Ruggedly good looking, deeply creative, with a sunny disposition to boot…if LA were on Tinder, the app would crash. Envy is an ugly thing, New York. While your denizens spend their time sniffling and throwing shade in the snow, Angelenos are busy riding waves, tying up their hiking boots and counting their copious blessings. Think about it: in how many megalopolises can you gallop across rugged mountains just nine miles from City Hall? Despite its heaving head count, LA is a city indelibly tied to mighty Mother Nature. Here, dense, vibrant neighborhoods back onto golden beaches, city streets lead up to flower-carpeted hillsides, and huge, deep-blue skies are an IMAX screen for lingering sunsets made to pierce your heart.
Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
One of the most delightful, inspirational spots in LA, the Huntington is rightly a highlight of any trip to California thanks to a world-class mix of art, literary history and over 120 acres of themed gardens (any one of which would be worth a visit on its own), all set amid stately grounds. There’s so much to see and do that it’s hard to know where to begin; allow three to four hours for even a basic visit.You might start with the library. Only a fraction of its six million rare books and related items can possibly go on display to the public, but they’re pretty darned impressive: a Gutenberg Bible, a manuscript of the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, books by Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus and numerous items relating to the US Civil War, westward expansion, women’s suffrage and early California.
LA’s landmark 1935 observatory opens a window onto the universe from its perch on the southern slopes of Mt Hollywood. Its planetarium claims the world’s most advanced star projector, while its astronomical touch displays explore some mind-bending topics, from the evolution of the telescope and the ultraviolet x-rays used to map our solar system to the cosmos itself. Then, of course, there are the views, which (on clear days) take in the entire LA Basin, surrounding mountains and Pacific Ocean.
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
LA is unlike any other city, and this cathedral is unlike any other cathedral. Seat of the US’s largest Roman Catholic archdiocese (some five million people), opened in 2002 and designed by the Spanish architect José Rafael Moneo, it pushes aside classical aesthetic in favor of a postmodern look that cleverly captures the city’s history and diverse cultures, as well as its famous sunlight. Once you get past the initial surprise, the building grows – and grows – on you.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The depth and wealth of the collection at the largest museum in the western US is stunning. LACMA holds all the major players – Rembrandt, Cézanne, Magritte, Mary Cassatt, Ansel Adams – plus millennia’s worth of Chinese, Japanese, pre-Columbian and ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian sculpture. Recent acquisitions include massive outdoor installations such as Chris Burden’s Urban Light (a surreal selfie backdrop of hundreds of vintage LA streetlamps) and Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, a surprisingly inspirational 340-ton boulder perched over a walkway.