People-Watching in Los Angeles

People-Watching in Los Angeles

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  1. People-watching is a favorite pastime for a lot of people for two main reasons: you never know what you’ll see when you make the effort, and it’s free. For me, the best people-watching places are those where social barriers are broken down. I enjoy going to places like Grand Central Market and the Fashion District (both in Downtown), but such places really only appeal to lower and middle classes. However, Los Angeles offers many venues where you’ll find folks from all walks of life.

    Sadly, a lot of people only consider people-watching as a recreation when it involves celebrities. I am not one of these, but for the sake of those who think the only people worth seeing in public are those who are rich and famous, I’ll start with a couple favorite locations to spot those who you worship.


    Celebrity Spotting                                                                                                                          You can run across famous people all over LA, but you’ll find the densest concentrations in the city’s wealthier areas, such as Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Air and Malibu. Head to the business district of any of these places and you’re likely to be knee-deep in celebrities. Two of the more popular places to find them is on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and on the beach in Malibu.


     Malibu’s beach is very narrow and runs between the ocean and the million dollar beach shanties along the coast. It is rather clique-ish and you may feel unwelcome if you stare too openly, but keep in mind that no private individual can own a beach in California, so don’t let those famous folks scare you off.


    Sighting Human Oddities                                                                                                             This is one of my favorite pastimes, and the two best and most obvious places for it are Venice Beach and Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Most of Venice Beach shuts down at night, but the Santa Monica Pier comes to life then, and is nearly as good for freak-spotting.


     Day or night, the Walk of Fame is bizarre, but it’s always liveliest on the weekends. Most of the odd people you will see are actors trying to portray famous movie characters, usually poorly. If you’re lucky, you will be on hand for one of the many Superman vs. Boba Fett or other characters squaring off over territorial rights. This may be the most entertaining thing you see there.


     Another good place to gawk at human oddities—but of another kind—is the Sunset Strip. As opposed to the wannabe hippies and actors you’ll find in Venice and Hollywood, the Sunset Strip attracts rockers, hipsters and a wide variety of wannabe musicians sporting colorful and/or strange clothing. Leather and spikes remain popular adornments, but the hipsters add a nice blend of strangeness.


    General People-Watching                                                                                                           To take in a blend of society’s strata in one place, there are too many options to list. Some of the more obvious venues are those located mid-city, such as Chinatown and Olvera Street in Downtown. Understandably, you will encounter a majority of people of the Asian variety at the former and those of a Latino persuasion at the latter, but you’ll find some good food at both.


      Universal City Walk is another good place for this. This location draws an interesting mix from the poor, to the trendy middle-class to hifalutin bigwigs flashing cash at every opportunity. The location also attracts a fair share of human oddities as well.


     Most people wouldn’t think of the LA Zoo as being a good place for people watching, but they are missing out. Especially on weekends and for special events, the zoo attracts a wide variety of characters from every social class—including a few you may not have considered. Wild animals in cages often attract semi-wild humans, their brethren, if you will. And even if the crowd is dull, there are always plenty of critters to look at. Of all the locations listed here, this is the only one where you’ll have to pay to get in (other than parking, which will always cost you all over the city).


    Farmer’s Market and The Grove draw in a varied crowd; you’re apt to see better dressed, groomed and smelling people in The Grove, but these neighboring locations both draw a wide variety of people, and celebrity-spotting is not uncommon, especially in The Grove.


     Lastly come the beaches, which only applies in the summer or any warm, sunny day that coincides with a weekend. Even in mid-winter, if it gets warm and sunny—which isn’t unusual—crowds swarm the beaches on weekends. This is a great place for people watching, especially if you want to see skin, and lots of it. One tip: if you see a couple together, it is unwise to spend too much time looking at one or the other. This often results in a bloody nose (from either the man or the woman). But if you want to see attractive and skimpily-clad people, this is the best place for it. And of all the beaches, Santa Monica and Malibu beaches are probably the best for gawkers to do their gawking.

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