When I moved to San Francisco, it was the only city on the west coast that I had ever visited. I spent a magical summer here in 2009 and was pretty convinced that it was a place I’d like to live. Eventually, after nearly two years of internally debating it, I bought a one-way ticket out here and I can only wish that I’d done that sooner. It’s not a perfect place to live (what place is?), but I find myself madly in love with this weird little city.
There are a lot of things you learn about San Francisco pretty quickly, whether you’re just visiting or if you’ve moved here long-term. For example, your winter coat will get just as much (if not more) use in the summer than any other season. If you don’t carry cash with you, you’ve eliminated at least 50% of the restaurants and bars you can go to. Also, burritos can count for two meals — but don’t feel bad if they only survive one.
And one of the biggest things you’ll learn pretty quickly is that everyone has an opinion about Los Angeles.
I’d confidently guess that if you asked Bay Area residents what they think about Los Angeles, 60% or more of them would simply respond, “LA sucks.” I can’t even tell you how many people said this to me when I moved here and Los Angeles came up in conversation. It seemed that pretty much everyone could agree that the weather was nice, but for whatever reason — the fake people, the traffic, the overall vibe — almost all of the SF people I talked to had negative feelings toward LA.
Well, I’m certain I’m in the minority on this one (at least as far as Bay Area residents go), but I won’t lie: I like LA.
I am really glad that I was adamant about not letting those opinions shape my own of LA when I first visited in May of last year. Los Angeles is certainly not for everyone, but I always have a great time there. I know some incredible people who live there, I’ve witnessed some spectacular views and sunsets there, and attended some great events in the city, too.
This past weekend was no different. I got in Friday afternoon and had an amazing weekend in the City of Angels. I visit about once a month, so I’m not as concerned about packing in a full weekend of activities when I’m there. But I’ve been lucky enough to experience a few things that I would say are my top picks — the things that I absolutely loved doing and wouldn’t hesitate to do again.
Here are some of my LA favorites:
Without a doubt, I’ve seen some of the most beautiful LA sunsets here and some absolutely stellar views of the city. Even if I don’t feel like seeing a show in the planetarium (although the shows are excellent!), I always have a fabulous time walking around outside and exploring what the building has to offer.
While everyone and their grandma head up here around dusk, it’s worth the battle for parking to catch the sun set here. Not only will you get to see the sky painted all sorts of lovely colors, but you’ll get to see LA’s lights twinkle at night. It’s pretty extraordinary.
You know how I mentioned that all Bay Area residents can at least agree that LA has nice weather? Well, while I wouldn’t say that’s the main draw of Los Angeles, it certainly doesn’t hurt. Escaping the chilly, foggy weather in San Francisco for warm, sunny days is always refreshing.
I’m unfamiliar enough with LA to think that whenever I visit — whatever the time of year — I feel the need to pack my swimsuit. I kid you not, I don’t think there’s been a time when I went there and didn’t stow one in my baggage just in case. I’m a beach bum at heart, and I basically always go to southern California hoping that I’ll get to lay out by the Pacific. Unfortunately, it’s not always beach weather down there. The last time I went to the beach in Los Angeles, I dragged my main squeeze out to the beach and we froze our butts off for about 30 minutes before leaving.
Luckily, this past weekend I made it to Dockweiler State Beach and oh my stars was it amazing! I could have laid out in the sun all day. Seriously, though, any beach in LA works for me. Just give me some sun, a temperature higher than 65 degrees, and no fog, and I’ll be the happiest gal around.
Annenberg Space for Photography
I’ve never been a big fan of art museums. Actually, I’m a pretty insufferable person to go to an art museum with, because I tend to make a lot of comments loaded with sexual innuendo or I try to make voices for the people in the paintings or something. I know, I’m not an adult yet.
But I’ve always been attracted to photography, and I have a slightly more mature attitude about it. So I was beyond thrilled to hear about the Annenberg Space for Photography, which is a little museum with free admission and perfectly curated exhibits. I saw the National Geographic exhibit and it was so awesome — and included so many images — that I went back to see it again. Even if you’re not really into art museums, or if you’re the type that likes to make fun of the way statues are positioned and such, the Annenberg Space for Photography is absolutely fascinating.
Cinespia (summer only)
Outdoor summer cinema is no new thing. But have you ever watched a movie in a graveyard?
My first time in LA I went and saw a film in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery during the Cinespia summer movie screenings. This is absolutely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in LA because not only do you get to watch a movie outside whilst picnic-ing and wine-drinking, but you’re also in a freakin’ graveyard. So. damn. cool. It’s like a drive-in movie theater but with a kind of morbid twist.
Their last film of the summer appears to be September 20th. Oddly enough, it’s Rosemary’s Baby, which I saw in Bryant Park a few summers ago in New York City. That movie is some messed up, scary shit. **Spoilers: Rosemary’s baby is SATAN. Like, the devil himself inside her poor body.** I could not imagine seeing this in a cemetery. Seriously, cue the nightmares.
The Camera Obscura in Santa Monica
I saw this for the first time this weekend, and it is such a cool little gem! It was a complete coincidence that I just happened to walk by it, and I’m glad I got to experience it.
If you’re not sure what a camera obscura is, it’s basically a darkened box or room that has a small opening, and this opening lets light in and projects an image of the surroundings inside. So for this particular camera obscura, I went into a room, turned off all the lights, and an image of Ocean Avenue and Broadway popped up on a little white table in the center of the room.
Having seen countless images made this way before in my photography classes and from artists that I admire, I was stoked to get to see this one in Santa Monica. Also, I didn’t find out until after I was there, but you’re actually able to maneuver the lens and mirror, which will change what you see inside on the table. So, I guess I’ll have to go back and try that out! 😛
See! I told you LA was cool. What cities or places have you visited that took you pleasantly by surprise, like LA did for me? What were some of your favorite things to do or see there?