Answers from Our Experts (5)
Los Angeles has often been described as 40 suburbs without a city. Another way to think of it is as 40 small cities that don’t have much in common and therefore have little need to interact. The residents of Beverly Hills, Burbank and Malibu do come together on occasion, but as soon as the Lakers game is over, they all get back in their Mercedes and BMWs then speed off as if it never happened.
Visitors usually stick to four distinct areas. If it’s sun and sand you seek, make a beeline for the beach communities of Malibu, Venice and Santa Monica. Malibu is full of surfers and million-dollar homes right on the water and it’s almost a guaranteed spot for a celebrity sighting. Venice, as funky as ever, especially on the honky-tonk boardwalk, is packed full of an array of vagabond hippies playing in drum circles, eclectic street performers and an up-and-coming dining scene. Santa Monica is a cross between the two, with a popular amusement park on the pier, ritzy beachside hotels and restaurants and a few more homeless people than the city would like.
If you’ve come to shop, you might never leave Beverly Hills. The glitzy stores of Rodeo Drive are here, as are some of L.A.’s most expensive homes. For shopping on a mere mortal’s budget, try the Beverly Center or The Grove, L.A.’s premier malls-turn-entertainment-centers, home to retailers ranging from Gucci to trendy H&M. Heading west, you’ll hit West Hollywood, which is, ironically, the most centrally located part of Los Angeles and home to the hippest restaurants and nightspots of the moment along Melrose Avenue and the Sunset Strip. If you are looking for a MTV shoot or a trendy cocktail, it’s the place to be. Just as in its hey-day, the Sunset Strip still offers a variety of rock-and-roll clubs and music venues, as well as stand-up comedy clubs, so entertainment options are never far off. And unlike Hollywood proper, which is somewhat seedy, you might see movie stars here. Just don’t expect to find parking.
Los Angeles does have an actual downtown, which includes Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, several top-flight museums, Chinatown, Little Tokyo and Mexican marketplace Olvera Street. With an upshot of trendy bars, clubs and restaurants — everything from snazzy hotel roof bars to 20s-era cocktail lounges — downtown L.A. is definitely undergoing a renaissance. And just east of downtown, you’ll find the neighborhoods of Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, L.A.’s answer to New York’s Brooklyn.
The Los Angeles cultural scene spans thrilling seasons of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall to modern museums, such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Getty Center. The city also has some cultural treasure-troves in Beverly Hills, including the Paley Center for Media and the Samuel Goldwyn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which both hold screenings. Promising even more cultural programming is the forthcoming Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.
The cultural scene in Los Angeles is ethnically diverse, with neighborhoods such as Little Ethiopia, Little Armenia, Chinatown, Koreatown and Olvera Street.
Los Angeles hosts some of the best museums in the world as well as cutting edge art galleries, theater, opera, and music venues. The L.A. Philharmonic is one of the best orchestras in the world, and if you catch a performance conducted by “the Dude,” the Phil’s beloved 31-year-old conductor, Gustavo Dudamel, you are in for a special treat.
Often overlooked by those who set their sights on more high profile offerings in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, Los Angeles has quietly become a cultural force offering world-class museums, theater and performing arts.
Two crown jewels of the Los Angeles museum scene are the collections at the Getty Center and classical Greek and Roman art at the Getty Villa. Both locations also offer gardens and perfect photo-worthy views of L.A. Over in mid-city, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art features a diverse collection that ranges from classical to contemporary. A visit to LACMA would not be complete without seeing Chris Burden's Metropolis II, a mini car racing masterpiece that involves an elaborate system of 18 roadways, including one six-lane freeway, HO scale train tracks and 1,100 custom manufactured mini cars. Burden also created Urban Light, a large-scale instillation of 202 restored street lamps, which has quickly become one of the most instagrammed places in the world. You can also interact and take your photo with Levitated Mass, a 340-ton boulder created by sculpture Michael Heizer.
Theater + Performing Arts
Moving toward performing arts Los Angeles is home to the Center Theater Group that produces a range of offerings from experimental programming to Broadway musicals on three stages around the city: the Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum downtown and the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City. Lead by Placido Domingo, the Los Angeles Opera features a yearly season of explosive stage productions. The Los Angeles Philharmonic and it's much adored conductor Gustavo Dudamel delight audiences during performances at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Hollywood Bowl during the summer season.
Los Angeles is also home to a multitude of cultural venues. Most notably, Grand Park downtown not only offers an urban oasis catering to the diverse cultural makeup of the city but also has regular weekly programming like outdoor concerts and actives throughout the week, especially in the summer.