You have gone to Los Angeles’ most popular attractions: Disneyland, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and beaches such as Venice Beach and Long Beach. You may have “shopped til you dropped” at the luxury stores along Rodeo Drive, screamed at the top of your lungs on one of those rides at Universal Studios, or peered into the telescopes to look for heavenly bodies at the Griffith Observatory.
But Los Angeles offers endless opportunities to explore and enjoy, including activities that seem to be not too mainstream, or otherwise “off-the-beaten-path” and un-”touristy.” They border on the weird and even somewhat on the morbid. These will certainly add to your bucket list when you plan to go on a holiday in the Los Angeles county and its most famous city of the same name. Sometimes when traveling, the greatest delights and rewards come from the unexpected.
To know more about the other side of Los Angeles that many people may not know, read this interesting article “Interesting Facts about Los Angeles.”
1) Visit the Evergreen Cemetery
Cemeteries may not be everyone’s idea of a tourist spot. However, many of the most popular cemeteries are quite scenic. Most of all though, these cemeteries’ tourist-drawing power comes from the fact that many of the notable historical figures are buried there. And Los Angeles’ Evergreen Cemetery seems to have these qualities.
Evergreen Cemetery is located in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights in downtown Los Angeles. Founded in 1877, it is the city’s oldest cemetery. A visit to this cemetery will matter more to you if you are an ardent devotee of some of the famous people buried here. Some of the well-known politicians (notably the city’s past mayors), war veterans, actors, musicians, sports figures, religious leaders and early American pioneers are interred at the Evergreen Cemetery. Among the most notable names include Bobby Nunn, Johnny St. Cyr and Van Nuys.
2) Explore Descanso Gardens
When you think that the popular Huntington Library gardens are too crowded (and too mainstream to your taste), Descanso Gardens would be an ideal alternative. This 150-acre botanical garden is located in the city of La Canada Flintridge in Los Angeles county. It is open all-year round and features several areas to explore such as the oak forests, the Lilac Garden, a Japanese garden, and probably the most popular the Rose Garden.
But the great thing about Descano Gardens is that it is less touristy, less crowded and much quieter, but just as gorgeous as the other botanical gardens in L.A. So enjoy the beauty and wonder of Mother Nature in relative peace and tranquility.
3) Discover the city’s “storybook architecture”
Los Angeles has an established reputation as the “city of dreams.” That’s why it’s not too odd that a style of architecture called “storybook” flourished in L.A. during the 1920s-1930s, but rarely became popular elsewhere in the United States.
As the name implies, this type of architecture is characterized by a sense of whimsy and playfulness. Mismatched doors and windows, deliberately-made uneven roofs and cobblestone-lined pavements are some of the most notable elements of the storybook architecture – just like the illustrations of houses that you find on storybooks. Some fine examples are the Hobbit House in Culver City, the Witches’ House and Harry Oliver’s Spadena House (both in Beverly Hills) and the Charlie Chaplin Cottages as well as the Snow White Cottages, (both located in Los Angeles city). If you want to live out your fairy tale dreams and fantasies, visit to any of these storybook houses.
4) Indulge your sweet cravings at Sweet!
If you are someone who has a sweet tooth, then Sweet! will be your ultimate candy paradise! Located along Hollywood Boulevard, Sweet! is not your ordinary candy store. Highlights include a chocolate lab where you can concoct your own sweet creations, and the Wonka Inventing Room which documents Willy Wonka’s bittersweet epic travels that inspired his famous chocolates. Visitors will be in for a delight by taking personal tasting tours, playing candy-themed games and of course shopping for lots of great variety of candies.
Sweet! is the biggest and the most extravagant candy store in the city, so if you want to satisfy your sweet tooth to the highest level possible, it’s certain that you wouldn’t want to miss this place.
5) Pig out at 626 Night Market
Los Angeles is not just a melting pot of cultures, but also a melting pot of different cuisines. The 626 Night Market festival, held only every summer, is the perfect event to gorge on a crazy array of food (predominantly Asian food) that you can ever think of. There are mouthwatering barbecues, yummy tacos, delectable seafood, the popular crazy milkshakes, and many more. It’s a paradise for every foodie and gourmand alike.
6) Take a trip to The Last Bookstore
If you are a passionate bookworm in particular, you will be having a field day at The Last Bookstore, located at 453 S. Spring Street in downtown L.A. It is like the “inner sanctum” — the most sacred place — for every book lover. Founded in 2005, the store later moved to its current location — which is, interestingly, an old bank. This place still retains the features of its former business such as old marble pillars, mile-high ceilings and a large vault. It offers both newer and vintage titles. Measuring at 22,000 square feet, The Last Bookstore is the biggest bookstore not just in Los Angeles, but in the entire state of California.
7) Explore endangered species of butterflies at the El Segundo Butterfly Reserve
The location and existence of this wildlife sanctuary are both bemusing and intriguing. It is located close to the Los Angeles International Airport, and was built on the remains of a ghost town. This ghost town, named Surfridge, used to be an isolated community where the rich and the famous once lived, including Hollywood elites such as Cecile B. De Mille.
Today, this four-mile area is entirely fenced off from the public as it serves to protect an endangered species of butterfly, the El Segundo blue (Euphilotes battoides allyni) which is endemic in the area. This is perfect if you’re into studying butterflies as a hobby or as a profession.
8) Explore and admire the “lost” canals at the Venice of America Canals
So what if you cannot go to the real Venice when you can go to “The Other Venice” — the Venice Canal Historic District, also known as Venice of American Canals.
The Venice of American Canals is truly one of California’s unique hidden gems. It is a neighborhood area spaced apart by canals, including four of them, each of which measures about a quarter mile long.
It was developed in 1905 by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney, who had had grandiose visions of recreating the romantic Italian city of Venice out of a marshland which he had purchased.
For a while, the man-made canals attracted lots of publicity, with its paved shores lined with beautiful flower beds, and the gondolas serenely sailing under beautifully lit bridges. But unfortunately, it was not meant to last. As automobiles gained popularity, many eventually came to view these canals as outdated. As a result, in 1928 the bulk of these canals were filled to pave for roads. The remaining six canals fell into disrepair and were left to ruin.
But finally, after four decades of stagnancy due to politics, environmental concerns and endless disputes as to who would bear financial responsibility, these canals were renovated and re-opened during the 1990s. Since then, the Venice of American Canals have become an attractive and desirable haven once again for both residents and tourists. Much of the original residential buildings have been restored while newer houses have been built. Don’t forget to up your Instagram game by going to this beautiful and romantic enclave!
9) Go to a Zen paradise at The Japanese Garden — in a place you would not guess!
If you want a piece of the Zen paradise, peace and serenity, you don’t have to go to the Far East to experience it. You will be surprised to find one in an unlikely location — in this case, a water reclamation plant.
Simply called “The Japanese Garden,” this lush and serene Oriental oasis covers 6.5 acres of area on the grounds of Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in central San Fernando Valley. Its Japanese moniker, suiho-en, means “garden of water and fragrance” — but the fact is that the garden sometimes reeks of bad odor.
But that’s understandable, since this is indeed located at a water reclamation plant. You will forget it momentarily once you see and admire the carefully manicured symbolic trees and plants, winding pathways, storybook bridges and abundant wildlife. There is also a tea house, and in the midst of the classic Japanese garden you will see an otherwise modern and futuristic Administrative Building of the plant, where some of the Hollywood movie scenes have been filmed.
10) Eat out (and possibly stargaze) at Musso and Frank Grill
At Musso and Frank Grill, you get to fill yourself not only with its delicious steaks and pasta dishes, but also with its interesting and illustrious history. You will also get the chance to rub elbows with its celebrity customers!
Still in operation since it first opened in 1919, Musso and Frank Grill is one of the oldest, most enduring and most iconic restaurants in L.A.
Not surprisingly, its connection to Hollywood is almost indelible. It has been a favorite haunt for several A-listers such as Humphrey Bogart and his wife Lauren Bacall, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Jimmy Stewart, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, The Rolling Stones, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Ashton Kutcher and wife Mila Kunis, and so on and so forth. Whew! It has also made appearances in several movies such as Ed Wood and Oceans Eleven. Who knows, you can bump into some of the restaurant’s famous customers and find yourself get starstruck by their presence!
But if the restaurant’s star-studded status and celebrity clientele do not excite you a bit, here’s another fact about Musso and Frank Grill that will awaken the “foodie” in you: it is the birthplace of the Fettuccine Alfredo. You would not definitely want to miss to taste this popular dish’s original recipe!