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Los Angeles: Everything You Need to Know About Moving There

by Team NextBurb 19 February 2021

Moving Guides By City

You know it for movie stars and sets, its music scene, oil fields, and beautiful beaches.

But what’s it like to move to L.A.?

We’ve covered everything you need to know about living in the City of Angels.

Quick facts about Los Angeles

  • The first Hollywood film was made in 1908, and the community became a focal point for American cinema during the 20th century.

    Today, Hollywood studios produce over half of the films made in the United States each year, bringing in billions of dollars for the local economy.

    You’ll find plenty of opportunities to tour old film studios and celebrity mansions, but there’s more to Los Angeles than films: other top industries like finance and advanced transportation give the city international renown and influence as well.
  • Climate L.A. has its ups and downs.

    While exhaust from traffic and manufacturing plants create harmful smog above the city, you’ll also find 75 miles of coastline, sunny views, and picturesque sunsets.

    The Los Angeles area experiences 284 days of sun on average, but air quality and forest fire damage during late summer and early autumn are also a concern for the city and its residents.
  • There’s a lot to love about L.A. lifestyle, from the good weather to the knock-out food and proximity to the beach, and it comes at a higher price.

    The cost of living in Los Angeles is notoriously high, and median house prices in nearby suburbs continue to skyrocket as the area grows in population.

    While rent prices are slightly more reasonable than mortgages, gas and groceries are also considerably more expensive.

What to Know About Los Angeles

Population & History

Los Angeles was founded on a former Spanish settlement in 1847 when the United States claimed California as a territory.

Originally a town that made most of its money from agriculture, Los Angeles became the starting point for the Southern Pacific railway in 1870s.

When petroleum was discovered nearby in the early 1990s, the town grew into a large city and attracted business owners and financiers from the East.

The American film industry took off in Hollywood and the city grew in size and national importance throughout the 20th century.

Today, Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States, with a metro area population of over 13 million residents. Still a center for media, entertainment, manufacturing, and finance, it continues to grow and attract residents from all over the world.

Weather in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is consistently warm and sunny, with temperatures averaging below 90 for most of the year.

The city is so big that the temperature averages vary depending on the area, with summer highs around 70℉ near Santa Monica and closer to 95℉ ten miles down the coast.

In the winter, daytime temperatures average at 68℉ across the area, so unless it’s raining during the months between November and May, you’ll only need a jacket for occasional chilly evenings.

The city’s position in a valley by the sea results in air pollution accumulation, trapped against mountains by wind from over the Pacific Ocean.

The city of Los Angeles has issued a Clean Air act to counteract the smog, but air quality remains poor, especially during dry summer months.

The frequency of forest fires that occur in surrounding mountainous areas intensify the heat and dry climate and also contribute to bad air quality.

Despite California’s attempts to reduce pollution and to restrict the use of high-emission vehicles, Los Angeles’s air quality is consistently ranked as the worst in the nation.

Top Attractions near Los Angeles

Los Angeles is built around tourist spots, iconic architecture, and some of the newest trends in food and dining.

Whether you’re looking for the best beach to roam with family or want to find intimate restaurants with dishes from all over the world, you’ll find a never-ending list of experiences in this city.

Places to Visit

  • The must-see L.A. sights: It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a film buff: Old Hollywood glamor is on full display in L.A. and you won’t want to miss out on the tours and scenic drives offered across the city.

    Stop by the Walk of Fame to see stars dedicated to thousands of celebrities. From the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard, you’ll also see the historic TCL Chinese Theater, which used to host the Academy Awards.

    Griffith Observatory has been used in classic films like “The Terminator” and “La La Land” and is a great place to see L.A. at night.

    During the day, head from the Observatory parking lot on one of the trails that leads up to the Hollywood sign to see the L.A. icon and to get mountainside views of the city.
  • Experience the arts: Los Angeles is an international center for both fine art and for colorful street art and murals.

    LACMA (The Los Angeles County Museum of Art) has one of the largest, most diverse collections of art on the West Coast, and has an entire section called the Boone’s Children Gallery which is dedicated to providing an immersive artistic experience for children.

    To escape the urban sprawl, head to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Located on a scenic hilltop, the Getty’s main campus features grand, natural architecture and a collection of vibrant modern and contemporary art. The museum is technically free, but parking costs $15.
  • A drive through Los Angeles: Whether you’re on a budget or have decided to avoid tourist-packed museums and popular sites, taking a self-guided drive across the city will allow you to see L.A.’s character and history at your own pace (and for free!).

    Stop by Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which serves as both a resting place for old Hollywood movie stars and as a concert venue on weekends.

    Drive by architectural wonders across the city, like the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, the white, shell-like exterior of the Broad Museum designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, or the mysteriously intricate Watts Towers, a National Historic Landmark that took Simon Rodia over three decades to build.

    In the evening, choose between a calm drive or an energetic walk: Sunset Strip showcases iconic music venues and bars that helped shape the American music industry (Roxy Theater and the Viper Room among them), and scenic Mulholland Drive winds high above the city for scenic views.
  • Catch the game: The greater Los Angeles area is home to eleven professional sports organizations.

    Most notable among these teams are the Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams (both in the NFL), MLB’s Angels and Dodgers, and the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and L.A. Clippers.

    In 2020, 11 teams launched ALLIANCE, a commitment to drive social change and challenge racial injustice in the city.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall

To Eat

It’s pretty hard to narrow down the good food in Los Angeles.

As a city that’s had to serve the most glamorous celebrities for more than a century, L.A. knows what it needs to do to remain one of the best hotspots for restaurants across the globe.

Here are some of the city’s best spots.

Sushi galore: Los Angeles has a district called Little Tokyo which serves as the nexus for award-winning sushi found throughout the city.

Head to Nobu in Malibu or at its location downtown for upscale dishes and possible celebrity sightings.

For a more nondescript but equally tasty experience, hit the strip malls (no, really): L.A.’s best affordable and fresh sushi comes from non-flashy joints like Sushi Gen or Q Sushi.

The experience will be just as good and your wallet will thank you.

Mexican (upscale street-side): L.A.’s international roots and strong Latinx community result in innovative Mexican and Southwestern cuisine that you won’t find anywhere else, and it comes at any price point.

Gracias Madre serves plant-based Mexican cuisine that can satisfy any hard-won carnivore. Stroll around Echo Lake Park until you find street tacos or elotes or head to Taco Row in Boyle Heights for your choice of cheap, irresistible Mexican food.

Classic American: What better place than sunny Los Angeles for a simple hamburger and fries?

Whether it’s from a hot dog stand in Santa Monica or at a baseball game at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles serves its American classics with a twist: try a chili cheese dog from Pink’s Hot Dogs, or order french fries “animal style” from the iconic In-N-Out Burger.

For a hearty breakfast, order chicken and waffles from Roscoe’s, a restaurant so good it’s been visited multiple times by former President Obama.

To drink: We’re not just talking about cocktails.

Los Angeles culture in recent years has become synonymous with health fads, and while some of them are questionable at best, there’s one that can be enjoyed no matter what diet you’re on: fresh-pressed juice.

L.A. has taken “juicing” to the next next level, and you can find all kinds of refreshing smoothies to satisfy any taste buds, not all of them too healthy.

Moon Juice is an iconic L.A. juice bar where common ingredients include everything from mushrooms to petals (don’t worry, it still tastes good!).

Another popular spot is Little West, where wacky smoothie components like watermelon rind are evened out with mint and strawberry juice.

Outdoor experiences in and around Los Angeles

Beaches: The two most popular beaches in L.A. are at the Santa Monica Pier and at Venice Beach.

At both, you’ll find live music, funky restaurants and street artists, and walkways beside the beach where you can view the sunset and people watch.

For a relatively quieter experience, drive to El Pescador, where you’ll find tide pools and rock formations to explore.

Zuma Beach Country Park is another great option for relaxing and if you’re lucky, for the chance to spot sea lions (from a safe distance).

Hikes: If you’re in the mood to get your body moving and leave the city behind, there are plenty of trails only a short drive from the city at any level of difficulty.

For a quick stroll with a little incline, hike Runyon Canyon and get a beautiful view of the city below. Topanga State Park has a 7-mile loop with steep inclines for those who want to get in a workout.

Escondido Canyon is another great option: head northwest from Santa Monica to hike 4 miles to a spectacular waterfall where you can cool off before heading back to your car.

Living in Los Angeles

Top employers in Los Angeles

Aside from being a leader in the media and entertainment industries, Los Angeles is home to forerunners in healthcare, technology, retail trade, and manufacturing.

Largest companies in the city include Kaiser Permanente, Northrop Grumman (an aerospace and defense technology company), Providence Health, Target, Walt Disney, and NBC Universal.

Other top employers include Amazon, Kroger, and Allied Universal.

Working from home in Los Angeles

As a city that prizes its innovation and carefully curated spaces, Los Angeles has some of the best options for coworking offices.

With plans starting from $390/month, the national coworking chain brand WeWork has 29 locations across L.A.

NeueHouse, which has flagship locations in New York as well as in Los Angeles, has a full restaurant and bar for schmoozing after work hours, and monthly plans for communal workspace start at an affordable rate of $150.

Other local favorites include Cross Campus (think kombucha on tap!) and Paper Dolls, which is aimed towards fostering female entrepreneurship.

For your home office wireless internet needs, you’ll want to choose between Spectrum, AT&T, HughesNet, and Starry. AT&T plans start at $45/month, and Starry offers higher speeds up to 200 Mbps starting at $50/month.


Cost of Living

L.A.’s cost of living is unfortunately high, and the area is so built up that it can be hard to find an affordable neighborhood within a reasonable distance from the city.

The median price for a two-bedroom home in the metro area is $579,500. Monthly rent is fairly more affordable at $1,463 for a two-bedroom, but that price skyrockets within Los Angeles city limits to $3,000/month.

Utilities and healthcare costs fall lower than average, but transportation and grocery costs are higher than national rates.

The combined sales tax for Los Angeles is 9.5%, which is considerably higher than the national average of 7.12%.

Income tax is also higher than in most other states at 13.3%. Property tax is more reasonable and at 0.73%, falls below the national property tax average of 1.07%.

Transportation & Commute

As a massive, sprawling city, Los Angeles has one of the biggest public transportation systems in the country.

While it’s possible to navigate around fairly consistently without a car, it can be a headache to figure out exactly how to get to your destination.

The Metro Line provides train service along four above-ground and two subway routes throughout the city. The Metro Bus has more extensive routes throughout the city, but can be slowed by traffic or become packed on game nights near downtown.

Riders can get a refillable TAP card for both the train and the bus.

Los Angeles and surrounding areas are primarily served by the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The world’s third busiest airport, LAX, is one of the biggest international gateways into the U.S. and is a 30-minute drive from downtown L.A.

LAX provides nonstop flights to international destinations all over the world along with flights to all major American cities.

It is a hub for most primary airlines in the U.S., including Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.

Best neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles

Best neighborhoods for families with kids

  • Manhattan Beach: Consistently ranked as one of the best suburbs of Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach is right on the water and promises upscale homes, an excellent school district with immersive programs for students, and all of the joys of beach living.

    It does come at a high cost, with a median home price of $2,662,017. Manhattan beach is a 37-minute drive southwest of downtown Los Angeles.
  • South Pasadena: For slightly more affordable housing, check out South Pasadena, a twenty-minute drive northeast of downtown.

    South Pasadena has eclectic shops, restaurants, and neighborhoods with a great sense of community and a good school district.

    While it’s still steep, the median home price of $1,301,203 is much more affordable than in surrounding areas.
  • San Marino: San Marino is a lush, private enclave northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

    A carefully zoned community that prioritizes greenery and walkability, this town was founded on ranchland and has avoided the business of other nearby suburbs.

    You’ll find tasteful (albeit pricey) amenities and top-rated schools along with a median home price of $2,570,832.

Best neighborhoods for young professionals

  • West Hollywood: Located only 25 minutes west of downtown, West Hollywood is one of the best places in the area for young professionals.

    It’s full of parks, vegan and vegetarian restaurants and prides itself on its strong LGBTQ community.

    West Hollywood’s community is active, social, and full of energy, and holds festivals and farmer’s markets year round. The median home price is $985,222.
  • Hermosa Beach: For life on the coast, check out Hermosa Beach, a quaint town 35 minutes south of downtown Los Angeles.

    Hermosa Beach provides an outdoor-oriented community, with beach-side shops and restaurants, a nightlife full of creative cocktails and live jazz, and a beautiful public beach and pier.

    The median home price in Hermosa Beach is $2,098,230.
  • Santa Monica: Santa Monica is a classic fixture of Southern California culture.

    Close enough to L.A. to be convenient but far away enough to have its own pace and lifestyle, Santa Monica is full of beautiful condos, trendy shops, and walkable shopping districts.

    The best part is the beach and the Santa Monica pier, which has restaurants, live music, and anything else you’d want to see or experience on a sunny afternoon. Santa Monica is only a 20-minute drive from downtown, and the median home price is $1,804,113.
A beautiful day at the Santa Monica Pier
A beautiful day at the Santa Monica Pier

Higher Education

Los Angeles is home to campuses of many of the state’s top schools. University of California: Los Angeles receives the most applications every year out of every school in the country and has top programs in biology, business, and psychology.

The University of Southern California is a private institution with a well-known film school (graduates include George Lucas and Judd Apatow).

L.A. is also home to several top-ranked schools with religious affiliations, including Biola University, Chapman University, and Pepperdine University in Malibu.

Crime in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has a pretty bad reputation when it comes to crime. In the 80s and 90s, homicide rates and drug-related crimes were at an all-time high, but crime rates have consistently decreased over the years.

Areas that still have higher-than-average crime rates include Skid Row, the South Side, and West Adams.

However, if you stay aware of your surroundings and make sure you’re in a good neighborhood at night, you’ll find L.A. to be a clean, engaging city that’s safe and fun to explore.

Are you considering Los Angeles as your next home

With its beachside condos, old Hollywood mansions, and the elusive beauty of the surrounding mountains and coastline, there’s a lot to love about Los Angeles.

If you can stomach the smog and bad traffic (or learn to navigate the Metro), the high cost of living might be worth it. Whether you’re relocating with your family or are looking for the energy and creativity of Los Angeles culture, you’ll find a sunny, exciting home in the City of Angels.

Here at Nextburb, we’re committed to providing you with the facts you need to know about any area you’re considering as a future home.

Discover the best places to live in the United States to find out more about neighborhoods to live in, school ratings, crime data, and real estate options.

We’ll provide you with recommendations based on your lifestyle and budget preferences to help you discover where you want to go.

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