Okay, we know what you’re asking yourself–Los Angeles has sides? Like most metropolis cities, Los Angeles in fact does have sides but maybe not quite like you think. We put together a beginner’s guide full of rules of thumb and go to tips to Los Angeles, to help you learn your new city and fast!
Los Angeles is a huge place. There’s a reason why it’s possible for over 10 million people to live in greater Los Angeles, having over 46 cities within its county. It’s no wonder LA natives like myself mix up certain parts of town from time to time. First things first, try not to overthink it. That’s what LA is all about, be chill as we say. But at the same time you got to know your left from right to make it in this town. The second thing is: a lot of knowing which side of town you’re on has to do with freeways and landmarks. A good rule of thumb every Angeleno will agree with is: know your freeways to know your city.
Every part of LA has their easy to understand sections of town, and then there are the parts that get tricky since much of the lingo and designations stem from local use. That being said, it can also be one of the most daunting places to drive in mainly because of the freeways are necessary to travel anywhere. It’s important to know what ‘sides’ make up Los Angeles because if you have a meeting with that agent in Santa Monica and you’re leaving from North Hollywood, it can be a difference of several hours depending what time you leave. Which means landing that first gig could depend on how well you know LA.
The Westside is generally heralded as the most attractive place to live in Los Angeles. It homes Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, West Hollywood, Fairfax District and the illustrious Sunset Blvd. The trick to understanding the Westside map in your head is to know where the city you’re in resides compared to these markers. Rule of thumb: The Westside is south of the Valley, North of LAX, West of Downtown till you reach Hollywood, Inglewood and Marina Del Rey. The Westside’s western boundary is easy… it’s the pacific ocean or the infamous Pacific Coast Highway; to the south we have LAX airport and everything north of it up the 405 until you go “over the hill” to the 101 and the Valley. Passing through Fairfax and Culver City, we hit the east boundary of downtown Los Angeles or the South East boarder of Inglewood or East LA. You can always ask someone if you’re not sure, where is the airport from here? How do I get to downtown? Also, if you see a lot of Teslas, Whole Foods, Yoga Studios and can smell the ocean air, chances are you’re probably in the Westside.
The Eastside is typically what gives people the most trouble. There’s a perennial debate surrounding these neighborhoods East of Downtown. For most of LA’s history the East Side was never to be mistaken for East LA’s Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights and El Serrano. These predominate Latino neighborhoods did not identify with the East Side homes of Los Feliz, Echo Park, Silver Lake, Atwater Village and all the hipster attitude to boot. But things are starting to change as the housing crisis in Los Angeles beckons, causing the gentrification of places like Boyle Heights; now a hot destination for young artists moving in next to affordable housing complexes. Still, the neighborhoods are East of Downtown.. They are built on the hills and mounds outside the city until they connect with places like Eagle Rock and South Pasadena. One of the really cool things you can do is take Sunset Blvd from the Eastside to the Westside. Just not at 5pm on a weekday. Both sides of the city have a unique nightlife and cultural swag. A great way to learn the differences is to spend some time in each. People tend to really like one over the other.
The Southland of Los Angeles may or may not have received its fair share of dues. LBC is the second largest metropolis of Los Angeles and has long been LA’s border to Orange County. Some Long Beachers would go as far to say Long Beach is its own place separate from Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean they’re right. Long Beach certainly is its own place in terms of its nearly half a million residents. But the industrial county by the beach has an umbrella covering cities such as Carson, Torrance, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Palos Verdes and Gardena. With neighboring Compton, Hawthorne and Inglewood, Long Beach wasn’t always the most lucrative place to live. In many ways that is why you can still find affordable housing there, as flocks of young people have moved in giving Long Beach an up and comer atmosphere with a thriving port and nightlife. Maybe over time it might even be hip enough to be called the Southside. For now, think of Long Beach as the southern border of Los Angeles to Orange County.
We all have a friend who lives in Mid-Town and we’re always wondering how they get anywhere on time. The answer generally lies with Uber and the subway because midtown is the only part of LA that doesn’t have a freeway running through it. Many of you coming to Los Angeles will find Midtown as the most affordable place to live via, Koreatown or Leimert Park. It’s a great place to be on foot. A lot of shops and businesses in one place, a lot of culture and different people also. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Mid-Town boundaries begin at the South boundary of the Santa Monica Freeway, East by Crenshaw Blvd, North by Pico Blvd, and West by La Cienega and Washington. You’ll be taking Olympic Blvd and Wilshire to go east and west. If you’re headed to Mid-Town from anywhere else, you’ll be taking a freeway for some-odd miles before taking the streets for about 20 minutes. Don’t be afraid to take the streets in LA, it’s a great way to learn your city.
Downtown can be a confusing place to navigate at first, but once you know your way around you’ll find Downtown to be one of LA’s most exciting and culture packed areas. There’s the Arts District, Broadway Theater and Commercial District, Bunker Hill, Civic Center, Fashion District, Financial District, Flower District, Gallery Row, Historic Core, Jewelry District, and Little Tokyo just to name a few. Basically, there are several bridges leading out of downtown’s warehouse district to the East, while to the West you’ll be hopping on the 10 to the Westside after passing the Staples Center. Head South and you’ll hit Vernon and South Central, Compton and so on until eventually hitting Long Beach territory. Downtown works as the heart to the body of Los Angeles. If you think of Downtown as the center it really helps put places in perspective. It also helps when you can see Downtown with your own eyes. Know where you are from Downtown and you’ll know where you are in LA.
The Valley can sometimes get a bad rep but there’s really no place like it. But what connects the Valley to the Los Angeles? The Canyons and the Hollywood Hills connect the Valley to the Westside. Coldwater Canyon, Laurel Canyon, Beverly Glen and Mulholland Blvd can all be alternatives to sitting in traffic on the 405. Universal City, home of Universal Studios, sits right up the 101 from Hollywood and next to Studio City and Ventura Blvd. From there the Valley stems both North and West into Greater Los Angeles. Places like Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, North Hollywood, Simi Valley and Reseda are just some of the Valley’s sub-parts. The Valley is the northern border of Los Angeles, to the Grapevine and beyond. For most people the Valley is referenced as ‘over the hill’, being that the hills of Hollywood shield most of LA from its view. You take the 101 north, the 405 north or the canyons into the Valley.
Greater Los Angeles
Depending on different sources the population of Los Angeles is over 17 million people and 5 counties. For example, Wikipedia counts Los Angeles County, Riverside County, Long Beach County, and Orange County as members of greater Los Angeles. And for the most part this is accepted by the general public. But on a personal level, most people consider places like Pasadena, Long Beach, even places like Burbank and Pomona, while although they certainly on a formal level are under the Los Angeles umbrella, there is a certain disservice in dismissing these places as districts or suburbs of Los Angeles. That’s what this advice is really all about. Pay attention to what the locals are saying. Get to know your city by taking the streets and learning the freeways.
LA has sides and district lines and beaches and valley and hills, but LA is still one big city waiting for you to get to know her.