When I decided that I was going to L.A for a little escape, the reactions from people were mixed. Some people got it, some people asked “Why?” and others had the “Oh yeh, L.A, typical Aussie” response. After just a few days exploring the “City” (if you can call it that) I understood why I was getting such a mixed reaction.
I was always aware L.A was a bit rough around the edges, but growing up on Beverly Hills 90210 and being engulfed in the world of Instagram, and YouTube, I was a bit naive to think it was a place filled with constant shopping, cafes and clean streets littered with palm trees and valet parking. I imagined Hollywood Boulevard to be a street made of gold, with the Walk of Fame amongst a shopping strip full of Chanel and Prada stores, and Kale cafes on every corner.
While I was wrong and let down about all that for the first few hours, I knew the real L.A was out there and I had to go and find it. If you are planning a trip here, tick the standard things off the list but don’t be afraid to venture out and see some of the “Real L.A”.
There is a China Town in most capital cities, but having a district dedicated to Japanese heritage is a real treat.
Just a short walk from Union Station, Little Tokyo (Lil-Tokyo or J-Town as its also known to locals) is the cultural centre for Japanese Americans in California. There is an array of Japanese restaurants and apparently Little Tokyo is the birthplace of the California Sushi roll.
Because it isn’t accessible from the main streets, the James Irvine Japanese Garden is a hidden gem. Entry is available from the Japanese American Cultural and Community Centre, and while food or drink isn’t allowed, it’s still a great space to escape for a few minutes and surround yourself in the beautiful gardens and waterfalls.
GRAND CENTRAL MARKET
Located right in the thick of Downtown, is the city’s largest and oldest public market. Running since 1915, this traditional farmers market houses an array of cuisines from around the world.
Downtown L.A used to be a no go zone, but over the last few years has seen a remarkable renaissance. GCM is the perfect introduction to what it is trying to become – Gritty, Urban, a bit Hipster and authentic. You can find everything from old style American burgers, Thai salads and Tacos, to a food stand dedicated entirely to Eggs, hilariously called EggSlut.
317 S Broadway, Los Angeles (Metro RED Line)
I knew L.A had a metro system, but I was under the impression it was very basic and limited to just a few stops. Wrong! It’s actually a really great system, easy to use and will get you to a lot of key locations around town. $25 will get you a 7-day TAP card which you can use on all Metro buses, train and light-rail services, or a day pass is $7.
While not all stations are in central destinations, it can still take you to areas like Little Tokyo, Hollywood Boulevard, 7th St (Downtown L.A Shopping District) and Union Station.
California is widely known for its beaches, so it’s important to check them out when in L.A and escape the chaos of the centre of town. A quick 30-minute Uber ride (without traffic that is) from West Hollywood will get you to the Venice boardwalk.
Whether you are wanting some fun in the sun, shopping, art, music or restaurants, Venice caters for all of it, while still maintaining urban culture to it making it the perfect place to people watch.
The thing I loved about Venice was the wide depth of the beach itself, with so much space even in peak times you never feel overcrowded.
Venice Beach Boardwalk, N Venice Blvd/Pacific Avenue