With its reputation for old-Hollywood glamour, top-end couture and posh dining still circulating in the collective consciousness, Beverly Hills remains impressive to those who stroll Beverly Blvd and Rodeo Dr for the first time. But if you take a closer look, you might see some slippage. Most, if not all, of the downtown Beverly Hills shopping is of the corporate variety. The names are here – Prada, Gucci – but most of it is designer in label only (the best shopping is actually on N Robertson and further east in West Hollywood). Still, the new, blue glass MGM building has helped refresh the local skyline and there remain more Ferraris per capita here than anywhere else.
Downtown, several city-owned garages offer two hours of free parking, including one at 9510 Brighton Way. For two hours of free valet parking, head to the garage underneath Two Rodeo (enter from Dayton Way).
West of Beverly Hills, past the mini-downtown of Century City (a commercial district created and named for the 20th Century Fox Studio), is a college town plopped into the middle of a big city. Westwood is practically synonymous with UCLA. The huge campus is hemmed in by Sunset Blvd and Westwood Village. The village is pedestrian-friendly but it’s increasingly vacant these days as the charming, but aging, movie theaters continue to lose traffic to nearby multiplexes, and LA nightlife pulls students out into the wider world. A farmers market along Weyburn Ave livens things up on Thursday afternoons, and the Hammer Museum is a must. You can snag an hour of free parking in the public garage at 1036 Broxton Ave.
North of Westwood, Bel Air is a favorite hideaway of stars whose sybaritic homes are generally hidden behind security gates and dense foliage, among them the great Quincy Jones’ estate and Hef’s Playboy Mansion.
Brentwood, west of the I-405 (San Diego Fwy), is almost as exclusive as Bel Air and is home to one of LA’s big attractions, the hilltop Getty Center. Despite a high celeb quotient (Spielberg lives here), it’s pretty low-key, and young professionals like the location, close to Santa Monica and only 20 minutes from the Sunset Strip. Marilyn Monroe died in her home at 12305 Helena Dr, and decades later Brentwood made global headlines again when Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were murdered at 875 Bundy Dr. In the subsequent criminal trial, her husband OJ Simpson was (in)famously acquitted.