My wife and I are coming out to So Cal in mid march for 3 nights on a short vacation. We're planning a move to the area in the next couple years and will be renting a car and driving around west LA, the valley, and newport/huntington beach on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to check out different neighborhoods. We have a significant amount of latitude regarding where we'll settle as we can work from home and plan on renting a smaller apartment/home (in the $2500-$3000 range). Although I realize that a car is a necessity in So Cal, we're looking at areas that are at least fairly walkable.
My questions is although we'll be driving around all during the day, can someone recommend a particular hotel either in LA or OC that has some good walkable stuff nearby (restaurants, shopping, beach, whatever) that we can check out in the evening and at night? The areas where we're really concentrating our search are Manhattan/Redondo, Huntingtonon/Newport, and possibly some areas of the valley (studio city, North Hollywood, Burbank) so I'd prefer a hotel in one of those areas if possible. Our budget is around $200-$250/night.
Anyone else make the journey to the LA metro area and have any suggestions about what they wish they'd seen/done before moving? I've been to So cal a few times, but never for this purpose. We're planning on visiting 3-4 times before me make the move.
Thanks for your help!