Downtown Los Angeles is one of the most famous cities in the world, not to mention the heart of American culture. It's an extremely luxurious, exciting city filled with locales that are famous around the world. However, LA is also home to peculiar, unusual, and outright weird places that should also be highlights of any trip to the City of Angels. The best LA trip will take you to a mix of famous destinations and hidden gems, not to mention some self-guided, itinerary-free exploration.
South of Santa Monica, you can find the much famous Venice Beach, developed in the early 20th century. As the name suggests, the beach and its attractions were inspired by Italian architecture and cuisine. You can even visit the “Venice Canals” of LA nearby, a set of canals in the Venetian style. Nowadays, visitors and locals alike love the beach for its Bohemian atmosphere and the iconic boardwalk. You can visit the Venice Beach Skatepark and go roller skating in a bikini, or visit the outdoor fitness center at Muscle Beach. Don’t let all those perfect beach bods intimidate you, though!
Have you ever thought to yourself, ‘Los Angeles is great, but it needs to be a bit more Lovecraftian?’ If so, first of all, that’s… quite strange. Second of all, you need to visit the Sunken City. A nasty landslide tore an entire neighborhood of luxury homes into the ocean and the remains often look like a setting straight out of a post-apocalypse reality.
No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to the iconic Hollywood Boulevard, well-known for uncanny celebrity impersonators, Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and other American cultural trademarks. Any traveler is sure to put this destination on their itinerary, especially the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. If you’re lucky, you may be able to attend one of the ceremonies and see the installation of a new star. Admission is free, but you’ll have to head out early to beat the crowd.
Not far from the current LA Zoo, you can visit the old zoo. It was abandoned over fifty years ago, but no one ever bothered tearing it down; as a result, it’s now a formidable urban jungle begging to be explored. It’s filled with varied environments and habitats where you can climb along, monkey-bar style, to search through tunnels and dark corners of the zoo.
Universal Studios Hollywood is a wonderful destination where you can immerse yourself in the universe of blockbuster stories like Jurassic Park and King Kong. Check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where you can roam the Hogwarts castle, explore Hogsmeade, and enjoy many other attractions. You can also take a studio tour and see where Universal shoots these and other famous films.
Griffith Park and Observatory is a great destination for anyone who loves hiking and great views. Once you reach the park, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view from the top of Mount Hollywood. This includes the Hollywood sign, which is only one hiking trail away. You can also head to the Griffith Observatory on nights where the sky is clear, and enjoy free use of their industrial-grade telescope.
Curiously, the creators of the Museum of Death wanted to inspire people to be happy they’re alive. Whether this grisly museum achieves that goal is up to the individual visitor, but it’s certainly a unique destination. It proudly boasts to contain the largest collection of serial killer art, Manson family memorabilia, and pet taxidermy in the world—and that’s only the beginning.
Rodeo Drive is one of the most iconic streets in the world. It’s located right in the heart of Beverly Hills and is home to some of the best shopping in the world. You can find accommodations at luxurious hotels such as the Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel, renowned for beautiful interior design and a cozy, inviting atmosphere. You can also visit one of the less well-known attractions in the area, the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style. While it pays homage to the more famous Hollywood Walk of Fame, it immortalizes major figures in fashion, instead.
The Watts Towers are symbols of the disprivileged neighborhood and represent the resourcefulness, resilience, and creativity of the urban poor. Sabato ‘Simon’ Rodia, an impoverished, barely-literate Italian immigrant used everything he could cobble together to create these stunning works of modern art—from steel rebar, wire mesh mixed with concrete to bits of tile and glass. When the LA City Council desired to tear down the structures, activists and art lovers came together to fight the decision, and they ultimately won.
The Huntington Library is a favorite spot for many Angelenos. It's a world-class library with more than 11 million items on display. You can drop by the Library Exhibition Hall and spend hours amongst the displays, which include a First Edition Shakespeare, Newton’s annotated copy of his Principia, Thoreau’s Walden manuscript and countless more. You can finish off your visit with the astonishing view from the Huntington Library gardens.