What’s Your Los Angeles IQ?

Zoe Samuel

What is the biggest airport in Los Angeles?

LAX is the major airport in Los Angeles, situated a little to the south of Marina del Rey. It's the most significant transit hub in California, but like many airports, it is far from a happy place to spend much time. Still, you can get just about anywhere if you start there!

Why is the sea off Los Angeles surprisingly cold?

The Pacific has many delightful and warm beaches adjacent to shockingly cold water. Los Angeles is one such example, as the current has brought the water down from Alaska, and thus, it's much chillier than you'd expect. On a hot day, it's delightful, but swimming there in February is surprisingly unpleasant. Also watch out for the undertow at Santa Monica Beach, as it is quite strong!

If you went due west from LA, starting at Venice Beach, what is the first landmass you would hit?

We hope you didn't go halfway or indeed all the way across the ocean for this one! There are a few outlying islands off Los Angeles that are a protected wildlife preserve called the Channel Islands National Park. You can visit, but only to camp there briefly. If you go due west, keeping the Malibu coast on your right, these are the first landmass you'll reach.

There's a surprising Cold War relic at the top of Mandeville Canyon. What is it?

The Nike Missile Base was part of a chain of similar bases, put there to spot incoming Soviet missiles, in order to shoot them down. Fortunately, we never had to find out whether it would work, but it probably wouldn't. These days, there is a very nice hike along Mandeville Canyon that culminates at a defunct base, and you can climb up to the top for a splendid view!

Why was Santa Monica pier originally built?

Today, the pier is a small amusement park that often hosts a variety of concerts. It was not always thus, however. It was originally put there in 1909 to make sure that sewage pipes getting rid of treated sewage deposited it beyond the breakers. That way, it didn't end up on the beach! The pier was thus a great way of putting lipstick on a pig.

Do you know the name of an ancient geological site bang in the middle of West Hollywood?

The tar pits are a smelly, bubbly geographical phenomenon in Hancock Park. They are full of Pleistocene asphaltic fossils, from mammoths to direwolves to short-faced bears. They produce methane bubbles, so they can smell eggy and nasty, but they are certainly a fascinating place to visit, especially for the middle of a major city!

If you find a Sonoran Desert toad, what is it specifically illegal to do with it?

These frogs have a poisonous skin, but unlike some amphibians that will only kill you or make you feel sick, their poison also tends to make you hallucinate. Of course, once people found out about this, licking these poor toads became much more popular. However, they can actually make you very ill, from heart palpitations to muscle weakness. Plus, it's not polite to lick a toad without its permission, so don't!

Which of these notable Los Angeles comedy venues did NOT originally open in LA?

The Upright Citizens Brigade began in New York, when a number of the biggest comedians in the world—Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Matt Besser and Ian Roberts—got together to start their own comedy theater. It has an LA venue now and is one of the leading feeder schools into the comedy industry. Los Angeles' live comedy scene is particularly vibrant, and not one to miss!

Los Angeles live theater is a much bigger deal than visitors to the city know. Which of these is the largest venue?

Hollywood Pantages is the big daddy here, at a massive 2,700! Fred Kavli comes in next, at 1,800, while the Disney-owned El Capitan clocks in at 1,100, while Center Theatre Group's largest auditorium is a comparatively tame 317. All in, Los Angeles is home to plenty of Broadway-sized shows and some of the highest-quality theater in the world.

In what city were the Los Angeles Dodgers based before their move to their current home?

Baseball teams often move around quite a lot, and sometimes rebrand themselves, which is how you get names like "The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim". The Dodgers were a Brooklyn team originally, but moved to their current Los Angeles location in 1958. This means that NYC transplants to LA often adopt them as their new "home" team.

Which of these is NOT a Los Angeles sports team?

The Clippers and Lakers play basketball, and the Rams play football. There are, however, no Surfers. Los Angeles' sporting teams enjoy the benefit of a very large local market, meaning that they are well-funded and mostly do fairly well.

What do you have to watch out for after the first rain of the season?

LA rain comes in downpours, so it lurches from none at all to plenty, all at once! When one such downpour comes after the dry season, some of the water tends to sit on the roads for a while before draining off. It creates a slippery oil-and-water mix on the roads that is like driving on ice. This is the time to watch out for skidding cars, and be careful!

In 1992, riots swept across Los Angeles. What was the inciting incident?

LA resident Rodney King was pulled over by police in 1992 and beaten very badly for 15 solid minutes. He was a black man, and the officers involved were white. Unusually for the time, the incident was caught on video, and some officers watched and commented while others participated. King ended up with permanent brain damage, as well as suffering many broken bones and other injuries. This was upsetting to many in the community, understandably, and things came to a head when the officers most responsible were acquitted. Riots resulted, that spread like wildfire across the city.

What effect did the Walt Disney Concert Hall have on nearby sidewalks?

This shiny metal hall is a very comfortable temperature on the inside, but when it was first put up, its silver walls reflected so much light and heat that they overheated nearby pavements! Residents across the street also complained that the hall was blinding to look at. The building is still there, and still melting things.

Los Angeles is noted for its beaches, but what is its highest point above sea level?

There are plenty of hills and even mountains within the city limits, from the Santa Monica Mountains to the San Gabriel Mountains. The highest of them all is the 5,075-foot Mount Lukens, which is on the edge of the San Gabriel Mountains overlooking Pasadena. It's a beautiful place and not too difficult a hike to the top—if you're in good shape, you can probably do it.

From what did Beverly Hills High School generate $300,000 a year in revenue?

Believe it or not, but there is plenty of oil within the city limits of Los Angeles. Indeed, in the 1920s, the city was extracting a significant percentage of the world's oil! The "nodding donkeys" still nod here and there around the city, meaning Beverly Hills High School isn't the only place that made money from it. The derrick has now run dry, which is bad for the school budget but probably good for student health.

In what park will you find the Samuel Oschin Planetarium?

Griffith Observatory is home to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and in the middle of Griffith Park. Those who are hale and hearty may enjoy the pleasant hike to the observatory from the base of the hill, though others may prefer to drive there from the other side. You can also hike to just above Hollywood sign, though the sign itself is fenced off.

What sport is played by the Los Angeles Galaxy?

Soccer continues to grow in the United States, and LA Galaxy is one of its leading teams. Superstar Manchester United and Real Madrid player David Beckham even went there his stint in Spain! It was the final stop in his storied career, and he liked it so much that he is now president of a Miami soccer team.

What is the name of the enormous lake just south of Sherman Oaks?

Situated in prestigious Bel Air, the Stone Canyon Reservoir is possibly the best view in all of LA. It is a beautiful blue lake between the hills, and it's even near the 405 Freeway (but just the other side of the hill, so you can't hear it). There's a reason Disney boss Bob Iger has a garden that backs onto it!

Which of these is NOT a major university in Los Angeles?

University of California, Los Angeles, and University of Southern California are both in Los Angeles, of course, as is the fancy California Institute of Technology, which is in Pasadena. UCSD, of course, is in San Diego. There are a lot of students in LA, making it a great place to be a young person.

Can you name the commercial segment of a particular boulevard that connects Doheny Drive and Crescent Heights?

The Sunset Strip is a short segment of the otherwise very long Sunset Boulevard, which actually goes all the way to the ocean some miles to the west. The Strip is home to a number of great restaurants, as well as night clubs and boutique stores.

In which neighborhood would you find the Warner Brothers lot?

The studio lots aren't just where they make movies. They are also tourist attractions where you can take a tour and see where your favorite TV shows and movies are made. You also sometimes see all sorts of celebrities heading to and from meetings or even their own offices!

What is the area called on Hollywood Boulevard where you find stars on the ground?

Ten million people a year come to see the Walk of Fame, which stretches along a large portion of Hollywood Boulevard just outside the Kodak Theater where the Oscars are held. Some of the names honor stars who are no longer with us, but others are for newer stars. There has been some controversy about who gets a star and how they are maintained, and stars that belong to celebrities who have fallen out of public favor are often vandalized!

Los Angeles has some of the nicest weather in the world. What's the average January high?

Los Angeles weather is very rarely chilly, and while it is often a little too hot, it is very rarely extremely unpleasant for more than a few days. Best of all, because it is near the desert, the humidity is always low and the air cools down at night. This means it can be 100F at noon but pleasant to walk the dog by 6 p.m.!

Other than making movies and TV, in which industry is Los Angeles a national leader?

The port of Los Angeles is the largest on the West Coast, and simply enormous. It covers 7,500 acres, just under a half of which is land. It's the single most important port on the Pacific seaboard, and it claims that almost 10 million containers a year pass through it!

Who are the Big Four in Los Angeles?

The Big Four are ICM, UTA, CAA and WME. The latter comes from the merger of William Morris and Endeavor Agency. These four represent many of your favorite stars, as well as directors, designers and producers you've never heard of, but whose work you may know. The big agencies are like octopi at the center of the industry, handling contracts and "packaging" talent together to make movie magic possible!

Can you name the neighborhood directly west of Beverly Hills?

Bel Air is just as nice as Beverly Hills, but not as famous. It's a highly affluent neighborhood for more discreet souls who want to be more invisible to the hoi polloi, as much of it is found down twisting and narrow canyons. It's a good place to spot a celebrity who really wasn't expecting to be spotted.

Which new and shockingly fast-growing content creator is at Sunset and North Van Ness?

Netflix was founded in 1997 and began as a DVD subscription service that would mail you your favorite movie overnight. The company always anticipated that eventually, the internet would have the capacity to stream content directly, however, and it soon morphed into the massive content streamer and creator it is today.

What is the famous movie theater where many stars have left an impression of their hands in cement?

This movie theater opened in 1927 at 6925 Hollywood Blvd, and was originally called Grauman's Chinese. It is now called TCL Chinese, but locals still know it by the original name. Outside the theater, you can see indentations where celebrities' handprints are immortalized in wet cement.

Which freeway would you take to get from Downtown to Santa Monica?

The freeway system in Los Angeles is a truly labyrinthine concoction, and it is a special kind of hell that often devolves into a parking lot. Still, you don't have much choice about using it when you're there unless you are very fortunate in the location of your home and workplace. Some are slightly less bad than others, but none is a nice place to spend your time!

In what geographical feature do you find the narrow roads that connect the San Fernando Valley with Hollywood?

The canyons are a wonderful feature of Los Angeles that gets little attention outside the city. You can hike into canyons like Franklin, Mandeville and Topanga, and feel like you are a hundred miles from anyone. More popular parks like Runyon Canyon are less private, but even they can give a person a sense of liberation from the city—and because it is LA, the weather is nearly always nice. However, do not get complacent. Some of the hikes in the canyons are incredibly difficult, so do check a trail before you set out!

Do you know the name of the big art museum that overlooks the 405 Freeway?

The Getty Museum is a beautiful campus that shows what can be done with concrete when a truly world-class imagination is unleashed. Everything about it is peaceful and pleasant, and even though it overlooks a freeway, you can barely hear it thanks to clever design and plenty of delightful bubbling fountains. It even has a rather marvelous art collection inside!

If you want a fast-food burger made by someone who was paid a living wage, where can you go in Los Angeles?

In 'N' Out Burger was founded in Los Angeles' own Baldwin Park in 1948 by the Snyders, Esther and Harry. Unlike some fast-food chains, this burger chain made a point of paying above the minimum wage and emphasizing personal relationships and actually owning the buildings into which it expanded. It's one of the chains you can visit without worrying that you're participating in the exploitation of a fellow worker!

What did the Hollywood sign say when it was first put up?

Hollywoodland was a development of new homes, and the sign was put up in 1923 to tell people that this was a magical and desirable place to live. The film industry had kicked off just a few years earlier. The sign fell into disuse in the 1960s, but was revamped in the '70s and remains one of the city's leading tourist attractions.

Which street in West Hollywood is noted for its fun vintage stores?

Melrose Avenue is a long street that stretches the whole way across Hollywood, and much of it is filled with charming little vintage and boutique stores, offering clothing and furnishings. It is also home to Melrose Trading Post, an open-air market that pops up on Sundays and has all sorts of vendors, from clothes to jewelry, to furniture to interior decor.

Los Angeles is all about the cutting edge, but when was it founded?

Los Angeles was born as "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles del Río Porciúncula", meaning "the town of our lady, Queen of Angels, on the Porciúncula River". It didn't become a very large city until the last hundred years. The Porciúncula is now known as the Los Angeles River, and is mostly channelized along its lengths.

Can you name the 5800-seat open-air amphitheater in Griffith Park?

This venue is the property of the city of LA, though it is operated by entertainment company SMG. It was founded in 1930 and has hosted some of the biggest celebrities of the last century, from comedians to rock stars to everything in between.

There's a partly open-air shopping center opposite Pan Pacific Park. What is it called?

Some say that the Grove is very tacky, but others say it is delightful—and many say that it is both. It only opened in 2002 but has become a very popular place to shop, see a movie, and just enjoy the surroundings (fake grass included!)

There's an area in LA that is a tent city almost a square mile in size. What is it called?

The name of "Skid Row" comes from logging, where greased skids were used to help transport logs. LA's Skid Row is estimated to contain an amazing 3% of the country's entire homeless population! It was created by a combination of high rents, plus aggressive police policies including a version of "broken windows" theory, as well as simply being a product of Southern California's weather. It's also partly that LA is somewhere many people simply pass through and then have no nearby family to catch them before they slip through the cracks. It is not as dangerous as it is seen to be, as most residents are harmless folks who happen to need a little help.

Founded in 1963 in a Victorian mansion, what secretive club can you only visit by invitation?

The Magic Castle is a Los Angeles club for magicians. You can pay to visit it or go to see a show there, and enjoy a relatively intimate setting with the world's finest wizards. Only if you are a member can you see the hidden treasures and learn the secrets of the craft!

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About This Quiz

Los Angeles is a city of dramatic upsides and downsides. It has delightful weather, which is rarely very hot, never very cold,  and never sticky. It enjoys beautiful scenery, from the gorgeous Santa Monica Mountains to the magical sapphire shades of the Pacific Ocean. It enjoys one of the most vibrant job markets in the world, with opportunities not just in entertainment, but also in fields as diverse as biosciences, venture capital and fashion. It's in one of the most progressive states in the country, meaning the safety net is starting to improve and the city is starting to go fully renewable, which means the city will be increasingly clean over time. It's diverse, tolerant, and exciting—and despite a lot of quite terrible architecture, there is wonderful culture hidden in plain sight, all over the city.

However, LA also suffers from the worst—and arguably most non-existent—transport network in the world. It also has very high rents, mostly because the city's neighborhoods resolutely refuse to upzone areas to allow denser construction, thus contributing to a short supply of housing and the very same urban sprawl that causes the traffic nightmare! High rents also contribute to severe homelessness, exacerbated by the pleasant climate, as well as great income inequality.

Loving a city like this means taking the good with the bad, and being grateful for the former while working to improve the latter. That means you have to truly know the city to appreciate it, warts and all. Can your brain handle everything that Los Angeles has to offer?

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