Forget about the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the theme parks. Don’t be put off by the urban sprawl and the terrible traffic.
Los Angeles is one of the world’s most famous cities, full of enough interesting attractions to keep a visitor happy for weeks. The gorgeous weather doesn’t hurt either!
Base yourself at one of the many fabulous Los Angeles vacation rentals and explore the best of the city with these top 8 off-beat attractions:
The Mosaic Tile House
Venice Beach attracts truly eccentric characters and the Mosaic Tile House reflects the atmosphere of this area perfectly. This little-known house is the studio of Cheri and Gonzalo Pann, tow artists who have transformed the building into a masterpiece. Every surface is covered with vold patterns and colours created from mosaic tiles.
It reminded me very much of mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar and the Philadelphia Magic Gardens. It’s also a little like Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona. At the same time it is a completely unique and hidden treasure of LA! The Mosaic Tile House can be visited on a guided tour, led by Cheri, which you can arrange by calling the number on the website.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery
I’m a longstanding taphophile (cemetery fan) so a visit to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a given for me. On Santa Monica Boulevard, abutting the Paramount Studios, Hollywood Forever Cemetery is packed with big names from the golden age of cinema, including Rudoph Valentino, Mickey Rooney, Douglas Fairbanks Snr and Jr, and Jayne Mansfield.
Three of the most famous directors in cinema history have mausoleums: Cecil B. DeMille, John Huston and Victor Fleming (director of Gone With the Wind and Wizard of Oz). A more diminutive star buried here is the canine star, Terry, most famous for playing Dorothy’s pal Toto.
It is also a beautiful green space in Los Angeles and in the summer hosts outdoor music and movie screenings. Take a picnic and a bottle of wine and have dinner with the (dead) stars!
The Last Bookstore
I only had to see one photo of The Last Bookstore before I was desperate to go there. This massive second-hand bookshop in Los Angeles is a creative tour-de-force of book stacking, with various unique ways of presenting the huge range of new and used books and records.
There is an amazing tunnel built from books and the serving desks are also made from stacked books. I could get lost in here for hours. It’s the perfect place to replenish your travel reading selection at reasonable prices. It’s also very friendly and if you time it right you can enjoy a musical performance or a literary gathering.
The Watts Towers
This collection of striking, spiky, steel sculptures were built between 1921 and 1954 by Sabato Rodia, an Italian immigrant. The original title of the work was Nuestro Pueblo, or our town, but now it is more commonly named after its location in the Watts community of South Los Angeles.
Grand Central Market
For a foodie treat in LA, head for the Grand Central Market and explore the speciality food stalls. With LA being such a melting pot of cultures you can expect plenty of delicious food adventures from around the world, as well as more classic American fare like Horse Thief BBQ.
There is also a good range of stalls selling fresh produce from vegetables to fish at the market. So if you have chosen to go self-catering in LA this is the perfect place to come and stock up for a feast.
The Norton Simon Museum
I had never heard of this art museum tucked away in Pasadena but the Norton Simon Museum has an impressive collection of art that is truly international. Artists represented her include Diego Rivera, Paul Klee, Vincent van Gogh and Peter Paul Rubens. It is the remarkable private art collection of 20th-century industrial magnate Norton Simon.
Spend some time in the lovely sculpture garden, with its reflecting pond and mature trees. The garden is actually where the origins of this museum can be found – this lush estate was given to the city of Pasadena in 1941 for the purpose of a local art institute.
Griffith Park in the Hollywood hills is home to two interesting attractions. Perhaps more well-known is the Griffith Observatory, which has incredible views over Los Angeles (especially at sunset), as well as being a working observatory and museum.
There is also the Old Zoo, not the operational Los Angeles Zoo that has animals, but an abandoned zoo that is still open to the public. You can wander through the old fashioned animal pits and the open cages. It’s an unusual environment and popular for picnics and film locations in LA.
The Stahl House
Nobody famous ever lived there but somehow this modernist structure on Woods Drive above Sunset Boulevard has become iconic. It represents the unique glamour of LA and is always included on lists of America’s best architecture.
It was created in the late 1950s by architect Pierre Koenig for Buck and Carlotta Stahl and has been photographed to great effect many times since then. It was designated one of Los Angeles’ ‘historic-cultural landmarks in 1999. You can take your own photos by booking onto a private or group tour at the Stahl House here.
I hope my list of the top 8 off-beat attractions in Los Angeles will help you plan your visit to the City of Angels.
By Natasha von Geldern