There’s a reason traffic is a common topic of conversation in Los Angeles: in this sprawling, spread-out city encompassing nearly 500 square miles, you’re bound to spend a fair amount of time behind a steering wheel. But when the sun is shining all the time, it’s a welcome trade-off. All the space is divided into nearly 100 separate neighborhoods, each with its own distinct ways of going about things. From the celebrity mansions in the Hollywood Hills to the nightclubs of Silver Lake to the laid-back beaches of Santa Monica, this city of dreamers has enough to keep a person busy for a lifetime. Here are some options for any type of traveler.
If You Want to See the Stars
- Hollywood Hills: Written in white letters standing 45 feet tall, the iconic Hollywood sign is emblematic of the countless performers who have moved to LA in pursuit of stardom.
- See how the stars live and work on a guided celebrity home tours, or by walking through the major movie studios: Warner Bros., Paramount, and Universal
- 2,517: the number of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as of February 2014
- Where to stay: Located right on the Walk of Fame, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel has a pleasing blend of architectural styles, from its Spanish Colonial lobby to its vintage-1950s cabanas to its modern room layouts.
If You Want to Shop
- Rodeo Drive: More than 100 high-end boutiques—including Prada, Anne Fontaine, and Chanel—line this three-block playground for the rich and famous.
- The Beverly Center and The Grove, in the Westside area, are upscale indoor and outdoor malls; think J. Crew, the Apple Store, and Anthropologie, and the American Girl Store.
- Abbot Kinney Boulevard: Vintage clothing, handmade furniture, custom perfumes, and books are common finds on this street in Venice, which is lovably rough around the edges.
- Where to stay: Beverly Hills Hotel, a bubblegum-pink fixture on Sunset Boulevard, is steps from Rodeo Drive.
If You Want to Go to the Beach
- Length of LA’s coastline: 72 miles
- Surfrider Beach in Malibu has especially consistent breakers; it’s been hailed as the birthplace of LA’s surfer culture.
- Venice Beach boardwalk: Tattoo parlors, souvenir shops, skaters, chainsaw jugglers, and spot-on robot impersonators: Venice Ocean Front Walk is offbeat, laid-back, and proud of it.
- Santa Monica Pier: Watch surfers (and the occasional dolphin) hang ten, then grab a bite to eat at local seafood joint The Albright.
- Where to stay: Hotel Erwin, a bohemian boutique hotel on Venice Beach, is just steps from the boardwalk.
If You Want to Play Outdoors
- Angeles National Forest: A 45-minute drive from downtown LA, this sprawling swath of wilderness has nearly 600 miles of hiking and equestrian trails, including 176 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
- Mount Baldy: Hike the strenuous 11.3-mile loop to the 10,064-foot summit here and you’ll be rewarded with clear views that extend for miles in every direction.
- Big Bear Lake: This lakeside resort town in the San Bernardino National Forest is a popular summertime escape, with plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming.
If You Want to Go Out
- Silver Lake: From bespoke cocktails at Bar Stella to live music at The Satellite, this Eastside neighborhood is one of L.A.’s center for nightlife; many up-and-coming musicians, including Beck, have gotten their start here.
- Downtown LA is often overlooked as a destination, but it’s experiencing a renaissance, and features vibrant nightlife venues such as the multi-tiered entertainment complex L.A. LIVE.
- Universal CityWalk’s open-air complex specializes in one-stop entertainment, with dining, shopping, movies, and nightlife right at your fingertips.
- Where to stay: The Standard, Downtown LA is within walking distance of trendy bars and clubs. The hotel’s rooftop biergarten has unbeatable views of the city.
Where and What to Eat
- Koreatown: Head to this central LA neighborhood for some of the best Korean BBQ around. At the popular spot Genwa, try the kobe beef and banchan—that is, Korean small plates served with rice.
- Culver City: This western LA neighborhood is becoming a dining hotspot, specifically for vegetarian and vegan cuisine such as the fishless sushi rolls at Shojin.
- Restaurant Row: Some of the city’s most highly regarded restaurants live on this mile-long stretch of La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Among the most beloved are the garlic-themed The Stinking Rose and Matsuhisa, the flagship restaurant of celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa.
- The food truck scene: LA’s food trucks serve everything from fish tacos to gourmet crepes; you can typically catch one at Newport Beach, downtown, and other areas with lots of foot traffic. The Find LA Food Trucks app helps map out a few for you.