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Celebrities, movie cameras, and persistent paparazzi – these may be the hallmarks of present-day Los Angeles, but the second largest city in the United States has a rich and varied history that extends far beyond the glitter of the silver screen. The city's abundant sunshine and a temperate climate, which attract so many folks to the area today, were first enjoyed by the native Tongva peoples. This group inhabited the area for hundreds of years prior to the first European contact in 1542 with Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo. Expeditions along the southern California coast firmly established a Spanish presence in the 1760s and '70s. A mix of Hispanic, Filipino, and native settlers founded El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río de Porciúncula, which became known simply as "Los Angeles" in the early 1800s. The region passed through Spanish, Mexican, and finally into US hands in 1848. Meanwhile, nearby gold and oil, as well as the valuable resource of the Los Angeles River, resulted in the city's steadily growing population. With a water supply secured by engineer William Mulholland's aqueduct in 1913, Los Angeles began to attract the industries that would become so essential to its emergence as a cultural and technological leader in America. Hollywood's studio system, fostered by now-legendary names like the four Warner brothers, Samuel Goldwyn, and Louis Mayer, produced classics like Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, and Gone With the Wind. Favorite tourist sites such as Grauman's Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame are testaments to the movies' enduring effect on LA. Motion pictures helped make the city, but today the long list of companies headquartered in the City of Angels tells of a diverse business scene. Hilton Hotels, Guess?, DirecTV, Mattel, and Cunard Line are just a sampling of the corporations found in the LA metro area. Manufacturing, finance, aviation, and telecommunications have played major roles in the city's economic development. However, it's the University of Southern California – the Trojans – that's LA's largest private sector employer. Cuisine and fine dining are two more of the city's strengths. The plethora of restaurants, providing everything from a quick bite to elaborate tasting menus, reflects the international make-up of the city's population. Angelenos love to chow on sushi, and several top-notch spots offer the finest maki, nigiri, and sashimi around. Mexican and Latin American eateries are also gaining popularity. Traditional tacos to haute Nuevo Latino fare and every spicy, tangy, heat-inducing dish in between can be found quite easily. A growing number of Middle Eastern, Spanish, Thai, and Mediterranean restaurants add even more choice to an already-rich global dining scene. Having played host to two Olympic Games – 1932 and 1984 – the city is well-versed in sports. NBA stars the Los Angeles Lakers have scored big in recent years thanks to a string of young phenoms. Another NBA franchise, the Clippers, play in the same division. Baseball fans root for the always interesting Dodgers, who generally finish well in their league. Other much-loved teams include the Kings (NHL), Sparks (WNBA), and Galaxy and Club Deportivo Chivas USA (Major League Soccer). With so many starlets and socialites on the prowl, it's no wonder LA has such fantastic nightlife. Ultra-trendy bars and dance clubs are packed most nights. Whether you're in the market for a relaxed after-work drink or a marathon evening of clubbing, this city has it all. Naturally, there's a more cultured side to Los Angeles as well. The Getty Center and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibit exquisite antiquities alongside cutting-edge contemporary art. A surprising amount of green space enlivens the city, providing everyday urban havens for those inclined to the outdoors. Stroll through Griffith Park, the largest municipal park in the country, or Coldwater Canyon Park, a 45-acre park in the middle of the city. The electrifying city of Los Angeles as we know it today and the modest Spanish settlement of the 1700s seem worlds apart. Nevertheless, it was the original Angelenos' determination to carve out a life in the arid soil and desert climate of the region that resulted in a modern-day metropolis, rich in art, music, theater, sport, and natural beauty. Los Angeles rewards visitors with a heaping helping of history as well as the nonstop energy and excitement of one of the biggest cities in the world.
Things to do in Los Angeles
Los Angeles is known for...
Dubbed the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” Los Angeles churns out more motion pictures, television shows, internet web series, video games, and recorded music than anywhere in the world. Locals stomp on famous monikers and handprints down Hollywood Boulevard, while tourists pause to snap pictures with Batman or Supes as Grauman’s Chinese Theater looms in the background. While driving north on Gower, the first sight of the Hollywood sign nestled in the hills makes even the most pessimistic cynic feel that “Dreams really do come true.”
From the Beach Boys to Katy Perry, LA’s gorgeous beaches, over two dozen, inspire artists and visitors alike. Spread out a blanket, layer on the waterproof sunscreen, and enjoy the quiet sands of Point Dume, a public beach north of Malibu that feels more like a private one. Stop by the totally gnarly Venice Beach skate park, home of the original Lords of Dogtown. You’ll find yourself humming along to “Daisy dukes, bikinis on top” while renting a pair of rollerskates or bike cruisers from the Santa Monica Pier, California Girl or not.
3. Amusement Parks:
More than just “The Happiest Place on Earth,” there’s a theme park for kids of all ages in LA. Thrill seekers can satiate adventurous palates at Six Flags Magic Mountain, current world record holder for most roller coasters. Beware of ghouls and ghosts during Halloween at Knott’s Scary Farm, America’s first theme park. Sing along to “It’s a Small World After All” at Disneyland while admiring the spectacular fireworks show at sunset. Thirsting for a sneak peak at filmmaking and special effects? Look no further than Universal Studios Hollywood, which takes you on a behind the scenes tour of the magic of movie-making.
From fresh sushi to All American burgers and hot dogs, LA’s residents love to get their nosh on. Studio City’s Ventura Boulevard is home to Sushi Row, aptly named for its plethora of sushi dining establishments at every turn. Food trucks serving everything from bahn mi to ice cream sandwiches are all the rage, lining the business districts from mid-Wilshire to Santa Monica. Whether you’re hungry for a diner burger or a gourmet patty, the choice is yours. Can’t decide? In-N-Out never disappoints (P.S. Order the double double with fries, animal style, from the secret menu).
East and west collide to form the perfect mixture in LA, pulsing with a true celebration of ethnic diversity. Channel your inner rock star at any one of the many karaoke bars in the heart of Koreatown. Shop for silk saris and munch on spicy samosas while strolling down Pioneer Boulevard in Little India. Discover the wonders of Chinatown on a walking tour or visit during the annual mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Wander downtown’s Santee Alley to hunt for the latest clothing and accessory trends. Don’t forget to practice your bargaining skills, for haggling is a must in the Fashion District!