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Photograph: Benny Haddad

Where to go in L.A. to avoid the tourists

Steer clear of Disneyland, the Getty Center and Hollywood Boulevard and instead opt for these lesser-known L.A. spots

By Annalise Mantz

There’s no shortage of great places to visit in L.A. for tourists (and plenty of disappointing tourist traps to avoid, too). The only problem? Locals get shafted: All the top Los Angeles attractions, including essential museums and the best beaches, seem to be perpetually crowded with visitors. When you’re looking for a fun day out but don’t want to deal with tourists, check out some of the city’s lesser-known things to do. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-pumping hike, cool museums to visit or a peaceful meditation garden, there’s something for everyone on this list.

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Where to go in L.A. to avoid the tourists

Peace Awareness Labyrinth
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/InSapphoWeTrust

Peace Awareness Labyrinth

Yes, spending an afternoon meditating in a serene garden might be stereotypically L.A., but it’s also completely relaxing. The totally chilled out volunteers who run this spiritual center, historic villa and gardens won’t judge you anyway. Take a free tour of the grounds before walking the labyrinth or finding a quiet place to meditate or take a nap. Don’t be surprised if the guy manning the door comments on your aura on the way out.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/InSapphoWeTrust

Museum of Jurassic Technology

Museums History Palms

Is the Museum of Jurassic Technology a real institution of learning? A satirical commentary on other museums? A celebration of all things bizarre? It’s hard to say—even after you take in the strange collection of scientific wonders, microminiature sculptures, oil paintings of the dogs from the Soviet space program and more. Take your time exploring the exhibits full of curios and oddities, then make your way upstairs to the rooftop tea garden to puzzle out what you’ve seen.

Stronghold Gym
Photograph: Courtesy Stronghold Gym

The Stronghold

Sports and fitness Climbing Lincoln Heights

Housed in the former Pabst Blue Ribbon factory in Downtown, this climbing gym boasts an impressive facility: 46-foot-high walls with hundreds of routes, plenty of bouldering terrain, a full gym on the mezzanine level and a canvas-tented yoga studio. Zone out as you pull yourself up, hand-over-hand, on one of the many routes. First-timers should sign up for an introductory class to learn the basics of top-rope climbing and belaying before climbing on their own.

Greenbar Distillery
Photograph: Courtesy Greenbar Distillery

Greenbar Distillery

Bars Cocktail bars Downtown Arts District

The first distillery to open in L.A., Greenbar churns out a wide portfolio of organic spirits including amaro, bitters, vodka and gin. Walk the distillery floor on a guided tour to learn about the craft distilling process and how the professionals taste spirits. You’ll sample as many as six different liquors but don’t worry—you’re sipping them rather than pounding shots.


Natura Spa

Health and beauty Spas Koreatown

L.A.’s Korean spas are a legendarily good bargain: With enormous saunas and a plethora of pampering treatments, they offer the same caliber of service as Burke Williams without the hefty price tag. Slip into the warm embrace of Natura Spa for the afternoon to see what we mean. Whether you stick to the hot sauna, cold pool and jade rooms included with admission or opt to add a few extra treatments, you’ll leave with a newly relaxed grin on your face.

The Petersen Automotive Museum
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Petersen Automotive Museum

Museums Transportation Miracle Mile

This former department store turned car museum is smack in the middle of Miracle Mile, the first commercial development designed with drivers in mind. Even if you’re not an automotive enthusiast, you’ll certainly learn something about the car’s history and culture. Peep the 150-plus beautiful and bizarre vehicles on display, including Bugattis, Cadillacs and even Vespas. There’s really no more fitting city for this museum than Los Angeles—after all, it is the city with the worst traffic in the country.

Photograph: Courtesy Coursehorse

The Knitting Tree

Making something with your own two hands can provide a blissful mental release. After working all day, you can finally turn off your brain and get lost in the moment. Knitting and crocheting certainly fit the bill: Both require repetitive movements and plenty of patience. Learn the basics in a beginner’s class at this Inglewood knitting store. Save some time to check out the store’s Branch Gallery (did you notice the theme?) next door after class. The gallery showcases fiber art by local artists. Expect to find anything from avant-garde installations to sculptures made using basket weaving techniques.

Baldwin Hills
Photograph: Benny Haddad

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

Things to do Culver City

Alright, you will probably see plenty of other exercisers at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook—or, as it’s affectionately referred to by locals, the Culver City Stairs. But they probably won’t be tourists: Unlike Runyon Canyon or Griffith Park, Baldwin Hills hasn’t yet become a place where everyone has to take an Instagram photo. Huff and puff your way up 282 steep concrete stairs for sweeping, 360-degree views of Los Angeles. It’s both a workout and a sightseeing activity.

Photograph: Shutterstock

Captain Kirk's Paddleboard Lessons and Rentals

Unlike Santa Monica or even Marina del Rey, San Pedro hardly ever feels crowded with tourists. For a paddleboarding experience that’s actually enjoyable, seek out Captain Kirk’s in this South Bay nabe. As long as you already know how to swim, your instructor will have you balancing on your board, paddling and turning with ease in no time at all. If the lesson goes well, you can always rent the board for another hour or two.

Echo Park Time Travel Mart

Things to do Cultural centers Echo Park

Sci-fi fans could easily spend some time browsing the bizarre merchandise at this funky Echo Park store. You might just find a 50-year calendar, original version of the Simon computer game or wind-up robots you just have to have. Though dropping your hard-earned cash on some goofy toy might seem frivolous, you’re supporting a good cause—albeit unknowingly. This kooky storefront is actually one of seven themed stores nationwide that benefit 826 National, a literary nonprofit that offers after-school tutoring and creative writing workshops to area children. Westsiders can also visit its sister Time Travel Mart in Mar Vista.

Looking for more things to do in L.A.?

LA Beer Hop
Photograph: Courtesy LA Beer Hop

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Things to do Walks and tours

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