The Unconventional City Guide: Los Angeles
The City of Angels. The home of Hollywood, The Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and movie stars. Don’t get us wrong, those things are all great, but there’s a whole world of exciting sights and experiences in LA that are both cool and unique. So let’s skip those lame travel sites and get to planning, you deserve the best of what a city has to offer, not just the usual tourist stuff. Here’s our guide to the best under-the-radar sights and experiences that the great city of Los Angeles has to offer.
Korean BBQ and Karaoke in Koreatown
One of the most exciting places to eat and drink in LA, Koreatown is like venturing into a foreign country. Start with all-you-can-grub at one of the many amazing KBBQ joints in Koreatown (our favorites are Chosun Galbee, Parks BBQ, and Dong Il Jang) and don’t forget to try the kimchi pancakes. If sizzling meat and copious amounts of beer aren’t your thing (WTF, really?), there is a huge world of culinary delights to explore in Koreatown, from dumplings to noodles, to spicy-as-hell stews as glorious as you've ever seen. So, by all means, let the internet be your guide and you will be rewarded. To complete your night, it obviously makes perfect sense to follow up the beer and meats by singing your heart out to Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” doesn’t it? Reserve a private karaoke lounge and don’t forget to bring your tambourine.
Sunset Hike at Temescal Canyon Park
Temescal Canyon Park is one hike that trumps all hikes in LA. You’ve probably read about Runyon Canyon in Hollywood but it’s really only good for LA cliches like girls with green juice and their eight-pound dogs, tourists, and dudes in tank tops looking to update their Bumble profile picture. For our money, Temescal Canyon on the coast in Pacific Palisades is where it’s at. Though sunrise and morning are great times to hike, Temescal Canyon Trail is best enjoyed at sunset. It’s an average intensity level hike and only a few miles, so don’t worry about being in tip-top shape, you’ll make it just fine. We recommend timing the roughly 45-minute hike with sunset so when you reach the top the sun is going down and you can be overtaken by one of the most stunning views in LA. From the lights of The Palisades and Malibu all the way down to Downtown and even Long Beach, as views go, it doesn’t get much more awesome than this.
Downtown LA Art Walk
This is a free, self-guided, public art adventure that happens once a month on the second Thursday evening of every month. You’ll find an eclectic mix of local participating galleries, art related events, live music, and activities happening throughout the evening, all concentrated on a particular few blocks in Downtown LA. The best part is you can appreciate each portion at your own leisure, stroll the streets, and pop in and out of participating establishments, including restaurants and bars. It’s the perfect way to get a long weekend started.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Venice Beach
If your idea of Venice Beach is hippy burnouts and tourist traps, you’re light years away from what the new Venice is all about. Thanks to a renaissance in the last 6 - 7 years, Venice Beach, and its epicenter, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, have become some of the coolest destinations in LA and a must visit. The main drag is packed with hip and delicious restaurants, cool shops, and great drinking spots. Start with a cocktail at sunset on the roof deck of the Hotel Erwin for an incredible view. For dinner, our favorite food and drink destinations include Gjelina for its eclectic menu, Salt Air for oysters and seafood, and The Tasting Kitchen for modern fare and outstanding cocktails. Wrap up the evening with drinks at The Other Room before a few bad decisions and last call at The Brig. If you’re visiting in the Spring and Summer, The First Friday festivals happen every first Friday of each month and feature shopping deals, food trucks, and live entertainment.
Pedal Boats at Echo Park
The Echo Park section of LA neighbors the highrises of Downtown and the hipsters of Silverlake. Next door to the legendary Dodger Stadium you’ll find the actual Echo Park and the appropriately named Echo Park Lake. At this lovely slice of urban nature, you can rent pedal boats, canoes, and gondolas. On the weekends you can pedal out as early as 9 am and as late as 30 minutes before sunset. Skip the park fare (unless you’re in the mood for burgers and hot dogs) and pop over to Chinatown down the street for some authentic old school Chinese cuisine or head to Downtown’s Arts District for some of the cities best cocktails and hippest restaurants. Spots like Bestia, The Little Bear, Pizzanista, The Varnish, and Villains Tavern will quench your thirst and satiate your appetite in fine form. Plus, with nearly year-round summer weather in LA, this is an ideal weekend activity.
Jazz at LACMA
LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) isn’t all about indoor exhibitions, though those are awesome and well worth it, this one is about the music. For the past twenty years, Jazz at LACMA features live jazz performances by local artists from April through November. Every Friday night, set against the backdrop of the iconic Urban Lights installation, you can spend your evening enjoying a little local culture and a beer or two. If you’re hungry afterward there are a plethora of nearby options. Indulge at the variety of food stalls at the Farmer’s Market at the Grove or visit the nearby Fairfax Avenue for the legendary Animal, burgers, and brews at The Golden State, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, Ethiopian delights in Little Ethiopia.
Picnic and Concert at the Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is one of the most famous and iconic concert venues in Southern California. With events ranging from classical symphonies to jazz, to mainstream and classic musical acts, to special concerts like Back to the Future and Bugs Bunny at the Symphony, there’s truly something for every taste. The performance season begins in June and runs through September. The best part though? Pre-concert picnics of course. Visit a local delicatessen, stock up on delicious sundries, some libations, and plan a nice sit-down get together before your concert. We highly recommend the Highland Camrose picnic area, and if you’ve got a large group you can call ahead and reserve picnic tables for your party.
The Getty Villa and PCH Cruise
The Getty Villa, not to be confused with The Getty Museum, is located just off PCH in Pacific Palisades, on the way to Malibu. The Villa is a re-creation of an ancient Roman country house giving visitors a taste of life in the first century. The Villa houses a mix of historical art and artifacts with works from the end of the Stone Age through the fall of the Roman Empire. Easily done in a few hours, you can experience this dose of historical culture and architectural beauty and still have time to escape to the beach. Continue your journey up PCH to Malibu and some of LA’s most beautiful beaches. If you’re up for a meal on the water, stroll down the Malibu Pier to The Malibu Cafe for a delicious lunch and a killer view. At sunset, our favorite spots include Moonshadows for their incredible happy hour and Nobu for amazing cuisine and hip surroundings.
LA is the food truck motherland and where the craze started. From modern Asian fusion to classic taco trucks, some of LA’s best and most affordable food is served out of mobile kitchens roaming the streets. Start doing some research at Roaming Hunger and on LAist, as the variety is staggering. The good thing is though, it’s all here and it’s all delicious.
The Hollywood Farmer’s Market
Open on Sundays from 8am-1pm, the Hollywood Farmer’s Market has much more than local produce. While you do get to take advantage of a variety of fresh California-grown fruits and vegetables, there’s much, much more. Don’t miss the ethnic food stalls of all varieties (including the best breakfast burrito in LA, complete with homemade chorizo), baked goods, plants and flowers, excellent coffee, and more. Bring an empty stomach and get ready for some great people watching. If you sleep on the mango lemonade you're missing out on some true nectar of the gods and should just hang your head in shame.
Drive on Portuguese Bend
By now, you’ve probably that you’ve gotten your fill of PCH, so we’ll suggest another option for a scenic drive. Up in the hills of Palos Verdes, you’ll find Portuguese Bend, a mix of rolling hills, steep canyons, and an unbelievable view of the Pacific Ocean. You can even venture down for a leisurely hike into the nature preserve if you feel like exploring.
Now that you’ve seen the true LA, it’s probably going to be tough to go back to celebrity home tours. That’s ok though, LA is a hugely diverse place and her many sights, sounds, and tastes deserve many visits. After all, everyone deserves some of that California love.