Everyone knows that Los Angeles is a place to experience the movie magic of Hollywood and frolic on iconic beaches. But there's so much more nature and culture here than just stars and sand! With these 14 under-the-radar attractions, you can get a full, surprising sense of the LA's diversity.
1. Meander Through a Book Labyrinth
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Book lovers will be thrilled by the labyrinth of volumes on the mezzanine level at the Last Bookstore. Wind your way through tunnels and passageways made from tomes and bank vaults filled with books, until you arrive at your final destination: a treasure trove of 100,000 books for $1 each.
2. Ride a Paddleboat on a Lake
Traversing an idyllic lake on an old-fashioned paddleboat may sound like a pastoral pleasure, but at Echo Park Lake, you can do so in view of the downtown skyscrapers. Admire the spectacular vistas and verdant lotus beds, and end your ride with a snack at Square One at the Boathouse.
3. Visit LA County Wine Country
The surfside town of Malibu is becoming quite a wine destination, with vineyards creating a quilt on the rolling foothills that give way to the sea. At Malibu Family Wines, you can sample flights of local vino in the outdoor tasting park. Pack a picnic and come on the weekends for live music.
4. See the Hollywood Hills on Horseback
Sunset Ranch Hollywood, Inc.
Get a taste of LA's Wild West at Sunset Ranch in the Hollywood Hills. Day and sunset horseback rides provide guests of all skill levels with incredible views of the city and landmarks such as the Hollywood sign. For seasoned equestrians, the Friday night Fiesta Ride traverses the hills by moonlight.
5. Appreciate Sculptures With an Ocean View
Housed in the Getty Villa, a Roman-style house commissioned by oil magnate J.P. Getty, is an art museum dedicated to Greek, Roman and Etruscan art. While the galleries stuffed with masterpieces are alluring, the views of the Pacific Ocean from the tranquil sculpture gardens steal the show.
6. Check Out a Space Shuttle
California Science Center
Hollywood has the stars, but the California Science Center has a craft that took man to the stars: the space shuttle Endeavour. Even though you're not allowed to climb inside, the behemoth shuttle is a sight to behold, and excellent interactive exhibits demonstrate what it's like to be onboard.
7. Lose Yourself in Unspoiled Wilderness
Tired of the concrete jungle? Just northeast of downtown Los Angeles, you can enter the Angeles National Forest, which covers more than 650,000 acres of forestland across the San Gabriel Mountains. Hike through pine trees or wildflowers, camp under the stars, or take a scenic drive on the Angeles Crest Highway.
8. Have a Real Farm-to-Plate Meal
"Farm-to-table" may be a foodie buzzword, but Le Comptoir is the real deal. Chef Gary Menes runs a local organic farm that supplies the produce for this chic Koreatown restaurant. The prix-fixe menu is served at an intimate 10-seat counter and crafted with vegetables picked by the chef that very day.
9. Spend the Day on an Island
Shove off from LA Harbor, and not much more than an hour's boat ride away, you can disembark on Catalina Island. The main port, Avalon, boasts quaint streets for strolling and calm seas for water sports. You can also venture into the island's interior for zip-lining and wildlife spotting.
10. Watch a Movie in a Celebrity Cemetery
Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the final resting place for many of Tinseltown's most famous film legends. During the warmer months, you can watch outdoor movie screenings on the grass and picnic under the stars. While you're at it, glimpse the tombstones of greats including Douglas Fairbanks and Jayne Mansfield.
11. See a Concert in a Magnificent Movie Palace
The Theatre at Ace Hotel, whose eclectic concert calendar features everything from indie rock to chamber orchestras, is set in a former United Artists movie palace. The hip downtown hotel recently restored the 1920s Spanish Gothic interiors, with ornate balconies and a mirrored, vaulted ceiling, to their original glory.
12. Visit a Historic Orange Grove
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Once upon a time, LA County was carpeted with citrus trees. Nearly all of the city's orange groves have given way to urban development, but at California State University, Northridge, you can see one of the few remaining groves in the San Fernando Valley — and even pick some fruit.
13. See a Piece of the Berlin Wall
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Is it Cold War-era history, or is it art? It's both! The Wende Museum displays the largest segment of the Berlin Wall outside of Berlin on Wilshire Boulevard. Check out the murals on 5 of the wall segments, which were commissioned to commemorate the 20th anniversary of its fall.
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Rose plants thrive in LA's Mediterranean climate, and there's no better place to get a whiff of the fragrant flowers than at Descanso Gardens, whose rose garden hosts more than 3,000 roses on 5 acres. If they're not blooming during your visit, check out the equally stunning Camellia Collection.