As someone who was born and bred in Los Angeles for their entire life, I find it surprising that I’ve yet to write a post about my hometown. After all, it’s world-renown and it draws just as many tourists as any other place in the United States, let alone the world. With its melting pot of diverse cultures, food, and things to check out, Los Angeles is an ideal spot for people to explore, local or not.
Perhaps the reason I haven’t extensively written about Los Angeles is the fact that I don’t see it as a travel destination– in fact, I just see it as home. Many of my travel posts have been about other places I’ve been to in the world, as a visitor seeing the place through what I would call the “traveler’s lens.” In other words, I write about these destinations through the point of view as a non-local, who sees and experiences things with a sense of freshness and curiosity, aspects which I don’t find when I speak about my hometown.
However, over recent years, I’ve slowly come to see Los Angeles through a foreigner’s perspective, despite being a local. This feeling started during my university years, when I studied at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and was exposed to tens of thousands of students on campus, many who were students from outside of the city, outside of the state, and even outside of the country. From meeting these people, I came to realize that for them, Los Angeles was a novelty waiting to be explored: I heard of classmates who would take weekend trips down to Santa Monica or Hollywood, discovering so much more than even myself, a sheltered 18-year-old who had barely ventured out of her own neighborhood. It was strange, because at the time, I was more familiar with the countries I’d visited overseas with my family than the different areas of my own hometown!
Going abroad to France these past almost-three years made me really realize just how little I knew of Los Angeles– granted, it’s an enormous city, but even knowing the basics of where the different neighborhoods are situated– Brentwood, Crestwood Hills, Echo Park– I know absolutely nothing. Since then, I’ve taken it upon myself to explore more of my city every time I return in the summer after working overseas, as means of discovering and understanding the appeal of this city for visitors and locals alike.
I’ve decided to start a mini-series that I’d like to call “Lost in LA,” in which I highlight the different areas that I’ve explored so far. I hope to add more places to my repertoire whenever I get the chance, and I hope to share a lovely slice (or rather, slices) of what Los Angeles has to offer. Hope you enjoy!
“Lost in LA:” The South Bay
Rather than being a particular district of Los Angeles, the South Bay is a general term used to express a cluster of different cities in the southwest of the city. It encompasses a fairly-large area, stretching as far as the coastal cities of Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and Hermosa Beach to the inland cities of Lomita, Hawthorne, and Carson. It’s home to the LAX Airport, which serves over 80 million people a year, as well as one of the most ethnically and culturally-diverse neighborhoods in all of the country, from Hispanic to Asian/Pacific Islander to African-American communities. It’s also known for being the place for emerging artists in the music industry, from the classics like the Beach Boys (Hawthorne) to the contemporary such as Miguel (San Pedro). With its calming marine layer and “chill” beach vibes, the South Bay has that slow-paced charm that makes it the perfect place for people to relax, even start a family in.
I grew up in this area of Los Angeles, and I would have to say that I was quite sheltered because of it. As I wrote, it’s a pleasant neighborhood, right along the coast with temperate weather pretty much all-year round. The South Bay also happens to be a fairly-affluent community, considering its ideal location– really, when it comes to buying a house here, you’re not just paying for the house itself, but also the view of the ocean. It wouldn’t be a surprise, then, to pay $500,000 for a shack!
Beach culture is prevalent in the South Bay– from toddlers to elderly couples, they all flock to the sandy shores when the weather is nice, as means of soaking up those sun rays. Summers are especially packed with surfers, lifeguards, and loungers alike: the piers are packed with people, paying cheap hot dogs and ice cream as they stroll along the boardwalk that looks out toward the Pacific Ocean. Beaches such as Redondo, Hermosa, and Manhattan aren’t as overly touristy as the more-famous ones like Santa Monica or Malibu, thereby having a more-quiet, more-local atmosphere to their shores.
The South Bay isn’t just about beaches, though: heading up the Hollywood Riviera, you make the steep drive into the rolling hills of the Palos Verdes Estates, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods within the area. Besides being rich, Palos Verdes (“PV,” for short) offers acres of trails to run or ride horses, along with scenic paths for hiking, all the while catching stunning views of the sea from above. The Terranea Resort is the epitome of fine dining and ocean views, as its located near the Trump Golf Course and is ideal for a weekend getaway with family– enjoy fresh seafood and the sea while you’re at it!
Leaving Palos Verdes, you make the descent down the steep hills and might chance upon the South Bay Botanical Gardens. While not incredibly big, it’s nevertheless packed with all sort of floras–plants, flowers, trees–that are sure to be worth half a day’s visit strolling through with friends or loved ones.
Arriving back at sea level, you find your way to the Del Amo Fashion Center, the fifth largest commercial mall in the United States. Since opening in 1961, it continues to expand itself every few years, having added an outdoor mall in 2010 for people to take advantage of the SoCal weather as they shop, eat, and repeat all day long. It’s the place for children and adults alike to go during the weekend, as there are many stores, restaurants, and cinemas to keep you entertained.
There’s so much more to the South Bay than what has been covered– in essence, however, these were some of the highlights. While it does lack the lively, club scene of its Arts District and WeHo cousins (more on them later), the neighborhood makes up for its tranquil location by the sea, perfect for families and others who want some respite from the noisy bustle of downtown.
More to come soon– until then!