Canter's, Canter's, Canter's. Pastrami Reuben for great justice. Sarah can tell you which stuff to buy at the bakery (or maybe she already did?).
Universal is pretty fun but if the lines for their (very few) rides are short there's only about a half-day of stuff to do. Luckily it's about half the price of Disneyland, so it works out. I don't even know if they still have the studio tour, but if you go it's worth doing, both for the cheesiness of the commentary (a friend used to do it; every tour guide is a) an aspiring actor and b) encouraged to come up with their own script of corny jokes) and--if it's the same as the last time I did it--the almost-unbelievable lack of relevance to the current film/TV industry: "This bridge was used in The Dukes of Hazzard S02E04 when the Duke Boys faked a landslide to get away from Roscoe!" And then two pieces of lumber shift slightly, which is how they had landslides back in the early 80s.
Also, and I don't know if you need the pep talk: No matter what you think of it, Disneyland is way more fun than you think. I took a very very very resistant ex there once for her first time; we got through the tunnel at the entrance, she stopped, took it in (sights included a horse-drawn carriage, a live brass band, Main Street, the Matterhorn, scads of happy people being happy but not in an annoying way), kind of sighed in a deflated manner, straightened up, and said, "Okay." I've never seen someone's expectations change so utterly so fast. An hour later she started talking about getting annual passes. Also, you have to get a churro, it's kind of the law. Well, my law. Also, you should eat at Bruxie
. The one listed in "Olde Towne Orange" [sic] is not far away.
I know Hollywood and the Valley better than what Marc's already mentioned on the West Side, so I won't add much to it. You should maybe try to get to a Dodgers game too, it's a sweet ballpark if you're into that sort of thing.
These are the areas in Hollywood I'd recommend exploring on foot:
Note the circle in the lower right, that's the lovely Wiltern Theatre
, a very nicely restored Art Deco auditorium. See who's playing when you're there and catch a show. It's easy to find, since my dad (who grew up in LA) tediously told me many times, it's a combination of "Wilshire" and "Western", which it sits on the corner of. LATE EDIT: I just realized I circled the wrong intersection. Sorry dad.
I would demand you go to The Comedy Store, but I've never been either. And everyone probably should regardless of where they live or if they're even alive right now.
I'd try to recommend neighborhoods to scout for living in, but what I like may well be radically different. Traffic being what it is (and keep in mind I'm a maniac about this) you're better off picking a place to live that's close to work. If there are any geographical or road deficiencies (hills, I-5 inexplicably narrows to 3 lanes for half a mile just short of downtown when driving north, all drivers there are more or less insane, hey is that a shoe on the side of the road I better get out and look, it's raining, it just rained, it could possibly rain in the future, it's dark, high-speed chase, it's bright, low-speed chase, why is a guy pushing a shopping cart in the fast lane, hey is that a hovercraft/Arnold/Kobe/three guys in a trench coat wrestling an alligator, Harvey Keitel throwing shade
) it's probably best to leave two hours early and find a coffee shop you like near work.
That being said, if you're not planning on working in LA proper, check out Redondo/Hermosa/Manhattan Beach and particularly Long Beach. Cheap(er than LA), close to the water (in southern California that means summer is 15-20 degrees cooler), undergoing a cultural renaissance, still close to both LA and OC (which matters to me but likely not to you). Some friends of mine lived at Broadway and Pine in LB for a while, it's a pretty nice little functional walkable downtown, particularly for the LA area, which is so car-based they've made movies
about it. A lot of friends live/have lived in this area (below) for years, it's pretty mellow and suburban but close to everything (downtown, stuff to do, freeways to get out to do other stuff) and sanely priced for California. Final endorsement: If I ever moved back south, I would probably end up in Long Beach over LA or OC.
One last thing, I looked at this old thread
and it appears my Google Earth placemarks are no more, and I don't have a backup. If you really want to dork out in San Clemente checking out all the locations I can redo them.