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Los Angeles Life Hacks
September 26, 2012 11:13 AM   Subscribe

I'd like some every day hacks for life in Los Angeles.

It's finally happening. After two years working on my New York City exit strategy, I'm moving to Los Angeles at the end of next month.

I have savings. I'm leveraging my local connections to find a job ASAP. I have a sense of the lay of the land, and a game plan for buying a car. I've read just about every AskMe thread about L.A., ever.

I just have one more question. What are the little everyday tricks that make life in Los Angeles easier?

For example, in New York, for only a couple extra bucks, the laundromat will do your laundry for you, including matching your socks. We've got smart phone apps to navigate public transit. Want to know if a gentrifying neighborhood is safe? Keep an eye out for a Connecticut Muffin coffee shop. Or, in the opposite direction, the Kennedy Fried Chicken fast food chain. Need a life-line to cool free social activities? We've got a blog for that. And a newsletter. What if you need to renew your driver's license, but you don't want to wait in line all day? Head to the Express DMV.

What are the L.A. equivalents of these things? What simple service is going to make my life a thousand times better? What local blog is going to revolutionize the way I have fun? Is there an immediate visual shorthand for whether a neighborhood is safe? A group I can join? A radio station that will keep me sane in traffic? A tiny perk of Southern California life I wouldn't know about? A simple bit of advice about the freeway system?

What about the bad stuff? Any huge warnings or points of culture shock I might not be anticipating? Any seemingly friendly yoga center/event space/knitting circle that is SECRETLY A CULT? (For what it's worth, I'm comfortable driving in Manhattan at rush hour, grew up in the deep south so I'm used to the lack of "real seasons", etc.)

I already know about the Thomas Guide and Mapping L.A. I intend to join AAA sometime in the next few weeks. I've taken a bit of a crash course on the California DMV regulations about licensing, smog checks, and the like. Assume I'm asking about stuff that isn't already common knowledge to someone relocating to Southern California.
posted by Sara C. to Society & Culture (59 answers total) 83 users marked this as a favorite
 
(Do you know what part of town you're going to live in? Or are you only looking for general, city-wide tips?)
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:18 AM on September 26, 2012


Extending on what roger ackroyd asked, I think one of the #1 things to understand (though this probably also applies to NYC) is that "LA" is huge, and a lot of the tips and tricks will be highly dependent on where you live. Getting around in the Valley, for example, is a lot different from doing so in Santa Monica. If you can tell us more about where you'll be living and working, people who know those specific areas will probably be able to tell you a lot of useful stuff that wouldn't come up in a general "LA" discussion.
posted by primethyme at 11:22 AM on September 26, 2012


Metafilter's own miss lynnster runs a very helpful and extrememly popular Facebook group called Hidden Los Angeles. It's a fantastic resource.
posted by The Deej at 11:30 AM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


My LA-based friends all seem to follow Hidden LA.
posted by rube goldberg at 11:30 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my experience, the LA equivalent of a gentrifying-neighborhood-marker: Is there a recently-opened Crossfit gym and/or national-brand frozen yogurt shop nearby? Safe.
posted by erst at 11:32 AM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


When getting around LA, it's helpful to remember Bette Davis's advice: "Take Fountain." This will make more sense to you after driving through West Hollywood on Santa Monica or Sunset a few times.
posted by the_bone at 11:37 AM on September 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


Hidden LA is a great resource for stuff to do in the city. It's run by a MeFi's own.
LOL I'll make that a thirding then!

Westside Rentals is not cheap, but it's still the most inclusive and easiest-to-use housing finder in the area. Plus if you buy cable after you move in, you can get a big discount through it.

If you're going to work west of the 405, live west of the 405. If you're going to work in Hollywood or downtown or pretty much anywhere else, don't live west of the 405. Similar reasoning (with a few exceptions) goes for living/working in the San Fernando Valley, or "The Valley".

I do have a Thomas Guide for LA, but making sure Gmaps works on my phone properly has been waaaay more useful.

RE visual heuristics for neighborhoods: Note the foliage. If the streets are lined with huge trees you're generally going to be in a decent hood. If all you can see is a line of straggly saplings in sad dirt squares in the concrete, not so good.

You mention you're boning up on your DMV stuff, that's good. You'll need your new license and registration stuff done and submitted as soon as you get here. They give you about 2 weeks to get it straightened out, I think. You can always make an appointment at the DMV via the website to beat the day-long lines, and if you can set an appointment at one that's in the 'burbs (IE the Valley, IE NOT under the 110 south of Downtown) all the better.

Bette Davis' advice is dated. Take Franklin. Fountain is a bike-share street now and is no faster than Sunset. Santa Monica has timed lights and it's technically a highway through Hollywood, so as long as you can time it right it's not bad for crossing town E <—> W.

More as I think of it.
posted by carsonb at 11:42 AM on September 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Long story short, I'll probably be somewhere east side ish. Echo Park, Atwater Village, etc.

For a while I was in touch with someone about a possible sublet on the eastern edge of Hollywood near LACC, but I'm not sure what's up with that.

I keep seeing crazy cheap studio apartments on Westside Rentals that are all in Westlake, but I can't tell if that's an OK area, or what.

I would consider some parts of the valley if I had to, but right now I'm seeing plenty of stuff in my price range elsewhere. The only way I'd strongly consider it would be if I somehow manage to have a job waiting for me when I get out there, and it's on a studio lot.
posted by Sara C. at 11:42 AM on September 26, 2012


I'm sure others will beat me before I even hit Post Answer, but here are a few thoughts.

In what part of L.A. will you be living? That makes a huge difference for many of the things you ask. Previous questions indicate Hollywood, but a lot of people just use that as a metaphor, so I'm just checking.

Blogs:

Culture Monster for breaking arts and culture news.
Eater LA for food and restaurant tips and news.
LAist, part of the Gothamist network and similar to its sister sites in other major cities.
The Scenestar for upcoming concerts and breaking music news.

Local radio:

KPCC is the local news/talk NPR station and KCRW is the NPR music/culture station. There's also KPFK (part of the Pacifica network), if you like your radio a bit less polished and a lot more lefty.

Movie tips:

Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre. Hipster film snob paradise. Ground zero for the most culty, esoteric, imaginatively themed, costume-optional, alcohol-friendly film screenings in L.A. Warning: Very small. Arrive early and buy tickets in advance. Seating absolutely not guaranteed.

When the season's right, Cinespia does awesome movie screenings in the Hollywood Forever cemetery. Bring your own food and drink, GET THERE EARLY, and enjoy awesome films and concerts among the ghosts of Old L.A. The concerts here lately are an even bigger deal than the movies, with folks like the Flaming Lips and Sigur Ros dropping by.

Hammer Museum/Billy Wilder Theater. Free screenings of all sorts of great stuff, from classics to art-house. Usually one night only.

Nuart Theatre. Also on the Westside, but lots of midnight movies, special guest appearances, and other limited runs. Movies generally run from Friday to Thursday.

The legendary Egyptian and the Aero are in Hollywood and on the Westside, respectively. Both owned and operated by American Cinematheque and also fondly visited by local filmheads. They do excellent directors' series.

I never really get to go there, but I would feel bad about leaving out the Downtown Independent, which screens lots of underground stuff the others don't or can't get to.

The general favorite of the larger arthouse screens was the Sunset 5, but it's recently been turned into a Sundance Cinema. This was a huge controversy here, and it's too soon to say what the net effect will be on the smaller end of the indie film community.

Yes, the Landmark is in a mall, but it's my favorite of the remaining big-box theatres.

Culture shock:

I hated the driving so, so, so much for the first year or so. I rode my bike everywhere (including the 13 miles to and from work) and felt adventurous and a little bad-ass taking on the city streets on my two wheels. It's not for everyone, but it can be done. Consider it a viable alternative. More and more bikes on the streets every day, it seems. Back in my car, I did eventually settle into the rhythm of traffic and such for the times when I absolutely had to drive, but it may drive you seriously nuts at first.

Speaking of traffic, allow yourself an hour to get almost anywhere. 60 minutes to go five miles is not unheard of around here. Buffer time is your friend. Use it.

Also, highways: Avoid the 405 if you can at all manage it. The 10 is a fickle friend, sometimes a boon and sometimes a mistake. If you're living in Hollywood, take Fountain. If you're living on the westside, take Venice.

Most of the secret culty stuff is in Hollywood, and it will be glaringly obvious. Scientology owns a huge chunk of Hollywood proper. Anything that looks kinda nuts probably is.

Time seriously flies in L.A. You owe it to your sanity to get out of town once in a while. Take advantage of Joshua Tree, Angeles National Forest, Jalama Beach, the skiing and camping and hiking and swimming to be found almost anywhere. Southern California is gorgeous. Take it all in.
posted by mykescipark at 11:44 AM on September 26, 2012 [12 favorites]


I lived there for a short time, and I realized that if I hit La Cienega, I was no longer lost, because La Cienega seemed to connect to everything.
posted by xingcat at 11:44 AM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've lived in Westlake/McArthur Park and it is NOT a nice/safe neighborhood. I'll probably be living there again soon, though, so maybe we can accelerate the gentrification? Echo Park and Atwater Village are a step up, but AV is getting back towards gang territory again.
posted by carsonb at 11:46 AM on September 26, 2012


Google Maps is your friend. I can't remember the last time I looked at a Thomas Guide, so rid yourself of that giant weight of paper!
Use Waze on your smartphone to get crowdsourced traffic info.
Subscribe to LAFD, LAQuakeBot and LAScanner on Twitter so you know what the hell is going on around you.
For the DMV, definitely get an appointment, and try to get the early morning ones, as the backlog won't have had a chance to build up too much yet. Once you have your license, I believe (its been a while) that AAA will do some of the DMV stuff for you, which is a time and sanity saver.
Agreeing with KPCC or KCRW for radio.
posted by Joh at 12:07 PM on September 26, 2012


LA City Traffic Info is your friend for when you need to gauge traffic on surface streets. It doesn't cover everywhere, but it'll give you a good idea of how traffic is and whether your surface street shortcut is actually a shortcut at all. Also, once you know what your commute is like, sound out your coworkers and/or office mates on their route to and from work. They may have time-saving tips and shortcuts they're willing to share. Though people can be weird about sharing their shortcuts because they don't want them ruined with traffic.

Also, I second taking advantage of the many great out of town destinations that are within easy traveling distance of LA. We're only a couple of hours away from mountains, deserts, forests, etc, and obviously close to the beach. It's worth it to head out and explore every so often, even if you're not really an outdoorsy person.
posted by yasaman at 12:11 PM on September 26, 2012


Xingcat is right about La Cienega. I always know where I am.

I hesitate to advise you on housing until you know where your job is. Otherwise you may be commuting to the ends of the earth.

One way I used to pick neighborhoods was by the kinds of cars that were parked there. Beaters = unsafe. If the cars look nice, chances are the people who own them are also nice.

When deciding how early to leave for something, factor in 15 extra minutes. Either you'll hit traffic or you'll cruise the parking lot looking for a space.

Find a channel on the radio you can stand, buy satelite if you have to. You'll be in that car and you don't want to get homicidal from the Morning Zoo.

People tend to be very friendly and very flakey. You'll meet someone in line at Ralphs and they'll invite you to do something. You'll exchange numbers and never hear from them. Don't let this discourage you, roll with it.

You will see celebrities everywhere. Not big names, but guys who look familiar from TV or something. Everywhere.

Best place for seeing celebrities, the CVS at La Cienega and Beverly. To me, it will always be Rexall, but I met Seth Green in the parking lot there and he could not have been nicer.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:13 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seconding steer clear of Westlake/MacArthur Park. You might try Koreatown, but make sure to check out the immediately surrounding neighborhood to the apartment first - some parts of Koreatown are nicer and some are not...

As for navigating on the roads, memorize the names of a few major streets near your destination (and your starting point) before you leave. La Cienega, Western, Venice, Pico, Sunset, Santa Monica, Wilshire, etc. Learn where they intersect. Also think about which freeways you have to take. Start remembering which lane you have to be in, so in rush hour you don't have to get over 6 lanes to catch your exit. And don't even think about using cruise control on the freeway :)

Also, check out the LA Times iPhone/Android app for news.
posted by Red Desk at 12:13 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you are going to take the bus, ever, you NEED NextBus on your smartphone. NEED. The buses are never, ever on time (due to traffic), but NextBus has GPS units on the buses, so it tells you when they are coming down to the minute. It is lifechanging.

Never rely on Google Maps public transit times - it goes by the schedule, which is wrong. It's useful for figuring out what bus to take; use NextBus to figure out when the bus is actually coming.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:14 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Never take Santa Monica Blvd. Google maps will always tell you that it's the most direct route, but it's an absolute traffic nightmare west of Western.

The Hollywood DMV is amazing. I imagine it takes longer for new registrations, but I just renewed my registration and I was in and out in less than half an hour.

Speaking of In n Out, you know about the secret menu, right?

I think everyone else has the cultural stuff covered, but moving from New York, I think the nature out here is going to blow your mind! I like to call it "Amazing California Nature." The trees here are so weird! Griffith Park and Elysian Park are great for short, local "hikes," and if you're willing to drive, there are some really amazing places. My favorite is Echo Mountain.

Also, if you're coming from NYC, you will love the grocery stores. Gelson's if you're feeling fancy; Ralph's and Von's for mid-level stuff; Sprouts for their amazing bulk section; and Smart and Final/Super A Foods/Ethnic Markets/whatever if you're on a budget or looking to grill some cactus or something.

It's hard to tell if you're in a nice neighborhood or not. I have a pretty cavalier, easy-going attitude about crime here after living in Koreatown/East Hollywood for a couple years, but I would avoid living south of the 101 if you're looking at apartments in Echo Park. The closer you are to MacArthur Park, the dodgier it is, and south of MacArthur Park is bad news bears. The 101 is a really stark dividing line in that area. If you're looking at apartments in Highland Park, avoid anything east of Figueroa (i.e., not right next to the 110).

Koreatown isn't terrible, but parking in that part of town is so bad that, unless you have a dedicated parking space, that cheap studio will not be worth it in the end. You can definitely get by with street parking in Echo Park, Highland Park, Atwater Village, etc.

Those apartments are crazy cheap because they are gross. Trust me; I probably looked at them about a month ago.

(And another good way to find an apartment: Drive around and call the numbers on for rent signs. A lot of stuff never makes it on to Westside Rentals for whatever reason).

In terms of commuting, the East Side is great for getting to the Valley or Hollywood, and I wouldn't move to the valley unless you can't stand a commute longer twenty-five minutes. I commute to Burbank from Echo Park and it usually takes twenty minutes in the morning, and a little longer to get home.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:14 PM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


One of my favorite corners of the world is on Venice in Culver City: all within walking distance to each other.

Also, don't forget all the areas farmers markets for the cheapest produce.
posted by wcfields at 12:30 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Not necessarily a tip to make your life easier, but be warned. When you apply for your driver's license, you have to take a written test on the spot. It's not complicated, but if it has been a while since you've driven, you may want to thumb through the driver's handbook.
posted by hwyengr at 12:36 PM on September 26, 2012


How to have an awful experience in L.A.:

1) Never go anywhere because you're obsessed with how "bad" the traffic is. (It's really not a big deal. Avoid the 10 at rush hours and you'll be fine.)

2) Come in with some absurd pre-conceived prejudice like everyone is "flaky" or "phony," then use it as an excuse to be rude yourself. (People are people. Some are good, some bad. Just like everywhere else)

3) Hang out at cheesy tourist traps like The Grove, ignoring the world-class culture that is second only to New York in the U.S, (and even that is debatable these days.)

3a) Avoid awesome neighborhoods like Hollywood, Venice, or Echo Park because you believe they're "unsafe" based on outdated crime-scare movies from the '80s.

4) Move back home and tell everyone how terrible L.A. is.

Do the opposite of this and you'll be fine. Welcome!
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:47 PM on September 26, 2012 [11 favorites]


Even if you're a one-person household, Costco is worth the membership. It's a good cheap source for just about everything, including underwear, houseplants, coffee, eyeglasses, and so on.

Trader Joe's is the easiest place to buy groceries, I think. Between TJs and farmer's markets, I don't really go elsewhere.
Chinatown isn't a big deal, but the San Gabriel Valley is packed with the most amazing Chinese food choices.
The garment district (Santee Alley) is no big deal, but if you're into sewing, the fabric stores are excellent.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:02 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Know what your parking situation is before you decide where to live. If you do not have an assigned parking spot, take a look at what street parking is like in the evenings. In Koreatown and parts of West Hollywood, for example, street parking can be a nightmare and you may wind up regularly having to park half a mile or more from your residence.

Do not visit Long Beach if you can at all avoid it. Long Beach is in many ways a lovely community, but getting there from Los Angeles will make you a bad person. The 405 will make you hate humanity in a very general way, and the Blue Line will make you hate humanity in a very specific and uncomfortably racist/ableist way.
Living west of the 405 and commuting downtown is actually not so bad; living east of the 405 and commuting to Santa Monica is a nightmare. In the mornings, the 10 East is a breeze, and in the evenings the 10 West is not bad at all. Traffic headed in the opposite direction may as well be a parking lot.

Pink’s and The Apple Pan both built their reputations when they didn’t have much in the way of decent competition, and are both surviving on the inertia of people not realizing that there are now much better options. Visit each of them once, so that you can say that you did, and then go someplace better in the future.

Take the Gold Line if you want to ride a nice train. Take the Red Line if you want to go somewhere useful. Take the Blue Line if you’re the target audience for Bum Fights. I have not yet taken the Expo Line, but people that I trust tell me that it’s nice.

This may or may not apply to you, but if anyone spends any time on their dating site talking about either how much they hate it here or how they’re not a “typical L.A. person”, don’t date them.

Los Angeles has more museums per capita than any other city in the world, and more museums period than any other city besides Mexico City. Take advantage of that!
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:11 PM on September 26, 2012 [7 favorites]


Trader Joe's is the easiest place to buy groceries, I think. Between TJs and farmer's markets, I don't really go elsewhere.

I lived in W. Hollywood, and there was a Trader Joe's and a Von's on the same block (or just about as close as the same block), and maybe my East Coast sensibilities were knocked out by all the incredible produce available at even the most corporate of grocery chains, but I found Von's better.
posted by xingcat at 1:18 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I lived in W. Hollywood, and there was a Trader Joe's and a Von's on the same block (or just about as close as the same block), and maybe my East Coast sensibilities were knocked out by all the incredible produce available at even the most corporate of grocery chains, but I found Von's better.

This is because the produce at Trader Joe's is rubbish. TJ's is good for canned and frozen good, occasionally interesting baked treats, and good prices on things like cereal. It is not good for produce.

This is why farmer's markets are great. Vons will give you better apples and oranges than you'll find at TJ's, but they pale compare to what you can get at the farmer's market (this will vary from market to market, but generally holds true throughout Los Angeles).
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:24 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you live on the East side, Super King is the best grocery store in the whole wide world for produce. It's super cheap, they have all kinds of exotic things, and did I mention it was super cheap? Blackberries for $1 cheap. Yeah.
posted by Aubergine at 1:50 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Trader Joe's is not the place to go for produce. It's fine if all you buy fresh is the odd bunch of bananas or couple of apples for snacking, or if you just need a bag of potatoes or whatever, but if you buy a lot of produce, it's better to go to the farmer's market.

Also, a traffic tip/hack which you may or may not be familiar with, since I'm not sure how widespread this practice is: at a lot of intersections with an unprotected left turn, you will have no choice but to get in the middle of the intersection while it's green, and wait until the light turns yellow to actually turn, because that is the only time there's enough of a break in traffic to make the turn. This leads to a fair number of people making the turn when the light has turned red, so that's something to keep an eye out for.
posted by yasaman at 2:21 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's important to remember that any traffic advice is time-of-day sensitive. Google Maps has a great feature to see the traffic at a day-of-week and time (with Traffic on, in the lower left click the "change" link next to Live Traffic if you're not familiar with this).

For example, I live in Hollywood and commute to Venice (the dreaded "crossing the 405"), but its not too bad since I go in at like noon and leave well after rush hour. Whereas going almost anywhere in any direction during rush hour will suck.

(Similarly, taking 101->5->710 will get you to Long Beach from Hollywood/Echo Park/Silverlake just fine at off times, whereas other times you'll be spending hours)

Don't forget to add "the" to all highway names (just watch The Californians sketch from SNL if you're not sure how to talk about traffic/directions :) )

If you ever try to take Highland to/from the 101 [in Hollywood] (which is fine if you cut into it from Franklin), be sure to check the Hollywood Bowl schedule! Normally this isn't too bad but if you try to do this while a concert is starting / letting out it will be horrible.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:25 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Awesome Thread!

Well, Welcome to LA... perhaps we need a mefite meetup to welcome you here.

So much good advice here already, nothing bad IMHO yet.

In regards to your original question:

There are express and appointment services at the DMV.
There hasn't really been a clear winner for LA in the smartphone app area. I'd go with YELP as a pretty good guide around town.

LA neighborhoods are a kind of checkerboard, with good and bad areas mixed together, but you can definitely see this difference as you travel in your car. I'd use Trader Joe's or Whole Food's as a marker of a relatively safe neighborhood.


I'm putting seconds to the following pieces of advice and links:

KCRW (essential)
Hidden Los Angeles Facebook group (this really is the down-low on the real LA)
LAist.com (local blog)
Westside Rentals (kind of a necessary evil)
Making appointments at the DMV
The Nuart, the Aero, and the Egyptian theaters.

I'd also like to raise a similar caution towards Long Beach. Check to see if you are a good fit for the communities down there before moving into that locale.

Traffic is like a force of nature here, and should be respected as such. There is no worse highway on the planet like the 405 and the 5 here in LA.

I would also add the the chorus here regarding Three things:

1) Live as close as you can to where you work. If that can be bicycling distance, you should consider it. if you work west of the 405, absolutely live west of the 405 if you can. (personally, I like Venice or Palms neighborhoods)

2) My first two years in LA were very tough. It's very challenging to move to this city without a network of friends, so if you have some here already, I would suggest leveraging whatever network you have. If you don't have any friends in town yet, you may want to reach out to any communities that you can to connect with people. A city this size can be tough without good friends.

3) I would also strongly recommend a GPS device. it's very easy to get turned around. The good news is if you drive in one direction long enough, you will hit a freeway you will recognize.

And finally, as my own personal perk suggestion, I can't recommend living on the West side enough. There are detractors (those that prefer Downtown, Silverlake, Hollywood, and Echo Park) and it is expensive. However, living close to the beach can change your whole attitude on life significantly.
posted by djdrue at 3:05 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not a hack, yasaman, but perfectly legal, and not just in California: when the light turns green, and you're first in line to turn left, enter the intersection. When clear (which, as you say, may not be until the light's yellow), make your turn, you and maybe two or three other cars behind you. Otherwise, we'll never get to turn!

I like drjimmy11's post, because frankly, this question perplexes me. Coming from NYC, you're moving to Heaven. It takes a while for some reluctant transplants to realize this. Just find a place close to your job and you'll be fine.

And no, Trader Joes is not a supermarket, but a specialty food store with great prices on many items. Buy your produce at the local farmer's market, or your local produce stand.
posted by Rash at 3:17 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dr. Jimmy makes a great point. I have friends who "don't like LA," but they only go to shitty bars, live in some suburban corner of the valley, and make very little effort to get out and do interesting things.

LA is tough place to navigate, and djdrue says, it's tough to make friends here, but you're eighteen million steps ahead of a lot of East Coast transplants here just by asking this question.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 3:28 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Avoid the intersection of Hollywood and Highland as much as you can. It's always chock full of tourists and it takes forever to get through it.

The 101 North is sometimes marked as the 101 West and the 101 South is sometimes marked as the 101 East.

The subway system here is really not all that great, but if you need to get into Hollywood and don't feel like driving around Hollywood (I hate driving around Hollywood - too many people and no parking) you can take the subway in - it has stops at multiple helpful spots throughout Hollywood.

Carry a lot of quarters in your car. Meters are expensive. Though a lot of them take debit/credit cards now!

A few movie tips:
The New Bev theater. They do double features and cult movies, it's awesome.

The Arclight theaters can be kind of expensive, but the assigned seating can be really helpful during popular movies, the chairs are really comfortable, and they have fancy shmancy snacks.

The Laemmles are where you go for independent films - Los Angeles, like NYC, gets a lot of movies before they come out anywhere else - definitely take advantage.

L.A. can be really intimidating. It's huge, and there's tons of people, and a lot of them can be opportunistic. I used to feel like I didn't fit in here. Then I realized that nobody fits in here - most Los Angeleans are from somewhere else, and we're all just trying to make our way in this big crazy city. Things felt a lot less scary after that.
posted by dithmer at 3:31 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


And since someone mentioned Koreatown; and Chinatown, along with Rowland Heights and Monterey Park -- if you're into things Japanese you have three neighborhoods to explore: Little Tokyo, downtown; Sawtelle between Olympic and SMB; and Gardena, east of Redondo Beach.

And let me add my own Welcome! (Even though I live in NoCal now, someday, I'd like to move back to LA -- although they don't have redwood trees, the media's better down there. This East Coast transplant doesn't perceive many other differences -- it's all California, and It's All Good.)
posted by Rash at 3:35 PM on September 26, 2012


If you have the financial flexibility, get the apartment with the parking space.

God, I miss LA.
posted by Space Kitty at 3:45 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


^ what everyone said above, plus:

Check out The Eastsider LA. And make friends with native Californians.
posted by roger ackroyd at 4:19 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Avoid referring to areas west of downtown (such as echo park) as the east side.

Even if you have a car, it's really nice to live next to a rail line and have that option. Especially when you know traffic/parking will be a pain.

Farmers markets are awesome year round.

Talking about whether or not a neighborhood is safe is a complicated thing. Echo Park still has gang violence. And yuppie coffee. And million dollar houses. If you are not a part of the gang demographic, the stuff more like happens around you and not so much to you. And the thing is, the neighborhoods full of middleclass/wealthy white people tend to be rather boring. And have crappy transit options because those neigborhoods fight subway and light rail from entering their 'hoods. Which means fewer pedestrians on the street, something that creeps me out more than gang tags.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:24 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I like drjimmy11's post, because frankly, this question perplexes me. Coming from NYC, you're moving to Heaven. It takes a while for some reluctant transplants to realize this. Just find a place close to your job and you'll be fine.

Just to clarify -- I by no means asked this question because I think L.A. is going to suck. I chose Los Angeles out of the entire rest of the country, I like the city, and I'm really excited to be there.

But having moved from the rural south to Boston for college, and then to New York the following year, I have dim memories of the culture shock that comes from waking up on the opposite end of the USA, in a place where life has its own particular rhythm and the old rules don't apply. Frankly, nostalgia for this feeling is a big reason why I've chosen to leave New York, and I'm not worried about it in the least.

I'm just curious if there are things I can find out a little ahead of time that will make life easier. For example, now I have two radio stations to immediately tune to on the way out of LAX. Now I know you can make an appointment at the DMV, which is huge, because I have a lot of DMV-ing to do in my first few weeks in town.

BTW, the intersection positioning left turn is the way of the world here in New York, where there are almost no signaled left turn intersections.

Chiming in a little more about neighborhoods, though I feel it's a bit of a derail -- the idea that your neighborhood needs a Whole Foods or a Pinkberry or a Trader Joe's just seems so foreign to me. Maybe it's just because these things tend to only be in the fanciest NYC neighborhoods? I'm used to my neighborhoods having taco trucks and ethnic butcher shops, Latina girls in Catholic School uniforms and guys with dreadlocks smoking on front stoops. It seems weird to me that those are suddenly markers of a bad area. This is the only "culture shock" issue I find ominous, to be honest. Are there no simple working class neighborhoods where people are sane to each other and there's no nearby Sixteen Handles?
posted by Sara C. at 4:25 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Working class is spread around--and taco trucks are everywhere, as are Catholic schoolgirls--AFI is right next door to Immaculate Heart. But most of those homeboy neighborhoods aren't going to have apartments you'll want to rent. Highland Park is sort of hipster-blue collar, but it's a schlep from a lot of Los Angeles, as are other more working class suburbs. (every place is sort of it's own little community. And since you're in the biz-- you don't go to the movies, you go to screenings. DGA is the best.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:33 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I strongly suggest the Foursquare app in conjunction to Yelp. I've discovered some amazing places with both that I wouldn't have found otherwise, and it's cool seeing where friends have checked into. And the fact that Foursquare is essentially a game with incentives like badges makes it more fun to explore.
posted by HiphopAnonymous at 4:39 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only thing I haven't seen mentioned here, and it's a bit low-tech anymore, is SigAlert, which pulls its info from the police, mainly.

Outside of that, the two other things I'd mention is that LA is HUGE (like, just square miles way bigger than what people think of as NYC or Boston), and that it's worth it to be really skeptical of advice people give in AskMe about LA. This one is pretty good, but LA questions are full of drive-by answers where people who lived here ten years ago will bitch about something random and fill your head fulla lies.

Oh, one more: You can have a drink at the Varnish and see a show at The Smell on the same night. You should do that at least once.
posted by klangklangston at 6:28 PM on September 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Here is an interactive map of LA farmers markets.

Here is a good site for apartment searching, and also for getting an idea of what you can get for your rent money in different areas.

If you like movies, and you don't mind waiting in line to see them for free before they come out, you could sign up for the Screening Exchange.

You can also sign up for weekly event emails from GoldStar and StubDog, for discount tickets to things like LA Derby Dolls.

If you like basketball, Sparks games are a lot of fun and the seats are not expensive, especially on stubhub.

Other fun things: Street Food Cinema. Devil's Night Drive In. Free jazz concerts at LACMA. Free Shakespeare in Griffith Park by the terrific Independent Shakespeare Company.
posted by heisenberg at 6:48 PM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Good advice, but where you choose to live plays a huge part on what to expect and what hacks work.

Living in Venice and South Pasadena are as different as Brooklyn and New Haven.

Once you you've chosen a neighborhood, people can really help with that specific area's hacks.

My one driving advice is get a sat nav system for your car. A good one, not a phone. Until you know LA better, it will be the best investment to get you where you want to go.

Also, it's the four-o-five, not the four-hundred-and-five. It's the one-ten, not the hundred-and-ten. And they are called Freeways, not highways, parkways, toll road, or any other East Coast nonsense.

Lastly, Arclight Theaters. You shall not attend any other theater chain whilst in Los Angeles. Optimally, you will go to the Cineramadome.

Welcome, we are happy to have you!
posted by Argyle at 7:55 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Thoughts on GPS vs. the new turn-by-turn driving directions in iOS 6? I'll have an iPhone 5 by the time I arrive.
posted by Sara C. at 8:09 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


A very small cross-reference for everyone in this thread who hasn't been notified yet because it hasn't chimed midnight.
posted by carsonb at 8:12 PM on September 26, 2012


You'll be there in time for Halloween. Knott's Scary Farm!
posted by cazoo at 8:47 PM on September 26, 2012


I do not think that Pinkberry, Whole Foods or Trader Joe's are markers of the only safe neighborhoods. Pinkberry and WF mean upper-middle class expensive neighborhoods. TJs tends to rent in slightly cheaper places. There are many perfectly good, safe neighborhoods with none of those three stores. Anyway, everyone should know that Yogurtland is way better and cheaper than silly frou-frou Pinkberry.

Also, don't wait til you land to listen to KPCC or KCRW, just stream them over the internet right now!!
posted by Joh at 9:41 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


And Trader Joes started in South Pasadena, spreading very gradually. First just in LA, and then only in California for the longest time. News of this great chain spread among the cognescenti, and now, they even have stores back East -- but most if not all of their original LA locations are still operational.
posted by Rash at 10:04 PM on September 26, 2012


Don't forget to add "the" to all highway names (just watch The Californians sketch from SNL if you're not sure how to talk about traffic/directions :) )

All of them EXCEPT PCH! PCH does not always take a "the." For example, "I could never live in Malibu. If there's a mudslide on PCH, you're screwed." (Speaking of, you should DEFINITELY drive up PCH into Malibu. Go to the Getty Villa! It's awesome.) The use of "the" with PCH is matter of great discussion. I am a third generation LA native and we never use "the" with PCH.

Everything else DEFINITELY takes a "the," though. and The Californians is actually pretty accurate in terms of how much everyone loves to talk about how we're getting places. You will know you are a Los Angeleno when you gleefully arrive at a party in Koreatown and tell everyone that you got there in 20 minutes from the Valley because there was NO ONE on Coldwater!

Speaking of, if you're going over the hill -- "going over the hill" is the LA colloquialism for going to the San Fernando Valley -- take the canyon roads now and then. They're not necessarily faster, but they are REALLY beautiful. I never mind getting stuck on Benedict Canyon.

Welcome to my beautiful city! We are happy to have you. When you are cozied up on New Year's morning watching the Rose Parade and eating bagels, I hope you are happy to be here.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:28 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


this isn't really 'everyday' hax but...

flying into/out-of burbank is amazing compared to LAX.
and if you must fly in/out of LAX (or--likely--your guests) nudge them towards taking the FlyAway shuttle.

live near work, if you can.
live near a metro stop (red line/purple line), if you can.
i do both and i am so happy... not only to travel, but to wake up and explore and get really good coffee and enjoy the city before it is swamped.

find a few good ethnic markets near your place... there's a long-ish reason for this having to do with cultural diversity and urban fragmentation and i'm getting sleepy... will post it tomorrow. at the risk of being kinda flamebait (but also knowing my stuff... son of a grocer and all that), i'd say that ethnic markets generally trump trader joes.

definitely recommend a stand-alone GPS vs. iOS6 maps.

LA is complicated and wonderful. :) we are all stoked to have you. \m/.
posted by raihan_ at 12:44 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Always check SigAlert before you leave work (or anytime you will be getting on the freeway really). Forget about Thomas Guide, google maps does the trick just fine, or use gps on your phone. I would say definitely live as close to work as reasonably possible, but you don't yet know where you will be working, so stick a pin in that advice for the future. Definitely consider parking when checking out where to live. Try to visit at night before signing the lease.

Please don't be put off by any "definitely live in this area - absolutely avoid that area" etc type of advice. Most areas are working class, only a few areas are complete no-no's, and even those areas might be block-specific no-no's. Good idea to sublet for a while, maybe even couch-surf for a while, while you check out the city.

To make friends, join a few meetup groups (join them now to get a feel for the group and their activities, and drop a quick email to the organizer as to why you won't be showing up to events for a few more weeks so they don't drop you). It's good way to get a feel for what's going on around town. When you get a little more settled, join groups that are really close to where you live, to help you form a sense of community. Please don't only join "NYC Transplants!" groups. Join other groups too so you will get to know some locals.

LA may seem to be only a city when you're stuck in your car or an office all day, but there are lots of natural/wild areas. Do some hiking in Griffith Park, in Ladera Heights, or out at Los Liones Canyon in Malibu. Check out the tidepools in Palos Verdes. Go kayaking on the Los Angeles River. In the summer, enjoy a night under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl. In the winter, go a little farther afield and go skiing in Big Bear.

As for shopping, I go to Trader Joe's for organic canned goods and for well-priced wines. I get meat on sale at places like Food for Less. I personally have not found that farmer's markets are any cheaper than super markets for produce, although it might be better produce. Ethnic markets are usually price friendly, especially for spices and produce (99 Ranch in particular). Albertson's, Vons, and Ralph's are the most expensive markets in the city and I avoid them unless I have an urgent need to shop there. Lately friends I trust on the subject have been telling me that they have seen actual, fresh, good-quality organic produce at the Dollar Store, but that is not at every store and not every day. But don't be afraid to check out those shops from time to time.

There is a website for the cheapest gas prices in LA, sorry, I don't have the link at the moment, but anyway I don't trust it 100%. I think that the gas stations self-report to that website, and not every single gas station participates, so ymmv as it were.

Please don't allow people to suck you into any "LA sucks - the people - the traffic - blah blah blah" conversations. Those conversations are a reflection of those people, and I suspect they wouldn't be happy anywhere. LA is a great place to live.
posted by vignettist at 8:49 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Beware any GSP system, as they send you towards major arteries (as mentioned above). I spend my first few months in LA using Western as my N/S route, which is major-league stupid. (Vine/whatever Vine turns into south of Santa Monica is way better). I avoid the highways and budget in time to drive. If I'm going to be stuck in traffic I'd rather be stuck in a cool neighborhood.

Most people in the business that I know live in the West Hollywood/Fairfax area (unless they have kids, in which case they move Westside, or if they have mad cash, in which case they tend to live in Hancock Park). If you don't know which studio you'll work for, this area is good because you're reasonably close to all of them. On the other hand, it's pretty yuppie-ish and the Eastside neighborhoods will be more familiar to you if you're coming in from Brooklyn/Queens.

I moved here from New York about four years ago. Here's the good news: LA is a better food town than New York if you discount high-end, expensive dining. We're the second city of several world cuisines, including Thai and Korean. And it's cheap! Find Jonathan Gold's lists of must-trys or visit Chow Hound. In the strip mall culture of LA the difference between an amazing restaurant and a horrible one is often not apparent to the naked eye. Unfortunately I've found Yelp in LA to be fairly worthless unless you apply your critical reading skills to the reviews. (Actually, my new theory is that Yelp food photographs are more useful than the reviews.)

LA is awesome, welcome. Oh, and if you eat meat go get a chicken at Pollo A La Brasa on 8th and Western.
posted by Bookhouse at 9:01 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


One of the greatest things in the world is sitting in your place having just stopped by a dispensary, a nice warm breeze blows in your window and then you hear the most magical sound in the world:

*Ding* *Ding* Elote! Elote! *Ding* *Ding* Elote! Elote!

Gets even better if the tamale lady rolls by a few minutes later, and then the paleta guy comes right after.

Also, Taco Zone in Echo Park is the best taco truck bar-none.

More street food trivia:
Did you know Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs are illegal?
The hot dogs that you buy on the street almost always are offered as such because, duh, why wouldn't you want a grilled bacon wrapped dog.
In Los Angeles, the law says that hot dogs sold by street vendors must be either steamed or boiled. For the bacon-wrapped hot dog to cook properly and taste delicious, it needs to be grilled. But grilling a hot dog is a violation of the L.A. health code for street vendors.
posted by wcfields at 10:20 AM on September 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


Taco Zone IS amazing.

I'm going to pop in and say you should get a Thomas Guide. They're cheap, and you can throw them in the back of your car with your car's earthquake kit. If your cell phone dies, or you're in a place with no reception, you'll be happy to have one. But just leave it in the car.

Also to put keep in the car: aforementioned earthquake kit (get one for your house, too -- Amazon sells them), some water (I get them in these little Capri Sun-esque packets from Amazon that don't deteriorate like plastic bottles), an old pair of sneakers, an old pair of flip flops, tampons, a little first aid kit, and in the summer I also keep a beach towel and a bathing suit, just in case, and in winter, I keep a rando sweater in there. I know this sounds like a lot, but I have used all those things other than the earthquake kit.

I also really advise getting AAA if you don't have it. They are great if your car breaks down, and if the battery dies, they literally bring you a new one and stick it in your car. And you can do a lot of stuff you'd have to go to the DMV for at AAA -- I just went over there and got my registration tags in about 2 minutes.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 10:39 AM on September 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


nthing AAA is the bomb in California. You can also get your auto insurance from them, so check that out!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:17 AM on September 27, 2012


Yeah, I ran an online quote on the AAA insurance site at like 11pm a couple nights ago, and someone called me on the phone to talk insurance like 20 minutes later. Super impressed with them already. I've heard they're not the cheapest rates you can get, but the customer service even in getting a quote was really outstanding (and the quote was pretty reasonable).
posted by Sara C. at 11:37 AM on September 27, 2012


Ah, I completely forgot about the variety of shit you should keep in your car! This advice doesn't apply if you don't end up one of those people who has to drive around a lot for work or your social life, but if you do I recommend keeping the following in your car, in addition to the basic emergency kit stuff and the stuff Countess Sandwich mentioned: wet wipes, kleenex, some form of snack like granola bars (you'll be grateful if you ever end up starving while stuck in traffic or on a longer drive), deodorant and/or perfume in case of unexpected sweatiness, and flashlight.

I mention all this stuff because I always have east coast friends/relatives who are shocked at the amount of time southern Californians spend in their cars, and the amount of driving we regularly do. If you end up driving around a lot as opposed to generally staying within, say, an hour radius of your apartment/work, it gets pretty convenient to keep all this stuff in your car so you don't have to make stops at gas stations or convenience stores.

Oh, and another bonus of AAA membership: you can get discounts at hotels and other touristy type destinations, so always check/ask. AAA is also pretty great about helping with planning roadtrips. They also have a locksmith service for if you get locked out of your car, and can provide you with a plastic copy of your car door key that can fit in your wallet for if you ever get locked out of your car.
posted by yasaman at 11:55 AM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


...and I'm tellin' ya, going to an AAA branch* if you have to appear to submit your registration/smog docs is SO MUCH BETTER than a trip to the DMV.

Another driving tip:

KNOW YOUR HIGHWAY RAMPS. You're coming from another wild and wooly urban environment so you might already know this, but highway entrances and exits here are not like they are in the middle of the country—with pleasant over/under passes that have an on-ramp and off-ramp facing each other on each side of the highway, neat little rectangular intersections, etc.—the on-ramp you need is often down a side-street, tucked behind a bunch of houses, around several corners, and maybe through a tunnel. The corresponding off-ramp is several blocks and about 15 minutes away by vehicle, yet somehow still within spitting distance. Google Maps has been a godsend in this regard, because if you zoom in far enough it gets super-specific about them and has directional arrows and everything.

Fun little bits for your explorations:

Barnsdall Park in Hollywood (on Hollywood) is tiny, but has a sculpture garden, a theater, a community arts center, and a freakin' Frank Lloyd Wright hilltop mansion, not to mention the best sunset-over-Hollywood view in the city from the west lawn. Wacko is down the street, as is the Vista movie theater.

City Hall has a very nice observation deck. Santee alley is overrated in terms of useful items for cheap, but it is a phenomenon worth beholding one Saturday morning.

Near Taco Zone (south of Sunset on Echo Park Blvd.) is the blue corn quesadilla lady with her tiny cart. Pretty much the only restaurant ever with decent chilaquiles is in the area as well, at Brite Spot. Between those two places, almost exactly, is the Echo Park Time Travel Mart where you can pick up everything you need during your time travels. (And some fun kid poetry too!) Echo Park is a freakin' blast. Is the lake open yet?

PCH! Here's a huuuuge tip for PCH/Malibu: never take Sunset or the 1 to get to Malibu. It is THE WORST. Take the 101. It's a longer route, sure, but the time winds up being the same and you get to drive through the incredibly beautiful Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu canyon. When you get to the 1 go left for traffic jam and, uhhhh, the Juicy Coture flagship store? No, don't go left. Turn right onto PCH and drive to Point Dume. Left on Zamirez, straight on to Wildlife Rd, right on Fernhill Dr, right onto Cliffside Dr, and park where you can. Look for the park area and the paths to the stairs, in a southerly direction, then enjoy the cliff-lined Dume Cove beach. On the way back, ideally around sunset, pull off the freeway and park across the street from Malibu Seafood. Get the fish and chips. Get the bread bowl chowder.
posted by carsonb at 12:10 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Another AAA thing: if you do wind up in eastish Hollywood or downtown or thereabouts anywhere take a detour to the AAA home office down by USC once when you need to go anyway. It's an amazing building and you can just tell car people have been up in there for a long time.
posted by carsonb at 12:14 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Once you actually get here, I've got a whole bunch of shortcuts and tips about driving around, especially in and out of the valley, but I'm not putting them up on the web.

Oh, something else to know that threw me way off when I first got here: Downtown isn't on a north-south/east-west axis. It's off by about 25 degrees. So if you're someone who can instinctively find the grid when you're driving, be aware that downtown will throw you off when you're first there.
posted by klangklangston at 4:13 PM on September 27, 2012


Are you a Bed Bath and Beyond-y type? I'm not sure Bed Bath and Beyond papers NYC with coupons like they do here but if not, say hi to L.A.'s versions of cockroaches. The good news is that the flagship store in West L.A. will let you stack as many coupons as you have items to purchase. The coupon configurations vary: 20% off, $5 off, etc. but you don't even have to do the math; the cashiers will sort it all out for you.

I know you're used to dealing with the heat, but if you're sensitive to climatic changes keep in mind that there will be a 10-20 (and sometimes 30!)-degree difference in temperature between the coast and other parts of the southland. Also weather related: If you hear someone talking about the off-shore flow it's because they're explaining why it's so. fucking. hot.

Don't hang anything over your bed because earthquakes.

Do you like street art? Tacos? Music? The folks at L.A. Taco will hook you up.

If someone offers to take you for good Chinese food on the Westside, run! It's a trap. There is no good Chinese food on the Westside.

You should definitely check out the Wednesday farmer's market in Santa Monica but know that downtown Santa Monica is a soul-killing snarl of traffic and construction. My advice would be to get there early and park in Structure 2.

Don't go into the waters (that includes creeks and rivers I think) for at least 3-4 days after it rains because the storm drains flow into the bay and makes it full of bacteria. This goes for dogs, too. And yes, you can smell it.

People tend to be very friendly and very flakey.
Comedian Barry Sobel had a bit about how L.A. is the only place where "I flaked." is considered a legitimate excuse. "What happened? I waited for you for an hour." "Sorry, I flaked."

I will never, ever again live somewhere that doesn't have dedicated tenant parking. There are surely parts of the metro area with more attractive street parking than others, but keep in mind that almost every street will be subject to street cleaning two times a week (once per side), usually in the morning, and you won't be able to park on that side for two hours. The next thing you know, you're playing Musical Cars. Winners get a parking space. Losers get a $73 ticket. I know people who factor in parking tickets as a cost of living expense. If it looks like there is ample parking, make sure the surrounding streets you're looking at aren't permit parking only for that particular street or block. (And having permit parking is no guarantee you will have a space.)

Also, it's the four-o-five, not the four-hundred-and-five. It's the one-ten, not the hundred-and-ten. And they are called Freeways, not highways, parkways, toll road, or any other East Coast nonsense.
And one of my all-time favorite threads attempts to explain why!

One more radio tip: KTLK AM 1150 is "left-wing" talk radio, if you're into that thing.

When you apply for your driver's license, you have to take a written test on the spot. It's not complicated, but if it has been a while since you've driven, you may want to thumb through the driver's handbook.
The DMV has sample tests online. Half of it is common sense, so I'd focus on remembering the numbers, like speed limits and blood-alcohol limits.

On AAA: I've been trying to get my car tags from the DMV for six weeks. Seeing this question reminded me that I should try AAA. I walked in with no appointment and 25 minutes later I had my tags and had saved more than 50% on my car insurance! (No joke!) Speaking of car tags.... I don't know if this is L.A.-specific, but once you've got the tag on the plate you should make some criss-cross slices across the face with a razor so no one can steal them.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:53 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


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