Known as the “City of Angels” since being settled by Spanish soldiers and priests, Los Angeles was originally part of Mexico.
Now a world center of business, international trade, entertainment, culture, media, fashion, science, technology and education, the city offers many diversions for faith-based travelers.
Religious Attractions in Los Angeles
California’s 21 Spanish missions represent the first major effort by Europeans to colonize the Pacific Coast. The fourth mission, Mission San Gabriel Arcángel in San Gabriel, is one of two in the Los Angeles area. Here, colonizers introduced various fruits and vegetables to the West Coast. An on-site museum offers exhibits of the mission’s history. The 19th mission, Mission San Fernando Rey de España in Mission Hills, was founded in 1797 and named after St. Ferdinand, the King of Spain in the 11th century.
Wayfarers Chapel was designed by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright, in 1951. The glass-encased chapel is located in Rancho Palos Verdes, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is known as a “tree chapel” because it is a natural sanctuary in the midst of a forest.
The Old Plaza Church, also known as La Iglesia de Nuestra Señorla Reina de los Angeles, is located in downtown Los Angeles. It is by Olivera Street, full of traditional Hispanic fiestas and historic buildings. The Old Plaza, founded in 1814, was a church for refugees, housing many escaping to America.
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, also known as the Los Angeles Cathedral, is the largest archdiocese in the country and is located in the downtown area. It is built on over five acres and has a capacity of 3,000. Bronze doors and a Virgin Mary statue adorn the entrance.
Many Los Angeles churches offer replications of famous architectural styles. The First Baptist Church was designed with rose windows to resemble the cathedral in Chartres, France and includes a gold-leaf embossed ceiling, a replication of an Italian palace. St. Vincent de Paul Church offers an elaborate example of Colonial-style Mexican Baroque architecture. St. John’s Cathedral is a replication of an 11th century church in Toscania, Italy, with beautiful mosaics inside.
The Wilshire Boulevard Temple has an iconic dome inlaid with mosaics in a Byzantine Revival style. The interior walls are covered with Biblical and post-Biblical themes. A gallery contains exhibits explaining Jewish traditions.
St. Sophia Cathedral is designed with large-scale murals, stained-glass windows, gilded woodwork and crystal chandeliers. Intricate designs highlight the domed interior of this Greek Orthodox church.
In a part of downtown Los Angeles known as “Little Tokyo” lies Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple. The ornate temple, full of murals and Buddha statues, gives a taste of Eastern religion and philosophy. A wide flight of stairs leads to the entrance, where the blue-tiled ceiling has two dragons to protect the temple. Los Angeles is home to the greatest variety of Buddhists in the world.
Tourist Attractions in Los Angeles
Disneyland, the original park, is located in Anaheim, south of Los Angeles. Experience classic rides like Splash Mountain where riders get a picture taken as they descend the huge waterfall. Part of the Disneyland resort is Disney’s California Adventure Park, a separate park themed around Golden State landmarks and lifestyles. Ride California Screamin’ as the coaster loops around the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head, lighting it up at night. Everyday there is a parade and a reason to celebrate being a kid again.
While touring the production lots at Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, see the Bates Motel from Psycho, the wreckage of War of the Worlds and the newest addition: King-Kong 360 3-D. Check out the amusement park as well and ride Jurassic Park: The Ride, which features an 84-foot vertical raft plunge.
Stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, full of stars honoring famous entertainers. At Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the scene of many film premieres, see the stars’ footprints. Bordering the city is Mulholland Drive and Laurel Canyon Drive, where celebrities live on scenic roads.
Venice, in the Westside district of Los Angeles, is known for its canals, beaches and carnival-like Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half mile, pedestrian-only promenade that features performers, fortune-tellers, artists and vendors. Nearby is Santa Monica Beach.
Griffith Park offers over 50 miles of hiking trails. Also check out the Griffith Observatory and Planetarium. In the evenings, concerts under the stars are offered at the Greek Theatre.
Take a ride up some of Los Angeles’ hills to reach the Getty Center, one of 841 museums and art galleries in Los Angeles. The Getty offers a collection of art, free to the public, plus beautiful gardens and breathtaking views of Los Angeles.
Popular Sightseeing Tours in La-La Land
Get to know Los Angeles firsthand through the “Amazing L.A. Race” tour, like the reality series, where tourists race from one clue to another towards a mysterious final destination.
Red Carpet Tours offer private luxury tours that cover the Los Angeles music scene, murders and mysteries in the city, downtown Los Angeles and celebrity homes.
Explore the beaches that line the shores of California with “Extranomical Tours’ Beach Lovers Escape Tour.” Check out Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier and Will Rogers State Park in a single tour. There are also boat tours at Los Angeles Harbor that will take visitors along the shores of Southern California.
Other Hollywood tour options include a studio tour at Warner Bros., NBC, Paramount or Sony Pictures. For a look into lifestyles of the rich and famous, hook up with Beverly Hills Trolley Tours or Celebrity Helicopter or be a part of a live studio audience for shows like Ellen and Conan.
Fun and Friendly Festivals in Los Angeles
The Calabasas Pumpkin Festival every October in Calabasas, just north of Los Angeles, brings more to this event that just pumpkins. Live bands, contests, reptile and wildlife shows, carnival games, foods and crafts are offered in addition to pumpkins and pumpkin treats.
Celebrate the earth through the Pasadena Earth and Arts Festival in April. The festival features ways to help the planet stay healthy and promotes the practice of sharing and minimizing resources.
See celebrities at the Academy Awards Ceremony every March at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. Come watch as Hollywood’s stars walk the red carpet.
At Point Fermin Park in San Pedro, Shakespeare by the Sea features
free performances of Shakespeare’s classics on weekend evenings in June. Another Shakespeare festival is at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in October. Shakespeare plays are accompanied with picnics each weekend at this open-air botanical theater.
Every Thursday evening in July is the Twilight Dance Series at Santa Monica Pier for dancing to live jazz and blues music. In August at Surf Fest, visitors watch Australians compete with Americans in surfing, volleyball and other beach activities at Manhattan, Redondo and Hermosa beaches in the South Bay area.
With Los Angeles being the second biggest city in this country, it’s no wonder there is always an event, performance or something to do. The spiritual traveler will discover a bounty of religious attractions and entertainment options.
–By Hannah Grossman