Rodeo Drive is one of those immediately recognizable L.A. locations that is used in every other film or television establishing shot once our fair hero arrives in SoCal, and is on every tourist’s agenda. It’s where Julia Roberts got a makeover in Pretty Woman, and was one of the backdrops for the drama of the kids of “Beverly Hills, 90210” (is it weird I can’t think of another legitimate reference not from the 90’s?). It’s the face of the entire city of Beverly Hills, especially considering you’re probably not cool enough to get into so much of the rest of the town’s more scenic areas, hidden behind private gates.
But of course it’s more than just a street, or a particular strip of high-end stores. It’s a neighborhood filled with palm trees, small art galleries and contemporary architecture; a meeting place for locals on their lunch break. During a weekend afternoon the sidewalks overflow with those who just want to say they’ve been there and barely enter a single store. On a weekday night it nearly empties out entirely, with many stores closing at 5 or 6, creating a modern ghost town, with only a lit-up semi-bustling restaurant every block or two to remind you that yes, people do live around here, too.
I’ll admit, I’m decidedly low-brow in my consumption of local hot spots, and have never bought anything there besides cupcakes (lots and lots of cupcakes). It’s one of the few tourist venues I know of that has surprisingly ample free parking, but I always take the 720 bus anyhow. There isn’t much history to be found here (aside from a couple of the old hotels now under new names and a few shops, much of the Rodeo Drive shopping center as we know it came to be in the 70’s). But it’s a highly walkable neighborhood to bring visiting friends to on bright, sunny afternoons – those afternoons where the streets are flooded with people, gawking and shopping, from all walks of life and all parts of the world, making up a little microcosm of multicultural Los Angeles itself.
Check out the rest of the L.A.’s Greatest Landmarks series here.