Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Hidden Gems of Venice Beach
Venice Beach is known for its colorful boardwalk, eclectic shops, street performers, and beautiful ocean views. While the boardwalk attracts hordes of tourists, there are several hidden gems just off the beaten path that offer a more local experience.
Walk down the Venice Canals to see some of the most exclusive real estate in LA. These man-made canals were built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney as part of his vision for a “Venice of America.” The homes here are now worth millions, but you can still glimpse spectacular waterfront views as you stroll down the walking paths. Keep an eye out for ducks, herons, and even the occasional celeb taking in the sights.
Head inland to check out the Venice Art Walls (aka the Venice Graffiti Park). This ever-changing outdoor gallery spans a full city block and is completely free. Local artists have decorated the walls with colorful murals, tags, and graffiti art. Pack a picnic and watch new pieces come to life before your eyes. Just be sure to go during daylight hours.
Foodies should check out The Butcher's Daughter. Located off Abbot Kinney Blvd, this plant-based eatery crafts simple, organic vegetarian and vegan dishes as well as fresh-pressed juices and smoothies. Everything is sourced locally, and the airy, modern atmosphere make it a refreshing break from beachside kitsch. Be prepared to wait during peak times.
Architecture buffs can tour a private residence designed by Frank Gehry, who also crafted the curvy Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown. The Norton House offers periodic tours of this angular, contemporary home that juts out at wild angles. Tickets book up early via the UCLA Architecture and Design website.
Bargain shoppers flock to the Venice Swap Meet on Saturdays and Sundays. With over 200 vendors, it's one of the biggest outdoor markets in SoCal. Pick through piles of vintage clothes, antiques, and handmade crafts. Word of warning - it gets crowded so go early.
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- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Hidden Gems of Venice Beach
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Eclectic Eateries in Echo Park
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Wander West Hollywood's Walk of Fame
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Downtown LA's Arts District Revival
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Culver City's Quirky Boutiques
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Silver Lake's Stairway Hikes
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Long Beach's Retro Revival
- Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - San Gabriel Valley's Authentic Asian Food
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Eclectic Eateries in Echo Park
Nestled between Dodger Stadium and the hipster enclaves of Silver Lake and Los Feliz, Echo Park flies under the radar compared to its more famous neighbors. But make no mistake, this northeast LA hub serves up its own eclectic array of eateries that offer a tasty glimpse into LA’s cultural melting pot.
Tucked away on a sleepy stretch of Sunset Blvd, Ostrich Farm echoes old world charm with its ivy-covered patio and French-inspired bistro fare. Daily chalkboard specials showcase seasonal ingredients, from roasted beet and chèvre salads to seared scallops with cauliflower purée. Don’t miss the Basque-style cheesecake for dessert. Just be prepared to wait on weekends when lines snake out the door.
For late night cravings, Dave’s Hot Chicken dishes out crispy fried chicken tenders doused in spice levels from “no spice” to “reaper” hot. Take caution with the spiciest - this Nashville hot chicken joint does not play around. Open until 2am on weekends, it’s a favorite for night owls and thrill seekers.
Those with a sweet tooth make the pilgrimage to Valerie Confections, where Valerie Gordon and her team craft artisanal candies, petits fours, and chocolate bark. The space itself looks plucked from a French patisserie. Treat yourself to seasonal macarons and truffles or take home stunning gift boxes.
Mexican flavors shine at Las Molenderas, a no-frills gem known for its house-made tortillas. Traditional options like mole poblano and chilaquiles satisfiy cravings, while specials like goat birria tacos keep things exciting. Wash it down with the stellar horchata. Note the limited hours - this mom-and-pop doesn't stay open late.
For Asian cuisine, Thanh Binh draws hungry crowds with its extensive Vietnamese menu. Perennial favorites include the shaking beef and garlic noodles. Don't skip the Vietnamese iced coffee drizzled with condensed milk - it provides the perfect caffeine kick. With kitschy decor and swift service, it's easy to see why locals have been coming for decades.
Those intimidated by Asian menus can start at Soy, a Korean gastropub with something for everyone. Share plates like soy garlic edamame, kalbi short ribs, and crispy pork belly before moving onto rice bowls and noodle dishes. The friendly staff help break down the menu, though vegans may want to look elsewhere. A nice craft beer selection makes it a solid happy hour spot too.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Wander West Hollywood's Walk of Fame
Stretching along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street lies one of the most iconic attractions in all of Los Angeles – the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This world-famous sidewalk features over 2,700 five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars honoring luminaries in the entertainment industry.
While most tourists flock to the busier Hollywood Boulevard stretch, heading a few blocks over to the West Hollywood section provides a less crowded way to take in these famous golden stars. Start at the intersection of Hollywood and La Brea and head west, where you’ll spot stars for legends like Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, and Marilyn Monroe dotted along the sidewalk.
Continue west on Hollywood until you hit the Pacific Design Center, a massive glass and steel building housing designer showrooms that’s impossible to miss. Nicknamed the Blue Whale for its brilliant blue exterior, this architectural marvel is worth a photo op. Across the street sits The Lot, a glitzy outdoor mall with high-end shops and dining options. Grab an iced latte at Blue Bottle Coffee or enjoy lemon ricotta pancakes al fresco at Sadelle’s before continuing your star search.
Proceed farther west on Hollywood to Ogden Drive. Here you’ll find stars for several seminal rock and pop acts, like The Doors, Blondie, Tom Petty, and Bon Jovi. Be sure to glimpse the star for legendary composer John Williams, who crafted the unforgettable scores for Star Wars, Jaws, and E.T.
Finish up at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center, located at the corner of Melrose Avenue. With its bright green glass exterior, this massive complex forms an unmissable city landmark. After snapping some photos out front, head inside to peruse the dozens of chic designer showrooms. It’s also home to RED, a stellar contemporary art gallery that's open to the public.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Downtown LA's Arts District Revival
Northeast of the glitzy high-rises of downtown LA lies the Arts District, an up-and-coming creative hub housed in the bones of an industrial past. Once a no-go zone dotted with vacant warehouses, this lively enclave has transformed into a dynamic melting pot of art galleries, street art, restaurants, bars, and creative spaces.
The origins of the Arts District stretch back to the 1970s, when artists priced out of Santa Monica and Venice fled east to deserted warehouses that offered cheap rent and expansive lofts ripe for studios. Fast forward to today, and this once gritty area pulses with creative energy thanks to careful urban planning and an influx of entrepreneurial investments. The result blends industrial rawness with an eye for the future.
Most visitors start their exploration along Mateo and Santa Fe Streets, home to many of the pioneering galleries that put the Arts District on the map. With its red brick facade and massive skylights, Hauser & Wirth resembles a converted flour mill rather than a posh gallery. Inside you’ll find contemporary heavy hitters alongside emerging names in thoughtfully curated exhibits. Just down the block lies sci-fi inspired short futura, showcasing experimental works by new artists. Other notable pioneers include char char, Ochi Projects, and CB1 Gallery.
Yet the Arts District offers much more than white cube galleries. Outdoor murals and street art decorate walls and alleyways at every turn, making the area a paradise for urban art fans. Shepard Fairey’s iconic Andre the Giant piece (of Obama “Hope” poster fame) adorns a wall at 7th Street and Mateo. Heaven Gallery organizes live mural painting where you can watch local artists at work. For incredible city views, head up to the roof at Angel City Brewery, adorned in technicolor geometric designs.
Foodies can refuel at inventive eateries that channel the same creative spirit. Grab lunch on the sunny patio at Church & State, where seasonal French fare pairs nicely with classic cocktails. For dinner, indulge in the chef’s multi-course tasting menu at contemporary Japanese spot n/naka, a tranquil oasis within the bustling district. Those craving comfort opt for juicy burgers and craft brews at Wurstküche before dancing off the calories at hip nightclub Resident.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Culver City's Quirky Boutiques
Tucked away just a few miles from the beachside kitsch of Venice lies the unexpected shopping oasis of Culver City. Once a quiet bedroom community, this vibrant downtown has blossomed into an innovative creative hub driven by Sony and other tech companies. Naturally, the shopping scene reflects the influx of young entrepreneurs, techies, and media professionals flocking to the area. Forget generic chain stores and malls - Culver City entices with a trove of one-of-a-kind boutiques brimming with finds you won’t spy elsewhere in LA.
Treasure hunters make the pilgrimage to Arcana, an emporium of curiosities hawking natural history specimens, antique taxidermy, and strange relics from eras past. Part art gallery, part cabinet of curiosities, Arcana offers dark decor inspiration alongside scientific oddities like horned skulls and preserved beetles. Offbeat jewelry crafted from animal bones and fossils tempts those seeking unique statement pieces.
Just down Washington Blvd lies Papersky, a brightly lit boutique stocking art prints, T-shirts, and paper goods featuring the works of both established and emerging artists. The serene whitewashed interior almost resembles an art gallery. Beyond vibrant graphic apparel, the shop's stationery collection stands out with witty greeting cards, arty postcards, and quirky paper gifts you won’t find in the card aisle at Target.
For retro fashion, Rocketship shines with its curated collection of vintage clothing for men and women. The small space overflows with groovy threads from past eras, from cowboy boots and leather jackets to costume jewelry and rocker tees. Thrifters can spend hours sifting the racks in search of unique wardrobe additions without having to hunt through piles at Goodwill. Just be prepared to navigate cramped quarters on weekends.
Those seeking a reprieve from LA’s notorious traffic jams can cruise over to VELO, a sleek shop specializing in city bikes, e-bikes, and cycling gear. Beyond rows of two-wheelers in eye-catching colors, they also rent bikes for tooling about town. Chat with the friendly staff for advice on the best Culver City trails and group rides perfect for meeting fellow cycling enthusiasts.
Art and design lovers shouldn’t miss LIMN, a meticulously curated furniture store focused on high-quality pieces crafted by independent makers and studios. Sculptural lighting fixtures compete for attention with sleek wooden tables, abstract wall art, and covetable decor discoveries around each corner. While the price points skew high, it's a must-see source for unique items unlikely to populate your neighbor's living room.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Silver Lake's Stairway Hikes
Nestled between the Hollywood Hills and Downtown LA sprawls scenic Silver Lake, a neighborhood dubbed the “Brooklyn of the West” thanks to its hipster vibes, trendy eateries, and funky boutiques. But beyond buzzy brunch spots and sunset views over the reservoir lies a secret network of public staircases that scale the steep hillsides. Silver Lake’s iconic stairways link the winding roads and offer the perfect urban hiking escapes right in LA’s backyard.
The steep concrete steps that zigzag up and down the densely populated slopes provide more than practical routes between streets. Locals and visitors alike seek out these urban trails as invigorating workout challenges, with some routes bestowing heart-pumping climbs in exchange for knockout city panoramas.
Many stairways even connect midway via narrow footpaths, allowing intrepid explorers to forge loop routes. The steep Micheltorena Stairs near Sunset Junction link to roads above via ten flights of steps punctuated by landings. Nearby, the Benton Way Stairs traverse up a paved slope before hitting 150+ steps that culminate in scenic views from the top of the reservoir.
For stunning vistas of the LA skyline in one direction and the Pacific in the other, the Runyon Canyon Park Stairs beckon those willing to earn their views. Set in a chaparral-covered canyon adjacent to Griffith Park, the dusty trail here gains 600 feet in elevation via multiple stairways that scale the mountainside. The observation deck at the top provides 360-degree city-to-sea panoramas.
Since many stairways see only local foot traffic, exploring Silver Lake’s steps offers the built-in bonus of dodging the tourist throngs packed into busier Hollywood hiking trails. However, the diverse neighborhood and stairway's secretive vibes equally attract sightseers hoping to unlock the area's hidden charms.
Locals also take advantage of these convenient public routes for both recreation and commuting. Step climbers might encounter immersed residents with dogs in tow briskly ascending to home or work. Stairways threading through residential areas provide glimpses of charming Spanish-style architecture along the path.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - Long Beach's Retro Revival
Long Beach often gets overshadowed by its glitzier neighbors Los Angeles and Orange County. Yet this port town has embarked on a major revival grounded in its midcentury roots and retro architecture.
Stroll down Retro Row on 4th Street for a primer on Long Beach’s vintage-inspired renaissance. Flashing neon signs for restaurants and boutiques beckon visitors into spaces exuding throwback flair. Grab a cone at the refreshingly old-school Sweet Jill’s Scoops ice cream parlor, decked out in teal leather booths and pastel decor. Nearby, Glory Days Vintage stocks threads ranging from 1940s housedresses to 1980s Members Only jackets ideal for assembling era-appropriate ensembles.
Long Beach also incubates a thriving Tiki revival scene. Tiki bars swept America in the post-war 1940s and 50s but later fell out of vogue. Here, locals have lovingly restored these faded Polynesian palaces to their former thatched-roof and bamboo glory. Sip fruity rum cocktails and nibble Chinese-style bar bites under glowing pufferfish lamps at the nautical-themed Harbor Tiki. Or lose yourself amidst shadowy interiors and fading nautical murals at The Grass Skirt, opened by a former Disney Imagineer.
Midcentury motel signs draw in overnight guests eager to bed down in painstakingly refreshed properties rich with the past's patina. The Cliff Motel evokes the Colour Me California era with its terrazzo floors and neon flamingo sign. Rooms surround a courtyard decked in midcentury palms and loungers. Nearby, the Tropicana Motel wows with its zig-zag roofline flanked by neon starbursts announcing vacancies. Restored cabana rooms transport guests back to the glory days of roadside lodging along Route 66.
Architecture buffs journey specifically to glimpse Long Beach icons like the swooping ramps of the former Boeing headquarters by William Pereira. Streamline Moderne structures still dot the shoreline, such as the 1937 Municipal Lighthouse featuring porthole windows and nautical railings. The Breakers Hotel, a 1920s Renaissance Revival gem, presides over the oceanfront.
For the full effect, time your visit for the Long Beach Heritage Art Deco Festival held each May. The weekend celebration includes home and walking tours of local landmarks, dance parties, vintage car shows, shopping bazaars and more. Costume contests add to the ambiance, with attendees donning spats, seersucker suits, and flapper dresses.
Off the Beaten Path: 15 Local Favorites in L.A. Away from the Tourist Traps - San Gabriel Valley's Authentic Asian Food
Tucked away east of Downtown Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Valley offers an alternate portal into the city’s kaleidoscopic food scene. This cluster of suburbs forms the epicenter of LA’s Asian and Asian-American communities, who transformed the area into a mouthwatering melting pot of authentic eats from their homelands.
Unlike Chinatown’s touristy Cantonese fare, the San Gabriel Valley brims with eateries catering to a largely Chinese clientele. Unassuming strip malls and anonymous plazas hide regional Chinese gems serving up specialties from Sichuan, Yunnan, Hunan, Shanghai, and beyond. Skip Panda Express – adventurous eaters who navigate language barriers and minimal signage will reap riches.
For numbing Sichuan flavors, skeptic non-believers into addicts at the no frills Chengdu Taste. Their unassuming dining room belies expertise honed in China’s capital of spice. Dan dan noodles tingling with chili oil make ideal converts to this masochistic cuisine. The twice cooked pork drizzles with saliva-inducing juices. Just have plenty of beer or milk tea on hand to tame the burn.
Northern Chinese fare shines at King Hua Restaurant, where wheat-based dishes like lamb soup dumplings and shredded pancakes provide warming comfort. Shanghai style xiaolongbao dumplings practically burst with hot broth when bitten. Select morsels from the pictorial menu or go family style and sample it all. Cash only.
Provincial flavors from the southwest province of Yunnan come alive at Yunnan Garden. During temperate months, grab an outdoor table to feast on cross-bridge noodles, tangy smoked Chicken, and pineapple rice crafted from the region's abundant produce and spices. Just leave room for black sesame balls with red bean paste.
For Taiwanese treats, R&G Lounge attracts long waits for their signature crispy salt and pepper shrimp, draped in fried basil leaves and chili peppers for crunch. Lu rou fan presents fall apart braised pork over rice, a soulful cure to any ailment. Cool off from the salt and spice with refreshing boba milk tea.
Those seeking sensory whiplash can even sample multiple regions at massive Mian. This single restaurant spans cooking styles from Beijing to Chengdu to Hong Kong within its voluminous space. Dumplings, noodles, claypot rice, stir fries, congee – every regional Chinese craving gets addressed at this one convenient stop.
Of course, the San Gabriel Valley offers tastes beyond Chinese borders. Koreatown may rule in LA, but songpyeon rice cakes, dolsot bibimbap, and sizzling bulgogi satisfy cravings amongst the Korean enclaves in this eastern suburb. Little Tokyo can’t compete with row upon row of Japanese supermarkets and izakayas found here. And where else can you slurp Vietnamese pho, nibble Indian samosas, and end with Hong Kong egg waffles all in one day trip?