A guide to LA without a car

Typically, the first thing those visiting California's largest and most-sprawling city do is to hire a car, but this is a guide to LA with a difference.

Guide to LA without a car © librarychik - Flickr Creative Commons
Guide to LA without a car © librarychik - Flickr Creative Commons

A guide to LA without a car: the highlights

We'll walk you around the streets and neighbourhoods that make up the real Los Angeles, with tips on where to eat, drink, shop, and stop along the way without you needing to find your own wheels.

Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a California classic, featuring in every guide to LA, but to avoid the tourist trail here steer clear of the pier, and opt instead for a quiet walk along the oceanfront, north of the main drag on Ocean Avenue, between Santa Monica and California Boulevards.

Another great option is to stroll towards where Santa Monica meets West LA, around Ocean Park Boulevard and 29th Street. If you're a morning person check out OP Café which does a flawless breakfast and quality coffee.

3rd Street promenade, Santa Monica © Shannon Veerkamp - Flickr Creative Commons
3rd Street promenade, Santa Monica © Shannon Veerkamp - Flickr Creative Commons

Catch the $1 blue Santa Monica bus from Ocean Park Boulevard to Sonoma Wine Garden for wine o'clock overlooking the Pacific, then continue living the LA life at trendy lounge Bungalow - but you'll need to get there early to avoid the queues.

Venice Beach & Abbot Kinney

Every guide to LA highlights Venice but there's far more to this area than the famed Muscle Beach; did you know that Google's architecturally impressive Los Angeles office is located right here (and is just as worthy of ogling as the local muscle men)? You can continue your admiration of the surroundings with a wander along the waterways, taking in the beauty of the Venice canals.

Abbot Kinney, just a stone's throw from Venice, is the perfect pedestrian eclectic LA neighbourhood, and the place to browse independent stores, and check out art and culture.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice © Tom Karlo - Flickr Creative Commons
Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice © Tom Karlo - Flickr Creative Commons

Start your day in typical healthy LA fashion with a fresh juice from Kreation, or if you crave caffeine rather than coconut water try Intelligentsia where the people watching is as addictive as the coffee.

It's a 20 minute walk from Venice to Marina del Rey and the best local Italian in town; South End's pizzas are delicious, they have an extensive wine list, and serve perfect espresso. You can round off your evening at Hotel Erwin's rooftop bar for the best spot in town to see the beachside sunset.

Culver City

Known primarily as the location of Sony Studios, Culver is a great spot to grab brunch and decompress from the busier parts of LA. The main strip in downtown Culver is utterly charming and home to pedestrian-friendly pit stops - get your brunch and a smoothie at Cafe Vida or munch on Mexican food at Kay n' Dave's then walk it off with a little browsing in fab gift stores such as Lundeen's.

Father's Office, Helms Bakery, Culver City © Joe Wolf - Flickr Creative Commons
Father's Office, Helms Bakery, Culver City © Joe Wolf - Flickr Creative Commons

Staying on the downtown Culver strip, Akasha does a great iced chai latte but the real hidden gem here is Helms Bakery, a historic bakery building now turned design-led shopping and eating emporium that's a browser's paradise. Here you'll find the hot spot Father's Office, a burger joint that takes its burgers so seriously it has a complete ban on ketchup. Helms is a 20 minute walk so this could be the time to make use LA transport staple Uber (or Lyft if you have a local mobile number).

WeHo & Mid City

Start with brunch at Joan's on Third in West Hollywood; opt for the lobster roll and shoestring fries or pop into the legendary Magnolia bakery, then it's time to wander. First head to the Beverly Connection, a great spot for bargain hunting at TJ Maxx, Marshalls or Nordstrom Rack, then on to the Beverly Center which has all the other stores you might need under one roof.

Next walk west on Melrose Avenue to the local outpost of MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art) which is free and has excellent exhibits. You can check out the shops on the stretch of Melrose Avenue between San Vicente and La Cienega Boulevards or retrace your steps and head east along 3rd Street, itself packed with independent boutiques.

The Grove, West Hollywood © Cristina - Flickr Creative Commons
The Grove, West Hollywood © Cristina - Flickr Creative Commons

Walking east towards The Grove, a shopping, eating and entertainment complex, will bring you to a myriad of eating options from Sprinkles whose red velvet cupcakes are worth a splurge to healthier snacks at the Farmers' Market.

Just a 10 minute walk south, you'll find LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has a world class collection plus regular screenings and events, and next door on Wilshire Boulevard you can get a taste of the movie business with the Hollywood Costume exhibition.

Silver Lake & Griffith Park

For a local take on the hipster scene, head to Silver Lake, also known as LA's answer to Williamsburg, New York. The stretch of Sunset Boulevard between Sanborn Avenue and Glendale Boulevard is home to a number of cool eateries, bars, and independent stores with The Black Cat brasserie being a great place to stop and refuel.

On Silver Lake Boulevard itself LAMILL is where you can pick up a coffee or iced tea - take it to go and embrace our walkers' guide to LA by strolling all the way up the hill towards the reservoir which will give you a different sense of Los Angeles and can keep you busy with a two-hour circular trail.

Continue on foot to Hyperion; the further up the hill you go, the more chilled it becomes or if you're ready to take the weight off your feet for a while, pop into popular retro cinema Vista.

View of LA from the Griffith Observatory © Slices of Light - Flickr Creative Commons
View of LA from the Griffith Observatory © Slices of Light - Flickr Creative Commons

Further north (nearly an hour's walk so this might be the time to hop in another Uber) you'll find the LA locals' pick for hiking at Griffith Park, and of course no guide to LA would be complete without some iconic views of the Hollywood sign, this is where you'll find them, so bring your camera.

Tempted to try this guide to LA without a car for yourself? Don't miss our great selection of deals on flights from the likes of British Airways and Air New Zealand, as well as low cost carrier Norwegian. You can also check out our full collection of special offers on holidays, flights, car hire and more.

Jaillan Yehia

Jaillan Yehia
Posted on Thursday 5th March 2015 in: City Culture North America

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