The summer leading up to my first year at USC, I remember planning out all of the exciting things I would do once I arrived in Los Angeles. Alongside attending an amazing university, I was excited about getting to experience all of the exciting culture and character of LA as a USC student for the next four years. While some of my time in LA has unfortunately been spent during the Covid-19 pandemic, I am lucky to have gotten to see and do some pretty amazing things before the pandemic began or when LA county deemed it safe for certain attractions and activities to reopen. As an avid music lover, one of my favorite pastimes is going to live concerts. Luckily, there is always amazing talent performing in LA at any given time. Here are a few of my favorite concert-going experiences of the past couple years.
My first real concert experience in LA was in October 2019, when I saved up money to see Lana Del Rey perform at the Hollywood Bowl around the time of my 19th birthday. Lana Del Rey is one of my absolute favorite artists who I’ve been listening to since I was in middle school, so when I found out she would be performing in LA the week of my birthday I knew I had to get a ticket. I took the Metro with a friend to Hollywood and we walked to the Hollywood Bowl from there. We found our seats and even though they were about 250 rows back, I was so excited to be there I didn’t care. Lana sang a few songs from her earlier records, but mostly performed songs from her latest album at the time, Norman F****** Rockwell. Her voice was just as effervescent and melodic in person as it is on her albums, and the venue added an especially awesome ambience as it was outdoors and the Hollywood sign was glowing in the background nestled amongst the Hollywood hills. Beyond that, another exciting aspect of seeing concerts in LA is that, because so many celebrities live here, artists will sometimes bring other musicians they have collaborated with on stage with them! At this concert, Lana Del Rey also sang with Jesse Rutherford of The Neighbourhood (one of my favorite bands!) and Zella Day.
One of my favorite concerts I have been to is one I went to this past September—Glass Animals. Glass Animals is an indie rock band from the UK who has most recently been known for their single “Heat Waves” from their 2020 album Dreamland. I’ve been a fan of Glass Animals since high school, and particularly love their debut studio album Zaba, which has a sound I would describe as tropical-cool and mysterious. The band performed songs off of all of their albums during this concert, which was held outside at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which is definitely one of the more unique venues I’ve been to and added a great ambience. I got lucky for this concert as Glass Animals performed two concerts in LA that weekend and I attended the second one on a Sunday, so the crowd wasn’t quite as big and I was able to get only three rows back from the stage! Lead singer Dave Bayley was one of the best performers I’ve seen yet, interacting with the crowd and dancing to the music throughout the show. The live performance definitely added an element to the music that I hadn’t seen before.
One of my favorite ways to explore a new city is by taking a deep dive on Yelp and trying out as many food places as my bank account allows for. From frequenting late-night taco stands to celebrating the end of midterms with Korean BBQ, exploring the LA food scene has been a major highlight of my college experience. Since the start of my time at USC, I’ve been avidly documenting my favorite dining experiences in a list on my phone’s Notes app. I wanted to share a few highlights from this list:
Yeastie Boys Bagels: If you’re like me and you love grabbing a good old fashioned bagel for brunch, this place is for you. The bagel trucks are located on Sunset Blvd, Ventura Pl, and Melrose Pl between the hours of 8 A.M. and 2 P.M. I promise this one’s worth getting out of bed for. From what I’ve seen, the two most popular orders are the “Game Over” (consists of a cheddar bagel with scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato, and jalapeno spread), and my personal favorite, the “Lox Deluxe” (consists of a sesame bagel with smoked salmon, tomato, red onion, capers, and a scallion spread). Be sure to check out their Twitter for updates on hours and location!
Joan’s on Third: Although a bit far from campus, this family-owned space has a short rib sandwich that is to DIE for! I had been hearing about Joan’s for months before I stopped by, and let me just say that it truly lived up to my expectations. During the pandemic, Joan’s had a great to-go order system set up with plenty of outdoor seating as well. Besides the short rib sandwich, other popular items from their menu include the Chinese chicken salad and BLT.
Every once in a while, a brief trip away from the bustle of metropolitan LA can be a much-needed respite for a USC student. While there are plenty of things to do in the city, there are just as many day trips one can take in the surrounding areas. Going for a hike or bike ride in some different scenery can be a refreshing and inexpensive option for weekends when you would like to spend some time away from campus. I have listed below some of my favorite hikes and nature expeditions you can take in the LA area that will make it feel like you are visiting a place far from the city!
One of the more popular places to hike in the LA area is the Sturtevant Falls trail. Located in the Santa Anita Canyon, this approximately 3.5-mile hike is frequently crowded with Angelinos, and follows a steep descent into a lush valley that ends in a spectacular waterfall. There are several other side trails that branch off from the sometimes overly busy path, such as the Upper Winter Creek Trail, which leads into a very dense, green forest that hardly feels as if it were only half an hour from downtown LA.
Another slightly further destination is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, which hosts large fields of the state’s flower each spring. This reserve is located about an hour and half away from USC, a few miles outside of Lancaster. Often crowded during peak season, it is highly advisable to visit the poppies early in the morning before parking gets too full. Another tip: bring an extra layer even when the temperature is high, as it gets particularly windy at this spot.
Perhaps my favorite outdoor destination to visit in the area around LA is the Malibu Creek State Park, which is nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains. This park is filled with miles of beautiful trails, and was also the sight for various feature films, including the MASH series. The Yearling Trail, which starts from Reagan Ranch and leads to Century Lake, is a gentle 4-mile hike that leads through green fields, a Redwood forest, and ends with a glimpse of the Century Lake dam. It is a personal favorite of mine that can be accessed all-year round.