Moving to Los Angeles? The Insider’s Guide to L.A. Neighborhoods

car hire los angeles neighborhoodsAre you thinking of moving to Los Angeles? You’re not alone. Los Angeles is booming. People are moving to the greater Los Angeles area from all over the country, and the world. Los Angeles is now home to almost 4 million people. That makes it the second-most populous city in the country, after New York City.

Los Angeles has been featured in countless movies and television shows. That can make it seem instantly recognizable to new visitors. However, once you make it out of the airport, take care of car hire, and start tooling around, you quickly realize that Los Angeles is huge. Greater Los Angeles is the largest part of Los Angeles County, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. More than 10 million people call Los Angeles County home. To put it in perspective, the population of Los Angeles County is larger than 41 different states. And at over 4,000 square miles, Los Angeles County is larger than Delaware and Rhode Island put together.

The size of greater Los Angeles can be daunting for newcomers looking for a place to live. The city has many miles of big freeways connecting all its neighborhoods, but heavy traffic can make Pasadena seem a thousand miles away from Hollywood.

That’s why new arrivals to greater Los Angeles should shop around for a neighborhood in Los Angeles that suits their age bracket, their lifestyle, and their budget. In some ways, Los Angeles is more like a cluster of small towns than a big city, so it’s smart to choose your location wisely. You’ll probably spend most of your time close to where you live.

What To Look for in a Los Angeles Neighborhood

Public transportation is improving in Los Angeles, but you’ll soon discover that everyone drives everywhere in Los Angeles. Unless you want to be isolated in a very small footprint of the city, car hire is the smart way to see the sights, and check out the various neighborhoods. Here are some of the more important things to look out for as you’re checking out potential neighborhoods:

Parking

Since cars are an integral part of the Los Angeles lifestyle, you’ll want to keep parking in the front of your mind while searching for a place to live. It used to be fairly easy to find parking in almost any area of the city, but those days are long gone. Compared to a place like New York City, it’s still easy to find a place to park, but free parking is getting rare. If you’re shopping for a house or apartment anywhere in the city, it’s smart to ask about parking first.

Child-Friendliness

Los Angeles is a great place to raise kids. There’s a lot of activities for children of all ages, and playgrounds are usually easy to find. That being said, some neighborhoods are predominately older, or cater more to young, single people. That can make finding nearby friends for you and your children more difficult. If you want to avoid long trips in the car for everything to do with your kids, choose a kid-friendly neighborhood. And don’t forget to check out the rankings of the local schools  before plunking down a deposit.

Night and Day Differences

Some areas of Los Angeles have a totally different vibe when the sun goes down. Some commercial-centric areas are ghost towns after dark. Other neighborhoods really hop after nightfall, but seem sleepy during the day. Make sure to visit potential neighborhoods at night as well as during the daytime to get a true picture of the area.

Keep Your Friends Close

If you’re moving to Los Angeles on the recommendation of a friend who already live there, you might want to look nearby for a place to live. If your only friends in the city live in the Valley, and you live in Long Beach, you may not get to see each other very often.

Check That Commute

If you’ve already got a job lined up, make sure to check that commute. Don’t rely on the number of miles on a map to see how far you are from work. Rush hour traffic can turn a few miles into a big expedition. Try different routes to make sure you can get to work in a reasonable amount of time.

The Skinny on Los Angeles Neighborhoods

With these details in mind, let’s take a look at a selection of the most popular neighborhoods and see how they stack up:

Downtown

If you’re a committed urbanite, Downtown L.A. might be your only chance to find anything that looks like a city in Los Angeles. Even Downtown isn’t a single place. It’s a series of loosely connected neighborhoods like:

  • Arts District
  • Chinatown
  • Civic Center
  • Fashion District
  • Flower District
  • Little Tokyo
  • South Park
  • Wholesale District
  • Olvera Street
  • Gallery Row
  • Bunker Hill

Each of these little niche neighborhoods has something to offer. If you’re used to city living, and like to walk instead of drive, Downtown L.A. might be for you. Art lovers flock to the area. Keep in mind that there isn’t a lot of green space anywhere, and some of these areas can be potentially dangerous at night. If you’re a young urban hipster, Downtown fits the bill.

Hollywood

Hollywood isn’t for everyone. It’s one of those neighborhoods where there’s less than what meets the eye. On the surface, there’s a lot of familiar landmarks like the Walk of Stars and the Chinese Theater. Once you’re done trying to catch a glimpse of a celebrity, the area takes on a whole different feel. Hollywood still has lots of little bungalows and cottages that used to be quite common in Los Angeles. Small houses and apartments suit the population, who are generally more likely to be young and single than in other neighborhoods. There’s plenty of nightlife, and foodies won’t be disappointed, but traffic can be a bear, and there isn’t much to attract families. Crime is also higher here than in some of the sleepier areas of the city.

Hancock Park

Hancock Park had dreary beginnings. It was once covered with nothing but oil derricks, when Los Angeles was still a big oil producer. Luckily, when the oil ran out, the owners of the land decided to parcel it off as single family homes. A lot of the charming Mediterranean style homes still stand in Hancock Park, and the streets are very walkable. The area is fairly pricey, and the residents prefer a quieter lifestyle than other neighborhoods in the city.

Hancock Park is centrally located, which can be good and bad. While you’re close to many other areas of the city, commuters can make rush hour challenging when they cut across city streets to get home faster.

Beverly Hills/Brentwood

If you’d like to live in Los Angeles while having next to nothing to do with the city, these neighborhoods are for you. They’re immaculate, crime-free, with easy parking, tree-lined streets, and beautiful homes. They’re also some of the most expensive real estate on the West Coast. Beverly Hills has some interesting retail, and both areas have a few well-regarded restaurants. But if you’re looking for nightlife, or even everyday services like supermarkets, car hire, cleaners, etc., these tony suburbs might not be for you.

Miracle Mile

The Miracle Mile in West Los Angeles is a great neighborhood if you’re raising a family, or for people who prefer a slightly more sedate lifestyle. The neighborhood is close to the freeways, but it quiet and walkable. The housing stock is still mostly 1920s and 1930 bungalows, along with duplexes and some small apartment buildings. Many houses have usable yards, a rarity in many Los Angeles areas. Streets and sidewalks allow long walks with nice streetscapes.

The Miracle Mile might be too boring for young singles. It’s very quiet at night, which can make pedestrians nervous after dark.

Echo Park/Silver Lake

If you want to live on the East Side of L.A., the trendy areas of Silver Lake and Echo Park might suit you. Sometimes called the Williamsburg of the West Coast, Echo Park is more affordable than a lot of neighborhoods in the West Side. It has a diverse, artistic, edgy sort of vibe that young singles like. Some areas in Echo Park and nearby Silver Lake seem like the boonies compared to all the pavement west of there. Parking is a challenge, day or night, and there’s more crime than some other areas. The young-ish population churns regularly, so there’s less of a sense of community than in some other areas of the city.

Culver City/West LA

Culver City is home the movie business in Los Angeles, but you’d never know it. Movies get made in nondescript soundstages that look like big warehouses, after all. Culver City has more than its share of big, bland commercial buildings mixed in with move studios. The area is enjoying something of a renaissance, however, so you’re just as likely to find a good restaurant in West LA as anywhere else in the city. Young singles are making their way into the area in greater numbers now, but Culver City and West LA continues to be a great place to raise a family. It’s right in the heart of the city, so traffic is a bear, however. If you’re flying in to the city, LAX is very close, so a car hire and a short trip is all you need to look around the area.

West Hollywood

West Hollywood is not quite like any of its surrounding neighbors. It’s not nearly as upscale as Beverly Hills, exciting as Hollywood, family-friendly as the Miracle Mile, or scenic as the Laurel Canyon area. It’s a great place to live if you want to live right in the heart of L.A., like to bike or walk, and want easy access to shops and stores. The area is filled with substantial apartment blocks, so finding a place isn’t that hard. Finding a parking spot is nearly impossible, though. It’s a noisy place at night, too.

Westwood

Westwood is home to UCLA, which gives it a different feel than nearby Beverly Hills and Bel Air. It’s a great neighborhood for students and families. There’s lots to do in Westwood Village, and the beaches are close by. There are excellent public schools in the area, and it’s well kept and very walkable. Parking can be a problem, however.

Venice

Like many of the “neighborhoods” on this list, Venice is its own city with its own set of mini neighborhoods. It was always a funky place. It was founded in the early 20th century as the Venice of America, and you can still see the canals that wend their way through some of its neighborhoods. For decades, funky equaled seedy, and the area was considered quite downscale. That’s changed, and Venice is now one of the hottest real estate markets in Los Angeles County. Despite its upscale makeover, it’s still a charming place with a big oceanside boardwalk, funky shops, art galleries, and eateries. Residents seem to stick in Venice, so it has more of a sense of community than some other areas. Houses and apartments are usually small and expensive, and commutes anywhere inland can be challenging. There’s more crime than some other areas, too.

The Insider’s Guide to L.A. Neighborhoods rentavaluecar.com

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