10 Non-Traditional Things to Do in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Parks

The Los Angeles area is vast, and filled with many wonderful tourist attractions.  But often times these can become tourist traps as well.  Thousands and thousands of people visit some of these locations each day making it crowded and uneasy to be at.  We decided to get in touch with some L.A. locals who really know the terrain to give us the inside scoop on some of the best Los Angeles has to offer.

Here are 10 delightful spots which locals enjoy and provide the sights, sounds and flavors or LA without so much of the tourist crowds.

Enjoy an Oceanside Picnic at Point Fermin Park

Point Fermin Park

Nestled along the coastline at the southernmost point of Los Angeles, Point Fermin Park is a favorite spot for spending the day and having a picnic lunch. It is 37 acres of landscaped spaces including lawns with generations old trees shading the picnic sites, pretty gardens and some of the most breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Catalina Island available. There is a promenade along the palisade which follows the edges of the rugged bluffs which comprise the coastline. Two trails lead down to the tide pools and beach far below the point. Sheltered pergolas line the promenade, which offer the most coveted coastal views. There are also picnic areas within the lawns, and an amphitheater which is home to local Shakespeare and band performances. The Monarch butterflies spend their winters at Point Fermin, and it is possible to see harbor seals and dolphins some days. Walker’s Café and the Point Fermin Lighthouse are there, too.


Try Some Yoga at the South Coast Botanical Gardens

South Coast Botanical Gardens

Visit the gardens to take a yoga class. The class is held outside in the Lower Meadow, featuring yoga as a weekday escape. Each session focuses on a different theme using yoga:

  • for potential
  • for change
  • for energy
  • for balance
  • for self-expression
  • for imagination
  • for transcendence
  • for abundance

Of course, the gardens are also filled with 87 acres of plant species totaling over 2,500 varieties. There is a lake, a nice gift shop and picnic area just outside of the gates. It is 10 miles south of the Los Angeles Airport, on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.


Take in a Concert at The Colburn School

The Colburn School

Many people come to Downtown Los Angeles to visit the Disney Concert Hall. It’s easy to see the amazing building’s architecture from street level, of course. A wonderful alternative to hearing superb music is literally right across the street at The Colburn School. This conservatory of music presents more than 300 concerts a year by both famous concert artists, and up and coming artists of the future. It is a community school for music and the arts and a conservatory of music for college aged musicians. Same day tickets are often available for the Zipper Concert Hall, and other venues at the school. A Café is onsite. The school site contains the Jascha Heifetz studio, which was designed by Lloyd Wright and saved from demolition in Heifetz’s backyard to be rebuilt in the second floor at the school. The Piatigorsky Archives made available online and through participation in the Piatigorsky Festival.


Try Your Hand with Crazy Disc Golf at La Mirada Regional Park

La Mirada Regional Park

La Mirada Regional Park is home to some of the best disc golf in Southern California. There are two courses which circle around the lake and park area, with 18 holes and Mach II targets, the elevation is a combination of 50% flat and 50% hills. There are Professional Disc Golf Association events held there, but it is also open to the public. The park also has play areas for kids, tennis courts, BBQ areas, fishing, hand ball and racquet ball courts and plenty of walking paths.


Explore the Los Angeles Main Public Library

Los Angeles Main Public Library

This library is pretty magnificent. The original library was built in 1926, and it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Docents lead free tours every day that the library is open. Designed by New York architect Bertram Goodhue, the building is a masterpiece of early Art Deco style. Filled with the decorate sculpture of Lee Lawrie, the theme of Light of Learning is evident. Murals on linen and oil by Dean Cornwell fill the Rotunda’s upper walls, depicting California history scenes.

The Children’s Department has been restored to its 1920s décor, with Art Deco style chairs, lamps and carpeting. There is a small theater there, and frequent performances are held for free. It is a wonderland for families with young children to visit, but adults often end up in that room just to sit and read in luxury. For many locals, it is the place to go for computer classes, exhibits, lectures and events of all kinds, and to browse through the 6 million books, audiobooks, periodicals, DVDs and CDs available for check out. Many stop to catch some sun and have some lunch in the gardens located at the building’s entrance.


Tour the Hsi Lai Temple and Try the Vegetarian Buffet

Hsi Lai Temple

About 20 minutes east of Downtown Los Angeles, in the suburb of Hacienda Heights, the Hsi Lai Temple is nestled in the hillside. It is the largest Buddhist temple in the Western Hemisphere, encompassing 15 acres and 102,432 square feet of floor area. The temple is built in the Ming dynasty style of traditional Chinese monasteries. Construction was completed over 10 years from 1978 to 1988. There are daily self-guided, free audio tours which last about 40 minutes and drop-in guided tours for $1.00 on weekends. Both may be combined with vegetarian buffet lunch. The temple is a step into another world. For a quick breakfast before the temple tour, consider trying some Taiwanese French fusion baked goods at 85 Degrees C Bakery Café; a hot spot for locals. Or, have dinner at Akasaka Sushi Restaurant, where only locals know how to find it, but the freshness and Samurai portions of the master sushi chef bring regulars back almost daily.


Shop and Eat at Olvera Street

Olvera Street

A visit to Los Angeles isn’t complete without stopping by the historic street that is recognized as the street where Los Angeles was born. The street was created in 1930 and it is filled with merchant carts, restaurants, gift shops and many different performances of mariachi music or Aztec and Mexican folkloric dancers. It is a place for buying handmade Mexican artwork, finely crafted leather goods, pottery and authentic clothing. It can be extremely crowded during major holidays, so visiting on a weekday, in the mid-morning hours is the best time, and when it’s more likely that locals are there rather than the tourist crowds. It is a wonderful spot to enjoy delicious traditional Mexican foods, music and shopping for souvenirs. Two extravagant days to visit are Dia de los Muertos and Las Posadas, as these traditional holidays bring out the best in entertainment and the largest crowds. Guided tours do stop there, but it’s not necessary to take one. Just stroll the street from one end to the other at leisure and browse through the shops based on what catches the eye…or nose…


Soak in the Cityscape at The Westin Bonaventure Hotel

The Westin Bonaventure Hotel

There’s no need to stay at the hotel. It is possible to visit this famous city within the city of Los Angeles. The inner atrium is six stories high and filled with international restaurants and specialty boutiques. Its futuristic architecture has drawn many film makers to the location for filming, including Mission Impossible III, Escape from LA, Epicenter, True Lies, In the Line of Fire, and more. The 34th floor has a revolving cocktail lounge, which offers panoramic views of the entire city below. It takes about an hour or the lounge to complete a circle, and it is enjoyable to see the city lights at night, the sunset at dusk or the cityscape during the day. Many Los Angelenos come to the lounge with first time visitors to the city. The entire hotel is a magical space to visit for a day.


Discover Local Culture at the Japanese American National Museum


Central to the early years of Los Angeles City development is the Little Tokyo area and its original citizens. The Little Tokyo area just south of Downtown Los Angeles swells with tourists during festival times of the year, such as during the August Festival week. But, the museum is a quieter spot, with many different exhibits and activities designed to showcase the best in Japanese art and culture. Visitors can learn about the significance of Japanese American contributions to American history, experience taiko drumming, learn about crafts such as origami and take guided tours into Little Tokyo to sample the delicious foods there.


Ride the Los Angeles River Bike Path

Los Angeles River Bike Path

Actually, there are several LA Bike paths to try, but the one along the Los Angeles River gives a varied view of the city from its central corridor. It’s best to ride during the day to see the various birds and river plants. The path is clean and well lit, though not always the most scenic. Yet, for a bike enthusiast, being able to ride along the Los Angeles River is part of a list of must experience at least once rides. Some do not realize that Los Angeles actually has a river, because it is controlled in concrete channels for protection of the surrounding urban areas. Griffith Park and the Gene Autry Museum of Western History are at the north ends, and could be included on a day trip of riding plus exploring.


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