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.
The Getty Center
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
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.
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.
Sweating in the mid-afternoon air, me, my mom, and my sister all turned our necks from left to right to follow the huge and intimidating line wrapping around the base of the Eiffel Tower containing at least 500 people.
“Come on mom; let’s just wait in the line so we can go to the top,” my anxious sister whined.
“Sorry Olivia, but we have other plans and this wait time is ridiculous”.
This moment was the first time I had ever been to see the Eiffel Tower or visit Paris, and all three of us were disappointed about this line. The wait to go to the top seemed unbearable on this extremely hot Saturday afternoon, with the temperature being over ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Still not giving up, we went to one of the guides on the ground to ask how long the wait would actually take. Responding in English, but with a very thick French accent, he responded, “the wait to go to the top of the Tour the Eiffel is five hours for the elevator and three on the stairs.” Even though it took us a moment to understand what he said, we quickly figured out it would take us a while to get to the top.
Disappointed, we went to the riverfront to go on our highly-anticipated boat tour, and soon after we left Paris. About two weeks later, I returned to Paris with my brother, Collin, my dad, and my brother’s friend, Dan. Our plan to avoid the arduous wait that my mom, my sister, and I had encountered, we planned to go on a partly cloudy, chilly Tuesday morning right when it opened. We thought that arriving at a less “desirable” time would shorten the wait grandly. We arrived at the train station all the way from the wonderful Disneyland Paris in the town of Marne-la-Vallee about ten minutes after the ticket office opened. Once arriving at the base of the Eiffel Tower, we discovered that the approximate wait was 20 minutes. Compared to my last experience with this line, I was ecstatic.
As we were waiting, I wondered if the trouble we went through on the train and waking up at 6:30 a.m. was going to be worth it. I started thinking back to almost exactly one year ago in August when I went to the top of the Empire State Building. Going to the top cost a steep $28, when the ticket for the Eiffel Tower was only 7.50 Euros (equivalent to about $10). At this point in my life, I hadn’t had the opportunity to travel much, so I imagined that the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower would be about a third as nice, pretty, and exciting as the view from the Empire State building.
Once the four of us got to the front of the line at the Eiffel Tower, we walked onto the two-story elevator which would take us to the first and second floors. Then after the second floor, we took the final elevator to the top, a full 896 feet above French soil. These elevators were able to hold about fifty people and had two full stories. Once we got to the top, the view was sensational. All around us, the city of Paris contained practically infinite workers, students, and tourists. All of these people called the city home, tourist destination, or center of commerce. We saw Notre Dame, government buildings such as the Hotel de Ville, and classic landmarks such as the Place de la Concorde. We all took out our cameras, attempting to not just take a photograph, but capture a snapshot of the essence of what we were experiencing, hoping to cherish this wonderful moment. Although we captured great pictures, we would never be able to capture the strong wind blowing against our faces, the chilling air penetrating our jackets, and the sheer sense of altitude created by the alluring view from the top of this cloud breaker.
After staying up there and watching the city for about 20 minutes, we walked over to the elevator. Going down to the ground level again, we all had something new that we did not have when we first went up. Not only was the time at the top of this legendary structure absolutely stunning, we learned an important travel lesson. If there is a site that is very popular and you really want to see, chances are that many other people will be enthusiastic about visiting it too. But, with careful planning and a little patience, you may find yourself in a place that completely changes your perspective of how large and diverse our world really is.
Ross is a recent graduate who studied Mechanical Engineering at USC, with a specific interest in aeronautics and aviation. Born and raised in Massachusetts, he has had the opportunity to travel the world and experience what it is like to be an international student in countries such as Germany, Japan, and Argentina. Ross also has extensive experience in tutoring in different settings, from teaching math in middle schools to one-on-one English tutoring in a prison! He is familiar with the challenges that come with learning a new language, with experience studying Spanish, German, and Japanese. Ross’s hobbies include hiking, reading, and playing video games. He also has a very deep interest in cars. A fun fact about Ross is that he’s a licensed pilot! Always willing to try new things, Ross loves to travel and is eager to learn about different people’s backgrounds and stories.
Prior to 2020, during one of my spring semesters at USC as an undergraduate student, I studied abroad in Paris and it was a fully immersive experience. All of my classes were in French, the family I lived with was French, and wouldn’t you know it, quite a lot of people I passed on the streets were keen on speaking French. Those handful of months were wonderful. My teachers were all angels, the city was gorgeous, and although I had a relationship dynamic with my host family akin to Harry Potter’s relationship with the Dursleys, I’d say that overall I enjoyed my experience.
First of all, the city is gorgeous. Ridiculously so. I remember my first night there—awake since 5 am, taking a post-dinner trip to the Louvre, walking from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, and stopping mid-journey for wine and cheese. The mix of sleep deprivation, jet-lag, numbness from the cold, and walking nearly all day culminated into the sensation that I was drifting through a dream. I couldn’t have actually been there; it was all too much. I thought there was no way this tiny, ovular, romantic city was going to be my home for the next fifteen weeks.
But it was my home. Every weekday, I took the metro to class. Although admitting my adoration for the Paris Metro garnered weird looks from actual Parisians (mainly because of the general odor permeating the trains/platforms, as well as the occasional muzak cover of Ne Me Quitte Pas), I held strong that I loved the public transportation system. It was so efficient, arriving every 3 minutes, maybe 6 in the worst-case scenario (I understand that Los Angeles is a much larger, more car-based city, but I couldn’t help but notice how much more efficient the Paris Metro was than the LA one).