Westside Guide

Photo courtesy of Chunkiesttulip, Flickr

Affluent and influential, the Westside is pure LA glamour. Even Westside neighborhoods have as much fame as the celebrities who live in them: Brentwood, Bel-Air, Westwood, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Culver City, Century City. It’s a place of movie stars and movie moguls, swimming pools and sports cars — but don’t forget the world-famous cultural institutions, hotels, shopping and dining that round out the Westside experience.

In Brentwood, the Getty Center sits like a shining city on a hill with centuries’ worth of art and design in a stunning architectural setting. Meanwhile, the mansions of Brentwood and Bel-Air stud the surrounding hills like diamonds on a lush, green pillow, giving you a glimpse of what Westside is all about.

Legendary Sunset Boulevard takes you through Westwood and Beverly Hills, where Rodeo Drive is just one avenue in the world’s most famous shopping district. And on Beverly Hills’ palm-lined byways, you may think you’re in a movie yourself.

The Sunset Strip in West Hollywood is one of America’s classic drives. Running through the shadow of the Hollywood Hills and looking out over the entire city, it’s lined with chic clubs, hotels, restaurants and the faces of the famous beaming down from larger-than-life billboards. The strip became so crowded with see-and-be-seen drivers that the police had to decree it a "No Cruising Zone."

Farther east, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the largest encyclopedic museum in the western United States, and its newer addition, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM), has already gained a reputation as one of the most impressive contemporary art venues in the country.

The LACMA campus anchors Museum Row along Wilshire Boulevard, which also includes the La Brea Tar Pits, the Petersen Automotive Museum and the Craft and Folk Art Museum.

There’s always something to do on the Westside! From museum exhibitions, live theatre, film festivals, kid-friendly events, and more – there’s something for everyone. La Cienega Boulevard is LA’s most high-profile restaurant row. Before legendary chef Nobu Matsuhisa became known as simply Nobu, he opened a tony eatery here that still bears his last name. Other La Cienega highlights include a Brazilian churrascaria (Fogo de Chão) and a landmark for all-American roast beef (Lawry’s The Prime Rib). Other restaurants of note on La Cienega include favorites such as Koi and The Stinking Rose.

The Westside’s newest hot eat street is West Third Street. Visit for takeout, casual or elegant dining options. To its north, Beverly Boulevard and Melrose Avenue feature old-time favorites and modern American-style cooking.

The Sunset Strip offers a constant crop of new restaurants for a forever-hip crowd, such as Eveleigh, and timeless classics like Bar Marmont. The Sunset Plaza area is lined with French and Italian sidewalk cafés filled with sunglass-wearing patrons.

In Beverly Hills, Wolfgang Puck’s Spago has long defined California cuisine for the world. His area steakhouse, Cut, has garnered as much acclaim as his flagship. And if you're looking to get clubby with the movers and shaker, stop by The Polo Lounge.

Farther west, Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air could hardly be more romantic. Or in Westwood, sample Persian specialties or student eats around the UCLA campus. An ice cream sandwich between two fresh-baked cookies at Diddy Riese is a rite of passage. Sawtelle Boulevard, west of the 405 Freeway, is the Little Tokyo of the Westside (locals call it Little Osaka); it bustles with ramen shops and sushi bars.

Pull out all the stops and the credit cards because shopping on the Westside is a way of life. Recent renovations and openings have made the Westside more of a shopping destination than ever.

Start at the Beverly Center, an iconic, upscale shopping mall. It features international brands ranging from Hugo Boss to Dolce & Gabbana. A short drive east on West Third Street takes you through a hip shopping strip of women's accessories and quirky gifts, cook stores and travel goods. Soon you’ll reach The Grove, one of LA's most popular retail complexes, home to Nordstrom, American Girl Place and Abercrombie & Fitch, plus restaurants, movies and a dancing fountain. An old-fashioned trolley makes the two-minute run to the historic Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax.

Robertson Boulevard between West Third Street and Beverly Boulevard booms with sleek boutiques for fancy jeans and skinny minis; not to mention paparazzi camped outside looking for celebs. Just beyond, Robertson and Beverly Boulevards, Melrose Avenue and Third Street are teeming with hundreds of home design shops, including the Pacific Design Center.

Sunset Plaza on the Sunset Strip has boutiques with fur-trimmed leather accessories, bright purses in fruity colors and antique furniture, as well as designer shops such as Armani A/X, Nicole Miller and Zadig & Voltaire.

Mention Rodeo Drive anywhere on earth, and you’ve conjured up fashion from Armani to Zegna. On this main drag of Beverly Hills’ Golden Triangle, the streetlamps are chandeliers and Harry Winston bejewels the stars for award ceremonies. Two Rodeo is a destination in itself, with cobblestone streets and an Italian-style piazza, the better for you to model the Versace, Tiffany or Carolina Herrera you’ve just bought here. Along Wilshire Boulevard are top-name department stores including Saks Fifth Avenue.

Westfield Century City offers many reasons to be outdoors, many of which include its specialty shops, department stores (Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s), movie theaters and restaurants.

And in Culver City, furniture sells like hotcakes in the former Helms Bakery building.

LACMA, the La Brea Tar Pits and the Getty Center are only the highest profile venues on the Westside; there’s a wealth of sights and activities beyond.

The Farmers Market, next to The Grove, is a cherished LA tradition, with bakeries, candy makers, spin-the-globe ethnic cuisines, gourmet shops and informal picnic-style seating to eat what you buy.

Nearby, watch a TV show taping at CBS Television City, or relive your favorite moments of yesteryear at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. Nearby, the Museum of Tolerance makes for a sobering visit, touching on subjects from civil rights in America to the Holocaust.

The Fairfax District is the historic hub of Southern California’s Jewish population; go for a stroll and find rugalach, matzo ball soup and music from Israel. South of Fairfax Avenue is Little Ethiopia, while there’s a Brazilian presence along Venice Boulevard in West LA. And, of course, don’t forget the Japanese district along Sawtelle Boulevard.

Just beyond the Getty Center, the Skirball Cultural Center offers an overview of Jewish history in America. Be sure to check out the 8,000-square-foot art installation about Noah’s Ark, a hands-on exhibit for children.

A nighttime drive along the Sunset Strip is the stuff of dreams. Stop at one of the celebrated live music clubs like The Roxy or the Whisky A Go Go. Take in a night of stand up at The Comedy Store or The Laugh Factory, or catch a show by a top-name performer at the House of Blues Sunset Strip (the Sunday gospel brunch there defines exuberance).

To cool your jets after all that activity, wander through the woodsy campus of UCLA in Westwood to see fine outdoor sculpture, and stop to browse the mix of bookstores and college coffee shops in Westwood itself.

The Westside has some of the hippest and most elegant hotels in the country, if not the world. You needn’t be a celebrity to receive the star treatment.

Hotel Bel-Air couldn’t be more secluded or fabulous. Cross a romantic bridge over Swan Lake to this leafy estate, and enjoy a palatial room in a garden setting. The W Los Angeles – Westwood towers over Westwood, bringing its own contemporary style to the neighborhood.

East along Sunset Boulevard, The Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows is a legendary "Pink Palace" ensconced among mansions. You saw the The Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel in Pretty Woman, and it’s still the anchor of Beverly Hills, at the foot of Rodeo Drive. The Avalon Hotel in central Beverly Hills mixes 1950s retro-chic with a cool Zen vibe, especially around its gourd-shaped pool.

And who can resist the tantalizing city views from LA's hip hotel central, the Sunset Strip? The Sunset Marquis & Villas is a favorite of visitors in the music industry, while the Grafton on Sunset has been a boutique icon for trendy hotels.

New hotels continually open on the Westside as well. Hotel Palomar, a Kimpton Hotel, boasts 264 rooms, while SLS at Beverly Hills is an SBE Hotel Group property, with creative mastermind Philippe Starck spearheading the design. The posh London West Hollywood has become another popular property, much to the benefit of LA visitors.