For most people, L.A. is the undisputed entertainment capital of the world; a city that has something in store for everyone. From the Walk of Fame, Universal Studios, and the Hollywood signs through monuments like the Getty and Griffith Observatory to the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica, Malibu, and Venice, L.A. is filled with ultra-popular tourist attractions. But sometimes, you can have even more fun at places that most tourists don’t end up visiting. And L.A. is filled with places like this. In this post, we’ll cover some not-so-popular, unique things to do in Los Angeles.
Creating your itinerary for a city like Los Angeles is never easy with so many things to see and do. So, if you’re looking for some more inspiration, you can always check the new TV-style video series by Cheapoair named ‘Things to do’ created to help you plan your itinerary in different destinations around the world. The first episode is actually dedicated to Los Angeles and you can check it out if you’re looking for some more inspiration for your upcoming trip: https://youtu.be/20GS_MKcLnw.
See the oldest cemetery in town
Starting off this list of unique things to do in Los Angeles, we have the Evergreen Cemetery. Built in 1877, the Evergreen Cemetery is the oldest one in Los Angeles. This cemetery is the final resting place for a lot of actors, musicians, politicians, and everything in between. So, if you want to visit the graves of some of L.A.’s early influential residents, visiting the Evergreen Cemetery would be a great idea.
Another reason to visit is that with over 300,000 interments, Evergreen is one of the world’s largest graveyards.
Visit the Watts Tower
The Watts Towers is a breathtaking collection of 17 interconnected towers and architectural structures. The towers are a designated historic/cultural monument of Los Angeles and one of only nine folk art sites in the area. The towers were built by the Italian immigrant Sabato Rodia. It took them 33 years to build this fascinating construction.
He was remembered for his iconic quote after building the towers: ‘You have to be either good-good or bad-bad to be remembered. You gotta do somethin’ they never got ’em in the world’.
Explore L.A.’s Storybook Houses
In the 1920s and 1930s, a new form of architecture called Storybook architecture emerged in Los Angeles. Even today, there isn’t a specific definition of what makes one building storybook but what all these buildings have in common is the sense of playfulness and odd shapes that look like a clumsy mix of several other architectural styles.
Some of the most famous Storybook houses in L.A. include The Witch’s House of Beverly Hills, Charley Chaplin’s Cottages, The Snow White Cottages, The Hobbit House, etc. If you’re looking for a different experience and unique things to do in Los Angeles, touring L.A.’s Storybook houses is a must.
Check out the Museum Of Death
This quirky museum was opened in 1995 to fill the void in death education in the US. Some of the most popular exhibits in the museum feature the Autopsy Room and the Serial Killer Room. The museum doesn’t have an age limit for visitors because as they say, death affects us all, but they recommend this unusual tour only to mature audiences.
Experience art like nowhere before at Barnsdall Art Park
Barnsdall Park has been the artistic hub of L.A. for years and if you’re looking for unique things to do in Los Angeles, this is one of the first places to consider. If you’re an art lover, you’ll definitely love the gallery theatre at Barnsdall but there are other interesting sights too. One of them is the Hollyhock House (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, one USA’s most influential architects of the 20th century.
If you like to, you can also indulge in some art classes or just enjoy the amazing view of the city you can get at the park.
Take the Secret Stairs Walk
Today, Los Angeles is famous for its notorious traffic but once upon a time, that wasn’t the case. The Secret Stairs Walk is a reminder of that era. City planners at the time designed them as pedestrian routes, more particularly housewives and children, to help them to get down the hill and go to the store or get to their school.
Times have surely changed and these scenic stairs are nothing but a forgotten, relatively unfrequented monument and one of the most picturesque hidden gems in California.
Relax at Descanso Gardens
We’ve all heard about the beautiful Huntington Library and it’s no surprise that it tops most tourists’ lists. But as such, it’s oftentimes crowded which makes the experience a lot less enjoyable (at least for me).
If you want to discover a similar, less touristy version of Huntington, head to Descanso Gardens; a 150-acre botanical garden filled with colorful flowers and beautiful ponds. The perfect choice if you’re looking for a place to take a break from L.A.’s congested streets.
Take a hike
Any hike that doesn’t lead to the Hollywood Sign. For some reason, more than 90% of the tourists that visit Los Angeles, take the Hollywood Sign trek, even though the place is always filled with tourists when other unexplored treks in L.A. such as Palos Verdes, the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Ynes Waterfalls, the Rubio Canyon and many others remain relatively unfrequented.
Eat at 626 Night Market Festival
If you’re looking for a great place to eat in Los Angeles without breaking the bank, head to the 626 Night Market Festival. Here, you can find the craziest edible combinations of food that you can think of. The festival is held 10 times per year, mostly between May and September at San Gabriel Valley, northeast of L.A. If you’re in town this time of the year, I strongly suggest you check it out.
Experience the serenity of Leo Carrillo State Park
Comfortably sitting along the Malibu Coast, the Leo Carillo State Park is one of the most pristine places you can find in Los Angeles. The park is a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and is filled with tide pools and hidden coves that perfectly complement the beautiful, hidden beaches in California.
Enjoying this post? Then make sure to check out our list of weird things to do in Portland.
See the Bradbury Building
When speaking of unique things to do in Los Angeles, we just have to mention the Bradbury Building. This five-story office building is famous for its extraordinary skylit atrium of stairs, walkways, and elevators. In case it looks familiar, it’s because the building has been featured on many movies and TV Shows and it’s actually one of the rare buildings in the USA to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.
See fossils that are more than 45,000-years old
Did you know that there’s a gateway leading to the Ice Age right in the heart of L.A.? This is the only Ice Age excavation site in the world. And as hard as it is to believe, it’s only a mile away from the Grove! The La Brea Tar Pits (natural-occurring tar) are responsible for trapping a lot of animals thousands of years ago.
Today, a lot of these fossils are on display at the La Brea Tar Pit Museum.
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Witness a turtle race
When you think of racing, turtles are probably one of the last things you could think of but at Brenan’s they make it happen. Brenan’s is a pub in Marina del Rey famous for organizing turtle races at the parking lot for over four decades. If you’re looking for something different, it doesn’t get much better than this!
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Get an amazing view at Temescal Gateway Park
Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the densely-wooded trail surrounding Temescal Canyon, this is one of the most amazing viewpoints in the Los Angeles Area. If you like hiking and trekking or other sport-related activities, there are a lot of good facilities around. The best way to reach the park is by renting a car. Just be careful when it comes to the stop signs. They’re photo-enforced and if you don’t stop, you’re looking at $100 fine on your way back.
Sounds interesting? Then you should probably check out my Pacific Highway road trip itinerary.
Try cosmic cocktails at Galaxy’s Edge
If you’re looking for some unique things to do in Los Angeles and are a fan of Star Wars, this is one place you don’t want to miss. Even though technically a part of Orange County, this futuristic theme park that’s located only short drive away from Downtown LA brings the Star Wars Universe to a new level. Stretching across 14 acres, the theme park features some amazing rides, theme-inspired shops, and beautifully designed animations and effects that will make you. Y
ou can choose to follow the dark path and align with the First Order, or join up with the Resistance or just head to Oga’s Cantina for some spicy cosmic cocktails that might make you try to take a drive with the Millennium Falcon.
Get an amazing view at Mount Wilson Observatory
Located atop of the San Gabriel Mountains, the Mount Wilson Observatory offers some of the most jaw-dropping views of Los Angeles and the surrounding area. The only way to reach there is by cab or by renting a car and driving along the scenic winding road that leads to the mountain. The admission is free but to get to the site, you need to buy a Forest Service Adventure Pass because the area is a part of the Angeles National Forest.
If you want to, you can also book an after-dark session on the observatory’s 60-inch telescope.
Take a break at the Lake Shrine
If you like meditating, there’s a garden in the Pacific Palisades for this specific purpose. A lot of locals and tourists come here to get a break from everything, clear their minds, and relax next to Lake Shrine, one of the most popular filming locations during the silent era. The place is maintained by a non-denominational order that welcomes all visitors but doesn’t try to proselytize anyone.
Also read: The best untouristy small towns in Texas
The secrets of Angeles National Forest
With all the tourist attractions mentioned at the beginning of this article, people oftentimes forget just how diverse L.A. is. Sure, the city is more famous for its urban area but the nature surrounding the city shouldn’t be forgotten. The Angeles National Forest hides some of the most beautiful hikes, waterfalls, and forests in the entire country.
So, if you like to get off the beaten path in Los Angeles and go somewhere where not a lot of other tourists go, definitely consider visiting. Whether you just want to enjoy nature, go waterfall chasing, swim in the lakes, or even indulge in adrenaline activities like bungee jumping or paragliding, the Angeles National Forest is the place to be.
Listen to mariachi at Olvera Street
Finally, no list of unique things to do in Los Angeles is complete without a walk around Olvera Street. Here, you can see some live mariachi performers, try delicious Mexican traditional food, see folkloric dances, and visit numerous historic buildings, including the Avila Adobe, the oldest surviving house in Los Angeles.
Helpful resources for visiting Los Angeles
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Finally, if you liked this post, don’t forget to check out our list of hidden places in Sacramento!
Did you ever visit L.A.? Did you like this list of unique things to do in Los Angeles? Which one was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by CheapOair but all thoughts, opinions and typos are my own