Hidden Los Angeles - Suggestions for curious visitors
January 12, 2013 9:23 AM   Subscribe

We will be in LA for a long a weekend, next weekend (Jan 16 - 20, 2013) visiting friends and are looking for suggestions for neat, quirky, or hidden (little known) places and experiences in LA/LA Area. Zen Gardens, Boutiques, Galleries/Gallery Openings, LA Cuisine, Street food, Flea Markets, Vintage shops, DJ gigs etc.

Similar to the types offered in Hidden New York or San Francisco's big guide or completely unrelated but cool. Thanks in advance.
posted by specialk420 to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (18 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
First thing you have to define is WHERE you'll be staying in Los Angeles. It's a huge city, and what you do depends on where you'll be.
posted by zagyzebra at 9:24 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hidden LA is on Facebook and Twitter and have some great stuff in their archives.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:36 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so far... we'll be down in Santa Monica for the first couple nights, then up in Topanga Canyon - but some driving is totally cool.
posted by specialk420 at 9:45 AM on January 12, 2013

Best answer: I'm from Los Angeles, but I'm choosing more for "awesome" than "hidden."

I'll probably think of more stuff later; I'm late for an appointment now.

Food: Shopping/exploration:
  • Do the fashion district, unless you're from New York.
  • Do Olvera Street.
  • Do Chinatown, unless you're from New York or San Francisco.
  • Visit at least one museum near the USC campus. I prefer Natural History because AWESOME. Also do the La Brea Tar Pits if you've never done it.
  • Visit my friend Larry's comic/toy/collectibles/geekiness store in Burbank - if you tell Larry, or pretty much anyone else there, that "Sarah in Ohio" sent you, they will be like "hey!" And they all collectively know a bunch of random crap about Los Angeles. Especially geeky things.
Please do at least one landmark theatre. Everyone knows the Chinese, which is awesome, but also consider:
  • Arclight (only do the DOME)
  • Egyptian
  • El Capitan (Disneyfied in the extreme, FYI)
  • Vista (best seating, least-well-known, very friendly)
  • It is crucial that you make sure you're actually seeing the big, original theatre. Both the Arclight and Chinese have multiplexes attached to them, which are exactly as exciting as whatever multi-screen mall theatres you have back home are.
Also, you want to split your last tag there. "SantaMonicaTopangaCanyon" is... not really going to help anyone. :)
posted by SMPA at 10:44 AM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Check out L.A. Taco for great art, music/DJ and food ideas that you won't find in a lot of other places.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:56 AM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Magic Castle, if you can scrounge up an invitation. It's just a wee bit skeevy, in an old-man-magical way (as opposed to your wholesome Disney magic), but still quite the experience.

The Melrose Trading Post is a big flea market every Sunday. It's not too far from Topanga Canyon. There is usually some sort of opening happening on Melrose west of this area. Look for crowds on the sidewalk.

It might still be cold next week, but it might also be beautiful. If it's nice out, several of the restaurants down on Washington by the beach offer excellent mimosa breakfast/brunch. I like Mercedes Grille.

The flautas at Pinches Tacos are fucking excellent.

Vehemently disagreeing with Pink's, unless there's only like 5 people in line. Ugh. I mean, I did get a polish sausage wrapped in bacon, deep fried, and then inserted into a carne asada burrito, but then I love living with regret, so.

Barnsdall Art Park is nice for a picnic dinner overlooking Hollywood at sunset. But if you're up in the canyons a hike along Mulholland would be just as good.

Seeing the Space Shuttle at The California Science Center is free, you just have to reserve a ticket online (print it out, they won't take the email on your phone). Parking isn't free, but it's on the Expo (blue) line so accessible in other ways. It is literally awesome.

Oh, and if you were interested in another Sunday Brunch at Beer Belly that would be awesome.
posted by carsonb at 11:03 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Santa Monica farmer's market on Saturday mornings is quite lovely. Especially if you are visiting from a climate that doesn't have much produce this time of year.

For gallery openings, check to see if anything is happening at Bergamot Station (it's a cluster of galleries in a former rail station in Santa Monica)

If you like burgers and can deal with clusterfucks, Father's Office or Apple Pan are both tasty. Father's Office has beer as well.

In general I'd recommend finding a hike in Topanga State Park. There a large network of trails and all that I have been on are quite lovely. If you're into abandoned and decaying things, check out the Murphy Ranch/Nazi Camp in Rustic Canyon.

There's lots of good street food, but I have no idea what trucks or tables are good on the westside. Maybe read reviews at http://www.greattacohunt.com/. Everyone loves the al pastor at Tacos Leo (nw corner of Venice and Fairfax). I've found bougie food trucks to be a bit of a mixed bag.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:00 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, hey, also not secret or whatever - but if you're already in the area, you can totally walk under the biggest rock you will presumably ever walk under. Free, and extremely odd. All my friends live-blogged the thing moving across town, because the traffic jam was epic (11 days for a sixty mile straight-line distance) and so everyone I know in LA got stuck in it at least once. You can see a collection of photos from the journey, as well as attempts to make awesome "standing under a rock" shots, here.

Agreed that Pink's is one of those "if you have an iron stomach" things - you did ask for street food. Of which there is a lot at Olvera Street, obviously. You may also like this guy's recommendations: he reminded me of the existence of Cupid's, so yay.

This is the Vista, by the way. Delightful, and there's actually a fair amount of free on-street parking very nearby. And six feet of legroom per seat!

Oh, and add Hot Dog On A Stick to the list of "possibly new/rare to you" chains to check out.
posted by SMPA at 1:18 PM on January 12, 2013

Seconding many of the recommendations above, especially SMPA's.

McCabe's Guitar Shop is a great, less-touristy part of Santa Monica and holds concerts sometimes.

Also: Getty/Getty Villa. Not really quirky, but worth it. (Villa requires tickets.)
If you're downtown: The Pantry, Angel's Flight, Grand Central Market, the library - again, not really hidden, but fun. The observation deck at City Hall has amazing views.
posted by eponym at 1:24 PM on January 12, 2013

There is a Hidden LA facebook page, in case you haven't found it.

I visited the Westwood area of LA a few months ago and I had a great time wandering around. It felt "hidden" to me because Westwood Village was one of the earliest "outdoor malls" (1929) but is no longer a major destination for Angelenos or tourists, although UCLA is nearby so there are enough people to support restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters. In general, it has the right amount of seediness, but never feels unsafe.

Here are some of the highlights I enjoyed:

The Regency "Fox" theater (Simply the most amazing shrine to cinema I have ever seen. The classic old-school Hollywood theater)

The Bruin theater (Kitty-corner to the Regency and also amazing.)

The Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery is a tiny cemetery that is the final resting place for Marilyn Monroe, Daryl Zanuck,Natalie Wood, Dean Martin, Truman Capote and many other Hollwood celebs. It literally defines "hidden", because if you can find this place on the first go-round, I tip my hat to you.

The area at first glance feels like corporate, homogenized LA but if you read between the lines you can find strains of old art-deco LA: The Janss Dome, Ralph's Grocery Store and other historic buildings.
posted by jeremias at 2:36 PM on January 12, 2013

You know, when cortex came to town we took a very similar path to the one you're taking between SM/Venice and Topanga Canyon. We started at Mercedes, proceeded to the La Brea Tar Pits (where we just farted around, ogling things), went to look at the city from the Griffith Observatory, and then had a house party. That was a good day!
posted by carsonb at 3:33 PM on January 12, 2013

Response by poster: A bunch of great suggestions - thanks all. Look forward to a long weekend in LA.
posted by specialk420 at 3:47 PM on January 12, 2013

Oh, and check the weather reports! We've been having record lows, and this week it's been getting down into the 30s at night here in SM.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:58 PM on January 12, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks room 641 - looks like 70s later in the week ... virtually tropical compared to MSP.
posted by specialk420 at 7:01 PM on January 12, 2013

Search AskMeFi because there have been several recent very similar questions and you will find additional ideas there.
posted by Dansaman at 8:31 PM on January 12, 2013

If you're going to Olvera/Chinatown, then I'd recommend stopping in to Philippe's for a french dip. I think it's better than the Mexican restaurants they have in Olvera. You should also walk across the street to Union Station. Those old chairs always make me feel like I'm going back in time, and a number of movies have been filmed there.
posted by willnot at 11:23 AM on January 13, 2013

I just thought of something oddly specific. If you like olives and will be in SM on Saturday, go to the farmer's market downtown (2nd and Arizona) and find the olive guy, all the way at the east end of the market. They have something called New Olives, which I can only describe as being the equivalent of half-sour pickles. They're only available for a few months and are one of my favorite foods ever.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:01 PM on January 13, 2013

So many of the hidden gems of LA have already been listed already but I'll suggest a resources for your research:
- TripAdvisor has some really good listings
- This book, while slightly out of date has so many wonderful ideas; a must for any LA local
- The Museum Of Jurassic Technology is one of the most interesting & crazy museums in LA.
posted by pgswim at 5:52 PM on January 13, 2013

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