If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop destination for eats, drinks, and nurturing the creative spirit, look no further than the NoHo Arts District. As a designated neighborhood within North Hollywood, it is considered a uniquely walkable cultural hub within the San Fernando Valley.
At about 1.5 square miles, the district’s general markers run from Chandler Avenue to the north, Cahuenga Boulevard to the east, Tujunga Avenue to the west, and Camarillo Street to the south. The major cross streets are Lankershim and Magnolia Boulevards, which in the last two decades have emerged as the intersection of an ever-evolving vibrant urban community filled with small theaters, arts-related activities and classes, restaurants and bars, apartments, and mixed-use buildings.
And while the community does have a hip, Millennial, bohemian vibe, it’s a place for all ages as evidenced by a unique senior living community, the Noho Senior Arts Colony, which houses the state-of-the-art second location for the award-winning The Road Theatre Company.
To take a walking tour of the district, begin at the historic Lankershim Train Depot, located at Chandler and Lankershim, adjacent to the Metro Orange Line, and across the street from the Metro Red Line North Hollywood Station Built in 1896, the Depot is a registered State Historic Site and one of the oldest landmarks in Los Angeles. Beginning in 1911 it was used as a transportation line for the agricultural industry and stayed operational until 1952.
After standing unused for decades, it underwent a revitalization project and re-opened in 2017 as Groundwork Coffee. The original one-story wood structure was kept architecturally intact, complete with the original Southern Pacific sign, paint color, and exterior patio. The rustic interior houses art-filled walls, a counter, kitchen, and seating areas with Wi-Fi.
Take the crosswalk across Lankershim to the Metro Red Line North Hollywood station, marked by an orange, yellow, and avocado-hued clamshell. Opened in 2000 along with the Universal City station, it extended the Downtown L.A. subway to the San Fernando Valley. The Orange Line, which opened in 2005, increased the connection further to the West Valley. Each station on the Metro is filled with artwork representing individual respective communities. The walls at the NoHo station consists of 4,000 square feet of tiles hand painted by artist Anne Marie Karlsen. The theme is “The California Dream” with the kaleidoscope images in vibrant colors representing the area’s history as orange and peach growers.
Head south on Lankershim and walk towards Magnolia. On the east side of the street is the NoHo Commons, an enormous mixed-use complex with apartments and fast-casual eateries. Ahead you’ll spot a contemporary glass building—home to the The Art Institute of California-Hollywood, with educational programs ranging from design, fashion, visual arts, marketing, media arts, and culinary arts.
At Weddington Avenue, turn to your left and you’ll spot whimsical, dynamic 8-foot high characters spanning an enormous expanse of the Lofts at NoHo Commons. Titled “Freedom Boulevard,” the mural was created by French artist Thierry Noir, who spent three months painting the building. He is best known for painting cartoon-like figures on the Berlin Wall before it was torn down in 1989.
Stroll a bit further to the Laemmle NoHo 7 multiplex where movie buffs will enjoy taking in the latest blockbusters and independent films. Next you’ll stumble upon a small train car. Originally opened in the 1920s as Phil’s Diner just a few blocks away, it was moved to its current location where it was cleaned up and reopened in 2011—only to close again and finally reopen in its current iteration as Paleo Diner Healthy Kitchen.
Here you’ll be standing at Academy Way, home of the Television Academy and the Saban Media Center. Wander around the exterior, known as Emmy Plaza, notable for its impressive 27-foot Emmy Award statue and the Hall of Fame Garden filled with bronze sculptures celebrating legendary actors, executives, and television journalists. Don’t miss Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz positioned on the steps.
Eating and drinking options are plentiful on this part of Lankershim. Across the street is The Federal, the very popular bar built in a former 1920s bank building. The Federal serves lunch and dinner, along with weekend brunch, fun cocktails, and nightly entertainment.
On the next block sits the iconic El Portal Theatre that opened as a 1,400-seat vaudeville house in 1926. Part of entertainment history was made by the vaudeville shows, silent movies, and Academy Award-winning films that were featured within the Spanish Revival Renaissance Style building. The venue is now split into three theatres: Studio Theatre (the permanent home of Stuart Rogers’ Theatre Tribe); the 99-seat Monroe Forum Theatre, now occupied by ComedySportz improv; and the 360-seat Debbie Reynolds MainStage. It’s also home to the Judith Kaufman Art Gallery, featuring many of Los Angeles’ top visual artists.
Adding quirky raucousness to the block is Tokyo Delve’s, a Japanese restaurant and sushi bar that opened in 1986 and is best known for sake bombs, dancing sushi chefs, and lip syncing servers who stand on chairs and dance for special occasions.
Anchoring the end of the block is Pitfire Artisan Pizza. THe large red building with an expansive patio reigns as a major gathering spot on the northwest corner of Magnolia and Lankershim, serving wood-fired personal pizza, pasta, and seasonal options, along with beer and wine. On various nights, trivia, comedy, and music hold court.
Other nearby hot spots on Lankershim include:
- Vicious Dogs – a fast-casual fix for some of the best dogs this side of Chicago
- The District – industrial style pub with street patio seating for drinks, eats, and a 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. happy hour
- Joe’s Coffee – rich brew and tea, fresh pastries, and decadent waffles
- City Kitchen Café – serving breakfast all day, as well as lunch and dinner options
- Chill Rollz – mixed and hand-rolled ice cream
- Greenhouse Juice Bar – the second outpost following The Original Farmer’s Market, great for healthy choices including fresh pressed juice, smoothies, acai bowls, wraps, and house-made ginger beer.
On the southeast side of Lankershim is the long-standing stalwart, The Eclectic, a full-service bar and restaurant serving weekend brunch, lunch, and dinner. Walking further south among mixed-use buildings, find a quick bite at Pizza Press, Pho NoHo, or Dog Haus for sausages, burgers, and fried chicken sandwiches, in addition to hot dogs.
East of Lankershim, the north side of Magnolia is composed of mixed-use buildings and apartments lined with service businesses and eateries such as Cream NoHo, which scoops ice cream into specialty sandwiches sweetly constructed with cookies, waffles, brownies, and do’sants (donut/croissant).
Spumante, an established white-tablecloth Italian restaurant with a warm, refined ambience amidst art-filled walls, celebrated 20 years in Studio City before relocating to NoHo ten years ago with owners Joe and Cathy Salas still at the helm. Just a couple doors down, Rodini Park Greek Kitchen is a fast casual spot that serves up Greek specialties and savory pies, and also houses a bakery counter specializing in cheesecakes.
The south side of the street is filled with side-by-side eateries— many with street patio seating. You could literally spend all day from morning to late evening on this small block alone.
Start off your day at EAT, a cozy breakfast/lunch spot with indoor and patio seating, and a menu that includes some outrageous pancakes.
Check into Republic of Pie, a comfy coffeehouse that’s designed like a giant living room specializing in sweet and savory pies, as well as breakfast items and sandwiches. It’s perfect for daytime studies until open mic or music starts toward sundown.
A couple doors down, find The Fat Dog with a beer garden vibe that makes it an automatic favorite Sunday brunch and happy hour hangout (starting at $3), especially with creative cocktails by mixologist Matthew Biancaniello. It’s the second location for this industrial gastropub that is also open for lunch.
Step into the hidden tropical patio at Kahuna Tiki and you’ll instantly feel Hawaiian vibes with weekly luaus, Aloha Happy Hours, and an Asian fusion/sushi menu.
Move on to some competitive fun at The Brickyard (sibling of the Hollywood original) with 150 beers and pub games such as billiards, darts, beer pong, and shuffleboard. Other eclectic options include Tamashii Ramen, Earth Juicery, Gala Thai, and Philadelphia Sandwiches, a mom n’ pop family run joint known for their Philly Cheesesteaks—a local fixture since 1980.
There are about 20 theatres currently in the Noho Arts District, the largest number within one square mile outside of New York City. Notable venues on Lankershim include the aforementioned El Portal, as well as TU Studios, Actors Workout, The Road Theatre (now housed in the Lankershim Arts Center, along with the Art Director’s Guild Gallery 500), Theatre 68, Crown Theater, Acme Comedy Theater, Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, and the Avery Schreiber Playhouse.
Over on Magnolia Boulevard, find The Secret Rose, The Sherry, Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, Cupcake Theater, and Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre. A couple blocks down Vineland at Burbank is the acclaimed The Group Rep at The Lonny Chapman Theatre.
The end of 2017 brought an exciting new arts complex to Lankershim with the opening of the WACO Theater Center and Richard Lawson Studios. Merging theater and art, the founders are fashion designer Tina Knowles-Lawson, and her husband, actor-master teacher, Richard Lawson. The Advisory Board includes Tina Knowles-Lawson’s daughters, Beyoncé and Solange Knowles, and Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child.
Aspiring actors have a range of classes with varying theories in the Noho Arts District, including: Actors Workout Studio, Stuart Rogers Studios at the El Portal, Stanislavski Studio LA, Richard Lawson Studios, Seven Pillars, Chris Fields Acting Studio, Young Actors Studio, Actors Improv Studio, and Gray Studios.
With the famed Millennium Dance Complex moved to Studio City, professional and advance level dancers flock to Movement Lifestyle Dance Studio on Weddington for an urban, global dance experience that also includes yoga and meditation.
Nearby, all levels are welcome at Luscious Maven Pole Dancing with classes ranging from pole to exotic dance and burlesque, incorporating stretching, yoga and Pilates.
LivArt Dance School is dedicated to kids beginning at age 3 divided by age group and levels teaching hip-hop, ballet, tap, and jazz. And just a few doors down the street on Magnolia, White Heat Yoga offers yoga, pilates, stretch, and sculpting classes—all with heat.
Across the street, going south on Lankershim, is the flagship Xtreme Martial Arts (XMA) headquarters, with classes from age 3 to adult, incorporating a fusion of martial arts styles combined with performing arts and acrobatics.
Although the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio is located a few blocks outside the NoHo Arts District perimeter, it must be included for the legacy of the late star and her significant influence in the Valley arts community. Opened in 1979, celebrities, professional dancers, and non-professionals (ages 17 and above) have taken classes in every genre of dance from ballet to hip-hop, and it remains a top studio today.
Small shops and services are interspersed between the numerous eateries and bars. Noteworthy stops on Lankershim include:
- Blastoff Comics – a comic book and animation collector’s dream
- Animalia NoHo – upscale boutique with most pet necessities
- Ascent Cycles – full-service Trek Bicycles dealer, carrying mountain, road, hybrid, electric and kid’s bikes, as well as apparel, parts and accessories
- Iguana Vintage – just a few blocks further, the vintage clothes playground.
On Magnolia, east of Lankershim (on the block filled with bars and eateries), check out retro fashions at Kathy E. Boutique. Don’t miss the opportunity to peruse Practical Props, a set designers favorite, filled with a unique selection of new, vintage, and reproductions of decorative lighting—and they do repairs as well.
A favorite destination for make-up artists and cosmetic junkies is Nigel’s Beauty Emporium, located on Magnolia just west of Lankershim. At 7,000 square feet, it’s a virtual amusement park filled with an extensive inventory of products from top lines to FX makeup and wigs—Nigel’s offers workshops as well.
For creative hair services, make a beeline to The Local Salon on Lankershim, just a couple doors north of Magnolia, where unicorn colors, retro looks, and Deva cuts are styled with flair. And for those who are inspired and spontaneous, consider some body art from Holistic Tattoo.