5 Off-the-Beaten-Path Neighborhoods to Visit in Los Angeles
Discover a more authentic side of Los Angeles in these often overlooked neighborhoods.
Manhattan Beach is a quiet escape to enjoy surfing and swimming.(Getty Images)
Most travelers are familiar with Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Venice. But there is so much more to Los Angeles than these touristy destinations. To help you get a taste for Los Angeles' vibrant culture, U.S. News asked local experts to offer their picks for under-the-radar neighborhoods you won't want to miss.
Unlike in most cities, downtown is not in the middle of Los Angeles (it's much farther east). After decades of abandonment and neglect, the early 2000s brought renewed interest in the urban core from locals. Over the past decade, downtown has become the cultural heart of Los Angeles.
"You've got Staples Center for basketball and hockey fans. Foodies love all the great restaurants. And then you've got the art corridor with the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, The Broad and MOCA [Museum of Contemporary Art]," says Jamie Foley, vice president of global communications at the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
[Read: 7 Tours Unique to Los Angeles.]
Architectural gems from an era of Romanesque, Spanish colonial revival and art deco construction line downtown's streets. The Bradbury Building, Los Angeles' oldest commercial building, is famous for its roles in films like "Blade Runner" and "500 Days of Summer." Grand Central Market, across the street, features a cornucopia of gourmet eateries and exotic cuisine from all over the world.
In downtown's Arts District, some of the city's best muralists create their work on the sides of buildings. The new Hauser Wirth & Schimmel gallery has brought some of those artists indoors, too. Creative chefs and mixologists at Church & State, Bestia and Everson Royce Bar could keep curious foodies happy for days.
The physical center of Los Angeles is often overlooked by visitors. Immediately east of Museum Row, Hancock Park was originally a large estate owned by the Hancock family, who once mined the La Brea Tar Pits. Eventually, the Hancocks subdivided the land into plots that were turned into stately, distinctive homes built in the 1920s and inhabited by wealthy residents. A walk around the neighborhood is a pleasant alternative to trolling the celebrity homes of Beverly Hills.
"Go to Hancock Park and take a walk. You'll see tree-lined streets with some of the first mansions in the city, and they've got beautiful architecture," says Ryan Fisher of Santa Monica's Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.
From there, Fisher recommends walking to Larchmont Boulevard, a popular shopping area and home to a number of must-try eateries. Don't miss Bricks and Scones coffee shop or Babycakes NYC, a vegan and gluten-free bakery serving some of the city's best sweet treats.
[Read: 7 Must-See Museums in Los Angeles.]
Although Santa Monica, Malibu and Venice Beach may be Los Angeles' celebrated beach trifecta, heading south of the airport to Manhattan Beach is actually a bit more relaxing. With several tiers of ocean-facing homes spreading down its hillside, Manhattan Beach has the small-town feel of Venice – but it's cleaner and more modern.
For surfing and swimming, the neighborhood's north-end beach, El Porto, is relaxed and clean. At the south end, the Manhattan Beach Pier is a quieter, less-touristy version of Santa Monica's pier.
"It's very nice, it's clean, family-friendly. And then, you've got the cute little area on Manhattan Beach Boulevard with restaurants. It's usually not as crowded as other beaches," says Irene Chen, concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles.
Located in northeast Los Angeles between downtown and Pasadena, Highland Park was a retreat 4 miles from the central city when it was founded in the 1880s. Now, it's a thriving urban neighborhood that's part of the hip, growing east side of LA.
Tourists can visit the Heritage Square Museum, an architectural park in nearby Montecito Heights, to see several of the city's oldest Victorian homes. Family-owned for five generations, Judson Stained Glass Studios (also in the Highland Park area) is where many of the windows from these historic homes were made, and the company still offers tours from time to time. Meanwhile, at the Historic Southwest Museum Mt. Washington Campus, visitors learn about the history and heritage of Native Americans in the region.
Locals come to Figueroa Street, the neighborhood's main drag, to enjoy Highland Park Bowl, a recently restored 1920s bowling club, and Tropical Fruit and Juice, a juice bar from before there were juice bars.
Less a neighborhood than a singular destination, Ventura Boulevard is one spot in the much-maligned San Fernando Valley that doesn't feel like the sleepy suburbs.
[Read: The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles.]
"I'm going to give a shoutout to the Valley," says Sarah Dandashy, concierge at The London West Hollywood and host of AskAConcierge.tv. "People say it's not cool, but along Ventura between Sherman Oaks and Studio City, you get all the highlights of this side of the hill that people love. It's worth a visit."
Between numerous sushi joints and the charming gastropub The Local Peasant, it's true that this is simply the "north side version" of hip. If a tourist day takes you to Universal Studios and its environs, visiting Ventura Boulevard is the perfect way to end the day.
To experience more of what Los Angeles has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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