A fair warning: I’m going to pick on New Yorkers a bit in this post. I do it all with love and good humor, I promise. You’re New Yorkers. You’re tough, you can take it.
New York City and Los Angeles have long been in a sort of friendly battle over which city is better. Residents of both have their reasons for why their city is the best, and both have really compelling arguments. Honestly, both cities are awesome and have many things going for them. This post isn’t about inciting a New York vs. Los Angeles battle, because I know how heated those can get! Besides, having grown up in L.A., I’m more than a little biased on the subject. (Still, if you feel like making an argument for your side in the comments, I welcome a friendly debate).
However, I would like to address the issue of culture. New Yorkers seem to love to point at Los Angeles and say, “We have so much culture in our city. All you have are beaches and celebrities.” They usually say this with a mocking tone, as though we’re all a bunch of celebrity-obsessed beach bimbos out here on the West coast.
And to that, my friends, I must stand up for the city that raised me and say that those New Yorkers are wrong.
The thing about Los Angeles is that you really can’t pigeonhole it. L.A. is a diverse, vibrant city of the arts, boasting languages and cultures from all over the world. This city is teeming with culture. Sure, it’s also a traffic-infested hellhole at times, but you have to take the good with the bad. New York can’t claim their city is perfect, either.
That is why I want to give you a list of places you can get your culture on in the City of Angels. Venture forth, sophisticated Angelinos!
Museums and Galleries
What’s more cultured than museums and galleries? L.A. has them in spades. Check out the Natural History Museum, LACMA (L.A. County Museum of Art), the California Science Center, the Museum of the Holocaust, the Autry National Center, the Getty Center (art and architecture), the Huntington Library (Art Collections & Botanical Gardens), The Broad (contemporary art museum), Griffith Observatory, Petersen Automotive Museum, Annenberg Space for Photography, Hammer Museum, La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, MOCA Grand Ave, the Norton Simon Museum (an art museum…one of my favorites!), the Japanese American National Museum, and the Pasadena Museum of California Art. Phew! And those are just the ones I could think of. There are more. Many more.
There are also countless art galleries all over the city, and there have been some really cool things happening in the Los Angeles art scene over the past ten years (I should know, being…. *ahem* …an artist). There are so many galleries, I can’t even begin to list them all (but this website listed a lot of them). That being said, I do have a few favorites. I’m a big fan of The Hive Gallery in downtown L.A., as well as Honor Fraser.
There are so many great places to see live music in this city, and the variety encompasses everything from symphonies to big acts to emerging bands in small venues. We have jazz, country, hip hop, rock, orchestras…everything! Los Angeles boasts world class venues such as the Microsoft Theatre at L.A. Live (that name though!), the incredible Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Palladium and the Wiltern. Oh, and make sure to check out the La Phil. Do it.
L.A. is also an ideal place for outdoor concerts and music festivals due to the year-round good weather, so residents enjoy performances at outdoor venues such as the Greek Theatre, the Hollywood Bowl, and the John Anson Ford Theatre.
Theatre and Dance
Ah, the performing arts. Surely New York has a leg up on us here? I’ll concede that their performing arts scene is impressive. However, there are some great things happening in the Los Angeles performing arts scene as well. If going out to the theatre or seeing dance performances is your thing, L.A. has you covered. First of all, you can see those Broadway-level performances (and many of the same shows when they travel) at places like the Pantages. I suggest you check out los-angeles-theatre.com to search through upcoming performances of all kinds around the city. The Pasadena Playhouse is another great place to catch some really great stage shows. Also check out Redcat, the Center Theatre Group, and the Ahmanson Theatre for upcoming performances.
Architecture and Gardens
Other notable places to check out are the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (at LACMA), the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and of course, the absolutely amazing Walt Disney Concert Hall, which I did mention above in the music section but also must be seen for it’s incredible architecture. There are also several Los Angeles landmarks around town that were designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, including the Ennis House and the Hollyhock House.
If it’s gardens that you fancy, I’ve already mentioned the Getty Center and the Huntington Library, both which have extraordinary architecture and gardens to take a look at. Other notable gardens around the city include the Rose Garden at Exposition Park, and the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden at UCLA.
Street Art and Urban Art
If you love street art, you’ll love L.A. There are more than 1,600 murals all over the city in a wide variety of styles and subject matters. Outside of L.A. proper in the surrounding beach communities and incorporated areas, there are even more murals. I’ve been driving all over L.A. all my life and I still haven’t seen them all, and there are new ones popping up everywhere all the time. The whole city is a gallery!
When people think of fashion, they think of Paris, Milan, and….yes…New York (didn’t think I forgot about you, did you?). However, Los Angeles has long been a city on the forefront of the fashion scene. The truth of the matter is that there are unique, creative things happening out on the West Coast in the world of fashion, and the world is starting to take notice. If it’s fashion you’re into, you might want to check out the Fashion District of Downtown Los Angeles, which is one of the best places in the world to shop for unique fashions at great prices. There are amazing vintage shops and thrift stores all over the city, particularly in the Hollywood area, where you can find truly unique things for low cost. Of course, the West Side and beach communities have boutiques galore, and of course there’s always Rodeo Drive for those of you who want to shop for luxury items (or those who just want to gawk at luxury items). Another great spot for vintage and high end fashion is Ventura Blvd. in the Valley. Of course, I can’t mention the fashion scene in Los Angeles without mentioning the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (also known as FIDM). The public is welcome to attend exhibits of fashion at the FIDM museum as well as attend their annual DEBUT Runway Show.
It’s no secret that Los Angeles is an amazing place for those who love books. If you’re a book lover, you should definitely check out the annual L.A. Times Festival of Books, which welcomes thousands of authors and book fans alike to USC every year.
If it’s unique bookstores you’re after, here are some good ones:
- The Last Bookstore: One of the best used bookstores in L.A.
- Skylight Books: This hipster book store (with a cat roaming around!) has a knowledgeable staff and hosts author readings in-house. Modestly sized, but awesome all the same.
- Dark Delicacies: If you like horror novels, this is THE place for you. They also have frequent signings by authors and it’s also just a strange, interesting place. Check it out!
- Children’s Book World: As the name suggests, this is a great place to go if you’re looking for children’s books. Their selection is incredible. Your little ones will thank you!
- Small World Books: This book shop, which is located on the boardwalk in Venice, is an independent bookstore with a great location. You’re going to want to go to Venice Beach to check out the weird anyway, so why not step into a great book store while you’re at it?
- Hennessey & Ingalls Bookstore: Great place if you’re looking for books on architecture and art (which I often am). The quality is high, but so are the prices. Still, definitely worth checking out.
- Vroman’s Bookstore: This store has two locations, both in the Northeastern L.A. area. They have a number of regular events happening at the shop, and their employees are knowledgeable, friendly, and full of great recommendations.
- Gatsby Books: Great little independent book store that is located close to Cal State Long Beach. Super helpful owner who will help you find whatever you’re looking for.
- Book Soup: This place is an icon. It’s got a massive selection of awesome books and is located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood.
- Iliad Book Shop: Awesome used book store in North Hollywood that has a great selection of used books.
Film and Television
Yeah, yeah. L.A. is known for the movie industry, so I had to get to this point eventually. There are film locations all over the city as well as studios where you can take a tour or attend a live taping of a talk show or a game show at one of the city’s network studios (I should warn you though…I tried to attend a live taping of The Price is Right once and they pretty much made me get up early, wait all day, and then turned me away after standing there for 7 hours. Just warning you if you want to attend a live taping).
If you’re more into just taking it easy and enjoying the Hollywood-related attractions the city has to offer, you of course should go on a tour of one of the major studios. Tours are offered at Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and of course, Universal Studios (also home of HARRY POTTER LAND!!!!!).
There are film locations all over the city as well. As an L.A. native, it pains me to link you to a “see the stars” website, but this site does offer a decent list of film locations of interest.
I hope you enjoyed this list of places in L.A. to get some culture! This, of course, only mentions cultural activities. I’ll have to write another post sometime detailing all the amazing food from around the world that this amazing city has to offer, but that’s a post for another day. For now, I’ll just say that if there’s a cuisine from anywhere on Earth that you’re craving, chances are you’ll find it in L.A.
Angelinos, did I miss any of your favorite spots? I would love to hear about them in the comments. It never hurts to know about more great places in the city!
And New Yorkers, there you have it. We’re not just surfers and celebrities. So there.
Source of some of this information: discoverlosangeles.com
Other sources: Meee!