Many people associate Los Angeles mostly with the Hollywood sign and the vast amount of movie studios. As those places are often the center of attention in the media, they surely don’t serve as an accurate representation of the city as a whole.
Our Spotters love the dynamic and ever-changing character that will always keep you on the edge of your seat; the amazing and diverse food that reflects the multi-cultural nature of the city; and the many wonderful natural wonders within the city borders… If you have ever dreamed of visiting Los Angeles or are interested in learning more about the City of Angels besides the crowded tourist highlights, then we’ve got you covered!
Here are a few of our locals’ favorites.
Start off with some 21st-century art
In one of the most multicultural areas in LA, you can find an art gallery that is quite different than a standard (sometimes snobby) art gallery. At iam8bit you can find the most beautiful amongst the video games (think The Last Guardian or Journey) and other important geek and pop culture icons. Next to that the place also holds interesting and creative exhibitions every 4-8 weeks.
You can see their gallery archive online to see if what they show is your cup of tea because they are both a store and a gallery! The store has great collector’s items, vinyl, and of course video games. The fun part about this gallery according to our Spotter Julian is that it is big enough to be well-thought-out but small enough to still be intimate. You can often find the artists walking around the gallery, discussing their work.
Be a pharaoh at the cinema
In Los Angeles, you can find an old Egyptian theatre. The place was built in 1922 and is hidden down the street from the more well-known Chinese theatre. The Egyptian Theatre is a well-kept secret amongst film fanatics. Inside you can find statues and walls containing mysterious hieroglyphics.
The Egyptian Theatre houses many Film Festivals, documentaries, and independent movies and differentiates itself from the Chinese theatre by having a more independent film character. They also have a Historic Egyptian Tour on Saturdays at 10:30 if you want to get some more information!
There are no current or popular movies here. And our Spotter James loves that. He enjoys independent, documentary, and foreign films exhibited in such a historic and beautiful landmark of Los Angeles.
Treat yourself at Randy’s Donuts
Randy’s is one of the most iconic donut shops in Los Angeles. If you’ve seen a film or TV show shot in Los Angeles with a one-story donut on top (Iron Man 2, Mars Attacks!, Into the Night), it’s Randy’s. Their location is just as iconic as their donuts are delicious. Randy’s has classic cakes and raised donuts, which are all very fancy. In addition to those, they have matcha tea, fruity pebbles, and other “premium” toppings. A must stop when visiting L.A.
Our Spotter Valerie: “I don’t even like marshmallows, but I had to try the s’mores. Mmmm! It was so delicious! It had not one, but 4 marshmallows on top! Generous proportions, generous customer service…”
Watch a movie at the Landmark Theater
The Landmark Theater typically features a combination of mainstream blockbusters, foreign films, and independent films. It is a modern theater that is kept spotlessly clean. Seating is assigned ahead of time, enabling theatergoers to pick out their seats in advance and get the seats they know they want as well as avoid what they don’t want.
One fun aspect of the Landmark is that some of the smaller theaters feature couch seating, which is perfect for date nights and also just for those who enjoy a comfortable seat that reminds them of home. For a full experience, our Spotter Max recommends taking chilled Junior Mints and the freshly popped popcorn with real butter…
Bookstore from the fairy realm
This bookstore looks like it was built by fairies or was teleported straight from Narnia, according to our Spotter Julian… Every little corner of The Last Bookstore is worth exploring and as soon as you enter you’ll get hit by that amazing, nostalgic old book smell. The main floor also has a vinyl area and some beautiful armchairs and sofas where you can sit down to gaze at the amazing world you have found yourself in.
Upstairs there are amazing décor and art pieces to look at. Books, vinyl, and art is not the only thing they have that makes this place so special, they also have a ‘book labyrinth’ where some hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. Don’t forget to also visit the small art gallery on the second floor!
Some relaxation at the Swing in Elysian Park
The beautiful Elysian park is huge and has many different areas. On top of that, the view is amazing. To the right, Downtown LA, to the left, the I-5 North and South. There’s always going to be a line to take pictures at the swing, but it’s definitely worth it.
Our Spotter Alejandra recommends to got in the morning for more tranquility and to have more time to really walk the whole park.
Country meets LA
“When I think of Los Angeles, I think of hip people eating at hip places enjoying the sunshine,” writes our Spotter Francesca. However, this city is full of surprises. The Saddle Ranch is a great bar that somehow manages to perfectly mix country vibes with LA mentality.
When you step in you feel like you’re not in LA anymore. The old wooden décor and rock music will fool you into thinking you’re in the wild west. The strange thing is that it works! They have an infamous bull in the middle of the saloon, ride at your own risk! The drinks are a bit expensive, but they do have a happy hour between 16:00 and 18:30 and after midnight they have great drink and food specials.
Not only is the drive there gorgeous – it’s on Sunset blvd which has a grand view of the city – but the location is central to a lot of other cool spots like the House of Blues.
Excursion to the East – Sawtelle Japantown
Sawtelle Japantown may be THE place on the Westside to get your Japanese food fix of sushi, ramen, donburi, curry, or okonomiyaki but you can also find Vietnamese pho and banh mi or Korean bulgogi and bibimbop. If you are in the mood for some shopping, there are plenty of shops such as Daisy or Tokyo Outlet with a lot of variety – from cute to edgy – they have it all.
A peaceful place for nature, art, and books
The Huntington is a picture-perfect, green spot that features several fun activities, apart from just sitting down and enjoying the nature around you. They have botanical gardens that you can visit, 12 to be exact! Amongst these 12 you will find a Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, and Jungle Garden, just to name a few.
They also have a library featuring cool and rare items such as the First Folio editions of Shakespeare for the literature lovers amongst us. And then they also have art collections including both European and American art. Check their calendar for other events such as tours, classes, concerts, and so on!
Hidden ghost zoo
When visiting LA you could, of course, visit the famous Los Angeles Zoo and that would be loads of fun! “But what if I told you there is actually a forgotten, well-hidden zoo behind the Los Angeles Zoo?” writes our Spotter James. Sounds way cooler right?
The Griffith Park Zoo was built in 1912 and later closed when the animals held there were transferred to their current location. You can find the zoo behind a long hiking trail, with all the caves, bars, and other enclosures used for the 15 animals that were held there. It’s a spooky-looking place as if the ghosts of the animals still linger…
The zoo is not well marked and you’ll need some directions from locals.
Although the neighborhood around the Watts Towers isn’t too great (it’s better to go during the day), this place is super lovely. Especially if you go on foot as you will find a parking spot that is a cute little oasis.
The Watts Towers are a national landmark, built by an Italian immigrant, Simon Rodia, with the reputation of being a mad man. The towers took 30 years to build and are made of steel, mesh, and cement and decorated with anything found by Simon Rodia such as glass and tile (all without using machines!).
The towers remind our Spotter Liz of the Spanish artist, Antoni Gaudi, with colorful tiles and bottles and so many fine details noticeable when you take the time to stroll through the grounds.
Public art at its finest
Near the Music Center in LA, you can find The Dance Door. It’s a lovely bronze sculpture embedded and overthrown by dancing figures. The sculpture was created by Robert Graham, a popular LA artist. It was commissioned by Frederick Weisman in 1978 and later donated to the Music Center.
The coolest thing about the sculpture is that it is such an ordinary object, an open door, made so special. Especially the placement adds to the piece, as it’s placed in a way that you can see City Hall and the Peace on Earth sculpture through it!
It makes for a lovely photo spot and patrons frequently capture memories here. “I now make it a point to see it every time I visit the Music Center,” writes our Spotter Kristina.