Dorothy Parker famously said, “Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city.” Well, she was only partially right.
Today, the City of Angels is made up of 88 municipalities and while each may have a unique identity, the entire thing works rather well together. There’s even a living, breathing, pulsing downtown—DTLA to locals—with acres of culturally dense streetscapes meant for exploring on foot. Nobody walks in L.A.? How dare you!
The city continues to climb the ladder of our Product category, coming in at #20 globally (and attracting 48.5 millions visitors in 2017), including an impressive #25 ranking in the world for Museums. Powering the ascent is art—though not of the cinematic variety. The opening of the Broad museum back in 2015 was the biggest cultural opening in decades, with its free admission, Instagrammable architecture and some of the highest profile post-war art collections on the continent. Earlier in 2018, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, funded by Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas, finally broke ground and is set to take over two parking lots. Set near the University of Southern California in Exposition Park is a flashy maquette that highlights plans for a parklike museum shaped like a starship from a Lucas film. When it opens in 2021, it will feature 11 acres of much-needed green space in this part of the city.
But L.A. isn’t just creating new green spaces but also revitalizing old ones, including a $45 million renovation project of historic Echo Park Lake, which served as a drinking water reservoir for almost a century before it fell into disrepair and became a dumping ground for the neighborhood. Today, you can rent a pedal boat, stroll around the lush path that hugs its borders, and have breakfast at Beacon with a view of the Downtown skyline.
Placemaking projects are no less impressive. Grand Park, opened in 2012 at the foot of iconic Bunker Hill, now draws as many people as the latest artist exhibition. Even the neglected Los Angeles River is getting its due with an ecological plan to restore an 11-mile section of it. City and real estate developers are paying attention and have surfaced a steady stream of projects, from parks and bridges to residential and mixed use developments. A Sixth Street bridge that spans the river to connect to the Arts District is set to open in 2020. Plans for athletic fields, playground, walking and bike paths, a public art and performance area and a community center below the bridge are being considered.
Of course, the sun and Pacific still shine bright, with the City of Angels finishing eighth-best in the world for Weather and #34 for Parks and Outdoor Activities. Water quality in the shimmering (but long neglected) Pacific Ocean is militantly monitored, with more locals and visitors paying attention to the blue bounty at L.A.’s front door. Expanding park space—ranging from Santa Monica’s new Tongva Park (a reclaimed parking lot featuring a playground, waterfalls, paths and Pacific views) to downtown’s bustling six-year-old Grand Park—is slowly but surely turning L.A. into a place where hitting the trails trumps hitting the gas.