Occupying slightly more than five square miles, Culver City, founded by Harry Culver in 1917 and located west of downtown Los Angeles, makes a big impression. With a thriving dining and drinking scene, growing art and design district, theaters and studio lots, hip hotels, quality shopping, and what is likely LA’s most offbeat museum, it is a must-explore neighborhood for visitors and locals alike. As the longtime headquarters of Sony Pictures, Culver City is now home to Apple and Amazon’s entertainment divisions, and nods to its industry ties are all around for film fans to find. Plus, the neighborhood is walkable and has a Metro line traveling right through it that will easily connect riders to both downtown and Santa Monica. Add the following 14 best things to do to any Culver City itinerary.
Secure a walk-on at the Sony Pictures Studios. Film buffs 12 and up can take a two-hour tour of the historic lot at least four times a day Monday through Friday. Visit sound stages where "Men In Black," "The Wizard Of Oz" (the giant rainbow sculpture is a tribute to the classic), and "Spider-Man" were filmed as well as the current "Jeopardy" set. VIP tours add a golf cart, three-course meal in the commissary, souvenir photo, and a stop in the prop and costume museum. Stay frosty as it’s a working lot so celebrity sightings are common.
Dig Into a Great Meal
It’s impossible to go hungry in this part of town, no matter what type of cuisine you’re craving. The tamarind vinaigrette on Piccalilli’s green papaya salad is a party in your mouth as are many of their other fire-cooked pan-Asian-influenced dishes. Chefs Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama's seasonal kaiseki at n/naka earned two Michelin stars. It’s a smokeshow over at Maple Block Meat Co. where you should definitely not skip the brisket, housemade slaw, or cornbread. Honey’s Kettle is fixin’ to fill you with fluffy biscuits and golden fried chicken. Chef Josef Centeno dishes up Tex-Mex at Amacita while chef Josiah Citrin helped the Rockenwagner family punch up the Rat Pack hangout Dear John’s with killer chicken parm. Grab modern Scandinavian-style fare like avocado confit on rye, rice porridge with burnt onion, or raw oatmeal for breakfast and lunch at Destroyer in Hayden Tract. The shakshuka at Lodge Bread is second only to their wood-fired pizzas. Versailles’ famous garlic-drenched, onion-covered Cuban chicken may come out of your pores for days, but is totally worth it. Complete any meal with scoops from Coolhaus.
It’s honestly hard to explain what visitors should expect when they wander into the weird and wonderful world of this expertly and beautifully displayed collection of esoterica. The brainchild of a MacArthur genius grant recipient, the exhibits here—things like micro miniature sculptures in needle eyes, floral radiographs, medieval bestiaries, working models of Baroque opera sets, trailer park treasures, and bizarre folk remedies from around the world—fill dimly lit halls and seem both random and connected. Just go with an open mind and feel free to study further in the Library of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Information. Or discuss your findings in the tearoom modeled after Tsar Nicholas I’s Hermitage study, where drinks come out of a coal-fired samovar. The Museum of Jurassic Technology is open Thursday through Sunday.
Palisociety, one of LA’s hottest hospitality companies, turned a 1923 boarding house into a cozy chic 49-room boutique hotel. The vibe is charming Montmartre meets Art Deco thanks to graphic tiles, floral chairs, stripes, and globe lights. Splurge on quarters that open to a leafy courtyard, and take happy hour in the lobby-level bar or sun-dappled restaurant patio. Tucked off the main drag, the setting is slightly removed from the hustle but still within easy walking distance of restaurants, shops, and theaters. Palihotel offers great amenities for Fido including dog-walking services, pet beds and toys, and organic treats on arrival.
For four decades, Helms Bakery churned out bread and other baked goods, including the official loaves of the 1932 Olympics and the carbs that went to the moon on the Apollo 11. In the ‘70s, the complex—complete with a massive disintegrating rooftop sign—was restored and reimagined as a hub for furniture and fixtures stores, antiques dealers, interior designers, and décor brokers. After you’re done planning your dream home at places like H.D. Buttercup, Room & Board, Rejuvenation, and Kohler, celebrate with one of LA’s best burgers: the namesake patty at Father’s Office. The Helms Bakery District is located just one block from the Metro Expo Line platform.
This former movie house was converted into an intimate 317-seat theater almost 15 years ago. As Center Theatre Group’s only venue outside of downtown, it’s where CTG stages most of its world premieres and unconventional, adventurous productions. Living up to its heavy hitter namesake, the Kirk Douglas Theatre has sent numerous works to Broadway including "Bengal Tiger." When the weather warms up, Culver City Public Theatre puts on family-friendly plays in the area parks.
For a luxurious treat, enjoy the daily afternoon tea at The Culver Hotel, a registered landmark built in 1924 by the city’s founder and the setting of many Old Hollywood legends. (For starters, Charlie Chaplin supposedly sold it to John Wayne in a poker game.) The spread of finger sandwiches, scones with cream and curd, and pretty pastries can be taken in the lobby, Crystal Dining Room, or on the patio. An upgrade adds champagne and fresh berries for $39. Fascinators are optional, but 24-hour notice is not. However, there’s no need to reserve a walk through the second-floor art gallery or a seat at the hotel’s nightly live music performances for a rotating roster of jazz, blues, funk, and folk acts.
If you ate at a few too many of the aforementioned dining establishments, you might want to take a spin on this eight-mile paved trail that ends at the beach near the wetlands in Playa Del Rey. Enter via gates at Higuera Street, Duquesne Avenue, Overland Avenue, Purdue Avenue, or Sepulveda Boulevard and cycle past greenways, wildflowers, a cairn collection, street art, and birds. Take the connecting trail to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. The punishing stairs are a workout favorite. Make it to the top and be rewarded with a panoramic view of the LA Basin from the mountains to the sea.
The list of merchants at this Hayden Tract (a sub-hood within Culver City) mini-mall grows seemingly every month. Indulge in retail therapy at hip high-end boutiques like Reformation, The Optimist, Modern Society, and Poketo. Get non-toxic mani/pedis at tenoverten and massages at Lifehood. Sweat at a Soulcycle spin class. Enjoy Van Leeuwen ice cream or drinks from Boba Guys and Blue Bottle Coffee surrounded by succulents and a massive mural in the common areas. Browse frequent pop-ups before grabbing a table at any number of fantastic eateries including Loqui (tacos), Margot (has a stellar rooftop dining room and brunch), Roberta’s (pizza), and Bondi Harvest (healthy Australian-Californian fusion).
It's always wine o'clock at the neighborhood's wine bars and upscale liquor stores. Focusing on small batch makers with a strong sense of place, Bar & Garden throws a weekly Friday Flight, where patrons can taste five wines for $10 from 5 to 8 p.m. Stanley’s Wet Goods is another store/bar combo that pairs vintages and cocktails with cheese and charcuterie boards. Hi-Lo fulfills the promise of the “drink well” message tiled into its doorsill with its regularly scheduled free tastings at The Counter bar. The market has a large inventory of beer, wine, and local foodstuffs.
Opened in 2016 by sisters Bea and Leah Koch, The Ripped Bodice was the first bookstore in the country (and still one of only two) dedicated entirely to the genre of romance. That’s right: All 5,000 of the titles it carries are chock-full of heaving bosoms, stolen glances, love triangles, blind dates, epic kisses, second chances, broken hearts, stoic cowboys, supernatural sirens, bad boys, and struggling bakeries. Pick up a novel to read poolside or mingle with like-minded readers at author events, trivia nights, book clubs, writing classes, and stand-up comedy shows.
For more than two decades, the city has sponsored a certified farmers' market on Tuesdays, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Main Street. Stock up on road snacks and edible souvenirs including local honey, cheese, and pastries.
Whether you need to pick up a gift for a new mom, your favorite foodie, or a Star Wars fanboy, pop into this women-owned-and-operated indie boutique to browse an excellently curated collection of cards, art, jewelry, handbags, baby clothes, books, toys, candles, bath and body products, and on-trend tchotchkes from local artisans. Warning: It will be difficult not to employ the “one for them, two for me” strategy here. Other don’t-miss gift shops: Santa Fe-meets-Laurel Canyon groovy Midland, Aldea Home & Baby, and bookstore Arcana.
More than 20 galleries call the Culver City Arts District home. Located mostly along Washington and La Cienega Boulevards, they feature a wide variety of genres including graffiti, pop, sculpture, fabric, and video installations. CCAD holds its annual Art Walk and Roll Festival in the fall and Second Saturdays event every month.