk of Fame is an internationally-recognized Hollywood icon that stretches over both sides of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. The sidewalk is embedded with over 2,600 terrazzo stars that bear the names of actors, directors, musicians, and others who have achieved acclaim in the entertainment industry. These permanent public monuments are 3-foot by 3-foot squares, which consist of a coral-pink five-point star that is rimmed with brass and inlaid into a charcoal-colored background. Within the stars are the names of the honoree, which are inlaid in brass block lettering, as well as a brass emblem that indicates the field of the honoree’s contributions. The emblems symbolize five categories within the entertainment industry: motion pictures (classic film camera), broadcast television (television receiver), audio recording or music (phonograph record), broadcast radio (radio microphone), and theatre/live performances (comedy/tragedy masks). The Hollywood Walk of Fame is also a hotspot for street performers and celebrity impersonators that entertain the 10 million tourists that visit the landmark each year.
Grauman’s Chinese Theatre – Located on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, now known as the TCL Chinese Theatre due to naming rights, is the most iconic movie theatre in the world. It has been the site to more gala Hollywood premiers, imprint ceremonies, and film festivals than any other theatre. The premiers are still held today and attract large crowds, both press and visitors, who flock for the opportunity to interact with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Another distinctive feature that attracts tourists to this larger-than-life landmark is its signature Forecourt to the Stars. The Forecourt to the Stars is a public space in front of the theatre that features concrete squares, which bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of popular Hollywood personalities. Besides being a prominent movie palace with a distinguished history and rich traditions, the Chinese Theatre is also a wonderful place to enjoy a motion picture.
Universal Studios – Universal Studios is a film studio and amusement park in the San Fernando Valley, just ten minutes from the main attractions of Hollywood Boulevard. The theme park is split into two areas on different levels, the Upper Lot and Lower Lot, which are connected by a series of escalators called the ‘Starway.’ Each lot features a collection of thrilling rides, shows, and attractions that are sure to leave any visitor’s heart pounding. Universal Studios’ signature ride, the Studio Tour, transports guests from the Upper Lot to the back-lot via tram vehicles and a personal docent. The Studio Tour is the ultimate Hollywood experience that takes visitors behind-the-scenes to experience where the filming of real Hollywood movies and television shows take place. Single-day tickets to the park are $104 for children (ages 3-12) and $120 for adults at the gate, but special deals and discounts are usually available through retailers such as Costco Wholesale.
Sunset Strip – The Sunset Strip is one of Los Angeles’ most iconic neighborhoods on Sunset Boulevard, which stretches between Crescent Heights Boulevard and Doheny Drive. The Sunset Strip showcases the good life with its array of premier live music and comedy venues, superb fine dining, upscale boutiques, and cutting-edge Hollywood nightclubs. Popular spots along the Sunset Strip are The Comedy Store, where it’s not uncommon for famous comedians to stop in to do a set, The Roxy for live musical performances, the Tower Bar at the Sunset Tower Hotel, and the infamous Chateau Marmont, hotel of the stars. This eccentric stretch of real estate truly radiates when the sun goes down and the city lights go on. Its vibrant neon lights and mammoth wall-to-wall advertising are like beacons for the young, hip, and beautiful. The enormous billboards that line the Strip have now become its trademark, with their colorful ads aimed at catching the eye of passing motorists.
Santa Monica Pier – Situated at the end of the historic Route 66, the Santa Monica Pier is a popular landmark and tourist destination that extends into the Pacific Ocean. The iconic entrance to the pier is illuminated by the lights of its marquee, which has become a favorite selfie spot for tourists. The Santa Monica Pier is also the home of Pacific Park, a full service amusement park that boasts a variety of entertainment options, which includes a roller coaster and the only solar-powered Ferris wheel that illuminates at night. Combined with thrilling rides of Pacific Park, the Santa Monica Pier includes plenty of restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and an eclectic range of over 200 arcade games. The best location to photograph this attraction is during sunset from the Santa Monica Beach on the southern side of the pier while looking northwest. Another popular view is from the pedestrian walkway that stretches Ocean Avenue, which is situated on the top a bluff. From here the elevated position provides a different perspective of the pier in its entirety, as well as an outstanding view of Malibu and the South Bay. Whether spending a few hours or a weekend, the Santa Monica Pier is a must-visit attraction that sets the city apart as an ideal destination for families and visitors of all ages.
Third Street Promenade – The Third Street Promenade is a three block stretch from Broadway to Wilshire Boulevard that has been closed to vehicular traffic so that pedestrians can explore the street undisturbed. Located within walking distance of the Santa Monica Pier, the Third Street Promenade is a shopper’s nirvana filled with specialty shops, book stores, clothing chains, and the occasional farmers’ market. Along with a variety of shopping options, the Promenade also promotes dining and entertainment with its movie theatres, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and souvenir stores. Besides shopping, the Third Street Promenade attracts a wide spectrum of street performers that apply their craft for groups of adoring tourists in hopes for a donation. It is safe to say that this outdoor shopping experience will surely impress and entertain while enjoying the beautiful weather that California is famous for.
Hermosa Beach & Hermosa Beach Pier – The Hermosa Beach Pier is over 1,300-feet long and is constructed of concrete and paved with asphalt to withstand the crashing waves. The pier is found at the end of Pier Avenue, between 11th and 13th Street, before it extends into the Pacific Ocean. The beach is nearly 2-miles long and is open from 6am to midnight. Running parallel to the beach is a broad boardwalk called the Strand, which runs the length of the beach and provides a peaceful walk with beautiful views of the beach. For parking, paid lots and meters can be found closer to the beach, but a bit further east there are various areas that offer free street side parking with a bit of a walk.
The Getty Center – The Getty Center is a campus of the Getty Museum that is well known for its dramatic architecture, tranquil gardens, and incredible views of downtown Los Angeles. The Center sits high on a hill at the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains and is accessible by a three-car funicular. The primary goal of the museum, according to its mission statement, has been to “inspire curiosity about, and enjoyment and understanding of, the visual arts by collecting, conserving, exhibiting and interpreting works of art of outstanding quality and historical importance.” Art collections that are featured at the Getty Center include paintings, drawings, antiquities, photography, manuscripts, sculptures, and decorative arts. Free tours are offered daily with an eclectic year-round roster of captivating art exhibitions. The operating hours of the Getty Center vary based on the day with the center being closed on Mondays, open from 10am– 5:30pm Tuesday to Friday and on Sunday, and 10am-9pm on Saturday. The parking lot opens at 9:30am and is where visitors will board the cable-pulled funicular as they are transported to the Center while being treated to breathtaking views of Los Angeles.
Beverly Hills & Rodeo Drive – Beverly Hills is an affluent city in Los Angeles County that has been the home to many actors and celebrities. The city is commonly associated with one of its primary zip codes, ‘90210,’ thanks to one of the most definitive cult dramas of the 1990’s known by the same name. In the heart of Beverly Hills lies Rodeo Drive, which is famous for being the epicenter of fashion, opulence, and luxurious lifestyle. Rodeo Drive most commonly refers to a three-block stretch, north of Wilshire Boulevard and south of Little Santa Monica Boulevard, which is home to some of fashion’s most celebrated brands like Chanel, Gucci, and Versace. The quintessential photography location of Rodeo Drive is from the corner of Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way facing east. The ideal time to shoot is during low light, like sunrise or sunset, when the lights of the European-style shopping streets and buildings contrast perfectly with the illuminated public art ‘torso’ statue and the bright beams of passing traffic. Another tourist favorite is of the Beverly Hills sign, which have many locations throughout the city. My favorite is of the sign near the Doheny Fountain on the north side of Santa Monica Boulevard and Doheny Drive, near the West Hollywood and Beverly Hills border. There is street parking along Oakhurst Drive and Carmelita Avenue, which is a short walk to the park where the sign is located.
The Grove – The Grove is a world-renowned fashion and lifestyle destination offering the best mix of outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment in Los Angeles. The complex opened to the public in 2002 with unparalleled stores like Apple, Barneys New York, Coach, J. Crew, Michael Kors, and Nordstrom, just to name a few. Guests are enamored with the pulsating atmosphere that emanates from the beautiful weather and splendid dancing fountains, which have given The Grove its acclaim. The iconic fountain is located at the epicenter of the shopping center and treats guests to a spectacular water show every hour. Another must see feature of the Grove are its electrically powered, old-fashioned trolley rides, which are double-decker cars built on an historic undercarriage from a 1950’s Boston street car. The trolley travels along First Street between The Grove and The Original Farmers Market, transporting visitors on an energetic tour of the property. The Grove is open Monday-Thursday from 10am-9pm, Friday and Sunday from 10am-10pm, and on Sundays from 11am-9pm.
OUTSIDE OF LOS ANGELES:
Huntington Beach & Huntington Beach Pier – Huntington Beach, known by its trademark of Surf City USA, is a seaside city in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles County in Southern California. Although it falls outside of Los Angeles, Huntington Beach is worth visiting since it boasts over 8-miles of sandy coastline, picturesque surf, and a laid-back atmosphere. The city is the epicenter of activities and entertainment, with a wide array of dinning, shopping, and nightlife options. The beachside community of Huntington Beach epitomizes the California surf culture and attitude, where swimsuits are the unofficial dress code and surfboards and towels the accessories. Due to its reputation, parking can be difficult, but Huntington Beach has many pay lots and parking garages that visitors can take advantage of. To avoid paying for parking, there is the option to park along the street from 1st to 22nd Street, with the most accessibly convenient parking being between 5th and 10th Street. Once parked, the Huntington Beach Pier can be found at the end of Main Street as it extends into the Pacific Ocean. The pier provides tremendous aerial views of the crashing surf below, as well as a unique perspective of the waves from underneath. The pier is mostly used by locals and tourists for strolls and scenic views; however, at the end of the pier there is Ruby's Diner where visitors can grab a bite to eat while enjoying the beachside ambiance. The curfew of the pier is midnight, which is two hours after the beach closes, and is enforced by local beach patrols that clear the area and disallow people from entering the pier.
Recommended Local Eateries:
HiHo Cheeseburger – 11:30am-10pm - (1320 2nd Street B, Santa Monica, CA 90401) – Grass-fed Wagyu beef burgers and fresh cut fries that leave your mouth watering.
101 Coffee Shop – 7am-3am - (6145 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90028) – A retro-style diner that cook traditional American coffee-shop eats, but is known for its Waffle Brownie Sundae.
Salazar – 10am-10pm Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-12am Friday and Saturday (Closed on Mondays) - (2490 Fletcher Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90039) – Expansive, colorful outdoor setting Mexican BBQ that includes steaks, chops, seafood, and vegetables grilled over mesquite.
Grill ‘em All – 11am-10pm Sunday-Thursday & 11am-11pm Friday and Saturday - (19 E Main Street, Alhambra, CA 91801) – Unique burgers, fries, and beer in a snug location with long counter, booths, and heavy-metal-band décor.
Dough Box Pizza & Bread – 5pm-10pm (Closed on Mondays) - (2734 N Eastern Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90032) – Chicago-style deep dish pizzas and touted the best in Los Angeles.
Howlin’ Rays – 11am-4pm (Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays) - (727 N Broadway #128, Los Angeles, CA 90012) – A tiny counter-only outpost for their signature Nashville-style fried chicken sandwiches.
The Little Jewel of New Orelans – 10am-10pm Sunday-Thursday & 10am-11pm Friday and Saturday - (207 Ord Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012) – Part grocery store, part café, this laid-back spot imports culinary treats from New Orleans and serves a delicious Po Boy.
Spitz – 11am-11pm Sunday-Thursday & 11am-1am Friday and Saturday - (371 E 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012) – Low-key joint serves Döner Kebab, fries, and Turkish street food.
Sonoratown – 11am-4pm - (208 E 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90014) – Casual lunch and dinner destination for Northern Mexican-style tacos packed with grilled meats and vegetables.
Tire Shop Taqueria – 6pm-11pm (Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays) - (4069 S Avalon Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90011) – Mouthwatering tacos from a taco truck in the parking lot of a tire shop.
Orleans & York Deli – 10am-8pm Sunday-Thursday & 11am-9pm Saturday (Closed on Sundays) - (333 S Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013) – Casual counter featuring New Orleans and New York inspired eats, including Po Boys and Heros.
Sweet Jill’s Bakery – 7am-10pm - (5001 E. 2nd Street, Long Beach, CA 90803) – Hot and fresh cinnamon rolls and coffee cakes, carrot cake made from scratch, and other delectable bakery goods.