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Downtown Los Angeles | © Danny Thompson / Flickr
Downtown Los Angeles | © Danny Thompson / Flickr

A Solo Traveler’s Guide to Los Angeles

Picture of Juliet Bennett Rylah
Updated: 13 May 2017

In a city as sprawling as Los Angeles, it’s easy to blend into the crowd. It’s this sense of invisibility that makes it ideal to discover L.A. on your lonesome. Without anyone to weigh you down, you can experience the natural wonder, treat yourself to some pampering, and kick back on your own schedule.

Take a hike

In Los Angeles, hiking is practically a religion. There is no finer way to get in some exercise, enjoy nature and take in a sweeping view of the city than a good hike. You can go for an urban hike by finding the secret staircases that hide all over L.A., or you can trek into one of the city’s public parks. Griffith Park has a variety of hikes with varying difficulties, while Barnsdall Art Park offers a relatively easy nature walk with the added bonus of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House. You could also opt for Los Angeles’s most famous hike, the Runyon Canyon Loop. It’s about three miles (4.8 kilometers) total, it’s relatively easy, and it provides great views of the Hollywood Sign. (And possibly a celebrity sighting, if you’re into that kind of thing.)

Go to the beach

You don’t need volleyball partners to have a good time at the beach. The people-watching on Venice Boardwalk is best when you can stroll at your own pace, and you can always head to the water when you want a quieter scene. Or you can cruise to Malibu for beautiful views and a much less tourist-filled experience.

Take a scenic drive

If you’ve secured a rental for your trip, you can take a scenic drive through Los Angeles’s winding canyon roads or the famous Mulholland Drive. At night, you can usually skip traffic and enjoy a true joyride with your favorite music on the stereo and absolutely no one trying to force you to make small talk. Just be careful. It’s beautiful, but twists like a serpent.

Hit the spa

Sure, some people like to have group spa visits, but there’s no better place to unwind alone than a quality day spa. Visitors can sip cucumber water, zone out in the steam room, bake in the sauna, and perhaps enjoy a massage or body treatment. One of L.A.’s most famous spas is WiSpa, a 24-hour, 48,000-square-foot (4,459-square-meter) Korean spa that offers numerous rooms, saunas, pools, and a restaurant. It’s only $25 for a day pass, with additional fees if guests actually do plan to spend an entire 24 hours there. (Note: some areas of the spa are nude, so don’t be shy.) Otherwise, Los Angeles has numerous hotel spas that are made for pampering, including the all-white Ciel Spa at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, as well as smaller, independent offerings such as the Larchmont Sanctuary Spa in the very charming Larchmont Village.

Have a cocktail

Going out for beers with a friend is one thing, but treating yourself to a splendidly made cocktail is another. A favorite mixology spot is Koreatown’s fanciful Lock & Key, where guests are first presented with a wall containing dozens of door knobs. Only one door knob will allow entrance to the bar, making it a bit of an Indiana Jones adventure just to get inside. Once inside, a rotating menu of innovative cocktails—with ingredients like black sesame or pear brandy—are available, as well as elevated bar bites. Visitors could also head downtown and enjoy a poolside cocktail at The Ace’s rooftop bar. Drink menus change regularly, revolving around nebulous themes such as birds or public transit. There’s usually also a frozen blended drink that goes far beyond your pedestrian piña coladas. If Tiki is your thing, then you could also drink like a local at Tiki-Ti, a tiny, cash-only tiki bar in Los Feliz that only fits a handful of patrons at a time. The drinks are strong, the snacks are free, and the regulars are friendly.

Tiki drinks at Tiki-Ti | © Juliet Bennett Rylah

Do karaoke by yourself

Practice all of your favorite karaoke jams by renting a private karaoke room at one of the studios in Koreatown—SoopSok, perhaps—or Little Tokyo (try Max Karaoke). Choose from hundreds of songs and belt them out to your heart’s content without anyone around to judge you. Once your tunes are up to speed, hit up Brass Monkey, R Bar or Backstage Bar and impress new friends.

Go to a museum

Museums are perfect for some alone time. See gorgeous pieces of thought-provoking modern art at LACMA, The Broad, or the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA; wander the gardens of the Getty Center; or browse ancient artifacts at the Getty Villa. For something macabre, check out the Museum of Death on Hollywood Boulevard, where letters from serial killers, mortuary ephemera, and crime scene photos creep guests out on a daily basis. For a bittersweet adventure, there’s the Museum of Broken Relationships. Each item comes from a person who has lost a loved one and who decided, for whatever reason, to donate an object that reminded them of that person to the museum rather than keep it or throw it away.

See an immersive play

Los Angeles has a spectacular immersive theater scene, in which audience members are swept into the performances and often required to interact with the actors. These are perfect for solo travelers, as they allow guests to become fully enveloped in their narratives, and often split up audience members who came in groups anyhow. Check to see what companies such as The Speakeasy SocietyJust Fix It Productions, Scout Expedition Co., or Shine On Collective are showing, or check L.A.’s immersive newsletter No Proscenium for a complete rundown of current shows.

The Nest | Courtesy of Scout Expedition Co.