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Los Angeles County: The Cities of Angels
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Los Angeles County: The Cities of Angels

From iconic museums and cultural centers, to historic landmarks, to expansive parks, to top-notch eateries, Los Angeles County has it all.

Margaret Flores

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5 min read

March 13, 2022

For many people, the mention of Los Angeles (L.A.) County often conjures images of Hollywood, A-List celebrities, and sun-soaked beaches. But the cities that make up this iconic 

region contain much more. From Michelin-starred restaurants, to iconic museums and cultural centers, to historic landmarks, to expansive parks and gardens, this sprawling county—the most populous in the United States and home to one-fourth of California’s population—offers countless attractions and destinations worth experiencing. 

Los Angeles County is one of the original counties of the Golden State, created at the time of statehood in 1850.

The History of Los Angeles County, California

The area comprising present-day Los Angeles County has a history that’s not too dissimilar from the rest of the counties in the state. Settled by small groups of Native Americans for centuries, Los Angeles County got its first European contact in 1769 when Gaspar de Portola camped on what is now the banks of the Los Angeles River with a group of missionaries.

In 1771, the San Gabriel Mission was founded by Father Junipero Serra as the center of the first community in an area inhabited by Gabrielino Indians. About ten years after this, a group of 11 families was recruited from Mexico to resettle in a spot selected by then Alta California Governor Felipe de Neve with the goal of establishing a new pueblo. The settlement was called El Pueblo de la Reyna de Los Angeles, which translates to “the Pueblo of the Queen of the Angels.” Over time, the area became known as the Ciudad de Los Angeles, which meant “City of Angels”—a name Los Angeles County is still called today.

Prior to the 1870s, Los Angeles County was divided into townships, many of which were amalgamations of one or more old ranchos.

American vessels began arriving in the Los Angeles County area in the early 1800s. The first English-speaking inhabitant, a carpenter named Joseph Chapman, settled in the area in 1818. Fun fact: Chapman helped build the church facing the town’s central plaza, which is a structure that stands to this day. By the 1840s, Los Angeles was already the largest town in Southern California.

Not too long after, the annexation of California and the discovery of gold brought an influx of immigrants and temporary gold-seekers alike to the county. Mining changed the region’s history in profound ways, as many of those who came settled permanently in the Antelope Valley. During its history, the size of Los Angeles County has changed substantially. At one point, it grew to be 34,520 square miles, sprawling east to the Colorado River. Today, it is slightly smaller than its original size with 4,084 square miles.

Whether you’re a tourist visiting for the weekend or a native looking to explore, there are essential L.A. County attractions that you must see.

Top Los Angeles County Attractions to Check Out

Visit the Famous Griffith Park

The most visited park in Los Angeles County is Griffith Park, perched above the city of L.A. in the Santa Monica Mountains. The 4,210-acre expanse features numerous hiking and biking trails, an equestrian center, an observatory (where scenes of the Oscar-winning La La Land were filmed), a golf course, playgrounds, and more. And the county’s largest park is the Castaic Lake State Recreation Area, which offers water skiing, swimming, and fishing. 

Visitors can also enjoy the region’s natural beauty at Saddleback Butte State Park, the California Poppy Reserve, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park (where many old Western flicks were filmed), and Mount Baldy (the highest point in the county). 

No matter how fun and exciting are the beaches in L.A., there's a list of museums waiting to be explored in the sprawling county.

Check out the Best Los Angeles County Museums

Other must-see attractions in Los Angeles County are its incredible array of world-class museums. If you’re into art, you’ll be spoiled for choice; The Getty, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Norton Simon Museum are not to be missed. For a traditional museum experience, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is unparalleled. Into flora and fauna? Make room for the Los Angeles Zoo and The Arboretum in your itinerary as well.

Spend a Day by the Best Beaches of L.A.

No visit to Los Angeles County would be complete without a trip to the beach. Venice Beach is a popular destination, known for its boho spirit, artsy shops, colorful murals, and notable restaurants. The Santa Monica Pier is another hot spot, featuring a Ferris wheel, bumper car rides, roller coasters, arcade games, and even an aquarium—not to mention miles of soft sand. Further north, the fabled Malibu boasts several picture-perfect beaches such as Zuma Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach, where visitors can surf, hike, or simply tan. 

Take Part in Signature Los Angeles County Events

Signature L.A. County events draw thousands of visitors each year, too. One of the most famous is the Rose Parade in Pasadena, which precedes the Rose Bowl Game. There’s also the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, the Long Beach Grand Prix, the L.A. Art Show, and the Los Angeles Times' Festival of Books. 

Los Angeles County is host to one of the most innovative, exciting, and diverse food scenes in the entire nation.

Dine at the Best Los Angeles Restaurants

The Los Angeles County dining scene is unparalleled. Spanning cuisines, price ranges, and atmospheres, Los Angeles’ restaurants offer something for everyone. For an upscale experience, check out the Michelin-starred restaurants and celeb-approved eateries of the county. To get a taste of the different cultures coloring L.A., visit ethnic neighborhoods like Little Tokyo and Little Armenia

Enjoy a Staycation at the Top Hotels in Los Angeles

Whether you’re visiting for the first time or planning a staycation in your own state, the top hotels in Los Angeles give you an experience to remember. Luxurious lodging, beachside haciendas, and boutique hotels abound in the county—make your pick and you’ll have a holiday to remember. In the mood to rough it up this weekend? Stunning camping destinations are also aplenty in Los Angeles County.

Shop ‘Til you Drop at the Coolest Los Angeles Apparel Stores

Given its reputation as the favorite city among influencers and bloggers, it comes as no surprise that L.A. is one of the best places to visit for a shopping spree. Los Angeles-founded clothing brands, internationally renowned names, and every other sought-after store you can think of line the streets of Los Angeles County. Determine what it is you’re after—whether that’s surf shops, streetwear stores, or anything else—and you’ll find a shop (or two or three) that’ll help you nail the California look.  

So whether you want to attend an event, experience world-renowned museums and galleries, explore a variety of natural wonders, stop by the Hollywood Walk of Fame, shop ‘til you drop at high-end boutiques, or savor acclaimed and ethnic cuisine, L.A. County is bound to keep you entertained.

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