To quote the greatest movie of our time, “Everywhere in LA takes 20 minutes.” Once you’re here, you realize that’s a dirty, stinking lie.
First of all, everyone in LA is always late. The heart wants what it wants, and our hearts want to disregard your time then blame it on traffic. Second, LA is huge! Have you ever looked at a map? It’s almost double the size of Singapore!
Nothing tells you more about a person than what part of LA they live in. So if you’re planning to move here, you better come correct with your hood game.
This is by no means a comprehensive guide to every single neighborhood, but as far as blanket statements go, this is your guide to moving to Los Angeles. You have to listen to me – I grew up here.
Are you an aspiring actor or model? Then you’ll fit right in when you become a waiter/bartender/barista here. And let’s just get this out of the way: The major movie studios are not in Hollywood proper (Paramount Studios sits on the border, so fine, that makes one). But what Hollywood does have are tourists, crackheads, and expensive clubs frequented by B- and C-list celebrities and the bridge-and-tunnel crowd who line up for said clubs. Thursday through Saturday is a waking nightmare of drunks wearing the finest garments Ed Hardy has to offer and no parking except for $12 valets. But that doesn’t mean you can’t adjust your definition of a glamorous Hollywood life. Did any of your friends back home get barfed on by a former Disney starlet over the weekend? I think not.
NOTE: The Hollywood Hills are a different story. You should be so lucky! If you are, please invite me over.
Perfect for: People who want to get hit by a car driven by Lindsay Lohan, guys who wear embroidered jeans and striped button-down shirts, reality TV stars, and aspiring reality TV stars (I mean, we’re all one on-camera drunk fight away from stardom).
When someone refers to West Hollywood as “WeHo,” you can assume they’re talking about the gayborhood around Santa Monica Blvd. Here, it’s gay boys (lesbians, please look into Long Beach), gay bars, gay clubs, gay bookstores – you get it. Gays! As long as you actually leave your apartment, your nights will never be dull. Parking is terrible around here.
Perfect for: Was I not clear? GAY GUYS.
The other half of West Hollywood is for girls-who-lunch. There are designer shops on Melrose (your Marc Jacobs, your Alexander McQueen, your Fred Segal) and upscale boutiques on Third Street. This area is filled with 20-somethings who subsist on cigarettes, Diet Coke, and money from their parents. When they tire of shopping for clothes, they can pop into one of the many, many (very good) eateries and pick at a steamed artichoke. But if you care at all about yourself, you’ll go to Doughboy’s Cafe and eat an entire red velvet cake.
A lot of newbies move to West Hollywood first because it’s the closest to what they’ve seen on TV, but in the way that Friends was an accurate depiction of New York life.
Perfect for: Girls who shop with Yorkshire Terriers and carry handbags larger than their torsos, and actors who work enough to not live in Hollywood.
Downtown used to be a stinky grid of piss-soaked sidewalks. Now it’s a walkable neighborhood of fancy condos, trendy restaurants, dudes with French Bulldogs, and bars full of people who dress up to go to bars. This is as urban as it gets in LA. Downtown is also a confusing mess of one-way streets so you’ll spend your first month here cursing Xenu* as you circle your destination for 15 minutes because you can’t figure out how to get to it on the one-way streets.
*You became a Scientologist when you visited the Scientology Center (in Los Feliz) as a joke.
Perfect for: People who enjoy constantly mentioning their loft in downtown, people who want to pretend they’re living in New York while living in LA, non-drivers, and USC and Loyola students.
Silver Lake = hipsters, period. And like herpes being passed from mouth to bathing suit parts, the hipsters then spread to Echo Park. So things like music festivals, vegan restaurants, and vinyl record shops happen here. To fit in you’ll need Ray-Bans and an undying love for Intelligentsia Coffee. You better start putting birds on things right the fuck now.
Perfect for: Hipsters (including people who refuse to admit they are hipsters), gays who are not into the West Hollywood scene, and the kind of parents who name their kids after J.D. Salinger characters.
Los Feliz is the older, more vanilla Silver Lake. It ranges wildly from multimillion dollar mansions to dumpy studio apartments populated by aspiring actors and comedians. There are several great brunch spots in Los Feliz and they will all require a wait on any given weekend. Side note: it seems like comedians and improv troupes all congregate in Los Feliz, presumably because of its proximity to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Hollywood.
Perfect for: Insufferable comedy types who can’t get through a conversation without doing a bit and people who want to live in the slightly less hipster-y version of Silver Lake.
Highland Park was considered dangerous gangland for years, but then our friend Gentrification moved in. Right now, it’s in the cafés-and-galleries phase of gentrification, but it won’t be long before it moves into the yoga-and-cupcakes phase. Newcomers should stay north of York Blvd. Don't tempt fate, newb.
Perfect for: People who want to live in Silver Lake/Echo Park/Los Feliz but can’t afford it and are willing to give up a few notches on the safety meter for cheaper prices.
Everything you imagine Beverly Hills to be is correct. If you watched The Rachel Zoe Project and sighed wistfully, you’ll love it here. If the idea of a handbag costing five figures disgusts you, avoid it at all costs. If you’re a luxury car enthusiast, this is a good place to ogle all kinds of exotic automobiles.
Perfect for: Look, if you’re thinking of moving from out of town straight to Beverly Hills, you’re either rich or insane (not that they’re mutually exclusive). Either way, you don’t need me to tell you shit about BH.
If you’re wealthy, old, and love being around tourists and UCLA students, move to Santa Monica. There’s a pier that people go gaga for and tons of chain stores and restaurants (somehow the salty sea air tricks people into thinking these chains are more special here). There’s a reason rich executives, yuppies, and students all pay $$$ to live here – being right by the ocean really is unbeatable. If they could get rid of all the rich executives, yuppies, and students, it’d be perfect.
Perfect for: Rich executives, yuppies, and students.
David Cross does a great bit about that clichéd scene in movies where a wide-eyed out-of-towner comes to LA and is overwhelmed by the parade of “kooky nuts” when they first arrive. That scene is the Venice boardwalk. Know what’s worse than a drum circle full of 22-year-old white kids with dreadlocks? Fifty-two-year-olds in that same drum circle. And don’t get me started on the “bohemians” who live in million-dollar beachfront homes and make pottery and play the didgeridoo all day.
Perfect for: Hippies, fauxhemians, rich divorcées who wear a lot of Eastern-inspired jewelry, and pot-dealing skaters.
After college, I moved to London for a while. Without fail, every time I met a new person and told them I was from LA, they would immediately launch into a Valley Girl accent. This is what the rest of the world thinks LA is. The reality is no one who lives in LA proper wants to go to the Valley. It’s hotter than LA, the food mostly sucks, and house parties get broken up by the police way early. The Valley is also where most of your porn and animation are made.
Perfect for: Preserving the neutered feel from whatever suburb you’re moving away from. Or if you work in animation or porn.
This is where real-ass Chinese food lives. If I could give you one solid tip about Los Angeles, it’s “Never eat in Chinatown.” Unlike Chinatown, the San Gabriel Valley is not for tourists so the food is made for real-ass Chinese people. Bring cash.
Perfect for: Chinese people, gross dudes with Chinese fetish, anyone who doesn’t mind being surrounded by the worst drivers in LA. (Hey, stereotypes come from somewhere. You try getting through an SGV parking lot on a weekend, then get back to me.)
Pretentious types (ahem, New Yorkers) love to crap on LA for being uncultured and vapid. I love LA for its unabashed trashiness and superficiality. We own what we are and the things we like. As if these haters wouldn’t enjoy perfect weather every day? Or being an hour away from the ocean, desert, lakes, and mountains? Or never worrying about wearing comfortable shoes because we drive everywhere anyway? Have they even had an In-N-Out burger before?
Drop the act and come to LA. Everywhere else is for virgins who can’t drive.