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LA Tips: Where to Find the City's Real Stars

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Today we welcome our fabulous Los Angeles guide Sheila who's here to tell us that there's more to LA than Hollywood! With her anthropology background, Sheila's tours tend to focus on some of the many cultures (and sub-cultures) that Los Angeles has to offer.

The Best of Los Angeles: A Local's Perspective

Hi - I'm Sheila and, while not a native Angelino, I've lived here over 45 years so this is definitely my home. I became a ToursByLocals guide last summer so I could introduce people to the real Los Angeles. I want to dispel the LA stereotypes. Although they certainly exist, this wonderful city is so much more than stars and actor wannabes!

Los Angeles is full of diversity - we have many ethnic enclaves (Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Thai Town, and more), but mostly we're all just jumbled together all over the city. And our weather is nothing short of incredible.

We've got first-class chefs, of course, but you don't need to pay a fortune for a great meal. Naturally, our Mexican food is first-rate, but there's also got great Indian, Thai, Ethiopian, Korean, Persian, Armenian, Filipino, Chinese, and just about any other type of restaurants you can imagine. We are fortunate to live where we have access to locally-grown fresh fruit and veggies all year round. Just stop by any of our farmer markets to see what I mean. There is a thriving food truck scene too.

It would be impossible to choose a favorite restaurant, but I'd have to say one of the best is Casablanca on Lincoln in Venice. The name comes from the classic Humphrey Bogart movie but the food is Mexican, not Moroccan. The owner has one of the largest collections of Casablanca memorabilia in the world and a lot of it is on display. But, believe me, the food is NOT an afterthought. They're (rightly) famous for their calamari steaks - lightly fried discs of squid with various sauces or toppings. (Go for the salsa fresca!) There is a woman making fresh flour tortillas so light they nearly float off your plate. Dip them into the mild green salsa with avocado and soft cheese chunks. Most evenings and weekends, there's a margarita cart with a bartender who will customize your perfect drink. They have over 250 tequilas to choose from, but my favorite margarita has smoky mescal with a chili tequila float on top. (Please note - these margaritas aren't from a mix like what you find at most chain restaurants. While absolutely delicious, they are decidedly deadly. You have been warned.) Often there is live guitar music, which adds to the atmosphere, but isn't so loud you can't have a conversation with your friends. A perfect accompaniment to the delicious food!

One of my favorite places to go for memorable photos (not to mention a fantastic time!) is the Griffith Observatory. Not only is the Art Deco fa├žade beautiful, the inside is full of fascinating science exhibits. If you're looking for a great place for that mandatory shot of the Hollywood Sign, this is one of the best places to get it. But be sure to go downstairs for another great selfie opportunity with Einstein's statue. If you're there as the sun is going down, the sky will be gorgeous and you can do the whole 'City of Stars' photo from the Observatory's roof with the glittering lights of downtown in the background.

Come visit Los Angeles and be surprised by the diversity that's on offer!

Heading to Los Angeles in 2019? Make sure you get in touch with Sheila so you don't miss out on all this amazing city has to offer.
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