Los Angeles has a longstanding reputation as a place “to be seen” – a city of movers, shakers and all-night partiers. It should come as no surprise, then, that the LA nightlife scene is world-class.
The sprawling SoCal metropolis is home to no fewer than 1,600 bars, 145 nightclubs, and a mind-bending 24,000 restaurants where travelers can pull up a seat, grab a drink, and partake in the vibrancy LA has to offer.
With so many establishments to choose from, where does a tourist start? Where should you go? And, crucially, what is the State of California doing to keep its LA nightlife safe? This article offers a short guide to the world-famous Los Angeles nightlife.
What to Expect
The LA nightlife scene is a kaleidoscope of contrasts. Ritzy bars purveying $15 cocktails sit alongside low-lit dive bars slinging all-American macro-brews. Historical establishments rub up against voguish pop-up spots. And thrumming nightclubs coexist with kitschy dance bars that evoke Hollywood’s Golden Era.
In short: there’s something for everyone in LA. The first question to ask yourself before you head for a night on the town is, “what am I looking for?” Do you want to rub elbows with the stars or shoot pool with the locals? Do you want a history lesson with your martini, or a four-on-the-floor club beat with your lowball?
Where to Go
Once you’ve determined the “vibe” you’re after, you can start planning your night out. As in most large cities, there are certain districts known for their nightlife and certain areas that tourists should avoid. Here’s where to go in LA:
- West Hollywood is a premier destination for nightclubs, ritzy cocktail bars and rooftop patios with views of the city.
- Venice Beach is a laid-back beach destination by day and a vibrant collection of parties at night.
- Echo Park has long been a prime spot for artists. You’ll find its hip, shaggy atmosphere carried over into the neighborhood’s many dive bars, lounges, comedy clubs and eateries.
- Koreatown is home to a can’t-miss collection of 24-hour restaurants, private karaoke bars and dance clubs. It’s a great place to eat, sing and dance the night away.
- Hollywood needs no introduction; the seat of global entertainment is home to historic bars, theatres and restaurants, as well as “dive-ier” establishments that capture the neighborhood’s grungy, ramshackle charm.
And here are a couple of places to consider avoiding in Los Angeles:
- Central City East, which goes by another popular (yet derogatory) name, currently struggles to manage homelessness. Your avoidance is as much a sign of respect for their privacy as it is a personal precaution.
- South Central LA, including Chesterfield Square, Watts and neighboring Inglewood, is an unfortunate hotspot for gang violence. While tourists are rarely involved in gang violence, most travel advisories recommend visitors avoid these areas, especially at night.
LA also takes steps to ensure the safety of its communities. As of July 1st, 2022, all servers of liquor and their managers are required to complete Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) Training. State-wide, mandatory training, RBS in California works as an effective hedge against alcohol-related incidents, helping keep LA’s nightlife safer. Moreover, it assures patrons that their servers are knowledgeable about the laws, impacts and best practices surrounding alcohol service.
Although California has moved in the right direction with its RBS training requirements, it is still incumbent on visitors to keep themselves safe at night. Staying safe involves exercising the standard mix of common sense and vigilance you use anywhere. It also involves avoiding certain areas (like the ones mentioned above), traveling in groups, and using safe transportation methods to and from establishments.
If you’re traveling to Los Angeles, don’t miss the world-class nightlife. Choose your own adventure in one of the city’s eclectic neighborhoods, keep your wits about you, and rest easier knowing that your alcohol servers will be RBS certified.