Los Angeles is many things, but boring isn’t one of them.
Los Angeles is not the easiest city to get to know: it requires some exploring. Ultimately, everyone constructs their own L.A. Here's a quick guide to some local lingo and well-known haunts that can help unlock the mysteries of Southern California.
Freeways here are still essential to city life, despite the infamous gridlock. The 5 is Southern California’s main north-south freeway, while the 405 ("the world's largest parking lot") and the 101 will get you around the Westside and the Valley. And don’t forget the 110, which takes you through downtown and is the original L.A. freeway, also known as the Arroyo Seco Parkway.
Want to explore Southern California, but don’t have a car? Downtown’s Union Station—located just across Alameda from historic Olvera Street (the birthplace of Los Angeles)—is a hub for Metrolink and Amtrak trains that can whisk you off on a weekend adventure.
Vinyl lovers look no further than Amoeba Records, Los Angeles’ shrine to all things music, or Poobah Records in Pasadena. Catch live bands at L.A. institutions like The Troubadour, Hotel Café, and the El Rey Theater. The nightlife on the infamous Sunset Strip, a stretch of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, is worth checking out as well.
All the exploration can work up an appetite—good thing dining options are plentiful.
Like anywhere else, Los Angeles has its own language. Here’s a brief introduction to speaking L.A.:
The 5: California’s main north-south freeway. Natives refer to freeways by number, not by name.
Canter’s: Twenty-four-hour deli in Hollywood
Chippies: California Highway Patrol officers
The Eastside: Anything east of the L.A. River; not Silver Lake or Echo Park
Galleria: Iconic mall in nearby Glendale
Gold Line: The light rail line that runs from Pasadena through Highland Park and downtown to East L.A.
Gravity Hill: Mystical spot in Altadena where your car, in neutral, rolls uphill
The Greek: The Greek Theater, an outdoor amphitheater and music venue in Griffith Park
The Laemmle: Independent film theater in Pasadena
Mount Wilson: Look to the north from Oxy: It’s the mountain with all the TV and radio broadcast antennas
NoHo: North Hollywood
The OC: Orange County, home of Disneyland and the Los Angeles Angels
Old Town: Pasadena’s original downtown, now a crowded nighttime scene
PCH: Pacific Coast Highway. Scene of many a celebrity meltdown.
Phillipe’s: An L.A. original for a century, inventor of the French dip sandwich
The Pointy Building: L.A. City Hall, featured on the LAPD badge
Santa Anas: Desert winds that blow during the fall and winter
San Gabriels: The steep east-west mountain range that rises above Pasadena
Sigalert: Freeway traffic alert—at least one lane of traffic tied up for more than 30 minutes. Find another route.
South Pas: South Pasadena, a Mayberry-like small town to the east, once home to Cawston’s Ostrich Farm; many faculty and staff live here
The Strip: Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood
The Troub: The Troubadour Club in Hollywood
The Valley: The San Fernando Valley, part of the city of L.A. (although many are loath to admit it)
The Westside: A peculiar state of mind generally found west of the 405 Freeway and north of Marina del Rey