Los Angeles Facts and Myths

Let’s think about some Los Angeles facts and myths. Los Angeles has no culture. Los Angeles has no history. The traffic stinks in LA. Los Angeles has unbreathable air. There is no “there” there. Sound familiar? It should. There are lots of ugly stereotypes about Los Angeles. People seem to really get entertainment out of hating on this city.  Well, it seems somewhat fitting; Los Angeles became what it is today largely due to the entertainment industry, after all. But if you think that all Los Angeles has to offer is smog, road rage and a culture-free environment, well, everything you think is wrong.

Fun At the Getty Villa (Jennifer Miner)1. Los Angeles has no culture. Really? Maybe you should run that one by Gustavo Dudamel, the crazy-haired conductor (is this correlation or causation?) and Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall. In fact, take a walk around downtown LA next time you’re here; thanks to LA Live and Walt Disney Concert Hall, there’s more activity in downtown LA now than ever. It’s lively, fun, and yes, full of cultural activities along with sporting events at Staples Center.

There are also lots of smaller theaters constantly putting on shows. The admitted overload of striving young actors and writers in LA means lots of talent, hence, live theater here is of high quality. All those colleges and universities in LA ensure a lively scene for experimental theater and art shows as well. Mainstream museums include the Getty, LACMA, and the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Culture Center.

Will Rogers State Park Los Angeles Horses (Jennifer Miner)2. Los Angeles has no history. It’s true that LA doesn’t have Medieval and Renaissance architecture a la Florence and other Western European cities. But it was part of New Spain in the 1700’s, later part of Mexico, and after the Mexican-American War, finally (1848) part of the United States. The Avila Adobe in El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument is testament to past centuries’ history here. Even earlier, there were people here. Ice Age humans lived here along with giant sloths, saber tooth tigers and mastodons; remains of all four can be seen, along with hundreds of dire wolf skulls at the La Brea Tar Pits right on Wilshire Boulevard. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles has a permanent exhibit on California history with a special local emphasis.

looking for dolphins and whales in Southern California (Jennifer Miner)3. The traffic stinks in LA. Well, you got me there. The traffic can really be infuriating, in fact, this is why I must have around 2,000 songs on my car’s integrated iPod. It’s taken me 25 minutes to get from the west side to downtown Los Angeles, but it’s also taken me two hours. The answer, it seem to me, is to check Google Maps for the best routes, and to try to avoid freeways during rush hour.

4. Los Angeles has unbreathable air. This was true in the 1980’s, but California’s progressive clear air laws lead the nation for green industry. While up in the Valley, north of Mulholland, there is still often a brownish haze, realize that the Valley is a bowl; it’s hard for that old crappy air to disperse. Elsewhere, the air is clean. Old truths aren’t necessarily today’s truths, but old truths are hard to shake clear from the public consciousness. The popular parts of Los Angeles, such as the beaches, have the clean ocean breezes mixed with warm sun that are reminiscent of tropical vacation spots, albeit right in California. Inland more, the air quality is a whole lot better than it was 20 years ago.

Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California (Jennifer Miner)5. There is no “there” there. I heard this complaint about LA for years before I moved here. I took it to mean that it was a generic, personality-free blob of a city and frankly, out of all the Los Angeles myths, this one distressed me the most pre-relocation. What a relief to learn that, of all the myths, this one is the most egregious.   Like any large city, Los Angeles is really a collection of smaller neighborhoods. Each has its own personality; each has its own “there.” It’s great fun to explore LA’s different neighborhoods. If one isn’t a good fit for you, another part of LA will be just right.

From Muscle Beach in Venice to downtown Los Angeles, there is a lot of diversity in LA. Stereotyping such a large, spread out cosmopolitan area doesn’t reveal anything about the city, but it reveals plenty about the stereotyper. From hiking in state parks to musing over exhibits in museums, from surf lessons on the Pacific coastline to wild parties in Hollywood, there’s something for everyone in Los Angeles. Just leave plenty of time to drive from one part to another!



Today is Everything You Think is Wrong Day, a wonderful concept for a day in which we can reconsider some of our assumptions and prejudices. The Travel Blog Mob has highlighted this offbeat holiday; here are what some others have to say on the matter.

Nerd’s Eye View: Getting It Wrong

Spot Cool Stuff: 3 Obviously True Travel Facts That Are Wrong

Traveling with MJ: Everything You Think You Know May Be Wrong

Wandering Educators: Everything You Think You Know About Travel Is Wrong

Boots ‘n All: Everything You Think You Know About Travel Writers Is Wrong

Ciao Bambino: 10 Misconceptions About Family Travel

Wanderlust and Lipstick: Opting Out Of Full Body Scanners

Sharing Travel Experiences: 6 Unfortunate Mishaps And How To Deal With Them

9 Responses to “Los Angeles Facts and Myths”

  1. 1

    Nice job on uplifting the city’s tourism.. Honestly, the only thing I hate about Los Angeles is the traffic. Overall, if you love highly industrialized urban areas and a wonderful night life, the city is the best choice!

  2. 2

    WHAT a list – i’ve GOT to come visit!

  3. 3
    Courtney says:

    Thanks Jen! This is great for all of us out there that have only hear and not yet seen. Looking forward to LA this weekend for sure.

  4. 4
    Questor says:

    I think you just damned with faint praise.

    Your first example of culture involves Disney and someone’s hairstyle. That pretty much says it all, really.

  5. 5

    I love Los Angeles! Here’s the thing: when you travel, it’s best to take a destination on its own terms. LA will never be NYC or Miami or Paris – and why should it? I love driving there, honestly – picking up a hot dog at Pink’s, enjoying the vibe on Venice Beach, people watching everywhere. And the weather is mostly awesome.

    My favorite book for insight into LA is actually a series of YA novels from Francesca Lia Block based on a character called Weezie Bat. The books are fanciful, yes, but they also capture the quirkiness of LA. I read them every once in a while, and yearn for the sun.

  6. 6
    Abbie says:

    I was wondering what you were going to say about the traffic 😉

  7. 7
    Alison says:

    I was pleasantly surprised by LA when I visited. I wasn’t there for long so your article makes me want to go back and explore more. I will agree with the others though that the traffic is a bit scary :)

  8. 8
    Wanderluster says:

    I thought you were going to try to tell us the traffic doesn’t exist. Glad you fessed up on that one.

    And it IS great to hear that the air is better than it used to be!

    Looking forward to another person tour when I return :-)

  9. 9
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