The way Hollywood is portrayed on television makes it seem like it’s one of those absolute places you have to visit before you die. The Walk of Fame, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica Beach look oh-so glamorous in montages of and films that showcase Los Angeles. That can leave people who haven’t been to the City of Angels yet itching to set foot in the Southern California hot spot.
I’m not writing this to argue against all of that, because L.A. is definitely a destination to indulge in. But it’s not for the reasons popularized on TV.
I’ve heard that some people visit the city and leave disappointed, because where was all the glitz and glam shown on TV and in the movies?
To avoid that disappointment, here are a couple of expectations to have before checking out to Los Angeles (if you haven’t already been):
Los Angeles is a big, big city. It is huge. It covers an eccentrically-shaped area of approximately 500 square miles (1,300 kilometers). Since it’s that big, carefully planning out activities and sightseeing is a great use of time. It’s not exactly a destination where it’s easy to just wing it, and walking around without a plan is unlikely to result in randomly finding an attraction.
It is partly for Los Angeles’ size that public transportation in Los Angeles is limited compared to other cities, such as Manhattan. Seriously. Los Angeles is way behind in public transit compared to a lot of other places even though the United States is a first world country. The subway system doesn’t go very far, and buses oftentimes don’t arrive on schedule. Still, the option to get around via public transit exists, and it’s better than that in Las Vegas.
If you decide to drive, just know that L.A. drivers are generally aggressive/very assertive. People will cut you off, speed up in the next lane after you’ve switched your signal to indicate you would like to scoot into that lane so you can’t make it comfortably, honk at you at a stoplight if you don’t accelerate the second immediately after the light changes to green, and more! (It’s an exciting experience! Okay, I’m lying. It isn’t. It’s actually stressful if you’re not used to it. Eventually, you realize you’ll sometimes have to temporarily set aside your manners and be just as assertive/aggressive as everyone else on the road.) It might seem like most drivers in the city have no manners, and maybe that’s the case. But overall, that’s how everyone drives and it’s useful to expect it. That way, it’s at least somewhat less frustrating to deal with when some jerk honks at you for waiting for a pedestrian to cross the street. It’s just Los Angeles driving culture.
Since public transit is limited, Los Angeles is very car centric, which results in horrendous traffic, especially during rush hours and particularly on the 405.
Planning on going commuting from Downtown LA to, say, Long Beach and need to get there by 9 a.m.? It only takes 30 minutes, but you’d best be gone no later than 7:30 a.m. With limited subways and buses, a bunch of people are gonna be driving, too. Plan accordingly.
If you spend time in Downtown L.A., depending on where you are, know that there are a lot of homeless people. There are more than 44,000 throughout L.A. County, and a large number of them are concentrated in Skid Row. It’s a reality that of course isn’t highlighted when you hear about LA, but it shouldn’t be a disgusting surprise (except that a lot still needs to be done about it). They don’t really bother passersby, other than asking for spare change.
If you ignore the hype and come with an open mind, Los Angeles has a lot to offer its visitors. Other more pleasant aspects to look forward to are:
An abundant variety of cuisine from all over the world
Attractive weather that never really gets too humid or cold
A large area with so much to explore!