In the vast and varied country of the United States, fellow residents tend to misunderstand each other as much as they have a tendency to misunderstand the world beyond. It’s disconcerting to see how many people form concrete opinions of other places based on very little knowledge of and experience in those places.
I discovered my own habit of doing this during my travels to the South. I’ve had enlightening experiences there where found that I liked that part of the country more than I imagined I would. I realized that my negative opinions on it were based on stereotypes, politics, and history rather than personal experiences with the current people and places.
Recently, I’ve also eased up on Los Angeles. In California, there is a little tiff between SoCal and NorCal, and more specifically between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s a microcosm of larger issues in the country and in the world and while it’s not detrimental, it can be petty and counterproductive.
While there are still stereotypical and true characteristics of Los Angeles that I don’t like, I’ve found many other things to appreciate about it. I’ve accepted the city for what it is and opened myself up to discovering its more awesome aspects, and that has been a good thing.
Here’s a collection of things that have made me happy on my recent visits to Los Angeles:
» Warm Weather
I love San Francisco, but its weather is not the jam. It has its hotter times, but it tends to hover around highs of 60 degrees Fahrenheit year round, give or take about 10 degrees. I actually prefer to be in warmer climates and I’m not a fan of bundling up. LA is more capable of making these partialities feasible. When I go there, I can pack light and give myself a break from restrictive outerwear.
» The Diverse Array of Cultures
Los Angeles goes far beyond the typical subsections of American cities. There is Koreatown, Thai Town, Little Ethiopia, a sizable population of Hasidic Jews, and areas that make me feel like I’m in Mexico. As a fan of traveling, I really appreciate this cultural mix up all in one location.
The awesome weather combined with people from all over the world make for an excellent food culture in Los Angeles. There are year round farmers markets everywhere and an abundance of international restaurants and food trucks. There is often an emphasis on food that’s produced locally with respect for the environment and the people who will consume it.
» The Laid Back Atmosphere
Something I noticed on a trip to LA last year is that people there give off an air of being on vacation in their own town. I really enjoy the very city-like energy and feel of San Francisco, but I appreciate the more relaxed nature of LA as well. It’s a nice break from my typical surroundings.
» Hiking to the Hollywood Sign at Sunset
This was the highlight of my most recent trip to Los Angeles. The day after Thanksgiving, we got off to a late start on this hike, but it turned out to be great timing. The lighting was gorgeous on the way up, and when we reached the top, we had a 360 degree view of the Los Angeles and beyond, all aglow in sunset light.
Last summer, I had an afternoon to myself where I happened to be within walking distance of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and it happened to be a free entrance day. I decided to take advantage of that. LACMA is impressive before you even walk in; there is a wonderful light sculpture at the entrance. Once you’re inside, there is an amazing collection of art from around the world. The exhibits are presented in a way that really enhances the art and gives you a sense of the periods and places they come from. The curation at LACMA is artistic excellence in itself.
» Day Trips to Santa Monica
Santa Monica is such an interesting place. With the beach, the boardwalk, the Third Street Promenade, and surf city atmosphere, it’s the California of a lot of people’s dreams. But there is also a very apparent desperate and gritty side to it. These aspects combined make for a truthful dose of Americana.
» Secondhand Shopping
When I’ve gone secondhand shopping in LA, I’ve found some good stuff, I think partly because styles change so quickly and people often get rid of barely worn items. If you’re not caught up in following trends closely, there is good stuff to be found. Beyond the shops, last summer I came across the Melrose Trading Post, a hipstery weekly flea market that has all kinds of little treasures that reflect many different periods of LA. I saw wacky furniture, vintage travel and movie posters, tons of antique knickknacks, and some great jewelry.
» Strange and Passionate People
Venice Beach has its fair share of the LA counterculture, but there are a lot of unique individuals throughout the city. It’s a city that attracts people from all over the country, a lot of them with personalities that were probably too large for Small Town, USA. While there are a lot of people in Los Angeles chasing vacuous and vague dreams of stardom, there are plenty more who may still be enticed by stardom, but have a true love and passion for their art. Los Angeles and San Francisco seem to be equally full of people who are endearingly odd and steadfast about expressing themselves.