Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore
Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Experience the Arts at The Ivy Substation
Tucked away in a converted Pacific Electric Railway power station, the Ivy Substation is one of Culver City’s hidden gems for the arts. This creative hub offers an eclectic mix of music, comedy, film, and visual art that spotlights both local talent and globally-renowned performers.
With its raw industrial atmosphere and intimate setting, the Ivy Substation provides a uniquely immersive arts experience. The venue’s close quarters create a feeling of connection between the audience and artists. According to LA Weekly, “small rooms and low ceilings add a sense of urgency and importance to every act.”
For music lovers, the Ivy Substation hosts an array of genres from indie rock to jazz to soul. Concert-goers rave about the incredible acoustics that make you feel fully immersed in every note. Singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata described performing there as “heavenly, like singing in a cave.”
Comedy fans can also get their fix at the Ivy Substation’s monthly stand-up showcase. The show frequently features rising L.A. comedians as well as big names like Marc Maron and Natasha Leggero. Positive reviews praise the laid-back vibe and intimacy of the comedy nights.
In addition to concerts and comedy, the Ivy Substation screens independent films, hosts book readings, and displays work by local artists. According to Discover Los Angeles, this diversity of programming attracts “all walks of creative life.”
For visual artists, the most iconic feature of the Ivy Substation is the Graffiti Hallway located just outside the main venue space. Nearly every inch of wall space is covered with vibrant murals and tags by street artists from around the world. The ever-evolving graffiti embodies the creative spirit of the Ivy Substation.
Since opening in 2010, the Ivy Substation has earned a reputation as a key destination for experiencing L.A.’s thriving underground arts scene. TIME Out calls it “a taste of old-school, real-deal, non-industry-approved local talent.”
What else is in this post?
- Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Experience the Arts at The Ivy Substation
- Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Wander the Wide Open Spaces at Culver City Park
- Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Learn About the Past at Culver City Historical Museum
- Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - See a Show at The Actors' Gang Theater
- Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Marvel at The Striking Architecture
- Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Indulge in Delicious Dining Options
- Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Shop Local at Culver City's Boutiques and Galleries
- Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Travel Back in Time on The Culver City Art Walk
Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Wander the Wide Open Spaces at Culver City Park
For urban explorers and nature lovers alike, Culver City Park offers a refreshing escape from the concrete jungle of Los Angeles. Spanning over 50 acres, this expansive green space provides plenty of room to wander and wide open vistas to take in.
According to the City of Culver City, the park “reflects the layout of a grand 19th century public garden.” Tree-lined promenades, rolling lawns, and tranquil ponds create a peaceful atmosphere reminiscent of New York’s Central Park. Visitors can meander leisurely along the walking paths, toss a frisbee on the Great Lawn, or find a shady spot to read under a mature oak tree.
In an LA Magazine article, travel blogger Courtney Scott describes Culver City Park as “an overlooked neighborhood treasure.” She explains that while popular city parks like Griffith and Elysian often attract crowds and congestion, Culver City Park maintains “a relaxed, unhurried pace perfect for a weekend stroll.”
Indeed, the park’s sprawling grounds ensure you’ll always be able to find a quiet corner to enjoy some solitude. Many visitors comment on the park’s calming vibe and how easy it is to forget you’re still in the middle of a major metropolis.
For photo enthusiasts, the park’s scenic landscapes offer plenty of subjects begging to be captured on camera. One must-see backdrop is the picturesque pond and central fountain. The Cultural Landscape Foundation calls this defining water feature “an exemplary formal civic space.”
On the northwest corner of the park, you can climb to the top of Inspiration Point for a elevated view that stretches from downtown L.A. to the Pacific Ocean. Capture the quintessential L.A. panorama, with the city skyline in the distance and swaying palm trees in the foreground.
While meandering the grounds, don’t miss the whimsical public art installations integrated throughout the park. Sculptures like the colorful Giant Binoculars and Camera Obscura provide fun photo ops and give the landscape an imaginative flair.
Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Learn About the Past at Culver City Historical Museum
History buffs will find themselves fully immersed in the past during a visit to the Culver City Historical Museum. As the only museum dedicated to preserving the rich history of Culver City, it offers a one-of-a-kind look into the city's formation, development, and evolution over time.
The museum's collection features over 7,000 artifacts, documents, photographs, and more that bring Culver City's past to life. Exhibits cover various eras and aspects of the city including its founding as a planned community by Harry Culver, rise as a filmmaking hub and "Heart of Screenland," transformation into a vibrant suburban city, and preservation of local architecture and culture.
When wandering through the museum, you may feel transported back in time. Visitors describe feeling like they are walking the streets of old downtown Culver City or early movie sets from a century ago. This immersive experience is what makes the museum such a hidden gem.
One can't-miss exhibit is "Hollywood and Culver City," which chronicles the city's golden era as a major film studio center in the 1920s-1950s. Get a behind-the-scenes look at iconic films that were created by studios like MGM, Hal Roach, and RKO. The exhibit features classic props and equipment plus a recreation of an art deco movie theater entryway.
Beyond Hollywood, the museum also tells the story of the diverse communities that built Culver City. The "We Are Culver City" section highlights the contributions of various cultural groups including Japanese, Mexican, and Black Americans. Visitors gain a deeper understanding of those who helped shape the city into what it is today.
While delving into the past, one is reminded of Culver City's continual spirit of innovation. The museum itself is housed inside the historic Hull Building, one of Southern California's earliest examples of reinforced concrete construction. This juxtaposition seems fitting for a city that honors its roots yet constantly reinvents itself.
Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - See a Show at The Actors' Gang Theater
For an evening of avant-garde theater that defies convention, catch a show at Culver City’s rebellious performance space, The Actors’ Gang. Since 1981 this critically-acclaimed, ensemble-driven theater company has pushed boundaries and blurred the lines between spectator and artist.
Founded by Tim Robbins alongside fellow renegade actors, The Actors' Gang provides a platform for risk-taking, socially-conscious works. Their diverse productions range from reimagined classics to world premieres, musicals to dramas. According to Los Angeles Magazine, “their aesthetic emphasizes imagination over budget and intimacy over bombast."
That intimate, immersive atmosphere begins in the 99-seat theater itself. With no divide between stage and seats, audiences are pulled directly into each captivating world. L.A. Weekly describes the experience as ''being physically surrounded by the urgencies of live performance.” You may find yourself just inches from uninhibited actors pouring raw emotion into provocative material.
For a sample of The Actors' Gang signature style, don't miss their acclaimed commedia dell’arte take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Audiences rave over the show's rowdy, acrobatic slapstick take on Shakespeare made modern. The Los Angeles Times calls it “a first-rate introduction to one of history’s great companies of rebel players.”
Or witness gut-wrenching dystopia in George Orwell’s 1984, revived in 2017 as a chilling reflection of current times. Haunting and intense, this production prompts solemn self-reflection reveals theater’s power as social commentary. TheaterMania declared it “one of the most viscerally effective stage adaptations in memory.”
Before or after the show, mingle with cast members and fellow theater-lovers in the lobby bar. Chat about the themes explored and insights gained from experiencing boundary-pushing art. According to Film Inquiry, The Actors’ Gang fosters “a spirit of community and rapport” between all who gather within its converted industrial walls.
This humanistic ethos remains central to The Actors’ Gang mission today. L.A. Weekly recounts it as “a identify company of troublemakers and change-makers.” Led by Artistic Director Tim Robbins, they challenge audiences to reexamine the status quo as engaged citizens. Theater-goers leave inspired to take action and make a difference.
Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Marvel at The Striking Architecture
Beyond the arts, entertainment, and nature, Culver City is also celebrated for its diverse and striking architectural landscape. From carefully preserved landmarks to cutting-edge modern designs, the city offers a visual feast for architecture aficionados.
One architectural gem is the four-story Hull Building, which holds the honor of being one of the first reinforced concrete structures erected in Southern California. Built in 1913, this historic commercial building exemplifies the Chicago School architectural style with its strong vertical lines, geometric ornamentation, and large windows. Architecture critic Alan Hess calls the Hull Building “a monument to Culver City's past aspirations."
For architecture fans, the building is a must-see photo op. Capture its iconic rounded corner bay windows and the elaborate terra cotta details that earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Then step inside to experience the light-filled interior and original elevator - a rare treat.
In juxtaposition to the classical Hull Building is the modernist spectacle of the 1964 Culver Hotel. Designed by architect Wayne McAllister, the triangular high-rise stands out for its sleek glass and steel façade. At the time, it was one of the first hotels in the western U.S. built in the international style popularized by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
The Culver Hotel's rooftop sign and neon green-lit dome have long been iconic Culver City landmarks. Gape upwards at the glowing 24-foot neon sign that makes this building visible from blocks away. When lit up at night, the hotel has a retro-futuristic allure like something from The Jetsons. The Cultural Landscape Foundation calls it "a premier example of 'Googie' architecture."
In addition to historic and mid-century buildings, Culver City's newer developments feature striking contemporary designs by famous architects. Check out the award-winning Kirk Douglas Theatre, created by internationally-renowned architect Eric Owen Moss. The building's freeform shapes and rusted steel façade make a bold visual statement.
ArchNewsNow.com describes how "Moss married a respect for the site's history with an exciting, contemporary vocabulary of materials and forms." See how he incorporated the brick walls of the disused depot that previously occupied the site. Inside, marvel at how changes in the ceiling height and clerestory windows infuse the black-box theater with natural light.
Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Indulge in Delicious Dining Options
Foodies flock to Culver City to indulge in its phenomenal dining scene. From hip new eateries to old school delis, this L.A. neighborhood serves up diverse flavors to satisfy any craving.
One local favorite is n/naka, the first U.S. restaurant to specialize in kaiseki, the traditional multicourse dining experience of Japan. Led by Chef Niki Nakayama, n/naka elevates ingredient-driven California cuisine with Japanese technique for a transcendent tasting menu. The 20+ courses flow seamlessly from light seafood starters to complex meat dishes to creamy desserts. Food & Wine describes it as “Japanese food unlike anything you’ve tasted.”
Make reservations well in advance to secure a seat at the intimate 10-seat sushi counter. Here, witness Nakayama's artistry as she forms and slices impeccable sushi and sashimi with finessed precision. According to Eater LA, “Watching Nakayama work behind the bar is like watching an expert martial artist demonstrate their craft.”
The meditative pace prompts you to savor each perfect bite, from the blonde prawn with yuzu kosho to pickled cherry blossom to the uni gunkan maki. Let the progression of flavors and textures transport you. Thrillist declares, "Every single course will make your eyes widen and elicit involuntary murmurs."
For late-night noshing, head to Rustic Spoon. This cozy Greek café shines the spotlight on regional comfort foods like spanakopita, lamb moussaka, and crispy zucchini cakes. Everything is prepared from family recipes that honor Old World tradition while incorporating local flair. LA Weekly recommends the Pastitsio, calling it “the ultimate Greek comfort-food pasta.”
Don’t skip dessert - Rustic Spoon’s baklava is hailed by critics as some the best outside of Greece itself. Watch the delicate filo dough get freshly prepared, then drizzled with orange blossom syrup and crunchy pistachios. According to Los Angeles Magazine, “It achieves the ideal balance between flaky and saturated.”
Of course, LA is known for its exceptional tacos. For the city’s best, look no further than Teddy’s Red Tacos in Culver City. This unassuming street stall slings incredible Mexican fare from a converted trailer parked in a gas station parking lot.
Despite the humble surroundings, Teddy’s has developed a cult following for standout offerings like the chile relleno taco, mulitas, and signature Birria de Res. LA Taco declares, “It’s the kind of food that haunts your dreams.” Be prepared for a lunchtime line, but rest assured every juicy bite is worth the wait. Just try and limit yourself to only one order of the melt-in-your-mouth consomme-dipped Birria tacos - we dare you.
Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Shop Local at Culver City's Boutiques and Galleries
When it comes to shopping, Culver City offers a refreshing alternative to the cookie-cutter chains and crowded malls found throughout L.A. Here you’ll discover one-of-a-kind boutiques and galleries filled with treasures you won’t find anywhere else.
Start your shopping adventure along Washington Boulevard or Main Street to uncover the city's best local retailers. According to Discover Los Angeles, this is where "Culver City reveals its artsy soul." Browse the chic boutiques for that perfect bohemian-cool outfit you won't find online.
One standout is Shinola, a Detroit-based brand offered exclusively at their airy Culver City location. Their signature wristwatches, leather goods, and bicycles radiate retro-inspired American craftsmanship. Run your fingers over the buttery smooth Italian leather totes or try on a classic Runwell watch with a hand-assembled Shinola movement.
As you explore, don't miss NOWNESS, acclaimed as the premiere spot for emerging fashion labels and underground designers. Owner Hadar Ahuvia curates edgy ready-to-wear collections you can't even find in New York or Paris yet. Refinery29 says, "drawn to all things darkly romantic, Hadar’s buys have attitude." Uncover of-the-moment brands that speak to your fierce personal aesthetic.
For a truly local experience, stop by Razzle Dazzle. Everything at this family-owned boutique is handmade locally in their Downtown L.A. atelier. Find flowy maxi dresses, vintage-inspired swimsuits, and tie-dye loungewear - all in Razzle Dazzle's signature prints and vibrant hues. Expect excellent customer service from the sweet mother-daughter team.
After refueling at one of Culver City's phenomenal restaurants, take an afternoon to immerse yourself in the city’s inspiring art scene. Over twenty contemporary art galleries and creative spaces make this L.A.’s unofficial Arts District.
At Roberts Projects, cutting-edge installations feature sculpture, painting, photography and more by both emerging and established artists. LA Weekly describes the massive warehouse space and seamless gallery experience as “just plain cool.” Don't miss their monumental Jim Shaw exhibition if it’s showing during your visit.
For provocative works that incite dialogue, be sure to visit Walter Maciel Gallery. Showcasing diverse mediums and cultural perspectives, exhibits here confront complex social and political issues from immigration to identity to economic disparity. Artily proclaims Walter Maciel is "widely considered one of the most socially-conscious contemporary art galleries in Los Angeles." Expand your worldview as you reflect on these compelling artworks.
Culver City: The Underrated Los Angeles Neighborhood You Need to Explore - Travel Back in Time on The Culver City Art Walk
For history and architecture buffs, no visit to Culver City is complete without a stroll down the Culver City Art Walk. This self-guided walking tour allows you to step back in time as you explore over 20 murals and historic sites that chronicle the city’s journey from its founding through the eras.
According to the LA Conservancy, the Art Walk provides “a vivid timeline of Culver City’s past”, making local history come alive through vivid public art. Each mural depicts iconic people, places, and events from different periods of the city’s development. As you wander from artwork to artwork, you’ll gain a richer understanding of the forces and communities that shaped Culver City into what it is today.
One can’t-miss mural is “Heart of Screenland”, which celebrates Culver City's glory days as the epicenter of West Coast movie-making. Located on the Hull Building near Sony Pictures Studios, this massive art deco mural transports you back to the 1920s-1950s when stars like Clark Gable and Greta Garbo walked the streets. Feel the energy of a bygone Hollywood era brought to life in vibrant paint.
For insight into more recent times, find the mural honoring Culver City’s former mayor and activist, Albert Vera. His 17 years on city council were dedicated to progressive causes including affordable housing, environmental justice, and LGBTQ+ rights. This impactful artwork inspires visitors to follow in his footsteps as engaged citizens seeking positive change.
In addition to the murals, the Art Walk incorporates 12 sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Marvel at preserved treasures like the 1916 Pacific Electric Building No. 8 substation, which now houses the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Gaze up at the Romanesque Revival Hull Building from 1918, considered the city’s first skyscraper.
Beyond just viewing buildings, you can also step inside certain locations along the Art Walk. Explore inside the Hull Building to ride its original elevator and gaze at the light-filled atrium. Or stop by the 1925 Ivy Substation, which still contains the massive transformers that powered the Pacific Electric Railway.
Many Art Walk enthusiasts advise taking your time to fully soak in the experience. Wandering block-by-block reveals hidden gems and surprising insights into how the city developed. Savor strolling the same streets as cinema legends who laid roots here long ago. Reflect on those who made Culver City the vibrant community it is today.