It’s no secret that Los Angeles California, like most large metros, has its tourist pockets.
That ranges from the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood to Universal Studios in Universal City to the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
But these are all things to do in Los Angeles that most people know about before ever planning a trip.
However, many of the best things to do in L.A. are activities that many tourists never even know about, let alone visit.
So today I’m coming to you with my round-up of what I believe are some of the best non-touristy things to do in L.A.
Things to do in Los Angeles
1. Go on an urban hike at Griffith Park
One of the best perks of Los Angeles is the hiking available without having to leave the city.
Many visitors, however, often head straight to Runyon Canyon, which is one of the most accessible hikes (just off Hollywood Blvd.), but as a result, also one of the busiest, since it’s a small hiking area.
However, just east of Runyon Canyon is Griffith Park, characterized by the Griffith Observatory, which sits perched on a hilltop below the Hollywood Sign.
Here you’ll find more than 50 miles of trails, such as the four-mile Mt. Hollywood Trail.
Also at Griffith Park is Bronson Canyon, or Bronson Caves, which has been the filming location of a long list of films and television shows, including the 1960s Batman television series.
2. Watch a concert/movie at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
For most tourists to L.A., the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is merely the resting place of some of their favorite celebrities.
However, it livens up during the summer and fall months when it plays host to classic movies, like The Goonies, and concerts from top musicians, such as Lana Del Rey.
The outdoor movie series is one of most popular summer events in L.A., often selling out.
The best part, however, is that you can bring in all your own food, wine, and beer. Just make sure you bring some blankets and pillows, and arrive well before doors open so you can snag a great spot on the lawn.
3. Go wine tasting beachfront in Malibu
It’s not just anywhere you can go wine tasting at the beach.
However, Rosenthal Winery in Malibu offers just that, located on the Pacific Coast Highway, across from the breaking waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Rosenthal’s tasting room features flights and tastings for their long list of wines, which include Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and numerous other varietals.
Weekends are the best time to visit, when Rosenthal’s backyard features live music Friday through Sunday, with food trucks often parking outside.
4. Climb the secret stairs for panoramic views of LA
Decades ago, Los Angeles was connected by a series of more than 400 staircases. It provided a direct route for residents to schools, markets, and other points of interest, long before highways connected L.A.
Today, many of those staircases remain and are open for the public.
One of the most convenient series of stairs is near Hollywood Blvd., off Highland (on the back of the Hollywood Bowl), and has great overlooks of the city from the Hightower Elevator Tower.
Also nearby are the Beachwood Canyon Stairs, which include views of the Hollywood Sign and Lake Hollywood.
5. Kayak down the Los Angeles River
Not only does Los Angeles have a river, but also it’s a river that you can kayak down.
Guided kayaking trips are done by a couple different charter companies at recreational areas on the L.A. River.
Guided trips down the Los Angeles River are twofold, one to experience the outdoors of L.A. in a way that you can only do in a kayak, but secondly to learn about preservation efforts of the river, as the river and surrounding area is undergoing significant revitalization.
6. Catch an improv show
Some of the most well-known actors and actresses got their start at improve theaters like iO West, including Jason Sudeikis, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler.
Naturally then, Los Angeles is home to some of the best improve theaters in the U.S., including iO West and Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCB), often featuring numerous shows per evening.
Tickets are rarely more than $10, offering some of the cheapest, funniest entertainment you’ll ever see. Then one day you’ll be able to say, “I saw them when…”
7. Go on a brewery crawl
While San Diego gets most of the credit for California’s beer scene, Los Angeles is putting itself on the map with its brewery offerings.
With so many great new breweries opening up, it means you never have to travel very far for good craft beer.
8. Visit a bar that was prohibition speakeasy
Who says L.A. has no history and culture?
Los Angeles is unique in that it’s home to multiple bars that are operating today that were speakeasy bars during prohibition.
This includes the King Eddy Saloon in Downtown Los Angeles, more dive than speakeasy now, which has entertained a host of characters for about a century, such as famous poet Charles Bukowski.
For a more proper speakeasy experience, there’s Townhouse in Venice, which is home to The Del Monte, which was a working speakeasy during prohibition, and celebrating 100 years this year.
More things to do in LA
You can watch the video of my travels in LA by clicking play below
- Day trip to Channel Islands National Park
- 17 things to do in Ventura County
- 15 things to do in Orange County
- 10 Day Itinerary – Best Places to Visit in Southern California (beyond Disneyland)
Planning a Trip to LA
- Booking.com has 800+ properties in LA including hotels, apartments, and hostels. You get free cancelation on most rooms and a best price guarantee. You can check out this review of Hotel Indigo in Downtown LA
- Don’t forget Airbnb for a fantastic local stay experience
- Skyscanner is a comparison website that searches millions of flights. Once you find your best deal, book directly through the airline (no extra fees).
- RentalCars.com is the world’s biggest car rental booking service that compares all the major brands like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Europcar.
Tours and attractions
If you plan on doing a few attractions in LA, purchase a Sightseeing Pass.
It is a city discount card which will save you money on several big name attractions. we use them in all major cities we visit. (We also work as affiliate partners with The Sightseeing CArd and they provided us with LA passes).
We are happy to share them with you as they can be a great saving tool when you travel.
If you are visiting multiple cities in the USA, a USA Sightseeing Pass may work better for you.