Before it became the teeming metropolis of Los Angeles, this area of California was home to the Tongva Indians. Forty-four non-native settlers arrived in 1781, led by Spanish explorer Juan Cabrillo. By some accounts, they founded the pueblo (town) as El Pueblo de la Reina de los Angeles, or The Village of the Queen of the Angels.

The area swung from Spain to Mexico to the U.S., who won California in 1848 in the Mexican-American War.

At first, the new City of Los Angeles had only a few thousand people and struggled to become as prestigious as New York or Chicago. Things turned around when the railroad companies started building and tourists flocked to the beautiful canyons and hills.

It wasn't just tourists attracted to the scenery. Big name movie studios like Paramount and Universal came to LA in the 1910s, sowing the seeds for the entertainment capital of the world. The warm climate meant chances to film all year long. Over the next century, thousands of budding movie stars migrated to LA hoping to make it big--including future-president Ronald Reagan in 1937.

Los Angeles is a diverse city. Hispanics make up almost half the population while African Americans and Asians are each a tenth. Reaching this point had its tough moments. Nineteen Chinese immigrants, drawn to LA by the gold rush and jobs building the railroad, were killed in 1871. More recently, tensions between police and the city's African-American residents led to riots in 1965 and again in 1992.

Getting around the sprawling city of LA means driving, especially with its much-maligned public transit. The area is criss-crossed by more than 30 freeways, build in the 1950s because of congested traffic.  A half-century later, more roads and highways must be built for a city where the long commutes are part of the experience.

After a century of explosive growth, Los Angeles is now America’s second largest city. The city expects more than 25 million tourists to visit this year, drawn to the city by the promise of warm temperatures, sandy beaches, Hollywood culture, shopping on Rodeo Drive or simply taking the dog for a walk.