A Visitor’s Guide to Los Angeles Neighborhoods

Downtown – after spending many years as simply a central business district that became deserted at night, the downtown of Skid Row fame is seeing a bit of a revival lately. New residential buildings have been built, and trendy restaurants and entertainment options have followed. Downtown attractions include Grand Central Market, Museum of Contemporary Art, Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Central Library, and Staples Center. Little Tokyo is located between 1st and 3rd Streets and South Los Angeles and South Alameda Street. There’s lots of hip bars on 7th Street. Driving downtown is a pain – the best way to get around downtown are by either walking or using public transportation.

Chinatown and Olvera Street – across the interstate north of downtown is the oldest section of Los Angeles – Olvera Street. Visitors here can tour the oldest house in town and eat at Mexican restaurants in The Plaza. On the east side of Olvera Street is the historic Union Station with its 1940 Spanish Mission architecture, and on the other side of Olvera Street there-s Chinatown – the gate to Chinatown is on Broadway at Cesar Chevez Avenue. Typical of other Chinatowns, there’s plenty of Chinese restaurants and Asian markets.

Echo Park – home to Dodger Stadium, Echo Park, and hipsters. A huge number of famous people have living in this neighborhood at some point in time, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Steve McQueen, Jackson Pollock, Jackson Browne, and Frank Zappa. The lake in Echo Park is home to the largest collection of lotus plants outside China.

Westlake – densely populated, with many former mansions converted into apartments. MacArthur Park is here, as well as lots of classic, old restaurants and new, ethnic ones.

Koreatown – densely populated with many ethnic groups – only one-third of the residents are actually of Asian descent. Nevertheless, there is a lot of Korean culture here, including many Korean barbecue restaurants.

Hollywood – everyone’s heard of it – the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, broken dreams and dreams realized. Most of the motion picture companies have left (only Paramount remains), but the area is coming back a bit after falling on hard times in the 1980’s. Regardless, no tourist trip to LA is complete without a drive down Hollywood Blvd. Head north and drive along Mulholland Drive for great views of the city.

Beverly Hills – swimming pools and movie stars, plus luxury shopping on Rodeo Drive. It’s best to park your car and walk the sidewalks. The fabulously wealthy live in the hills north of Sunset Boulevard.

Santa Monica – this is quintessential southern California – a white sand beach with a pier, perfect weather, shopping, awesome restaurants, etc. There is a reason the property values are so high here. It’s best to park in one of the free parking garages and either walk or take the bus.

Venice – the beach south of Santa Monica turns more bohemian. On the beach, anything goes with all kinds of weird people walking around, including artists, street performers, vendors, bodybuilders, rollerbladers, and even some celebrities. Excellent gawking opportunities abound. There’s also good art galleries, shops, bars, and restaurants. Inland, there are the canals and hip neighborhoods.

West Hollywood – known for essentially three things: (1) home to the famous Sunset Strip along Sunset Blvd., with its nightlife and its famous rock clubs the Whiskey A-Go-Go and the Troubadour, (2) home to the largest gay nightlife district in LA, and (3) home to a large population of Russian Jewish immigrants.

La Brea/Miracle Mile – this hazily defined area goes by many names, including Mid-City West, the Fairfax District, Beverly Grove, and Greater Wilshire. Nonetheless, there’s lots to see here. The Miracle Mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard is noted for its museums, including the La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum, the Los Angeles Museum of Art, and the Petersen Automotive Museum. For shopping and eating, there’s the Farmers Market and the new Grove outdoor shopping mall.

Pasadena – this city in the the San Gabriel Valley is famous for its Rose Bowl and the Tournament of Roses Parade, but it is also home to the Norton Simon Museum of Art, many beautiful historical estates, Mount Wilson, and Cal Tech University. The Gamble House is an excellent example of American Craftsman design.

Universal City – there is a reason this San Fernando Valley community is named Universal City – it is home to Universal Studios – the world’s largest motion picture studio – and their Hollywood theme park, plus the Universal CityWalk shopping and entertainment center and the Gibson Amphitheatre.

Studio City – this historic community was originally built to house people who worked in the nearby studio. Today, many celebrities live here – especially in the hills. Artists and hipsters live elsewhere in the area. The living is good here, with lots of great restaurants and boutique shops. Ventura Boulevard has the high density of sushi restaurants in LA.

North Hollywood – North Hollywood is actually a good distance to the north of Hollywood in the San Fernando Valley. Known as Noho, it is an area know for independent theaters, eclectic shops, the NoHo Arts District and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Silver Lake – a healthy mix of gays, Hispanics, and hipsters in this historic neighborhood means goods coffee shops, cafes, bars, and shopping. Silver Lake is a bit more upscale than Echo and is a hotspot for indie rock, with many musicians and actors living in the area. Walt Disney had a studio here, and Laurel and Hardy made some films here.

Los Feliz – an affluent a hilly neighborhood noteworthy for its historic bungalows and expensive homes. Many early studios set up shop in the area, including Walt Disney’s first animation studio on Kingswell Avenue. A good number of celebrities currently in the environs. Just to the north is Griffith Park and the Hollywood sign.

Malibu – “27 miles of scenic beauty” on the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway. Movie stars live here, and many TV shows were set here, including “Two and a Half Men,” “Baywatch,” and “Hannah Montana.” Zuma and Westward are great public beaches.

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