On and off for about 9 months now I’ve been living in Los Angeles. I say on and off because although it was short-term I did live in London last month and for a few months before that I was traveling all over the world. I’m finally re-adjusted to living here after all the travel though, so I thought it a good time for this blog post!

The City of Angels is many things, but I can tell you what it’s not – it’s not like the movies. Except for the palm tree lined boulevards. Up until March last year I had never visited LA – and now I’ve lived here the better part of a year. The biggest misconceptions I had about LA is that it had a warm/hot climate. It really doesn’t. In the shade it’s always cool. And the beach/ocean is always cold, even during summer. Another misconception is that it was more big-city like. Technically speaking, 10 million people is a huge city. But driving around the surface streets in LA it doesn’t feel BIG at all. It stretches on forever and ever in every direction, but almost every corner of LA has almost a small city or big town feel. It never feels overwhelmingly big unless you are driving or flying across the entire expanse. It’s compartmentalized very nicely, with dozens of great neighborhoods that are like their own little bubble.

Having been tour guide to many visiting friends, and doing lots of exploring on my own, I’ve become well acquainted with my lovely city. Here’s my little guide/review of the city so far complete with some fun stories.

One of my favorite spots is Santa Monica Pier & the 3rd Street Promenade. The pier is especially colorful at night – and I don’t just mean the lights! The crowd and people watching are top-notch. I went with a large group of friends when they were visiting and we had a blast…

The Getty Center has an amazing collection of art, but the building and view itself is well-worth the visit. The architecture is modern and clean and blends with the landscape so wonderfully. I’ve only been once when my friend Jess was visiting, but I plan on going back many more times!

My friend Jess & my sister Ally with Century City & Downtown LA in the backdrop.

The Venice Canals are well-known by some, and completely unknown to others. If you’ve seen the movie “Valentines Day” then you know about them! I think they are one of the most amazing touristy destinations in LA, but they aren’t a tourist destination at all! They are always empty. I rarely run into more than one person when I’m wandering around them. They were built in 1905 by an eccentric millionaire who wanted to make the area like Venice, Italy (one of my top 5 favorite cities) and they used to have Gondoliers and all. Unfortunately they don’t anymore, but you’ll see the occasional person rowing in a little row boats down them. There are lots of unique, gorgeous houses along them too.

Paramount & FOX Studios are two of the highlights of what I’ve done in LA, but they are kind-of a tease and overrated at the same time. Then again, I’ve never had a proper studio tour, so I might feel differently if I had one. I’ve heard the WB tour is the best, and I only live 2 miles from the studio and I’ve never done it. Someday!

My sister Ally works at FOX and has given me a few tours of the lot, which is awesome since it’s not an open lot. You have to know someone to get in. That also means no pictures. But I did get to take TONS of pictures on the Paramount lot, since I was on that one for a public event: The Invisible Children Design for Humanity Fashion/Art Show, which was incredible.

Hollywood Blvd, Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theater – fun, but a little overrated. It’s just stars, with people’s names on them. When you think about it, that’s a pretty silly thing to get excited about. Grauman’s is fun for about 2 minutes. The shopping and people watching on this street is great. Probably the best thing to do here is go to a movie premiere if one is going on while you’re here. I was visiting when the Oscars were going on in March, and while waiting around all day to see celebrities for 20 seconds wasn’t the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, it is fun in hindsight to say I touched George Clooney’s hand and saw Steve Jobs, Quentin Tarantino, Kirstin Stewart, Queen Latifah, Zoe Saldan and Sigourney Weaver all in one hour.

Zoe Saldana from Avatar

Kristen Stewart

I also went to the Inception premiere, which I’m so happy I did since I hadn’t seen the movie yet so I didn’t even know how incredible it was. I just thought “hey, let’s go down to Grauman’s and see Leo DiCaprio! Why not!” now that I’ve seen the movie and it’s one of my all-time favorites, it means so much more to me that I was there!

Leonardo DiCaprio & Ken Watanabe

Beverly Hills & Rodeo Drive – I think the picture below about sums this place up. That’s a $2,000,000 car parked on the side of the road. A Bugatti Veyron. Yaaaa.

Celebrity Home Tours are highly overrated and a huge rip-off if you pay money, unless you don’t have a car. If you have a car at your disposal, just google a few address and go gawk yourself. Chances are you won’t ever see the celebrity you’re stalking, and if you do, they probably won’t be happy about it. If you’re a fan of expensive homes like me and you just want to see big, pretty houses, than just driving through some of the neighborhoods the celebs live in is fun – since most of them are ungated and up in the hills with great views of LA.

NoHo / Studio City / Toluca Lake – The south area of the valley north of Hollywood where Disney and Warner Brother’s studios are. There isn’t much else here except some celebrity homes (which I would know nothing about… cough…) I drive through here almost every day to take Ally to work and pick her up. The Cahuenga Pass through the hills is a cool little scenic drive that passes by Mulholland Dr & has great views when you’re descending into the valley on the north side. Passing by Warner Brothers is fun too because they have a huge superhero mural complete with pop-out superheroes on one gigantic wall of the studio.

Downtown Burbank – Nestled in the corner of the valley on one little section of San Fernando Blvd. is one of my favorite areas of LA; Downtown Burbank! It’s also where I live. It’s got a super small-town feel with big-town amenities like 2 movie theaters, a huge mall, an IKEA, tons of great restaurants and beautiful weather. Even if it’s smoggy in LA it usually isn’t in Burbank.

Universal City –  I can’t speak non-objectivly on this one because I grew up with Orlando’s Universal which is way bigger and way better. Going here just reminds me of Orlando which is fun, but it just isn’t as grandiose. The Gibson Amphitheater is cool to see shows in, and the CityWalk is decent here. I haven’t been in the park, but I hear it’s just like Universal Studios Orlando but smaller… no thanks! I rather see the real studios.

Griffith Observatory & Park is another one of my favorites because I absolutely love space & astronomy. I took astronomy in college & fell in love for life. The telescope here is historic and magnificent. The planetarium and the show is also spectacular. An added bonus is the great views of the Hollywood sign & downtown LA. I once had to walk down the hills to Hollywood from Griffith Observatory with my friend Britt when we found out after we had gotten dropped off there that there was no public transportation down. That was a fun & scenic walk.

Venice Beach – best place for people watching, hands down. Very diverse and colorful culture. You’ve got crazy old men playing piano on the sidewalk, a skatepark where you can watch people falling off their skateboards for hours, surfers, lots of street art & craft shops, tattoo parlors, cafes, pot “clinics”, and basically one of the best beach cultures in the world.

That’s it for now… I’m going to do Part II someday with some more obscure, less tourist-y spots.