Beyond the Red Carpet: What It’s Really Like to Live in Los Angeles

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Source: Wikipedia Commons

From oceanfront mansions dripping with luxury to celebrity real estate, Los Angeles is known for housing the rich and famous. But as one of the most populous and ethnically diverse cities in the country, L.A. is about more than the Hollywood scene. We asked 10 residents working in different industries across the city to share their insight.

What’s it like living in a tourist destination?

It’s always fun to see celebrities, and the thing about L.A. is there are so many here — getting coffee, at the gym, just walking down the street. There is always that awkward thought in your head, to say something or not. Approaching them is a total personal judgment call. I remember being at a nail salon and seeing all these photographers swarming around the window to get pictures of a celebrity that was inside. I swear, as I glanced around the salon, I had no clue who was inside with me. That’s the thing: Sometimes the paparazzi bring more attention to them than you would notice as you go on about your own day. Living right off Sunset is cool to see the tourist that come to the neighborhood. They are there for either the rock scene, which is so central to the strip, or they are in an open-air TMZ bus, which is always funny to see how just about everyone that comes to L.A. loves to take a tour. — Stacey Cohen

Do most people work in the media/film industry?

Believe it or not, most people around L.A. don’t work in what we simply call “the industry.” L.A. is the largest manufacturing center in the U.S. Health care is also a common industry, and retail is close behind. (Hey, you have to work somewhere when looking for your next big break!) — MJ Natal

Do you think L.A. is an affordable city? What are some budget friendly things to do?

It’s very affordable, yes. While it may not seem like this, many places — namely museums and big businesses — frequently host free days at their institutions and donation-only programs. The other good thing about L.A. is that you can do free things like go hiking or go to the beach or walk around the grounds of a museum or mall quite easily, which are all free. — Kyle Raymond Fitzpatrick

Favorite thing about living in L.A.?

I love that in L.A. there is everything I need. There are great sources for my interior design business, great museums and great food. (Not to mention the ocean nearby!) — Christine Fife

Least favorite thing about living in L.A.?

Traffic! Traffic! Traffic! — Tisha Berg

The Venice boardwalk. Source: Wikipedia Commons

The Venice Beach Boardwalk. Source: Wikipedia Commons

Which tourist attractions are worth it, and which would you skip?

I’m not much one for the typical Hollywood tours — the wax museums and Walk of Fame are probably something everyone should do, but they’re not my top picks. And personally, I can skip Chinatown — it doesn’t really compare to Chinatown in San Francisco. When I have guests in town, I suggest my own personal Three Days in Los Angeles Tour: Day 1: Take a trapeze class on the sand or a surf lesson in Santa Monica; walk the Santa Monica Pier then the Third Street Promenade; cruise up the Venice Beach Boardwalk to see the unique and bizarre; head over to Abbot Kinney to hit the galleries and boutiques; finish with dinner at Gjelina. Day 2: See a taping of your favorite TV show; visit the La Brea Tar Pits; explore Hollywood Boulevard for Grauman’s Chinese Theatre [which is now called TCL Chinese Theatre]; pack a picnic dinner and see a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, or a classic film at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery (amongst the headstones!). Day 3: Have breakfast and an architectural tour at the Getty Museum; head into West Hollywood to explore The Grove and Farmers’ Market; see the stars (literally) at Griffith Observatory; dinner at Yamashiro (a mountain-top Asian palace with a 600-year-old pagoda); after-dinner drinks at Chateau Marmont for a little celeb-sighting; late-night rock concert at the Troubadour or club-hopping on the Sunset Strip. — Jennifer Farrell

Best neighborhood to raise a family? What about restaurants and nightlife?

The best neighborhood to raise a family is probably in the Valley, like Sherman Oaks or Studio City. They are close enough to central L.A. without all the craziness. Whenever I get asked about night life and restaurants, I always question, “What vibe are you going for?” I personally like Los Feliz, West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice. Culver City is on the rise as well. — Whitney Lader

Studio City home for sale

This Studio City home for sale is ideal for a family with high-rated schools less than a mile away including Colfax Charter Elementary, Walter Reed Middle and North Hollywood Senior High.

How would you rate Los Angeles schools?

I would rate L.A. schools as inconsistent. The classrooms are too crowded. To rate a Los Angeles school would depend on whether it’s in the L.A. Unified School district or a private school. L.A. Unified is not a favorite of mine. — Meredith Greenberg

Is L.A. traffic really as bad as it seems?

Yes. Most people have long commutes, and there can easily be traffic jams on the weekends and late at night. I try to avoid it by living close to my office and taking public transportation, as it’s sometimes more convenient. — Angela Hamilton

What’s L.A.’s best-kept secret?

There’s good food everywhere, and you don’t have to spend a large amount of money for an amazing meal. Strip malls have some of the best restaurants in the city.  — Candice Berneman Kahn

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Catherine Sherman, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers real estate news, industry trends and home design. Read more of her work here.