Los Angeles' 10 Best Neighborhoods

From high-rise condos overlooking flashy beachside residences to family-friendly communities a short drive from the local mall, Los Angeles is full of neighborhoods teaming with vibrance, style and more.

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The void left behind by the entertainment industry's shrinking presence has been rapidly filled by a wave of restaurants, stores, nightclubs and residents. Much of the new energy and activity is located in the flats, far below the Hollywood sign. The opening of two subway stations has made it even easier to commute to jobs in downtown Los Angeles or the San Fernando Valley. Droves of star-struck tourists, however, still jam the nearby sidewalks, with their heads bowed as they look for familiar names on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But if they look up, they might be able to peek into the windows of hundreds of new luxury lofts carved from Hollywood's vintage office buildings. These are the new stars of Hollywood.


Pasadena's love of history and tradition, including the annual Rose Parade, has paid off handsomely, attracting droves of new residents and visitors to restored shopping districts and old neighborhoods. The city's ethnically and racially diverse neighborhoods north of the 210 Freeway are home to block after block of Craftsman bungalows in different stages of renovation -- or dilapidation. Meanwhile, south of the 210 Freeway, newcomers in search of a more urban lifestyle are settling in thousands of new condominiums and apartments that have been built or are planned for Pasadena's downtown, Playhouse District and Old Pasadena. This new housing, located a short walk from stores, museums, markets, theaters and a light-rail line, have infused the city with young singles as well as affluent retirees.


When the city was formed in the late 1950s, its original name was the "City of Dairy Valley," a good name for a town where the population of cows outnumbered people by nearly 10 to 1. But the dairies and cows have been crowded out by neat and tidy housing tracts, a regional mall, a well-regarded performing arts center, a huge public library (more than 300,000 volumes) and sculpture garden. About 10 years after it was founded, the City of Dairy Valley was renamed Cerritos in honor of a large Spanish-era rancho.


Whittier was founded more than a century ago as a Quaker colony of "fair minded" individuals who wanted to start a new life in the California sunshine. Today, this middle-class suburb with nearly 90,000 people is more diverse, with growing numbers of upwardly mobile Latino families joining the old-line Whittier residents whose grandparents remember the arrival of the first car in town. Residents can choose to live a conventional suburban life in the 1950s- and 1960s-era homes of East Whittier or the Whittier Hills. Home of former president Richard Nixon, Whittier also has one of the more unique California attractions in its midst, the Chinese Buddhist Temple at Rose Hills Memorial Park.


The Claremont Colleges campus dominates the town and its cultural life, giving Claremont a distinct identity from the strip malls and suburban housing tracts that surround the city. The extension of the 210 Freeway through the northern end of the community and the opening of a new Village-adjacent cinema, shopping center and townhomes have made Claremont more attractive to younger residents. Claremonters celebrate the arrival of the cooler fall months by heading to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, the state's largest native plant garden. Here a large collection of manzanitas, a family of hardy shrubs that cover the hills and mountains, bloom from November through March.


One of Valencia's biggest cultural attractions has to be the Six Flags Amusement Park (locals still call it by its original name, Magic Mountain). But a new downtown, built from scratch next to the Valencia Town Center mall, has created a new, grown-up alternative to the theme park. A commuter rail line has made this 40-year-old, master-planned community a more convenient place to live. But don't drive 35 miles north of Los Angeles expecting to find a hip, 24-hour city. Valencia, part of the larger and equally young City of Santa Clarita, remains solidly geared for families, which take advantage of top-notch public schools, active church groups and paseos, miles of landscaped walkways and bikeways that weave through separate neighborhoods.

Sherman Oaks

Seclusion and sophistication are some of the attractions of Sherman Oaks. It's a place of modest ranch-style homes in the flats, south of Ventura Boulevard, complete with decorative wagon wheels and Z-shutters, and increasingly larger and striking contemporary homes high in the hills north of the boulevard. Ventura Boulevard serves as the main street and dividing line between the more expensive and affordable sections of Sherman Oaks. Block after block of boutiques, tattoo parlors, coffeehouses, restaurants and strip malls line both sides of the traffic-choked street.

Culver City

Culver City has long been home to major movie studios, but the industry's glamour had never rubbed off on this suburb, which had long been overshadowed by the more flashy Westside neighborhoods to the north. That's been changing, however, as its central location; a downtown revival; and the arrival of cutting-edge firms in media, design and high-tech have taken over old Culver City warehouses and factories. Hot new restaurants, wine bars, movie theaters and performances at the Kirk Douglas Theater bring huge crowds to the once-deserted downtown near Culver and Washington boulevards. Yet, for all the posh new nightspots, most of Culver City remains dominated by quiet neighborhoods of modest ranch-style homes and condos set on tree-lined streets.

Pacific Palisades

Surfboards hang from the walls of a neighborhood insurance office and Gidget, the original beach babe, hails from this community high on the bluffs above the Pacific Ocean. But Pacific Palisades, like the rest of the Westside, has become an affluent enclave with million-dollar, ranch-style houses and even far more expensive hillside estates. While the beach beckons below the bluffs, many Palisades residents prefer to find refuge in the Santa Monica Mountains, where taking a short hike through Temescal Canyon Park leads to a natural waterfall. It's best to go early before the day heats up.

Manhattan Beach

Crowds of fishermen still cast their lines over the sides of the Manhattan Beach pier to catch mackerel and perch. Nearby, grunts can still be heard as sun-baked volleyball players leap from the sand to spike the ball over the nets. But the Manhattan Beach of modest beach cottages and dark watering holes is pretty much a thing of the past. Large and dramatic new homes pop up from the walk-streets of the Sand Section, the neighborhoods closest to the sand and beach; the Hill Section, the most exclusive part of town where residents can still enjoy ocean views; and the Tree Section, where bigger houses are more appealing to families. For all of these changes though, Manhattan Beach still retains the charms of a beach town.