Los Angeles in Southern California is the ultimate concrete jungle. With a population of some 4 million people who flock to L.A. for the weather, work, and entertainment, L.A. is an incredible American city. That said, as with every major cosmopolitan place, it is important to know where to go and where not to go. Evading neighborhoods that you should not be in, or areas to beware of, is one part of traveling safely.
Additionally, keeping out of soulless tourist destinations that are overpriced and under inspiring, is another element to be mindful of. Whether you’re concerned about safety, or simply want to avoid tourist traps, this list of places to stay away from in Los Angeles will help you navigate the many aspects of this major megalopolis. Read on to increase your knowledge of the nuances of L.A.’s social topography, with these places to stay away from in Los Angeles.
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Dangerous Areas to Avoid
1) Fashion District
A hub for all-things textiles, the Fashion District is 90 blocks of shopping. However, it is easy to see why this is also a prime place for crime; where people have expendable incomes to spend on clothing, they also probably have money. If you’re a person who needs a little retail therapy to feel satiated on vacation, try an alternative shopping area such as The Grove, a beautiful outdoor shopping space with high-end fashion retailers.
2) Skid Row/Wholesale District
Skid row is a place that probably isn’t on most tourist’s list of must-sees. This area is known for wholesale fishmongers and other produce-sellers. However, it is also a very dangerous area of Los Angeles with a high homeless population that is attracted to the area due to many shelters. Though in recent years many hipsters have flocked to the Skid Row/Wholesale District, it is still not advisable to head to Skid Row unless you have a local who is street-savvy and is aware of the nuances of the area.
Watts should be avoided solely for the reason that this is gang territory. A long rival between Crips and Bloods makes this a precarious area. Gunshots, due to this gang activity, are not unheard of. Surely, most crime in the Watts area is between gang members, however, why take the risk? A former hot-bed for the Black Panther Movement, it is a historic neighborhood in L.A. However, it is advised to stay out of Watts if you have no business in Watts, which is the case for most L.A. tourists.
Downtown may be less dangerous than the aforementioned areas, however, because it is a high-drug area, it is advised to avoid Downtown L.A. or at least be alert when traveling through this area. A visit during the day is drastically different than being Downtown at the nighttime hours. And with good safety precautions, such as checking your surroundings, and being careful when getting in and out of your car, you should be okay.
5) Boyle Heights
The chances of being a victim of crime while in Boyle Heights are 12% above the national average, or 1 out of 35 chances. So, it certainly is a neighborhood to be careful if traveling to. A majority of the crimes are auto theft, which is only somewhat comforting as these heists frequently entail holding up a victim at gunpoint. Though this area is historically a melting pot of Mexican, Russians, and Japanese, and Armenians, the charming backstory may not be enough to lure you to the risky Boyle Heights.
6) South Park
Neighboring the Financial and Fashion District, South Park consistently comes in as one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in L.A. This area is slowly being gentrified, which is bad for residents of South Park who will get outpriced, yet good for crime reduction. However, like many of these other neighborhoods listed, it may not be a top choice for visiting while in L.A. anyway. Storefronts are often barred on the windows and an industrial feeling overarches the ambiance of South Park.
7) Hyde Park
Hyde Park is in the southern part of L.A. and was once a city of its own before consolidating into the mega-city L.A. now is in 1923. With an overall crime rate being 75% higher in Hyde Park than other areas of the United States, it’s an easy choice to stay out of Hyde Park while in L.A. Though the neighborhood is easy to access LAX (L.A.’s international airport) from, the risk might outweigh the convenience in this case.
Chinatown takes the cake when it comes to astounding statistics. A whopping overall crime rate of 131% above the national average, Chinatown is off the charts. For every 100,000 people, 16.3 crimes occur daily; no small feat. That said, Chinatown offers many reasons to visit, such as restaurants, interesting stores, and an iconic Bruce Lee statue to check out. So, although the crime rates are quite impressive, if you do choose to Chinatown for the previous reasons, be alert and go in the day.
9) Exposition Park
You very well may have good reason to head to Exposition Park, as it is home to L.A.’s museum campus and is an incredible expanse of 160 acres of urban green space. Truth be told, you should continue with your plans to Exposition Park, being mindful of the park’s periphery, where more crime occurs. Travel by day, with friends or others, to navigate this potentially-risky part of L.A.
Crenshaw has an interesting demographic history of being home to many Japanese Americans after WWII, then seeing an influx of blacks in the 1960s which is the predominant demographic today. Perhaps Crenshaw gets some of its reputation from the 1991 film, Boyz n the Hood, depicting a tough South Los Angeles neighborhood. Though some of this portrayal rings true, Crenshaw has seen an uptick in property value and a moderate crime rate for the city’s standards. This equates to being alert and smart when traveling to this neighborhood.
Tourist Traps to Avoid
1) Cinerama Dome
Great for a selfie, but little more, the Cinerama Dome is L.A.’s iconic movie theater. Built as a prototype in the 1960s to be a model of the Cinerama process, it is an important piece of L.A. history. Perhaps it’s not that you shouldn’t travel to Cinerama Dome, just keep your expectations at getting a good picture, then check it off your list. It’s difficult to see an actual movie at Cinerama Dome as only one out of three theaters are operating.
2) Dolby Theater
Dolby Theater, which is known for annually hosting the Academy Awards, maybe best left in one’s imagination. Though the theater itself is pretty much as advertised, the surrounding area has a strip-mall vibe that may sour your impression of this otherwise glamorous location. It’s up to you if you’re willing to sacrifice that vision, to be grounded by scenes of every-day American consumerism.
3) Hollywood Walk of Fame
Certainly, there will be some who simply cannot pass up the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Known for the inlaid squares whose names contain famous actors, it is just plain tourist-central. 15 blocks of walking boast more than 2,500 stars; a hefty walk if you have to see all your dream celeb’s names. Maybe this isn’t enough to dissuade you from going, and by all means, then be it.
4) L.A. Live
L.A. Live is an entertainment complex that frequently hosts major headliners for concerts, as well as having the Grammy Museum. Adjacent to the Staples Center and Los Angeles Convention Center, this area certainly gets a fair share of visitors. However, the area can be quite chaotic after a show and has expensive parking. Unless you’ve got your heart set on seeing your favorite musician, or need to check out the Grammy Museum, it’s okay to skip L.A. Live.
Yes, yes, every child in us wants to go to Disneyland. However, have you seen how long those lines are? Or have you heard how expensive the tickets are, let alone anything else you want to buy while in a bubble of so-called magic? If you’re going to go, Google “ways to avoid lines in Disneyland” beforehand. The solution generally equates to paying more money.
6) Pinks Hot Dogs
The hot dogs at Pinks have become famous for their insane toppings, and yes, long waits. Though some people adore these dogs enough to be in line for a half-hour, there are other places to get hot dogs in L.A. Try The Stand, who has multiple locations in the L.A. area and fuses fresh ingredients with their classic dogs.
7) Rodeo Drive
Rodeo Drive does have luxury shopping if that’s your thing. However, the shopping isn’t that comprehensive; it covers a mere three-blocks. And most celebs, unlike the tabloids tell us, aren’t flitting around here. Though it’d be great to bump elbows with George Clooney while getting a latte, he’s most likely at his home in Lake Como, and I don’t blame him.
8) Hollywood Sign Hike
The Hollywood Sign hike is either 6.4 miles, 3.5 miles, or 3 miles. That’s all well and good if you love to hike, but if you love to hike you probably would enjoy the plethora of alternative hiking L.A. has at its fingertips even more. Try an in-city hike such as The Charlie Turner Trail to Mount Hollywood just behind the Hollywood Sign hikes. Bask in a 360-degree view of L.A. to get some perspective.
9) The Hollywood Wax Museum
Wax museums are strange to me all around, but some people love them. The problem is, they exist at every major city: from Paris to L.A. So, you can bet that they define what it means to be a tourist trap: pricey, meant for the pics alone, and overall an experience that could be had at any tourist city.
10) Venice Beach
Venice Beach is kitschy and somewhat predictable. It has all the street performers and small shops you’d expect, as well as being on the beach. However, Venice Beach can be somewhat unsafe at night, as well as being a sub-par beach. If you’re looking for an alternative, try El Matador State Beach or Santa Monica State Beach.
Los Angeles is a vibrant city that bubbles over with creative energy. Beautiful weather, the beach, and American cinema all make L.A. unique. However, being safe and smart are important when traveling to L.A. There is no place that you can’t go when in L.A., but crafting an inspiring, non-risky itinerary is probably the wisest when visiting The City of Angels.