Los Angeles has so many unique neighborhoods — or, as we who are in the know like to call them, “enclaves” — that you could spend years getting to know each one. But where to begin?
Since Los Angeles is a large metropolis made up of many areas (including incorporated cities like West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica), each neighborhood has its own diverse vibe and group of people.
Here are some of our favorites…
Who needs the beach when you’ve got Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice? Especially if you like to shop but don’t want to be bombarded with a bunch of crappy chain stores. Dining? There’s everything from great pizza to coffee to more upscale culinary choices. The west side’s best gay bar, The Roosterfish, is also here. There are lots of bikes and even more pedestrians, many with dogs, many with guitars. If you want to cross paths with a Venice hipster or brooding-but-sexy artist type, this is where you’ll find him.
Many major US cities have a Chinatown, but L.A.’s feels like a Hollywood set. That’s probably because the Central Plaza here was actually designed by Hollywood set designers. Visit the Chinese American Museum, get a bite at Hop Woo or Ocean Seafood, then walk around to see the statues of Bruce Lee and Dr. Sun Yat-sen. And of course there are plenty of little markets and bazaars for shopping. You may not find bird’s nest soup or talking crows with the croup, but you’re sure to come across something you won’t soon forget. Enjoy the sights and smells, and don’t forget to make a wish in the lucky wishing well. (Just because it’s seen better days doesn’t mean it won’t grant your wish.)
Larchmont Village is great for a relaxing stroll, a little shopping, and a bite to eat. It’s very quaint, very sleepy, but well maintained and diverse. It’s affluent, but not in that I-just-had-my-tenth-facelift sort of way. No, this is a friendly place with farmer’s markets on the weekends and lots to feast on, visually. The historic homes in this neighborhood (many built in the 1920s) are beautiful to look at with and have the sort of lush green yards you don’t often find in a major city. Here’s a cool piece of trivia: Back in the day, Larchmont Boulevard was used in filming Keystone Kops chases.
Silver Lake/Sunset Junction
If you want to meet hot guys who aren’t your typical West Hollywood pretty-boy variety, head on east to Silver Lake. This neighborhood is undeniably one of LA’s hippest and gayest. Once an affluent area and then for years a rundown one, it’s now somewhere in the middle, with lots of young artist types who don’t mind a little scruff. It’s also the unofficial home of the gay leather scene. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and bookstores to keep you entertained as well as architecture to admire and envy. Want some exercise? Take a stroll around the “lake” (which is actually two water reservoirs). Or dance your ass off at MJ’s, where you just might meet Mr. Right Now. Oh, and if you loved the movie Swingers, be sure to hit the Dresden Room.
If you enjoy history and you like walking, be sure to visit the Historic Core in downtown L.A. Before World War II, this was considered the city’s center. Now it’s considered the center of L.A.’s urban beginning. There are plenty of options for food, retail therapy, and art — all neatly showcased in a historically rich part of downtown that’s home to some amazing architecture, including a number of old financial buildings that have been turned into living spaces and the old United Artists Building, which is now an Ace Hotel. While you’re there, be sure to hit the Jewelry District, where — if you appreciate baubles — you can haggle for decent prices.
Nichols Canyon/Runyon Canyon Park
Since you’re in the land of the beautiful ones, you might as well get in a day of exercise, sun, and amazing views. Ride your bike up Nichols Canyon, taking a moment to envy all the gorgeous homes you’ll never be able to afford, and then head on into Runyon Canyon Park. There are many hiking trails to choose from, and there’s a good chance you’ll see a celebrity or three (they have to stay in shape, too, you know). There’s no need to rush: Take some time to savor the views and relax in the famous L.A. sunshine. As you’ll learn, not all exercise is meant to be unpleasant. Just be sure to bring plenty of water so you don’t get dehydrated from drooling over all the shirtless hotties you’ll encounter.