Los Angeles' attractions run deeper than its celebrity culture. Its well known movie stars are well known around the world, but the United States’ second largest city is a place as diverse as the land it encompasses.
Whether you fancy exploring through art, history, food or fitness, Los Angeles has something for you.
LA for art aficionados
Los Angeles’ cultural side is finally getting the recognition it deserves, especially when it comes to art. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) have both been instrumental in shedding light on the validity of the city’s art scene, especially where modern works are concerned, and are worthy of several hours of your time. The Getty Center, located on the west side of the city, is another good option, not only for its extensive collection of antiquities, drawings, sculptures and photographs, but also for its free admission. Additionally, check out The Broad, a Downtown architectural marvel that opened in 2015 and which showcases 2000 modern pieces.
LA explores its multicultural side in museums dedicated to the many ethnicities that call the Greater Los Angeles area home, such as the Museum of Latin American Art, the California Museum of African American Art (caamuseum.org) and the University of Southern California’s Pacific Asia Museum (pacificasiamuseum.usc.edu), which will reopen in May 2017 after an expansion and renovation.
If you’re looking for something quirkier, Los Angeles has it, whether it’s Glendale’s Museum of Neon Art (neonmona.org), Frank Lloyd Wright’s first Los Angeles project, Hollyhock House, or the cluster of 30-plus indie galleries around the Bergamot Station in Santa Monica.
LA for history hounds
For cinema buffs, Los Angeles is obviously a top destination, thanks to historic movie-linked attractions such as the TCL Chinese Theatre, Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery and the delightfully kitsch Hollywood Museum. Studio tours are also a popular way to see this side of LA, and don’t forget the historic hotels as well, such as the Chateau Marmont and the Ace Hotel, housed in the former home of United Artists.
But there are so many other historic threads woven throughout the city. A good place to start is with the Los Angeles Conservancy (laconservancy.org/tours), a non-profit organization that helps preserve the history of Los Angeles county through education, including its popular walking tours of Downtown LA (aka DTLA). While here, head to Olvera Street to see the ‘birthplace of Los Angeles’ and its Mexican heritage – many of the vendors who operate the marketplace today are descendants of the original sellers.
Go even further back in time at the La Brea Tar Pits (here be fossilized mammoths and other long-extinct creatures) and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, or see the solar system and Earth’s tiny place in it at the Griffith Observatory. Trace the history of Chinese, Korean and Japanese culture in America through the Chinese American Museum, the Korean American Museum and the Japanese American National Museum.
LA for food fans
The beginnings of food trends aren’t exclusive to New York City and San Francisco – Los Angeles has had its fair share of mouthwatering moments, and might be considered the catalyst for a lot of the food mania happening right now in the United States. Trends such as celebrity chefs and food trucks were born in LA, and two of the hottest food trends currently – poke bowls and Filipino food – have arguably shot into the national spotlight thanks to chefs on the ground in Los Angeles.
This is a town made for foodies, so it might be best for your stomach to break it down by neighborhood. DTLA has the mighty food hall Grand Central Market, where you can find everything from oysters to ramen to the supremely popular Eggslut, where the lowly egg gets an upgrade, and the gourmet Arts District.
Other burgeoning neighborhoods include the hipster enclave of Silver Lake, where you can eat in one of the best restaurants in town, the tree house at Cliff’s Edge (cliffsedgecafe.com), or enjoy oysters at L & E Oyster Bar. Locals and tourists alike line up all week long at Sqirl (sqirlla.com) for their healthy-yet-satisfying brunch menu, served until 4pm every day, while teeny, tiny Trois Familia (troisfamilia.com) – only six-tables – sums up this eclectic neighborhood with its French and Mexican mash-up.
Finally, you’ll want to take a trip to revitalized Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice to visit Gjelina, the epicenter to which serious foodies flock these days. In true California style, it’s a farm-to-table affair, with a heavy hat tip towards produce and wood-fired pizzas. While in the neighborhood, also check out Gjelina’s sister bakery Gjusta (gjusta.com), as well as Rose Café (rosecafevenice.com) and Leona (leonavenice.com).
LA for fitness fiends
Thanks to countless celebrity selfies, Runyon Canyon has become a popular place to go on a hike or run in the Hollywood Hills – there’s even a trendy donation-based yoga class (twitter.com/runyonyoga). But there are other places and ways to experience LA’s healthy lifestyle, such as the 21 skate parks that dot the city or the countless farmers markets (the Original LA farmers market, located at 3rd St and Fairfax Ave, dates to 1934).
You’ll want to check out the famous Muscle Beach on the Venice Boardwalk, where Sunday afternoon drum circles are a huge draw, as are the oddballs and buskers that line the sidewalk. Or you can head to Santa Monica Pier, where the original Muscle Beach kicked off the Southern California workout craze.
For other hiking trails, try Griffith Park, where you can tackle the Santa Monica Mountains to get up close and personal with the Hollywood Sign for your own ‘celebrity’ selfie. The park also boasts one of the city’s best bike loops, which wraps for nine miles and encompasses the LA River Bike Path. There’s also Los Liones Trail in Topanga Canyon State Park, where clear days offer up beautiful views of both Downtown and the ocean.
Another workout option, and one that will appeal to comedy fans, is Los Angeles’ most famous stairs. The ‘Music Box Steps’, named for a 1932 Laurel and Hardy film, are 705 grueling steps in Silver Lake that offer up an alternative to the gym. You can find more stair walks around the city at stairwalksla.com.
All those activities will have you craving healthy eats, so stop by star-crossed spots like the vegan chain Café Gratitude (cafegratitude.com), where sandwiches are served on amaranth bread and parmesan cheese is made from Brazil nuts.