Although Los Angeles is home to numerous popular attractions, it’s also home to plenty of unique under-the-radar spots. Beyond the Hollywood Sign, Runyon Canyon Park, and The Getty, there are lesser-known landmarks, hikes, restaurants, and museums that are just as interesting and beautiful.
Whether you love taking the road less traveled or you’re visiting for the second or third time, you won’t regret veering off the tourist trail.
Without further ado, here are eight hidden gems you must visit on your next trip to La La Land.
1. Regency Village Theatre
The Regency Village Theatre, once known as the Fox Theatre, is located on the outskirts of the University of California, Los Angeles in the quaint Westwood neighborhood. It’s a wonderful alternative to the crowded TCL Chinese Theatre on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
A beautiful vintage movie hall, the Regency Village Theatre was constructed in 1931 by Percy Parke Lewis. It contains more than 1,400 seats and is known for its fantastic sound and display quality. In addition to being a great place to catch the latest picture, it’s a beautifully designed, historically significant building. Built in the art deco style, the theater features a white tower that rises above most of the surrounding shopping area. On the top, a big blue FOX sign still sits, a nod to the building’s past.
In recent years, the Regency Village Theatre has been chosen as the venue for two to three movie premieres per month. In Los Angeles, this means the whole 9 yards: red carpet, movie crew, and actors. But whether or not there’s a premiere during the time of your visit, you should drop by the theater to admire its architecture, watch a film, or walk around the nearby shops and restaurants.
2. Murphy Ranch
One of the most strange and unique hikes in the Los Angeles area is to a hidden Nazi-sympathizer compound built before World War II.
Although most tales about Murphy Ranch are unsubstantiated, legend has it that a colony of 40 Nazi sympathizers lived in this part of Rustic Canyon from 1933 to 1945. After Germany lost the war, the site was abandoned until a group of artists bought the property. Then, in 1973, the area was purchased by the city of Los Angeles.
The hike starts just off the intersection of Casale Road and Sullivan Fire Road. About a mile down Sullivan Fire Road, a break in the fence will lead you down steep stone steps to the bottom of Rustic Canyon. At the bottom, keep left to reach the abandoned powerhouse, machine shed, and terraced gardens. Most of the buildings are covered with graffiti, almost making them a work of art. Seeing the remnants of the colony can be shocking, especially when you think about what might have happened in this secluded area of the canyon.
3. Shakespeare Bridge
Los Angeles’s Franklin Hills neighborhood houses an unexpected gem: the Shakespeare Bridge. Franklin Hills is a residential area occupied by artists and performers, so most people never stumble upon this architecturally beautiful bridge.
Originally known as the Franklin Avenue Bridge, it was designed by J.C. Wright and built in the 1920s. The bridge was constructed over a deep ravine, connecting the east bank and west bank of the neighborhood. Due to its romantic Gothic architecture with arches and turrets, people have always called it the Shakespeare Bridge. It became an official historic monument under that name in 1974.
The bridge is part of the neighborhood, so there are no fees or time restrictions. To avoid traffic and maximize the views, visit the bridge during sunrise or sunset.
4. Break Room 86
The Koreatown part of Los Angeles is known for its delicious food options, but it also features great nightlife. Beyond the popular bars is a speakeasy hidden under the LINE Hotel. It’s called Break Room 86.
Around the corner, by the loading docks, you’ll walk through a maze of hallways until you reach a hidden entrance to the bar. Inside, you’ll be greeted with a dimly lit space full of ’80s memorabilia. You’ll see things like a DJ stand decked out with boom boxes, a hallway wall to the bathrooms tiled with cassette tapes, and another wall lined with old metal lockers. The drink menu features cocktails with names based on popular ’80s songs and artists. Most cost about $14.
Be sure to grab a whiskey Moonwalker before the main bar wall lowers at midnight to reveal a stage. A Michael Jackson impersonator and other entertainers will dance and sing the night away. If you prefer to sing yourself instead of watching the action, Break Room 86 also houses four private karaoke rooms.
5. Heritage Square Museum
The Heritage Square Museum in the Montecito Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles is a living history museum composed of eight well-preserved late-19th-century buildings, all of which are furnished with period-appropriate pieces. It’s a beautiful hidden gem that explores the settlement and development of Southern California from the Civil War to the early 20th century and offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of Victorian and Edwardian Californians.
The Heritage Square Museum is open from Friday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can explore the grounds on your own; however, you can only access the houses on a $10 guided tour. Tours run between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. and last a little over an hour.
6. Juquila Restaurant
There are more than 29,000 restaurants in Los Angeles, so there’s always something new to try. It’s hard to pick just one hidden gem of a restaurant, but Juquila Restaurant, one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the Los Angeles area, is known and loved by locals but not frequented by tourists.
Located on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Los Angeles, Juquila serves up hot plates of fajitas, tlayudas, burritos, and enchiladas. A specialty of Oaxacan cuisine, the black mole, is made with nuts, spices, and chocolate. Not only do you get a complimentary plate of corn chips topped with black mole when you sit down, but there’s also a whole mole section on the menu. Menu items range from tacos ($2.50) to mixed-meat specialty plates ($30 or more).
7. Hollywood Lake Reservoir
A less-trafficked area than Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon, Hollywood Lake Reservoir provides a quiet, peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of the big city. The reservoir, previously known as the Saint Francis Dam, was created by William Mulholland in 1924 to provide emergency reserves of drinking water to Los Angeles residents.
A 3.3-mile walking path runs around the perimeter of the Hollywood Lake Reservoir. Since the reservoir is man-made, the terrain surrounding it is flat. The trail provides a great opportunity to take in the swaying eucalyptus trees, beautiful hilltop homes, and even the Hollywood Sign.
Although it’s quite unusual to see wildlife in sprawling urban areas, the Hollywood Lake Reservoir provides a refuge for birds, rabbits, and deer. It’s not uncommon to see several animals during a trek. The trail around the reservoir also sees few selfie sticks and many more locals partaking in their exercise routines. You may even see the mayor taking a stroll!
8. Great Wall Of Los Angeles
The Great Wall of Los Angeles, spearheaded by Judith Baca, celebrates the history and culture of Los Angeles. A Chicana artist, Baca envisioned portraying a lesser-known history of California, “one which included ethnic peoples, women, and minorities who were so invisible in conventional textbook accounts.” It’s still one of the largest installations in the United States dedicated to interracial harmony.
Spanning half a mile (2,754 feet), the murals are painted on the Tujunga flood-control channel in the San Fernando Valley. The project began in 1974, and it took five summers and 400 kids and their families to complete murals covering California’s history from prehistoric times to 1910. The youth were from different socioeconomic classes and were assisted by community members, artists, and various academics.
The project is still in progress, since it takes a year to research and prepare each mural. Once it’s completed, the Great Wall of Los Angeles will be a mile long.
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