West Los Angeles Travel Guide

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West L.A. at night

Pez D, Spencer


West of the 405 Freeway is Santa Monica, a huge, sprawling city in its own right with an immense, economic and cultural diversity within its neighborhoods.

For teens and tourists, the mall, the pier and the boardwalk are big draws – for other LA natives – not so much. But LA natives will tolerate the 3rd street promenade as it’s one of the few areas of Santa Monica with nice restaurants AND parking. For shopping, Santa Monica has little hidden pockets like Montana Street and others who are willing to venture off the beaten path.

Santa Monica has some world-class resorts, spas and hotels near the beach.


South of Santa Monica is Venice Beach/Muscle Beach. It’s not so much a cliché but people who live and hang there are there to play their part in the LA movie of life. It’s something everyone has to do – it’s amusing and some point or another, you have to do it. Parking is difficult. Venice also has a nice Farmer’s Market on the weekends with great breakfasts. You can also drive around the canal area to see some excellent Post-Modern homes as well as Frank Gehry’s house – along with his fun design of the ad agency Chiat/Day Mojo on Main Street. 


Going north of Santa Monica. The Getty Museum is north of Pacific Palisades. Parking is still limited but you don’t need to call anymore and there’s even a bus line there – it’s definitely a half-day event and almost a full day (if your museum visit is brief) but the view on a sunny day is worth it.


Way north of Santa Monica. The beaches are excellent and if you have a convertible, fun to drive through the canyons to hook up with the 101 in the valley but most of the community is hidden from view and it’s mostly residential so if seeing expensive homes is your thing – then pay a visit to Malibu – otherwise, it’s a quaint seaside community with not much to do or really see.


LAX is next to El Segundo and if you enjoy an oil refinery on the beach, here’s your chance to be reminded of what LA needs to put its 10 million cars on the road. Hawthorne is also the new location of the hip Japantown – though it’s not all that touristy and it’s not all in one contiguous clumping, you’ll find great Japanese/Asian shopping and restaurants scattered throughout the area. You can continue along Highway 1, which goes back towards the coast to check out some of the upscale beach communities of MANHATTAN BEACH/HERMOSA BEACH & REDONODO BEACH. If you continue south, you’ll soon enter another very upscale beach town of PALO VERDES and the even more exclusive PALO  VERDES ESTATES – multi million dollar on cliffs overlooking the Pacific. Further south is LONG BEACH – home to the LONG BEACH Grand Prix.


While the movies and TV shows show you differently, once you’re pass the age of high school and definitely college – most people in LA do NOT go to the beaches. During the summer, the only people who tend to go to the beaches (besides boys and girls being boys and girls) are people without pools. Yes, people will jog along the beach in the morning in Malibu but once the sun comes out, the best beaches are pretty sparse.


December 15, 2006 change by jhyatt (1 point)

March 22, 2004 change by jbelkin

Destinations in West Los Angeles