For smart travelers want to explore the LA's best neighborhoods and go beyond the tourist attractions to find out what a place is really like, you’ll find plenty of places to go in Los Angeles. In fact, there are so many unique areas that you’d have to live there for a few years to find time to see all of Los Angeles' 114 neighborhoods and 158 independent cities.
This list will help you narrow down your travels to places that are trendy, fun to visit — and may just make you fall in love with LA.
There's no better Cinderella story in LA than downtown. Once a place that everyone avoided, today it provides so many reasons to go that the hardest part of seeing it is figuring out where to begin.
If you’re hungry, explore the food stands at Grand Central Market or book a table at any of the many highly-rated restaurants. Opportunities for entertainment include sporting events at the Staples Center, concerts at L.A. Live, or you can go to the Music Center for live theatre, the symphony, or the opera.
Ride the quaint but cute Angels Flight instead of climbing the hill between Hill Street and Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill. Or take in the views at Que Skyspace and try their Skyslide if you dare. It’s a 45-foot-long, all-glass slide built on the exterior of the US Bank Tower, nearly 1,000 feet above the ground.
All of that will only get you warmed up. You can find lots of other places to explore using the self-guided tour of downtown LA.
If you want to be an urban explorer, go to LA’s Arts District near downtown. You'll still find run-down, graffiti-ridden warehouses, but don’t let that stop you from going because you can also find exciting places to see the work of some of the city’s best muralists and visit artist’s studios and galleries.
Creativity isn't just on the walls, either. It’s not unusual to find restaurants in the Arts District like Majordomo, owned by renowned chef David Chang of New York City’s Momofuku. Or Bestia, which is consistently listed among the city’s best restaurants.
If Manhattan Beach doesn’t make you fall in love with Southern California, it’s possible that nothing will. This beach town a few miles south of LAX is the place to experience the SoCal beach lifestyle at its best.
You can shop in town, then fuel up with a fancy-pants meal or a burger and fries at the local tavern. Walk down the hill from the main street to the end of the pier to admire its roundhouse and check out the small aquarium, watch the fishermen and surfers. Then take a walk or go for a run along the oceanfront path that locals call The Strand. It runs for miles in both directions, past places to watch sunbathers and volleyball players and beachfront houses that will make you wonder how much they cost (hint: some are more than $10 million).
Beverly Hills is the elegant grande dame of LA neighborhoods, well-known, respected, experienced, and maybe a little bit haughty. You’ll find nothing but multi-million dollar mansions along its palm-lined streets and designer clothing shops along Rodeo Drive with names like Armani, Gucci, Cartier, and Tiffany.
It’s a place to go to get a glimpse of the lifestyles of the rich and famous and so you can tell the folks back home that you went. But despite its reputation as the home of celebrities and movie stars, you'll probably meet more tourists than locals, and see far more gawkers than shoppers, taking selfies in front of all those uppity shops.
Locals call the town of West Hollywood WeHo as if the four syllables of its full name were just too exhausting to pronounce. It's the home of the Sunset Strip, which isn't a place where people take their clothes off. Instead, it's the place to go for trendy nightclubs and cocktails beside rooftop swimming pools.
Once lined with legendary but fading hotspots like the Viper Room and Tower Records, the twenty-first-century Strip has more construction cranes than parking places along it, as it evolves into a street that is shaping up to boast more buildings designed by famous architects than anywhere else in town.
Breaking the LA car culture stereotype, WeHo is not only the most walkable city in California, but it offers two trolley lines one weekend evenings to help you get around, the Sunset Trip and The Pickup.
Go to Silver Lake just to see it: The area sometimes ranked as one of the world’s most hipster places. It’s a neighborhood that barely feels like part of the bustling city around it, with hillside homes looking down over a small lake and bougainvillea vines covered in flowers brighter than the pinkest of lipsticks.
Start your exploration by walking around the lake, gawking at those hillside homes and wondering how much it costs to live there (hint: a lot). On weekends, you can also tour an architectural classic Richard Neutra’s VDL House (2300 Silver Lake Boulevard).
Along Silver Lake Boulevard near the lake, you’ll find coffee shops, restaurants, and locally owned boutiques. Between Silver Lake Boulevard and Fountain Avenue along Sunset Boulevards, you’ll find even more interesting (and delicious!) places to eat and indie shops to browse in. And if you need a little energy boost, you’ll never be more than a few steps away from a trendy coffee shop.
The Venice Beach Boardwalk is the place to go for a big dose of crazy, quirky beachfront: Muscle Beach, the graffiti wall, rollerbladers wearing thong bikinis, and a host of street performers. It's a place you have to see to believe, and you never know what might happen.
Don’t miss the nearby Venice Canals, leftover from the days when real estate developer Abbot Kinney wanted to make the town the Venice of the west coast.
Los Feliz is an Old Los Angeles neighborhood, full of elegant homes, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it's boring or out of date.
When you visit, you’ll find plenty of vintage shops, locally-owned stores, and places to eat along Hillhurst and Vermont between Los Feliz and Sunset Boulevards.
Movie buffs can join the locals in line to see a movie at the Vista Theatre, a charming retro movie palace with Egyptian-themed décor and its own mini Walk of Fame out front. For other entertainment, check out stage productions at the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award-winning Skylight Theatre or try The Dresden for musical entertainment.
For a full dose of cute, don’t miss seeing the Shakespeare Bridge on Franklin Avenue at St. George Street. Continue uphill on Franklin into the neighborhood where Walt Disney made his first Mickey Mouse film and built his first home. Also above the bridge, you can get a cardio workout on the public stairs using Radio Walk downhill to Deloz Avenue, going south on Deloz and back up the Prospect Steps.
Don't let the name keep you from visiting Museum Row along Wilshire Boulevard between Fairfax and La Brea Avenues. Don't let your eyes glaze over with thoughts of boring, stuffy places. And no matter want, don't get all elitist and think LA has no real culture like you do back home.
Instead, just go. Visit the area and decide for yourself. Browse the exhibits at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) or walk around the grounds, where you may find a free music concert going on and take a photo of that place with all the light posts you see all over Instagram.
You can also indulge your inner speed demon at the Petersen Automotive Museum, enjoy their collection of vehicles with more IMBD credits than some B-list actors, or marvel at the sheer beauty of top automotive design.
At the La Brea Tarpits nearby, there's no charge to watch methane gas bubbles up in a small lake. Or to watch scientists carefully picking through hardened tar to unearth Ice Age woolly mammoths, dire wolves, giant sloths, and other creatures. To get an even better look at ice age creatures, go inside the George C. Page Museum to see those skeletons reassembled.
If none of that is appealing, you can find plenty more places to go in the Museum Row visitor guide. In late 2019, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is set to open yet another museum in the area next to LACMA.
Nearby, you can also visit the elegant Hancock Park neighborhood with its swoon-worthy mansions, tree-lined streets, and manicured lawns. It’s bounded by Melrose, Arden, Wilshire, and La Brea Avenues. The Los Angeles Farmers Market is also not far away at Third and Fairfax.
Highland Park is a place to get a look at a hip neighborhood that’s up and coming — fast. It's a place to find exciting new eateries, local makers, and independent boutiques.
York Boulevard was the neighborhood's first gathering place, lined with restaurants, trendy shops, and art galleries. A little more gritty is Figueroa Avenue, which is where you can eat at places like Nancy Silverton’s Triple Beam Pizza and Matt Molina’s Hippo. Or go traditional and drop into a taqueria or pupuseria. Also fun for food and recreation is the Highland Park Bowl, LA’s oldest bowling alley, renovated but with a decidedly industrial look.
And don’t’ miss the Chicken Boy, the kitschy statue with a chicken’s head atop 5558 N. Figueroa Street.
To see the “cool” part of Venice Beach, go to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, or so GQ magazine said a few years ago. They’re not alone in their opinion. Locals can often be overheard telling visitors they must go and the resulting crowds are a mix of visitors and Angelenos.
Abbot Kinney a fun place to go for shopping and dining. That is if you can find a parking place, a feat that requires patience and persistence. Along the streets, you can browse through a mix of local makers’ stores and unique shops from other parts of the country. Abbot Kinney is also home to some of the best restaurants in the beach cities and can be almost as lively at night as it is during the day.
More of a long street than a concentrated neighborhood, Melrose Ave is truly a place where you could shop until you drop. Or until your credit cards are so maxed out that it would take you seven lifetimes to pay them down.
Start with the high-end design store near the Pacific Design Center at Santa Monica Boulevard Work your way west, taking selfies with all the edgy street art murals along the way, including the famous pink wall at the Paul Smith store, Collette Miller's Angel Wings, and Made in LA at Cisco Home. As you continue east, you'll find vintage shops and locally-owned boutiques between Fairfax and La Brea.
Visitors go to Hollywood for one big reason: To see all those tourist attractions that everyone keeps telling them about. Warning: Some of them are disappointed that what they find isn't what they imagined. But that probably won't keep you from going anyway.
Start at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland to gawk at the stars on the sidewalk, take a selfie with the handprints at the Chinese Theater, and tour the Dolby Theater, home of the Oscars. To make your tour easy, just follow the guide to Hollywood Boulevard. To see a little more of Tinseltown, you can also take a Hollywood driving tour.
One of LA’s many ethnic neighborhoods, Little Ethiopia is a lot closer than Addis Ababa, and a fun area to get a sample of Ethiopian culture without getting on an airplane.
Fairfax Avenue between W. Olympic Boulevard and Whitworth Drive is lined with restaurants, served on a bed of spongy injeera (thin fermented bread made from teff flour) which you tear off and use to shovel the delicious curries into your mouth. Many eateries are well rated. Use your favorite dining app to pick one, or just go old school and look for the place with the most people inside.
While you're there, you can also visit a market to buy ingredients for your own Ethiopian feast and shop for handmade, imported clothing and embroidered shawls at the Ethiopian Store (1049 Fairfax).
Take your appetite and a supply of patience. Parking is so hard to find in this area that you could clock almost as many miles circling the block as making that trip to Addis Ababa.
Los Angeles has so many residents of Persian origin that it's sometimes called Tehrangeles (a mashup of Tehran and Los Angeles). You can find Persian enclaves in several parts of town, but for the best restaurants, go to Little Persia (also called Persian Square) along Westwood Boulevard between Wilshire and Pico.
To find a place to eat, look for restaurants serving traditional cuisine like kebabs and curries. Or try some street food: a Persian pizza or a sandwich that could feed an entire family. Or slurp up a majoon, a milk and ice cream drink flavored with dates or rose water.
Once you're fueled up, you can walk off that food coma as you browse through the nearby Iranian markets, bookstores, and rug shops.