As a New Yorker, I have mixed feelings about Los Angeles. In many ways, LA feels familiar. Both cities are large metropolises, both are epicenters for modern art and upscale cuisine and both have thriving entertainment scenes that attract starry-eyed hopefuls.
But at the same time, LA is everything New York is not. It is vast and sprawling, which makes renting a car a necessity. Being behind the wheel can be a dream (the Pacific Coast Highway) or a nightmare (endless traffic jams). It is sunny nearly all the time, avocado is a major ingredient on nearly every menu and unlike New York, where you may see a celebrity in passing (and ignore them, since that is the New York thing to do), in LA, it is hard to go a night without rubbing elbows with someone in the "biz".
It is with this New Yorker attitude that I approached my first trip to LA. I grew exasperated at the endless driving, pretended not to envy the unwavering 70 degree weather and one night in Hollywood I purposely snubbed John Cho (co-star of Harold and Kumar go to White Castle), when I nearly bowled him over on my way to the bar.
Yet despite that incredibly grouchy disposition, LA charmed me. I was visiting my best friend, who had moved to LA after college, and after a few days of touring celebrity haunts, she showed me the local side of LA. One early morning, we went hiking in Hollywood's Runyon Canyon, a rigorous trail that features unbelievable views of the skyline, the valley and the famed Hollywood sign (there are also plenty of beautiful people and adorable dogs). Afterwards, we grabbed an organic sandwich (with plenty of avocado) at Urth Caffe in Santa Monica, also frequented by Vincent Chase and his gang on the HBO show Entourage.
Later that week, we drove north along the famed Pacific Coast Highway to the Getty Villa in Malibu, an offshoot of the Getty Center in Los Angeles that houses ancient Greek and Roman art. Admission is free to both museums, but the Villa sits on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. And we ended the night by choosing between 312,120 possible combinations at the Burger, on Sunset Boulevard, and getting a cookie ice cream sandwich at Diddy Riese in Westwood, right near the UCLA campus. The line often stretches around the block.
This week, our writers will give you even more reasons to love LA. Andrew Bender provides an inside look at the more than 190 gourmet trucks operated by chefs and TV celebrities. Amy Balfour culls together Tinseltown's top five viewing spots for blockbusters, classics and Academy Award winners - just in time for the Oscars. Plus, Amy Klein delves into the delights of the city's many ethnic neighbourhoods. And when you have seen enough of the city's freeways, explore the outlying areas with a list of Classic California road trips.
What are you waiting for?
Correction: A previous version of this article misttated the location of the Getty Center. It is located approximately 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.