I'm coming to LA this summer and I've heard it's really spread out. I'm not familiar with the different neighborhoods - what are they all known for? What's the differences among beach cities? Hip areas? Best for live music? Authentic culture?
Looking forward to your answers!
LA is huge and yes, very spread out. I'll do my best to cover the various neighborhoods.
Beverly Hills: very posh, pricey, shopping mecca. Beautiful streets... wide and lined with palm trees. Good restaurants. You'll find Mastro's Steakhouse, Urth Caffe, South Beverly Grill, The Ivy, The Grill on the Alley.
West Hollywood: This includes Sunset Strip, at night there are music clubs and night clubs as well as restaurants that are open late. It's also known as predominantly LGBT populated. This is a fun area with bars that spills into Melrose which has good places to eat and eclectic stores. Here you'll fine Blu Jam Cafe, which has a great brunch (known for their benedicts and French toast).
*For the music question, I don't know what kind of music you are into, that would determine where, however, there are a few music clubs on the Sunset Strip (House of Blues, The Roxy Theatre, Rainbow Bar & Grill) that always feature live bands.
Fairfax has The Grove which is an open air mall that is really nice to catch some sun and people watch. Right next to it is the Farmers Market which is a permanent area with various food vendors. Everything from Donuts to Chinese can be found there. This is a very up and coming neighborhood with a night life. They have Animal, a popular small plates restaurant as well as other trendy spots.
N Robertson Blvd which has lots of high end stores as well as trendy restaurants and cafes.
Downtown Los Angeles has been changing a lot. It is home to the Staples Center, the Nokia Theatre LA Live (there are restaurants in that area), Grand Central Market (a fun place to find lots of different eateries (Eggslut is particularly popular)), Los Angeles Chinatown, this can be fun to walk around and see the different vendors. Olvera St is an area known for Mexican food, it also includes Avila Adobe which is the first house in Los Angeles.
Hollywood: the touristy areas only cover a small portion and are located around Hollywood & Highland. You'll see the star lined streets, Mann's Chinese Theater, and lots of souvenir shops. Outside of the touristy areas there's studios and lots of hills. Runyon Canyon Park is a famous hike and one worth taking, you'll get great views of the city.
Burbank (California) - Has another small airport (sometimes fares are lower if you arrive here - it's worth checking out). Not very familiar with this area, however I do know that that's where Warner Brothers has their studio.
Culver City is a very up and coming neighborhood with lots of restaurants. One of my favorite Mexican restaurants is here: Paco's Tacos (their hand made tortillas and blended strawberry margaritas are a must!)
Bel Air (California) - Ritzy and residential
Westwood (Los Angeles) - cute little village with lots of new restaurants, they also have Diddy Riese if you're looking for a sweet treat (ice-cream sandwiches!). This is where UCLA is so you'll find a lot of young college kids in the area.
West Los Angeles - this covers a wide area, but there are some gems to be found: Sawtelle is an area with good restaurants. If you're looking for good sushi that isn't pricey, I love Hide Sushi. For bread bread and fried chicken, I like Flores. Rex Bakery has great cream puffs! For a traditional LA joint on the west side, I love The Apple Pan, it's been there forever (order a hickory burger and pie).
Santa Monica - right by the water: Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica State Beach, Third Street Promenade (open air mall that leads to three streets that are lined with stores and filled with street performers). There are a lot of great restaurants here as well.
Venice BeachVenice Beach: this is a fun area full of free spirited and eccentric people (this is putting it mildly). Venice beach's boardwalk is filled with street vendors usually selling handmade goods (from soaps to headbands to art made of spray-painted skateboards). There will be people offering to give you massages, come inside to see a two-headed turtle and sell you medical marijuana cards.
Malibu Beach - the beaches are cleaner, the sand is finer and you'll find everyone from families to surfers enjoying the breeze. There are a ton of good restaurants although everything is kind of spread out. I really like Taverna Tony for excellent Greek food. Zuma Beach is well known.
There's also Marina Del Rey (there you'll find Abbot Kinney - a street that has lots of posh stores and great restaurants), Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Long Beach. I don't know enough about these areas, but I'm sure another Trippy member will chime in or you can Google it pictures.
I know that was a long list, but I felt like if you at least knew the names, you could research them better.
You can find more in depth descriptions of the restaurants I listed (Pacos, Blu Jam Cafe, Pizzeria Mozza, etc...)on my blog, Eat & Escape.
Hope this helps, if you have any other questions I would be happy to answer them.
Mentioned in this answer:
My ramblings on the different areas of LA. Here we go.
Going up over the Hollywood hills from downtown you will find "The Valley." If you take the metro you will find yourself in the middle of North Hollywood, not a super touristy area and best known for the arts district which is a mix of odd artsy shops, casual dining, and a few low key bars and nightlife spots along Magnolia and Lankershim. Recording studios and auto shops are also in abundance in this area, don't ask me why. Some say North Hollywood is the boarder between "The Valley" and the rest of LA, probably because most of the people in the area are actors or people trying to make it into the film industry and identify more with the city crowd.
Burbank (California)/Universal City, where most of the film/TV industry is actually located, including the WB and Universal lots. Home to Universal Studios Hollywood, and small town feeling downtown Burbank strip, this area is family oriented with safe neighborhoods and clean public areas that don't feel posh like say Beverly Hills.
I won't talk about Beverly Hills because it has been talked about enough, other than to say it's annoying to drive to and everything unnecessarily expensive. The silver lining is the bomb cupcake joints around these parts.
The adjacent areas of Westwood (Los Angeles) and Century City (California) somewhat similar in feel to Beverly hills with a mix of UCLA college life, financial offices, medical offices, and lots of pricy high rise living.
Pasadena is upper middle class with a similar feel to Burbank. Not a lot of nightlife but a chill spot to maybe go ice skating and catch a flick.
Hollywood is mostly good for people watching, or if you want to catch a show. The worlds best comedy venues like the Laugh Factory and The Comedy Store are along Sunset along with a poping music scene. The iconic Capitol Records building and Paramount Pictures lot is also in the neighborhood so there's that.
Koreatown in west central LA has a cool downtown feel with many trendy restaurants and coffee shops. Don't really know what it's known for but it's a popular place for college students and young adults to eat and socialize in the downtown area. I would sum it up as good eats, experimental coffee joints, and decent nightlife.
To the west of Koreatown you will find Miracle Mile around which you have theaters like El Rey Theatre and The Wiltern, along with the outdoor shopping center and sometimes music venue The Grove. LACMA is also a popular spot along Wishire Blvd wich you will find acts as a major vein throughout this area west of downtown, stretching all the way to Santa Monica.
Then there is Santa Monica, a very popular spot probably best known for a mix between beach bums and what's become the tech startup mecca of LA, with apps like Tinder and Snapchat being headquartered here. The 3rd street promenade is a popular spot to catch some street performances and drop a good amount of money at the increasingly high end shops if you so choose. An increasing number of people come from all over LA to mingle at the casual nightlife hotspots in this area as well.
Venice Beach has a laid back beach vibe but is a little more artsy and run down in my opinion. A vibrant community with a storied history and many interesting characters.
Going south past Venice and LAX, Manhattan Beach is a hidden gem as far as Cali beach communities go. Also with a beachy silicon valley feel, this area is home to some major studio facilities and tech startups. This area has no shortage of beautiful people and new money.
The large open expanse of South LA is where you will find the University of Southern California campus along with some of LAs roughest neighborhoods and street gangs. Compton and Watts probably being some of the most notorious areas due to the popularity of rap artists like Dr. Dre and Kendrick Lamar hailing from this area. If you keep heading south you will hit Long Beach, home to the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, 2 of the busiest ports in the world.
AHHHH there is so much, but that's all I got for now. Basically you will have to live here for a long time to get a real feel for every part of LA. I have been here full time for 3 years now and still feel like I have barely scratched the surface. Regardless, the city of angels welcomes you and hopes you enjoy your journeys around its diverse landscape!
Mentioned in this answer:
Pasadena can most definitely be called a one stop city - I am from there and you don't have to leave because everything is right there! I would recommend stopping by Old Pasadena if you do go - they have great restaurants, bars, shopping, and entertainment.
I am currently living in Koreatown and they seem to have it all as well, and if they don't - everything is close by because its so centrally located. Stop by The Line - Los Angeles if you do stop by Ktown. You can even take the metro places!
I would also recommend stopping by Lost Property Bar (has a real Hollywood feel) & Frolic Room (best 'famous' dive bar around) in Hollywood. Spring St Bar, The Last Bookstore & Guisados are some fun places to go in downtown.
And you have a vast amount of beaches to choose from - my favorites are Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu Beach, Hermosa Beach, Newport Beach & Huntington Beach (Part of Orange County).
Mentioned in this answer:
Here are few neighborhoods in or around LA that might be of interest to you:
Mentioned in this answer: