So you're graduating - Congratulations! It's a big step in your life and you deserve a trip to celebrate, so make the destination a good one, like Los Angeles where anyone can do anything. There's so much to see and do in L.A. that most people take it at surface value, only looking so far as Hollywood and maybe Disneyland, but it has so much more to offer. We've talked about what to do in L.A. before, but we haven't had a blog, until now, that truly captures the essence of a celebratory trip to the City of Angels. So read on, enjoy, and start planning where you want to go, see, and do to celebrate being a new graduate!
Since this city is so huge, and has a lot going on all year round, we're going to split this up into categories. The first is Entertainment. Los Angeles was built on the industry and you better believe that with a visit here, you're going to be entertained like nowhere else. Here is where movies are made, stars are born (and live), and where you can walk through movie studios, historic Old Hollywood landmarks, and relive the glory for yourself. First, drive around Griffith Park and see the Hollywood sign casting its brilliant gaze over the valley below. Then, take a trip down Sunset Boulevard, press your hands into the imprints outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre (now called TCL), and follow the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Of course, entertainment in Los Angeles isn't restricted to Hollywood. Visit Disneyland, the original theme park designed by Walt Disney himself, or check out the brand new Hollywood Wizarding World of Harry Potter opening this spring at Universal Studios. Catch a free TV show taping as an audience member (they're all free!), or look around and see what kind of free entertainment is set up around the city, there's always something.
Not everyone goes to a city looking to simply tour all the time. Some people love recreation, and here's where Los Angeles is a little overlooked. You'd imagine that this huge city, the second largest in the country, would be like New York City with an abundance of concrete and not much room for outside recreation - but you'd be sorely mistaken. Where New York is piled up in skyscrapers, Los Angeles spread out. Plus, it's all located inside the valleys of SoCal, hugged on three sides by canyons, cliffs, and mountains, and on the fourth side by the blue Pacific Ocean. There are tons of recreational activities open for locals and tourists alike ranging from hiking, biking, skiing, watersports, canyoneering, horseback riding, and many others that we don't have room to name. Head to spots like Runyon Canyon for a nice hike and maybe spot some celebrities that like to frequent the area. Check out the huge and glorious Griffith Park where you'll also find museums, theaters, the observatory, and the wonderful Los Angeles Zoo. Eaton Canyon, in Pasadena, is a stunning and lush green wonderland complete with waterfalls and picture perfect scenery. But then there's the beaches...70 miles worth of them. Venice and Santa Monica, with their entertainment piers and eclectic fanbase, are among the most popular beach destinations but you'll be more than likely able to find a stunning stretch of sand to enjoy a day out in the golden California sun.
Now, you know that Los Angeles is home to the Lakers and the Dodgers, two very well known professional sports teams, but the rest seems to get lost in the shuffle and are overshadowed by L.A.'s other wonderful characteristics. However, if you're a sports fan, you're in luck in Los Angeles. You've got all the bases covered with the Lakers, Kings, Clippers, and Sparks, Dodgers, the Galaxy soccer team, and the Anaheim Ducks pro-hockey team. That's not to mention the college teams from USC and UCLA, or the minor league teams. Better still, the Rams football team are moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles this year, adding yet another team to the roster.
Los Angeles is also known for something else...shopping. You've all heard of Rodeo Drive, perhaps seen the posh setup of The Grove's outdoor shopping center in TV shows and movies. Shopping in Los Angeles is a hierarchy that ranges from flea and pop-up markets in the various neighborhoods to mid-level shopping malls and the high end fashion destinations like the ones listed above. If you enjoy shopping, there's a wonderful spot for you no matter your budget. It is, however, recommended that you visit The Grove and Rodeo Drive if only to window shop and experience the prestige of simply being there.
As you're reading this, you might be wondering how expensive all this might be. Admittedly, Los Angeles can get a little carried away with her ever-popular attractions that charge admission but there are a number of itinerary-fillers that are budget-friendly and completely free of charge. The number one free attraction is the Getty Center, a wonderful art museum housing some of the world's best pieces of artwork, and also the Getty Villa, a beautiful estate showcasing the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome in the hills of the Pacific Palisades.
There are many attractions, however, that are worth the price of admission as they're the only place in the world to experience such wondrous things. The California Science Center and Natural History Museum are some of the best science museums in the country with mind boggling extensive specimen collections and fabulous exhibits. Likewise, the Disney Concert Hall, with its modern architecture and strange design, holds within it the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the marvelous music they create. And where else in the world can you find the La Brea Tar Pits, filled with the remains of prehistoric animals and perfectly preserved history? They may not be free, but this is your celebratory trip and you deserve to fully experience this once in a lifetime opportunity.