People love to hate Los Angeles. Tell someone you're visiting or moving here and steel yourself for a barrage of unsolicited jabs about how "the people are so fake," or "the traffic is unbearable," or "there's not enough water."
OK, well, that last one is totally true and we have no clue how to fix it. But look, LA's changed, we promise. It no longer manages to combine the trashiness of a Poison song, the pointless vapidity of an episode of Entourage, and the quiet desperation of the quiet and desperate who move here with hopes and dreams of stardom, only to have those hopes and dreams dashed upon the harsh rocks of reality. We've got amazing restaurants! And pretty OK bars! And history and culture and a cost of living that is (slightly) more affordable than New York's!
If that didn't sell you on our fair city, the least you can do is visit the place. And when that happens, these are the neighborhoods you should check out:
NEIGHBORHOODS WE LIKE
There's no denying Hollywood sucks, but like WWII Paris, pockets of resistance to that suckiness are there if you know where to look. One such oasis in the desert of awful clubs and tourist traps is the little strip of commerce known as Franklin Village. On the surface, an improv theater, cheap sushi, and a smattering of bars doesn't sound like much, but it's one of the few foot-traffic friendly areas for blocks that won't run you the risk of being accosted by mangey dudes in Spider-Man costumes in Hollywood proper.
Come for the amazing food, proximity to public transportation, good vibes, and extreme walkability, stay because you've been priced out of Silver Lake. For an evening straight out of an episode of one of the millions of shows about depressed rich LA hipsters (in a good way), try hitting Pot at The Line, then walking the mile over to Lock & Key's killer backyard patio (wear pants, dudes—the bouncers are kinda picky), and finishing off the evening by drunkenly throwing gutter balls at Shatto 39 Lanes.
Arts District/Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo has some decent stuff in the slightly-too-cute outdoor plaza, but you're missing the point of this place if you skip the Galleria. This mall is a dilapidated relic of the 90s full of specialty shops, a grungy BYOB booth karaoke spot, and a strangely fun bowling alley/bar/arcade on the third floor.
Cross Alameda Street into the Arts District and you'll find a totally different set of great restaurants, bars, and arcades altogether. Don't go into Wurstkuche if there's a line, and for the love of Christ, have some respect for yourself and don't take Instagrams in front of the murals that litter the area.
You'd think The Valley was Mordor the way some people speak of it, but The Valley of today is much less concerned with what you think–especially in hotspots like NoHo. The cheap rent coupled with myriad acting and dance schools have made the area a mecca for fresh-off-the-bus transplants. Naturally, the requisite bars, shops, and eateries have bubbled up to accommodate the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young things (until the city crushes their dreams and the move back home.)
Technically, it's Little Osaka, and some even call it Japantown. Angelenos are a utilitarian breed, so this neighborhood is only really ever referred to by its main thoroughfare, Sawtelle Blvd. Half of LA refuses to travel west of the 405, but this enclave of hip shops and experimental restaurants—just spitting distance from the cacophony of the freeway—is enticing enough to coax even the staunchest East-Side-4-Lifers from their snark bunkers.
Eagle Rock is great and so beautiful that it will make you wish for an idyllic past that never happened. It's also very, very, very far away from everything. But this is LA so you have a car and an Audible subscription is like, $15, so who gives a shit?
There's a ton to eat, drink, and do in Highland Park, and you can get some killer mid-century modern furniture at Sunbeam, which is conveniently enough, right off Figueroa. Just try not to fuck the place up if you move here by gentrifying it even further.
WHERE TO EAT
Drought aside, Los Angeles is full of great places to eat and drink. Here's a handy guide to all our favorite spots.
Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles
5006 W. Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019
Don't let all the advertisements for Pit Bull Energy Drink fool you. This place serves good food! You might be able to get chicken and waffles in potato chip form at your local liquor store now, but no gastronomic snack food horror show can replace the real thing. The lines out the door for the Hollywood location might deter you, but be patient. It's worth it. And if you're feeling sleepy after your meal, why not try a Pit Bull Energy Drink?
3544 W Imperial Hwy, Inglewood, CA 90303
There may be no better place in the city for whole grilled fish and other Mexican seafood specialties than Coni'Seafood. Not only is it just a few miles away from LAX (ideal for when your friend or family member asks you to pick them up for the airport and they offer you a free meal in exchange), but it's also the go-to spot for Jonathan Gold, a.k.a. the belly of Los Angeles.
Every Taco Truck
Slam our pizza. I dare you. If you're worried about where you can get a slice of pepperoni in Los Angeles, you're completely missing the point of being here. The simple LA street taco is our shining star. Unencumbered by superfluous toppings, the street taco's meat is allowed to claim its rightful role as culinary King Shit around these parts. El pastor, carnitas, pollo, and more adventurous choices like lengua and cabeza really only need an assist from some salsa, a bit of cilantro, and a sprinkling of onion. Any more than that would be a fucking crime.
Hawkin's House of Burgers
11603 Slater St, Watts, CA 90059
There are cheeseburgers, then there are the meaty, beastly, things that you can barely wrap your mouth around at Hawkins House of Burgers. To say these Watts-style burgers are not for the faint of heart would be understatement, see for yourself with their "Whipper Burger." It consists of a double cheeseburger topped with ribbons of fleshy pastrami, a hot link, and your dignity.
Doomies Home Cookin'
1253 Vine Street, Hollywood, CA 90038
Doomie's is a vegan restaurant in a strip mall in Hollywood that sells fucking incredible fake-meat versions of buffalo wings and Big Macs and all the other junk food that vegans never get to eat. They could definitely stand to get their shit together on some fronts. For instance, it's 2016 and they don't have a website, and, as far as I can tell, there's some menu items that don't actually exist (the French onion soup has been "sold out for the day" as long as I've been going there) but it's worth it because their ham and cheese croissants are so addictive they may as well be a Breaking Bad box set wrapped in heroin.
11401 Moorpark Street, Studio City, CA 91602
Humble and unassuming, Cactus is one of those places that a friend takes you for a quick lunch and the life-changing meal throws you into an existential crisis about all the other hiding-in-plain-sight gems you're likely missing out on. Maybe that bar next to your apartment is actually the coolest place ever. Maybe the consignment store next to work is stocked with Rick Owens gear. Maybe James from accounting is actually kinda handsome. Cactus will fuck your shit up like that. The burritos are great. The tacos, even better. Oh, and if you've never tried lengua, here's your golden opportunity to be an adult and experience new things.
5107 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90065
The aesthetic of the site and shop can come off a bit too adorkable, and the punk band pun names for their signature donuts only compound the eye-roll factor, but god damn do they make a good donut. If you're looking for a bear claw or maple bar, there are a million other spots in town for you. Donut Friend is a bit more highfalutin with items like a vegan cream cheese, strawberry jam, and basil stuffed donut topped with a vanilla and balsamic glaze. You can also "make your own" if you're the sort that likes to tell people that are experts in their field how to do their job. But you do you.
9071 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069
One of the most amazing things about LA is there's a ton of places that feel teleported straight from a David Lynch movie. Dan Tana's is the one that jumps to mind for me—this Italian restaurant is bathed in red light, under which decrepit men in tuxedos gamely serve you only the finest selection of pastas and adult beverages. The last time I was there it was 1 AM and I was eating chicken parm at a table next to Ron Jeremy, who was inexplicably hanging out with a seven-year-old girl and a man in silver cowboy boots. Yeah it's expensive, but can you really put a price on history? And if you can, who's to say that price isn't $28 for a plate of lasagna?
Before Oinkster, the only place to go in Eagle Rock was the food court of that weird post-apocalyptic mall on Colorado Blvd. Then the heavens parted and God threw us a bone of delicious hamburgers. It's a modern spin on the classic Southern California burger stand and they make their own ketchup that's almost worth drinking by itself. The waitstaff is so nice, they might even let you get away with that.
704 S. Alvarado Street, MacArthur Park, CA 90057
Come here if you like sassy, crusty waiters who probably worked there back when you couldn't walk in MacArthur Park after 10 PM without fearing for your life. It doesn't stay open late and isn't even open on Sundays, but it has the best pastrami sandwich in town (the #19). That's gotta count for something, right?
BCD Tofu House
3575 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Six-year-olds and other picky eaters, fear not. Despite what the name might suggest, you aren't actually relegated to a menu full of tofu. You can even get meat. I promise. Foodies will tell you it's not the best Korean food in K-town, and they're totally right. The world needs places like BCD, contently living that four Yelp star existence. They're open 24 hours, there's an honest-to-goodness parking lot, and you can fill your belly for like 10 bucks. What's not to love?
327 E. 1st Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
If you haven't caught on yet, Asian cuisine is just as much a staple of the LA diet as tacos, brunch, and edibles. It's impossible to select a ramen joint from such a formidable selection, so just take the recommendation of Daikokuya with the underlying presumption that they're giving the humble, bewildered "honor to even be nominated alongside you all" acceptance speech of a young Oscar winner. Located in Little Tokyo, the hearty bowls are packed with fresh ingredients and delicious broth. Well worth the potential hour wait and post-meal sweats.
Stuff I Eat
114 N Market St, Inglewood, CA 90301
One of the problems with being a vegan is that people always think you like vegetables. LA's best antidote to that stupid misapprehension is Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, where you can gorge yourself on plant-based versions of soul food staples like greens and tofu BBQ that doesn't really taste like BBQ, but thankfully, it also doesn't taste especially healthy. Now to be fair, Babette, the owner, started the place with the intention of bringing healthy food to her community, and they do have lots of items with kale in them. If you're into that sort of thing get the nacho salad—at least that has "nacho" in the name.
Grand Central Market
317 S. Broadway, Downtown, CA 90013
Grand Central Market, an enclosed public food hall, has been a Los Angeles institution since the late 1800s. You can get fresh produce, deli meats, seafood, and prepared dishes. This is one of those places assholes like to refer to as "foodie heaven," but it really is. For many years it served a mostly Spanish-speaking clientele, but just like everything in downtown, the rest of the city recently discovered it in the last five years. Now, it's got trendy chefs renting stalls to serve gourmet food at places with names like Eggslut. But don't let that dissuade you from popping in.
San Pedro Fish Market
1190 Nagoya Way, San Pedro, CA 90731
The best way to witness the CO2-belching realities of giant-scale globalized trade is to head down to San Pedro's Fish Market for a huge pile of spicy seafood and bread while you stare at enormous container ships moving their payloads in and out of the Port of Los Angeles. The fish markets are all awkwardly crammed into one little space, but they all serve the same menu in the same giant portions, and all the bars serve equally massive micheladas, a.k.a. cerveza mixed with tomato juice and spices—the perfect thing to guzzle while you watch NAFTA in action.
WHERE TO DRINK
Eating is great and all, but what's more important than a nice spot to grab a drink? Here are some of our favs in LA.
6202 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, 90038
This place is owned by skate photographer Atiba Jefferson and it's one of the few places in Hollywood that isn't crawling with tourists and/or dickheads. It's got a big outdoor backyard space, stiff drinks, and televisions screening movies for those nights when you want to zone out and not talk to anybody. Show up early and it's very mellow; show up late and you'll get drinks spilled all over your skate shoes. Why did you wear white shoes for going out anyway?
Cha Cha Lounge
2375 Glendale Blvd, Silver Lake, CA 90039
Not to be confused with the restaurant Cha Cha Cha (which is also great), Cha Cha Lounge is what you'd get if a giant ate every element of hipster kitsch, then threw up. I mean this totally in a good way, though—the bar is this weird tiki hut, there's a foosball table, and a truly bizarre cross-section of crap culture repped on its walls. On top of that, it has an incredible vending machine in the corner that sells everything from WWE cards to t-shirts to home pregnancy tests. You didn't hear it from us, but you can park in the Bank of America parking lot nearby and nobody will give you any shit. Oh, and if it's too crowded, just hit the labyrinthine, German-style Red Lion Tavern across the street.
864 N. Virgil Ave, East Hollywood, 90029
Sure, it's cramped. And the drinks are pricey. And they just started charging for karaoke. And there's a two-drink minimum. And the bathrooms are gross. And the people behind the bar are so rude that, at points, I've been convinced I'm on a hidden camera prank show, but... Actually, I have no idea why people continue to drink here. Anyone?
1455 Sunset Blvd, Echo Park, 90026
There are a lot of bars in Echo Park fighting to claim the title of "most popular bar to get shitty drunk in without shame." Some say it's Gold Room. Others will go to bat for Little Joy. Unfortunately for them, there can be only one championship belt holder: The Short Stop. While it boasts some of the most popular dance nights in town, Short Stop really shines as a place to wreck yourself before a Dodger game. They do $3 PBRs in the hours before the game, and it's packed with die-hard fans. This is the only place you should go if you want to have a sloppy argument about whether or not Don Mattingly should have pulled Kershaw in the 7th inning of Game 1 of the NLDS last year. The answer is "yes," by the way.
Church of Scientology Celebrity Center International
5930 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, 90028
This is the restaurant in Scientology's "Celebrity Center," but it's open to everyone. Their sommelier was once named "best sommelier in Southern California" by the Restaurant Writer's Association, so their wine selection is really good—provided you can convince yourself that it hasn't been spiked with Scientology mind-control drugs.
1222 W. 7th Street, MacArthur Park, 90017
Monty Bar has the advantage of not being totally "discovered" yet, mostly because it's nestled between downtown and Westlake/MacArthur Park on a fairly desolate strip of 7th Street. Of course, that anonymity is being ruined with this paragraph, so if you really love this bar and appreciate how spacious and not trendy it is, feel free to send a dirty email right now. Forgive me.
2640 N. Figueroa Street, Lincoln Heights, 90065
Yes, this place is all the way out in Lincoln Heights. Yes, it's called "Footsies," which makes you think about elementary school flirting. But who cares when you can enjoy their free jukebox? A free jukebox means you can play music that doesn't suck for as long as you want (or until the DJ shows up at 8 PM).
K-Town Karaoke Bars
American-style karaoke, a.k.a. forcing a bar full of strangers to listen as you realize that you don't actually know the words to "Lose Yourself," is awful. Koreatown is full of spots where you do the other kind of karaoke, the kind where you and your friends get a little room of your own with a long booth seat and a huge table covered in tiny liquor bottles. If you're lucky, the English part of the Korean-made karaoke system will have something as contemporary as old Taylor Swift, but if not, that's fine because they have plenty of Boyz II Men. You better hope the door-to-door strippers show up before you've had more than two bottles of soju, because their services can get pretty expensive once you've lost all your inhibitions. Tip: The button to push when you want your song to start is the one labelled "시작." A lot of people struggle with that.
Pinz Bowling Center
12655 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, 91604
Like everything else in the Valley, this place is tucked into a strip mall. Don't let that scare you away. Pinz is a great bowling alley and, according to a Google Image search I just did, Justin Bieber and Nelly have both bowled there at some point. There's a diner inside called Jerry's where you can order terrible food and pretty good drinks, but you can also get drinks delivered directly to your lane by pressing a button on the bowling console. It's probably how all the "celebrities" do it.
Dan Sung Sa
3317 W 6th St, Koreatown, CA 90020
Named after a legendary movie house in Seoul, Dan Sung Sa is a greatplace to knock back soju and snacks. Just arrive early and grab a big booth, and then keep texting more people to join you as you get drunker and drunker, and the place gets noisier and noisier. The snacks on the extensive menu are good and everything, but they're just a way to occupy your hands, and soak up the alcohol before you stumble into the karaoke bar next door around midnight.
Bigfoot Lodge West
10939 Venice Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034
The hunting lodge aesthetic seemed cooler when we were all going through that "lumbersexual" phase, but even though we've moved on to greener sartorial pastures, this place still has some nice happy hour cocktails and a charming ambiance worthy of return visits. The live music might downright suck at times, but good places to drink on the West side are so few-and-far-between that you'll let it slide.
939 S. Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Fight it as long as you care to, but eventually you'll find yourself at one of LA's many poolside bars. You'll hate yourself (and your body) if you go to brofests like The Standard or Roosevelt, but Hotel Fig's disheveled, quirky building and decent music brings the douchiness down to more manageable levels. After a couple drinks you might even begrudgingly have a good time. It's closed right now, but is scheduled to reopen in time for pool season.
303 E. 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Because no career politician would ever consider upsetting the ready-for-outrage hydra that is MADD by actually passing legislation that would allow CA bars to stay open past 2 AM, we're forced to find weird, quasi-legal loopholes to stay inebriated, such as the inception of the "afterhours club." The Overpass is one of the better ones. There's regular cool local DJ sets and cheap (cans of) beer. Check online to make sure there's actually something going on the night you want to go or you risk showing up to a locked gate and looking like an idiot in front of your date.
WHERE TO HANG OUT DURING THE DAY
It seems like everybody can handle an average of six winters in New York City before they scrap everything and flee west, and the reason is pretty obvious—Los Angeles is beautiful and the weather is routinely gorgeous and there is a seemingly unlimited amount of fun shit to do while the sun's out. Here are some of our favorites.
Go on a Day Trip
Have you ever been on Soarin', that ride at Disney World where you fly over California? There's a reason they chose California for that and not like, Delaware or something. California is fucking beautiful. It's like the state is a video game world with mountain, beach, city, forest, and desert levels. Drive an hour in any direction and you'll be in an environment so scenic, you'll almost forget to eat the shrooms you brought along for the trip.
One of the main streets in downtown, Broadway has the largest concentration of classic movie palaces in the world. For decades, it's been a popular shopping destination for Spanish-speaking immigrants. You can still pick up a pink ball gown or a cowboy hat for cheap, but the addition of spots like the new ACE Hotel and Acne Studios has made the street equally as popular with people who learned how to ask for the bathroom in Spanish on their junior year trip to TJ. There's also the Bradbury Building, which is that amazing iron and wood building they used in Blade Runner that looks like an Escher painting.
Hike a Trail That Isn't Runyon Canyon
We LA folk sure do love hiking. But not, like, real, Appalachian Trail-style hiking with backpacks and unfashionable shoes. No, LA hiking is really just walking on a dirt path with a slight incline in new Lululemon duds. That said, it's still pretty fucking fun to break a slight sweat with friends on a Saturday afternoon. We have this mountain range just sitting there in the middle of the city. Might as well use it. Just don't go to Runyon.
Let me save you a Google search: Griffith Observatory is that white domed building on a hilltop you see in flyover shots of LA. It has a museum and planetarium laser show, but you're not a kid and you're not going to get around to going to those (if you do, make sure you get really stoned first). Where the place really shines is this: Geeks come out of the woodwork whenever there's a space event in the news and set up telescopes outside the observatory you can use for free. They point it at the sun or whatever, apply the proper filters, focus, and all you have to do is look into it and go, Whoa. Fuck!
876 N. Vermont Ave, East Hollywood, 90029
That fancy "barcade" place downtown is perfect if you're the kind of person who likes a $12 cocktail and a DJ blasting generic fashion beats while you're lining up for ten minutes to play a retro arcade game that isn't really as fun as you remembered. For everyone else, there's Family Arcade. The games are cheap, there's free parking, and I'm willing to bet everything I have that the guy working there has never tried a drink that cost more than $6.
1800 S. Brand Blvd, Glendale, 91204
GameHäus is a cafe in Glendale that has close to a thousand different board games. For a $5 fee you can stay as long as you want and play whatever you want. In addition to legitimately good games, there's a bunch of weird gems hidden in their collection. For example, a Monopoly ripoff that Donald Trump made in the 90s called Trump: The Game, which might be the single most detestable item I have ever seen.
Sweeping its horrific history of displacement, racism, and class warfare under the rug for a second, Elysian Park is a pretty chill spot. You can go to a Dodgers game for just a few bucks (unless you plan on eating or drinking in the stadium) or you can find a grassy knoll, set up a picnic, and engage in your God-given right to day drink.
The Beach Strip on the 1 Between Santa Monica and Malibu
People that don't live here think that just because we live right next to the Pacific, we're constantly at the beach. Unfortunately, due to slogging through traffic for upwards of an hour, searching for parking for another 30 minutes (because fuck caving into the tyranny of beach-adjacent lots and paying their exorbitant fees), and dealing with the throngs of people, beach trips are often stressful and rarely impromptu. Fortunately, if you head north on the 1 and bust a U-turn halfway to Malibu, you can just pull over on the side of the road and walk down an embankment to some primo beach real estate.
Entertainment Industry Stuff
Yes, LA is synonymous with Hollywood, but aside from a few holdover pockets of production, we're really more of Media HQ and creative incubator these days. If you're dead set on doing something industry-related in your time here, skip the overpriced bus and lot tours where you'll be treated like a bumpkin who doesn't know what a building façade is. Instead, go see a capital-F Film at Tarantino's New Beverly Cinema. Or catch a screening of The Room, a cult classic that's so-bad-it's-good. Creepy star and director Tommy Wiseau will even be there to take selfies with you before the show. You can also catch a taping of a show like @midnight with relative ease. Comedy fans should check the calendar for NerdMelt theater, a stage crammed in the back of a comic book store that regularly hosts stand up like The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail or podcast tapings like Dan Harmon's Harmontown.
Art, Music, and Culture
The film industry aside, Los Angeles is a hotbed for art—and if you're one of those supreme weirdos who claims not to care for music, there are plenty of killer museums, too. Here's a little handy guide to all the best culture stuff LA has to offer.
If you come to LA asking "where's a good place to hear some music" you're asking the wrong question. We don't really swear allegiance to specific venues out here. Instead, we align ourselves with "branded scenes" that each hop around to different venues week by week. If it sounds a bit complicated to have your favorite party constantly on the lam, that's because it is. Making matters worse, for whatever reason, these brands operate entirely via email listservs.
Once you've RSVP'd online to that night's scene (and really, we all just RSVP to everything we might even consider going to that weekend because it's completely inconsequential), you can expect an email with the address of the event some time the night of. Occasionally, you'll be given an address of a parked U-Haul where a man inside will give you a slip of paper with the true event address. Yes, it's completely ridiculous to engage in these sorts of Cold War spy tactics, but the fruit of this labor is that much sweeter for it.
If underground hip-hop and trap is your thing, you'll want to check out a HAM show, usually in sweaty warehouses around DTLA. Big names like Wiz Khalifa, Waka Flocka, and Vic Mensa will pop in unannounced and spit a few songs while the crowd dances on stage with them due to the lack of security, railings, or general law and order. HAM's also known as a green zone for squashing beef, as was the case when Riff Raff and Soulja Boy played together after their feud. Sometimes things get a little out of hand, which is what happened when a riot broke out during Lil B's show, shutting down an entire city block. If you can push past the drunk underage kids and stomach lukewarm Tecate, you'll usually be treated to one of the craziest shows in town.
Somehow, LA goths are all flawless models draped in luxurious black and white clothing—a far cry from the unfortunate haircuts and Invader Zim T-shirts from your high school. Lil Death elevates witchhouse, deep house, and other creepybeats from Vaporwave Tumblr posts to bougie rooftop bars packed with the aforementioned modelgoths and enough cocaine to shoot season 2 of Narcos.
Lil Death is at its most fun when it leans into its thesis statement of "technology as a new religion" with attendees often referring to that night's venue as "church" and the DJ booth as "the altar." Proselytizers of note include Brodinski, Crystal Castles, and Shlomo, so come hear the good word. Worst case scenario, you'll get a few interesting pics for Instagram.
A self-proclaimed "monthly shrine to Dionysus," A Club Called Rhonda is the nu-Disco playground for polysexual hedonists who look better in an outfit made of Japanese bondage rope than you'd look in a bespoke suit off Savile Row. Heavy hitters like Hot Chip, Simian Mobile Disco, and Todd Edwards constantly come through, which has boosted the brand, allowing Rhonda to take the scene international and become a regular party presence around festivals like Coachella. You'll invariably come out the other side covered in glitter and smelling like amyl nitrate, but that's a small price to pay for the opportunity to party inside the mind of Zebra Katz.
B&L features acts from around the world in the arenas of hip-hop and electronic music, which makes you wonder which genre is represented by brownies and which by lemonade. Sometimes crammed into the back patio of a bar, sometimes in ritzier corporate venues, the tastemakers behind the scene usually shine the spotlight on up-and-comers, but occasionally pull bigger names like Ryan Hemsworth, DJ Quik, and Capital Cities.
Low End Theory
Wednesdays at The Airliner, 2419 N Broadway, Lincoln Heights, CA 90031
Every Wednesday at the Airliner in Lincoln Heights isLow End Theory, the celestial body around which the city's beat scene rotates. If you've got a love of cannabis, Canibus, and cargo shorts, you're gonna fucking love it. If standing in a sea of dudes nodding their heads in unison to Gaslamp Killer isn't your thing, though, stay away for your own sake.
If you've ever wondered what it'd be like to party in a Basquiat painting, you're probably pretty cool and we should totally hang out. But, also, you're in luck. New kid on the scene, Fine Time, brings thoughtful, challenging, yet fun and danceable beats to its crowds. Though their main thing is a wide spectrum of house, they don't shy away from the occasional dalliance with jazz, noise, and hip-hop. You needn't be the art school type to enjoy this scene. Their doors are open to anyone down to get a little weird with the likes of Galcher Lustwerk, Mumdance, and Matrixxman.
Don't worry. LA music ain't all bleeps and bloops. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you feel about all that email bullshit from before) to see bands playing more than computers, you'll have to do things the old fashioned way and buy tickets for a show at theater like some sort of caveman. As long as you avoid the cesspools of aging hepatitis on the Sunset Strip, most venues in LA will get the job done. Here are few of the better ones.
The Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall
665 W. Jefferson Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007
Built by Shriners in 1906, presumably for all the wacky ceremonies and rituals white men used to love getting into, today The Shrine hosts the great-grandchildren of these fraternity members as they grind their teeth to likes of Jamie XX, Chance the Rapper, and My Morning Jacket. The Moorish architecture is cool. The $20 parking is not.
2301 Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90068
Back in the Roaring Twenties, cities and philanthropists loved to swing a big dick with cultural projects. This enormous outdoor amphitheater was one such gift to the commoners from the ivory tower of the aristocrats. The bowl has evolved with the populace and what was once venue for sophisticated orchestral concerts and live theater, now also hosts Phish shows. One of the best things about the place is their allowance if not encouragement of outside food and drink.
1822 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
The Echo and the Echoplex share an owner and building but are not the same and somehow exist in spatial plane where they are on perpendicular streets, multiple stories above and below one another. Getting to the right door can feel like you're playing a game of that 3D Star Trek chess, so be sure to park on Sunset if you're going to The Echo, the upper one. The acts that come through cover a wide spectrum of tastes, from modern indie (like Best Coast) to metal royalty (like Melvins).
Like most mainstream "gayborhoods," West Hollywood is a black hole of awfulness that should be avoided at all costs. If you do have to go there, Gold Coast and Fubar are the least offensive. Also, anything owned by Lisa Vanderpump is funny to take out-of-town friends to.
Further to the east, there's a little gay area on the edge of Silver Lake that has good spots like Faultline, Akbar, and the Eagle. If you like having sex with members of the same sex and end up downtown, New Jalisco and Precinct are both great.
250 S. Grand Ave, Downtown, 90023
You're getting older and you want to start feeling superior to your childish friends who spend all day playing with balls of string and rubber bones (your friends are all common house pets). What better place to feel superior in Los Angeles than an art museum? Ask the average outsider if there are museums in LA and they'll probably refer to the Wax Museum on Hollywood Boulevard. MOCA, with two campuses downtown, is a great place to start. They use heavy card stock on all their brochures and there's a Lemonade in the complex if you're feeling a bit hungry. The art's pretty neat, too.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology
9341 Venice Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232
Less a museum, and more of a love letter to David Lynch, the Museum of Jurassic Technology has nothing to do with any of the words in its name. Inside you'll find scale models of mobile homes, paintings of dogs shot into space, and other arcana that'll impress the date you met at the Gogol Bordello show. This spot isn't for everyone, though. It's the Juno of galleries. Plenty will swoon, but many will say "No, no, I get it. I just don't like it."
221 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Everything about this museum, from its architecture to its collection, seems cravenly designed for peak Instagramability. With steep parking rates (even for a museum), no guarantee of entry to Kasuma's "Infinity Room," and tickets that are essentially a black market commodity, it should be easy to hate The Broad. Fortunately, the enormous collection of post-modern and contemporary art is just so fucking good that all of the above is rendered moot. Just don't be a simp and say the name of the place like it's a slur for "woman." It's founder's name rhymes with "road." Say it wrong and you might be outed as a tourist.
7021 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Founded by podcaster, former-rapper, and all-around friend of comedy Jensen Karp, the stable of regular artists have talent, restraint, and their own unique senses of style that elevate their work. Most importantly, Gallery 1988, which has themed exhibits like Breaking Bad, Adult Swim, and Marvel, aims to make art ownership something that everyone can afford, selling prints of the works for as low as $15.
La Luz De Jesus Gallery
4633 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Half the appeal of this gallery is that it sits within WACKO, a kitch, book, and animal skull shop with bizarre goods just as worthy of your "oohs" and "ahhs" as the paintings on the wall. The gallery changes exhibits often, giving the next local artist in line a chance to shine. You can knock out a full tour around the gallery, which is only the size of a modest studio apartment, in a few minutes. Walk in while you've got a few minutes to kill waiting for a table at Umami Burger down the block.
8070 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048
You might know Taschen as the publisher of those art books you'd get from distant relatives that never knew what to buy you. Turns out art book publishers know a thing or two about art. From early on in their publishing days, the company fought to bring marginalized and under-represented artists into major bookstore chains. That counter-culture spirit continues in the exhibits they host with art often pulled from the seedy back alleys of the fetish, queer, or pornographic spaces and thrust into the mainstream spotlight it deserves.
WHERE TO SHOP
It's also easy to take jabs at that vague cliché about LA consumerism, but this is the deal: the reason people shop a lot is because there is an overwhelming amount of cool stuff to buy. Here's a list of all our favorite spots to shop that won't completely break the bank.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
The Rose Bowl, which is known as a place where college football teams play a game on New Year's Day, also holds a giant flea market once a month. The fee to get in is $8, and the prices there are too high for you to try to do any kind of bargain shopping. Instead, go there just to wander the incomprehensible vastness. Browse the horrifying taxidermied animals, the hilarious dad shirts, and the hideous original paintings and sculptures by deluded weirdos. Maybe if you're lucky, you'll get to talk to some Japanese guy who barely speaks English, but knows absolutely everything there is to know about Levi's.
Spring Street (Downtown LA)
All the waifish fashion bloggers with pastel hair keep posting pics from the boutiques that are popping up on this street, so I'm going to go ahead and recommend you get some clothes here from stores like Clade, Noblita, and Deandri before they quintuple their prices or close for good. There is no third option.
Galco's Old World Grocery
5702 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042
If you go into Galco's and walk out with a fucking Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, or any other run-of-the-mill soda basic while there are celery, buffalo wing, and "bilk" flavored sodas screaming at you from the shelves, you've clearly murdered your inner child and I feel sad about your life.
6400 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
If you're still buying music in 2016, you'd better have a pretty damn good reason for doing so. If you do have a valid reason, hopefully you'll do it at one of the last independent record stores instead of throwing money at Tidal. Amoeba also has DVDs and posters, but we all know the real reason you're going is to will into existence that cute fantasy of bumping into your soulmate while browsing the vinyl.
The Last Bookstore
453 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
The whimsicality of this place can be a bit overbearing, but the selection more than makes up for it.
Melrose Ave (Between Fairfax & La Brea)
You're not Julia Roberts. You're never going to have that Pretty Woman shopping spree on Rodeo Drive. That stuff is overpriced and better suited on trophy wives and visiting emissaries anyway. Cooler, independent shops, with just as much high-fashion sensibility sit just a couple miles away on this strip. Streetwear and sneakerheads will cream their jeans at all the shops up Fairfax. And then Tyler the Creator will presumably pop out from behind a corner to make fun of them for it.
210 E. Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015
Santee Alley is great if you're the kind of person that enjoys buying stuff but also hates spending money. The area's vendors sell pretty much everything in the known universe (up to and including sparkly Scream mask print fabric, anti-Donald Trump shirts, and bootleg Dora the Explorer toys) but at a fraction of what you'd pay in the rest of the city.
Here's the deal with the traffic—it's a necessary evil. Regardless of what you think you've gleaned from the movie Speed, LA's public transportation is lacking. You should probably get a car. If you refuse, here are your other options.
It's definitely possible to get around LA without a car. But not having one is going to crank up the difficulty setting of your stay. The buses are crowded and don't come often enough. Maybe you'll try the subway—which, yes, LA does have, before realizing it doesn't go that many places. You'll try walking, but then you'll realize it's a million degrees out and each neighborhood is 100 miles wide.
One day, trains will get you further and further. An extension is opening this year that will finally let you get from downtown to the beach, something that wasn't previously possible. Still, for the time being, certain areas like the Getty Center and West Hollywood are tricky to access via public transportation. That means you'll blow a lot of your transportation budget on Lyft or Uber if you choose to go carless.
Oh, and you're officially banned from asking for rides from friends if you're here visiting. Everything is 300 miles apart, and giving someone a ride usually eats up about four hours of your day. Just get a fucking car.
Special thanks to Justin Caffier for compiling recommendations.
Check out more from the VICE Guide to Los Angeles
Update: A listing has been removed from this post due to unreliable information about the venue.
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