During your trip through California you can’t avoid visiting Los Angeles. Rodeo Drive, Venice Beach, Hollywood, Santa Monica, this is your chance to follow in the footsteps of hundreds of stars and maybe earn your own handprint on the ‘Walk of Fame’.
There is also a chance that your plane will arrive at one of the largest airports in the world: LAX or Los Angeles Airport. But even if you fly to another destination in California, there is always a reason to visit Los Angeles!
The ‘city of angels’, as LA is often called, is not only the largest city in California, it is also the second largest city in the US. About four million people live in LA itself, which already makes it a metropolis. Together with the urban agglomeration, the population is estimated at over sixteen million!
The origin of Los Angeles, despite what the name suggests, lies with the Indian tribes. They inhabited this area long before the Europeans came to California. In the sixteenth century the time had come: the first settlers set foot on Californian territory.
More than two hundred years later, in 1781, the Spanish missionaries who had traveled to the area realized the strategic importance of the area and began to build a village there. For a long time, Los Angeles continued to play a rather insignificant role. It was not until the beginning of the nineteenth century that the city began to expand and the population increased.
In the mid-nineteenth century, California became independent from the Spanish Empire. During the Mexican-American War that raged, the Americans defeated the Mexicans. In 1848 the Hidalgo treaty was signed and ‘alta california’, which included LA, became part of America.
By the twentieth century, LA’s population had grown exponentially, partly because of the thriving petroleum industry. During World War II, the city’s defense industry grew. Also the aerospace industry that slowly started to flourish in the middle of the twentieth century. The growing economy and industry made LA instantly a desirable place to live.
Inventions such as the Internet, as well as the free spirit of homosexuality, attracted many people to Los Angeles. The population grew again and the city slowly but surely expanded towards the San Fernando valley.
The city is located in the west of the state, on the Pacific. To the east is the San Gabriel mountain range with the highest point being Mount Lukens. The Los Angeles River runs through the city from Canoga Park and flows into the sea.
The climate in LA is very pleasant with Mediterranean summers and mild winters. The average annual temperature is around eighteen degrees and in summer it is about 27 degrees. In winter temperatures are around ten degrees. The winter months have the most rainfall of the whole year. February in particular is considered to be one of the wettest months.
Due to its location, LA is hit by earthquakes several times a year. History has shown that earthquakes can cause significant damage in the city, but sometimes they are barely noticeable. The San Andreas fault that runs through California is a concern for many residents of the state.
This is due to the high probability of earthquakes that the fault line can cause. This is because the North American and Pacific plates are sliding together, which could cause a huge earthquake. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen for a while.
Present-day Los Angeles
Today, the city consists of a large number of districts such as the Harbor Area, Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood. Venice Beach, Bel Air, known for ‘the Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ and the Financial District should not be missed. In recent decades, LA has been ‘manhattanized’, as it were. This term refers to the Manhattan neighborhood of New York and refers to the skyscrapers that seem to be sprouting everywhere like mushrooms.
Ever since colonization, people from far and wide have come to LA for a variety of reasons. African Americans came there under duress, during slavery, but Asians and South Americans also immigrated to the city in large numbers in recent decades. Many of these cultures have grown into the city over the years.
This culturally diverse nature of the city makes Los Angeles a huge draw for many different types of people. It is estimated that people of about 140 different nationalities live in the city! Because LA is a melting pot of cultures, neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Koreatown and Little Ethiopia have emerged over the years. Each neighborhood is worth visiting in its own way for cultural, as well as religious and historical matters.
Many people who think of Hollywood think that it is an autonomous city. Nothing is less true. Hollywood is part of the city of Los Angeles but you could call this mecca for movie freaks a city within the city. Of course you will find ‘a lot of the superficial’ here, but if you look beyond your nose you will see that there is so much more to do in Hollywood. An oasis of tranquility can be found in Griffith Park, for example. Amidst all the face-lifts and other star-studded hectic, you can relax here perfectly.
The park is seventeen square kilometers in area, making it one of the largest parks in the country. Griffith Park is named after Colonel Griffith who bought a piece of land here in the late 1800s and gave it to the city of LA years later. The average person can have a great time in Griffith Park. For a family outing, head to the Los Angeles Zoo, which is located in the park. The sports enthusiasts among us can also indulge themselves: in addition to a swimming pool, a tennis court and basketball courts, there is even a golf course with no less than eighteen holes.
If you enter the park on the east side, you can also view the trademark of Hollywood, namely the world-famous Hollywood ‘sign’ that is, as it were, pressed against the hills. As cliché as it may be, this is an attraction not to be missed when in LA.
Movie buffs crave a ‘stroll’ down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Although you will definitely not be the only one here, you can’t deny yourself a visit to perhaps one of the most famous streets in the world. Join the crowds and make an effort to find the hand or footprints of your favorite star.
Another well-known attraction is Mann’s Chinese Theater. Located on Hollywood Boulevard, this building takes its name from Ted Mann, who once bought the building. He renamed it Mann’s Chinese Theater and sold it to movie giants Paramount and Warner Bros. in ’86. Today they still own the theater and at the beginning of the new millennium they changed the name. Today it is called Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the building’s original name.
You go to West Hollywood if you like partying and lounging. Here you can stroll in one of the hip (lounge) bars and participate in the latest trends in cocktails and finger food. If you like dancing more, you can also lose yourself in this district. It’s a good place to stay and the choice is huge.
Armed with a full wallet or at least pretending to have one, you enter über-chic Beverly Hills. You come here for two things: a tour of the homes of all the movie and music stars in hopes of catching a glimpse of Paris Hilton, Phill Collins or Jennifer Lopez or for shopping.
In Beverly Hills there is a kind of Golden Triangle where you can shop completely poor. Rodeo Drive is one of the most expensive streets in this district, where most people marvel at the designer outfits that adorn the shop windows or perhaps the stars who come here to do their shopping. If a $4000 dress is not for you, then window shopping, in other words, browsing the shop windows, is also a great alternative.
Transportation in and around Los Angeles
LA is bustling at any time of the day. Whether you travel by public transport or with your own car, you are surrounded by people everywhere. The ‘city of angels’ has the largest car population in the world. About one car is expected for every two people and if they all start driving, you can imagine the crowds! Public transport is by means of buses, metro and trains. Compared to NY and Washington DC, relatively little use is made of public transport by commuters.