Major metropolises such as Los Angeles attract tourists from all over the world. When you first arrive, you may think it’s impossible to escape the hoards of people taking pictures with iPads and carrying poorly folded maps.
With a little bit of research and advanced planning, you can scope out all the non-touristy things to do in Los Angeles. If you’re like me and prefer to steer clear of crowds while in LA, check out these 17 tourist-free destinations and activities.
1. The Secret Staircases of Los Angeles
Throughout Los Angeles, you’ll find hidden staircases connecting neighborhoods and households, many with intriguing murals or artwork. These staircases are reminders of Los Angeles’ historic past before mass transit, cars, and swarms of tourists took over.
While you can stumble across a staircase or two, it’s best to do your research and plan out your staircase adventures around LA.
2. Echo Park Lake
After a recent renovation, Echo Park Lake has become a revitalized destination for non-touristy things to do in Los Angeles, especially for those looking to kick back and relax. Grab a blanket, pack a picnic, and head to the park for an easygoing day in LA. While there, go for a pedal boat ride, see the Lady of the Lake statue, and visit the restored Boathouse.
3. Botanical Gardens at Huntington Library
To escape the crowds and head into nature, take a trip to the botanical gardens at the Huntington Library. Featuring a dozen gardens across 120 acres of land, this natural escape is the perfect alternative to packed tourist attractions.
The most mesmerizing part of the gardens is the diverse plant life and landscapes. Visitors can explore everything from a soothing rose garden to a wild desert garden. Do know that picnicking is not permitted in any of the gardens.
4. Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Have you ever wanted to watch an iconic film in the middle of a cemetery filled with the ghosts of celebrities past? Of course, you have! Although an incredibly popular event with locals, Cinespia movie nights at Hollywood Forever Cemetery is one of the best non-touristy things to do in Los Angeles.
Since Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a historic destination, the grounds crew goes to great lengths to preserve it. Although outside beer, wine, and food are allowed inside the venue, double check what items are and are not permitted before you go. And don’t forget to do a bit of ghost spotting while you’re there!
5. Leo Carrillo State Park
When you want to escape the crowds, take a quick trip to Leo Carrillo State Park. Located 28 miles northwest of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway, this state park features 1.5 miles of beach. Visitors can spend their time swimming, surfing, sunbathing, tidepool exploring, hiking, and even windsurfing. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, reserve a camping spot in the main campgrounds or backcountry.
Parking fees for the park are:
- All day – $12.00 per car, per day
- 3 hours – $9.00 per car
- 2 hours – $6.00 per car
- 1 hour – $3.00 per car
6. Los Angeles Museums (That Aren’t the Getty)
Los Angeles has a museum for almost every subject or topic you can think of. However, almost all tourists flock to the Getty Center. While the Getty Center is a fantastic museum, there are several others to choose from—many with far fewer crowds.
When searching for non-touristy things to do in Los Angeles, spend time at museums such as:
- Natural History Museum
- California Science Center
- Petersen Automotive Museum
- Hammer Museum
- GRAMMY Museum
To truly avoid the crowds, get your tickets in advance and skip the lines.
7. The Bradbury Building
If you’re fascinated by history and architecture, a trip to the Bradbury Building is a must. As the oldest commercial building in LA, the Bradbury Building is packed with marble staircases, iron railings and fixtures, Victorian-inspired architecture, and more. It’s a photographer’s dream come true.
This iconic building is also a stop on several downtown LA walking tours.
8. Amoeba Music
Music lovers looking for non-touristy things to do in Los Angeles will find Amoeba Music to be right up their alley. The world’s largest independent record store is a musician’s dream come true, with rows upon rows of records featuring everything from the classics to new artists across a wide range of genres.
Get ready to spend time browsing through their massive inventory of records. You never know what gems you might find!
9. Chandelier Tree in Silver Lake
Not to be confused with the Chandelier Tree in Northern California, Silver Lake’s Chandelier Tree is a marvel of its own. While you can visit the towering tree with 30 antique chandeliers during the day, seeing this LA treasure at night is awe-inspiring.
Bring your camera, because you’ll want to document this once-in-a-lifetime memory!
10. Wine Tasting on the Beach
Wine? Beach? Say no more, I’m sold.
Rosenthal Winery is the only wine bar and tasting room on the entire Pacific Coast Highway. Sit back, grab a bottle of wine, and relax by the ocean. As one of the non-touristy things to do in Los Angeles, this winery offers sweeping views of the area near Topanga Beach along with events, wine tours, and more.
11. Go to the Beach
While you can visit touristy beaches such as Santa Monica Pier, there are plenty of non-crowded beaches to explore in and around Los Angeles. When I go to the beach, the last thing I want to do is push my way through a crowd for a tiny plot of sand. Instead of tackling the crowds, take a trip to these lesser visited (but equally as beautiful) Los Angeles beaches:
- El Matador Beach
- Cabrillo Beach
- Topanga State Beach
- Abalone Cove Beach
- Oxnard Beach Park
- Hermosa Beach
12. River Kayaking in Los Angeles
Did you know you can embark on a river kayaking excursion in Los Angeles? Who knew?
Skip the tourist traps and head out onto the Los Angeles River for an unbelievable kayaking adventure. As one of the most non-touristy things to do in Los Angeles, you’ll experience the city’s wild side and witness wildlife in their natural habitat along the way. Be sure to pack the appropriate attire—you will get wet!
13. Grand Central Market
Hungry? Exploring Los Angeles’ less touristy side will make you work up an appetite. When this happens, head to Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market in downtown LA is a fusion of cuisines, cultures, and creativity, and has been a city staple since 1917. You’ll find everything from artisan cheeses to a gourmet peanut butter & jelly sandwich shop. If you can’t find something to satisfy your taste buds at Grand Central Market, you are by far the world’s pickiest eater!
Crowd warning: if you visit at peak eating hours, you will encounter a crowd or two. Be prepared!
14. Explore Little Tokyo and Koreatown
While other tourists flock to Hollywood, those looking for non-touristy things to do in Los Angeles will love strolling through the Little Tokyo and Koreatown neighborhoods.
Little Tokyo houses the largest Japanese-American population in North America with approximately 30,000 residents. The area boasts attractions and destinations such as the Japanese American National Museum, the Geffen Contemporary, an abundance of authentic restaurants and shops, and the David Henry Hwang Theater.
Located near Eighth Street and Irolo Street, Koreatown is a booming neighborhood which welcomes a variety of ethnicities. With this diverse blend of cultures, Koreatown offers numerous things to do, from theaters to restaurants to museums. While there, make a pit stop at California Donuts, a Koreatown staple for over 30 years.
15. Catch a Free LA Philharmonic Show
Did you know the LA Philharmonic often rehearses at the Hollywood Bowl? Best of all, did you know you can watch for free?
Instead of paying top dollar for concert tickets, catch one of their rehearsals at the famed concert venue without paying a dime. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from July through mid-September, the orchestra practices from about 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. The best way to ensure they’ll be there is to call the Hollywood Bowl or LA Phil and ask for the open rehearsal schedule.
16. Malibu Wine Safaris
Again, wine. Sign me up.
About 30 minutes outside of Los Angeles, Malibu Wine Safaris is the booze-filled adventure you never knew you wanted. You’ll climb aboard an exclusive open-air Safari vehicle which makes stops through the 1,000-acre ranch for wine tastings and meet and greets with zebras, alpacas, giraffes, and more.
Sure, you can go to the LA Zoo. But does the LA Zoo have wine safaris?
Hop on this California safari adventure before the tourists find out about it!
17. Go for a Hike—Besides Runyon Canyon
Although Runyon Canyon is filled with celebrities out for a quick hike, it is also jam-packed with tourists. There are far better trails in Los Angeles to explore; all without iPad-wielding tourists. When searching for non-touristy things to do in Los Angeles, get outside and trek up any one of these crowd-free trails:
- Mount Baldy
- The Bridge to Nowhere
- Malibu Creek State Park
- Cucamonga Peak
- San Gabriel Peak
- Mt. Wilson
Non-Touristy Things to Do in Los Angeles: 17 Crowd-Free Places to Go
Your LA vacation doesn’t have to include celebrity tours, paparazzi cameras, and tourist traps. Instead, take advantage of hidden gems, off-the-beaten-path destinations, and local haunts. What non-touristy things will you do on your trip?