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Los Angeles is a city of gleaming skyscrapers, broad mountains, deep valleys and golden beaches - full of hopes and dreams, successes and misery, with the promise of better things to come, and home to a diverse blend of peoples, half of whom have their origins outside the US.
Situated in the southeast corner of California the ‘City of Angels’ is the second most populous city in the US after New York. Greater Los Angeles is bisected by the Santa Monica mountains which separates the city of LA from the San Fernando Valley. In general Los Angeles is made up of eight districts, including Hollywood, Downtown, Eastside, South Central, Westside, Wilshire, San Fernando and the Harbour Area. However, LA City itself overflows into the surrounding cities, such as Burbank and Beverly Hills, without there being any discernible difference.
The climate in the wide basin formed within the mountain ranges is generally warm in summer and mild in winter and it averages 320 days of sunshine a year. The landscape is both hilly and flat and being located on the San Andreas fault line Los Angeles is prone toearthquakes.
Being the traditional home of the Chumash and Gabrieleño peoples, for thousands of years the region remained unsettled by Europeans until Spanish missionaries arrived 1781 and it was recognized as a Spanish colony. Following Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821 Los Angeles became part of Mexico and there was an influx of settlers from the south. America gained control over the territory at the end the Mexican / American War of 1846-1848 and Los Angeles was incorporated as a city in April 1850 with California joining the Union later that year.
Over the next 50 years the population swelled to over 100,000 as a result of the completion of the rail line from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 1876, the discovery of oil in the 1890s and the gravitation of ex gold miners at the end of the the California gold rush of the 1840s and ‘50s.
The 20 century brought with it continuing prosperity with the completion of the Los Angeles aqueduct enabling fresh water to flow into the city which ensured future growth. Several aviation manufacturers made LA their base as did the burgeoning film industry, both of which eased the impact of the Great Depression on the city, so much so that it was able to hold the 1932 Olympic Games with great success.
The post war years saw Los Angeles flourish with increasing numbers migrating to ‘the entertainment capital of the world,’ and capital investment in the manufacturing industries continued to increase. The city grew and prospered and in 1984 Los Angeles held a very successful Olympic Games for the second time, however gang violence and racial tension plagued the city in the closing decades of the twentieth century.
The twenty-first century has brought with it all the problems and vices inherent in a city the size of Los Angeles but in general the outlook of the people and economy is optimistic.
There is so much to see and do in Los Angeles that your choices are virtually unlimited. Downtown Los Angeles is full of retail outlets, entertainment areas, deli’s, restaurants and haute couture. In fact no matter what you’re after there will be an entire shopping district dedicated to it.
Hollywood shines as a beacon in the mind of every budding actor, and although you can’t walk all the way to the famous sign it maintains an intoxicating presence in the hills above Hollywood - a reminder of dreams sometimes fulfilled but mostly broken. For a taste of nostalgia take in a movie premiere at Gruman’s Chinese Theatre, the one-time home of the Oscars, or follow the Walk of Fame along Hollywood Blvd. Visit Ripley’s Believe it or Not for an escape into the world of weirdness and wonder, or check out the lifelike replicas of famous celebrities in the Hollywood Wax Museum. Grab a convertible and cruise down Mulholland Drive, the avenue made famous in countless movies and songs.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History in south central Los Angeles is definitely worth visiting to view the more than 30 million artifacts covering the entire natural history of the Earth.
Be part of the beautiful people of Venice Beach, known for its beachside rollerblading and bike paths and the world famous Muscle Beach outdoor gym. Keep an eye out for celebrities in Malibu beach where the luxurious mansions of the rich and famous line the shores.
There are also many distinct ethnic centres within Los Angeles that provide the city with much of its colour. Chinatown is a bustling enclave of the fare East situated around North Broadway. Little Tokyo is the Japanese district of downtown LA full of the culture, food and wares of Tokyo. Koreatown is in the Greater Wilshire part of LA and is renowned for its specialty Korean foods and colourful, relaxed atmosphere. There’s also Little Italy, Thaitown, Little Persia and a host of other cultures represented.
Los Angeles is not short on entertainment for kids and grown-ups either. In and around Greater Los Angeles there are many amusement and theme parks ready to provide some serious fun - there’s Universal Studios in Hollywood, Knott’s Berry Farm and Knott’s Soak City in Buena Park, Disneyland in Aneheim, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor in Valencia, and many more.
In the City of Angels there’s no end to the line up of museums and theme parks, restaurants, delis, ethnic communities and shopping districts, mountains and beaches, historic landmarks and sightseeing opportunities. In fact the only limit to what you can see and do is how much time you have to enjoy them all.
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