Los Angeles beyond the postcards: Navigating the city like a native

Dodger blue, palm trees, beaches heading west and wintertime humidity — how can you not fall in love with Los Angeles? The L.A. dream awaits USC’s new students, but the variety of pit stops to make once you’re in the city can become overwhelming. To ensure your L.A. bucket list reflects the city’s rich culture, here are some spots to visit — from a native’s point of view. 

Let’s talk night markets

L.A. is the City of Angels because our food tastes like heaven. Craving food at night? Try the Alameda Night Market, with its gorgeous view of the Downtown skyline. L.A. is packed with night markets in every neighborhood, filling the streets with immigrant culture. 

You may want to try Westlake’s Guatemalan Night Market, El Gato Night Market or the famous 626 Night Market. Not only provide hot dishes but also art, dance and music, so you’re sure to be entertained. 

Restaurants, ungentrified

Support those serving the city with their culture; Try El Mercadito, an East L.A. market filled with goods imported from Mexico and food fresh from the stove.    

If you’re looking for a unique beverage, “Angela’s Green Potion” is a secret drink only served at Homegirl Café, a spot established by Homeboy Industries to create a safe space for women who have experienced domestic violence and obstacles created by gang involvement and incarceration. 

Family businesses can be found on every L.A. block from Little Tokyo to Little Ethiopia. Established in 1903, Little Tokyo’s Fugetsu-Do bakery sells fresh, family-made Japanese mochi and manju. Messob Ethiopian Restaurant is another perfect spot for lunch, operating since 1985 in Little Ethiopia.

L.A.’s green gems

The Downtown skyline is beautiful to witness during sunset and at night. Echo Park, Vista Hermosa, Elysian Park and L.A. State Historic Park all offer a downtown skyline view. When visiting these parks, remember to support your local street vendors, as many are immigrants whose cultures have built the L.A. we know and love. These parks sit in gentrified locations, impacted by high rent and businesses that do not reflect the original community. When visiting, acknowledge these facts and support the businesses that give back to the community.

L.A. ink and piercings

Looking to get a piercing or tattoo? Head down to El Classico for Latine tattoo artists who will have your shading looking nice. Want to stop by a shop a little closer to campus? Plan a trip to Brown Pride, a tattoo shop with a location in Huntington Park, only three miles from campus. Whenever your intrusive thoughts win, these locations have you covered. 

Games, fashion and cars

A getaway from midterms and finals is always a must, and for only $25 at Family Arcade, the entire day is open for play. If you find yourself in Little Tokyo, try heading down to XLanes, a bowling alley full of challenges for you and your friends. 

Santee Alley is a hub of fashion goods, fresh fruit stands and unique pieces to tie a last-minute outfit together for any occasion. 

Cruises — a form of riding through the street, celebrating lowriders and Chicano culture — are big in predominantly Mexican neighborhoods. From Whittier Blvd on Friday afternoon to Elysian Park Sunday cruise, Chicanos take to the streets with pride in their heritage. L.A. culture is always present in these cruises, and the bouncing cars are always a beauty to see.

South Central

Entering the neighborhood USC sits in, it is important to respect and remember that the community was present before the students. Local food places include Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, Teddy’s Red Tacos, La Flor Blanca, Cafe Calle and many more. Explore swap meets such as Slauson Super Mall and the Black Market Flea.

There is so much to do in L.A. and during your years at USC, there is so much time to explore. It’s up to you to explore the true L.A. beyond this list, a city established by immigrants, African Americans, Native Americans and Latines.

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