Welcome to the City of Angels
With its sunny boulevards and breezy beach scene, Los Angeles has long beckoned starry-eyed, Hollywood hopefuls and business pioneers with their eye on industry. But the City of Angels has also been a beacon for immigrants and refugees hoping to build a better life with their families on the West Coast. With residents from over one hundred nations and communities of countless cultural backgrounds and interests, Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the United States.
Overshadowed only by its East Coast cousin NYC, LA is now the country’s second-largest city. Like many relatives, the two cities share some basic DNA — they’re both coastal giants, film industry titans, and playgrounds for the rich and famous — but they couldn’t be more unalike in other ways. To the Big Apple’s grit, La-La Land has glitz. And NYC’s piles of snow are no match for LA’s miles of palms, swaying tenderly beneath blue skies and the only occasional cloud. But both cities certainly have their hustle, and the LA economy is one of the most powerful in the world. Entertainment, tourism, and big tech are just three of LA’s towering economic pillars, and the combination of creativity and capital here creates a cultural ethos like no other. Los Angeles has mastered the high-style, low-key vibe, and the So-Cal-casual attitude can be almost unsettling at first. But most newcomers find they slip easily into Pacific Time, learning that rushing won’t get you anyplace any faster (only sweatier), and that life just operates a little outside of ordinary on the West Coast.
Learn more about life in Los Angeles below. And check out our guide to Moving to California for more tips on living in the Golden State.
What You Need to Know About Los Angeles
With a population of 3.8 million, Los Angeles is the definitive capital of Southern California. Located in sprawling Los Angeles County — which stretches from Malibu to Mt. Baldy to Long Beach and now contains over 9.7 million people — LA is no monoculture. And with so many cities to choose from, it can be hard to decide which part of LA to call your own.
Far-flung locales like Lancaster in the Antelope Valley offer the remote beauty of the high desert with the conveniences of a mid-size city. Downtown hotspots, on the other hand, like the Historic Core, Little Tokyo and the Arts District highlight the multidimensional benefits of city living. With its class-A high-rises, cultural establishments like The Broad and the Walt Disney Concert Hall and adjacency to the Financial District, the business set favors the downtown area of Bunker Hill. Starting this year, this area will also provide enhanced connectivity to the rest of LA with the opening of the new Metro Regional Connector lines that bring improved light rail service to the heart of the city.
The other hot business district is Playa Vista, an area so close to LAX you could practically walk, if anyone really walked anywhere in Los Angeles. Designed as a self-contained community for the creative tech elite, this Silicon Beach area brings a new level of commitment to the live-work-play lifestyle. Surrounded by greenspaces, restaurants and shops, residents in Play Vista never need to leave the area for any of life’s upscale essentials.
Hollywood is an area that practically speaks for itself — landmarks like The Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame draw a lot of tourists but not a lot of locals, and living in this area doesn’t always rise to the glamour of the silver screen. The real glitz of LA is in places like Beverly Hills and the Miracle Mile, where cosmopolites crowd Museum Row and retail therapists find their bliss at Rodeo Drive’s most exclusive brick-and-mortars. In the nearby Wilshire Corridor — sometimes called the Platinum Mile — luxury condominiums abound, and prices run skyward of $2 million for these coveted bird’s-eye views.
If exclusivity isn’t your jam, Venice Beach may be more your speed. With its laid-back beach vibes, and wonky alleyway apartments, this boho haven has long been a not-so-secret hideaway for celebs, from rockstars like Eric Clapton to Hollywood glitterati like Bradley Cooper and Lisa Bonet. Worlds (and many miles) away from the super-luxe shores of The OC and Newport Beach, Venice still feels approachable to ordinary humans, even if real estate stickers still shock.
Before you move, we encourage you to thoroughly research neighborhoods in Los Angeles to see which location has the right amenities and resources for your family. Consider the area’s commute time, tax rates, cost of living, safety statistics, schools and any other factors that may be relevant to your needs.
High Cost of Living
With all the amenities the city has to offer — amazing climate, diverse career tracks and that big body of water on the west side — it’s not surprising that the cost of living in Los Angeles is one of the highest in the nation. One of the biggest-ticket items is real estate, which compounds LA’s existing strife with housing shortages, urban sprawl, traffic and smog.
Compared to the country’s other metropolitan giants, LA’s real estate prices stand out, dwarfing Houston and Chicago’s rates and not-so-narrowly edging out New York City’s. According to the U.S. Census, the Bayou City’s median home value is only $200,000, and the Windy City’s is $277,600. In the Big Apple, you’ll have to cough up a whopping $660,700 for a single-family home, on average. But in the City of Angels, you’ll pay an unholy $705,900, and you won’t have nearly the square footage to show for it. You might want to sit down and pour yourself a glass of something fortifying before we talk about rent. In LA, you’ll pay an average of $1,641 per month, again out-pricing the big-city competition across the country.
But, surprisingly, compared to other popular cities in the state, LA actually doesn’t look so bad. In San Jose, single-family homes average $986,700 and rents average $2,366. In San Francisco, houses top $1.2 million, on average, and rents cost $2,130 per month. So, if you’re trying to decide where to live in California, LA may be a better bet based on house prices. Or maybe Midwestern winters are starting to sound appealing?
One additional factor to consider is taxes. California’s rates are higher than the national average, including personal income tax, corporate income tax and retail sales tax. According to the Tax Foundation, the Golden State collects the second-highest amount per capita — only Vermont charges more. But California’s tax rates are graduated, distributing the burden more evenly than in other states, and increased tax dollars can mean better public services. Learn more about the tax rates in Los Angeles County.
Please note: We are not tax experts and are not offering tax advice, other than you should consider obtaining additional information and advice from your legal and/or financial advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances.
One of the Largest Economies in the U.S.
When it comes to the workforce, LA’s is one of the most powerful and diverse in the country. The City of Angels is a leader in the Entertainment industry, along with Aerospace, Technology, Tourism, Healthcare/Bioscience and Trade/Transportation. In fact, the Port of Los Angeles is the #1 container port in the country. Another asset of the LA metro area are the universities and colleges. UCLA, Caltech, USC, CalArts, UC-Irvine and Art Center are just some of the area institutions attracting top students and faculty and turning out a highly skilled workforce for the region.
And where do those students go to work in LA? At some of the nation’s most exciting companies and organizations, of course. SpaceX, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the National Institutes of Health, Twentieth Century Fox, 72andSunny and Walt Disney are just a handful of the places you might land your first dream job or the new career you’re moving to LA to find.
If you’re interested in LA’s creative tech scene, check out Playa Vista. This stretch of land was once owned by eccentric business mogul and aviator Howard Hughes, who envisioned the area as an aeronautics hub. Tenants in the 21st-century manifestation of Hughes’ aero-techno-dreamland include some aerospace companies but YouTube, Microsoft, Toms, TMZ, the LA Rams, Samsung and many others have bases here.
Despite its variety of industry strongholds, LA has struggled more intensely with pandemic-induced economic losses, from jobs to capital. For the past 20 years, California has suffered population declines, but LA has lost over 76,000 residents in just the last two years. However, the city has still maintained a net gain since the turn of the century. Unemployment here, in America’s second-largest city, has remained at 4.9% for the past year — obstinately above the national average, which now stands at 3.7%.
But it’s certainly not all bad news. Non-farm employment in LA has increased by 2.2% over the past year, adding nearly 100,000 new jobs in Los Angeles County. Industries like Private Education & Healthcare (+ 50,900), Leisure & Hospitality (+41,300 jobs) and Professional & Business Services (+7,700) saw some of the biggest gains. LA County is also investing in new initiatives to support burgeoning industries like the trillion-dollar Blue economy, which supports sustainable, ocean-based practices, achieve their full potential.
Long Commute Time
Nothing is more legendary in LA — not even the Hollywood stars — than its traffic. Life in La-La Land can feel freakishly relaxed…until you try to get from one part of the city to another. Rush hour is the great leveler, and despite the palm trees and the ocean breeze, you’ll feel exactly like the rest of America during those stalled hours. The average commute time in Los Angeles is now over 31 minutes, and there is no question that this city built around the automobile is still car dependent.
But the good news is that the LA Metro is better than ever. With six rail lines, a new central connector, and dozens of bus lines, public transportation can take you wherever you need to go without ever getting behind the wheel. Even better news? It’s cheap: you’ll only pay $1.75 for a bus or rail ticket, compared to $5 a gallon for gasoline. Electric vehicles are also becoming more common. Charging stations are plentiful in LA, and EVs can be a more climate- and wallet-friendly solution for those who can’t quite quit their cars.
LA is one of the rare cities in America that people will move to specifically for the weather — all other factors be damned. Reliably sunny and mild, LA’s climate is that perfect first date that you never want to end.
But there’s always some trouble in paradise, right? While LA isn’t bothered by tornados or hurricanes, it has seen nightmarish woes of Biblical proportions. Wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides and floods are some of the natural terrors that are occasionally unleashed. Climatic events like El Niños can turn the November-April rainy season quickly into monsoons. And droughts can easily whip the scrubby high desert into blazes.
All of LA’s legendary traffic contributes to the city’s lifelong battle with Smog, a faceless villain who arrives like an unwelcome, chain-smoking houseguest and refuses to leave or even crack a window. You can avoid feeding the beast by riding the Metro. Smog is staunchly anti-public transportation and also loathes California’s strict emission standards.
Before 2023, Angelenos thought of snow as something that happened elsewhere — something you’d look forward to seeing in Tahoe on winter vacation, like your Aunt Martha — but no more. The powerful winter storm that descended in February shut down Interstate 5 and dropped more than 80 inches in the mountains north of the city. Rain fell in torrents in low-lying areas, dumping more than 10 inches in Woodland Hills. Social media captured the collective bewilderment of residents, who felt they had awakened in a Bradburyan dystopia and might not see the sun for another seven years.
Generally speaking, you can count on 292 sunny LA days a year, highs of only 85 F in the city, and lows that rarely drop below 40 F. You’ll have to be able to withstand the dry heat in the mountains, thought, where daytime temps can reach 100°F but get chilly at night.
Living Like an Angeleno
Once you’ve hit the city’s hotspots — Hollywood, Disneyland, Universal Studios and Sunset Boulevard — it’s time to settle into your new hometown. Thankfully, LA is packed with things to do, from surfing to museums to sports. You can catch a game at Dodger Stadium or see one of the other championship-winning teams, like the Rams or the Lakers. Art lovers will want to check out downtown museums and galleries like The Broad or county destinations like the Getty and the LA County Museum of Art.
Griffith Park is a favorite of tourists and residents alike. The historic observatory here and the hiking trails give you great views of the famous Hollywood Sign, but you can also use their public telescopes to check out more remote stars and galaxies. The park also has its own outdoor theater, equestrian trails and a golf course. History buffs will want to check out the Autry Museum of the American West. Children will clamor to go to the LA zoo, where they’ll make fast friends with the uglycute bat-eared fox and the constricting California kingsnake, which you’ll be happy to learn eats mice, rats and even other snakes, including rattlers. Head first. Swallowed whole.
If you really want to feel like a Californian, why not try surfing lessons in Santa Monica? The waters may be chilly, but the waves are just right, even for beginners. And everyone looks at least 25% cooler in a wetsuit. Hang on — you’ve got a little kelp in your hair. Okay, back to the water!
Closer to the city center, Venice Beach has long been one of LA’s most laid-back hangouts. It also helped launched the career of a certain movie star-turned governor. Muscle Beach Venice — the world’s “Home of Bodybuilding” — is where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to train, and you will still find beachgoers pumping iron in the same sands as the Terminator, or as he was known then, the Austrian Oak. The Venice Boardwalk offers classic beachside diversions for mere mortals — souvenir shops, cafes and a killer skatepark. While you’re in Venice Beach, indulging the delights of the Madonna earworm-inducing La Isla Bonita will be worth every chord they will lodge in your interior jukebox. You will pray that the tacos last — they went so fast! — your food truck lullaby.
If you’re looking for an only-in-LA kind of destination, head to the Velaslavasay Panorama in Union Square. Located in the historic Union Theatre, this unusual art space is 360° of immersive wonder. It currently features a collaborative panorama of a historical Chinese landscape along with the “Nova Tuskhut,” an arctic environment, and gorgeous (and real) gardens in the back.
For more quirky LA fun, visit Randyland’s Phantasma Gloria, an imaginative installation by set designer Randlett Lawrence, who transformed his yard into an art destination with little more than bottles of colored water.
LA is world-renowned for its food, from Michelin-starred restaurants like Citrin to impossibly delicious street food. International specialties abound in Chinatown and Little Tokyo and Boyle Heights.
The best way to start your day in LA is at Tartine. With five locations across the city, this California bakery empire has risen to flakey, buttery glory in the City of Angels. This is the definitive spot for croissants, tea cakes and earthen loaves of wonder, and the perfect place for a lunch respite after a day of shopping or gallery-hopping.
In the restaurant-rich Arts District, you’ll find West Coast-inflected Mexican fare at Damian, like the Lobster al Pastor, which served with pineapple butter, or the geoduck clams — a colossal species native to the Pacific — accompanied by ikura (red caviar), pico and spicy habaneros.
In the Historic Core, you can come as you are to the cheeky Indian restaurant, Badmaash (which translates to badass), where the food is unapologetically bold, from the Punjabi Fish Fry, punched up with paprika, carom seed and mango dust or the totally insane Channa Masala Poutine, which you might eventually burn off if you walk from LA to Canada.
Start Planning Your Move to Los Angeles
All set to move to LA? Mayflower’s trusted team of movers is here to help you relocate to the City of Angels. Whether you’re moving locally or long-distance, Mayflower can help simplify your move to Los Angeles. When you move with Mayflower, the Mayflower Move Portal will keep all the details about your upcoming move organized and at the ready.
Moving cross-country to Los Angeles? Mayflower’s long-distance movers will help you move to LA from anywhere in the country. Our agents can provide full-service moving services and custom moving packages for Los Angeles, which can include packing and unpacking, car shipping, debris removal, storage and more services.
Moving locally to LA? Mayflower can also help you with local moves/movers in Los Angeles and the state of California. Our Los Angeles Movers perform local moves in California independently under their own brands and business names.
Making a DIY move to Los Angeles? Use Mayflower’s helpful moving checklists and packing tips to help you stay on track.
Still not sure where to move to California? Check out Mayflower’s Moving Guide to California to learn about popular cities, the hottest attractions and local tips on living in the Golden State.