The L.A. Times recently asked, “Is Culver City the next N.Y.C.?” At first glance, that question may have elicited a sarcastic, “hmph!” or two. But after a second look, maybe it isn’t that far off base.

For anyone who’s traveled to the city by the city by the sea (C.C. is located just a quick drive from both Marina Del Rey and Venice), Culver City is a delightful haunt. What used to be known just years ago as a gang-banger’s turf-war playground has now become a gentrified land of cuteness and fun.

Old, abandoned warehouses have been transformed into beautiful and sprawling lofts. Trolley cars have given way to sports cars owned by studio execs and publicists looking for a new place to call home. Once-trendy neighborhoods like Los Feliz and Silver Lake (whose rents and egos have gone through the roof) are now losing their best and brightest residents to this quaint little neck of the woods.

According to legend (and, well, historical accounts), Culver City was founded in the early 1900s by developer Harry H. Culver. Culver reportedly told investors at the California Club his plans for building a town on the halfway mark between the intersection of the Story building and the Ocean Front at Venice.

Rail lines soon went up, as did a number of influential businesses. One of the more famous ones was founded by Thomas Ince. His Ince/Triangle Studios would later evolve into Goldwyn Studios, which turned into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and is now Sony Entertainment (10202 W. Washington Blvd.).

The studio system is a cash industry throughout Los Angeles, but it really serves the local economy here. Sony employs approximately 3,000 men and women.

Located just across the street from filmmaking’s headquarters is the scenic downtown area. This gorgeous promenade bears all the amenities of the Grove or Americana at Brand – with one missing ingredient: annoying crowds.

Most nights (despite some construction), traffic flows freely down Washington Boulevard. Pedestrians can take their pick, dining at any number of fun eateries like Fraiche Restaurant (9411 Culver Blvd.) and K-Zo Japanese Restaurant (9240 Culver Blvd.). Both offer the cool trappings of big city fun with a decidedly homespun feel.

For the artistically inclined, there are some cultural offerings here that can’t be matched anywhere else. Take, for instance, Taylor De Cordoba (2660 S. La Cienega Blvd.).

This stylin’ gallery, just south of Venice Boulevard, pimps out the best and the most beautiful from all the finest artists around (Mark Mann’s: Last Resort was a hit here). Taylor DeCordoba has been up and running since 2006 and remains on the cutting edge of the local scene.

Also nearby is the David Gallery (5797 Washington Blvd.). This clever little minx of an art house recently showed the work of 90-something photographer Eve Arnold, who snapped revolutionaries like Malcolm X and Joan Crawford.

Seasonal fun rears its head in Culver City as well. Each year, the Artwalk Music and Arts Festival takes over the city’s streets. Artwalk acts as a celebration of local men and women whose eyes for color, beauty and contrast shape the artistic landscape of this area. Sponsored by Sony Pictures, KCRW and MOCA, Artwalk 2008 will feature the music of the Iguanas (along with other notable talent) while showcasing artists across 40 or so galleries within the vicinity.

For those who like to eat globally while buying locally, there’s a Farmer’s Market every Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Main Street. But unlike other marketplaces, this one feels more like a summer block party than a shopper’s paradise.

Club junkies aren’t left out in the dark, either. Carbon (9300 Venice Blvd.) is one club that wears its heart on its sleeve. On its MySpace page, this spot is quick to point out that it has no pretension and no attitude. That’s a far cry from the overly populated and snooty Hollywood and West Hollywood clubs. DJ Delgado nights here are a must!

There is also a wealth of hidden treasure sprinkled throughout this town as well. One favorite of the college set is Don Antonio’s Restaurant (11755 W. Pico Blvd.).

Ever since Heidi and Spencer ate here on an early episode of “The Hills,” this place has blown up. Each Wednesday, jocks and co-eds can be found scarfing down the Don’s popular $1 tacos. Filled to the brim with your choice of chicken, beef or carne asada, these bad boys don’t disappoint.

Just down the road is Mr. Cecil’s California Ribs (12244 W. Pico Blvd.). For those unsure if heaven exists, you just haven’t tried Cecil’s baby backs.

Juicy meat slides ever-so-gracefully off the bone and into your tummy. And the best part about it is that you won’t spend a lot of dough trying to satisfy your need for feed.

And after all that fun and play, it’s always a good idea to take it down a thousand and give back to the body, mind and spirit. The best way to do so is at Goda Yoga (9711 Washington Blvd.). This wellness haven offers devotees the chance to recharge and relax in a controlled environment.

Sure Culver City isn’t as busy and bustling as Hollywood, and it might not be as breezy and spacey as the beach, but it has a heart and a spirit all its own that is certainly worth the exploration.

Artwalk Culver City 2008 will take place May 31.