Some L.A. neighborhoods are so bland and without feeling that they seemingly have no flavor at all.
You might have thought that every neighborhood within the Los Angeles area had its own distinct vibe.
For neighborhoods to have presence and vitality, they must provide you with a visceral, positive feeling while you’re there.
If you’re spending time in neighborhoods that feel like you could be anywhere or nowhere at the same time, you might benefit by finding neighborhoods that better suit your unique lifestyle needs.
Fortunately, many Southern California neighborhoods are abundant in energy and flavor.
When people think of vibrant L.A. communities, they tend to think of the more branded places, such as Beverly Hills and Bel Air.
But L.A. has many neighborhoods that are highly enjoyable – yet lesser known by the public at large.
Here are – what I believe to be – six neighborhoods that deserve more credit.
In my opinion, these neighborhoods provide vibrant energy and a higher quality of daily life than your standard L.A. community.
Westwood is a neighborhood within the city of Los Angeles that is dominated by the influence of University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and its world-class Medical Center.
Not only does UCLA provide the Westwood area with an atmosphere of intellectual endeavor, but it also offers superb musical and dramatic performances (interestingly, a street address for the school is not necessarily required by the post office, as the entire 90095 zip code is assigned to the campus).
A fun thing to do on early-morning weekends is to go to the Bruins stadium and run the track and jog the steps, Rocky-style!
- Downtown Los Angeles: 35 minutes
- LAX: 20 minutes
- Sherman Oaks: 25 minutes
- Santa Monica: 10 minutes
Adjacent to the university, Westwood Village bustles – shops, restaurants, movie theaters, the Westwood Playhouse, and a museum housing the Armand Hammer Collection of Art all add to the interest and enjoyment of village life.
The majestic Royce Hall on the UCLA campus is located in the Westwood area of Los Angeles.
Within Westwood, the Wilshire Corridor is a well-known stretch of luxury condominiums with penthouses selling in the millions.
On the winding residential streets north of Wilshire Boulevard, mature trees add an air of permanence to elegant traditional and Spanish homes built there in the 1930s.
Homes south of Wilshire Boulevard tend to be lovely and well-maintained, while more modest in size and price (when it comes to real estate in Westwood, the trend is this: smaller houses and smaller lots south of Wilshire, and larger houses and larger lots north of Wilshire).
Westwood has a good neighborhood feel, including sidewalks. There is abundance of Spanish-style architecture, and Warner Avenue Elementary is possibly one of the best public schools in Los Angeles.
Westwood residents often work in neighboring Century City or Beverly Hills, but close proximity to the freeway provides access to downtown Los Angeles and all other parts of the city too.
Weather-wise, the Westwood neighborhood is close enough to the ocean to enjoy the sea air, but far enough away from the shore that it usually avoids the early-morning haze associated with the beach neighborhoods.
Stepping Back in Time at the Historic Fox Village Theater
The Fox Regency Theater (“the Fox”) has become an iconic symbol of both the Westwood area and the golden age of classic Hollywood.
The Fox is a historic landmark in Westwood Village, Los Angeles.
A couple of years back, the theater celebrated its 80th birthday (almost as old as the Hollywood film industry itself). Designed by architect Percy Parke Lewis, the theater opened its doors on August 14th, 1931. Today, people still love to see movies there.
Architecture of the Fox
The mediterranean style of theater influenced many more Spanish-themed buildings in Westwood but perhaps none of them outshone the Fox – due to the theater’s 170-foot high white tower. The tower can be seen far and wide, over Westwood’s many shops and restaurants (especially at night when it’s lit up like a beacon).
The building itself has a decorative finish of Spanish style Stucco that wraps around the top of the exterior walls – carved Griffins on each corner.
The inside of the theater has emotional impact as well, with California Gold Rush art in the lavish lobby. Its hugh screening room has two tiers that can seat an estimated 1,400 moviegoers.
Once inside be sure to look up at the glorious decoration on the ceiling before they dim the lights. When exiting the cinema you’ll notice the ceiling’s art is duplicated on a paved ground outside the main entrance.
Movie Premieres at the Fox Regency Theater
The Fox Village Theater is still a main venue for movie premieres. On such occasions the roads are blocked-off, the red carpet comes out, the press attend, and fans scream (others gather in the neighboring Starbucks garden for the best view of premiere-goers entering the theater).
The History of Cinema
Over the course of 80 years the cinema has seen many technological changes. When it first opened the ‘talkie’ was just starting to turn a tidy profit.
Since then it has had many upgrades at various times in cinema history – upgraded for color, widescreen, 70mm projection and – more recently – digital and 3D projections.
It still has an old-time feel, thanks to the entertaining staff who are dressed in retro uniforms.
The Future of the Fox
The Fox Regency’s future was in doubt in recent years when Mann theaters dropped the location. Despite being listed as LA Historic-Cultural Monument #362, it wasn’t certain the cinema would be saved.
Regency Theaters stepped in and took over the place on April 1st 2010. There was no fanfare, but anyone lucky enough to attend that night was given a celebratory bag of free popcorn.
The company intends to keep the cinema long-term while continuing to revitalize it and remain the host to many a movie premiere.
With the widespread closure and demolition of old fashioned one-screen theaters all over LA, the Fox Regency becomes an even rarer piece of history in Los Angeles. It’s good to know Regency Theaters is looking out for the place. May it continue for at least another 80 years!
The Peaceful Westwood Village Memorial
Los Angeles is known for being the home of the rich and famous and – while you can’t take your riches with you – fame sticks around. In the cemeteries of Los Angeles rest many famous stars and movie legends, allowing ordinary people to visit the gravesites and honor the memories of their heroes.
You can pay your respects to the famous stars of yesterday at Westwood Village Memorial.
While The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is know for its tour guide maps and summer-night film screening, Westwood is a less showy place. A small cemetery tucked away off Wilshire behind a uniform office tower, it serves as a burial site for the nearby neighborhoods of Westwood, Bel-Air and Beverly Hills.
Marilyn Monroe’s Gravesite
The biggest name buried at Westwood is Marilyn Monroe. Her iconic image and tragic death still strikes a cord with us today, which is evident at her grave with fresh flowers always arranged there.
A ritual has developed at the grave with visitors applying red lipstick and kissing the stone. It’s literally covered in kisses. Graveyard caretakers clean the stone but after years of kissing and cleaning the stone now has a pink tint to it.
To the left of Marilyn is an empty grave owned by Playboy owner Hugh Hefner who specifically purchased the spot to be next to Marilyn because she appeared in the first issue of Playboy magazine.
Dean Martin’s Gravesite
There are many other well known people in the cemetery. Dean Martin was buried at the site after his death on Christmas Day in 1995. Visitors rest a dime on his name plaque after the famous lyric, “I ain’t got a dime.”
Their Films Still Warm Our Hearts
A few buried at the cemetery skip the sentiment on their epitaph and show off their sense of humor instead. Billy Wilder twists the classic last line to his film Some Like It Hot with: “I’m a writer but then nobody’s perfect.” Jack Lemmon goes for simplicity with “Jack Lemmon in” above his burial spot. My personal favorite is comedian Rodney Dangerfield with “there goes the neighborhood.”
Also buried at cemetery is:
- Don Knotts
- Farrah Fawcett
- Peter Falk
- Walter Matthau
- Armand Hammer
- Truman Capote
- Frank Zappa (unmarked)
As a small secluded park, Westwood Village Memorial is actually a pleasant hideaway with its large trees and colorful flowers. This peaceful place is a tranquil spot to visit when you want to get away from the busy city.
- Would you enjoy living in Westwood?
- How would the Westwood area of Los Angeles be a good fit for you?
- In what ways might living there impact your daily quality of life?
2. Beachwood Among Best L.A. Neighborhoods
The Beachwood Village is located just inside the stone gate towers near the top of Beachwood Drive that were erected originally to mark the entrance into the Hollywoodland development in the 1920s.
The village is home to a terrific neighborhood market, a florist, café, antique shop and dry cleaners, as well as to Hollywoodland Realty, located in the building that served as the sales model for the Hollywoodland.
The Hollywoodland Realty office has the same storybook-style of architecture of most of the original Hollywoodland homes that serve to make this community one of the most charming in all of Los Angeles.
A hike to the Hollywood Sign is one of the top fun things to do in Los Angeles.
The Hollywood Sign is among the most famous landmarks in the world. It is 45-feet tall and spans 350-feet wide.
There are strategic places to view and photograph the world-famous Hollywood Sign, including one of my favorite neighborhoods, Beachwood.
The sign is perched high upon Mount Lee but its view is not restricted to the Hollywood Hills; in fact, on a clear day the sign can be seen for miles and miles.
Originally created as a real estate advertisement in 1923, the iconic Hollywood Sign has fallen into disrepair many times, reaching its most dilapidated state in the 1970s. At one point the sign read: “HullyWO D.”
In 1978 Alice Cooper campaigned to save the sign and the Hollywood Sign Trust was formed to maintain the sign and protect the area. This means you cannot actually visit the sign itself (not without getting arrested anyway).
Here are the safe, easy and legal places to get a fantastic and direct view of the world-renowned sign so that you can photograph it.
By the way, Hollywood-and-Highland is a viewing choice that is particularly good for those who don’t want to walk or hike much.
The Hollywood and Highland Center is a shopping complex with 75 shops and restaurants. Built in 2001 along with the Nokia Theater, which is home to the Academy Awards, the center piece is a three story courtyard with two giant statues of elephants on pillars. The design was inspired by the Babylon set from D.W. Griffith film Intolerance.
At the back of the courtyard on the third floor is a bridge which offers a picturesque view of the Hollywood Sign and comes with coin operated viewing binoculars. It’s the easiest place to visit and offers a fantastic view of the sign. Unfortunately the bridge isn’t very wide so it’s hard to fit you and your friends in a photo with the sign from this location.
Beachwood Drive is perhaps the best spot to get a photo of someone with the Hollywood sign.
Off the beaten track you can view the Hollywood Sign up close by traveling into the Hollywood Hills through Beachwood Drive. This street heads north from Franklin Ave and is just east of the Vine exit on the 101.
The Hollywood Hills is a residential area that isn’t fond of the extra traffic from sign seekers so be respectful and drive carefully up the long windy roads. At the top you’ll see an area to park just before a Ranch. The Ranch is private property but a small trail by the gate leads to some nice views of the sign without trespassing.
To get a good shot of the sign in your photo, make sure there is some distance between you – and then zoom-in on whomever you’re photographing (the sign will look tiny if you are too close to the person).
3. Lake Hollywood
Also within the Hollywoods Hills, but a bit northwest of the Beachwood area, is the Lake Hollywood area.
This is also good place to view the Hollywood sign if you want to see how the locals live and not be around so many tourists.
Lake Hollywood is my favorite view of the Hollywood Sign, it has the benefit of being nice and close to the sign up in the Hollywood Hills but it’s also a hiking spot and so you are surrounded by picturesque wildlife and nature.
I recommend you enter at the Weidlake Gate which is the southern exit. You can access this from the Vine exit on the 101 but be sure to have a map or fully charged GPS as the roads can be a bit of a labyrinth.
Once you enter the Reservoir head towards the Dam on the left. Crossing the dam you will see the glorious lake and trees with the Hollywood Sign looking down on you.
This is a great place to take guests and visitors wanting to see the sign because it also shows off many of LA’s hidden nature spots.
The expanding city of Los Angeles is known for tall buildings, high-end luxury real estate and – without question – traffic. That also means that there is an enormous amount of concrete in L.A. and a dearth of open space. So when Angelenos want to find nature, open vistas, and room to walk freely, where should they go?
Fortunately, nestled throughout L.A.’s densely packed urban jungle there are many parks, hiking trails and lakes.
Yes, there are actually sizeable bodies of water in Los Angeles providing those in the know (consider yourself a new member of this elite group) a place to take in some peace and quiet.
These lakes belong to a system of reservoirs designed by the late William Mulholland – once the head of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – that were constructed in the 1920s and have enabled Los Angeles to grow into the prosperous city it is today.
Having a Good Time at Lake Hollywood
Moving from west to east there are three main reservoirs – Stone Canyon, Franklin Canyon and Lake Hollywood.
Lake Hollywood, as the locals refer to it, is the largest of all three. It currently holds approximately 2.5 million gallons, and has some terrific options for anyone looking for walking recreation in Los Angeles. Here are some top picks:
- Lake Hollywood Park – Such a relaxing setting to enjoy a family picnic or bring your dogs for a play-date while you visit with friends. There are lots of flat grassy areas, picnic tables, and ample parking.
- Got Nature? – The surrounding hillsides are abundant with chaparral and coastal sage scrub. Mature oaks, eucalyptus, pine, and wild walnut trees shade much of the path around the lake.
- Birders’ Paradise – A meandering stroll around the lake may yield sightings of hawks, ducks, California quails, woodpeckers, hummingbirds and blue jays. Bring your binoculars and you may discover some which are not even listed here.
The truth is that Los Angeles is an insiders’ city and so many of the newest and most enjoyable events and activities are not things you would typically discover during day-to-day living. To keep abreast of all the best things to do in Los Angeles, and the latest news and LA community information, visit this site regularly – or if you have specific questions about Los Angeles real estate, call David at 310-345-6911.
The next time you need to get away from the fast pace of the city and partake in outdoor recreation, just remember this: a breath of fresh air and a natural stress reliever is only minutes away at Lake Hollywood, via any one of the three entry gates.
The Lake Hollywood reservoir is a quick and easy way to get your nature and outdoor exercise fix.
4. Santa Monica Airport Area
Frequenting the environs of West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and west Los Angeles, you might on occasion notice the sound of corporate jets or small propeller aircraft flying directly overhead.
Ever wonder where they were going?
The Santa Monica Airport (SMO) has been the home to military, corporate, and general aviation for the last ninety-five years.
There is a residential area surrounding the small airport.
Like with most major attractions located within a residential area, having an airport in a community can tend to impact home values to some degree. This has historically been the case for homes within close earshot of the Santa Monica Airport. The value of a home very close to the airport is often less than a comparable home that’s nearby – but less impacted – by the airport traffic.
In the late 1910s, pilots of the first world war used the property as an informal landing strip for their biplanes.
Today, it’s a hub for airlines and arts alike.
The city council recently voted to close the airport by summer 2018; however, there are still many legal hurdles that would have to be jumped for a closing to actually occur – aviation interests and the federal government would likely try to prevent it, as they have successfully in the past.
The homes in the residential area near Santa Monica Airport have diverse architectural styles, though arguably the area is best known for the ’40s single-story traditional style – typically under 2,000 square feet.
Santa Monica Airport is Still a Best-Kept Secret
Most airports conjure up feelings of travel-stress, long waits, and uncomfortable flights. Airport are a conduit, not an actual destination.
Or are they?
Even today, not everyone is aware that there is an airport in Santa Monica, or of how much there is to do there.
If you are searching for something to do this upcoming weekend, let this be a guide for a fun-filled day at Santa Monica Airport.
Watching the Airport Operations
There are two fantastic observation areas to watch the arrivals and departures of planes and helicopters.
Get up close to the action at the Runway View Deck or take in the operations from a higher perch at the public Sky Deck. Both are located on either side of the airport’s administration building and are open to the public every day from dawn to dusk.
Dining at the Santa Monica Airport
Starting to get hungry? Depending on your timing, you can visit a couple of different restaurants.
You can dine at either of two Santa Monica Airport restaurants.
Try the Spitfire Grill for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Enjoy one of their specialty dishes like the “P-38” tuna sandwich while taking-in the vintage aviation memorabilia.
If you appreciate Pan-Asian cuisine, Typhoon sits adjacent to the airstrip and serves some of the finest sushi. Thinking of making your visit a fly-in? Typhoon has transient parking for single and light twin-engine airplanes directly in front of the restaurant! (Just remember: eight hours “from bottle to throttle” – so if you’re flying-in, be responsible.)
Arts and Theater at the Airport
Now that you’re fuelled up, the Santa Monica Arts Studio has a lot to offer the creative artist at heart. It’s an artistic village waiting to be explored under the rooftop of a converted 22,000 square foot hanger.
Throughout the year, SMAS has many events – including lectures, art gallery displays, and workshops. Time it right and you can catch the latest theatrical performance at the Ruskin Group Theater Company. There are no bad seats in this quaint theater. All of the seats are only steps away from the stage.
The Museum of Flying
What better way to cap-off your visit than taking-in some of the SMO’s rich aviation history first hand? Although the museum was closed for many years, the doors reopened recently and the DC-3 is out front to again welcome visitors. Inside, there are about two dozen airplanes on display, aviation art, and rare artifacts from famous aviators.
5. Century City
Century City has never been LA’s brightest star. But that might be changing.
In the time since Candy Spelling paid $35,000,000 in 2010 for her two-floor penthouse at The Century – Los Angeles’ premium condo high-rise on four lush acres in the heart of Century City – prices in the luxury building have dramatically increased, and development and interest in Century City living have steadily been on the rise.
Will Century City’s current and upcoming remodeling projects revitalize the community and increase walkability – or simply increase density?
Could Century City Be the Next Grove?
Century City has a geographical location that is ideal in many ways:
- the community is located centrally between the Westside of LA and the eastern areas
- people like that the community is directly next to Beverly Hills and also close enough to the ocean to enjoy the improved air quality of sea breezes
- it’s also not so far west that one has to transverse the dreaded traffic gridlock of Wilshire at the 405 freeway.
The lack of walkability within Century City (and lack of architectural diversity) has previously given the community a bit of a sterile feel. Even so, there’s something about the vibe of Century City that has always been positive, and over the years the community has gradually become more appealing in the minds of Los Angeles residents.
The plan to dramatically improve the Century Plaza could make Century City even more walkable (much like The Grove shopping center revitalized the Miracle Mile area of Los Angeles). The plan, reports LA Curbed, includes a “100,000-square-foot public plaza and two acres of open space, which could actually enliven the pedestrian experience in this section of the neighborhood.” If the plan is implemented, it will upgrade the entire surrounding areas of the hotel. This could be the game-changer the area has been waiting for. This new planned development might also include shopping, fitness, luxury condos, offices, and hotel rooms.
Additionally, the Westfield Century City Mall is currently having its $800-million remodel, and those plans also include a 15-story residential tower.
- What are your thoughts about the proposed new development?
- What are your impressions of Century City overall?
North of Pasadena is a the community of Altadena, nestled near the border of the Angeles National Forest.
True, the air quality in Alta Dena is not always stellar; however, the proximity of so much nature is rare for a Southern California community.
Hiking LA is one of the most fun things do in Southern California, and one of the benefits to living in this warm-weather metropolis near the sea. While there are many trails for hiking LA – all of them unique in their own way – Echo Mountain is arguably one of the most enjoyable.
Perhaps what sets the Echo Mountain hike apart from other Los Angeles hikes is that it not only allows you to experience Southern California nature, it also give you a taste of history.
Hiking to The White City Ruins in LA
At the top of the hiking trail at Echo Mountain sits the burnt-out ruins of The White City, a late 19th Century hotel. The hotel was built in 1896 by Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe, an inventor and Civil War balloonist (no, I don’t know what that job really means either) and engineer David J. MacPherson.
Together they built the resort 3,207 feet above sea level with two hotels, an observatory and a small zoo. It became a must-see attraction. Guests were not expected to hike to the resort, instead they took a tram line that was built to reach the complex!
After a series of fires and windstorms the resort was abandoned in 1938 but its remains are still on view for anyone that enjoys a good hike.
Seeing Relics During Your LA Hikes
Following the trail up Echo Mountain you will know when you’re close to the hotel’s concrete foundations when you pass the rusted tram still sitting on an abandoned track. Just a short stretch up is a giant wheel that was used to pull the tram along its 4-mile journey through the mountains. I’m sure this tram journey was at least half the fun back when it was in operation.
At the site of the remains, many sign posts show pictures of the original hotel accompanied by text on the history of each spot.
When you are done with the stellar view of Pasadena that stretches out to Downtown LA (I’m told you can even see the ocean on a clear day) you can then cross the ruins towards Castle Canyon, the big mountain that Echo Mountain foots.
Locating Echophone on Your LA Hike
Past the ruins you will find the Echophone.
This peak is named Echo Mountain because when you shout into Castle Canyon you get a clear repeated echo. At some point the Boy Scouts tested out the quality of the echo and found what they called the sweet spots. They then placed metal megaphones pointed at Castle Canyon. Replicas of the Echophones remain for you to try out yourself. The original Echophones are now parts of personal or museum collections.
How Hard a Hike Is It?
This hike is a five mile round trip, two and a half to the peak, and back down again.
The first half can be a little tough (especially in the summer), so remember your water and maybe a protein bar. At the top there is a picnic area surround by pine trees, this well-shaded spot is a great place to cool down and rest before you head home.
To access the Echo Mountain hike drive towards Pasadena and exit the 210 to head north on Lake Avenue. At the head of the road you can get street parking and follow the path on the right that enters Angeles National Forest.
Which of the six neighborhoods listed above would best match your unique style of daily living?