My Los Angeles – An Entire World In One Surprising City

Jun 24, 2014

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We’ve been introducing you to the TPG staff based far and wide across the United States and Europe. To learn a little more about them, they’re sharing with you their experiences in the destinations that they call home. Today, meet Assistant Editor Melanie Wynne and her Los Angeles.

My heart has belonged to L.A. since 1993, when I drove across the country from Washington, D.C., pulled off the 10 freeway, and rolled into town for good. Sure, I’m a particular fan of the ridiculously mild year-round weather, but what continues to captivate me is the city’s sheer variety of landscapes, neighborhoods, styles and cultures. Though it gets a bad rap for its stop-and-go traffic, the sprawling City of Angels is actually a rare treat for a traveler, offering examples of every type of human being, food, or design that exists on Earth.

(In case that doesn’t do it for you, though, keep in mind that the Pacific Ocean is here, too.)

A little more than two decades in, these are just a few of my favorite aspects of Los Angeles. The city’s always changing, and I love changing with it.

TPG Assistant Editor Melanie Wynne amidst the 1920s architecture and lush gardens of Los Angeles
TPG Assistant Editor Melanie Wynne amidst the 1920s architecture and lush gardens of L.A.

The Great Outdoors

The steel and concrete framework of L.A. stretches across a good 70 miles, but offers some exhilarating opportunities to get out into nature. I love to go for a long hike anywhere, anytime, but if I’m seeking my own private peace, I head to:

El Matador Beach. Way out in Malibu, beside the Pacific Coast Highway and down a long flight of wooden steps, my favorite beach, El Matador, is a quiet, secluded cove where seabirds hover above craggy rock formations. The view of the road is hidden from the water, and though this is only a half-hour north of Santa Monica, I can pretend I’m much farther away.

Franklin Canyon in the fall
Franklin Canyon in the fall

Franklin Canyon. When people lament the hardy, drought-tolerant landscapes of L.A., I always bring up the marshy, lush oasis of Franklin Canyon, where I escape to shady forest trails and a reed-rimmed lake dotted with ducks. Set atop Beverly Hills just off Mulholland Drive and Coldwater Canyon, this restful, quiet park is especially lovely in late autumn and early winter, when its deciduous grasses turn orange and gold.

A Whole Lot More Culture Than You’d Think

Long ago, it was the entertainment industry that lured me here, but I’m thrilled to report that L.A.’s cultural offerings extend far beyond box office blockbusters and Keeping up with the Kardashians.

Downtown, I love to wander through the often challenging exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and across the street, see moving/gripping/hilarious plays at my beloved Mark Taper Forum, just one of the popular performance venues on/near Music Center Plaza. A few blocks away, the Grand Central Library rises like an Art Deco version of an Egyptian obelisk, and the California history murals inside could blow your mind.

Along Mid-City’s Miracle Mile, I tend to haunt the multi-building, tar-pit-adjacent compound of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which features works from around the world, including Asia, the Middle East, India and the Pacific Rim. Across the street and a block away in either direction, you’ll find the fascinating Craft and Folk Art Museum and the ultra-modern A + D Architecture and Design Museum.

Chris Burden's "Urban Light," a collection of L.A.'s salvaged street lamps set outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
“Urban Light,” a collection of salvaged street lamps outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

On and around the UCLA campus in Westwood, I enjoy seeing new plays and big stars at the Geffen Playhouse; my favorite speakers and musicians at Royce Hall; contemporary (and often local) art at the Hammer Museum; and the thoughtful, global art displayed at the Fowler Museum.

Farther southeast, adjacent to USC in Exposition Park, I have an enduring crush on the Natural History Museum; if I’m ever feared lost, I can probably be found in the Gem and Mineral Hall, ogling the museum’s central stained-glass dome, poring over the dinosaur fossils, peering over the scale-model replica of vintage L.A., or wandering through the butterfly garden.

Food, Glorious Food

Up for following your taste buds all around the city? Consider seeking out these restaurants, which are helmed by my favorite local chefs:

David Myers: Comme Ca (French brasserie) and Hinoki & the Bird (Japan by way of California)
Ricardo Zarate: Picca, Mo-Chica and Paiche (all modern takes on Peruvian cuisine)
Ernesto Umichura: Plan Check Kitchen & Bar (creative comfort/bar food)
Govind Armstrong: Post & Beam (modern soul food) and Willie Jane (creative spins on Southern cooking)
Quinn and Karen Hatfield: Hatfield’s (California-French) and Sycamore Kitchen (breakfast, lunch and gorgeous baked goods)

If you love Asian cuisines as much as I do, know that L.A. is like a multi-national wonderland. You could spend weeks exploring Koreatown or the Chinese offerings in the San Gabriel Valley, or an afternoon apiece on Downtown’s Little Tokyo, West Los Angeles’ Little Osaka and SoFax’s Little Ethiopia. But I’d be content to head to Hollywood’s Thai Town and the cash-only, hole-in-the-wall Sanamluang for koo chai (steamed rice-flour biscuits stuffed with veggies and served with a spicy-sweet black sauce), or to Studio City‘s friendly Kiwami for the Rakumori sushi sampler and seared garlic albacore sashimi with, when in season, black truffles.

Shrimp and scallop tacos from Tacos Puntas Cabras in Santa Monica
Shrimp and scallop tacos from Tacos Puntas Cabras in Santa Monica

Also, as a personal favor to me (and quite frankly, yourself), please don’t leave L.A. without having some tacos. I favor those at Guisados in Echo Park, Tinga (I prefer the more laid-back one on La Brea), Tacos Punta Cabras in Santa Monica, or any outpost of Loteria Grill – but especially the first one, located in the Original Farmers Market.

When the Sun Goes Down

I’m no night owl, but come evening, I do have a sweet spot for wine, cocktails and delightful scenery.

The courtyard at A.O.C., aka  "My Happy Place"
The courtyard at A.O.C., aka “My Happy Place”

Few things make me happier than a crisp glass of white on the bougainvillea-draped courtyard at A.O.C., a spiced-tequila Golden Girl beside the living plant wall at Goldie’s, or being cozied up with a dear friend on a bench at Melrose Umbrella Co., where the eye candy is good and the cocktails are even better. My favorite view in town, though, is from Barnsdall Art Park in Los Feliz, where Friday Night Wine Tastings are held all summer long. A sort of hipster heaven, gentle crowds gather here to sip four different vintages, feast at food trucks or on their own picnic spreads, and lounge on blankets as DJs spin and the sun blushes rose-gold over the rolling hills of Griffith Park.

Do you have a question for Melanie about Los Angeles or your own favorite spots to share? Post them in the comments below.

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