In Los Angeles, the car is king—at least that’s the perceived wisdom. The truth is that Angelenos are now using their legs almost as much as they’re using their wheels. Shocking as it may seem, ’hoods with high Walk Scores are among the most desirable in the city. In recent years, Downtown and Atwater Village, for example, have made huge strides in walkability, with scores of restaurants, boutiques, galleries, and music venues opening for business all within strolling distance of one another. From the Eastside to the West, here are five walkable L.A. strips that are guaranteed to get you in the mood for a mosey.
Lined with exquisite art deco buildings, this retro-cool East L.A. nabe is on the up and up. The recently revamped Highland Park Bowl is a good place to start your walking tour. This lovingly restored, wood-panelled bowling alley originally opened in 1927. Nowadays, it’s home to an excellent comfort food restaurant and a killer cocktail bar. “Belle of The Bowl” (honeydew-infused gin, lime juice, and cucumber-thyme soda) is a house speciality. A few doors down, you’ll find Café Birdie, a swanky bistro with exposed brick walls, high-vaulted ceilings, and a secret backroom bar: Good Housekeeping. Round off your evening with a show at the brand new Lodge Room, a Masonic Temple turned into a music theatre, just two minutes’ walk away.
Another fashionable Eastern outpost, Atwater Village constitutes about 12 blocks of hip restaurants, bars, and boutiques. Begin at the newly opened Journeymen, a tapas bar with bare-bones decor, an open kitchen, and a French and Spanish–inspired menu. Tortilla Española and royal ham croque monsieur are lunchtime favorites. Two blocks down is Dune, an inconspicuous Middle Eastern restaurant that serves some of the best falafel, hummus, and chicken shawarma in Los Angeles. After your meal, cross the street (no jaywalking, please; L.A. drivers are easily confused) to Individual Medley, a fashion store-cum-apothecary in the heart of the village. Shop for travel skincare kits, sunglasses, vintage denim, and locally made jewelry; the local owners have a keen eye for minimalist design.
A movie-making mecca in the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, Culver City was once the stomping ground of Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, and Judy Garland. They all invariably ended up at the Culver Hotel, a swish high-rise designed by Curlett and Beelman, the architect firm behind the Hollywood Roosevelt. The hotel’s old-world glamour has been reinstated with a recent revamp. There’s live jazz every night in the elegant lobby bar and craft cocktails upstairs at the speakeasy-style Velvet Lounge (Thursday to Saturday from 8 p.m.). A short walk to Venice Boulevard, and you’ll arrive at the inimitable Museum of Jurassic Technology. Too many details might spoil the surprise, but let’s just say this low-lit labyrinth of curiosities is confusing and entertaining in equal measure. Don’t leave the area without visiting Platform, L.A.’s latest boutique-focused mall. Highlights include Linda Farrow, Tom Dixon, Bird of Brooklyn, and Reservoir L.A.
In recent years, massive regeneration and gentrification have changed downtown Los Angeles beyond recognition. These days, streets like Broadway and Spring are reminiscent of midtown Manhattan, with world-class dining and shopping—and 20- and 30-something pedestrians aplenty. The restaurant and cocktail bar 71Above is the ideal place to get your bearings. Located on the 71st floor of the US Bank building, the bar’s wraparound city views are out of this world. And the modern Californian cuisine isn’t too shabby, either. A 10-minute stroll down Hope Street and you’ll arrive at The Broad: Eli and Edythe Broad’s 2,000-strong contemporary art collection. A short walk in the opposite direction will lead you to The Theatre at Ace Hotel. Once owned by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford, this stunning Spanish Gothic–style building is now one of the most beloved music venues in the city.
In the late ’60s, Jim Morrison wafted through the sun-drenched streets of Venice, spaced out and ethereal. Nowadays, artists and musicians would struggle to rent a bathroom, let alone a beachfront condo, here. High prices notwithstanding, this corner of the city is undeniably beautiful, with the possible exception of the Venice Boardwalk. Head instead to Salt Air on Abbott Kinney, a bright and breezy seafood-centric spot with a consistently mouth-watering lunch and dinner menu. (The charred octopus with sweet peppers, golden raisins, and almonds is outstanding.) Afterwards, swing next door to The Piece Collective. The store’s whitewashed interior features scented candles, boho-chic housewares, and floaty summer dresses. For baked goods and sandwiches, look no further than nearby Gjusta, a favorite with local residents. Munch a turkey reuben or a pâté baguette at the marble countertop, or enjoy a panna cotta or a chocolate croissant in the canvas-covered garden. Belly be damned—you’ll be walking off those calories soon enough.