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.
Los Angeles is home to some of the most diverse cuisines in the world. From Italian to Chinese to Mexican to Thai food, this city offers a wide variety of foods that would be hard to find in such abundance in other American or even international cities. Despite the pandemic’s limitations on indoor and some outdoor dining, many restaurants still offer takeout or delivery services. Not only do these services help keep small businesses afloat, but they can also provide a much-needed alternative to cooking at home all of the time. Here are a few restaurants in the LA area that are beloved by many of the city’s residents.
Ji Rong Peking Duck
Located in Rosemead, Ji Rong Peking Duck is an upscale Chinese restaurant specializing in Peking duck. While it is about a 20 minute drive from USC, it is considered by many customers to have the best Peking duck in LA. This famous dish requires ordering an hour in advance. Some of their other popular items include lamb skewers, crispy walnut shrimp, stewed pork belly, beef rolls, meat pies, and green bean jelly. They are now offering both delivery and takeout.
Located in several places in LA County, Tender Greens offers modern American food that is relatively health-conscious. They are known for their hot plates, salads, and sandwiches. The plates are easily customizable, giving you a choice of protein, greens, and a side. Recently, they have also added a brunch and family meals section to their menu. During the pandemic, they have begun to offer outdoor dining and pickup.
Close to USC’s campus, Chichen Itza is a family-owned Mexican restaurant specializing in Yucatecan food. They are known for serving many traditional dishes such as Cochinita Pibil, Tamales, and Panuchos. The establishment has frequently made L.A. Weekly’s list of top 99 restaurants in Los Angeles, and customers continue to come back for their delicious dishes. Currently, they offer outdoor dining, delivery, and takeout.
Urth Caffe is a popular European-style breakfast/brunch spot with multiple locations in LA County. Focused on sustainability and local ingredients, the establishment roasts its own organic coffee and blends its own teas. They offer a wide variety of menu items, including sandwiches, paninis, pizzas, salads, omelets, and desserts. One of my favorite dishes is their Mediterranean platter, which is a sampler plate of hummus, pearl couscous tabouli, roasted peppers, feta cheese, and dolma. They are currently open for outdoor dining, delivery, and takeout.
Zui Xiang Yuan
A small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Alhambra, Zui Xiang Yuan has a nice variety of relatively simple Chinese dishes. Famous for their dumplings and noodles, the establishment offers beef noodle soup, dan dan noodles, meat pies, pan-fried buns, and steamed buns. Compared to other restaurants with similar menus in the San Gabriel Valley, Zui Xiang Yuan stands out for its delicious and authentic take on southern Chinese food. Currently, they are open for takeout.
Oh My Pan Bakery & Café
Oh My Pan is an Asian-style bakery in San Gabriel that offers a variety of drinks, breads, and cakes. They offer many types of tea, milk tea, slush, and frosted milk with syrups made of fresh fruit. Their breads are made of Japanese flour, resulting in a soft and fluffy texture. Some of my favorite items are the taro with buttercream bun and the matcha mochi with buttercream bun. They are open for pickup.
Hopefully, some of these restaurants sounded appealing to you and you will go and try them for yourself! If you have any other LA restaurant recommendations that you simply can’t stop raving about, consider sending in a blog post submission to the American Language Institute describing your experience. You can submit a blog post or get more information on submitting a post by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah is a recent graduate who majored in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She was born in the Los Angeles area and has lived there much of her life. In addition to English, she has some background in Mandarin Chinese, French, and basic German. In her free time, she likes reading, listening to music, photography, and cooking. Sarah went to Beijing last summer and experienced having one-on-one conversations with other local students learning English. She hopes to continue improving her Chinese and French and is interested in teaching English as a foreign language someday.
Do you enjoy delicious Mexican food? If your answer is yes, I have a recommendation for you! Due to its location near the USC campus, Chichen Itza is a popular spot for students and community members to pick up a bite to eat. They serve a variety of dishes from tamales, tacos, soups, tortas, appetizers, and more! It is one of my favorite places to eat around USC, and a great spot to go to if you are looking for a new place to eat during quarantine.
First and foremost, the restaurant is located in Mercado La Paloma – a local business hub of the Figueroa corridor that supports business ownership opportunities and living wages for members of our community. There are many restaurants and businesses similar to Chichen Itza, as well as non-profit offices, a health office, and a range of affordable meeting rooms and community spaces. They frequently host art and music-centered events, film showings, and open mic nights as well, giving the community a forum and a place for local interaction. The market takes pride in the quality of their goods and services and are proud to serve the community with the goal of achieving economic and environmental justice while fostering community engagement and exchange of culture. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurants and shops are only open for takeout or delivery. Don’t miss the chance to check out the market!
The cuisine served at Chichen Itza comes from Yucatan, a region in the south of Mexico known for its fresh chili peppers, cilantro, and oregano as well as achiote. Their menu is expansive and definitely contains something for everyone! They take pride in their ingredients and use house-made meats and handmade corn tortillas. These ingredients are staples of Mexican street cuisine and a vital part of serving a delicious Yucatan dish. Many of the marinades and preparation techniques come from the Yucatan region, providing flavors and ingredients that aren’t commonly seen on restaurant menus. Each dish comes with a few options for fillings, cooking techniques, and salsas. I recommend the cochinita pibil (banana leaf-wrapped slow-roasted pork) and the pollo asado (roasted chicken) on any dish. If you’re struggling to find something to order, you can’t go wrong with tamales – arguably the most famous Mexican street food.