A graduate’s bucket list for Los Angeles

Being sick is the worst. Instead of frolicking in the sunshine last weekend (c’est la vie, USC Springfest 2014 and CicLAvia), I was in bed, with only a copious amount of Kleenex and my Netflix account for comfort. That left me with plenty of time to troll the Internet and write a lot of whiny 140-character posts on Twitter, where, incidentally, I happened to come across a tweet about an L.A. bucket list.

The article that the tweet linked to listed the heavy hitters in the city, the kind of landmarks that are great to see if you’re green behind the ears here.

Because I’m getting ready to accept my diploma (40 days and counting), I think the idea of making my own personalized bucket list resonated. So, stuck in my room, I started dreaming about the places that I want to return to before embarking on the Wild West that is graduation. And, since I didn’t go anywhere more exciting than Fresh & Easy this weekend, I thought I’d share the top five items on my list with you:

Thrifting on York Boulevard

I wrote about this street in Highland Park before, back when I had no idea what York Boulevard was, or that it was the new Echo Park, which was then being dubbed the new Silver Lake. At the time, I barely knew what Silver Lake was. But I soon learned that Highland Park was becoming an affordable frontier for the socially conscious and trendy, the people who were trying to get away from the constantly rising rent that had already hit Silver Lake and was starting to pervade the prime real estate in Echo Park.

To write the article, I spent a wonderful week tramping up and down Avenues 50 to 52, poking my nose into the small boutiques. If my eyes were Pinterest, I internally hearted enough items to furnish a large house. You can also have your cake and eat it too on York Boulevard, as the food there is as good as the shopping.

Midnight at the Santa Monica Pier

I know, almost everyone reading this has “done” Santa Monica. It’s a “thing,” and a good one at that. But not as many have come late at night, when the crowds have finally emptied, and the distinctive taste of tourist has dissipated from the air. Then the beauty of the area really comes into focus. Go on a warm night, bring a blanket and an iPod and find somewhere to park your car (good luck). If you stay late enough, the lights on the ferris wheel actually do turn off, and then you’re left alone, with only the stars and the surf for company. There’s not much more anyone can ask for.

Hollywood Farmers Market

I love farmers markets. I’m from Ventura and there’s something wonderful about driving the 101 through Camarillo, taking in the tilled rows of land, which stretch for miles. I love the smell of the earthy fertilizer. I love being able to buy just-picked produce on the side of the road (read: strawberries). The farmers markets here give me that sense of home and fresh food. I’ve made a point to visit as many farmers markets in Los Angeles as possible during my time here. The Hollywood one is my favorite. It’s so big and full of personality. The location, of course, adds its own sense of drama, as you’re literally buying oranges under the Hollywood sign. For me, it’s a Sunday must, complete with good grub, good music and good vibes.

Take a walk on West Third Street

No, not the Santa Monica one (though there’s plenty to do there, too). West Third Street is located between the Grove and the Beverly Center and is lined with independent boutique stores and restaurants. Stop for lunch at Joan’s on Third, poke your nose into Magnolia Bakery –— and try the banana pudding -— and then peruse the small independent boutiques and businesses. It’s walking-friendly and has a relaxed village atmosphere that will feel “so L.A.”

Griffith Observatory

Yes, I know, the Griffith Observatory is on every definitive list of Los Angeles attractions, but it holds that place for a good reason. When I imagine Los Angeles, I imagine the Griffith Observatory. Visiting it feels like walking on hallowed ground. Rebel Without a Cause filmed some of its most iconic scenes at the observatory, and whenever I go, I always flash back to that scene when Jim played by James Dean, and Plato played by Sal Mineo, struggle with the gun outside of the building. It’s a powerful scene, befitting of the flair of the architecture and setting it was shot in.

Somehow, the observatory manages to balance being a historic L.A. monument while also being a storied filming location. That ability to embody reality and fiction is what makes it a perfect fit for this city. Inside the observatory, Leonard Nimoy’s wonderfully deep voice narrates space and time. Outside, one has to consciously decide whether to look down at the city skyline or up at the cosmos. There’s nothing quite like it, and that’s why it is No. 1 on my bucket list. Los Angeles is for dreamers, and where better to be inspired here than in the place dedicated to the stars?


Jackie Mansky is a senior majoring in print and digital journalism. Her column, “City of Angels,” runs Tuesdays.