6 disappointing tourist traps to avoid in LA

Stay away from Hollywood and Venice beach and instead check out some attractive alternatives to local letdowns
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Photograph: Christian Haugen/Flickr Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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We love LA, quirks and all, but we understand how a tourist could touch down at LAX and think "Really? This is it?" Every day outside the Time Out Los Angeles office, we see the disappointment as visitors from around the world wander around Hollywood Boulevard—tired children shuffling over the stars, trailing behind their even more tired parents. This city is a weird and wonderful place, but these six tourist attractions won't help you fall in love with LA. Of course, there's a good chance you'll visit these places anyway, so at the very least, hear us out on these far superior alternatives.

Planning on visiting LA? Here are nine things you should know first.

Chinese Theatre
Photograph:

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Glitz, glamour and celebrities—all things you won't find in Hollywood, at least not on a daily basis. But grit and grime? Plenty of that. Once you've seen those immortalized names on the sidewalk (which you probably shouldn't rub your hands all over), there's not much more than suspect superheroes, claustrophobia-inducing crowds, star tour salesmen and a never-ending line of gift shops, tattoo parlors and lingerie stores. Outside of the handsome, historic Hollywood Roosevelt, none of that old romance, if it ever existed at all, remains here.

Instead: With a few exceptions, most of the moviemaking in LA happens outside of Hollywood; you'll want to take a studio tour if you're looking for film history. As for that glitzy-yet-sleazy nightlife LA is known for, the Sunset Strip will better meet your expectations—though Hollywood does have its share of clubs.

Universal CityWalk
Photograph:

Universal CityWalk

Don't let its proximity to Universal Studios fool you: CityWalk features none of the park's movie magic but seemingly twice the number of people. The loud, oppressively neon shopping center crams souvenir hawkers, junk-food retailers and a handful of sloppy bars into a hillside pedestrian street. At least, we think it's actually up in the hills—it's hard to retain any sense of direction inside the claustrophobic corridor.

Instead: Though they're certainly crowded and touristy, the Grove and the Americana offer a much classier take on a faux shopping city, with better stores to boot.

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Rodeo Drive
Photograph: Torsten Bolten

Rodeo Drive

Not to crush your Pretty Woman shopping spree dreams, but you can file most of Rodeo Drive's high-end shops under "look but don't touch." The palm tree-lined street is pretty, to be sure, but expect to spot more selfie posing, window shopping tourists than celebrities.

Instead: Malibu Country Mart may not have the same name recognition, but this casual seaside shopping outlet attracts a mix of both locals grabbing lunch in wetsuits and celebrities pretending they don't want to be seen.

Venice Beach.
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Venice Boardwalk

Venice Beach has always been a circus by the sea, so it's no surprise that these days it runs on cheap T-shirts, medical marijuana cards and street performers. Oh, you'll see plenty of palm tree-lined walkways and maybe even a roller skater who escaped from the '70s, but this place is so much seedier than the movies have led you to believe. Good luck trying to find parking, too.

Instead: The Strand, LA's beachfront bike path, runs from the Pacific Palisades all the way down to Torrance. Immediately north of Venice, the path cuts through Santa Monica's blossoming Main Street district. Much farther south, you can scope out seaside estates in Manhattan Beach. If you're still intent on visiting Venice, at least stray from the boardwalk to the idyllic canals or the posh Abbot Kinney.
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Photograph: Michael Juliano

Star tours

Walk anywhere on Hollywood Boulevard and you’re sure to be stopped by someone hawking a discounted van tour. The prices and employees are persuasive, but the celebrity hunting part is as soul sucking as it is unreliable—Oh, that sliver of stucco hidden behind those hedges and that huge security gate is Jennifer Aniston's house? How exciting! 

Instead: Rent a car—it'll be cheaper than a tour if you're travelling with a buddy. Start with a view of the Hollywood Sign from Lake Hollywood Park followed by a cruise along Mulholland Drive. Wind your way through Bel-Air, Holmby Hills, Beverly Hills and the Bird Streets in the Hollywood Hills if you're set on seeing (mostly hidden) celebrity mansions. If you're only after star sightings, make a beeline for these celebrity hangouts instead.

Gladstone's Malibu
Photograph: Courtesy Gladstone's Malibu

Gladstone's

We don't mean to pick on a single restaurant, but this Pacific Palisades seafood spot has somehow become an Instagram essential for out-of-towners. Overpriced and overcrowded, you're mostly paying for the view at Gladstone's—and a steep $7 for parking.

Instead: For a romantic oceanfront spot that actually lives up to the (admittedly hefty) price tag, try Nobu Malibu. If you're looking for no-frills fresh fish, head down PCH to Malibu Seafood. For the quintessential SoCal experience, watch the sunset over a basket of fried goodness at Neptune's Net.

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