If you’re looking for a little exercise and a whole lot of knowledge, try one of Los Angeles‘ walking tours. Informed docents will tell guests all sorts of insider intel about the city’s history, architecture, and art, all on foot. You could also take a food tour, or treat yourself to a self-guided tour of over 100 murals from L.A.’s most prolific street artists. It’s better than hopping on an overpriced tour bus where your guide points out a house and tells you it’s Jennifer Aniston’s (it probably isn’t), and it’s way better than staying in your hotel all day. Here are six tours to get you started.
As the name might imply, these tours focus on the Los Angeles art scene. However, you won’t be heading to storied museums or other well-trod destinations. These unique experiences explore downtown’s graffiti and murals, the Brewery Art Complex where numerous artists have set up live/work space and studios, and other off-the-beaten-path, art-centric locations. The graffiti tour is particularly interesting, with insight into both quick works and elaborate murals, from actual street artists. L.A. Art Tours walking tours generally last around two hours and cost $12.
The Los Angeles Conservancy offers numerous walking tours geared towards historic and architecturally significant landmarks. Tours are led by volunteer docents and can expose visitors to everything from specific neighborhoods, architectural styles (Art Deco, for instance), or in some case, single locations. For instance, Union Station has so much history that the Conservancy offers a 10 a.m. tour of the transit hub every Saturday. Tours generally last about two-and-a-half hours and cost around $15 for non-members. Cheek their schedule for recurring and limited-time only tours.
Explore downtown Los Angeles with Downtown LA Walking Tours. This company offers tours that may explore architecture, L.A. history, Chinatown and Little Tokyo, filming locations, or even true-crime mysteries and ghostly tales. If you’re particularly curious about how Los Angeles became the metropolis it is today, sign up for the Los Angeles Beginnings tour, which will explain what turned a small pueblo into a sprawling city known worldwide. Tours generally last about two hours.
On this walking tour, guides lead guests to various eateries where they can sample a variety of unique and quintessentially Los Angeles bites. They are currently focusing on downtown L.A., with a trip to landmarks including the Bradbury Building (notable for its appearance in Blade Runner), the Biltmore Hotel, and the gem that is downtown’s century-old food hall, Grand Central Market. Guests can sample from various GCM vendors, plus a nearby Mediterranean restaurant. All tours include six stops, which, when combined, should fill you up. Tickets are $75, and free for children three and under.
Gabba Gallery owner Jason Ostro recruited multiple street artists to paint over 100 murals throughout the neighborhood surrounding the gallery. Many of them are located in alleyways. They’re relatively easy to find: just go to Gabba Gallery in Historic Filipinotown, then use this map. There may be signs that say “Art!” that point you in the right direction, too.
Red Line Tours offer a robust history of Los Angeles’ bustling Hollywood. But, wait, isn’t Hollywood crowded and loud? Yes, it is, and that’s what makes Red Line’s tour unique: each guest wears a headset that allows them to hear their microphoned guide directly in their ears. The guide is doing a live tour, not a pre-recorded one, which you can hear from up to 300-feet away. (Crucial for when you need to stop and snap a photograph or tie your shoelace.) Their Hollywood Tour features landmarks including filming locations, Grauman’s Egyptian Theater, the Walk of Fame, and the TCL Chinese Theatre, with plenty of history about the neighborhood and the industry thrown into the mix.