People who have never been to Los Angeles often have some pre-conceived notions about Los Angeles that are more based on Hollywood fiction than reality. Here are some of the most common misconceptions people have about the City of Angels.
In Los Angeles, winter is both the rainy season and the sunny season. Between the occasional rainy days or rainy weeks, the sky is a clear blue, even in the morning. The layer of marine clouds that are known as June Gloom actually roll in around May and hang around throughout the summer, making most mornings overcast until at least noon, especially at the beach, and sometimes rolling back in shortly before sunset.
The average temperature in LA area beaches is about 70 degrees, all year long. This can be about 20 degrees different than inland temperatures. In winter, the thermometer hits 70 for a few minutes then bounces back down. In summer, the mercury lingers longer before declining. There are usually a few weeks of summer or early fall where heat waves bring beach temperatures into the upper 80s or 90s, but it could equally well be 68 in July and August.
It may be true that distances in LA often preclude walking from where you are to where you want to be. However, there are lots of walkable shopping and beach areas in Hollywood, Downtown LA, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Long Beach and down the coast. Guided walking tours or walking maps are available at local Visitors Centers. There are also great hikes in and around Los Angeles, including Runyan Canyon, just a few short blocks from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Traditionally, the number one industry in Los Angeles has been manufacturing, but that has been overtaken by health care and retail in recent years as manufacturing jobs have been cut. Despite the cuts, Los Angeles is still the largest manufacturing center in the United States. The entertainment industry ranks about 6th.
There are lots of beautiful people in Los Angeles, highly concentrated in upscale nightclubs and shopping areas. There are also lots of ordinary people that make the effort to look their best. That leaves the majority of the population just as overweight and ordinary as the rest of the country.
The majority of blonds can more likely be found on southern Orange County beaches. Los Angeles beaches are more populated by ethnic families with kids and tourists. The population of Los Angeles County is about 70 percent non-white, with Hispanic being the largest group at 44 percent.
Visitors to Los Angeles are often surprised by LA's tree-lined streets and frequent parks and green patches. Griffith Park is over 4000 acres of green within the city limits. The Hollywood Hills and Santa Monica Mountains provide a green backdrop for the city all the way to the beach. Even the inner city in Los Angeles is made up of sprawling neighborhoods of single-family homes and small apartment buildings with little patch lawns and trees.
Driving in Los Angeles is usually pretty straightforward. Most streets are laid out in a grid with a few notable curves and angles. Few areas have one-way streets. Downtown areas are the exception. Freeways are reasonably well marked, but you have to be quite attentive to stay on the right freeway. Follow the freeway numbers, not the names, since names change, depending on where you are. Freeway signs usually include the name of a city direction, but that doesn't help if you don't know which way Santa Ana or San Pedro is from where you are.
Several people mentioned being surprised by this one when they got to LA. Despite the racy movies, TV shows, and songs, LA and Orange County are pretty conservative when it comes to showing skin on the beach, or anywhere. It is illegal for women to be topless or anyone to be nude in public in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, including at the beach. People will even report you if you allow small children to run around naked on the beach. Excessive, but true.
The nearest nude beach is at San Onofre State Beach in San Diego County.
LA is the center of the U.S. fashion and clothing industry, and yet LA fashion is predominantly casual and individualistic. The nightclub scene is the exception as nightclub bouncers get more strict about dress codes, so skimpy dresses on women and stylin' threads on guys may give you an advantage in getting into some top LA nightclubs. But you'll see nice jeans and flip flops next to a cocktail or formal attire in fine restaurants or theatre. More people do dress up for the opera, ballet or symphony, and of course for the major entertainment award ceremonies.
This one has two parts. In reality, Hollywood has only recently risen above its seedy decades and regained a bit of glamor status. There may be a lot of wannabe actors living in this area, but anyone who reaches celebrity status has moved on to a more elite address.
As for the maps, they may indicate where certain celebrities live in West LA, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, and other upscale areas, but you can't see most of them over the walls and hedges. If you take the Movie Stars' Homes Tour, you'll at least get the stories and a bit of history to go with the view over the hedge.
This is an interesting one. A lot of fashion comes out of LA since we are the number one garment manufacturing center in the country. We have a large fashion district in downtown Los Angeles, which is also home to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. We have fashion cliques, like hip-hop, goth, and nightclub chic, and then there's celebrity red carpet fashion. But it's also true that the everyday uniform of laid-back LA is shorts and flip flops, even if they're your dress shorts and glitter flip-flops.
If you visit in summer or fall, especially during Santa Ana wind conditions or with wildfires raging, you might run into some smog over LA, but it's not as bad as it used to be. During the winter and spring, Los Angeles has plenty of clear blue sky days. The beach areas are less smoggy all year long. If you're looking down on an orange-brown haze when you fly into the city, be prepared for smog. If you can see the ground from the air, or the cloud coverage is white, you can breathe easy.
The LA Music Center is home to the LA Opera, American Ballet Theatre, Center Theatre Group, and the LA Philharmonic, all world-class performing arts organizations. The theatre scene has improved dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years with dozens of high-quality performances (and admittedly also some lousy ones) every week across the county. We are also rich in live music venues, comedy, improv, and other performance arts.
LA County has over 230 museums including outstanding art museums including the renowned Getty Center and Getty Villa, as well at the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA), Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena and the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, and the latest addition, The Broad museum of contemporary art in Downtown LA to name just a few. In fact, art is everywhere, with multiple arts districts with galleries and artist studios offering Art Walks and Studio Tours.
There's more to do in downtown Los Angeles than you can accomplish in one day or even a whole weekend. From the birthplace of LA at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site to Chinatown and Little Tokyo, you can explore the history and cultural diversity of the city. There are some great museums, historic architectural walking tours and of course, fabulous shopping in the toy, jewelry and fashion districts.
You can attend a sporting event or concert at the Staples Center or Microsoft Theatre at LA Live, or enjoy a performance or take a tour at the Los Angeles Music Center or Disney Concert Hall. And there are also some really cool downtown clubs and bars and don't forget the ever-expanding offerings for where to go after the show.
There are certainly plenty of costly things you can do in LA, from pricey theme parks to exclusive fine dining restaurants and 5-star hotels, and don't get me started on the price of cocktails in Hollywood, but there are also plenty of budget-friendly chain hotels, motels and hostels, wallet-friendly diners and ethnic restaurants and tons of free attractions.
The stereotypical Valley girl or surfer dude for whom watching the news or reading a newspaper hurts their brains, is real. But they're in the minority and exist across the country. LA is a city of creative artists, scientists, engineers, inventors, authors and other intellectuals. Nail salons may outnumber bookstores, but LA loves their bookstores. And the conversation you overhear over manicures has an equal chance of being over Middle East politics or how to improve the core curriculum as what Jennifer said to Stacy about Charlene.
Most tourist areas in LA are at least as safe as other big cities but have their share of pickpockets, bike thieves, and auto burglaries. There are parts of LA that are more dangerous for the people who actually live there, especially at night. Make sure you have good directions when driving in LA. Normal precautions should be taken, such as locking cars, not leaving any valuables in sight and keeping track of your personal belongings.