There’s a reason why Los Angeles is featured in so many songs, television shows and movies — it’s because LA is one of the greatest cities on earth! I’ve had the opportunity to visit some pretty fabulous cosmopolitan settings over the past few years, but nowhere has quite the same spirit of innovation, excitement and possibility as the City of Angels.
The taste of possibility lingers all around in LA, but, as Guns N’ Roses so eloquently states in Welcome to the Jungle, “you can taste the bright lights but you won’t get there for free.”
Nor when it comes to Los Angeles, will you be able to get there without a car. Any Angelino will be the first to tell you the number one rule to thriving in LA — whether you’re here for a short visit or planning on moving, in LA you’ll need a car.
I recently had the opportunity to drive the 2016 Mazda CX-5 to some of the most awe inspiring and iconic sights of Southern California. The vehicle was fun — and easy — to drive, even while navigating the complicated freeways and notorious traffic of Southern California. Thanks to an 184 horsepower engine I had all the power I needed to accelerate on the fast-moving highways, the blind spot monitoring system helped me change lanes smoothly, and the backup camera helped me park, something that is extremely tricky in LA thanks to the prevalence of crowded parking garages and tight street parking.
While driving is a big part of being in LA, with a vehicle as user friendly and loaded with safety features as the Mazda CX-5 I could focus on seeing the sights. Here’s a look at five essential Los Angeles sights to drive to in the 2016 Mazda CX5.
1. Venice Beach
Of the many famous beach scenes in Southern California, Venice has got to be the most quirky. The main attraction here is the boardwalk, home to an eclectic mix of colorful locals, tourists, street performers, skateboards and laid back surfers. There’s plenty of street parking in Venice so you should be able to snag a spot that isn’t too far from the ocean.
Venice gets its name from founder Abbot Kinney, a real estate magnate who dubbed the town “Venice of America,” constructing canals that resemble those in Italy. I love walking the streets and checking out all the street art (this mermaid is my favorite). It’s also well worth visiting the skate board park. Even if skateboarding isn’t your scene, the skills of the skaters here will be sure to impress and leave you mesmerized. I could seriously watch these guys for hours!
2. The Hollywood Sign
Cliche as it may be, you can’t think Los Angeles without thinking of Hollywood. Located in Central LA, the neighborhood is synonymous with the film industry and draws hopeful actors, singers and entertainers from around the world to try for their shot of fame.
There’s no greater icon that represents Hollywood than the Hollywood sign, which can be seen miles away with letters 50 feet tall. Originally reading “Hollywoodland,” the sign was built in 1923 to spur real estate development. The “land” portion of the sign was removed in 1949. You can’t get super close to the Hollywood sign, but you can get better views by hiking in the hills. Park on Beachwood Drive and enjoy a mile long hike that leads to uninterrupted vistas.
3. Griffith Observatory
Speaking of uninterrupted vistas, my favorite place for views of Los Angeles is the Griffith Observatory. Built in 1935 in the Hollywood Hills, the building is an important place for astronomers to further their research. The mission of the Griffith Observatory is to “inspire everyone to observe, ponder, and understand the sky.” With this in mind, entry is free and there’s even free parking available!
From the looming balconies of the observatory, you can see all across Los Angeles, from downtown to West Hollywood to Culver City. Los Angeles is a city made up of individual neighborhoods. The birds-eye perspective here is a great place to take them all in. Ask a local to point out the different buildings of note and strike up a conversation.
4. Movie Studios
Without a doubt one of the reasons Los Angeles is such an exciting place to be is because of the film industry. Around 600 major films are produced in the United States every year and the majority of them are filmed in Southern California. Of course, Los Angeles is home to all the major movie studios as well, so a visit isn’t complete without at least driving by one. I just love this view of the Jim Henson Company that I snapped out my car window. Hello, Kermit!
While visiting Los Angeles you can do much more than just drive by a studio. You can tour them as well. Several of the studios offer group tours on a regular visit. My favorite to visit is Warner Bros. On their VIP Studio Tour you can walk around sets used in such television shows as Pretty Little Liars, Hart of Dixie and Gilmore Girls. Sets here were also featured in movies such as Spider Man and Annie.
5. Sunset in Santa Monica
I may be biased since the beach city is my new home, but in my opinion there is nowhere like Santa Monica for sunset! The picture above should be enough to convince you as the golden caramel of the sky fades into the tranquil sea. To stand on the sands of Santa Monica and take a sight like the one above in is to know happiness!
Santa Monica is known as being one of the most upscale seaside escapes in SoCal. That means when the sun goes down there’s plenty of good eats around. Enjoy a meal on Ocean Avenue or Third Street Promenade, an outdoor shopping district, and celebrate the fact you are in California!
So what essential Los Angeles sights will you discover in the Mazda CX-5? And what essential sights did I miss? Let me know in the comments below!
Note: I was provided with a 2016 Mazda CX-5 for review. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.