The glittery, glamorous world of Hollywood is constantly thrown up in the spotlight - paparazzi capture every second of the lives of our favorite A-listers and movies have consistently put (an often fake version of) Los Angeles on the map. Therefore, it’s almost impossible for Hollywood to match expectations - the Walk of Fame is tacky, Universal Studios is like a chicken coop, and the scammers will have a field day as soon as they hear a foreign accent.
Just because Hollywood has its flaws and takes the city’s attention, it doesn’t mean that it's the be-all and end-all of Los Angeles - not for a second. Away from the shimmering light, LA offers up a number of world-class attractions, heavenly beaches, and top-shelf dining - you just need to know where to look.
10 Griffith Park Observatory
Los Angeles might have a reputation for being a big, suburban city, full to the brim with concrete - however, there’s plenty of nature on offer if you just know where to look. In Griffith Park itself, the hiking trails are plentiful, many of which offer sublime views of the Los Angeles Basin down below.
At the peak of the mountain sits the world-famous Griffith Observatory. Aside from the excellent city vistas on offer, visitors can check out an astronomy show at the Samuel Oschin Planetarium or explore the free observatory exhibits.
9 Drive around Beverly Hills
Although Beverly Hills does neighbor Hollywood (which we’re not talking about here today), it’s got a different postcode - the famous 90210 - so we’re letting it slide. It’s not often that we can get a glimpse into the lives of the 1% - usually, they’re off getting their custom suits tailored or yelling at their assistants to fetch their third Unicorn Frappuccino of the day. Regardless, we might not get to see their faces but we can still gawk at the enormous properties they live on.
Make sure that you check the car’s brakes first, however, as it is called Beverly Hills for a reason.
8 The Grove and Farmers Market
Offering some of the most enjoyable dining, entertainment and shopping opportunities across the city, the Grove and the adjacent historic Original Farmers Market has been welcome locals and tourists for decades. Somehow, at least compared to the spotlit attractions like Universal Studios, the so-called ‘Happiest Place on Earth’ Disneyland and the overrated Walk of Fame, the Grove has remained a relatively unknown attraction.
Due to its proximity to Hollywood, it’s not uncommon to catch a few famous faces floating around the area as well, particularly grabbing a quick bite over in the Farmers Market.
We know, we know - technically, ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ doesn’t fall within the Los Angeles city limits. In reality, Mickey, Minnie and the rest of the gang live over in Anaheim, which is a little further inland from the main Los Angeles area (and therefore often a little hotter in the peak summer season).
Even though it’s a touch out of the way, no visit to Los Angeles is complete without a heart-pumping ride down Space Mountain or a good ol’ fashion Disneyland corn dog. The fireworks show at the close of each day is worth the trek alone.
6 La Brea Tar Pits
Marketing itself as one of the more underrated attractions across the chaotic, sprawling city that is Los Angeles, the La Brea Tar Pits combines incredible natural science with urban convenience. The site’s main attraction is, of course, the live, hot, bubbling tar pit, however, with its preserved animals, insects, and plants trapped under the asphalt, it’s also the only urban Ice Age fossil site in the world still being studied - and one of the rare sites open to public viewings.
Make sure not to bypass the fossil lab, 3D theatre, or the many different scientific exhibitions while you’re there either.
5 Check out some of the world-class restaurants...
It’s not exactly a startling revelation that the City of Angels is a melting pot of people, cultures, and food from across the world. While the Mexican influence is highly notable due to California's proximity to its southern neighbor, that doesn’t mean that it’s the only foreign cuisine on offer - not be a long way.
There are almost too many revered restaurants to count, however, some of the more notable ones which won’t break the bank include Lao Tao (Taiwanese), Sonoratown (Mexican), Bill's Hamburgers, Elena's Greek Armenian Cuisine, and LASA (Filipino).
4 ...then enter party mode
We’ve seen it in film and film - the people of Los Angeles seriously know how to throw a good party. After chowing down on some dinner at one of the impressive aforementioned eateries, it’s time to take the evening to the next level.
If you’re in the Downtown area, start off the night at a reasonably slow pace over at In Sheep’s Clothing or The Wolves, one of the hottest cocktail bars in the city. When it’s time to boogie, Avalon Hollywood, Sound Nightclub, or the Belasco Theater are just a handful of the most revered dance spots in the city.
3 The Getty Center
Often swept under the rug due to the global fascination with all things Hollywood, the Getty Center is equally as underrated as it is impressive. With a vast collection of art exhibitions featuring everything from paintings to drawings, sculptures, photographs, and more, plus incredibly picturesque gardens and A-grade views of the LA Basin below, anyone who takes the opportunity to check it out is guaranteed to be pleasantly surprised.
If you can line up your visit at the right time if year, Mother Nature puts on a dazzling show in the Getty’s gardens, with colorful plants reaching their peak bloom.
2 Santa Monica Pier
Just as cliches are cliches for a reason, it makes perfect sense why the Santa Monica pier is an ever-popular tourist attraction. Summertime sees tourists flock from near and far, combining a stroll down the pier with some shopping by the boardwalk and a dip in the refreshing sea to cool off at the end of the day.
Not only is there an old-school arcade, featuring a carousel, a (rather tame) roller coaster and some classic carnie games, but the pier itself also juts out into the Pacific, offering quality views of the vast shorelines beside it.
1 Venice beach
If you hadn’t fully quenched your thirst for sandy shores after exploring Santa Monica, then Venice is sure to do the trick. Unfortunately, Venice beach can also attract hordes of tourists, especially in the hotter months. However, large crowds also mean that the area is constantly sporting upbeat vibes compromising of street-performers, live musicians, and plenty of people skating or biking up and down the boardwalk.
Despite its popularity, the beach itself is long and wide enough that there’ll be plenty of space on the sand for everyone to comfortably work on their tan, even on the busiest days.