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14 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Los Angeles, California

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It’s no secret that Los Angeles is a playground for tourists, with so many big-ticket attractions and iconic places to see. From the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Universal Studios Hollywood to the Santa Monica Pier, the city is packed full of world-famous landmarks.

But what if you don’t want to see the big ticket attractions? What if you want to get off the beaten path and discover a Los Angeles that the normal tourist wouldn’t see? What about the locals – what do they do?

If you’re looking for non touristy things to do in LA, then you’re in the right place. We have been to LA plenty of times and ticked off those bucket list attractions, so on our latest visit, we decided to go off piste and explore the hidden gems and backstreet attractions.

Non-Touristy Things to Do in Los Angeles

1. Go on an urban hike at Griffith Park

One of the best perks of Los Angeles is the amount of hiking available without having to leave the city.

Many visitors, however, often head straight to Runyon Canyon, which is one of the most accessible hikes (just off Hollywood Blvd.), but as a result, also one of the busiest, since it’s a small hiking area.

However, just east of Runyon Canyon is Griffith Park, characterized by the Griffith Observatory, which sits perched on a hilltop below the Hollywood Sign.

Here you’ll find more than 50 miles of trails, such as the four-mile Mt. Hollywood Trail.

Also at Griffith Park is Bronson Canyon, or Bronson Caves, which has been the filming location of a long list of films and television shows, including the 1960s Batman television series.

Check out this video of a few LA hikes we’ve done for more inspiration…

2. Watch a concert/movie at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Cinespia / Hollywood Forever , Los Angeles
Image: Cinespia

For most tourists to L.A., the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is merely the resting place of some of their favorite celebrities such as Judy Garland and Burton Leon Reynolds Jr.

However, it livens up during the summer and fall months when it becomes an outdoor venue, and plays host to outdoor movie screenings playing classic movies, like The Goonies, and sometimes even holds concerts from top musicians, such as Lana Del Rey.

The outdoor movie series is one of most popular summer events in L.A. for locals, often selling out.

The best part, however, is that you can bring in all your own food, wine, and beer. Just make sure you bring some blankets and pillows, and arrive well before doors open so you can snag a great spot on the lawn.

3. Go wine tasting beachfront in Malibu

Rosenthal Winery, Malibu, Los Angeles
image: ellenm1

It’s not just anywhere you can go wine tasting at the beach.

However, Rosenthal Winery in Malibu offers just that, located on the Pacific Coast Highway, across from the breaking waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Rosenthal’s tasting room features flights and tastings for their long list of wines, which include Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and numerous other varietals.

Weekends are the best time to visit, when Rosenthal’s backyard features live music Friday through Sunday, with food trucks often parking outside.

4. Climb the secret stairs for panoramic views of LA

The iconic Hollywood sign
View of Hollywood sign from Beachwood Canyon Stairs. Image: Daniel Pouliot

Decades ago, Los Angeles’ neighborhoods were connected by a series of more than 400 staircases. It provided a direct route for residents to schools, markets, and other points of interest, long before highways connected L.A.

Today, many of those hidden staircases remain and are open for the public.

One of the most convenient series of stairs is near Hollywood Blvd., off Highland (on the back of the Hollywood Bowl), and has great overlooks of the city from the Hightower Elevator Tower.

Also nearby are the Beachwood Canyon Stairs, which include views of the Hollywood Sign and Lake Hollywood.

5. Kayak down the Los Angeles River

Kayak down the river in LA. Who knew?
image: LA River Kayak Safari

Not only does Los Angeles have a river, but also it’s a river that you can kayak down.

Guided kayaking trips are done by a couple different charter companies at recreational areas on the L.A. River.

Guided trips down the Los Angeles River are twofold, one to experience the outdoors of L.A. in a way that you can only do in a kayak, but secondly to learn about preservation efforts of the river, as the river and surrounding area is undergoing significant revitalization.

6. Catch an Improv Show

IO West Thearter, Los Angeles
image: iO West Theater

Some of the most well-known actors and actresses got their start at improve theaters like iO West (which has now sadly closed), including Jason Sudeikis, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler.

Naturally then, Los Angeles is home to some of the best improve theaters in the U.S.

One of my favorites is the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCB) on Sunset Boulevard, often featuring numerous shows per evening.

Tickets are rarely more than $15, offering some of the cheapest, funniest entertainment you’ll ever see. Then one day you’ll be able to say, “I saw them when…”

7. Go on a Brewery Crawl

Go on a brewery tour in LA

While San Diego gets most of the credit for California’s beer scene, Los Angeles is putting itself on the map with its brewery offerings.

With so many great new breweries opening up, it means you never have to travel very far for good craft beer.

On the east side, there are a couple of L.A.’s longest running breweries, Golden Road and Eagle Rock.

Downtown Los Angeles is home to the appropriately named Angel City.

The South Bay, however, has the highest concentration of breweries, including Smog City, Monkish, and El Segundo, just to name a few.

8. Visit a Bar that was Prohibition Speakeasy

A close up of a wine glass

Who says L.A. has no history and culture?

Los Angeles is unique in that it’s home to multiple bars that are operating today that were speakeasy bars during prohibition.

The King Eddy Saloon in Downtown Los Angeles is the most famous prohibition speakeasy, but it sadly closed down. It was famous for entertaining a host of characters for about a century, such as famous poet Charles Bukowski.

Another historic landmark that predates prohibition is Townhouse and the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice, which offers a more proper speakeasy experience, and was a working speakeasy during prohibition. It celebrated its 100 years in 2016.

9. See Greek and Roman art at the Getty Villa Museum

Getty Villa Museum

For art lovers, you’ve probably heard of the Getty Center, but the free to visit Getty Villa Museum is a one of a kind experience in the Pacific Palisades region.

The villa itself is a re-creation of a Roman country house, and its filled with Greek and Roman artwork and antiquities, as well as some Stone Age relics dating back more than 4,000 years ago.

A highlight of the museum is the Roman-era mummy!

Outside enjoy the stunning reflecting pool with views of the Pacific Ocean, and you can enjoy afternoon tea at the onsite cafe.

Although it’s free to enter, you must reserve a timed ticket. To do so, visit the official website here.

10. Sing Karaoke in Koreatown

Koreatown Sign at Night

Spanning 2.7 square miles, Koreatown is one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in tinsel town.

It’s known for being on the go, 24/7, where the party never stops and the bars never close.

K-Town is where you’ll find the largest concentration of clubs and bars, and of course, karaoke venues.

You’ll also find street food vendors serving up Korean favs such as kimbap and boonsik!

11. Relax in the botanical gardens at Huntington Library

botanical gardens at Huntington Library

The Huntington Library is one of the largest research libraries in the state, and unless you’re studying, it’s not often you will visit here.

However, the library also has a beautiful botanical garden, spanning 130 acres and featuring 83,000 plants in 16 themed gardens.

The gardens also have rare and endangered plants.

It’s the perfect place to visit when you need to escape the chaos of LA.

12. Paddle a Swan Boat on Echo Park Lake

Echo Park in Los Angeles with View of Downtown Skyline
Echo Park and Lake

Echo Park is an urban park that’s energetic and alive with activity. One of the to things to do there is to paddle one of the iconic swan boats and admire the LA skyline views from the lake.

This park has been operating since 1895, making it one of the most historic urban parks in the city, but it’s rarely visited by tourists.

You may even spot a few local events here such as the Echo Park Earth Fest and Lotus Festival.

13. Visit the FREE Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Another free museum to check out in LA is the LA County Museum of Art, which is the largest art museum in the western United States.

It contains a collection of nearly 152,000 objects from around the world, spanning more than 6,000 years of history.

There are always temporary and rotating exhibits, so every time you visit there is something new to see.

14. Rollerskate the Venice Beach Boardwalk

people riding bikes along venice beach
Bike to Venice Beach

Ok, this last one is getting more touristy over the past few years since Venice Beach boardwalk has been endlessly photographed on social media and used in Hollywood movies.

It was famously featured in The Barbie movie, in the scene where Ken and Barbie were rollerskating. You can have your own Barbie and Ken moment and rollerskate, bike, or simply walk along the boardwalk. You can rent rollerskates from this place.

Venice Beach boardwalk has so much to see as you wander along. You’ll see groups of people doing yoga sessions, acroyoga, and just down the road near Santa Monica Pier, there’s a muscle beach outdoor gym as well.

Exploring the boardwalk is a sure way to get a feel for local life in LA.

More LA Travel Tips

Need more inspiration about visiting LA? Here are some other helpful guides..

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Do you have any more non-touristy tips for Los Angeles? Let’s see your ideas in the comments!

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