Whether it’s your first time or your 50th time, visiting Los Angeles can be an unforgettable trip. For most, visions of sunshine and Hollywood spring to mind thanks to the pop-culture mythology it has long created. However, those wide-eyed beliefs merely scratch the surface of a city that offers much, much more. Indeed, some of the best places in L.A. may not be what you would expect.
The fact is everyone’s itinerary is tailored made for themselves. While first-time tourists may flock to Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame, returning visitors may be inclined to seek L.A.’s sun-kissed streets of art, architecture, and everything alternative. Truthfully, to experience the city’s treasures, it is best to meet somewhere halfway.
This list is here to help.
The Arts District
Far removed from Hollywood, this downtown destination sits smack between Little Tokyo and the Los Angeles River. Designated as the city’s official arts district, the one-time home of industrial warehouses and factories has been vibrantly reimagined.
Offering an array of bistros, breweries, and jaw-dropping murals from world-renowned street artists, it’s imperative to bring a camera when visiting since many of the artworks only last mere months before being painted over.
Officially known as Sunset Boulevard, this 1.5-mile-long section of street in West Hollywood lays home to some of L.A.’s most iconic establishments.
From the Chateau Marmont and The Comedy Store to venerable music venues such as The Whiskey a Go-Go and The Roxy, there’s no spot more legendary to stroll, soak-in, and snap a slew of photos to make your friends “Instagram” jealous.
The New Beverly Cinema
A repertory movie theatre owned and curated by director Quentin Tarantino. Love or hate his movies, the Oscar winner’s eclectic and obscure tastes run the gamut from grindhouse to art house – and The New Beverly Cinema serves as an outlet to play his favourites on the big screen.
Exclusively projecting 16mm and 35mm prints from Tarantino’s own collection, the 228-seat theatre (built in the 1920s) remains a wildly popular destination for Los Angeles cinephiles. With showtimes virtually every day of the year, such monthly programmes range from highlighting 90’s blockbusters and Ozploitation gems (70’s Australian cinema) to saluting Matinée idols from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Lake Hollywood Park
If your time in Los Angeles is limited, but you are looking for one photo to commemorate your trip, Lake Hollywood Park’s incredible views of the iconic Hollywood sign are second-to-none.
An idyllic public space that requires no hiking, street parking conveniently runs along the adjacent Canyon Lake Drive where, at any angle, you can capture that perfect selfie and cement those dreams of tinsel town stardom.
Laurel Canyon Country Store
During the 1960’s counterculture, Laurel Canyon – with its winding streets and bohemian hideaways – became southern California’s answer to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district.
The Country Store (a deli-market) is every bit a part of its legend, catering to past residents such as Joni Mitchell, The Byrds, and Mama Cass Elliot. Forever immortalized in The Doors’ Love Street, today it serves as a pilgrimage for music fans as well as a convenient pit stop to purchase great local wine and red vine licorice.
Santa Monica Pier
Exuding the charm of a California postcard, Santa Monica’s Pacific Park is a full service (and free admission) fairground that was established in 1996.
Sitting atop a 100-year-old double-jointed pier, the destination of carnival rides and eateries attracts visitors and families of all ages, offering not only endless fun but also commanding views of Malibu and the Pacific Ocean.
The Last Book Store
Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, this defunct art deco bank resides as an iconic spot for the city’s bibliophiles. Cited as California’s largest used and new bookstore, the sprawling interior of marble pillars and towering ceilings specializes in modestly priced books while artfully cramming them everywhere.
In making beauty out of its disarray, tunnels built from hardcovers fill the second floor, transforming the concrete building into an unassuming getaway for readers of any walk of life.
Words and photos by Myles Herod