A city frequently seen on the big screen, Los Angeles is always represented but often misunderstood. This city by the sea is an eclectic mix of geography, food, people, and scenes. If you can get past the initial shock of traffic and the smog-filled horizon – which makes for beautiful sunsets by the way – then you may never want to leave. As a native Angeleno, I am excited to introduce you to my beautiful and dynamic city.

Over the next few months, I look forward to helping you prepare for the NAFSA 2017 Annual Conference & Expo in Los Angeles, California. My hope is for your stay to be enjoyable, but ultimately, my goal is to convert you into an L.A. enthusiast. I will start by introducing you to the conference venue, and as the weeks go by, I will offer tips for how to take full advantage of this marvelous city.  

Conference Location: L.A. Convention Center

The NAFSA 2017 Annual Conference & Expo will take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC), located in downtown Los Angeles. NAFSA 2017 conference attendees will count among the 2 million people who visit the LACC each year. The convention center hosts 350 events annually, which is no surprise given the 720,000 square-feet of exhibit hall space and 147,000 square-feet of meeting space.

The venue shares the local area with the Staples Center, known for housing the basketball teams of Los Angeles, the L.A. Lakers and the L.A. Clippers, as well as the city’s hockey team, the L.A. Kings. For the musically inclined, the Staples Center is known as a concert venue, recently hosting the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. L.A. Live is just a reach away from both venues – a commercial area made up of theatres, restaurants, hotels, and outdoor event space. Conference attendees can expect to witness the intersection of music, sports, and entertainment surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Highlights of Downtown L.A.

In the last decade alone, downtown Los Angeles has experienced a wave of commercial revitalization, creating a unique contrast between the historic neighborhoods and new businesses of recent years.

Let’s take a quick look at each of the major neighborhoods in downtown L.A.:

  • Arts District: An area where visitors can find popular restaurants and breweries on the same block.
  • Little Tokyo: Visit the Japanese American National Museum to learn about the historic and cultural forces that shaped this neighborhood.
  • Bunker Hill and Grand Avenue: In this area, take in the stunning architecture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and the Los Angeles Central Library.
  • Chinatown: The nostalgic feel of this neighborhood might drive you to buy a gift from one of the souvenir shops or antique stores.
  • Civic Center: Make your way to this district to access the 360-degree view of Los Angeles from City Hall.
  • Fashion District: The narrow streets and alleys where locals buy apparel and party supplies at a bargain price.
  • Figueroa Corridor: Football fans may refer to this area as the home of the Trojans, since it houses the University of Southern California.
  • Flower District: Event planners and retail florists visit the wholesale flower market to beautify their events and stores.
  • Gallery Row: The gallery- and museum-filled streets make it the ideal place to host the Downtown Art Walk each month.
  • Historic Downtown: Tour the Bradbury Building to discover the oldest commercial building in central Los Angeles.
  • Jewelry District: Newly engaged couples stroll through the 5,000 retail and wholesale jewelry shops to find the perfect ring.
  • Olvera Street at Historic El Pueblo: The birthplace of L.A., this charming area is accessible from Union Station to visit the Mexican-style neighborhood and early 19th-century buildings.
  • South Park: NAFSA 2017 attendees will consider this neighborhood their home after spending several days at the L.A. Convention Center.  
  • Wholesale District: Services in this area focus on addressing the most pressing public health concerns of downtown L.A.

Visit www.downtownla.com if you are interested in learning more about the neighborhoods of downtown L.A.

Weather and Geography of Los Angeles

Los Angeles is one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. As such, it is a hub for entertainment, food, shopping, academia, media, and the arts. However, it is not only an urban setting. The year-round warm temperatures and sunshine make it ideal for visiting the ocean, or the surrounding mountains, any time of year. The average highs in late May and early June are in the upper-70s. Undoubtedly, the great weather is conducive to exploring all facets of L.A.

Don’t Forget!

Registration for the NAFSA 2017 Annual Conference & Expo in Los Angeles, California, opens on March 1, 2017. To benefit from the early-bird discount, NAFSA must receive your registration form by April 14, 2017. Online registration closes on June 2, 2017.

Kelly Zuniga is J-1 exchange visitor counselor at the University of California-Los Angeles and the Local Arrangements Team (LAT) communications chair for the NAFSA 2017 Annual Conference & Expo.