23 September 2013

Suitcase. Los Angeles Travel Guide [guestpost]

Our lovely American travel writer Angie Picardo is back today with another guest post for Pearls. Continuing her trek down the California coast, Angie shares with us her hotspots for the bright lights city; Los Angeles.

When people think of Los Angeles, images of movie stars, the Hollywood Walk of Fame and other well-known tourist attractions spring to mind; but within Los Angeles there are many lesser known and inevitably better things to do and see. Outside of the teeming crowds of tourists that flood Hollywood and Venice Beach, you can find the more quirky elements that contribute to Los Angeles’ interesting, cultural, and glamorous history. This unique city has a lot more to offer than meets the eye.

When in L.A. I always make a trek to the J. Paul Getty Museum, located atop a mountain just outside of downtown. Here, you get a breathtaking view of the city from the museums lush gardens which are teeming with dozens of plant life and flowers. Inside the museum’s expansive complex there are several buildings which house a world-renowned collection of European and American art. Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises can be seen there and outside of their permanent collection they continually have new and interesting exhibits on display. The Getty is a trip unto itself, and you can easily spend an entire day viewing the collections and sitting in the gardens.

If I had my way I would visit every single cemetery in Los Angeles, sounds creepy but it is as close as you can get to some of Hollywood’s legendary stars. The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is where Hollywood’s greatest stars of eras gone by have been laid to rest. If you go during the day you can walk the expansive grounds, which are beautifully landscaped and include ponds and marble porticos, and visit some of your favorite stars. This cemetery also offers another unique attraction; it has outdoor movies every Saturday night. Make sure you turn up prepared; the last time I arrived with a sandwich and cheap bottle of wine where I looked around me and saw people with camping chairs, tables, delicious food, and everything you could imagine to make a perfect dinner and a movie. I’ll know better for next time and now so will you! These movie nights are very popular, so it might be a good idea to buy your tickets ahead of time online and show up a little early to be sure you get a good spot.

There are other ways to experience L.A’s history that don’t involve frolicking amongst the gravestones; one hidden gem that has received some press recently is the Los Angeles Public Library. Located in the middle of downtown, this building is a registered historical landmark, and before you dismiss this place offhand, let me tell you why it is worth a visit. Architecture buffs: this is a must see. The building was constructed in the mid-1920s and was meticulously designed to exhibit the era’s art deco aesthetic. As was fashionable at the time, the building has a distinct Egyptian theme that is obvious with the pyramid atop the building and the many sphinxes which decorate its walls.

The Griffith Observatory made its claim to fame when it appeared in the classic James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause, and since then it has been a popular spot for amateur astronomers and film buffs alike. Since it opened 67 years ago the observatory has been a main attraction, and despite its age it has been continually revamped to offer the public the latest in astronomical discovery. It currently has the latest projection technology and offers several programs in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, including Light of the Valkyries, which is a really great display showing the beauty of the Northern Lights.

For a bit of local flavor, the city has several popular farmer’s markets to choose from; every Saturday the Hollywood Farmer’s Market offers fresh, local produce along with gift vendors, musicians, and even free balloons for kids. If you find yourself in Santa Clarita, the Old Town Newhall Farmer’s Market is held every Thursday. This market is located outside of central L.A., offering high quality organic produce, specialty vendors and weekly events all without the hustle and bustle of being in downtown Los Angeles. There are numerous other weekly markets throughout the city, so no matter where you are you can be sure to find a market near you.

Street food is an up-and-coming phenomenon in Los Angeles that has a huge fan base. When the food trucks park in Los Feliz every Monday night for dinner, crowds of hungry foodies are there to greet them. They offer cuisine from all over the world; Mediterranean to Asian, you can get whatever your taste buds desire. If for some reason you don’t make it out on a Monday night you can track your favorite food truck using Twitter or lookingforfoodtrucks.com. Of course, there are times when you want to sit down in a pace with a more genial atmosphere than a parking lot allows. Pizzeria Mozza is a delightful Italian bistro that is known for its pizzas and fired squash blossoms; you could also head over Katsuya for sushi (a celebrity hotspot).

It wouldn’t be a trip to southern California if you didn’t go to the beach at least once but the last thing you want is to deal with the teeming crowds and shady characters, so instead head to Zumba Beach in Malibu. It looks like it’s right out of a postcard; scenic, beautiful, and a much better place to lie on the sand and soak up the sun.

Angie Picardo is a staff writer, financial analyst, and content manager at NerdWallet.com, a site dedicated to empowering consumers to save money and make smarter decisions about their personal finances, travel plans, or higher education.

Photos by Wikipedia Creative Commons