Location: Bel Air
A couple minutes' drive from the heart of Beverly Hills, Bel Air has long enticed those who want to live in quiet seclusion at the center of the city. Home to a former President and a Fresh Prince, this most privileged of neighborhoods nestled behind faux gates boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world, including multi-acre properties that have commanded north of $100 million.
Alfred Hitchcock paid considerably less when he bought his home on Bellagio Road in 1942. Elizabeth Taylor found peaceful respite here outside the glare of the spotlight. Both Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe took up residence for long periods at a time at the famous Hotel Bel-Air. And while the ghosts of old Hollywood linger, today this 6.37-square-mile community founded by Alphonzo Bell in 1923 attracts entertainers and entrepreneurs. Real-life royalty is also an actual fixture on the scene: In the mid-1990s, Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei bought the hotel that Hollywood's elite so loved.
IMBIBE. A hotspot for decades, the bar at the Hotel Bel-Air was renovated along with the rest of the pink palace a couple years ago, but it retains its lounge atmosphere where one can still cozy up to the fireplace or enjoy a cigar at a nearby patio.
PERFORM. Open as of last October, The Wallis performing arts center combines an impeccably restored 1933 Italianate structure with a new state-of- the-art 500-seat theater. The current season includes offerings in music, dance, theater, special exhibitions, and family entertainment.
SOURCE. Known throughout Los Angeles and well beyond, The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills stocks an unrivaled selection of artisanal cheeses from around the world, along with an array of hard-to-find epicurean delights.
DRIVE. Bel Air's northern edge butts up against Mulholland Drive, whose more than 20 rambling miles of pavement at the top of the city were constructed in 1924 with the intention of offering scenic views of the surrounding mountains, city, and beach.
FILL. Not many gas stations can be called historic places, but with its brash futuristic form — its swooshing canopy was originally designed for LAX — the Union 76 station at the corner of Crescent Drive and Little Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills is a true icon of midcentury modernism.
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