Many complain about driving in L.A., but when certain streets show up on your Google Maps directions, you can't help but get a pang of excitement. These are streets that you deep down really want to take for any number of reasons, be it their beauty, their curves, their lack of traffic or their fascinating streetscape.
We at L.A. Weekly came up our favorites — the streets that just make driving in L.A. a little less of a drag.
Wells Drive is one of the San Fernando Valley's prettiest ragtop-down neighborhood touring routes, winding through woodsy and well-groomed South of the Boulevard communities dotted with new mansions and midcentury homesteads (or, in the vernacular, tear-downs). One evening the cars backed up and drivers gawked as a rarely seen mother mallard waddled across the road with four ducklings in tow, evidence not of a secret fresh-running brook in arid Los Angeles but of a flyover ecosystem tied together by ornate bubbling fountains and low-chem swimming pools. Think Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer, and you'll go all soft for Wells Drive. —Jill Stewart
Randy Newman calls out Sixth Street (albeit ironically) in his famous pseu-ode, “I Love L.A.,” but driving down that thruway makes us feel it — sincerely. Sixth Street is one of the essential east-west shortcuts in the city, taking you from San Vicente, just west of LACMA, all the way downtown far faster than Wilshire or even the 10 can do (at least during rush hour). Along the way you ogle the stately mansions in Hancock Park to your left and right, and before you know it, the tree lines fall away and you’re quietly spying on Koreatown’s urban bustle. Just when you’re feeling ultra-metropolitan, you slip into Westlake with MacArthur Park on your right, which bestows a momentary glimpse of greenery. If you’re so inclined, you can end your drive with a French dip from Cole’s — found downtown on the very road you’re driving. Can you think of reason not to? We never can. —Ali Trachta
At a length of 22 miles, Sunset Boulevard cuts across much of L.A.’s history and geography and winds through disparate cultures and neighborhoods from Echo Park to Pacific Palisades, including the Star Mapped constellations of Hollywood and Beverly Hills. But driving on Sunset is also a palpably physical, exhilarating sensation when you’re flung through its long, round curves in a fast car as if out of a slingshot. It can also be dangerous. In addition to the sharp, descending curve near UCLA that inspired the Jan & Dean song “Dead Man’s Curve,” there are several perilously sloping sections in Bel-Air, Beverly Hills and Pacific Palisades. Sunset officially begins at Figueroa Street, although it originally extended farther east to Olvera Street before that section was renamed Cesar Chavez Avenue in 1994. After slicing west through the bright lights of Hollywood and wending its way over the hills of the Westside, Sunset dies like its namesake with a spectacular finish by the ocean at Pacific Coast Highway. —Falling James
Turnbull Canyon Road
Turnbull Canyon Road takes the baton from East L.A.’s Beverly Boulevard (which shouldn’t be confused with the street of the same name in West Hollywood) and continues onward, quickly rising above Whittier and slipping through the hills of its namesake canyon. The area is popular with hikers, dog walkers and bikers, especially on weekends, and the drive is a sylvan Eastside idyll before finishing anticlimactically in the City of Industry. The canyon is rumored to be populated by ghosts, satanic zombies and assorted murderers, but that seems a small price to pay to swing your sweet chariot low through such flowery meadows and shrub-shrouded hillsides. —Falling James
Pacific Coast Highway
PCH would be on this list for its ocean views alone, and its curves are what make it damn fun to drive. But it also allows you to reflect on certain examples of L.A. ridiculousness, such as the unexplainably crowded parking lots at overpriced tourist traps, the randomness of the all-alone American Apparel at No. 18820 and the eerie glow emanating from Nobu that taunts those of us who can't afford it. It’s no wonder Jerry Seinfeld has been known to drive one of his vintage sports cars to Malibu Kitchen early in the morning. If you had all the money in the world, what else would you do? —Zachary Pincus-Roth
Attempt to drive from Alhambra or San Gabriel into basically any part of Pasadena, and you'll find yourself heading due north along any number of tree-shrouded streets that cross through the rolling hills of San Marino, a city full of wide, quiet thoroughfares lined with vast estates. Instead of taking the more direct routes, such as Los Robles and Oak Knoll (both of which are often plagued by stop-sign backup), try the locals-only back road of Virginia, which requires a few twists and turns to stay on but takes you through shady glens that feel worlds away from L.A. From Huntington Drive, Virginia Road goes around Lacey Park, winds right under a mossy bridge and past opulent acred homes with Greek statue guardians before connecting with Oak Grove, where rumor has it Old Hollywood used to live in European-style elegance. A block up the way and Oak Grove spits you out at the tip of South Lake, where you'll drive forth into Pasadena with a re-energized sense of zen. —Sarah Bennett
Monterey Pass Road
There are more celebrated thoroughfares in East L.A. than Monterey Pass Road. Valley Boulevard is longer. Soto Street has more punk-rock history. And Whittier Boulevard isn’t just a street, it’s a classic anthem by Thee Midniters and the birthplace of lowriding, as well as part of El Camino Real. But humble, industrial Monterey Pass Road is important in its own way. It works as a vital shortcut from East L.A. to Alhambra and South Pasadena by connecting with Fremont Avenue. Think of it as the phantom limb that carries on for the 710 freeway, which doesn’t go all the way to Pasadena despite Caltrans’ controversial ongoing attempts to extend it. —Falling James
Riverside Drive in Burbank
When the 134 through Burbank is jammed (and it usually is), a leisurely detour along the residential stretch of Riverside Drive that runs between Victory Boulevard and Disney Studios is one of our favorite ways to cheat the traffic gods. Lined with trees, bike paths and modest but well-maintained midcentury homes, the street curves past the Los Angeles Equestrian Center — and yes, horseback riding on side streets and in the bike paths is permitted, so keep an eye out for riders. On Fridays, you’ll also likely be sharing the road with a few Studebakers and Chevy Bel Airs — a bit further west on Riverside, just past Warner Bros. Studios, you’ll arrive at the Burbank Bob’s Big Boy, where classic car enthusiasts congregate every Friday night to show off their vintage wheels. At the right time of early evening, with the sun slanting through the sycamores, it’s like driving through a Polaroid of 1950s Los Angeles. —Andy Hermann
Pacific Coast Highway may be L.A.'s most famous coast-hugging thoroughfare, but along Long Beach's south-facing beaches, it's Ocean Boulevard that grabs the waterfront views. From its eastern terminus at the San Gabriel River in a residential part of tony Belmont Shore, to its conversion into the San Pedro–bound succession of port-crossing bridges at the mouth of the Los Angeles River, Ocean Boulevard is a breezy ride through the contradictory landscapes of one of L.A.'s oldest seaside communities. Cruise past Granada Beach, where windsurfers take advantage of the curving coast, through Bluff Park, where massive historic Craftsmans line the street's north side and a green belt of a park hovers 30 feet above the sand on the south, past Bixby Park, which marks the move into a high-density neighborhood of oceanfront apartments, and finally through urban downtown Long Beach, where visitors from downtown L.A. used to land for a weekend at the Pike after a quick trip down on the Pacific Electric Red Cars. Along the way, check out the serene yet industrial ocean views of the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary and the THUMS oil islands, which are drills cleverly disguised to look like tropical oases. —Sarah Bennett
Venice Boulevard through Mid-City
Sunset Boulevard is L.A.’s crown jewel of asphalt, and Wilshire Boulevard is its history in high-rises. But Venice Boulevard is our working beltline, the street where all the magic, most of it unglamorous and void of any Hollywood connections, happens. On some evenings it seems to take half of L.A. from the lower Westside through what we call the Oaxacan corridor to Pico-Union and other inner-city bedroom communities for dishwashers and nannies. It’s not the prettiest roadway, but its six-lane, tree-lined, aspirational expanse through Mid-City is a bittersweet reminder of a city’s unrealized ambitions. —Dennis Romero
134 West through Eagle Rock
As you travel west along the 134 freeway from Pasadena into Glendale, you pass the quiet, mostly residential neighborhood of Eagle Rock. Except you don’t so much pass it as soar over it, along a stretch of freeway carved into a hillside high above Eagle Rock’s sleepy streets. From up here, you can take in a spectacular view of the downtown skyline to the south, framed by the hills of Highland Park and Mount Washington. Getting stuck in traffic with such a vista wouldn’t be so bad — but for some reason, this westbound stretch of the 134 has the added benefit of rarely being congested. —Andy Hermann
Angeles Crest Highway
Angeles Crest Highway is a roller-coaster thrill ride that whisks you above Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge and twirls you around the sides of the San Gabriel Mountains until you’re at a height of nearly 8,000 feet above the L.A. Basin. The highway splits off from the 210 in La Cañada, but suburbia soon is replaced by the somber granite faces of steep mountainsides. The dusty brown, mottled desert shrubbery of the lower elevations eventually morphs into an alpine wonderland of towering green pine trees, whose spiky tips puncture the achingly clear and windswept blue skies. In winter, a carpet of snow layers the higher elevations, up and over Dawson Saddle and all the way to the mountain hideaway Wrightwood. Needless to say, the sweeping views are dramatic around practically every bend of the two-lane road. —Falling James
See all the streets on this Google map:
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