The home of UCLA, Westwood has the energy and international flavor of its youthful and diverse student population. It’s also a major center of commerce, with luxurious high rise apartments and office buildings running the length of Wilshire Boulevard. Some of the most opulent single-family homes in Los Angeles can be found in its Holmby Hills Estates neighborhood, including the famous Playboy Mansion. At the heart of this community is Westwood Village, founded in 1929. Its shops, theaters and restaurants have kept the small-town feel of the original neighborhood, though glossy office towers and penthouses now surround it. The village is a central meeting place for students and tourists and a destination for moviegoers, who flock to the beautiful vintage theaters, sites of many world premiers. A notable Westwood Village attraction is the Armand Hammer museum, renowned for its world-class collections of Impressionist and Modern art. A remarkably varied group of ethnic restaurants cater to a diverse student population. The Wilshire Corridor, a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard that houses some of the most luxurious condominiums in the city, appeals to empty nesters and well-to-do professionals. Corridor living includes 24-hour concierge service and upscale amenities. Both charter and public schools are well reviewed by the community, and there are many private schools within easy driving distance. The borders of Westwood are Sunset Boulevard to the north and Olympic Boulevard to the south, with Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards running through the center. All are major traffic routes. The architecture is a pleasing retro blend of Art Deco, Mediterranean revival and modern. Close by are Brentwood, Beverly Hills/Bel-Air and Century City, all with their own vibrant shopping and dining centers. There is extensive local bus service to the area, along with plans to extend the new Purple Line subway and add lanes to the 405 freeway to ease travel time to and from Westwood.
As an area, Westwood can be defined by several standout attractions, one of which is Westwood Village, a cross section of streets that boasts a great variety of restaurants and shops. Head east on Wilshire Boulevard to Westwood Boulevard where you may turn left to drive down the Village’s main drag and survey the scene. Located just south of the UCLA campus, Westwood Village is a series of streets and avenues that contain more than 90 eateries and nearly a dozen theaters.
Westwood’s theaters have been the site of film premiers since the 1930s and continue to roll out the red carpet for big budget blockbusters as well as smaller independent films. Mann Village Theater has recently premiered films starring current Hollywood mainstays like Denzel Washington and Johnny Depp and is the same theater that previewed Billy Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot” in 1959. Wilder’s comedy classic starred Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemon, and Tony Curtis and was one of the director’s most famous works.
The Hammer Museum in Westwood, which features a wide range of art exhibits as well musical performances, opened the Billy Wilder Theater in 2006 in honor of the legendary film maker who was also a Westwood resident. The Hammer is located just outside Westwood Village at the corner of Westwood and Wilshire (see its website for tours and exhibit information).
The various shops and restaurants in Westwood are also fun to explore. Shoe, clothing, and accessory chains such as DSW and Urban Outfitters are in residence, as well as smaller boutiques. Restaurants in Westwood Village run the gamut from the affordable Mexican food chain Baja Fresh, and the college student favorite Bella Pita, to the restaurant du jour EuroChow – this neighborhood has an eatery to please every palette and pocketbook.
To catch a glimpse of some prime Westwood real estate, drive east from Westwood Village to Wilshire Boulevard where you will find a two mile stretch with luxury apartments stacked to the sky. Called the “Millionaire Mile”, the average price of an apartment in these swanky high rises is a cool one million dollars (hence the area’s title).
Paying respect to a favorite film star from years gone by is also possible in Westwood, as it is the home of the Pierce Brothers Memorial Park cemetery, where many Hollywood legends are laid to rest. The grave sites of Marilyn Monroe, Donna Reed, George C. Scott, and Truman Capote can all be found at Pierce Brothers. Located on Glendon Avenue, this cemetery is just blocks from the Village theaters where many starlets and actors attended premiers decades ago. Do note that the entrance to Pierce Brothers can be accessed only from Glendon Avenue (Wilshire Boulevard does not provide access).
A hybrid of Hollywood history and modern commerce, Westwood reveals yet another unique corner of the City of Angels.
9 things to do in Westwood
There’s a rock star-level roster of art hanging out in plain sight on the UCLA campus in the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden. With works by Miro, Matisse, Rodin, Arp, Lachaise, Zuñiga, this five-acre sculpture garden is a treasure trove of art—70 pieces in all—and it’s one of the most impressive outdoor sculpture collections in the U.S. Group tours of the garden are available through the Hammer Museum, or take a self-guided one.
Contemporary artworks representing cultures from all over the globe are the focus at this gem of a museum tucked away on UCLA’s sprawling campus. From animal figurine collections to Tibetan Buddhist prints to illustrated ethnographies—pretty much every exhibit here is guaranteed to teach you at least one thing about the world you didn’t know before.
Read a book or find your favorite flower on the rolling hills of UCLA’s Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens, a beautiful collection of gardens on the southeast corner of campus. Tip: the self-guided tour is fascinating—you’ll see specimens straight out of a botanical fantasy, including a dragon tree from the Canary Islands in the desert section and weeping myrtles from Western Australia.
Opened in 1931 and host to decades of premieres, this single-screen movie theater is easily Westwood Village’s most iconic structure thanks to its 170-foot-tall Spanish Mission-style tower and its neon Art Deco “Fox” sign. Along with the Bruin Theater across the street, the auditorium currently operates as a Regency Theatres location.
Forget Forest Lawn (and Hollywood Forever). Some of the biggest A-listers are buried in the relatively tiny Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park. Visit and pay your respects to the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, Natalie Wood, Roy Orbison, Jack Lemmon—the list goes on.
Named for American philosopher Josiah Royce, UCLA’s grand 1,800-seat theater has a history of legendary performances that dates back to the 1930s, when Jimmy Dorsey’s Band, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and Arnold Schoenberg graced the stage. The stellar jazz lineup reflects the diversity and scholarship of the current scene, which has hosted everyone from Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer to David Sedaris. Take in the Romanesque architecture that makes this one of the more elegant places in the city to absorb jazz.
The Westside’s most glittery theatrical venue is home to a good-sized main stage, the Gil Cates Theater, and the cozier Skirball Kenis Theater. The company offers a mix of new work and local premieres, frequently with big-name—though sometimes second-tier—Hollywood talent.