Los Angeles

World Facts Index > United States > Los Angeles

One of the few points about Los Angeles that just about all will agree upon is its lack of cohesiveness or "city feel". While this fact has provided more than a fair share of writers and comedians the opportunity to poke fun, a more enlightened soul might see this as the city's greatest positive. For regardless of your origin, interest or personality, you're just about certain to find an area to like, or in the case of most, one to love.

Beverly Hills
As you drive west down Sunset Boulevard, you reach a definite point where the trees become greener, the houses become larger and the cars all become Jags and Bentleys. You're certainly not in Kansas anymore - you've just entered Beverly Hills. This world famous city, with the world famous zip code, is synonymous with wealth, status and celebrity. A quick drive down any given side street will take you past homes worth more than some countries' entire economies. Rodeo Drive offers some of the finest shopping on the entire planet for those who have the means or who simply want a glimpse at how the other half lives.

Brentwood
It's a shame that many people around the world first came to know Brentwood courtesy of the O.J. Simpson hoopla. Angelenos, however have been living, shopping, partying and enjoying this exclusive enclave long before Mr. Simpson ever moved in. Home to a great number of the city's A-list celebrities, this is one of the best spots to sip a latte and watch the world go by.

Century City
Similar to downtown, this collection of skyscrapers almost looks out of place as you approach it. Once inside, however, it doesn't take long to realize that this west-side entity is very much a part of the city. The high rise buildings mostly house corporate offices (including those of the ABC television network), but the area also boasts a mammoth shopping mall, a world-famous hotel (Century Plaza) and the Fox studio lot.

Crenshaw
This is a great example of how reputations can be deceiving. This neighborhood gained worldwide publicity as the center of the infamous 1992 riots. While that may have been true, the world media has seemed to portray Crenshaw as a war zone to be avoided ever since. It's actually one of the city's best kept secrets. Home to a great number of African Americans, Crenshaw offers wonderful shopping, dining and recreation. A continuing economic boom is helping to bring back more tourists and residents with each passing year.

Culver City
Dominated by the Sony Studios backlot, Culver City is another one of LA's well-kept secrets. Many locals even remain unaware of the plethora of thrift stores, ethnic restaurants and neighborhood bars hiding within its borders. While the commercial coffeehouse craze has slowly infiltrated the area, there is still a great many old time coffeehouses and latte bars to be found here.

Downtown
It almost seems as though this very modest collection of skyscrapers was built as an after-thought to the city's infrastructure. While not exactly in the center of things geographically, downtown is still a major center of activity. In addition to housing hundreds of corporate offices, many shops, restaurants, bars and even a few museums are found here. The LA Criminal Courts building is also here'the site of several recent high profile trials.

East LA
As indicated by its name, this area forms the eastern edge of the city and is home to a large part of LA's Latino population. Perhaps nowhere else in the city is LA's cultural diversity better represented than here. Ethnic shops, restaurants and even Chinatown is found here. Although East LA doesn't have the greatest reputation for safety, it's not as bad as it's made out to be and people certainly shouldn't be afraid to experience this culturally enriching area.

Glendale
This fairly large community was once the transportation gateway to all points north. Nowadays it's a bustling center of corporate and shopping activity. Among other shopping attractions, it features the monstrous Glendale Galleria, a shopping mall larger than some small towns. Brand Boulevard offers some of the finest independent bookstores around.

Hollywood
The big sign just about says it all. Once the literal center of the movie business, Hollywood still retains its grand reputation, long after many production companies have vacated to other parts of town. The center of things is without a doubt, Hollywood Boulevard. Here you'll be able to marvel at the Mann's Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Pantages Theater, the El Capitan movie house and about a hundred and one souvenir shops. Some lesser-known Hollywood attractions include Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum of Oddities, the Hollywood Bowl and the Hollywood Wax Museum.

Hollywood Hills
This mountainside area, overlooking Hollywood is home to scores of hiking trails, dog parks and million-dollar homes. The centerpiece is Griffith Park, which features the Greek Theater and the Griffith Park Observatory. The network of hiking and biking trails found here is vast enough to provide solitude for those who seek it.

Long Beach
This is a fairly large city in its own right. Aside from a plethora of shopping and dining options, this beach community is perhaps best known for the Queen Mary, a Titanic-esque ocean liner now permanently docked here and open for tours.

Los Feliz
One of the city's great nostalgic neighborhoods, this area has been the scene of a recent popularity surge that shows no sign of weakening. It's nestled at the southeast base of the Hollywood Hills and is so small you can literally walk across it in minutes (yes, some places exist where people still walk in LA!). Here, you'll find a great collection of bookstores, non-Starbucks coffee shops, late night diners and the Derby, the hottest swing club in town.

Malibu
The motto of this coastal community is "27 miles of scenic beauty". That about describes it best. The main attraction here is the drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, which is so scenic in places that it borders on sensory overload! You'll pass beach after beach on one side of the road and million-dollar hilltop estates on the other. Make sure you have plenty film, and the top down, of course.

Manhattan Beach
This is the quintessential Southern California beach town. Its located along the Pacific Coast Highway, a few minutes south of LAX airport and offers much in the way of shopping and dining. In this place, politics and world affairs take a major back seat to the all-important matter of how the surf is today.

Marina Del Rey
Known simply as "the Marina" to locals, this is the undisputed center of all sailing and boating activities in the area. The actual marina is one of the largest in the nation and houses vessels of all shapes and sizes. Not to be overlooked, there is also a decent-sized town here that's full of upscale shopping and restaurants.

Mid-Wilshire
Before the emergence of the freeway system, this stretch of Wilshire Boulevard was one of the primary links between downtown and the coast. Among the many historic buildings remaining here is the classic Wiltern Theater which still offers big name music acts periodically.

Miracle Mile District/Hancock Park
Another one of LA's historical neighborhoods, this area's main attractions are the LA County Museum of Art and the La Brea Tar Pits. Both museums are contained within Hancock Park, a small but peaceful oasis in the center of hectic urban activity.

Pacific Palisades
While Beverly Hills and the Hollywood Hills are known for their celebrity residents, this large community, just north of Santa Monica might actually contain more. Its quiet and unassuming and the neighbors aim to keep it that way. However there are some great parks and beaches which the celebs willingly share with the general public. This could even be a place to befriend one of your favorite stars.

Palos Verdes
This is one of the most recognizable land formations in the area. On a clear day, this hilly peninsula can be seen from points all over town. It's mostly residential (and pretty exclusive at that), but there are some great parks and biking trails to be explored here.

Pasadena
This is one of the most prominent communities in the entire state of California. The impressive list of landmarks here includes the Rose Bowl, Cal-Tech, the National Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Mount Wilson Observatory. That's just part of the story, however. Old Town Pasadena provides one of the greatest clusters of bars, shops, cafes and restaurants in the entire LA area. Every New Years Day, this not-so-sleepy town becomes the focus of the entire world for the annual Tournament of Roses parade.

Orange County
As you drive south of LA, you seem to get into greener pastures...quite literally. Orange County is a collection of beautifully manicured suburbs and picturesque beach communities. Some great spots include Anaheim (home of Disneyland), Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Dana Point.

San Fernando Valley
On the other side of the Hollywood Hills sits "The Valley" as its known to locals. Perhaps best known as the setting of the Brady Bunch (the house is still in there somewhere), the Valley has enjoyed a love-hate relationship of sorts with the rest of LA. The Valley features a seemingly endless sea of houses, strip malls, funky shops and restaurants and a few major movie studios. There are two things you can always count on in the valley: the earthquakes always feel stronger, and the temperature is always ten degrees hotter.

Santa Monica
Back in the hey day of Route 66, this was the end of the line. Today, this beachfront community is one of the most popular places to live, work and enjoy. The main shopping attraction is the bustling Third Street Promenade, a three-block stretch of Third Street that is closed off to vehicular traffic but is very much open to shops, bars, dining and more. Other area hot spots include the Santa Monica Pier, Main Street and of course the beach.

West Hollywood
This ritzy neighborhood is home to one of the city's most famous (or infamous) attractions: the Sunset Strip. Along this two-mile stretch of Sunset Blvd, you'll find most of the famous clubs (The Roxy, The Viper Room, The House of Blues, etc.), as well as some of the city's finest shopping and hotels. There's much more than shopping and dancing, however. This is also home to the vast majority of the city's gay and lesbian residents. If you happen to be by around Halloween, look for the annual costume parade down Santa Monica Blvd., which has become one of the city's most popular annual events. Also, be sure to pop into the Hustler Store for a shopping experience that's, well, a little different!

Westwood
The centerpiece of this charming and upscale neighborhood is UCLA. The world-renown university's presence is felt in just about every bar, restaurant and corner grocery store in the area. Recently, however the area has become the spot of choice for major studios to have their biggest movie premieres. So if you happen to be by on the right night, don't be surprised to catch a glimpse of your favorite star walking down the red carpet.

Venice
This is the city's home to all things eclectic...and many things downright bizarre. Santa Monica's neighbor to the south, Venice offers one of the greatest collections of cafes, bars and one-of-a-kind shops around. Sunday afternoons are hopping with beach-goers, tattooed street-performers, rollerbladers, merchants and representatives from just about every walk of life on the planet. Unbeknownst even to many long time LA residents, there's also an extensive network of canals here...hence the city after which it's named.

History of Los Angeles

Like most areas of North America, California's earliest residents were Native Americans. Prior to the mid 18th century, several native peoples dominated the area, most notably those from the Tongva nation. Legend even has it that these early inhabitants were reluctant to establish large settlements in what is now the LA basin due to its poor air quality...an ironic premonition of things to come.

The earliest key date in the development of Los Angeles is August 2, 1769. It was on that afternoon that a group of Spanish explorers led by Junipero Serra and Captain Gasper de Portola entered what became Los Angeles from the east, in the area around Elysian Park. The purpose of the expedition was to establish a trail of missions linking San Diego and San Francisco, known as "El Camino Real". Legend also has it that during their brief stay in the area, the men experienced three earthquakes. Unfazed by this, the group decided to establish a large settlement here in spite of the terrestrial shaking...another premonition of things to come.

Los Angeles got its name from Serra who originally called the area "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles," obviously later shortened. Throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the area thrived as a mission under the control of the Mexican government. On March 9th, 1842, Francisco Lopez discovered gold in the Santa Clarita Valley and by 1845, U.S. troops began battling for control of California. On January 9, 1847, Commodore Stockton recaptured Los Angeles for the third and final time and three days later Mexican general Andres Pico surrendered California to U.S. General John Fremont. A subsequent boundary dispute ensued as to where the boarders of the city and county should be but on April 4, 1850, the city of Los Angeles was incorporated, with California officially entering the union five months later.

Los Angeles saw steady but modest growth throughout the late 1800s. In 1913, however William Mulholland built an aqueduct, which allowed water to be brought to Los Angeles from 200 miles north. This one event is considered to be largely responsible for LA's growth into a major population center. By the 20s and 30s, many industries, including motion pictures were beginning to stake their foothold in the city and that's when things really took off. As movies and movie making became more ingrained in American culture during the 40s and 50s, millions began flocking to LA in hopes of becoming a star and striking it rich. By the mid-to-late 50s, the population of LA had reached two million and appeared to be going nowhere but up.

Unfortunately, more people meant more problems. In 1943, a clash between sailors and marines and local Hispanic gangs broke out, known as the Zoot Suit Riots. For several days and nights, downtown LA was transformed into a battle-zone. Although finally quelled by police, this would not be the last time the city witnessed large-scale urban unrest. Devastating race riots erupted in 1965 and again in 1992, giving the city its reputation for being a hotbed of racial tensions. Riots, however weren't the only problem associated with overpopulation. Runaway air pollution and the damage caused by several earthquakes have also given the city its fair share of crises to deal with over the years.

As Los Angeles prepares to enter the new century, however, things are definitely looking up. While the ground may never stop shaking, tougher building codes and better city planning have helped to minimize damage caused by earthquakes. Stricter emissions standards for cars and factories have helped dramatically clean up the air and, while racial tensions continue to simmer, they may finally appear to be on the mend. For as long as this high-profile city remains standing, certain things can always be counted on to thrive in LA: movies, sunshine, gridlock on the 405 Freeway and eager souls arriving each day to the city of angels in search of their own piece of heaven.

The Weather

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg. High 67 68 68 72 74 78 84 84 82 78 72 67
Avg. Low 48 50 51 54 57 61 64 65 64 60 54 48
Mean 58 60 61 64 66 70 74 75 74 70 64 58
Avg. Precip. 2.9 in 3.1 in 2.6 in 1.0 in 0.2 in 0.0 in 0.0 in 0.1 in 0.5 in 0.3 in 2.0 in 2.0 in

 

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