Remember when Hollywood was cool? Or how about when Venice was still ghetto? Were you around when Downtown was unheard of or when Silverlake was the underground hangout for the “cool” kids? The point is that LA is changing….and always has been. Any LA native can tell you how surprising it is that these once “too dangerous” or “too far” neighborhoods have become the preferred hangouts for the cities young and hip. So if you’re new to LA or just thinking about making the move out west, let me shed some light on this confusing mesh of cities and districts that make up the central LA area.
No list of hip and cool areas would be complete without at least mentioning LA’s mainstay hipster enclave of Silverlake and Echo Park. Although these areas have been gentrified for a while now, they are still the go-to neighborhoods for things like organic kombucha, craft beer and ironic fashion. However their high prices have pushed most young people into other areas.
The holy grail of hip-ness, Highland Park is LA’s “coolest” neighborhood. It’s a predominantly Latino area that sites along the Arroyo Seco, between Mt Washington and Eagle Rock. For the longest time it was considered pretty sketchy, but these days it seems to be “the place” that people are requesting to relocate to from out of state. Highland Park is packed with trendy restaurants, bars, theaters and even an historic bowling alley. All this lives amongst a thriving Mexican scene so great food is easy to find.
Most likely the “next big thing” in real estate development, Cypress Park and Glassell Park are now finally starting to benefit from their prime location after years of neglect. Once an area of gang violence and crime, Cypress Park and Glassell Park are now considered two of the trendiest areas in Los Angeles. The two adjacent neighborhoods have become popular in recent years due to their easy access to Mt Washington, the LA River bike path and the bars and restaurants of Highland Park. Being connected by three freeways and a few metro stops doesn’t hurt either.
Also known as Elysian Valley, this small isolated strip of land was nick-named “Frog Town” in the 1930’s due to the abundance of frogs that would make their way out of the LA River and into the neighborhood. These days, the frogs are gone but Frogtown is on the rise as breweries, coffee shops and bars pop up. The revitalization of the LA River has helped spur business development along the river bike path as well.
Once a prime example of urban decay, many parts of downtown have taken a turn for the better. Where there were once abandoned streets, drugs and homelessness there are now cool bars and restaurants, converted warehouses and hip districts like Japan Town, Arts District and the Historic Core. What makes this part of town so interesting is that it is right in the middle of being cleaned up, so it still has a lot of the grittiness that people are drawn to without that “stabby” feeling that makes you feel like you shouldn’t be there…think Manhattan 20 years ago.
Just east of downtown sits the residential neighborhood of Boyle Heights. It’s always been a primarily Latino area, until recently the art gallery scene has made its way into the community….not always welcomed, I might add. The area was a natural expansion of the downtown Arts District, as it sits just across the LA River. These days you’ll find a combination of art galleries and Mexican shops and restaurants living “sometimes” harmoniously together.