“Tip the globe over on its side, and everything loose will fall in Los Angeles,” Frank Lloyd Wright is reputed to have declared, a phrase that has since been repeated by individuals who both love and despise L.A. The “City of Angels” is a city with great contrasts, a melting pot of people from all over the world, and a vital center of culture, commerce, media, and international trade. However, it is most known for being a major hub of the world’s television, motion picture, and music industries, which serves as the foundation of the city’s reputation and draws tourists because of its show business heritage and celebrity culture. Visitors are also attracted to Los Angeles because of its Mediterranean warmth and abundance of beaches, which gave rise to California’s famous surf culture.
Los Angeles, California’s most populated metropolis and the United States’ second most populous city (after New York City), is stretched over a huge basin in Southern California, surrounded by massive wooded mountain ranges, valleys, the Pacific Ocean, and neighboring desert. Los Angeles is in the center of a metropolitan area that includes Los Angeles County, Orange County, Ventura County, and the Inland Empire region of San Bernardino County and Riverside County.
Los Angeles is commonly referred to as the “Creative Capital of the World” since one in every six of its citizens works in the creative sector, and the city has more artists, authors, filmmakers, actors, dancers, and musicians than any other city in history.
THE PERFORMING ARTS AND MOVIES
The city’s Hollywood district has grown to be known as the heart of the motion film industry. Los Angeles is home to the annual Academy Awards and the USC School of Cinematic Arts, the country’s oldest film school.
Los Angeles’ cultural identity is heavily influenced by the performing arts. “There are more than 1,100 yearly theatre performances and 21 openings every week,” according to the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation. With over 1.3 million visitors each year, the Los Angeles Music Center is “one of the three biggest performing arts facilities in the country.” The Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Music Center’s focal point, is home to the famed Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Music Center’s resident companies include notable groups such as Center Theatre Group, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, and the Los Angeles Opera. Locally, talent is nurtured at prestigious schools such as the Colburn School and the USC Thornton School of Music.
The entertainment industry is what has made Los Angeles famous, so it’s no wonder that many visitors come to see the sites of Hollywood, where you can shoot at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or look up at the Hollywood Sign situated on the hill.
While the entertainment industry is still headquartered in Hollywood, the majority of the major studios have relocated elsewhere, particularly to the San Fernando Valley; Universal City is home to Universal Studios and its associated theme park, CBS has a studio in Studio City, and nearby Burbank is home to the Warner Brothers Studios and the Walt Disney Studios, among others. On the Westside, Sony Pictures is headquartered at the old MGM Studios in Culver City, 20th Century Fox is headquartered in Century City, and many television series are still recorded in CBS Television City in Fairfax. With its renowned double-arched gate facing Melrose Avenue, Paramount Pictures is the only remaining movie studio in Hollywood. Many studios provide tours, and in some cases, you may even be able to attend a television program taping; check the individual sites for more information.
Aside from the studios, there are several attractions that appeal to film aficionados and are worth seeing for people interested in the history of cinema. Hollywood features a plethora of museums and historic theatres dedicated to the Golden Age of Hollywood, while Hollywood, Downtown, Northwest L.A., Wilshire, and Beverly Hills are home to some of the city’s most renowned movie sites. There are also a few cemeteries notable for being the final resting places of many celebrities and influential writers and directors, most notably the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, the Westwood Village Memorial Park in Westwood, and the massive Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, where you’re bound to run into the famous of yesteryear.
Of course, many people come hoping to see live superstars. While the odds of meeting one in Hollywood are slim, you could get fortunate in the glitzy areas of Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Malibu, which are home to numerous celebrity houses and whose fine restaurants are sometimes visited by movie stars. The Academy Awards take place in Hollywood, typically in late February; the Grammy Awards have settled into the Staples Center in Downtown each February; the Golden Globes take place in Beverly Hills each January; and the late summer Primetime Emmys have spent the last several years at the Microsoft Theater in Downtown.
GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS
In Los Angeles County, there are 841 museums and art galleries. Los Angeles, in fact, has more museums per capita than any other city in the world. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (the biggest art museum in the Western United States), the Getty Center (part of the broader J. Paul Getty Trust, the world’s richest art institution), the Battleship Iowa, and the Museum of Contemporary Art are among the prominent museums. Gallery Row is home to a large number of art galleries, and tens of thousands of people attend the monthly Downtown Art Walk there.
The Westside is home to LA’s most well-known beaches: Venice Beach, with its colorful Boardwalk and Muscle Beach, and Santa Monica, with its iconic pier and amusement park. Both settlements share a long length of sandy beach that is quite busy in the summer and has lots of amusements and amenities, as well as a highly festive atmosphere in Venice that’s great for people watching. Dockweiler State Beach, in the appropriately called municipality of Playa del Rey, located just south of Venice (Spanish for beach of the king). Further north, where the shoreline meets the Santa Monica Mountains, are gorgeous beaches at Pacific Palisades and Malibu; Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades is large and popular, while Malibu’s smaller Surfrider Beach is well-known for its surf breakers.
South Bay is home to a variety of prominent beaches, including the Beach Cities of Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach, which include piers and large lengths of sand bordered with opulent homes. Hermosa Beach is well-known for its celebratory atmosphere, with volleyball tournaments and surfing events held on a regular basis; all three are popular with families and beachgoers. Torrance Beach, farther south, is also nice but less busy, and is known for its superb surfing, as is the highly gorgeous length of coastline near Palos Verdes, which has several rocky coves and tidepools that are enjoyable to explore.
The lovely beaches of Catalina Island are located off the coast and are quite popular for those taking a day excursion out of Los Angeles. Furthermore, the surrounding Orange County Beach Cities are quite popular with inhabitants. For those who prefer boats to sand, Marina del Rey, just south of Venice, is the world’s biggest man-made small-craft marina, with lots of mooring as well as motorized and non-powered rentals.