As one of the largest metropolis in America (even in the expanse of the city), Los Angeles is usually not a city one looks to discover in just a day. Visitors normally travel to the city to explore Disneyland and Hollywood, though I realized the city rewards visitors with much more than that. I had more or less 24 hours to spend in the city after visiting relatives and attending a family wedding function and thus decided to explore more of this ever expanding metropolis.
Long associated with superstars and movie production, Los Angeles is sometimes overlooked for its downtown which has one of the tallest skyscrapers in North America. Recent revitalization programs have seen the development of concert halls and venues for the art including the recently opened Broad Museum. While I did not get the chance to visit the Broad Museum, I did check out the historical birthplace of Los Angeles just opposite the Union Station.
While the Union Station in Los Angeles is unlike the Grand Central in New York, it has a laid back vibe that corresponds to the Southern California culture. Palm trees decorate the entrance driveway while the historical buildings and plaza opposite the station harks back to the foundations of the city of angels.
Another sight that deserves a look in downtown is the Civic center which houses the stately City Hall and the beautiful Grand Park opposite it. Walking to the end of the Grand Park, visitors could also find the Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, which is arguably another unmistakeable landmark gracing this downtown.
For a downtown that was ridden with crime in the 80s and 90s, it has somewhat gotten a revitalization with the opening of the JW Marriott and the modern Staples Center. This new center within downtown has created a vibrant venue for sports, live performance and the arts that lights up the cityscape once the sun goes down. However, for those seeking the SoCal vibe, it is best to view the sunset from the Santa Monica State Beach which is about 30 minutes by driving from downtown.
Under the summer skies, the beaches along the western coast of Los Angeles provides a vantage spot to view the setting sun which gives the sky a purplish glow. At the same time, the lights from the ferris wheel and amusement park lights up in the pier. Not only is it a nice way to spend the evening, there is no worry about dining out afterwards. However, when visiting the beaches and the pier after sunset, take care of not to park in the lots near the beaches as it is strictly patrolled after sunset.
When it comes to spend the night in Los Angeles, my favourite spot has got to be Sunset Boulevard between Doheny and Highland Avenue. This strip has comedy clubs, restaurants and hotels and still shows the vibe of the city even at night. Besides that, this location offers a somewhat central location to drive over to the beaches, the downtown core and of course Hollywood itself.
As the sun rises, visitors to the city that does not get complimentary breakfast could head out to the several Porto’s bakery outlets in town to get one of the freshly baked cheese puffs which are a local favourite. By the time one finishes breakfast, the shops would have opened in the city and there are numerous to browse and shop like celebrities. Rodeo Drive might be the most popular amongst fashionistas and for celebrity spotting though there are also the neighbourhood of Abbott Kinney near Venice Beach with independent cafes and shops.
By noon, when it is time to feast again, I suggest preparing a picnic by doing a take-away of your favourite salad, soups and sandwiches while heading to the beach for some more relaxation. After all with vast stretches of beaches and nearly fantastic weather all year round with lots of sunshine, Los Angeles is the place to visit in California if you like the sand and the ocean view! For an afternoon picnic, Redondo Beach and Manhattan Beach are both close enough to the city and Los Angeles airport that they make for a convenient picnic spot before driving back to the airport.
The next time you ever run out of ideas during a long layover in Los Angeles, why not explore what I have just pointed out? Spending the remainder of the day in the city of the angels after the family event was really enjoyable as I got to see the city under a different light and still revisit what I loved about LA – its beaches and sunny weather!