LA is the classic driving city, but some parts of that are changing. From the earliest days, LA was planning to be a train or trolley city, but this all changed with the mass takeover of the automobile. Naturally, if you've seen the movie Drive, not everyone is so desperate that they use the mostly concrete LA river banks to navigate the traffic, but here are some tips:
Reverse commute is your best friend
It is significantly easier to travel East and North in the morning, and vice versa in the evening. Crossing freeways is always more challenging than staying within them. Major freeways to consider include the east-west freeways that you’d cross north (the 10, the 110) or south (the 101). The north-south freeways to consider are always the 405, and the 5 to those living on the eastside.
Live where you want to be | Live where is convenient
Though the commute is highly variable, LA is such a neighborhood city. LA has a rich cultural diversity with many neighborhoods known for their regional cuisines. Some of the largest cultural communities outside of their home countries can be found in the City of Angels: Korea, Iran, Thailand, Mexico, and El Salvador. LA often feels like many small towns merged together, with each area having its own unique personality and flavor. Many of our residents live on the westside for convenience and proximity to our hospitals. Choosing a convenient location may be different from other cities that you have lived in. As you see above, the direction of the reverse commute can help you make some of these decisions.
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Don’t forget about the growing Metro system
Depending on where you live (see above), you may have immediate access to the Metro stops. There is the blue Expo line that travels along Exposition Blvd from the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica to Downtown in about 35 minutes, with stops at notable locations like the LAFC (soccer) stadium, Banc of California Stadium, USC, the California Science Museum and the Culver City platform along the way. The unfinished purple line will travel from Brentwood - specifically our VA location’s parking lot - through Westwood, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, into Downtown.
A bit on the history of the LA Trolley system:
Here is the current map of the transit system. It is a little stuffy because of the bus system, but you can see where the subway/railway goes.
LA is one of the rare food and dining cities and is a vast landscape waiting to be explored. There are a few ways to slice up the dining situation, and some useful apps or articles that can give you a framework to explore.
One of the most reliable resources to review restaurants of basically all types. They have the city broken down by neighborhood, cuisine, and even venue specific (like what to eat at Dodger stadium). Notable neighborhoods to explore around UCLA include Westwood, Persian Square, "Little Osaka" or Sawtelle, Culver City, Venice, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Amazing tacos can be found on nearly every corner (especially at night when the taco trucks appear). We recommend venturing further out to other amazing areas like Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, Boyle Heights, Inglewood, and Little Tokyo. Venturing even further out, San Gabriel Valley and Cerritos boast some of the best East and South Asian food in the country.
People and friends
Word of mouth is extremely helpful in this city, and especially in the era of food drops and mini kitchens via social media. Lots of things bring people to LA, as you’ll see in other sections, but we believe the diversity of food experiences is one of the most commonly beloved parts of LA. Everyone has their local food (usually taco) truck. Everyone has their own local cafe. Everyone should have a deli. If you ask, good things will happen
Food in the back of other things
Some of LA’s greatest food exists in the back of something else. Hidden in strip malls across the sprawl are precious gems run by lovely people with incredible stories. The Donut Kings, Tehran market’s weekend grill, Dr. Sandwich, Bar Nine, and Venice’s First Friday food truck festival are all stories of highly talented chefs and “producers” who put together something special in an easily overlooked place. Now, these are just some examples, but basically anywhere that looks like your college bar with a line on a weeknight is probably fair game.
OK, this is not London, New York or Paris; however, where there are fancy people there are fancy things. Yes, there are your usual reliable chains, but with a little extra work you can find good coffee close to you no matter where you are. Similar to the food and dining scene, coffee and tea have interesting stories in LA.
- Intelligentsia - Originally from Chicago, but is often credited as jumpstarting the LA coffee explosion. Its first LA location is in the Sunset Junction of Silverlake, but they expanded to Venice, and specialty coffee has ballooned. For this reason, they are listed here first.
- Blue Bottle - Originally from NorCal, but a reliable brew that you’ve probably had if you’re reading this tab.
- Alfred - Originally on Melrose in Beverly Hills / Hollywood (LA), but now with locations in Brentwood, Westwood and Silverlake, among others. Underrated bagels and breakfast burrito, and the drip coffee is at a price you can swallow, though they’re somehow known for their matcha latte and tea room.
- Verve Coffee Roasters - Originally from Santa Cruz, this is another staple of the LA chain specialty coffee scene.
- Go Get em Tiger - Originally in Larchmont Village (LA), this is a very clean shop with a clean look and a catchy name. In many ways indistinguishable from the other spots already listed
- Maru - Originally on the eastside in Los Feliz (LA), this is the boho chic version of Go Get em Tiger or Alfred, but more focused on the perfect latte or obscure tea.
- Starbucks - truly needs no introduction, as you’re in one right now
- Peet’s - one of the original slightly higher quality chain coffee shops
- Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf - needs no introduction, as you were in one last week
The local favorites:
- Literati Cafe - this Brentwood classic has a huge, light filled series of rooms with good internet and actual meals. A great place to get work done or sit in a sunroom and ponder.
- Coffee Connection - attached to a church in basically Mar Vista, this beautiful courtyard serves middling coffee with purely serene ambience and occasionally live music.
- Bar Nine / Ten cafe - untouchably good coffee and tea, with an impeccable sense of detail, style, but with a price.
- Board House
- Espresso Profeta - serving up anarchy and delicious lattes in a stunning brick sitting area in Westwood, they have set the tone of specialty coffee in Westwood.
Music: LA and music are synonyms. With all the stars of Hollywood are numerous major agencies, labels, production companies and soundstages that have produced some of your favorite records ever. As always with LA, the sheen of the glossy buildings (see Capitol Records, ICM, Walt Disney Concert Hall, etc.) come with many other terrific opportunities to hear music.
Yes, this is a real way to hear live music. The classic locations for busking are on 3rd street in Santa Monica, the Venice boardwalk, and on the strip in Hollywood. Depending on what farmer’s market you are in, you may have an opportunity to pass by someone serenading. Pay attention though, because you wouldn’t want to miss something good.
Where to even start! Ok, I’ve got it. You cannot miss music at a small venue in Los Angeles. There are too many acts that are worth seeing, and some iconic places to hear them.
- Troubadour- on your way into West Hollywood, you’ll drive by this and wish you were going there instead
- The Wiltern
- Hotel Cafe
- The Echo- not to be confused with Echoplex, the mega dance floor downstairs.
Here is where you’ll see phenomenal acts, done like their album without fancy tricks, but intimate enough that you’re not watching the act on a screen projector.
- El Rey
- Teragram Ballroom
The Moroccan Lounge
Here are the unbeatable sites to see top billed artists doing top level productions. No details are missed at these venues. You will be inside of one of these during your time in LA whether or not we inspired you.
- Hollywood Bowl
- The Greek
- Staples Center
- Microsoft Theater - formerly Nokia
- The Forum
Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Walt Disney Concert Hall
- Sofi Stadium
LA is known for elaborate displays, and events are reliably unreliable. There are at least hundreds of major events annually, from fried chicken and whiskey festivals to pop up museums, and everything in between.
- Neuehouse-https://www.neuehouse.com/for music, dinners, lectures, and workspaces
- RedCat-https://www.redcat.org/for modern arts, music, and dance
- Foodshop-http://www.lafoodshop.com/for communal dining in Venice
- DineLA-https://www.discoverlosangeles.com/tags/dinelato explore restaurants prix fixe
- Word of mouth- someone will tell you about something, when you ask
It needs no introduction, but there are ample choices to belt out your favorite song sans judgment. Occasionally you’ll hear fantastic singing and fully committed routines at your local karaoke spot.
- Boardwalk 11- delicious food and drink, and a single shared stage with committed talent
- The Gaslite- dive bar with a single shared stage, and uncommitted talent
- Karaoke Bleu- Sawtelle classic central stage, mixed commitment by the talent
- Max Karaoke- BYOB karaoke bar with private rooms
- Koreatown- a neighborhood with too many places to name in one tab on a website
If you desire plays and musicals, you will find many options to see them and/or participate. Though many productions have closed, and theaters are struggling to reopen after COVID, there are some locations still available to see live theater.
These gems are all around town, so a quick search could show you some local stages. Here are a list of small to medium sized theatres for obscure productions.
- The Fountain Theatre
Geffen Playhouse - Westwood
Kirk Douglas Theater - Culver City
UCLA Little Theater
- Eli and Edythe Broad Stage - Santa Monica
These tend to be downtown. They will have the musical or play you were waiting to see.
- Ahmanson Theater at the Mark Taper Forum - fine arts in an elegant environment
- The Theatre at Ace Hotel - a gothic masterpiece
- The Orpheum Theatre
LA is known for its many fine art museums, and especially how indoor/outdoor they are and can be in the temperate climate we have. Here are the classics:
- The Getty Museum - tremendous view of Los Angeles with a rotating gallery of photography, modern art, and classics, with sculpture on occasion
- Huntington Gardens - numerous gardens, art museum, and lovely japanese tea room
- The Broad - modern art, from the late philanthropist and real estate mogul Eli and Edythe Broad. Outside of NYC, Los Angelinos are the only ones able to pronounce it correctly
- LACMA - you’re currently taking a picture under the streetlamps out front
- Hammer Museum - Armand Hammer created this free to visit state of the art museum for UCLA in Westwood
- Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
There are so many fine galleries, shows, and pop up events, as mentioned previously. Keep your eyes peeled to learn more about the city, its diverse population, and cultural heritage at landmarks like the Watts Towers, The California African American museum, Norton Simon, and many others.
There are ample places to enjoy some combination of human player, ball, racket, stick, bat and turf. Of course, LA is the home of many sports dynasties, and where they play is a prime cultural experience, depending on your disposition.
In a short list, the professional teams include the Dodgers, LAFC, LA Galaxy, LA Sparks, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, LA Rams, LA Chargers and the LA Kings. Fortunately for you, the majority of these teams play at Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, and Banc of California. As the new stadium is built for football in Inglewood, the SoFi stadium, we will probably have many more events to see.
The college teams include all of UCLA and USC’s iconic rivalries across so many sports. There are the well known Rose Bowl and Coliseum for football, and the unmatched Pauley Pavilion for basketball.
If you’re reading this section, you have probably not learned anything new, and we like it that way.
Once you arrive in LA, the chances someone asks if you want to go on a hike nearly triples from baseline1. Though not advertised as a “green” city, there are numerous spots to run, bike, wingsuit, paraglide, and bird watch. The classic California chaparral and woodlands features a large variety of sages, wildflowers, and grasses underlaid with lizards, rodents, not-too-venomous snakes and the occasional mid-sized feline. The bonus is of course phenomenal views through the mountains toward the sea, or in the forests ~1 hour outside of LA.
Here are some go-to trails nearby UCLA’s clinical sites
- Mandeville Canyon*
- Will Rogers State Park
- Los Liones
- Runyon Canyon*
- Malibu Creek State Park
- Jim Morrison’s Caves
- The UCLA Loop
Of course, not to miss the Venice canals, the Venice boardwalk, and the beautiful gardens around LA, like the Getty Villa, Getty Museum, Huntington Gardens, and Descanso for a lighter walk.
1 UCLA IM Chiefs et al. 2021.This is based on entirely fraudulent data made up for the purpose of making a point.
For the Serious Adventurers
For those who are more adventurous or consider themselves part-time career hiker/backpackers, Los Angeles is at the crossroads of some of the finest trail systems in the United States. Situated two hours south of the terminus of the John Muir Trail, Los Angeles is flanked by the Angeles National Forest, San Bernardino Forest, and San Gorgonio Wilderness, through all of which the famous 3,000+ mile Pacific Crest Trail runs. Beautiful Joshua Tree National Park is two-hours to the east, and Catalina Island is a 30 minute drive (and 1 hour boat ride) to the south. Here’s some serious outings for serious people:
- SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge
- Mt. Whitney
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Catalina Island
- Anza Borrego Desert State Park
The Pacific Ocean is the world’s largest ocean, and California takes up a sizable percentage of the US Pacific Coast. But, more importantly, there is a culture around the Ocean and the beach that California does best. The Beach Boys obviously said it, when they wrote, “the West coast has the sunshine.” Even in the movie Ironman, Tony Stark had his stunning home built in Malibu, financed by his fictional billion dollar corporation’s profits.
Digressions aside, the beach in LA spans from Malibu down past the South Bay, and there is soft sand and cold water to play in the whole way. You can rent a boat from the Marina, take a ferry to Catalina, scuba dive in kelp forests, deep sea fish, and ocean kayak. You can set up Spikeball, Volleyball, or any other ball sport well over two thirds of the year without interruption. There are dog friendly beaches, and beachside parks. There are places to host a bonfire, and excellent restaurants with window seating over the wave break. You can have fish and chips at Malibu Seafood or Neptune’s Net, and dinner at Mastro’s. There are piers to play on, fish on, and take a date on. For some people, living in Marina del Rey, Santa Monica, or Venice is the aspirational dream, and you can do it from day 1 at UCLA.