Los Angeles, the bustling metropolis soaking up the west coast sun gives home to nearly four million residents and a whopping 45.5 million tourists yearly. It’s America’s second most widely-populated city (after New York City) and for good reason. Stacked with sleek modern architecture wrapped in warm coastal breezes, it’s more than just a place to catch a famous face or snag an amazing slice of avocado toast. It’s home to a thriving economy, sprawling community, stellar innovation, and beautiful surroundings. From Rodeo Drive to Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles is a comprehensive experience just waiting to be discovered.
Long before it became a hub for smoothie shops and the nation’s film and television industry, Los Angeles was but an unsettled territory for hunters and gatherers to, well, gather in villages along its plentiful shores and rivers. Around 1769, when the first Mexican and Spanish settlers arrived, this area became populated by various Uto-Aztec indigenous groups.
On September 4th, 1781, a permanent colonial settlement was established as –take a deep breath– El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles di Porciúncula. It was given this name to honor the shrine of the Virgin Mary, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Our Lady of the Angels, on the plain below Assisi, Saint Francis’ native village in Italy. Settlers here were able to survive cultivating the fertile grounds alongside the river, but eventually, they worked the grounds barren. By the time the town became officially known as Los Angeles and incorporated on April 4, 1850, the area was dry-washed.
Nevertheless, the area attracted people still. It was a simple town, without graded streets, a sidewalk, water system, lights, nor a single public building. Every Saturday morning, residents swept the street in front of their houses. Lighting was supplied by the owners of road-facing houses who were obligated to place a light at the door in front of their houses during the first two hours of darkness each night. Then, the town was hardly cemented, and entertained a population of only 1,610. Now, it’s dazzling with lights of all colors and an oasis to roughly four million people and 7, 366 miles of streets.
Los Angeles is home to people from more than 140 countries speaking 224 different identified languages, making it a definite melting pot of cultures and nationalities. Almost half of its population ( approx. 47-49%) is Hispanic/Latinx, followed by Non-Hispanic Whites at about 29.4%, then its Asian population at 10.7%, Black or African American at 9.8%, and a little over 25.2% identifying as “Other”.
English and Spanish are among the most popular languages spoken (at 40.2% and 43.6% saying they can speak it “very well”, respectively), followed by various other Indo-European languages (7%), and Asian/Pacific Islander languages constituting around 4%.
53.43% of the people in Los Angeles, California are religious, with 36.96% identifying as Catholic. 1.55% are LDS, 5.23% are another Christian faith, 1.11% are Jewish, 1.15% are an eastern faith, and 0.71% affiliates with Islam.
If Los Angeles were its own country, its economy would be bigger than Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Sweden’s– that is to say, it’s pretty bustling, and it’s only poised to grow further. The once-upon-a-time Pueblo has grown into the third largest metropolitan economy in the world, with a GDP of over $700 billion. Besides its booming film industry, L.A. has been the incubator of new great ideas and fostering creativity, with flourishing numbers in areas ranging from Aerospace, fashion to biomedical services, consumer products, and tourism.
L.A. County is the largest manufacturing center in the U.S., with more manufacturing jobs than the state of Michigan as a whole. Its Customs District is the second largest in the nation, based on containerized cargo volume and total cargo value – approximately $350 billion annually.
L.A. is also home to the largest seaport in the Western Hemisphere, The Port of Los Angeles, with about 40% of all containerized goods entering the U.S. passing through. Its success is no coincidence however. The Port was invested in heavily to ensure that its customers can take advantage of three major business drivers: superior cargo terminals, services between dock and destination, and rail and warehouse infrastructure. But economic drivers don’t stop at the shore– they extend to the air.
LAX, the world’s sixth busiest passenger airport, has a whopping annual economic impact of $60 billion. An estimated 59,000 jobs, directly attributable to LAX, are located on or near the airport, with one out of every 20 jobs in Southern California being attributed to LAX operations. Like the famous seaport, LAX is big in the facilitation of trade, with 1,000 cargo flights each day.
The creative economy is no less booming that its technical economy, generating more than 640,000 jobs and over $200 billion in sales revenue annually. With more than 1,000 annual theatrical productions and more than 800 museums and art galleries, L.A. is more than just a hub for the silver screen. It’s a hub for culture comprehensively, and a capital for small business and creative venture with creative industries comprising 1 out of every 8 jobs in the region.
You may have to catch yourself from daydreaming off in La La Land basking in the state’s golden rays. With a Mediterranean climate and an average temperature reaching just over 60°F, winters are generally mild and summers are the perfect sun-kissed temperature for strolling…or surfing! The year-round good weather makes Los Angeles the perfect place for living or visiting any time of year.
While L.A., in comparison to other bustling American havens, receives considerably less rainfall, the city’s “rainy season” extends between February and December, with July generally being the wettest month and summer being almost entirely dry otherwise. January receives the least amount of rain annually. Winds here are also fairly mild, and the city rarely sees a day sticky with overwhelming humidity. Snow is unlikely, but depend on plenty of beautiful hours soaking in that vitamin D.
If there is one thing you aren’t allowed to do in Los Angeles, it’s getting bored.
Los Angeles, cultural center that it is, has more stage theaters and museums than any other American city. Speaking of which, you’ll definitely want to stop by the iconic Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for an afternoon of browsing European impressionism, modern works, and everything in between. The famous gallery sits on 20 acres of land, but the attraction doesn’t stop at the Picassos and Cézannes waiting inside; the LACMA is renowned for its unique architecture and outdoor scenery, with its Burden’s Urban Light installation being among one of the most famous sites and photo-ops. If art isn’t your thing, kids and parents alike can bask in the wonders of our earth at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, complete with a fossil lab, mammoth-size dinosaur replicas, and yep– oozing, bubbling, gooey tar pits.
For an outing with a bit more upbeat thrill, the Santa Monica Pier is an opportunity not to be missed. Breathe in the salty air, shop, treat yourself to cotton candy, scream your lungs out on a roller coaster ride over the water, and take in one of the nation’s most legendary shorelines from the top of its famous Ferris wheel. For even bigger thrills, you’ll also find Universal Studios Hollywood in L.A, where 4D motion simulators, soaking water rides, and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter all magically await.
For a day of downtime, browse one of the superior shopping districts, like Venice Beach, The Grove, Third Street Promenade, or along Rodeo Drive. Savor history and architecture on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and at the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s Chinese Theatre). Tour the studios of Paramount Pictures or the Warner Bros., and be certain to take a detour down Sunset Boulevard while you’re at it. It lives up to the hype. Last but not least, take in all the movie-perfect scenes from the top of the Griffith Observatory, which also offers a planetarium, the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens, the Hollywood Sign, the Autry Museum of the American West. No time for boredom here.
Though perhaps better known for the glitz and glam of the movie industry, the grit and glam of L.A.’s popping sports industry is certainly not to be overlooked either.Since 1980, the L.A. Lakers have won 10 of the 35 NBA Finals. They’ve curated legendary hall-of-famers like Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, James Worthy, Jerry West, and Wilt Chamberlain. Their teams are greater, and their supporters are even better, with fans flocking to their games more than they do any other team in the city.
A little unexpected in The City of Sunshine, but hockey has become a surprisingly large focal point of the local sports world. After a dominant run with the Stanley Cup Championship in 2011, the Kings have proven their name as a force to be reckoned with, winning yet another championship and proving themselves again, year after year.
At the other cornerstone of L.A.’s sports exceptionalism sits Dodger Stadium. They’ve got the good teams, but they’ve also got the good food. Sate your appetite with a famous Dodger Dog, available original style, deep-fried, Frito Pie-drenched, and vegetarian. If you never manage to rub elbows with a celebrity at a game, at least you’ve got a star in your hand (it’s the dog). Now swing batter, swing!
The Local Government
Los Angeles is a Mayor-Council-Commission form of government. A Mayor, City Controller, and City Attorney are elected by residents every four years. Fifteen City Council members representing fifteen districts are elected by residents for four-year terms, for a maximum of three terms.
The Los Angeles County government provides services such as elections and voter registration, law enforcement, jails, records, tax collection, health care, and social-related services countywide. Composed of the elected five-member Board of Supervisors, several other elected offices including the Sheriff, District Attorney, and Assessor, and numerous county departments and entities under the supervision of the Chief Executive Officer, The County serves additionally as the local government for all unincorporated areas. The board operates in a legislative, executive, and quasi-judicial capacity, and maintains the final venue of appeal within the local planning process. Local government in LA sees to it that all aspects of the community are covered, offering comprehensive bureaus, boards, and commissions covering everything from safety to cultural heritage, street lighting, public works, ethics, affordable housing, recreation, public libraries, finance, and far more.
As of 2017, the current elected official offices are as follows: Mayor, Eric Garcetti; City Attorney, Mike Feuer; and City Controller, Ron Galperin.
You’ve been briefed with all the technical aspects, but La La Land has so much more quirky zaniness to offer! Beverly Hills, where the celebrities play? Yeah, it used to be a lima bean ranch. The famous Hollywood sign towering above it all used to spell out “Hollywoodland”, and was originally meant to advertise a real estate venture. But perhaps less advertised is the little factoid that there are at least 11 miles worth of hidden tunnels winding under the streets of Los Angeles. These tunnels have been used to transport prisoners, bodies, billions of dollars, and, during the Prohibition Era especially, liquor to underground speakeasies. Post earthquakes and 9/11 however, the majority of them have been closed up. Rumor has it that a few openings still exist in certain locations. Speaking of earthquakes, the city experiences about 10,000 of them every year– but don’t worry! The vast majority of them are so small that no one even feels them. Oh, and it’s also illegal to lick a toad within city limits.