8 Things You Need To Do in Los Angeles in Your First Year at USC

By Jordan Al-Rawi

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

With the fall semester fast approaching and many students planning their return (or first-time trip) to Los Angeles, many are eager to explore all of the great things the city has to offer. There are several places I highly recommend visiting in your first year at USC to get the true Los Angeles experience. Even if you have been to LA before, I recommend seeing these places before you graduate! I have listed eight of these destinations below, along with instructions on how to get there using public transportation if you are new to the city and don’t have a car.

  1. The Getty Center
Photo by Ludovic Charlet on Unsplash

The Getty Museum houses one of the most impressive collections of American and European art and sculptures in all of California.  It is celebrated not only for its art but also for its beautiful gardens and view overlooking downtown Los Angeles.  To get to the Getty from USC, one can take the Expo Line from USC to the Santa Monica Station and then board bus 234 to the Getty Center.

2. Griffith Park

Griffith Park hosts a variety of fun activities, most of which are free of charge.  The Griffith Observatory overlooks the entire city of Los Angeles, has live shows, one of the best public telescopes on the West Coast, views of the Hollywood sign, and much more. From USC, you can take Bus 204 to the DASH Observatory Bus to get there.

3. Santa Monica Pier

Photo by Matthew LeJune on Unsplash

The Santa Monica Pier is the pinnacle of Southern California beach culture and a must-visit location as a USC student.  The pier has a small amusement park, a variety of shops and restaurants, and a strong street culture presence.  To get to Santa Monica Pier from USC, board the Expo Line and ride it to the end of the line.

4. Pink’s

Pink’s is an iconic hot dog restaurant near Melrose Avenue that has existed since 1939.  Pink’s has been featured in movies, TV shows, and books.  Pink’s is a Treasure of Los Angeles and serves over fifty-thousand pounds of hot dogs per year.  To get to Pink’s from USC, you can take Bus 200 to Bus 10.


Photo by Joe Byrnes on Unsplash

As the second museum to make this list, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has just as much to offer as The Getty. You can take trendy pictures in the Urban Light exhibit, look at the large collection of art, or walk the sculpture gardens.  From USC, you can take Bus 204 to Bus 20 to get there.

6. El Porto Beach

As the last beach on this list, El Porto is a classic Southern California beach town with mom-and-pop shops, beautiful waves, and a long sandy shore.  The water stays warm from summer to mid-October and the surf can get as high as 7-8 feet.  To get to El Porto, you can take Bus 102 to Beach Cities Transit 109 Southbound.

7. Olvera Street

Photo by Kind and Curious on Unsplash

Olvera Street is a historic street in Los Angeles serving Mexican-American food.  There are also museums, murals, outdoor cafes, traditional dancers, and more.  Go to Olvera Street for the street food, and stay for the culture.  You can get to Olvera Street by taking Bus 204 to Bus 733.

8. Pantages Theater

The Pantages Theater is situated in the heart of Hollywood near other iconic attractions such as the Avenue of Stars and the Hollywood Palladium. The theater has one stage and only plays one show at a time, but is analogous to New York’s Broadway theaters. From USC, you can take Bus 200 to the Metro Red Line to get to the theater.

Even if you only make it to one of these destinations during your time at USC, it is so worth it. Los Angeles is a remarkable city full of culture and excitement, and I hope you enjoy exploring the city in your time at USC!

Featured Image by Sterling Davis on Unsplash

Jordan is a USC graduate who studied Political Economy and minored in Arabic. He was born in San Diego, CA and was raised in Orange County. Jordan loves learning about new cultures, interacting with people from every walk of life, and having new experiences. He is a native English speaker and is currently at the second level of Arabic. Jordan is a former student-athlete and participant in various organizations around campus including Undergraduate and Residential Student Governments. In his free time, Jordan runs long-distance and hikes.