Los Angeles is a huge city with countless things to do. Depending on your interests, you could spend a week at amusement parks, museums, beaches, Hollywood landmarks, and the list goes on. For real travelers (not simply tourists), it’s most important that you find a focus and stick to it when visiting a city with so much to offer.
Like Las Vegas, there are tonnes of clichés in LA that tourists “just have to go to." What sets Los Angeles apart is that you do not have to be confined to these tourist traps, in fact there are so many great places throughout the city that are much more fascinating and often overlooked. Places like the Kodak Theatre are cool and all but usually cost a pretty penny and are very much artificial. Instead, try something a little different and see the city from a local’s point of view. Here are some odd ball places that you should consider checking out if you get the chance:
Every large city seems to have an iconic cathedral with a storied past and features impressive architecture – LA is no different. Known as The Los Angeles Cathedral or Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, this 58,000-square-foot building is the first Roman Catholic Cathedral west of the Mississippi. Its postmodern design shows that architect José Rafael Moneo was not afraid to challenge the norm and create a building that would stand apart from the cathedrals of Europe. In fact, the building is often criticized for being overtly opulent. For example, it has $3 million bronze doors and a $5 million altar. Whatever your religious beliefs, this mega cathedral is definitely worth a look.
It’s no secret and good bookstores are becoming a rarity, whether you are a bibliophile or just love books, you can’t go wrong entering into The Last Bookstore. Located inside a former bank, it’s the place for all thing books and has rare (and expensive) used books. There is also an upstairs section where everything is around $1.00. Even if you don’t feel like reading, walking around the store is a treat with its array funky book-themed sculptures.
Albeit not for everyone, I’m sure some will find this place incredibly fascinating. With displays of severed heads, replicas of execution devices, and autopsy equipment, this museum take the meaning of ‘morbid’ to a whole new level. Since the museum opened in 1995, it’s goal has been to ‘educate’ people on death by dispelling the mysteries that surround it.
In case you didn’t know, Tesla is not just an electric car company founded by Elon Musk; Nikola Tesla was actually a world-renowned engineer who invented the ‘electric coil.’ At the Griffith Observatory on the side of Mount Hollywood, you can see the Tesla Coil in action. Prepare to be mesmerized by the shocking (pun intended) crackle of electricity shooting around the room. If astronomy is more your thing, check out the Samuel Oschin Planetarium or the Ahmanson Hall of the Sky exhibit for stunning displays of the Milky Way.
Nowadays puppet shows are hard to find, but of course in LA you will have no problem finding a ‘Punch and Judy’ show. The theater was started by Bob Baker and Alton Wood in 1963. Ever since it has been a hub to learn and train in puppeteering. Although the show is geared towards a younger audience, the dazzling performance of colorful marionettes brought to life through the imagination of the puppeteer will be sure to entertain. A tradition of this theatre is to also hand out free vanilla soft serve to the audience.
Eat your Way Through LA
A big part of travelling is about eating and eating well, but equally important to familiarize with the local cuisine. This is a considerably hard task in LA because the city has a diverse palate thanks to its multiculturism. So my challenge for people who want to eat well in LA is to try everything from the spicy to fishy. Here are some great ethnic restaurants around the city that are popular among Angelinos:
Few people know, but there is actually a style of sushi known as ‘Korean sushi.’ It’s hard to pinpoint the exact differences but mainly it’s about bigger and bolder flavors. A-Won is the place to be if you want to try Korean sushi, or if you are craving some fresh sashimi.
If there is one food that is synonymous with LA it’s tacos. Although there are tonnes of amazing offers around the city, Sonoratown is hands down the most authentic Mexican eatery in the city. Senoratown is actually one of the few restaurants that still use mesquite wood to grill and they serve up a mean carne asada.
There is nothing wrong with hip fusion Korean restaurants, but sometimes traditional is just more comforting, which is what they serve up at Chunju Han-il Kwan. Specializing in home-style soups such as budae jjigae, this no frills Ma’ and Pa’ restaurant is sure to delight.
Filipino food is one of the more under represented cuisines in America, even in LA, finding the ‘authentic’ can be difficult. For me, LA Rose Café is as good as they come, and features dishes that will either satisfy, intrigue or both.My favorite is the tocino with garlic rice and for dessert, a big bowl of halo-halo.
More than just your typical Pho restaurant, Thien An Bo 7 Mon offers more home-style dishes such as their clay pot cat fish. What they are really known for is a meal called 7-course-beef, where they bring you multiple preparations of beef to be wrapped in a rice wrapper with your own choice of herbs and vegetables. A good choice for people who like to play with their food…
With 6 locations in LA, this dumpling house transplanted from Taipei, Taiwan offers world-class soup dumplings that are hard to beat. Their Taipei flagship also boasts a Michelin Star! However, be prepared for long lines.
One of the biggest draws of southern California is the promise of crystal clear water and long sandy beaches. It is hard to knock any of the more touristy beaches such as Venice Beach or Newport Beach. However, I personally enjoy going to more off-the-beaten-path beaches that might not be as famous as others, but offer more of an adventure. Here are three you should definitely consider:
Calling this spot a beach may be a bit of a stretch, and definitely not a good place to sunbathe, but this ‘beach’ is no doubt one of the most fascinating places in LA. It sits on the site of an old landslide, the path is littered with old foundations, abandons street car tracks, and other random artifacts. There is also provocative graffiti on palm trees, rocks, and everything in between which give this place a distinct character like no other place in the city. This is not an easy place to get to, and requires some hiking, but if you want an urban adventure, this is where you should head.
A little north of LA, Prismo Beach is located in the city of San Luis. Here you can drive your car right on to the dunes and enjoy the sunset from your driver’s seat. If you want to get closer to the beach you can opt to go horseback riding or hop on some ATVs. Driving here will also pay dividends if you are into wine as it’s extremely close to some of the greatest wineries in California. Check out Edna Valley Vineyard’s tasting room for a sublime view of their vineyards and delicious Pinot.
The best feature of this beach is how secluded it is and the luxury of being a quiet place to relax. My favorite time to come to this beach is to watch the sunset. There is just something about how the sun hits the rock face of the cliff that brings the experience to a whole new level. There are also two other beaches within close proximity that you can also check out – La Piedra Beach and El Pescador Beach. Just remember that these beaches are quite remote, so go to the restroom before hand and bring plenty of food and water.
I have to admit, my relationship with the city of LA has certainly evolved over the years; once a city I avoided when I wanted a getaway, has now become my favorite place on earth! Having been to these lesser known locales has helped me to better appreciate the natural beauty and culture that surrounds this city. So if you are like me, and need a reason to go, I hope you take the chance to explore a different side of LA and leave knowing it’s not just for the rich and famous, but also for the restless and the adventurous.