Hidden gems and unusual things to do in Los Angeles that you won’t find in most tourist guides

I always say that LA is like that introverted friend that takes time to open up but once it does, it will inevitably inspire you with its magic. Sure, the City of Angels has a lot of must-see sights that everyone wants to see. The first thing most people do is heading to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, visiting Universal Studios or Disneyland, etc. but this city also has a lot of under-the-radar sights that can satisfy even the more experienced travelers that want to avoid the famous, cliche tourist sights and get off the beaten path in Los Angeles. That’s why millions of people love it and keep coming for more; because it that something in store for everyone. However, in this article, we’ll focus on hidden gems in Los Angeles and places that remain under most tourists’ radar. Let’s start!

Hike The Bridge to Nowhere

Bridge to NowherePhoto by A Syn CC by 2.0

If you’re looking for a one-day trip from L.A. a hike to the Bridge to Nowhere is a must. Halfway along the hike, you’ll come across this huge, apocalyptic bridge in the middle of nowhere. However, what you might not know is that this bridge was a vital link on the road to Wrightwood but the horrible floods of 1938 sunk the road, leaving this bridge in the middle of nowhere. Seeing such a big bridge in the middle of nowhere it’s an interesting sight and a place where you can take some interesting photos but the hike to San Gabriel is also a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I bet you didn’t think that you could come across such sheep mountain wilderness only 40 miles out of L.A.

However, if you want to get here, keep in mind that there aren’t a lot of transport options and the best way to get here is probably by renting a car.

The Shakespeare Bridge

Shakespeare BridgePhoto by Daniel E. Romero CC by 3.0

If you’re driving down Franklin Avenue, a seemingly average and ordinary part of town, around six miles away from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, you’ll inevitably notice this gothic bridge out of nowhere. I accidentally ended up here trying to find my way to the Los Feliz Theatre but this quickly became my favorite route. This architectural marble is probably one of the least-visited Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments, mainly due to its remote location. However, if you want to see something different and a place that will make you feel like you’re not in LA anymore, make sure to put Shakespeare Bridge on your list.

The Sunken City

los angeles coastPhoto by Zzyzx CC by 3.0

A landslide in 1929 made an entire neighborhood tumble into the ocean. During this time, the land was moving 11 inches a day! Today, the only thing that remains of this once-exclusive neighborhood are the broken foundations of houses and remnants of some of the owner’s vehicles. Locals refer to this part of town as the Sunken City, others know it as the Atlantis of L.A. and it has even been featured in several movies and TV shows.

The Old Zoo

Old Zoo hidden gems in los angeles

The old abandoned zoo is a great example of old things finding a new use. The zoo was abandoned in 1966 and has since turned into one of the locals’ favorite picnic spots. You can explore the old, now covered-with-graffiti-cages, and even go in and see how it would feel like to see all the people wandering around from the animals’ perspective. Being located behind the local hiking trail, the zoo is located in Griffith Park but a bit difficult to find, which is probably the main reason why only a few tourists end up here.

Museum Of Neon Art

Museum of Neon Art

Even if you’re not a big museum fan, I’m sure you’ll like this one-of-a-kind museum. As the name suggests, this museum focuses on art produced by neon. Some examples include the iconic Brown Derby rooftop sign, the roadside-Americana neon signs, etc. The museum has its permanent collection but in addition to this, the museum also organizes night-time bus tours of historic neon sights in Glendale.

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St. Basil’s Catholic Church

St. Basil's Catholic?Church los angelesPhoto by Cbl62 CC by 3.0

Brutalist architecture was never really a thing in the US and there are only a handful of brutalist architecture buildings in the whole country. St. Basil’s Church on Wilshire Boulevard is one of seven churches in the whole country that has a brutalist facade. The church was built in 1969 and is a combination of 12 80-feet-tall, angular towers separated by irregular shafts of stained glass.

The church has a fort-like composition inspired by the early monastic buildings from the 3rd century when churches often served as a place of refuge. Either way, St. Basil is one of the most interesting architecture gems in Los Angeles, and one you should definitely visit if you’re looking for a different experience.

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A video game art gallery

iam8bit hidden gems in los angeles

If you like discovering unusual art galleries while you travel, you’ll love iam8bit. Inside this ‘gallery’, you won’t find the things you’d expect to find in an average art gallery. Instead, you can see some of the world’s most famous video games exhibits, as well as other important geek icons and exhibits. For more information, you can get a detailed schedule and see some of the exhibits on their website. The gallery also has a small shop where you can buy some rare editions of videogames. Needless to say, if you’re into video games, this is one place you absolutely have to check out…

Mural Mile

Mural Mile los angeles

Talking about hidden gems in Los Angeles, I just have to mention the Mural Mile; a project that was started in 2012 in the San Fernando Valley with a goal to showcase L.A.’s diverse culture through some fascinating wall murals. You can find more than 40 murals decorating the walls of Pacoima and local artists keep enriching this collection every day. Visiting the Mural Mile is a great way to learn about L.A.’s culture while visiting one of the less frequented places in the city.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Museum of Jurassic Technology

If the first thing that comes on your mind as you’re reading this are dinosaurs, you’re not alone. That’s the first thing I thought of when I heard about this museum too. And to be completely honest, a mix of dinosaurs and technology sounds a bit scary. Fortunately, this museum is about neither of the two. It’s a museum that showcases obscure and peculiar scientific achievements that you probably didn’t hear about. The museum’s collection includes scientific, ethnographic, and historic items that other museums are unwilling to present. If you’re looking for some hidden gems in Los Angeles that not a lot of people know about and visit, you definitely wouldn’t want to miss this museum.

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The Masque

The Masque los angeles hidden gems

Every city has its own punk origin story. L.A.’s story begun in the Masque; a punk club that was born when Brendan Mullen discovered a filthy basement spreading across 10,000 square feet while searching for a practice spot. Bands from around California started showing out in no time and place slowly turned into a night club where punk-rock gigs were held every day. The venue was located under the famous porn house, the Pussycat Theatre, and needless to say, attracted all kinds of folks.

The place was soon after ‘decorated’ with some very interesting graffiti but its glory days didn’t last long. The last show in the Masque was held only five months after its opening and today, the place was completely abandoned. The graffiti inside the basement passed the test of time and the company that owns the space today (World of Wonder) accepts visits from outsiders and recognizes the basement as the city’s most important punk-rock landmark.

Box Canyon

Box Canyon los angeles

If you look at the map of the US, you’ll find a dozen different ‘Box Canyons’ and surprisingly, the one near L.A. is probably the least known and least frequented one. The hills surrounding the canyon contain narrow ravines, slot canyons, oases, and vividly-colored badlands, giving a lot of great photo opportunities. Most tourists don’t make it here because the Box Canyon isn’t mentioned in most tourist guides and the canyon is quite remote and not easy to get to. Some people avoid it because the canyon was home to a local cult that ended when two members used dynamite to blast the whole place because they had suspicions that the cult leader was having sexual intercourse with their wives. I know the last story doesn’t sound too appealing but if you want to get off the beaten track in Los Angeles, it doesn’t get better than this.

Mosaic Tile House

Mosaic Tile House

This relatively unknown house (perfect addition to this list of hidden gems in Los Angeles), captures the essence of Venice beach in a way the Mosaic Tile House does. This is basically a quirky 1940s home that has been covered with splintered glass mosaics and colored tile designed by Pann and Duran; a couple who has transcended common romance by weaving with roots of art and earth, resurrecting a shining monumental true love. It all began when they wanted to install bathroom tiles in their home but they enjoyed it so much that they decided to cover every inch of their home with tiles, creating the gorgeous visual feast called ‘Mosaic Tile House’.

California Institute of Abnormal Arts

California Institute of Abnormal Arts

This peculiar venue with an abbreviation CIA is a nightclub/museum in North Hollywood. The ‘institute’ hosts a number of exhibitions, musical performances, and a range of other live events that are difficult to describe and even more difficult to define. Many of the events are called ‘freakshows’ and draw a lot of people that don’t have a lot of other places to go that cater to them and their interests. Some of the exhibits include preserved stuffed animals, human fetuses preserved in jars, and a bunch of oddities and hoaxes, such as the mummified clown, the skull of “the world’s smallest Freemason”, the mermaid from Fiji, etc. The California Institute of Abnormal Arts is a standing proof that L.A. is a city that has something in store for everyone.

Necromance

necromance la

If you’re looking for a quirky shop where you can find things you didn’t even think it can be bought, check out Necromance. Necromance is a shop that sells oddities and curiosities and has a large selection of preserved animal remains with glass eyes, insects, frozen bats, etc. Now you might be wondering what these guys might be doing with the above-mentioned items. The answer is- they make gifts. You want to get vintage gold earrings with a contemporary beetle Or maybe an Indonesian bat in a vintage frame? How about a human tooth necklace? You can get all of these items at Necromance. Even if you don’t want to buy these items, the shop is definitely worth visiting; I haven’t seen anything like it in any other place in the world.

Bronson Cave

Bronson CavePhoto by Sam Howzit CC by 3.0

Bronson cave is another one of Los Angeles’ hidden gems that’s located at the end of Griffith Park in the city’s outskirts. It’ll probably look familiar and the reason for that is- you probably saw it in a movie. Due to its rugged wilderness and versatility, this cave has been used as a shooting spot in a lot of Hollywood movies and TV shows. Bronson Cave is one of the rare places that will make you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere when you’re only 8 miles away from Downtown L.A. However, there still aren’t a lot of transport options and if you want to visit Bronson Cave, you should do so with a cab or a rental vehicle.

Underground Tunnels of Los Angeles

Underground Tunnels Los AngelesPhoto by Pi.1415926535 CC by 3.0

When prohibition came to power, the people of L.A. took it underground; 11 miles of service tunnels turned into passages to underground speakeasy bars with completely unrelated shops above ground. The most famous example of this is probably King Eddy’s Saloon, a bar that is still alive and running today, 100 years later. During the prohibition era, the shop was a “piano store” with a secret speakeasy bar in the basement.

Most of this area is closed today but if you want to explore a part of the old underground tunnels of L.A. the easiest way to reach them is by taking the elevator behind the Hall of Records on Temple Street and going down to the subterranean passage that will take you to this basement filled with rusty machines, interesting street art and gates that limit explorers from entering areas which aren’t safe to explore.

Echo Park Time Travel Mart

Echo Park Time Travel Mart

With the slogan, ‘whenever you are, we’re already there’, this quirky shop is a time-travel-themed store that sells humorous items from the past, present, and even the ‘future’. To get an idea of what you might expect to find here, some of the store’s best-sellers are a Barbarian repellent, Victorian iPad, Time-Freezy Hyper Slush ice drinks, etc. The storefront displays a caveman shaking hands with a robot, and the whole store has a very interesting and unusual vibe. All revenues the Echo Park Time Travel Mart makes go to an NGO that strives to help and support students with their creative and expository writing skills.

Visiting on a layover?

If you are only in L.A. for a short while, make it count. Don’t drag your luggage around or book an expensive hotel room that you won’t use. Instead, you can check out some of the many facilities for luggage storage in Los Angeles that can keep your belongings safe at affordable rates.

Experience a Los Angeles Scavenger Hunt

A tour of Los Angeles can become a lot more fun by incorporating games like scavenger hunts to an otherwise common, everyday tour. Instead of just jumping from one attraction to another, you’ll be on a mission to find various clues, making the adventure a more memorable one. Fortunately, there are companies like CityHUNT that make all these possible. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, organizing a bachelor party, or simply looking for unique teambuilding ideas, CityHUNT has you covered. By offering a variety of games you and your family will enjoy, exploring Los Angeles has never been this exciting, don’t you think?

Helpful resources for visiting Los Angeles

Flying to Los Angeles? Make sure to get the best flight deal for your flight to L.A.

Looking for airport parking at DescriptionLos Angeles International Airport? Use this coupon and save up to 15%.

Here are some great accommodation deals, that can save you up to 15% on your next booking. Alternatively, if you want to stay in motels, Motel6 has the best offers in L.A.

Do you want to visit the main tourist sights in a couple of days? Consider going for a Big Bus tour and get a 15% discount.

Save up to 15% when buying a L.A. city pass.?

If you want to attend some events in Los Angeles, this Seat Geek offer can help you save on all ticket purchases and see the view from the seat before buying.

For the best travel insurance deals, visit World Nomads.

Finally, don’t forget about your US visa. You can do the complete process through IVisa; a website tht can help you get a visa to pretty much anywhere.

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Did you like this list of hidden gems and unusual things to do in Los Angeles? Then you’ll surely love this post too! Did you ever visit or had the chance to check out some of these places? Which one was your favorite? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

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28 thoughts on “Hidden gems and unusual things to do in Los Angeles that you won’t find in most tourist guides”

  1. I have to say, these really are hidden gems because I haven’t heard or read about them on posts but they seem like such exciting places! I’d love to check out the sunken city or hike to find the bridge to nowhere! The underground tunnels sound pretty exciting as well and the Mosaic Tile House is so quirky and unique, reminds me a little of Barcelona’s houses made by Gaudi.

    Reply
  2. Wow, there sure are a lot of hidden gems in LA. There’s more about this city. I’m not a city person so I’m glad to know that there are caves for an adventurer like me!

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  3. It’s an interesting post of hidden gems of Los Angeles. When I travel I always look for off the beaten path and would surely need this post when heading to this city. My favorite is always street arts.

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    • street art is quite interesting and you will find a lot of it in LA. Since you’re a fan of street art, I think you’ll like it a lot 🙂

      Reply
  4. Wow, you just introduced me to so many unique sights to see in LA that I wasn’t even aware, despite having visited LA quite a few times. I’d love to hike to the Bridge to Nowhere – it’s good to know that the best way to get there is by car. The Mosaic Tile House looks absolutely beautiful and lovingly decorated by Pann and Duran. And I’m definitely adding a stroll along the Mural Mile on our list as it seems like a great way to become more familiar with the culture of LA. Thanks for sharing this detailed post.

    Reply
  5. Truly, these places are hidden beauty of Los Angeles. I haven’t been to any of these places as I haven’t been to Los Angeles yet, and with this list, I should go here. One of the best places that I would love to see and experience here is a hike to the Bridge to Nowhere. I personally find it interesting and amazing! Perhaps because I love hiking very much. Thank you so much for sharing this one.

    Reply
  6. I live in the area and haven’t heard of many of these! I’m going to have to take my daughter to Mural Mile, she’s recently become obsessed with murals and would love this. I love that you featured the non traditional places of LA, just goes to show you there are so many hidden gems even in the largest cities.

    Reply
  7. After living in LA for almost a decade, I must say that I love this list! I’ve been to many, but not all, of these places you suggested. My favorite is the Bridge to Nowhere. I actually bungee jumped off the bridge 7 years ago. It was incredible! The hike itself was beautiful and an adventure too.

    Reply
  8. Good to see all hidden gems in LA apart from other famous attractions as they are always interesting. I never knew about Sunken city but it looks interesting. Also the Mural Mile is a must stop for me as I love street art. Good you tipped to not miss Boxed Canyons as it is really very photogenic and I can relate it with the rocks of Oman.

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  9. Los Angeles has got really some weird things to do! Mosaic Tile House and Eco Park Time Travel Mart are the most interesting secrets. Especial the Travel Mart, the idea behind that is very good because the creativity is honored.

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  10. So many cool ideas. It’d be kind of eerie to stumble upon the bridge to nowhere, but pretty cool too. Does anyone conduct tours of the underground tunnels? It seems like it has a really interesting history.

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  11. I lived in LA for more than a year and I’ve never heard of any of these! Although many people say that LA lacks culture there is a lot of interesting art and museums. I had no idea there were so many niche museums like the Neon museum or a Jurassic Technology museum. However, the coolest thing on this list to me is the Masque. So many important places of punk rock’s beginnings are now closed, such as CBGBs, so it is awesome that you can still visit the Masque!

    Reply
    • Wow, that’s strange to hear but at the same time great to hear because it shows these places are truly hidden and not known even by locals 🙂 Thank you for your comment.

      Reply
  12. I’ve never heard LA described as an introvert before! I love the city though, I think I’m one of the few. And I love it for the big cheesy tourist sites, that’s what you’ve got to embrace in a place like LA. I love places like Bronson Cave where you can feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere so close to the city.

    Reply
    • That makes two of us, Paul. And when I say introverted I mean it takes time to open up before showing its best things to you (the visitor). When I say best things, I refer to hidden gems like the ones in this article and not the typical touristy places most people visit 🙂

      Reply
    • Yes, it is the canyon west of Chatsworth CA. The place sure still exists and some people live nearby too. From what I hear, construction companies are starting to displace people who live in the area (mostly in small trailers) to build extravagant homes in the canyon.

      Reply

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