9 of the Best Neighborhoods for “Walking in LA”

The saying supposedly goes “nobody walks in LA…” but if you live here, then you know that’s not necessarily true. There are plenty of spots in Los Angeles to enjoy a “walk in the park…” literally!

Luckily it’s almost always sunny here, too — so you most likely won’t have to worry about the weather ruining your plans to soak up the great (albeit, urban) outdoors. From historic Hancock Park’s majestic mansions to the Pacific Palisades impressive ocean vistas, here are nine of the best neighborhoods to explore the city of Angels and also get some steps in.

[Note: As of summer 2020, outdoor activities are currently permitted in Los Angeles County, but as always, be safe and protect yourself and others from transmitting COVID-19. Remember to wear a mask, stay six feet from other people at all times, and be respectful.

Some of these photos were taken over the last couple years outside in LA pre-COVID which is why I’m not masked-up in all of them…]

Venice Canals, Venice Beach

The Venice Canals have a rich history. They were first built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney (yes, like the famed Venice Boulevard), as part of his “Venice of America” plan. There actually used to be even more canals to boat through, than there are today — but by 1929 the bulk of the canals were filled in to create roads. By 1940, the remaining canals had fallen into disrepair, and the sidewalks were condemned by the city.

This district sat in disrepair until the waterways were finally renovated in 1992 and re-opened in 1993, now having become known as a beautiful place to explore, as well as an expensive residential section of the city. There’s plenty of nearby free street parking which is one of the things that I love about visiting Venice.

There are four east-west canals (Carroll Canal, Linnie Canal, Howland Canal, and Sherman Canal) and two north-south canals (Eastern Canal and Grand Canal) for strolling. You might even witness a couple embarking on a romantic gondola ride through the canal’s tranquil waters.

Hancock Park/Larchmont Village/Windsor Square

These bordering affluent neighborhoods are truly “mid-city” Los Angeles, and therefore central to everything from DTLA’s towering skyscrapers in the east, to Santa Monica’s ocean vistas out in the West.

Hancock Park was named after developer-philanthropist George Allan Hancock. This neighborhood’s 1,200-plus homes appear to have been plucked straight out of a movie (which is why movie stars have frequently set this neighborhood as their home base, back to Hollywood’s golden age in the 1920’s) with houses that are very architecturally different. In fact, you won’t find two houses to appear the same no matter how extensively you explore Hancock Park’s quiet, open streets.

Straight east is Larchmont, which is a teensy neighborhood that’s technically only half a square mile in geography — but what it lacks in area it makes up for, in personality. Larchmont Village features a quaint main street with quaint shops and historic boutiques — as well as a top notch Sunday Farmers’ Market.

Windsor Square just south of Larchmont is known for its lush green large lawns and decorated giant mansions — its the official residence of the mayor of the city which is currently Eric Garcetti. Windsor Square is known for being a highly educated and diverse neighborhood (with affluent incomes).

Palisades Village, Pacific Palisades

The Pacific Palisades neighborhood encompasses roughly 22 square miles of scenic beauty overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Highway 1. There are six different neighborhoods within the Palisades locale which are well-known for their good school systems and their true “community” feeling (even though this is LA).

There are plenty of streets in the Palisades for safely strolling, which feature views of the sand and surf below as well as a shopping village and formal business district, inland.

The Pacific Palisades is also home to Palisades Village which is an outdoor shopping complex that opened in 2018. The complex features upscale restaurants, a grassy park, and a variety of high-end shops and stylish boutiques such as Lululemon and Reformation, as well as an old-timey themed movie theater.

The Strand, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach

The Strand (officially known as the 22-mile Marvin Braude Bike Trail, which travels from Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica to Via Riviera and Paseo de la Playa in Torrance) is a great place to bike or stroll along the sand.

From the Manhattan Beach Pier in Manhattan Beach to adjacent neighboring beach city Hermosa Beach it’s a flat, straight journey south. Sights along the way include beach volleyball fanatics, surfers conquering nearby waves, the incredible architecture of strand-side houses, and flowers that bloom alongside the path all year long (as well as plenty of cute pups out for a walk, as this path is dog friendly!

Be mindful of the bikes you share this path with on most of the journey, as you take in the scenic beauty along the leisurely walk. After watching the sun set over the water on the Hermosa Beach Pier, head over to a nearby restaurant such as Tower 12, right off the pier, for a brew or a bite to eat. You’ll get beautiful views of the sun dipping into the ocean on the restaurant’s second story deck and wraparound, outdoor balcony. 

Alternatively, if you’d like to end the evening in Manhattan Beach, head back to enjoy a cocktail at The Strand House or an ice cream at the Manhattan Beach Creamery.

Palisades Park, Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica

The 1.5 mile long Palisades Park (not to be confused with the Pacific Palisades — which is a neighborhood I mentioned, earlier) linear park includes benches, picnic areas, pétanque courts, restrooms and the historic Santa Monica Camera Obscura. It’s right next to the Santa Monica Pier and offers iconic views of the ocean with a peaceful, picturesque paved path and impeccable photo opportunities. 

The urban planners who developed this land specifically selected flora to plant in the park that would grow strong enough roots to slow down the land’s erosion into the water, below — you can read more about this fascinating history on the Outdoor Project website here.

There’s free parking at plenty of garages around the Santa Monica shopping district area which is easy walking distance to this green space.

Located just east of the Santa Monica Pier, the Third Street Promenade shopping complex consists of three open-air, car-free street blocks that are anchored by the upscale, three level outdoor shopping mall, Santa Monica Place (here in LA we can do outdoor shopping because it doesn’t rain! Haha.). There are 80-plus upscale retailers including Coach, Tiffany, and Kate Spade — and no shortage of divine eateries to try.

Downtown Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade complex dates all the way back to 1965, but was officially renamed the “Third Street Promenade” back in 1989. It’s an ideal place to saunter and watch LA’s most talented outdoor street performers . Entertainers are a frequent sight — including guitarists, dancers and piano players — there’s never a dull moment.

There’s also the “Dinosaurs of Santa Monica” public art display which is scattered throughout the promenade. These six dinosaur sculptures were designed by French artists Claude and Francois LaLanne in the 80’s, and have stood the test of time for residents and visitors alike.

Check out the 90-minute parking nearby, which is a valuable asset somewhere as bustling as Downtown Santa Monica.

La Brea Tar Pits, LACMA and The Grove, Fairfax

The LACMA lawn/The La Brea Tar Pits are a great place to walk around and soak up some LA sunshine with a strong side educational learning opportunities. There’s plenty of open space — just watch for the bubbling bits of stray tar in the grass (yes, that’s is a real thing but don’t worry it’s usually marked by a cone) while you stroll the grounds to learn about the prehistoric animals who met a most unfortunate end in the tar pits back in the day.

You can take a photo with one of the many picturesque backdrops outside the LACMA including the quintessential outdoor art installation, “Urban Light” which is in front of the LACMA on Wilshire.

Across the street on the other side of the Park La Brea apartment complex is The Grove and Original Farmers Market, which are historic icons in the city of Los Angeles, and a great place to walk around while enjoying people watching of both the locals and visitors.

The Grove outdoor shopping mall offers an upscale array of luxury shopping (again with the outdoor shopping) and a choreographed dancing fountain show that follows the classy, upbeat jazz music. There’s also a selection of eateries such as Dominique Ansel Bakery and libations such as The Fountain Bar.

And of course the Farmers Market offers an endless selection of fresh produce and legendary food stalls such as Trejos Tacos and Nonna’s Empanadas.

Griffith Park

Griffith Park — named after Griffith Jenkins Griffith, who was an Angeleno civic philanthropist, advocate of parklands, and passionate speaker for the advancement of recreation for the health of Los Angeles — is a great place for any kind of stroll, strenuous or serene.

Right now the observatory itself is closed due to COVID-19 safety measures but the hiking trails and walkways — which features spectacular views of downtown and the iconic Hollywood sign — are open.

BONUS: Parking at the bottom of the hill near the carousel is free! You can check out a full map of hiking and walking trails, here.

Echo Park Lake

The historic Echo Park Lake in the Echo Park neighborhood is just outside of Downtown Los Angeles and is truly a hidden gem of culture as well as home to an array of artists, musicians, and writers.

It’s an ideal spot for couples, friends and families to relax and enjoy a flat and leisurely walk in the park. The loop around the lake is roughly one mile and filled with beautiful surroundings including foliage, flowers, and impeccable views of the DTLA skyline.

There’s even an enormous spouting fountain to spy and the historic “Lady of the Lake” statue which has a rich Angeleno history you can read more about, here.

Bunker Hill, The Financial District, DTLA

DTLA actually is divided into different neighborhoods, each with a personality vastly different than the next. I lived downtown for the first year I was an Angeleno, and I loved every second of my chance to explore this up and coming metropolis. Some great places to walk in DTLA include the neighboring districts of Bunker Hill and the Financial District.

Bunker Hill’s mix of soaring skyscrapers such as the US Bank Tower with the OUE Skyspace sky deck, as well as internationally known cultural institutions such as the Downtown LA Library, Walt Disney Concert Hall the Museum of Contemporary Art, Grand Park, and Angels Flight tramway which leads from the Angels Flight only runs for one block (298 feet to be exact), but it’s a steep one. It links the Grand Central Market at the bottom to the urban park at the top which connects Hill and Olive streets.

Be sure to remain aware of your surroundings while exploring the wonderful DTLA, because the character of the area can vary as quickly as street-to-street.

Have any recommendations for top-notch places for a walk in LA? Send them to hellomollyannobrien@gmail.com!

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