California Fool’s Gold — The Best of Los Angeles

Last year, I think, I made a map of some of my favorite places — and places I’ve still yet to visit but am eager to — in Metro Los Angeles. I don’t remember what the occasion was — or even whether or not there was one. I think that I just wanted to visualize those things with a map (as I often do). Or maybe I had friends planning to come to Los Angeles and thought that it would be fun and helpful. I honestly can’t remember. I don’t think that I posted it on an entry because when I do, the maps tend to get a lot more views. This one has not been viewed much… just 962 views at time of writing. By comparison, the map of Los Angeles Neighborhoods has been viewed about 2.5 million times so far. If I had even a dime for every view. Google, let’s talk!

It is the 35th week of 2022 and I have thus far posted 34 entries! I needed an idea for this week’s post in order to keep up my grueling pace of one post per week. I settled on a “best of Los Angeles” because Los Angeles was “officially” founded on 4 September 1781 — but the fourth is a Sunday, which, depending on how you define your weeks, is either the last day of this week or the first day of next. And so, just to be safe, I figured I’d post on the 3rd of September, a Saturday, and the eve of Los Angeles’s birthday (as well as the birthday of rapper B.G. Seriously, free B.G.).

A screenshot of the map of the Best of Los Angeles (and Southern California)

Obviously, the map — like any and all maps — is subjective. Needless to say, it only includes points of interest that are points of interest to me. It’s hopefully also obvious that it only includes points of interest that I’ve heard of. So feel free to not yell at me “you forgot (fill in the blank)!” I probably haven’t heard of it. Or maybe it’s just not my thing. I do welcome and encourage your suggestions for additions, however.

Loyal readers, assuming that I have some, probably have a good idea of what sorts of things interest me and what don’t. I don’t want readers to waste their time suggesting things there’s no chance I’ll add to the map. I’m not going to tell you what to like, after all, and I encourage you to make your own “best of Los Angeles map” for your own use or for those of like-minded people.

There are all sorts of things that I love that are found in Los Angeles, including abandoned buildings, adaptive reuse, alleys, animals, architecture (all styles), arboretums, art galleries, art house cinemas, basements, subbasements, beaches, bicycle trails, bioswales, boating, bookstores, bowling alleys, breeze blocks, glass blocks, hammered glass, beer breweries, sake breweries, bridges, cafes, caves, cider houses, college and university campuses, corner drug stores, courtyards, dance, dead malls, deserts, diners, dioramas, dive bars, barcades, chain pubs, dystopian subterranean parking structures, ethnic enclaves, ethnic malls, ethnic markets, fashion, folk art, food halls, “foreign” language cinemas, freeway interchanges, gardens, garden apartments, grasslands, green roofs, hiking trails, hills, houses of worship, islands, karaoke, kitsch, lecture halls, libraries, liminal spaces, meaderies, mountains, mushrooms, music, neon lights, night markets, observatories, opera, parks, office parks, pinball, planetariums, pedestrian plazas, plant nurseries, ports, public art, plop art, record stores, rivers, rooftop gardens, row houses, ruins, scrublands, shrublands, scuba diving, secret passageways, shipwrecks, silent film cinemas, simulacra, skyscrapers, mid-rises, stack tile, stair streets, walk streets, stand-up, suburban decay, tea houses, theater, Thomassons, Tiki culture, trains, trams, trees, tunnels, vault lights, vegetarian-friendly restaurants, video art, walkable communities, wetlands, woodlands, and wine. If you too like any of those and see some obvious omissions, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments.

Now, not to be negative, but in order to not waste one another’s time, it’s probably worth mentioning a few things that don’t interest me — especially since, in many cases, the things that I least like about Los Angeles are the very things that are most promoted by tourist organizations, commercial media, listicles, and advertorials. I’m not don’t care, for example, about cars or slebs — and any of those slebs in cars videos is hell to me. Hollywood and Highland is a good place to visit… but only because it is easily the worst place in Los Angeles and its lameness makes everything else look better in comparison. I like playing sports… but it’s hard for me to imagine anything more boring than watching other people play sports… oh wait, there’s hearing men talking loudly about sports at a loud bar where they’re broadcast on a bank of televisions. I do like fashion and perfume — which means I have no use for fads, trends, or for malls where the patrons wear Uber scent bodysprays. I really hate adwear. You’d have to pay me to advertise your boring, branded, overpriced, throwaway, slave-made athleisure wear — not the other way around. All of that is to say, if you don’t see your favorite sports venue, mall, shopping street on the map — it’s not because I forgot to add it.

Now, if you think that any “best of Los Angeles” map should have your favorite sports bar, the Walk of Lame, or sleb-sighting spot on it, that’s fine — I’m not going to discourage you. In fact, I encourage you to make your own map for yourself and like-minded people. To each their own. Hopefully, this map will be helpful for business travelers, immigrants, natives, refugees, tourists, and transplants who share some of my interests.

To make the map more manageable, I’ve overlayed the map of mass transit (excluding buses — because there are too many — not because you shouldn’t take them) and the map of Los Angeles County regions, rather than the map of all neighborhoods, communities, and cities — because I strongly believe that there is enough of interest in any Los Angeles region to make for a great vacation whilst, on the other hand, there’s nothing more guaranteed to bring misery than sitting in a car on the freeway trying to get to every far-flung amusement park and outlet mall. I find that international visitors, in particular, are shocked by the vastness of Southern California and the US. Perhaps some geographic perspective is in order.

California is larger than 136 countries including Japan, Norway, and Germany. Los Angeles County alone is larger than Jamaica, Lebanon, Palestine, and Puerto Rico. There are 200 unincorporated communities and 88 cities inside Los Angeles County. The city of Los Angeles is large enough to contain all of Boston, Cleveland, Manhattan, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and San Francisco. And yet, in my experience, people who visit Los Angeles try to drive all over it and then, maybe squeeze in side trips to San Diego and San Francisco, after all, they’re in the same state and connected by passenger rail. That’s the equivalent distance, though, of making a “side trip” from Baltimore to Montreal. And the beautiful but painfully slow rail journey on our charming but antiquated Amtrak system takes about fourteen hours to travel what in a more advanced country would take three. That’s why it helps, perhaps, to think of Metro Los Angeles as being a collection of islands, kingdoms, or cities — and fairly large ones, at that. The San Gabriel Valley, for example, is larger in area than Chicago. The San Fernando Valley is larger than Tulsa. Southeast Los Angeles is larger than Las Vegas, Detroit, or Atlanta. The Harbor District and the Westside are both larger than Tallahassee.

Despite the fact that I love architecture and hope that this map will be of use to “resident tourists,” I’ve left off all but a few architecturally-significant homes, next to no filming locations, and zero plaques marking historic sites, notorious crime sites, or things like that. Even though there are many who find those sorts of things interesting and worth visiting — I want this map to be of the sorts of places that warrant regular re-visits. In other words, while at some point you might want to see where the Black Dahlia‘s lifeless body was discovered; read a copper plaque about where some Spanish expedition camped out as they passed through the region,; or appreciate a nice, Streamline Moderne duplex; they’re not the sorts of places you’re likely to return to over and over. If you’ve seen them once, that’s probably enough… although I could imagine, I suppose, being drawn back to that nice, Streamline Moderne home.

So, taking into account my rather long-winded suggestions, let me know what you think should be added to the map. I may’ve lived here for 23 years, now, but there’s still a lot to discover.

Support Eric Brightwell on Patreon

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery.
Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesVICEHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture.
Brightwell has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA?, at Emerson Collegeand the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles.

You can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsiNaturalistInstagramMastodonMediumMubithe StoryGraph, and Twitter.

2 thoughts on “California Fool’s Gold — The Best of Los Angeles

  1. Sept. 3rd 2022
    To; Mr. Brightwell.
    I have a ‘spontaneous oak’ here in Sherman Oaks. LA River is right across the street.
    Trying to save it (the river) from being asphalted for bikes – purpose is to free up the roads for massively more development and the cars that will produce. Time to leave LA.
    The city with the fewest parks in the nation -per LA Times No soul, hates nature. They also de-natured Pershing Square. G. Uncle.
    Masses of colored concrete.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s