I remember when I was getting ready to move to Los Angeles. I had never stepped FOOT in the city, yet had my mind set on packing my things and setting off on a solo road trip to my new home across the United States. It’s safe to say it worked out, but for someone who has never been, understanding that each neighborhood is its own city in itself was mind-blowing–and, no, you can’t just walk over to the next one. You NEED a car in L.A. Anyway, this is what I wish I knew about Los Angeles before I took the move:

The Breakdown:

  • Housing: If you’re okay with having a roommate, plan to save for 3 months of rent at $1,200/month before making the leap. You may be able to find cheaper ($700-$800) if you opt for an artist community or non-centralized location. Just know that you’ll be paying for your peace of mind when stuck in traffic or listening to the 20 other people in your community argue over dishes.
  • Location: If your job is not remote, plan to live within 5 miles of your workplace. Even though 10 miles may not seem far on paper, you’ll find yourself stuck in traffic for over an hour each way on your commute. Nobody needs this in their lives, trust me.
  • Parking: Believe me when I say these guys are hiding in the bushes and waiting to slap a parking ticket on your car. There is street cleaning on random sides of the road at random times each week. Sometimes you will find a sign with four different rules, some of them contradicting each other. There is no way to win…unless you download the app SpotAngels. You need to stay vigilant and pray for a private parking spot with your lease.

The Neighborhoods:

1. Venice

This is my all-time favorite neighborhood. Though it wasn’t the first place I lived, I was here for about four months, from February to June. Venice is a beach town and almost any spot you live here will be walking–or at least scootering–distance to the beach. It’s the place to be! You can pop over to Rose Ave for brunch and coffee or stroll down Abbot Kinney for lunch and shopping. At the boardwalk, there’s always TONS of people bustling around, playing music or filming something. We’ve also got the famous Venice Skatepark by Muscle Beach that is the perfect place for people watching.

Venice Beach
Venice Beach

If you want a quieter area, check out the Venice Canals. This is the more romantic side of Venice. You can stroll across the white arched bridges and watch the ducks go by. And yes, you’re still walking distance to the beach, don’t worry.

Venice Canals
Venice Canals

In most of Venice, there is a younger, laidback crowd full of hippies, beach bums and surfers. I found this to be the most walkable and friendly neighborhood I lived in in Los Angeles. Anytime I went to grab a coffee, I’d see someone that I knew and would be greeted with a smile and a wave. Compared to the other popular beach neighborhood, Santa Monica, Venice is much more affordable.

2. Santa Monica

Santa Monica is the other beach neighborhood and it is GORGEOUS. The streets here are much more well-kept than Venice and there are plenty of nice places to shop and eat in the promenade. There’s a beautiful cliff walk called Pacific Palisades lining Ocean Ave that I love. You can grab a refreshing drink from the fresh-squeezed juice truck that always parks right next to Pacific Palisades and take an easy walk, soaking in the ocean breeze.

Pacific Palisades Sunset
Pacific Palisades Sunset

Down below, you’ll see the famous Santa Monica Pier and can watch the ferris wheel light up at night. This is one of the only neighborhoods where you can walk about twenty minutes or so down the beach and run into Venice.

Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier

However, with Santa Monica being so much more expensive than Venice, there tends to be an older crowd here. It’s more of a family-oriented or retirement neighborhood, but is very safe in those regards and a wonderful option if you can afford it.

3. Silver Lake

Silver Lake is the first neighborhood I lived in upon arrival in Los Angeles. I heard it was full of hippies and coffee-drinkers and bohemian delight. Though all of this is true, I was living on the wrong side of the underpass. If you aren’t living right off of Sunset Boulevard, you’ll probably need to pass a series of homeless encampments or trailers in order to get to where the action is. All I’m saying is, choose your address wisely! Echo Park is also a beautiful place to be within Silver Lake, as you’ll be overlooking the lake itself and the swan boats in all of their glory.

Runyon Canyon Sunrise
Runyon Canyon Sunrise

You’ll be driving distance to one of the best hikes: Runyon Canyon. From the top, you can see the entire city sparkling below and the famous Hollywood Sign beside you in the hills. Go at sunrise to have the place to yourself and watch the beauty unfold.

Muddy Paw Coffee
Muddy Paw Coffee

If you end up in Silver Lake, check out my favorite cafe: Muddy Paw Coffee. This was the first cafe I’ve had macadamia milk in my latte at and absolutely fell in love with it. On top of this, they’re dog-friendly! Bring your pup, order off of the paw-friendly menu and grab a seat in the back patio. You won’t regret it.

4. Culver City

Culver City is the neighborhood I’ve lived in the longest. Though it’s had a rough past, there are continuously new and amazing restaurants popping up, as well as an entire outside shopping area being built in the Cumulus District. Downtown Culver City, you’ll find loads of restaurants, speakeasies and my favorite brunch spot, Cafe Vida. The downtown area is super walkable and the area behind it is my favorite.

Culver City

Think of Midwest houses, green grass, chirping birds and parents walking their kids to school just up the block. It’s an American Dream. Culver City is also the most central city I’ve lived in. I’ve been able to drive to the beach, West Hollywood and Venice all within a 20 minutes from home if I play the traffic right.

5. West Hollywood

crop unrecognizable black gay demonstrating lgbt flag
Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

West Hollywood is another very clean place to live with endless restaurant and bar options. I want to put an emphasis on bar because this is THE place to go out if you’ve been missing the crowds. This neighborhood is also the most LGBTQ-friendly in all of Los Angeles. Rainbow flags wave outside of the businesses all throughout the neighborhood. You’re in another great centralized location here, where Beverly Hills, Downtown and the beach are all not too far from you.

6. Beverly Hills

black vehicle beside palm tres
Photo by Vincent Gerbouin on Pexels.com

Come on, you guys all know what Beverly Hills is I shouldn’t have to explain this one. Beverly Hills is the land of the rich and the famous. You’ll find mansions, gated properties and hottpubs bigger than my entire apartment glistening in the hills. Due to the wealth in this community, the area is extremely well-kept, however, so are the prices. Prepare to spend big money if you want to live in Beverly Hills without ten roommates.

7. Downtown

I think Los Angeles is the only city I’ve lived in where downtown is not the main attraction. The city here is a lot more dated. Many of the buildings are older and unkept, street parking is a nightmare and walking alone at night is out of the question. You can go down one street and see a Lamborghini and turn on the next corner and end up on Skid Row. It’s a hit or miss.

Christmas Downtown
Christmas Downtown

However, though it personally wouldn’t be my first choice, downtown does have it’s upsides. You have the Crypto.com arena for Lakers games and concerts galore, tons of food and drink options and some of the best skyscrapers to dine at. It’s also very walkable (during the daylight!) and your money tends to go further in housing.

8. Malibu

Malibu Pier
Malibu Pier

Malibu is probably the most alluring place to be. You have miles and miles of coastline to enjoy the beach on any day or drive up PCH to enjoy the views. The only downside with Malibu is that it’s a pretty far drive from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you’re hoping to explore Los Angeles and not just waste away at the beach, then Malibu is not the place for you. However, it’s a wonderful place to sit back and relax and a perfect place if you like to surf.

Malibu
Malibu

I hope this guide gave you an idea of what it is like to live in the different neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Though it can be a hard decision, just know that you don’t have to pick a place right away! I did month-to-month leases for my entire first year in Los Angeles so I was able to explore the different neighborhoods and find the one that was right for me. If you have any questions about the city, please feel free to reach out or comment below!

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