Did a full day walking tour of LA. Our tour guide Damien was very knowledgeable & passionate about giving us all the information in a clear & concise way. The tour was very well planned & organised & was not tiring.
We did The Real Hollywood tour & loved it! The tour was at a great pace & the guide (Vicky) was very knowledgeable & made the tour fun. Thank you!
Stuart was so knowledgeable & was worth the day with him. I had been to LA multiple times before but this is the first time I had taken a tour – so thrilled to have this experience with my mom & sister. I would recommend this tour again & again.
We had an amazing DTLA Murder Mystery Ghost tour with Damien & Dante… thank you very much from the Italian girls… very interesting & funny… absolutely recommended!
This tour was awesome! Stuart is very knowledgeable, likeable & fun. The stops on the tour were very interesting & I learned a lot. I’ve been on quite a few tours of this nature & this was one of my favorites – highly recommend!
Did a walking tour of LA (LA in a Day). Vicky started us off with the Hollywood tour & Damien (who is also the owner) was our guide for the rest of the day. The entire day was awesome, I suggest this tour. There isn’t that much walking, to be honest. It’s very fun!
Los Angeles Myths vs Reality
Los Angeles is uniquely misunderstood. There’s the imagined LA, the myth if you like, and then there’s the real LA (as we call it). And there are lots of Los Angeles myths that are repeated with such conviction that they’ve become accepted as facts. Why is that? Well, everyone thinks they know LA, after all they’ve seen it so many times on the screen. Maybe they’ve even spent a day or two here and have had those misconceptions confirmed.
Unfortunately even a lot of people who live in Los Angeles don’t know the city very well – partly because many residents of LA aren’t actually from the city (in fact 50% of the population of Los Angeles County aren’t from California, never mind the city itself).
Why does that matter? Well, the nature of Los Angeles is that you can exist in your own little bubble, going from home to work and back (by car), sprinkled with trips to the local Costco and neighborhood Salvadorian restaurant, without ever properly getting to know the city as you could, or maybe should.
So, just for fun, we decided to play myth-busters and blow-up 12 of the biggest Los Angeles legends.
1. LOS ANGELES IS JUST LOW-DENSITY SUBURBAN SPRAWL.
Wrong! Actually LA is the most densely populated major city in the U.S. Thought that was New York, right? Nope, it’s us. When people think of New York they think of Manhattan, which is very dense, but the other four boroughs are much less so, thereby bringing down the average number of people per square mile, whereas Los Angeles is evenly built up. Nowhere here is nearly as dense as Manhattan, but by the standards of major American cites, density is high. L.A. is spread out, because it’s so big, but that’s a separate issue.
2. LOS ANGELES DOESN’T HAVE A DOWNTOWN.
If you’ve been elsewhere on our website you’ll have noticed that we have tours of downtown Los Angeles, so you may have already figured out that this isn’t true, but it’s surprising how many tourists are totally unaware of its existence (especially bearing in mind how many movies and TV shows have been filmed there).
It is true that it’s not like downtowns in other major cities, where the largest proportion of commercial activity happens (that hasn’t been the case since the 1940’s), but it’s making such a comeback that one quarter of all the apartments under construction in Los Angeles today are being built there and more and more companies are relocating to the area.
And you can ice-skate there in December and January (see video below).
3. EVERYONE IN LOS ANGELES WORKS IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY.
If you go to a high-end Westside restaurant and your waiter looks like he came straight out of central casting for a daytime soap opera, then it’s likely that they’re an actor, but less than 200,000 people work in the entertainment industry in LA. Bearing in mind that the population of the metro area is over 20 million, that means that literally 99% of people here have nothing to do with the entertainment industry at all. Other than enjoying its products. Oh and how do you get that waiter to give you really great service? Tell them you’re a producer ;-).
4. PEOPLE IN LOS ANGELES ARE FLAKY AND FAKE.
Admittedly this is a hard one to disprove, without getting into the realm of personal experiences and impressions, but to give a couple of measurable examples on election night in 2016 Los Angeles voted to raise taxes to expand public transport and build housing for the homeless. That’s right, we voted to increase our own taxes in order to improve the city and make it more livable. California did also approve a ballot measure to legalize the sale and use of marijuana, which may explain some flakiness.
5. THERE’S NO PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN LOS ANGELES.
Never mind how many tourists don’t know about the Metro system here – there are still quite a few residents who are unaware of it (which is why we’ve written this handy guide). We have a much more wide ranging metro train and light-rail system than many US cities and it’s expanding all the time. Admittedly the Metro system is not up to where it could, or should, be, but due to the increase in funds from Measure M (see above) transit options are rapidly growing.
6. YOU HAVE TO HAVE A CAR TO GET AROUND IN LOS ANGELES.
We’ve partly answered this one above, but just for good measure we’ll say it again – it’s totally untrue. Even more so because of the recent growth of ride-sharing companies, such as Uber and Lyft. This may have been true twenty years ago or more, but not now as more and more Angelenos are giving up their cars. Why? Well there are many reasons, climate-change being one of the biggest, but also because people are increasingly realizing that LA isn’t a car-city, it’s a traffic-city.
7. NO ONE WALKS IN LOS ANGELES.
There’s no doubt the walking experience in much of Los Angeles isn’t great – not to mention often downright dispiriting. A combination of lack of public transit for many years, the complete dominance of the car, planning laws that allow huge shopping centers set behind enormous car parks and the sheer size of the city have all conspired against walking in LA. However things are changing. There are many places that you can walk here – such as Santa Monica, Pasadena and downtown – and where it’s, whisper it, actually a pleasant experience. In fact Walk Score rated Los Angeles the 13th most walkable city in the U.S. and several neighborhoods have very high walkable scores.
8. THERE’S NO CULTURE OR HISTORY IN LOS ANGELES.
There are lots of variations on this that we’ve come across over the years, nearly always from people who either haven’t been to Los Angeles or only spent a very short amount of time here. Sure, LA is a relatively young city (being a little under 250 years old), but there’s a TON of culture and history here, from world-class museums, such as the Getty and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), to opera, classical music and theater at the Music Center, to smaller museums such as the Huntington and the Broad, to the biggest historic downtown of any major city in the U.S. (including the biggest historic theater district in the country). If you don’t think Los Angeles has any history or culture that’s on you, not us.
9. LOS ANGELES DOESN’T HAVE ANY SEASONS. IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN L.A.
Well this is changing due to climate change (believe it or not, but LA did once get snow in the winter on a semi regular basis), but we do have seasons here, although about 300 days a year are clear. First we have a rainy season between January and April. Then in June we have a phenomenon known as ‘June Gloom’ (in May it’s known as ‘May Grey’ and in July as ‘No Sky July’), which is when warm air meets the cool waters of the Pacific off the coast, leading to low cloud cover in the morning (usually the sun breaks through in the afternoon). After that it’s summer (aka pool-party season) as temperatures build, reaching a peak in late August and early September. Then we have fall and winter – which are admittedly much nicer than the summer in many parts of the world.
Oh, and of course, there’s pilot season – which is traditionally from January to May (although that’s changing too). This is a unique micro-climate and you’ll experience it when you see an actor in the car next to you changing their clothes, going over their lines and driving all at the same time as they rush to what they hope to be a successful audition for the next hit TV show. Wish them luck!
10. LOS ANGELES WAS BUILT IN A DESERT.
This is one of the most pernicious and long-lasting of all Los Angeles myths. It has its roots in a campaign by the Los Angeles Times, in the early twentieth century, to promote the construction of what was to become the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The Times, which up until then had been telling everyone how much water there was here and what a lovely climate L.A. had, needed a really big reason to justify the prohibitive cost of building the aqueduct and so it devised a scare campaign to convince Angelenos that the city was going to run out of water literally almost any day – because it had been built in a desert.
Why was the Los Angeles Times running a scare campaign to terrorize its readers? Well it just so happened that building the aqueduct was going to make then owner, Harrison Gray Otis, extremely rich, due to real estate investments he’d made in the San Fernando Valley and what all this lovely water was going to do to the price of that land. Actually LA has a Mediterranean climate – which is why it was a booming farming town in the nineteenth century. Nevertheless the aqueduct was built, Otis and his family became incredibly rich and many people still think that we basically live in desert!
11. THE FOOD IS TERRIBLE IN LA
There’s a bewildering array of quality cultural food options in L.A., from Little Ethiopia, to Thai Town, to Alhambra and Monterey Park (Chinese food), to Little Tokyo and beyond, not to mention a lot of great Mexican food (as you’d expect). There are also a huge number of establishments serving more conventional American fare if that’s your thing (see Where to Eat in L.A. for our recommendations). Admittedly going out for a meal in Los Angeles can be hit and miss sometimes – but it’s far more hit than miss these days. You can also buy good produce in most supermarkets and Farmers Markets and you can even get good coffee here now!
12. LOS ANGELES IS EXPENSIVE.
This isn’t actually one of the Los Angeles myths; although, perhaps surprisingly, there are a lot of free things to do in LA. There are a ton of free museums in downtown, such as the Broad, the Chinese-American Museum, the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, the Avila Adobe (the oldest building in Los Angeles) and the LA Plaza de Culturas y Artes. The Getty and the Science Center are also free and are amongst the best museums you could ever visit. You can hike in the Hollywood Hills or Griffith Park too, enjoying the amazing views for nothing, and there’s no cost to lying on the beach here or doing some window shopping in Santa Monica.
Finally, before you complain about the cost of visiting Los Angeles, just remember one thing: we live here and we know exactly how expensive it can be!
What do you think of our list of Los Angeles myths? If you have any suggestions of your own email us and let us know.