Mini Guide to Los Angeles
Exchange student Moya Zhang offers tips for making a most out of an LA trip
Santa Monica Pier lit up by the sunset in Los Angeles, Calif.
Plans to travel around the West Coast at the moment may be met with trepidation regarding the wildfires in Northern California. However, to allow this fear to hinder your wanderlust will only trap you in a perpetual cycle. Particularly as an exchange student, I aim to see as much of America as possible, and I recently took a trip to Los Angeles, which certainly did not disappoint.
Los Angeles is the home of celebrities, broken dreams and, according to the city's mayor Eric Garcetti, 47.3 million tourists in 2016. How do you make sense of this melting pot of a city in only three days? I’m here to help.
For first-timers and returning visitors alike, there’s still something alluring about the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Perhaps it’s the glitter of the El Capitan Theatre or being surrounded by a rich film history, but you will always find yourself pushing through the throng of people to see Meryl Streep’s tiny hands and the cast of the Harry Potter movies' signatures etched into the dirty concrete. No LA trip is complete without memorabilia, either, and it’s fun popping into the plethora of souvenir shops that adorn Hollywood Boulevard to see what whacky object they’ve printed "Los Angeles" onto. LA-branded fidget spinners, anyone?
However, for those wanting to escape the chaos and calamity of the city, Santa Monica and Venice Beach are only a short car ride away, provided the LA traffic is in your favor. Just breathing in the salty ocean air and allowing the monstrous waves to crash over your toes is rejuvenating for the soul. After strolling along the pier, head up to Third Street Promenade and feel overwhelmed by the number of stores at your disposal. Urban Outfitters, Zara, Forever 21 and Anthropologie, just to name a few, are all waiting for you. You could quite happily lose yourself for a few hours along the promenade, exploring the shops and beautiful views.
Once all your money is spent up, make sure you have a tiny bit left over because, for just $15 a day, you can rent a bike and ride down to Venice Beach. It is a gorgeous ride, entirely flat and along the bike path so you don’t have to battle oncoming cars or dodge little Chihuahuas. There is something extremely exhilarating and liberating about flying down on a bike, with the wind streaming in your hair, inhaling the Californian coast line playing out beside you. If Santa Monica is cute and full of boutique shops, Venice is its fun-loving little brother. The minute you ride into Venice Beach, you are surrounded by overarching palm trees, quirky market stalls, buskers and an overwhelming smell of marijuana.
It may be because I have little coordination myself, but the skateboarders at Venice are truly something to behold. They manipulate and control the board with extreme precision and literally defy gravity as they flip up and around the metal playground. It’s no wonder they often amass such a huge crowd when they practice. However, regardless of how many onlookers there are, they stay in their zone with their headphones in, and we feel like we are peeking into their private world.
A Californian sunset may have been sung about a million times, but seeing it in person will always be breathtaking. A hue of pink and purple blend together in a pastel dream, and the warm glow from the sun bathes the beach in an orange light. In conjunction with the silhouette of the Santa Monica Pier, it provides the perfect backdrop to end the day.
However, for those wanting to experience the lifestyle of the rich and famous, Rodeo Drive is certainly an eye-opening experience. Walking along and seeing Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton shops lining the white strip allows you to live out the dream of being a Real Housewife for even just a few minutes.
If you prefer Instagram fame over reality television, Melrose Avenue is a must. Booming with high-end street fashion that is almost affordable, it also features cafes that write "LA" with their coffee foam and cute neon slogans that were made to be photographed. With a coffee in hand, you can immerse yourself in the street art that decorates the walls of the avenue. Whether it’s lining up for a girl band cover shoot in front of the infamous pink wall or walking under the knitted rainbows, LA is sure to give you social media content for days.
Finally, no trip to LA is complete without visiting The Grove and their infamous Cheesecake Factory. Never will you feel fuller than when you demolish one of their burgers. And when you thought you couldn’t possibly fit in any more food, you obviously can’t leave without treating yourself to cheesecake. When you eventually roll out of the restaurant filled with happiness and regret, you know you’ve had the full tourist experience in the city of angels, Los Angeles.
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