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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm from Seattle, and I'll be visiting LA in a couple weeks for a few days. I very interested in cities, and whenever I go to a city I wander around (by transit) and explore the city and its neighborhoods. What are some interesting, vibrant neighborhoods around LA that I should visit that I probably wouldn't find in the guidebooks?
 

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LAL | LAD | LAK
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Koreatown is as transit accessible as any neighborhood can be (3 subway stops). It's very vibrant during the lunch hour, although I don't know what the nightlife is like or how safe it is once the sun goes down. Definitely feast on some Korean BBQ while you're there.

Other vibrant, transit-accessible hoods worth visiting (some are "guidebook material"):

Old Town Pasadena
Downtown Long Beach
Boyle Heights
Highland Park
Hollywood
Chinatown
Little Tokyo
Old Bank District
Historic Core

The Belmont Shore section of Long Beach is, IMO, the most beautiful urban hood in all of LA. The only problem is it's located at the very southeastern corner of LA County. If you're willing to bike 3 or so miles, then it's worth a visit.

I recognize your screen name from SSP. You should PM Kingofthehill and ChrisLA. They are almost always willing to give tours.
 

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In Los Angeles, one really can't limit him- or herself to transit in order to fully explore the various neighborhoods, districts, and suburbs. Many of the most interesting places are not yet connected very well by rail or by B.R.T. The recent thread on shopping destinations is a good guideline, though, for you to use since these are the major pockets of walkability.

The historic core is certainly getting better in terms of intensity, but Los Angeles' city center is still oriented more to employment uses rather than residential. However, you may find beneficial this Flickr group that is devoted to exploring southern California by rail: http://www.flickr.com/groups/exploringsoutherncaliforniabyrail
 

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Belmont Shore is my favorite, too. It should serve as the model for all of southern California.

Belmont Shore and the nearby Naples benefit by being on the border between L.A. and Orange Counties, so the neighborhood really has the best of both worlds and a great diversity of people. The retail mix on Second Street, also, is a nice balance between chains and independents. And, the street and block patterns there are also quite unique.
 

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Silver Lake
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In Los Angeles, one really can't limit him- or herself to transit in order to fully explore the various neighborhoods, districts, and suburbs. Many of the most interesting places are not yet connected very well by rail or by B.R.T. The recent thread on shopping destinations is a good guideline, though, for you to use since these are the major pockets of walkability.
He's from Seattle, they just got their first LRT line which used to be a bus. He's used to taking busses. LA is a bus paradise. He'll be fine.
 

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even without transit, walking all day can bring hidden gems into the light. hole-in-the-wall places you'll never find outside of the city limits or even out of certain districts/enclaves. the triangled land between echo park, silverlake, and macarthur park/westlake is a perfect example. it's bus and rail is somewhat limited (for being so close to downtown), but you can find some great eateries and shops in filipinotown and around sunset/alvarado. also, it's the best urban part of l.a. to bike around.

generally, the city is pretty safe during daylight hours. south central l.a. is the only area that you want to avoid past rush hour. even though nothing goes down like it used to, people from anywhere can always tell who doesn't belong simply by how you may dress, walk, or even look at your surroundings. besides that, the police always give people a hard time just for passing through.
 

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Everyone always says the same thing but one of the BEST places that no one ever talks about is the Arts District. BY FAR my favorite place to be in LA. It's surreal. It's in the middle of nowhere (it's in downtown but off near the LA River), and it's amazing. Urth Cafe, is always jumping. SciArch is a nice place to walk around and look at the models and designs of students, as well as the awesome murals and very cool clothing stores. Plus you are bound to run into some good music there. Or someone filming a movie/commercial/fashion shoot. The people there are urbane and with it and know exactly what's going on.

Some pictures.




 

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Hi-

You have to do the usual. Hollywood, Downtown, Korea Town, Echo Park, Silver Lake etc but take the outsider routes, the architecture is fantastic.

Near Downtown (Echo Park): Angelino Heights, a neighborhood of Victorian Homes form the 1800's.

In Downtown go everywhere, as mentioned the Arts District, the Financial District (old buildings), Union Station, go down Broadway and see all the movie palaces from yesteryear. The Continental Building the first true LA skyscraper still standing from (1903?), the Bradbury Building (1888) etc. Chinatown is also in downtown. From Union Station take the Gold line to East Los Angeles and watch the urban scenery change, the people (Latin). If you go the other way to Pasadena, same thing, completely different people etc.


I'd dare to say if you're up to it, on the Red line to Hollywood get off at McArthur Park and see another face of the city, you can walk to the other side of the park and see the old Elks Lodge headquarters, an Art Deco Beauty, and grab a bite to eat at Langers Deli on the corner.

If ya need help, just let us know.

Angelino Heights


East Los Angeles


MacArthur park


The Continental Building - Downtown


Bradbury Building - Downtown
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Wow, thanks everyone so much for all the suggestions! I'll try to make it to as many of these as I can! Looks like I won't be spending much time in my hotel room :)

If anyone here is ever up in Seattle and wants some suggestions, just let me know!
 

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Fortunately, LA is a 3 month project minimum. If you are really interested in how a neighborhood works, stay there for several days and walk solely in that neighborhood. Places like Hollywood, DT, Ktown, Westlake, Boyle Heights each can involve you for days since they had layer upon layer of people moving in. This will give you a great way to spend 5 days at least 20 times.

And forget transit; you might as well go back to cars. Go on foot. For Ktown, for example, walk Wilshire, Vermont, Western, but also 7th and 8th and as many of the 30 or 40 streets connecting them as you can. These side streets sometimes will have 8 distinct (if unnamble) arcitectural styles within a block: gems and disasters that wouldn't be noticed other than by walking the side streets. A real sense of neighborhood rather than just commerce.
 

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Here are a few suggestions for non-Downtown stuff:

Westlake and Koreatown are 2 of the densest neighborhoods in the country - outside of Manhattan, of course - and offer an eclectic mix of apartments, primarily in the form of pre-war 1920s Revival Style (Spanish, Tudor, Renaissance/Romantic, French, etc) apartments and walkups; stately, ornate Art Deco and Beaux Arts buildings not unlike those in NY; and smaller-scaled, kitschy Dingbat and Modernist duplexes/fourplexes. Westlake is much poorer and grittier, but is also more vibrant and has a higher density, but in an overall smaller area. Miracle Mile is more affluent and has much of the same styles, but only in nicer condition, and with more of a Art Deco influence permeating the area. IMO, some of most dynamic 20s architecture can be found in this area. This area of Koreatown is worth a look, as well. And the most NYC-like blocks in LA are Mariposa and Normandie between 7th/8th. Take the Red/Purple Lines to Alvarado (Westlake), and Western/Normandie (Purple-only)/Vermont for Koreatown; Metro Rapid's 720 runs parallel to the subway along Wilshire (take to La Brea for Miracle Mile). If in Westlake, do pay a visit to Langer's Deli and/or (lol) the original Tommy's burger, and any number of Korean BBQ joints will suffice in Ktown.

Neighboring East Hollywood is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country, with sizeable Mexican, Korean, Salvadoran/Central America, Russian, Armenian, and "typical" American whites (of working class, yuppie and hipster persuasions) populations within its borders. Expect a near-even mix of post-war Modernist apartments and Spanish bungalows and duplexes, with the detail and condition of the architecture improving the further north one goes. For Hollywood itself, walk along Hollywood from Orange to Vine for commercial, and Yucca from Highland to Vine for residential. Secluded Melrose Hill, and the area hidden behind Vermont/Beverly, are two intriguing areas, albeit well-hidden; the latter is technically Koreatown, though. Take Metro Red Line to Highland (Hollywood), Western (Thai section), Santa Monica (including the bicycling mecca at Melrose/Heliotrope), and Beverly. Check out Scoops for ice cream, and Zankou's Chicken for Armenian rotisserie chicken (by way of Beirut, Lebanon).

Pico-Union is another neighborhood that may be of interest to the urbanphile. While it is not without its fair share of sketchiness, it has a surprisingly large amount of Victorian architecture. Alvarado Terrace, the Bonnie Brae tract, and the neighboring Harvard Heights section (north of the 10; west of Western) are all worth checking out. Also, check out this sub-section of the nabe; lots of diamonds in the rough. It and Westlake (of which lies due north of Pico-Union) are LA's premier Central American barrios, something reflected in the demographic makeup and entrepreneurial nature of the neighborhoods. An interesting phenomenon is that LA's immigrant Hispanic neighborhoods are actually safer than its Hispanic-American (i.e, American-born Mexican gangs in Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, et al) counterparts; I would imagine that it is because everybody is too busy working to get caught up in trouble-making, unlike what is the case in some Hispanic-American neighborhoods. Metro Rapid 728 to Olympic Union, Line 730 to Alvarado, or walk 15-20min from LA Live into the area.

Angeleno Heights is a large, well-preserved Victorian district, of which offers intact rows of (detached) 1890s Victorian mansions. It is somewhat reminiscent of Ditmas Park in Brooklyn or the Victorian-heavy districts in West Philadelphia. West Adams is similar to that, but is far more grand in scale, and differs in that its population is majority black professionals, and that it also has Craftsman and other Revival styles (whereas prime Angeleno Heights is exclusively Victorian); lots of movies and TV shows are filmed in the area (CSI, Six Feet Under, The Shield, Monk, etc). Really a lovely area, and a definite must-see for any self-loving architecture aficionado. Metro Rapid 704 to Echo Park Ave, and 757 to Washington, respectively.

Highland Park is home to the largest Craftsman bungalow neighborhood, in the city with the most extensive collection of Craftsman architecture. The neighborhood is pretty much split in two along Figueroa, which is where you can catch the Metro Gold Line @ Ave 56; the better architecture lies to the west, and is up in the hills. Some pretty big "ultimate" Craftsmans, and smart-looking renovations can be found in the area to the W/NW of Monte Vista. Grassroots gentrification is taking place in the hilly areas (because of yuppies), and in the areas along York (Occidental College students). As an added bonus, HLP has some of the best Mexican food *anywhere* in the city. Galco's soda store (world's largest soda store) and La Estrella for tacos are musts. Huaraches Aztecas has out-of-this-world good huaraches and fresh juices, too.

Boyle Heights has some vestiges of its once-glorious past floating around, particularly in the form of run-down and stucco-ed old Victorian mansions, too. Once the largest Jewish community west of the Mississippi (50,000 Jews + 100 temples/synagogue), it is now the largest Hispanic neighborhood in the country. The areas surrounding Hollenbeck Park, and Soto north of Chavez are my favorites. Honestly, BH is kind of a hit or miss area, seeing how so much has been altered beyond recognition. Metro Gold Line to Mariachi Plaza and Soto St, though.

Then you have Venice, which is where 90% of LA's architects live, and where the majority of the most-prominent contemporary works are. Lots of cool new minimalist and deconstructionist homes lining canals (hence the name "Venice") there. Cute bungalows can be found in the non-canal areas, along with generally good-looking medium density infill. Abbot Kinney is lined with trendy boutiques and swank, mid-level restaurants, along with the tanned and fashionable patrons who frequent such places - more pretentious than anywhere on the list, IMO.

The hilly areas above Los Feliz, Silverlake and, to a lesser extent, Echo Park, are similar as well, as they have tons of Dwell Magazine-type houses nestled on winding roads in the Santa Monica Mountains. The neighborhoods grow increasingly poor, and the housing stock deteriorates the further east you go, with Los Feliz, Silverlake, and (distant) Echo Park being the order in which they rank. It is worth nothing that the flatlands part of Los Feliz (i.e, south of Los Feliz Blvd) has a rather large collection of 1920's French Country architecture. Lots of hipsters in Silverlake and Echo Park. Look into Two Boots Pizza and Tacos Arrizas for kitschy, alternative pizza, and some of the best tacos around, respectively, if in Echo Park. Inteligentsia in Silverlake is good for single drip, new-wave coffee. Metro 733 Western terminus to Venice; Red Line to Sunset/Vermont for Los Feliz; and Metro Rapid 704 to Silverlake and Echo Park (Sandborn/Sunset Junction, and Echo Park Ave, respectively).

For vibrancy, Abbot Kinney (Venice), Broadway between 2nd and 8th St (DTLA), Crenshaw/Vernon (Leimert Park), Downtown Santa Monica, anywhere in the Fashion District (DTLA) or Chinatown, York/Ave 50 and Figueroa near the Gold Line in Highland Park, Hollywood Blvd between La Brea and Vine (Hollywood), Old Town Pasadena, Santa Monica Blvd/Western (EHO), Soto/Chavez (Boyle Heights), Sunset/Echo Park (Echo Park), Sunset Junction (Silverlake), Vermont from Prospect to Franklin (Los Feliz), Vermont/Santa Monica (EHO), anywhere along Vermont between Exposition and Slauson (South LA), Westwood from Wilshire on into UCLA, and Wilshire between Western and Alvarado (Koreatown and Westlake, respectively) are all good bets (among many others).

La Brea (between roughly 8th and Hollywood), Hollywood from Highland to Vine, Wilshire from Fairfax to Highland, and Beverly Blvd from La Cienega to La Brea, are all good for Art-Deco buildings. BTW, some moderate caution is advised for Boyle Heights, Pico-Union, and Westlake; do try and visit during daytime hours, if possible.

I hoped that helped!

P.S: As noted by Westsidelife (thanks, Westie!), I regularly give tours to forumers from both SSC/SSP. If you would like me to show you around any of the said places, or would like further recommendations, or even any sort of elaboration/clarification, do not hesitate to PM me. I will be out of town for about a week in January, though.
 

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Agree with LASF: very complete and accurate. For your next edition you might want to add University Park and West Adams.

Gebhard and Winter, "An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles" is a good source for neighborhood background and specific buildings.
 
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