Until relatively recently, historic Westlake, just west of Downtown, was the go-to zone for scoring rock cocaine or a fake drivers’ license. Slowly, though, the area is cleaning up its act and even toying with gentrification. Crime is down and families have returned to MacArthur Park for picnics and paddling around a spring-fed lake, at least in the daylight hours. So have the skaters (they grind in benign packs) and the world beats. The restored Levitt Pavilion band shell is the place for the park’s summer concert series. And yes, this is the park that ‘melts in the dark’ in the eponymous Jimmy Webb song made famous by Donna Summer. The park is at its best north of Wilshire. It’s gets gritty south of the lake. Though still largely a working-class, Latino neighborhood, artists, hipsters and young professionals are trickling into the neighborhood with bars, eateries and cultural spaces following in their tracks. Get off at the Wilshire/MacArthur Park stop of the Red Line subway and see for yourself.
Westlake spills seamlessly into Koreatown, a vast area that can feel more like Seoul than LA. Korean immigrants began settling here in the 1960s and formed a tight-knit community. Many signs are in Korean and some shopkeepers and servers speak only a few words of English. All this makes for an interesting experience, especially when it comes to food and day spas. Koreatown's nightlife is thriving too. The new Line Hotel has a buzzy lobby bar, with a speakeasy from LA's best nocturnal designers – the Houston Brothers (La Descarga, No Vacancy, etc) – to come.
Wilshire Blvd is the most attractive thoroughfare, lined with historic churches and towers harkening back to a time when this area was a wealthy business and residential district known as Wilshire Center.