Magnolia Bakery; photo courtesy of West Third Street Business Association

As a regular visitor to car-obsessed Los Angeles, I’ve been challenged to find pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods to explore besides West Hollywood. So I was thrilled to discover the West Third Street neighborhood, a retail and dining district located in a convenient spot near the downtown.

West Third Street spans a prime location in Beverly Hills, marked by the massive indoor Beverly Center mall, a shopper’s paradise known for its upscale specialty shops. Walking east from the Beverly Center for several blocks brings you directly to the famous Grove outdoor shops and adjacent popular Farmers Market.

The latter two feature a wide array of shops, major retailers, and a vast assortment of restaurants, food stands and bistros of nearly every cuisine. (Note: You will not go hungry, nor will you be less than five minutes from an Apple store at any given time.)

In-between these two landmarks is West Third Street, a busy thoroughfare lined with cafes, restaurants and salons, along with an appealing assortment of cool specialty stores offering everything from gourmet food and chocolates to supplies and accessories for painting and sewing.

I found West Third Street to be authentic and welcoming, without the pretentiousness often associated with all things Hollywood. Boutique and restaurant owners greet you warmly, while chefs regularly visit their dining rooms to chat with guests and offer suggestions. In the boutiques, many of the designers have their cutting rooms in the back of the store. Throughout the year, the neighborhood businesses also host special events and sales for shoppers, creating a fun, go-with-the-flow vibe that encourages strolling, sipping, tasting and mingling.

Farmers Market; photo courtesy of market

As one who lives to travel, I had to stop in the Traveler’s Bookcase. An independent bookshop featuring hundreds of titles, the shop also offers a variety of accessories for your next jaunt. With owners who have journeyed around the world, (and love sharing their experiences with customers), it’s a joy to peruse the shelves, and dream about your next adventure.

During my exploring, I made time to try several tasty restaurants, including Doughboys, where I devoured scrumptious flaxseed blueberry pancakes; Joan’s on Third, which has delightful cappuccinos, gourmet sandwiches and people-watching; and Toast, a corner hotspot open for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Nearly all the eateries along West Third open early, have lively, outdoor seating areas and maintain late hours, even during the week.

For my home base, I chose The Orlando, not just because the famous Magnolia Bakery is directly across the street. The Orlando is in the middle of all the action, with recently renovated rooms and a popular restaurant, The Churchill. The rooftop pool offered the perfect place to unwind aprés-shopping and before heading out again to happy hour.

For future visits, I’ll definitely return to West Third to see what’s new, and I’ll be sure to pack my (California-style) walking shoes.