Unique Adventures in Los Angeles

LA, Hollywood
LA, Hollywood | Photo by Jake Blucker on Unsplash
Hannah Smith

In Los Angeles, you can surf in the morning and then head inland to Big Bear to go skiing in the afternoon. Here’s our guide to making the most of your trip to L.A.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Where else can you bring a picnic and a bottle of wine to watch a movie amidst the graves of the stars? Outdoor movie screenings are held every summer on Fairbanks Lawn inside this unique L.A. cemetery. Once you have set up your blankets or lawn chairs, you can listen to DJs both before and after the movie, or even take pictures at the themed photo booth present at every screening. If you haven’t got a picnic then the nearby Stella Barra Pizzeria’s to-go counter is a great dinner option.

Griffith Observatory

Zuma Beach

Just north of Malibu, Zuma is one of the most easily accessible, least developed beaches in Southern California. With street parking readily available along the Pacific Coast Highway (check parking signs nonetheless), it’s a stone’s throw from your car to the water. Point Dume, Leo Carrillo, and Point Mugu are also must-sees if you have the time. Head back towards L.A. along the PCH and you will come across Nobu, featuring Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s first-rate sushi, or Moonshadows, with a wide variety of seafood options and an unparalleled ocean perch. For a more budget-friendly option, check out Lily’s for their breakfast burrito (to skip the line, call ahead, and don’t forget to ask for crispy bacon).

Murphy Ranch

Located behind Brentwood in the hills of Rustic Canyon Park lies what is thought to have been a Nazi-sympathizer compound. Strewn with rusting steel structures and the now graffiti-covered remains of a diesel powerhouse, water tank, barn and bomb shelter, the eerily secluded canyon floor property can be accessed by a combination of trails and winding staircases. This unusual glimpse into L.A.’s hidden history is most easily accessed from Sullivan fire road at about the first mile mark, by a small break in the chain-link fence at the top of the first staircase. A 3.8-mile loop hike in all, you leave the property via the ranch’s original wrought iron gate at the 2.3-mile mark by heading back down the fire road.

First Fridays at Abbot Kinney

L.A.’s best food trucks gather here on the first Friday of every month. The trucks start serving food at around 6PM and stay until midnight or so. The earlier you get there, the better. At night it’s often fun to eat your fill and then go to one of the nearby bars, such as the Brig. If you’ve already tried Kogi’s famous short-rib tacos, stand in line again for one of their rich blackjack quesadillas. Maybe the Grilled Cheese truck will strike your fancy, or alternatively you can try the Lobsta truck. No matter your preferences, there will be a truck (or ten) to suit your mood. Businesses tend to stay open late on Abbot Kinney as well, with every shop offering up something different. If you don’t mind a bit of a walk, head over to the Venice Canals, just over a half-mile away.

Hollywood Bowl

An L.A. fixture since the 1920s, the Bowl has hosted nearly every major artist to come through the City of Angels. Seating 18,000 people, the Bowl, the USA’s largest outdoor amphitheater, may be an obvious choice, but it is well worth a visit. The theater is the summer home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and tickets to Tuesday/Thursday classical shows start at around $1 for the back bench seats (at these shows you can usually move closer to the stage). Bring a picnic to eat before you watch or try the Bistro Burger and garlic fries from Patina. Be sure to check if the concert you are attending is a Bowl event or a “lease” event, because the rules vary between the two types of concerts with regard to what you are permitted to bring inside the theater.

Grand Central Market

What used to be a market where you could buy produce and tacos on the cheap is now Goldilocks’ foodie dream: not too refined, not too gritty, but just right. Packed with gourmet fusion stands squeezed between the produce stalls of yesteryear, Grand Central is the place to go for a veritable culinary adventure. From pupusas at Surita’s to Gai Yang at Sticky Rice, or an egg sandwich at Eggslut to brisket at Horse Thief BBQ, GCM runs the gamut of global cuisine. Occasionally, Grand Central Market pairs up with the Million Dollar Theater, the first movie palace created by Sid Grauman (after whom Grauman’s Chinese Theater was named), with select vendors staying open late before screening old movies at the theater.

Disney Hall

Though Angelenos have grown used to Frank Gehry’s once-radical addition to the L.A. skyline, Disney Hall’s dazzling stainless steel facade never fails to impress. Home to the L.A. Philharmonic during its regular season, this 2,265-seat concert space offers student rush tickets to most of its concerts. It’s worth going just to see Gustavo Dudamel, the orchestra’s charismatic conductor, who draws crowds from all walks of life from all over the world. If you feel like splurging on a delicious gourmet meal before a concert, dine at Patina, located downstairs inside the hall (be sure to make a reservation before you go). Other excellent, budget-friendly dining options close by are Guisado’s (try the 6-taco sampler and the horchata), Würstkuche (which serves exotic sausages like rattlesnake or duck and bacon, Belgian fries with dipping sauces like chipotle aioli and curry ketchup, and a wide selection of Belgian beers), or Roy Choi’s Chego (order the Beefy T bowl or the Pork Belly bowl, and the Ooey Gooey fries).

First Fridays at the Natural History Museum

Head over to the Natural History Museum for a night of discussions (the theme for 2015 is “do-it-yourself-science”), live music, and DJs including KCRW DJ Raul Campos. The museum stays open late and offers guided after-hours tours to guests. Purchase tickets ahead of time, as access to the concert in the 500-seat North American Mammal Hall is based on a first-come, first-served policy.

Norton Simon Museum

A hidden treasure of Pasadena, the Norton Simon houses everything from Rubens to Van Gogh to Diego Rivera to Klee, as well as an extensive collection of art from South and Southeast Asia. Like a smaller-scale French museum, it is open every day of the week but Tuesday. The museum, also home to a serene sculpture garden, offers free admission to students with valid I.D. Down the street is the famous Gamble House, a traditional Arts and Crafts National Historic Landmark. In the opposite direction is the Tournament of Roses house, Wrigley Mansion, home of the Rose Parade. For a superbly “Pasadena” meal, look no further than the Little Flower Candy Company, which, though famous for its sea salt caramels, serves topnotch breakfast and lunch food, and delicious mocha or chai tea lattes. Head east on Colorado Blvd. and you will find Old Town Pasadena, at the tail end of which is Euro Pane bakery, another spot with reliably tasty fare. For a typical “L.A.” meal, continue down Colorado Blvd. to Urth Cafe.

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