Many visitors of Los Angeles spend much of their time visiting the “must-sees” like the Hollywood sign (which they usually never find!), touristy Venice beach, movie parks, studio’s and the great museums that this city has to offer. Nothing wrong with that (except for The Walk of Fame maybe…), but you will spend your time hanging around fellow tourists mostly.
There’s so much more to do in Los Angeles! 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…. Here are some of our picks for unique gems in L.A, in the words of our very own team of Spotters.
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 places 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 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.
If you’re LA-based, I definitely recommend signing up for their mailing list, so you can find out when they’re having new exhibits, which are always worth checking out — Julian Sosa
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. I enjoy independent, documentary, and foreign films exhibited in such a historic and beautiful landmark of Los Angeles — James Hsiao
See LA through murals
In the San Fernando Valley you can find a public art project celebrating LA’s diverse culture. The project is called Mural Mile and was started in 2012 to boost the local community. More than forty murals are decorating the walls of Pacoima, and new ones are still being added quite often. Most of the murals can be found across Van Nuys Blvd. The topics and stories shown in the artworks include tributes to The Day the Music Died and many other artists such as Frida Kahlo.
Not only is it a nice trip to see some art and learn about the culture of Los Angeles, it’s also a way to see the Valley in all its beauty. Make sure to do it during the day, as there isn’t that much light shining on the works at night. However, right before dusk is a great tie as the sunset here is truly beautiful!
It’s a breathtaking view and a perfect way to cap your day out — Julian Sosa
The Griffith Observatory was built back in 1933 and renovated in 2002, although it kept its 30’s art deco look. As soon as you enter this place captures your imagination, as you will see a Foucault pendulum swinging back and forth. The pendulum hits markers on the floor depending on the rotation of the earth.
One of the best things to do at the Griffith Observatory is to join a Star Party which hosts sidewalk and terrace views for amateur astronomers. If you get lucky you might see a planet or something else cool!
The telescopes at the Star Party were able to view the Rings of Saturn, pretty amazing — James Hsiao
Bookstore from the fairy realm
This bookstore looks like it was built by fairies or was teleported straight from Narnia. 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!
Don’t be alarmed if, by the end of your visit, you feel like you’re coming out of a dream. This place is that magical, and somehow real — Julian Sosa
World of music
Going out and finding a nice club or music venue in a city you’re not familiar with can be a drag, you often end up in the weirdest places (and not in a good way). But every once in a while you find a treasure, like Part Time Punks!
Part Time Punks is a great venue since they don’t play just one type of music like your normal music venue would but have a wide array of genres performing on stage. Punk rock, shoegaze they have it all. Here you can find live music and DJ’s, but also performances by up and coming bands! When visiting you never know what you might find, as performers playing a singing bowl or having a salt lamp on stage during their performance have been seen here before.
You may think I’m making fun of it, but I absolutely admire and love the quirkiness of their shows – and their music, of course: eerie voices hiding underneath heavily polluted music, creating the most ethereal sounds you’ve ever heard — Julian Sosa
Country meets LA
When I think of Los Angeles, I think of hip people eating at hip places enjoying the sunshine. 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 — Francesca Murray
The name of this place, Museum of Jurassic Technology, is already quite confusing. Jurassic just makes me think dinosaurs, which doesn’t seem to mix well with technology, luckily it is about neither of these things. The museum is a place of curiosities and peculiarities, shining the spotlight on obscure, strange and scientific achievements.
The amount of information and visuals coming at you when you visit can be a bit dizzying, you can find anything from a hologram displaying the hands of a cat’s cradle competitor to regal portraits of canine starts from the Soviet space program. Maybe it’s best to just go see it for yourself!
And now I know why ant eggs were administered medicinally to cure painful pangs of love. Pretty weighted in terms of conversation capital, if you ask me — Amelia Rynkowska
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!
Solo travelers, this is an excellent place to visit on your own! Find a garden spot, people watch, or catch up on your travel writing — Kristina Nikols
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 — Kristina Nikols
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? Sounds way cooler right, that’s what our Spotters thought as well.
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…
One of the best thing about the old Zoo is its hidden nature. Most people do not know there is another zoo. The zoo is not well marked and you’ll need some directions from locals — James Hsiao
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 me 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 — Liz Militello