The Many Faces of L.A.

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The Many Faces of L.A.
Make the large city of Los Angeles feel a lot smaller by discovering the individuality of each of its neighborhoods. From classic to eccentric, LA offers a bit of everything.
By Susan Mason, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Rey Madolora
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    Food, Art, and Culture in Downtown L.A.
    Downtown Los Angeles—or “DTLA”—has a host of top attractions, including event venues like The Walt Disney Concert Hall, L.A. LIVE, and Staples Center. DTLA is also a haven for the arts, with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), The Broad, dozens of galleries, and the up-and-coming Arts District. You could spend months trying all the restaurant options here, but Grand Central Market, Redbird, and Chaya are highlights to start with. Wander around on foot to discover a variety of architectural features, street graffiti, cafés, and boutiques.
    Photo by Rey Madolora
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    Amusement and Solace in Santa Monica
    Santa Monica is built for walking, with its store-packed pedestrian Promenade, groomed dirt paths along the coastal cliffs, and well-kept boardwalk and beaches. The ride-filled Santa Monica Pier with its iconic Ferris wheel is a lively and colorful contrast to the more pristine but still bustling shopping and dining destinations. Restaurants inspired by global cuisine are abundant, bars—such as the ever-popular Bungalow—are jumping, and established brands line the streets for any shopping need. After hours on your feet, seek respite in one of the many movie theaters or look up the next guided meditation class at one of the area’s studios.
    Photo by Peter Schickert/age fotostock
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    The Exceptional and Eccentric in Venice
    Only in Venice can you conveniently stroll to high-quality bars, boutiques, restaurants, and the beach. Streets such as Washington Boulevard, Abbot Kinney, Main Street, Rose Avenue, and the rapidly developing Lincoln Boulevard are bursting with character and constitute a close-knit community like no other in LA. Walk, bike, skate, or Segway the unconventional Venice Boardwalk; wander the serene Venice Canals; lay out with a book on the beach; or simply let your feet dangle from a lifeguard stand as the sun sets into the horizon with the crashing waves as your soundtrack.
    Photo by Susan Mason
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    Baseball and Hiking in Elysian Park
    One of L.A.'s less touristed areas, Elysian Park is a rare swath of green in this urban jungle. The neighborhood and parkland is home to some of the best hiking trails in the city (at the Elysian Park Trailhead), from which you'll be able to see views of Downtown L.A. and beyond, largely without the crowds you'd encounter at other popular hiking spots. The neighborhood's main tourist attraction is Dodger Stadium, which sees some of the highest foot traffic in L.A. on game days—and where you'll want to catch a game at least once while you're in town.
    Photo by Richard Hawkins
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    Individuality Embraced in West Hollywood
    The vibrant and progressive West Hollywood (“WeHo”) neighborhood is a party packed with restaurants, nightclubs, shops, hotels, galleries, and music venues. Find your niche among the variety of character-driven destinations, including iconic comedy venues of the Sunset Strip (the Comedy Store), fine dining at some of the city's most hyped (for good reason) restaurants (Lucques, Night + Market), LGBT clubs (The Abbey, Rage), and swanky Design District shops and galleries (Balenciaga, Trigg Ison Fine Art). Whether elegant or eccentric, WeHo inspires everyone to beat to his or her own drum.
    Photo by Hendrik Holler/age fotostock
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    Museums, Malls, and More in Mid-City West
    Lined with boutique storefronts and sidewalk seating for the trendiest cafés and restaurants, the streets of Mid-City West between La Cienega, Melrose, La Brea, and 3rd are a people-watching paradise. Filled with a range of characters from skateboard crews to Hasidic Jews, it is a rich melting pot of people and welcomes regular celebrity cameos. Join the audience of a TV show taping on the CBS TV lot or discover art from all centuries at LACMA. The landmark Grove outdoors shopping center, movie theater, and permanent Farmers Market is a hub for entertainment and socializing.
    Photo by Alexis Tristin
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    Endless Entertainment in Hollywood
    Hollywood is synonymous with the movie industry and is the backdrop for fabulous red carpet premieres and awards shows. Entertainment landmarks like TCL Chinese Theatre (originally Grauman's), Dolby Theatre, and the Capitol Records Tower stand tall. The surrounding sidewalks glitter with iconic names in stars and are packed with street characters dressed as Darth Vader, Jack Sparrow, and Spider-Man. Experience live music at the Hollywood Palladium and Hollywood Bowl amphitheater, comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade, bottle-service at the DJ-filled night clubs, and the thrill of movie-making at Universal Studios.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Rock Out in Echo Park
    The trendy neighborhood of Echo Park has cemented itself as a location for hip coffee shops, buzzy restaurants, and creative spaces in the past few years. The community of musicians, artists, designers, and writers have poured their souls into neighborhood establishments, evident nowhere more than at the Echo + the Echoplex, the local venue known for breaking names like Foster the People and hosting everyone from the Rolling Stones to Beck. The neighborhood also has an impressive outdoor park area with a 13-acre lake. Echo Park Pedal Boats can help you get out on the water in either a traditional pedal boat or a staffed gondola (for lovers only). 

    Photo courtesy of Mohawk General Store
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    Classic, Cozy, and Chic in Los Feliz
    The trendy hillside neighborhood where Mickey Mouse was born has come into its own as a cultural destination. Hiking through its hills to the iconic landmarks of Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign is an effort that will reward you with panoramic city views. New stylish boutiques, cafés, and restaurants pop up regularly along the cluster of streets between Hillhurst, Vermont, and Franklin Avenues. Classic neighborhood staples include the family-style Middle Eastern restaurant Kismet, cozy and vintage Los Feliz 3 Cinemas, and the Dresden Room’s old-school piano lounge, made famous by the movie Swingers.
    Photo by Kristen Fortier
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    The Life of Luxury in Beverly Hills
    Beverly Hills is a global icon of luxury, style, and class. Its pristine, palm tree-lined streets are home to some of the most high-end fashion houses and restaurants in the world. Window shop or spend some serious cash along Rodeo Drive at top designer stores like Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Prada. Savor French cuisine at Bouchon, Italian at Sotto, Chinese at Mr. Chow’s, seasonal American at Spago, steak at Mastro’s, and sweets at Sprinkles, which has a cupcake ATM. Celebrity-centric events take place in the hotels, and the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Jennifer Aniston, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis have inhabited the neighborhood’s marvelous mansions.
    Photo by Alvaro Leiva/age fotostock