Moving to Los Angeles, CA? Read Our Ultimate Moving Guide
Despite what images of Hollywood may suggest, there’s no single way to describe Los Angeles. With hundreds of neighborhoods, four million people within its city limits and millions more just beyond, and unequaled cultural diversity, LA is a metropolis like no other.
You can live at the beach, near the mountains, in a suburb or in the city, or visit them all in a day. Whether you’re joining the new arrivals coming here for day after day of sunny skies or you have your own reason for making a residential move to Los Angeles, you’re sure to find the spot that’s right for you.
Getting Around in Los Angeles
With the exceptions of celebrities and movie studios, Los Angeles may be more famous for its traffic than almost any other feature, and it’s easy to find a photo of six lanes of cars at a standstill. Getting from one of Los Angeles County’s 88 cities to another can be daunting, especially if you’re moving to LA from a much less crowded locale. In spite of this, you’ll probably want a car, but there are plenty of other transportation options:
- The city is home to the nation’s second-largest public transportation agency. The Metro operates a rail service and more than 1,500 buses. Check out the Metro Rider’s Guide for details on fares, passes, airport rides, bringing your bike along, and much more.
- The Metro isn’t your only choice for bus service in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Some of the many other bus services include the Glendale BeeLine, Long Beach Transit, Burbank Bus, and Los Angeles County’s transit services.
- Rather bike your way around? There are bike share programs, such as Metro Bike Share (including new electric bikes) and Beverly Hills Bike Share.
- Rideshare services include Lyft and Uber, which also offers Uber Plus, Uber SUV, and Uber Black Car with professional rather than regular drivers in private cars.
If you’re new to driving in Los Angeles, here are a few things to know about local laws (TripSavvy offers even more helpful details about the rules of the road):
- You’ll notice High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on a lot of the freeways. These carpool lanes require at least two or three occupants in the car, but they can give you a bit of an edge on the road.
- Some carpool lanes are also toll lanes for single drivers, but you need to have a transponder in your car to be able to use the HOV lanes.
- You’ll be ticketed for holding a mobile phone to your ear—you must use a hands-free device.
- You’ll need to keep an eye out for motorcycles, since they are legally allowed to drive in between traffic lanes.
Things to Do in Los Angeles
We could write a guide just on this topic—with the city’s size and population, its geographic diversity, and its cultural mix, it’s safe to say you’ll never run out of things to do. Since the possibilities are almost endless, here are some of the highlights in the most popular things-to-do categories.
Tourist attractions in L.A.
If there’s one thing Los Angeles knows how to do right, it’s entertaining its tourists. It’s been a mecca for tourists even before Walt Disney opened Disneyland in 1955, and tourism now generates more than $36 billion for the city’s economy, according to the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.
These are some of the perennial favorites among tourists (and residents who keep coming back for more):
- Celebrity tours: The film industry spawned the guided tour industry, and the rest is history. You can see that history with one of the many tour operators in and around Hollywood. StarLine Tours of Hollywood has 75 years of experience making sure tourists can get up close and personal to Tinseltown landmarks and the homes of Hollywood’s stars, both past and present. Tours of movie stars’ homes depart every half hour, or get a ride to Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm and SeaWorld.
- TV show tickets: Ever wonder where audience members come from? Chances are, they bought a ticket with one of the many show ticket services. Check out Audiences Unlimited, which has tickets to more than 30 shows around greater Los Angeles and CBS Television City, which has tickets for programs like the Late Late Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and the long-running Price is Right.
- Studio tours: Many of the major TV and movie production studios offer tours, including Paramount Studios, Universal Studios Hollywood, Sony Pictures Studio, and Warner Brothers Studio. Some have minimum age requirements, so check before you go.
Los Angeles Theme and amusement parks
These are a few of the best spots for thrill rides and family fun, according to TimeOut:
- No list would be complete without Disneyland. This iconic park continues to reinvent itself to keep up with the times. Don’t miss the rides, stage shows, and famous fireworks.
- Universal Studios Hollywood offers movie-themed attractions, including rides based on Jurassic World, Harry Potter and Despicable Me.
- Less crowded but still a fun stop is Knott’s Berry Farm, the state’s first theme park. In addition to the berry farm itself, you’ll find a hotel, water park, and Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, a staple since 1934.
- Be careful how you dine before climbing onto the rides at Six Flags Magic Mountain, because most of them are only for those who can handle zero Gs. There are a few mild rides, but the Twisted Colossus, Full Throttle and Tatsu aren’t among them.
- Have younger kids in tow? Head to Legoland California Resort for child-appropriate rides, the Legoland Water Park, and the Sea Life Aquarium.
Arts and culture
As you’d expect in a city that attracts creative people from all over the world, Los Angeles is overflowing with places to enjoy the arts and local culture. There’s no category that’s not represented, whether you’re looking for music, visual arts, theaters, museums, concerts, history exhibits, or galleries.
Here’s a list to get you started:
- Museums offer something for everyone. Plan a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Grammy Museum, Japanese American National Museum, Getty Center Museum, and Autry Museum of the American West.
- Short on entertainment funds? Browse these art galleries for free: L.A. Louver, Night Gallery, William Turner Gallery, Art Share LA., and the multimillion-dollar art complex Hauser Wirth & Schimmel.
Food and drink
World-famous chefs, international influences, access to the best produce and ingredients, and a very enthusiastic population of foodies make Los Angeles one of the best places to eat in the country, if not the world. To help narrow down the thousands of choices you’ll have, let’s highlight a dozen destinations from the Eater Los Angeles website’s recent list of “38 Essential Los Angeles Restaurants”:
- Felix: Italian fare, including handmade pasta
- Mizlala: Affordable Middle Eastern small plates
- Kato: Influenced by the cuisines of Taiwan and Japan, and one Michelin star
- A.O.C.: Rustic American cuisine
- Somni: Avant-garde fine dining with a global fare
- Republique: New American with a French accent
- Gish Bac: One of many popular Oaxacan restaurants in L.A.
- Kali: Classic American food in a minimalist setting
- Park’s Barbeque: Korean barbecue featuring wagyu beef
- Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant: Pastrami and corned beef highlight a classic Jewish deli menu
- Sonoratown: Authentic Sonoran-style quesadillas and tacos
- Mason’s Dumpling Shop: Reasonably priced handmade dumplings
Few American cities have multiple sports teams in the same professional football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer leagues, but Los Angeles has enough fans to support them all.
When you’re ready for a game, one of these teams is ready to play:
Events in Los Angeles
Annual and special events are extra-special in Los Angeles. Between the arts and cultural scene, the entertainment industry, big sporting events and the population’s diversity, you can fill your calendar.
These are some of the most popular events by time of year:
- January: Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl Game
- February: Chinese New Year/Golden Dragon Parade
- March: LA Marathon
- April: Cinco de Mayo “Fiesta Broadway” celebration
- May: NoHo Theatre & Arts Festival and Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Celebration
- July: July 4th Fireworks Spectacular and Anime Expo
- August: Nisei Week Japanese Festival
- September: Los Angeles County Fair, Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival, and Watts Tower Jazz Festival
- October: Halloween Carnival
- November: LA Auto Show and the USC/UCLA football game
- December: Hollywood Christmas Parade, Holiday Sing-Along, and Marina del Ray Holiday Boat Parade
Shopping in L.A.
Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is arguably the most famous shopping destination in the nation (if not the world), but this sprawling metropolis has so much more to offer shoppers. Whatever you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it at one of the city’s malls, boutiques, factory outlets, trendy shopping districts, farmers markets and much more.
Here are just a (very) few Los Angeles-area shopping destinations to put on your to-do list:
- The Beverly Center has it all—eight floors of retail stores with names such as Dolce & Gabbana and Prada, restaurants (including one by a three-star Michelin chef), events, and great views of the city.
- The Point is a casual spot for shopping and dining, with free parking and play areas for the kids.
- A favorite West Hollywood open-air mall, The Grove is like a town unto itself. Shopping, restaurants, a 14-screen theater and a trolley make this a popular gathering place.
- A mix of world-famous labels such as Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs and edgy boutiques make Melrose Avenue one of the most unique shopping districts in town.
- The open-air Santa Monica Place shopping center was recently remodeled into a modern space. While you’re there, check out the Third Street Promenade for more shops and eateries.
- Wear your walking shoes: Montana Avenue offers 150 upscale shops across 10 blocks. This is a solid destination when you’re looking for something outside of the regular mall options.
LA Neighborhoods and Surrounding Communities
If you’re well into planning your move to Los Angeles, you may already have a specific neighborhood in mind. If not, here are a few to consider, grouped by area:
- Most people want to live near the coast, but it will cost you. Median rental rates for a one-bedroom apartment are more than $3,000 in cities by the beach. Coastal living is worth it, though, when you can come home from work and jump into the ocean. Choose from Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Brentwood or Pacific Palisades if a sea breeze is on your must-have list.
- If urban living is your thing, there’s only one place to go: downtown Los Angeles. It’s made quite a comeback in the last 10 years, becoming an epicenter of fantastic restaurants and a busy arts and culture scene. Public transit and proximity to the freeway system make “DTLA” a great home base. Other urban-feel areas are Echo Park and the Historic Cultural District.
- Los Angeles suburbs run the gamut from neighborhoods with a few too many strip malls to outposts for the famous and affluent. Families gravitate to Glendale, Northeast Los Angeles and Pasadena, which is its own city but is still a suburb of LA. The San Fernando Valley (usually referred to as just “the Valley”) is a little more relaxed than other suburbs, and it includes Burbank, Studio City, Glendale and Calabasas. You can find affordable housing here, but you’ll have a long commute if you work in the city. If you have the funds to live with the glitterati, head for Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Westwood and Brentwood, where celebrity sightings are run of the mill.
Education in LA
People come from around the world to attend the colleges and universities in and near Los Angeles. World-class research and academic programs are offered at these schools and others:
- California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
- University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)
- University of Southern California (USC)
- California State University
Los Angeles is a hub for creatives seeking an education. Choices for artists, designers, filmmakers, and performers include the Los Angeles Film School, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, California Institute of the Arts, the Otis College of Art & Design, and the Musicians Institute.
The Los Angeles Unified School District provides public education at more than 1,300 schools and learning centers. It’s the second-largest school district in the country in terms of number of students, and it employees about 60,000 people. In addition to traditional preschools, elementary schools and high schools, the district also has magnet and charter schools.
Notable private and parochial schools include these entries from TripSavvy.com:
- Harvard-Westlake School: Ranked as one of the best 7-12 prep schools in the U.S.
- Brentwood School: K-12 independent day school
- Crossroads School: K-12 experimental independent day school
- Marlborough School: 7-12 prep school for girls
- Marymount High School: 9-12 independent Catholic girls’ school
- Loyola High School: 9-12 all-male Jesuit prep school
- Le Lycee Francais de Los Angeles: Preschool-12 bi-lingual French school
Important Los Angeles Links
Driver’s licenses and vehicle registration: The State of California Department of Motor Vehicles provides driver license and ID card processing and vehicle registration. To save time, take advantage of the DMV’s self-service kiosks that allow you to complete your vehicle registration renewal, submit proof of insurance, and more, or use the online services.
Voter registration: The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office manages voter registration. It’s also the place to go for marriage, real estate and birth records, plus marriage licenses and ceremonies.
Trash and Recycling Services. The City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Sanitation offers weekly trash pickup for yard trimming, household garbage and recyclables; bulk item pick-up; and household appliance pickup services. You can also leverage the city’s drop-off services and locations to discard used tires, hazardous household waste and electronic waste.
Utilities: Visit the City of Los Angeles website for information on these services:
Phone, TV and Internet:
Water, gas and electric utilities:
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Moving to Los Angeles, CA: FAQ
One important indicator of how much it can cost to live in Los Angeles is the median sales prices for a single-family home. In 2018, the National Association of Realtors cited that number at $576,000. It’s still not as high as the stratospheric prices in places such as San Francisco and New York City, but it’s a hurdle for most people with modest incomes. This may be one reason that many more people rent than own in the Los Angeles area.
Utility costs are higher in LA than in New York, San Diego or San Francisco, but internet service is a bit less. Gas prices here are higher than the national average price ($4.09 a gallon compared to $2.88), so you may want to take advantage of the city’s public transportation options. According to SmartAsset.com, the prices for groceries and restaurants are also above the national average, and healthcare costs are more than 20 percent higher in the LA metro area.
On the plus side (and there are many in this beautiful area of the country), there are a lot of free things to do, such as artwalks, scenic drives, going to the beach, and visiting free museums and cultural attractions. Discover Los Angeles has a long list of free activities in the area, as well as a handy list of spots throughout the city where you can connect to free wifi, including the Los Angeles Public Library, downtown, and even in six parks, thanks to the city.
The weather, the nearly infinite list of things to do and see, and the famous California lifestyle is a big draw for retirees, as is the world-class healthcare. The downside is significant, though—the costs of housing, food, gas, and utilities will make it difficult to stretch your money if you’re on a fixed income. And there’s the traffic, which is a headache for residents of all ages. The key to retiring to Los Angeles is taking your time finding a neighborhood that balances affordability with the services you need most. Check out Niche’s list of the Best Places to Retire in the Los Angeles area for more information.
Los Angeles is a bit like New York City when it comes to the types of work available—if you can think of it, it’s probably here. According to Forbes’ list of Best Places for Business and Careers, LA’s major industries are entertainment, aerospace, tourism and technology. As it is in major cities, healthcare tops the list of number of civilians employed in the field, with retail and hospital not too far behind.
The largest employers in Los Angeles County proper are:
• The County of Los Angeles
• The Los Angeles Unified School District
• The University of California, Los Angeles
• The City of Los Angeles
• The Federal government (non-Defense Department employees)
• Kaiser Permanente
• The State of California
• The University of Southern California
• Northrop Grumman Corp.
• Providence Health & Services
• Target Corp.
• Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
• Kroger Co.
An entire guide could be written outlining all of the pros and cons of a city of this size and diversity, but here are a few of the main ups and downs of moving to LA:
• Climate: The warm, sunny days and cool nights are some of LA’s main attractions for anyone considering moving here. There are some differences from one area to another, though—neighborhoods near the ocean tend to be cooler, while the valleys farther inland can get downright hot.
• Sports: The people of Los Angeles can be absolutely sports-crazy, and they have plenty of opportunities to show it. College and pro team competitions are usually well attended. The fans of two NFL teams and the Pac-12 USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins have elevated tailgating to an art form.
• Choices: food, shopping, entertainment
• The geography: Mountains and beaches? Yes, please! The city sits in a basin rimmed by mountain ranges with endless hiking trails and spectacular views. Southern California beaches are famous for everything from celebrity homes in Malibu to the fun, bohemian mecca that’s Venice Beach.
• The attitude: If you’re coming from a place like New York, things are so much more casual in Los Angeles that it may take some getting used to. The vibe is laid back and the dress code, even in some of the more expensive restaurants, is decidedly loose.
• Transportation: Unless you can find a place to live near your place of work, several hours of your day will be devoted to crawling along in traffic. With the number of cars in the city, parking can be the proverbial nightmare as well.
• Crime: As you might expect in a city of this size, crime rates vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Generally, though, areas to the north and along the coast have lower rates, but you should do some research of your own before choosing a neighborhood.
• The cost of living: Just about everything is more expensive here, from regular grocery staples to the monthly rent.