Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps
Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Hidden Gems of Pasadena
Nestled against the San Gabriel Mountains just north of downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena may be best known for its iconic Rose Bowl stadium and Tournament of Roses Parade. But venture beyond the sprawling football field and discover a charming small city with hidden gems at every turn.
Wander the brick-lined alleys of Old Pasadena to uncover trendy boutiques, hip restaurants, and historic architecture from the late 1800s. Don't miss the ornate facades and turrets of historic buildings like the Castle Green and the National Register-listed Pasadena Playhouse. For modern architecture, head to the Norton Simon Museum designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry.
Nature lovers can explore the wild side of Pasadena along the trails of Eaton Canyon. This 175-acre nature area has options for hikers of all levels, from easy strolls to steep climbs up to the canyon's waterfalls. Early risers can catch a glimpse of the resident mule deer, and birdwatchers will delight in spotting hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and other feathered friends.
Those looking to soak up Pasadena's arts scene should spend an afternoon gallery hopping along South Raymond Avenue and South Lake Avenue. Cutting-edge contemporary galleries like KP Projects and haleARTS sit alongside Pasadena staples like the Armory Center for the Arts. Don't miss the Gamble House by famous architects Charles and Henry Greene, a masterpiece of American Arts and Crafts style.
For an only-in-Pasadena experience, explore legends of science and mysticism at the Neon Museum of History. This quirky museum sheds light on Pasadena as the birthplace of Space Age technology at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and home to American mysticism like the Cosmic Ray Research Center. Its backyard Rocket Garden displays replicas of early spacecrafts.
No trip to Pasadena is complete without a meal at one of its storied restaurants. For fine dining, hit up Bistro 45, housed in a historic 1908 Craftsman home. Try Chef Brendan Collins' seasonal French-California cuisine paired with their award-winning wine list. For a classic drive-in burger joint, pull up to the Dog Haus on Green Street, slinging loaded all beef franks and craft beers since 1937.
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- Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Hidden Gems of Pasadena
- Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Beach Town Bliss in Manhattan Beach
- Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Hipster Haven in Silver Lake
- Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - San Pedro's Fish Markets and Harbor Views
- Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Old Hollywood Nostalgia Along Melrose
- Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Arts District: Galleries and Street Art
Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Beach Town Bliss in Manhattan Beach
With its laidback surf culture, stunning ocean views, and pedestrian-friendly downtown, Manhattan Beach serves up classic California beach vibes just south of LAX. This posh beach community manages to feel off-the-beaten path despite its prime location in metro Los Angeles.
Wander through downtown MB (as locals call it) to discover low-key boutiques, surf shops, gastropubs, and coffee shops, many housed within historic Craftsman cottages. The downtown area has a walker- and cyclist-friendly vibe, with a pedestrian-only path called The Strand connecting the shops. Grab a cold-brew iced coffee from Ercoles and take a relaxing stroll.
You can’t visit Manhattan Beach without spending time on its namesake stretch of sand. This pristine, clean beach boasts prime waves and beautiful views of the Pacific and offshore oil islands. Spread out a towel and watch the surfers, volleyball players, and families frolicking in the waves. The beach extends for about 2.5 miles from swanky oceanfront homes to the pier.
No visit is complete without walking the Manhattan Beach Pier, the iconic heart of this beach community. Meandering almost 1,000 feet over the Pacific, this concrete pier offers unparalleled sunset views and prime fishing. Anglers jockey for a spot to reel in bat rays, mackerel, and other catches. On summer nights, the pier lights up with carnival rides and shops.
For off-the-sand fun, spend an afternoon wandering the endotts - hidden walkways nestled between overgrown trees, vines, and cottages. These whimsical pathways feel like secret passageways to the beach. Or stop by the Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden to meander through cacti and California native plants by the sea.
Feed your inner foodie at MB's creative restaurants like Fishing with Dynamite. This upscale-yet-casual eatery serves the catch of the day alongside craft cocktails and California wines. For authentic tacos, hit up Petrillo's Italian Restaurant, a local favorite. And don't miss Scoops for mouthwatering organic ice cream in flavors like avocado and black sesame.
Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Hipster Haven in Silver Lake
Tucked into the eastern corner of Los Angeles, the hilly neighborhood of Silver Lake has emerged as the epicenter of the city's hipster scene. With its indie boutiques, third wave coffee shops, live music venues, and fusion cuisine, Silver Lake attracts creative types looking to immerse themselves in artsy counterculture.
Wander along Sunset Junction to uncover the neighborhood's funky shops and eateries. Pick up some new threads at NOVEL, a minimalist boutique stocking indie designers. Grab a pour-over coffee at Intelligentsia, where you can rub shoulders with screenwriters hammering away on laptops. Continue down Sunset Boulevard to peruse vintage shops like Squaresville, stacked with mid-century treasures.
As the sun sets, catch some live music at The Satellite or The Echo. These intimate venues host indie bands before they make it big, from Phoenix to Courtney Barnett. Nothing beats hearing raw talent in such an intimate setting. And you never know - you might just discover your new favorite artist.
Refuel with a bite from one of Silver Lake's fusion restaurants, like Mh Zh. This quirky eatery blends Chinese and Mexican cuisine, dishing up egg rolls stuffed with carnitas and kung pao Brussels sprouts. For late night munchies, join the line at Nickel Diner for their maple bacon donut.
Work off those calories ascending the hundred staircases dotting Silver Lake's hillsides. These secret stairways connect the neighborhood's streets and offer knockout views of downtown L.A.'s skyline emerging through the smog. The famed Music Box Stairs have served as a backdrop in films from La La Land to (500) Days of Summer.
Silver Lake Reservoir provides another beloved outdoor escape, encircled by a 3-mile running and walking path. Its calm blue waters attract paddlers by day and create dreamy reflections of the palm trees and San Gabriel Mountains at sunset. It's the ultimate place to decompress from the chaos of the city.
Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - San Pedro's Fish Markets and Harbor Views
Beyond the bright lights and glitz of Hollywood awaits the charming port town of San Pedro, where fishing trawlers still sputter through the harbor and Sunday mornings mean lining up for the freshest seafood around. Centered around a working fishing port, San Pedro offers visitors a refreshing dose of salt air, epic harbor views, and the thrill of picking your own catch straight off the boat.
No trip to San Pedro is complete without a visit to the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf seafood markets. Locals flock to Papadakis Tuna Company on Sunday mornings to snag just-caught ahi, halibut, and other ocean bounty wheeled right off the fishing boats. Be prepared to brave the lines and get there early - the freshest catches sell out fast. After picking your seafood, take it next door to the no-frills San Pedro Fish Market to have it filleted on the spot. The skilled fishmongers will slice up your sea bass or salmon while you watch.
Continue the harbor view-gazing with a meander down the Main Street Marina boardwalk, watching fishing trawlers sputter in and out of port. Pause for photo ops of the majestic Battleship USS Iowa floating just offshore - a relic from WWII and the Korean War now open for tours. As the sun dips towards the horizon, grab a bite at San Pedro Brewing Co. Their expansive patio serves up panoramic vistas of cargo ships cruising across the glittering harbor backed by the Port of Los Angeles cranes. Sip an IPA and watch the sunset paint the cranes in hazy watercolor hues.
For the quintessential San Pedro scene, time your visit with the bustling Fish Market Festival on Fridays April through October. The normally sleepy Ports O’ Call Village comes alive with music, artisans, and of course - plenty of freshly fried seafood. Grab a paper boat of codfish fritters or fried shrimp, find a picnic table, and soak up views of classic fishing boats bobbing in the harbor. Don’t miss wandering the dock to chat with fishermen hauling their catch onto shore.
Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Old Hollywood Nostalgia Along Melrose
Step back in time along Melrose Avenue's vintage boutiques, dive bars, and old haunts that capture the glitz and grit of Hollywood's Golden Age. While the strip may seem seedy today, it was the place to see and be seen for Old Hollywood stars and starlets back in the 1920s-1950s heyday.
Browse the lipstick-smeared mirrors and sequined gowns at It's a Wrap, a costume shop selling wardrobe castoffs from hit movies and TV shows. You never know which vintage treasures from Old Hollywood icons you'll uncover. Nearby, Paley Center for Media lets you get up close and personal with your favorite stars through its collection of TV and radio broadcasts. Watch Lucille Ball's groundbreaking comedy or catch a young Frank Sinatra crooning in the 1940s.
Just down the street, Musso & Frank Grill has been serving up stiff martinis and thick steaks since 1919. With its red leather booths, it looks frozen in time and has the tales to prove it. Legends like Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe once slid into these booths, their favorite spots memorialized with plaques. Don't miss the gruff old school waiters, martini cart, and rich history soaked into every dark wood beam.
Continue your time travel down Melrose to the buildings that housed iconic Paramount studios during the Golden Age. Though Paramount has relocated, their old home now houses indie studios and production companies. Grab a coffee at Paramount Coffee Project, residing in the original executive offices. Sip your latte overlooking the still-intact Paramount Pictures signage and imagine bigwigs hashing out movie deals.
Just down the road, pause to glimpse the Art Deco facade of the Ebell of Los Angeles Theatre, a 1928 stage that hosted Hollywood elite and avant garde performances. Though no longer active, its grandiose architecture provides a portal to Old Hollywood. Continue to the emerging Melrose Heights neighborhood to uncover The Groundlings Theatre, the famed improv space that groomed comedic greats from Kristen Wiig to Melissa McCarthy. Catch the next generation of talent finding their footing on these humble boards.
Off the Beaten Path: 10 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Arts District: Galleries and Street Art
Amid the warehouses and factories of downtown L.A. rests the creative heart of the city - the Arts District. Once a no-go zone of abandoned buildings, this edgy enclave has transformed into a mecca for street art, contemporary galleries, and experiential happenings.
This dynamic neighborhood pulses with an underground energy unlike anywhere else in Los Angeles. Gritty industrial streets set the scene for cutting-edge galleries like Hauser & Wirth, home to modern art exhibitions and an arts education lab. Nearby, the extensive murals of the Box Art District transform once-drab factory exteriors into towering canvases. This outdoor gallery showcases colorful works from international talents like DABS Myla and local artists including Tristan Eaton.
Beyond the galleries lies a wonderland for mural mavens and Instagrammers. Arts District streets burst with vibrant street art, from small paste-ups to massive collaborations covering full building sides. Snap an obligatory selfie in front of the iconic “Made in LA” mural by illustrator DUG1. DVDASA blotches buildings in rainbow colors along Mateo Street, and KaiKai Kiki’s whimsical characters peek around corners. Even loading docks and alleyways get artsy makeovers from local talents.
For the ultimate insider arts experience, join a guided street art tour to uncover hidden gems. Local guides like Street Art LA lead expert-led walks to coveted pieces far from the beaten path. Along the way, you’ll gain insight into the often anonymous artists behind the art and the stories embedded in their works. Tours grant VIP access to art otherwise unseen behind fences or within galleries.
When you need a culture break, refuel at Arts District Brewing Company. Their expansive warehouse taproom pours a spectrum of small-batch brews, from crisp lagers to bold stouts. Sip a hazy IPA under prismatic murals as you map out your next artistic wanderings. Or join the crowds at Wurstkuche, an industrial-chic beer hall slinging gourmet sausages alongside local brews and ciders. Grab a picnic table, bite into a rattlesnake and rabbit sausage, and watch the Arts District’s creative energy flow.