As the second-largest city in the United States, Los Angeles is a land of possibility and excitement. But it can also be a bit intimidating to newcomers since it's home to over 100 neighborhoods, four million residents, and a booming economy.

To help make your transition to the City of Angels less stressful, we've compiled a list of 20 things you should know about this city. After all, it's not just palm trees, Hollywood, and lounging in Malibu.

1. The city isn't big; it's huge.

map comparing Los Angeles city limits to Manhattan
Los Angeles covers a much bigger area than Manhattan. | Image credit: Kopa

Los Angeles covers 502.7 square miles, including 469 square miles of land and 34 square miles of water. To gain some perspective on the massiveness of this city, compare the area of LA to that of other cities. New York City covers 305 square miles of land, Manhattan specifically covers 22.8, Chicago covers 227, and San Francisco covers 47.

2. Los Angeles County is different than the city of Los Angeles.

Comparison of size of Los Angeles county to the city
The red area is the city of Los Angeles. | Image credit: Nathan Holmes 

While you may think that Santa Monica and Beverly Hills are part of Los Angeles, they’re not. Both of these places, along with Culver City, Marina Del Rey, and more, are independent cities located in Los Angeles County.

Los Angeles County not only contains the city of LA, but also additional cities and unincorporated areas. Therefore, it's easy to enter and exit the city without realizing you're doing so.

3. It's helpful to learn the area's regions.

Map with regions of Los Angeles County
Los Angeles is easier to manage when you break it up. | Image credit: LA Times

Since LA has more than 100 neighborhoods, it's nearly impossible to learn them all. But, it's easier to learn and remember the regions of the city. When you learn the regions, you can mentally separate the metropolitan area into areas including the San Fernando Valley, Central LA, and the South Bay. Next time someone mentions a neighborhood or restaurant you're unfamiliar with, ask what region it's located in to get a better understanding of its location.

While people debate the exact boundaries of these regions, the Los Angeles Times put together a map that people generally agree on.

4. Not everyone follows a 9 to 5 schedule.

Laptop on coffeeshop table
You'll see lots of people working on their laptops in coffee shops in LA. | Photo credit: Andrew Neel

Since a portion of Angelenos work in the entertainment industry, you'll witness plenty of people grocery shopping at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday and working on the weekend. Writers, actors, and other people in the industry often work for weeks at a time and then have a break to do what they please. Freelancing is also common in Los Angeles, so you'll encounter people typing on their laptops at all hours of the day.

With that said, plenty of people operate on a Monday-Friday, 9-5 schedule, as evidenced by the traffic jams during commuting hours.

5. Hollywood is different than West Hollywood.

Tourists in Hollywood
This is a a common sight in Hollywood but not in West Hollywood. | Photo credit: Mike McBey

Hollywood is a neighborhood within the city of Los Angeles, while West Hollywood is its own city. Hollywood mixes residential streets, tourists flocking to the walk of fame, and lots of production studios. West Hollywood is known for its vibrant gay nightlife and the Sunset Strip.

6. Cars are helpful ... and hated.

Traffic on highways in LA
Traffic in and around LA is not joke. | Photo credit: Prayitno

The truth is, owning a car makes it a lot easier to get around the city. But the thing is, you’re not the only person who recognizes this.

Cars flood the interstates during both morning and evening rush hour, and traffic jams are part of Angelenos' everyday lives. In fact, over 150,000 people spend over an hour and a half on their commute to work.

While your commute might be shorter, it's a good idea to find a gripping audiobook or podcast and accept that you cannot change how fast traffic moves.

7. It can take a while to learn the freeway numbers.

Highway signs for 110 in Los Angeles
You'll have lots of numbers to learn.  | Photo credit: Ken Lund

While freeways in Los Angeles have names like Hollywood and Glendale, people refer to them by their numbers. There's the 5, 105, 405, 605, 60, and many more. And remember to put "the" in front of the number. It's not just 5 – it's the 5.

Don't get discouraged if it takes you a while to memorize all the freeways. Before long you'll be able to say "I took the 10 to the 110 to the 101" and sound just like SNL's skit of "The Californians" (2013).

8. Public transportation is improving, but it still has a ways to go.

LA Metro bus in downtown LA
LA buses sometimes arrive late...or not at all. | Photo credit: Olenka Kotyk

The LA Metro system is made up of two subway lines, four light rail lines, and lots of bus lines. Train stations are spread out, so people frequently walk or drive to a station, ride the train, and then walk to their final destination.

Another issue with public transit? Buses and trains are often delayed, which makes it risky to blindly rely on Metro schedules. Metro improvements are in the works, but that doesn't necessarily mean more people will take advantage of public transportation. When people don't want to drive nor rely on public transportation, they turn to Uber, Lyft, scooters, and bikes.

9. The weather is pleasant, but not always hot.

Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles
Sunny days are perfect for spending time at Manhattan Beach. | Photo credit: Hendrik Cornelissen

Get ready to spend plenty of days soaking in the Southern California sun, because it rarely rains from May through September. However, don't expect super hot days, since summer high temperatures are usually in the low 80s.

The winters in LA bring rain, but temperatures rarely dip below 50ºF. That said, don't expect to walk around in flip flops and shorts year-round.

10. Yes, you can find a laid-back vibe.

LA resident with casual outfit
This is a normal, everyday outfit in many LA offices. | Photo credit: Marlon Silva

Los Angeles has a relaxed vibe that people in NYC dream of as they power-walk down Fifth Avenue in a suit and tie. In LA, it's often acceptable to arrive at even formal events late, and it's normal to show up to the office in jeans and a t-shirt.

11. Downtown Los Angeles has changed for the better.

The Broad Museum in Downtown LA
The Broad is a highlight of Downtown. | Photo credit: Tu Tram Pham

While DTLA used to be a lifeless area, things have changed in recent years with the construction of The Broad, Grand Park, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, and more.

It's easy to spend a day downtown exploring the Japanese American National Museum, shopping in The Santee Alley, or perusing well-worn books and records at The Last Bookstore. And don't worry about going hungry – you can find ramen, ice cream, vegan dishes, and more.

12. Like sports? You're in luck.

Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles
Catch a game at Dodger Stadium. | Photo credit: Henry Paul

The city is home to teams for all of the major league sports. Los Angeles has two NBA, MLB, and NFL, MLS, and NHL teams, so don't expect the whole city to be rooting for a single team. You'll find some people are diehard Dodgers fans while others pledge their baseball loyalty to the Angels.

13. It's a great place to people watch.

Venice Beach in Los Angeles
Venice Beach is a great place to see all kinds of people. | Photo credit: Travis Yewell

Los Angeles is home to all kinds of people as well as plenty of tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrity. While there are endless things to do in LA, there's nothing quite like a good people-watching session.

Pack a picnic and head to the Venice Beach boardwalk to watch street performers, DJs, rollerbladers, body-builders, amused tourists, and more.

14. People might not walk much, but they do hike.

Girl hiking with dog to Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles
Hike up to the Hollywood sign. | Photo credit: Roberto Nickson

Even though people don't walk on the sidewalks like New Yorkers, they often head to the hills to hike. Some popular destinations for hiking and trail running include Runyon Canyon Park and Griffith Park.

15. Make sure to try the street food.

Nachos from LA street food truck
Don't underestimate street nachos. | Photo credit: Mika

There's no shortage of good eats in LA, and you can find lots of delicious bites right on the street. While the city didn't legalize street food until 2018, vendors were churning out hot dogs, tacos, and street corn long before then.

You can spend a year in Los Angeles eating a different dish each week, and you'll still have plenty of great food to try.

16. Choose your neighborhood carefully.

Map of LA neighborhoods
LA neighborhoods vary in location, vibe, and rent price. | Image credit: Los Angeles Almanac

Since LA is so spread out, you'll likely be spending a lot of time where you live. While it's a smart idea to choose a place close to where you work, you should also make sure you like the area you call home.

Enjoy spending your evenings looking at eclectic art and sipping a latte in a hip coffee shop? Look at Silver Lake or Echo Park. If you want to spend your time hitting the trails, consider Los Feliz at the base of Griffith Park. Looking for tall buildings and an active nightlife? Try Koreatown or Downtown LA.

No matter what you're looking for, Los Angeles has a neighborhood for you. Just make sure to do your research about the cost of real estate in the area as well as your commute time.

17. The cost of living is lower than in other California cities, but it's still high.

Chart showing median rent across top US cities
LA is the 7th most expensive city to live in the United States.

While it's cheaper to rent and live in LA than it is in San Jose and San Francisco, it's still more expensive to live in LA than in most US cities. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is around $2,170 per month, but that rate can drastically vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.

18. The farmers' markets have amazing produce.

LA farmers market
Farmers' markets are the place for fresh produce. | Photo credit: Anna Preble

Los Angeles is home to a plethora of farmers' markets where you can find fresh produce, beautiful bouquets of flowers, delectable pastries, and more. The climate in Southern California is prime for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olives, so make sure you take advantage of the local bounty – especially the olive oil and citrus.

19. It's diverse.

chart showing LA residents breakdown of race and ethnicity
Data credit: US Census

It's estimated that Los Angeles has a population of over four million. The city's residents are diverse in race, age, and ethnicity, and more than 37% of residents were born in another county.

20. Not everyone works in entertainment.

people in film industry
This isn't every LA resident's office. | Photo credit: Avel Chuklanov

Sure, Los Angeles is home to Hollywood, Fox Studio Lot, The Studios at Paramount, and other entertainment workplaces. However, the majority of residents work in industries such as healthcare, food services, and trade. So don't dismiss moving to LA just because you have no desire to become a star.

Head to LA with confidence

Go ahead, move to Los Angeles with your head held high. While the city may be known for celebrities and Hollywood, the truth is that everyone can find a place in the city to call home.

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