Tell me about Los Angeles--West Hollywood

I’m moving from New York to West Hollywood in the beginning of September. I’ve never been to Los Angeles before, so I don’t know what to expect. I’m a twenty-something female who will be looking for employment and fun people to adventures with when I arrive in California. I have a few questions concerning how I go about getting these things.
-How is public transportation in West Hollywood, or L.A. in general? I don’t drive at all. Will I be able to get around?
-Where are the major shopping districts in West Hollywood and the surrounding areas? I work in retail, so I want to know where I should look for employment.
-Does anyone have any recommendations for Lesbian clubs/bars or other gay culture in Hollywood?
-What are some fun things to do when I’m not pounding the pavement looking for work?
Tapings of shows, touristy stuff, used bookshops, anything…?

I welcome random musings on L.A. life and advice on how to survive the city.

I never lived in West Hollywood, but my grandmother lived there for about 10 years. I would visit her for a few days a couple times a year. She just moved out about a year ago. For the last 4 or 5 years, she didn’t have a car and got around by walking or riding the bus. It was easy for her, since the Gelsen’s grocery store was across the street and the bank had a branch just 3 blocks away. She had to take a bus to see her doctor.

There is a sizeable gay community in West Hollywood. Not being gay myself, I never looked into it. I do like picking up free newspapers, to get a feel for the community and there are several that cater to gays. One Christmas, on my way home, my grandmother made a strange comment that I was welcome to bring any companion I wished on my next visit. It only dawned on me later that she had seen one of the newspapers I brought in and had concluded that I liked boys and wanted to say she was ok with that. Outed by my own grandmother and I was never in! But I digress…

As for retail, welcome to Los Angeles, where strip malls abound. Santa Monica, Sunset, La Cienega are lined with retail stores and restaurants on both sides. Down La Cienega is Beverly Center, a multistory mall. You can buy anything from Persian rugs and antiques to trashy lingerie and other ‘ahem’ exotic items within blocks of your front door.

Doubtless, someone more knowledgeable will come along, just my 2 cents.

Just about every major street in L. A. has a bus line. It’s been 20 years since I rode the bus, so I don’t really know what it’s like now, but what I remember is that it was slow, not cheap, and the interiors were crowded, hot and smelly. It may have experienced significant improvements since then, as the buses have been updated, there are many more express buses, and even a couple of underground train lines.

As mentioned above, The Beverly Center. Also, the Grove/Farmer’s Market, Melrose Avenue between Fairfax and La Brea, the Sunset Strip, and Hollywood Boulevard between La Brea and Vine.

I don’t know specifically, but Santa Monica Boulevard between Doheny and La Brea is where most of the visible gay community seems to hang out.

Show tapings can be found at CBS on Beverly and Fairfax, and Paramount on Santa Monica and Gower.

Touristy stuff can be found at the retail shopping areas I mentioned above.

There’s a good used bookshop on Melrose just east of La Brea, and there are a couple of other well known ones in the area.

If you like hiking, there are great public hiking trails in the hills northeast of West Hollywood (Runyon Canyon, which is west of La Brea) and in the hills north of Hollywood proper (Beechwood Canyon, which is East of Gower).

Santa Monica and Venice beaches are accessible, though a long trip on public transport from West Hollywood.

If you like live music, there is a seemingly infinite variety available in the area, from coffeehouses to bars to nightclubs to full-on concert halls and outdoor arenas.

From what I’ve heard, it’s difficult to meet people at first. If I were starting out here for the first time, I would try engaging my neighbors in conversation. People here are usually friendly by nature, but you have to draw them out a bit.

There’s tons of good food here if you know where to look. I recommend a Zagat guide, the recommendations in there are usually pretty solid.

I like it here. Good luck and welcome.

Agree with everything said so far.

Great Lesbian bar is Palms, across the street from Ramada Inn at La Cienega and Santa Monica Boulevard.

West Hollywood is a really great city to live in, very liberal Mayor and city politics, and at one time, WeHo was ranked 7th richest city in California due to the taxes paid by all the high end restaurants and clubs in the city. They have done a great job with Santa Monica Blvd. - the city actually bought that section of the boulevard from the State and re-did it using their own money.

You picked one of the very few areas that is perfect for walking and getting around without a car - but trust me, you will at some point have to get a car. I mean, simply have to get a car. LA is not easy to live in without one. And rent is going to be a shocker. It ain’t cheap to live there, so you might want to try Roommate Matcher or one of those places if you don’t already have a place to stay. Then again, moving from NY, you might find the prices normal.

I lived in WeHo for about 10 years, loved every minute of it, met lots of great people and regret not a moment.


I was just about to pop in and say WeHo is really, really gay, but that is what you are going for so we are ok :slight_smile: . Pride is a whole lotta fun and you will be right in the middle of that.

The LA Museum of Art (which has King Tut right now) is down the road- a must see.

Shopping? I highly suggest the Pleasure Chest–what? :smiley: The Beverly Center can be horribly expensive, but it might be a nice place to work. There are bunches of little shops up and down the roads (Santa Monica, especially).

I second that you will need to get a car. LA is a very spread out place and you will want to get around.

The buses have gotten better over the last 20 years; there were a number of lawsuits that have forced the MTA to buy more and newer buses. You’re going to want a car, as everyone else has said, but WeHo is a good place to live if you want to be able to walk to at least some places. There’s also a subway/light rail system now which doesn’t go to a whole lot of places, but at least it’s a start. I don’t know NYC other than from books, TV, etc., but you should feel at home in WeHo. It’s a pedestrian oriented community where the traffic passing through on Santa Monica Boulevard is so bad that you will actually want to avoid driving if you are going someplace close by.

L.A. in general, IMHO, hasn’t caught up to NYC in cultural terms and likely never will, but there’s a lot here worth seeing. The Getty in Brentwood is better known for its architectural magnificence and its beautiful setting than for its collection of European painting and sculpture, but on the other hand its collection of Greek and Roman antiquities is very highly regarded. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (commonly called LACMA) is a decent comprehensive collection. It’s not the Met, but how could it be? It’s only been in existance since 1965. MOCA is downtown; the subway connection between downtown and Hollywood makes it easy to combine daytime culture with nighttime revels. There’s a lot more but those are the things that come to mind at the moment.

Do they still tape there? I thought the CBS studios got knocked down and transmogrified into shopping space for The Grove/Farmer’s Market.

Hi bananafish! I live in Koreatown, about 4 miles east of WeHo! Welcome!

I own a car, but I try to take public transportation as much as possible. I HATE DRIVING IN LOS ANGELES. Especially during the hours of 7-9 am and 4-7 pm, where you are not allowed to make left turns on many streets because it blocks traffic. I’d recommend living near major streets because that really helps w/ public transportation. Santa Monica Blvd, Melrose, and Fairfax are probably the best streets to live near if you don’t have a car. You can buy a monthly pass from MTA for $52. I use mine all the time! Granted, the buses are generally really crowded and there are always some odd folks that hop on, but it saves me gas money, the stress of looking for parking, and just saves me from the stress of driving in general. Well worth it.

WeHo is very close to many shopping areas. Melrose itself is home to tons of boutiques, both at the low-end (family owned businesses) to the high-end (Miu Miu, Fred Segal, Betsey Johnson). Also, WeHo is close to The Grove, which has a Nordstrom and many other chain retail stores. It is also a short bus ride to Bev Hills and if you want to work in retail, this is the place to work. It is easy to make 40K a year working at Barney’s or Neiman Marcus.

the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and San Vincente is gay club central. Although I am a straight female, I will go gay clubbing with my friends from time and each club has different theme nights so I guess you’ll just have to go and see which nights you like best.

Oh wow, where do I begin!? Especially since you’re a young female! I too am a 20-something female, so let me see what I can recommend…

Lots of museums: LACMA, MOCA, the Getty are all great. Great restaurants, shopping. It is easy to go to tapings of shows, although not many Los Angeleans actually go. There are many different neighborhoods in LA and each have a distinctive flavor to them. If you want indy/arty stuff, Silverlake, Echo Park and Los Feliz are really cool to walk around. Want to learn some history? Take a historical tour of downtown. Want to go celebrity sighting? Walk around West L.A. or Bev Hills. Want to experience nature? Go to Griffith Park. There is really no limit to the things that can fill your day.

I think my number one piece of advice is this: Yes there are total assholes that live in LA, espcially since we’re the entertainment capital and everyone is out to kiss everyone’s ass to try to get work- but there are some really really cool, genuine people that live in this city so don’t lose hope and feel that LA is a pile of scum after a few months of living here. Oh and beware of the materialistic nature of LA; that is one thing i HATE about living here. Other than that, good luck and have fun!

FWIW one of my wife’s colleagues, a professor at UCLA, lives in West Hollywood and doesn’t own a car. She manages well enough with bicycle and bus.

Thanks so much for the advice. WeHo–love it! Just reading your replies is getting me excited for my move. I’ll be living on N. Crescent Heights Blvd. off of W. Sunset Blvd, if that helps with suggestions. I’m relieved to find that I’ll be able to get around without a car; even if transportation is somewhat limited.

DVsickgirlDV, what does Koreatown have to offer?

sishoch, your grandmother story is too funny!

I’d love some cheap eats recommendations or any other general advice. Keep 'em coming, folks!

They do tape there. There were some prop lots that got taken over by The Grove, but the CBS Television City building is still very much intact. My brother just went to a Craig Kilborn taping there last year, and they also tape The Price is Right and the Hollywood Squares there.
As for cheap eats, here’s my tip:

Hidden away in a large strip mall across 3rd street from Farmer’s market, in a little courtyard tucked away in between KMart and Whole Foods Market, is a place called Andre’s. It’s American-Italian food (pizza, spaghetti, ravioli, etc.), and it’s served cafeteria style, but it’s by far the best bargain in the neghborhood. The food is a lot better than you would expect from the location and setup. The sauces are good, the salad dressing (they make it themselves) is addictive, and best of all, a family of four can eat a satisfying meal for under $30. That is not a typo.

My last apartment was in the building on the SE corner of N. Crescent Hts and Fountain, right down the street. Three houses further south, Quetin Tarantino used to have an apartment and I would see him walking all the time - he continued to live there a few years after he got really famous. At any rate, it is a great neighborhood and you are next to the Virgin Megastore building that has the (overpriced chi-chi) gym, Crunch, as well as the Laemmle Theaters - a great place to see the smaller, independent films! Laugh Factory is right across the street. Downside is that traffic on Sunset Boulevard, especially on weekend nights, makes Times Square on New Year’s Eve look deserted. Bumper to bumper with 20 something’s all headed to the clubs on Sunset Blvd.

So many places with good food, but on the corner of Crescent Hts and Santa Monica Blvd is a great Indian Restaurant that is inexpensive, and next door is Theodores, a typical diner type restaurant, but if you go during the day, you will see Shelly Winters and her cronies gabbing about the old days in films. She practically lives there and they talk so loud, you can hear them 8 tables away.

A block east is the French Market - fun place to go and eat and look around. A little further east is the Russian area - yep, lots of Russian immigrants live there. They have some interesting bakeries/delis and you can get some great food for cheap, but be prepared to point and grunt as little, if any, English is spoken there.

And at some point, you have to go to Pinks. It is a hot dog stand. Not just any hot dog stand. It has been there forever…on the corner of Melrose and I think, Highland? Everybody from the local retailer to the biggest stars go there for a real hot dog…and despite the hype, they really are quite good.

There are lots of other places to eat in your area…KooKooKaRoo is down near the Palms (have see Ellen DeGeneres eating in there every once in awhile) and it is a fast food, fun, healthy place to eat with interesting sides and chicken and turkey and all sorts of options, so you can pick and choose according to your appetite and budget.

My SO had a spell of hard financial times and we never starved. Of course, once you are earning the big bucks, there is a whole new range of dining opportunities available and all within a healthy walk from your apt.

Next to the Virgin Megastore is a Buzz Coffee that is light-years better than Starbuck’s.

Pink’s is on Melrose and La Brea.

Thanks - even when I was living there I used to confuse Highland with LaBrea all the time.

And yes, Buzz Coffeehouses are great - do they still have their other location just west of Santa Monica and Crescent Hts? (Across the street from Theodore’s).

And I forgot to mention Fairfax between Melrose and Beverly! Great Jewish deli neighborhood, and Cantor’s Deli is a classic there - open 24 hours with a fantastic matza ball soup/half sandwich special that will fill you up! Wild place to go if you are up at 2 or 3AM!

If it’s the same book store mentioned by Rufus earlier, it is called Cosmo Books. It’s on Melrose just east of La Brea. So get yourself a Pink’s dog (chili w/onions and a cream soda - my fave) then amble on over. I lived in Hollywood for 20 years, I haven’t been there for some time, but I think Cosmo’s is still there. There used to be a great, inexpensive Indian place a few doors down - might still be there.

If you do go to Cantor’s try the Bronx special. Just up the street (Fairfax, between Santa Monica and Willoughby) is/was (?) Ghengis Cohen’s. The No Name Duck is the best! Say hello to Ray (the owner) for me if he’s not too busy gambling in the back with his cronies. If the place is still in business.

L.A. denizens - is Ghengis still there?

I’ve eaten at Canter’s Deli about 500 times in my life, if you count drinking a bottomless cup of coffe and smoking a handful of cigarettes as “eating.” My wife has eaten there even more than I have. Her dad and uncle used to work there.

The Fairfax area where Canter’s is is my 'hood. I went to Fairfax High school and currently live about 2 miles away.

It’s good food, and it’s the best Jewish Deli on the West Coast, but Canter’s is not cheap. Typically, dinner for the four of us runs about $50 with tax and tip.

Yep, Cosmo’s books.
And the Indian restaurant is still there.
So is Ghengis Cohen.

Uh, so how did you like that complex?..cause that’s exactly where mine is.

I prefer Swingers (on Beverly) over Cantors, or Fred 62 (on Vermont, over in Los Feliz area) over both, for late night dining.

You will need to utilize a car at some point, or accept being a third class citizen. That’s LA for you. I’d recommend a book or a few as references, such as Peter Theroux’s Translating L.A., but in fact everybody seems to have a different impression of Los Angeles.

There’s plenty of retail opportunities, but as people have mentioned, the rents are excessive; almost on part with Manhattan Island. WeHo (and Santa Monica) is definitely a gay-friendly area, but other areas not much; there are some severely conservative and bizarrely puritanical vibes in some areas. Nonetheless, unless you are a hopeless reject (like me) you can no doubt find somewhere here that you fit in, and fit into nicely.


Another Fairfax dweller chiming in (Melrose & Fairfax is a couple blocks to the NW) and while I can’t exactly say they’re all cheap eats, I dare say the area is the BEST restaurant area in SoCal. Worth mentioning: Thai: Chow Krun at Fairfax & Beverly is off the charts. Also, Eat-a-Pita, a falafel/shwarma stop on Fairfax just south of Melrose is our staple healthy fast food. Big portions, very affordable, outside seating, lots of plants. Also Noura Cafe (sic?), another Eastern food spot is very happening and very good (Melrose & La Cienega, IIRC). As for Canters… umm… I’ll let you decide for yourself. Also, the local popular drinkfest Mexican food dive is El Coyote (Beverly near LaBrea). Nobody in the area hasn’t gotten drunk there at least… 10 times. Definitely cheap eats at El Coyote – but you’ll likely blow your paycheck on the margaritas.

While I’ve never done it, I gather seeing a taping of Jay Leno (NBC Studios in Burbank, a decent busride away) is a very often overlooked but a throughly enjoyed experience. And the only real necessity for entrance is that you get in line around 8am (they start letting folks in around noon). A good (better?) alternative to Universal Studios tour is the Warner Brothers tour, which is much more personalized, allows you to hang out on actual sets while they’re filming, just lacks the lame rides. You get shuttled around in carts that seat six, not trams that seat 200.

If you’re into cars, the Peterson Automotive Museum rocks (Fairfax & Wilshire, across the street from LA Co. Museum of Art). Ten bucks and great exhibits – including a full-sized Speed Racer car!

Beverly Center is the mall for actual shopping (if you can deal with the prices), but for hanging out, The Grove/Farmer’s Market (the former is an outdoors mall) takes the cake, especially on weekend nights. It’s at Fairfax & 3rd, right behind CBS – which is where Price is Right is shot; but you gotta get in line around 5am for a good shot at getting in and winning the big prizes.