As you begin to plan out your trip, you’ve likely checked out Google Maps – or if you’re over 50, MapQuest – and seen just how freakin’ big the city of Los Angeles actually is. A 500-square-mile morass of low-rise buildings and multi-lane freeways spread out across a massive area that just a hundred years ago was mostly desert.
We’ve got news for you – there’s even more here than that, because those 500-square-miles don’t include all the wonderful other cities that reside inside Los Angeles itself. That’s right: LA is so big that entire municipalities are contained within the municipal limits of the City of Angeles itself. Some you’ve heard of, others you’ll come to know, all of which have their own police departments that would love to find a reason to collect fees based on your poor parking decisions.
Smack dab in the middle of LA, Beverly Hills is like that stuffy aunt who wants to let you know how to raise the kids, even though she’s not going to pitch in to help. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot going on here – world-class restaurants and hotels are a big draw, plus the fancy-pants shops on Rodeo Drive that a freelance writer like myself can only write sassy words about on a travel website.
And even if you have no reason to stop in Beverly Hills, you may find yourself spending hours here anyway – its one of the worst traffic spots in all LA county. Maybe they should think about renaming it Rodeo Park. Get it? #dadjoke
Once the home of MGM – the one with the roaring lion – Culver City now plays host to Sony Pictures Studios, where you can fulfill your lifelong dream of sitting in the Jeopardy! audience (just me?). Recently the city has become a nighttime destination, with a vibrant downtown that features some of SoCal’s trendiest restaurants and gastropubs (the hipster word for “restaurant”).
Oh, and about the hipsters – they’re everywhere. Culver City is still an affordable alternative to some of the surrounding areas, so the frugal-minded may find more to do, eat, and see here. Just be wary of the prevalent bike lanes and enjoy the taco trucks on every corner.
In case you hadn’t heard, football is back in Los Angeles – at least until 2020, when it moves out of Los Angeles and into Inglewood. Including the recently-reopened Hollywood Forum, the city is aiming to build an event hub to rival the Staples Center. You can’t miss the under-construction Los Angeles Stadium (which, once again, is not in LA), soon-to-be-home of the newly-minted LA Chargers and the “Oh you guys came too huh” LA Rams.
This is where you’ll eventually get to see your back-home teams when they come into town, and I’m sure you’ll feel welcome in the sparsely-filled stands; Angelenos don’t really go to the games, because anyone who grew up here is a Raiders* fans.
*Full disclosure – I’m a Pats fan. You can hate-tweet me directly at @kylefandrews
While the San Fernando Valley (we just call it “The Valley,” thanks) is a massive sub-section of Los Angeles just over the hill from anything interesting, the tiny town of San Fernando remains separate from the pack. Unlike most of the Valley which needed Mama Angeles to provide its drinking water, the city of 25,000 sits on its own natural reserves, thus never needing to suckle on that teat – so to speak.
As this is a two-square-mile residential village that you’ll probably only stop in if you need directions to somewhere else, there’s not much to say. I just wanted to make sure the people of San Fernando get the recognition they deserve.
The oldest city on the list, this beach community is worth the hours you’ll spend on the 10 Freeway trying to get here. The city has everything you’d expect a functional city of almost 100,000 people to have, including (surprisingly clean) public transportation, science centers, art houses, and miles of incredible public beaches.
Actors will become familiar with it as they spend their days centering themselves on the beach before heading to any of a dozen (mostly commercial) casting offices. Technical entrepreneurs will find job opportunities in a number of game studios and graphic design offices. Health enthusiasts will find acres of beachfront activities from biking to yoga to full oceanside fitness circuits. And if you want to spend money, there’s everything from outdoor malls delightfully called “promenades” to million-dollar real estate listings.
Basically, Santa Monica is so rich, smart, fit, and pretty it’s hard not to punch it in its perfect little face.
The youngest city on our list – and easily the most fabulous – is beautiful and sunny West Hollywood, or “WeHo.” This mecca of modernity is built on hills and pride, both of which you’ll love to travel whenever Pride parades its way through town (or even on your average Tuesday night). Just make note of all the parking signs, because while the nightlife may feel a little pricey, the ticket you’ll get from WeHo’s Parking Enforcement will likely require a loan from a major financial institution.
Unlike WeHo, NoHo and RegularHo are still part of Los Angeles proper. Not for lack of trying, though; Hollywood attempted to make its own way in the world by pushing a ballot measure to secede from LA in 2002, but the measure failed after a city-wide vote. It turns out, no matter how awful the tourist situation at Hollywood/Highland can be, we all still want their cold hard cash.