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Top 5 Off the Beaten Path Attractions in Los Angeles

So you’ve seen the obvious — Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica. But what else can you do here in LA? What are some of the sights that don’t attract hoards of tourists and that the locals in Los Angeles love to do? Here are some sights that have a big payoff beyond the normal tourist stops:

1. Old Town Pasadena

Colorado Street between Pasadena Avenue and Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena
Old Town Pasadena

First settled in the 1870s, Old Town is a prime example of revitalization of an old city center to create a charming shopping and dining experience. The buildings are mostly Spanish Colonial Revival and Art Deco, reflecting the golden age of Los Angeles architecture. After a $70 million facelift in the 1990s, Old Town is now the most vibrant shopping area east of L.A. Prime shops including Tiffany, Apple, and Banana Republic stand side by side with many upscale eateries and lots of pedestrian traffic. It’s a great place to shop, eat, and people watch amongst beautiful and charming architecture.

2. Hollywood Forever Cemetery

6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles

Johnny Ramone grave at Hollywood Forever

Johnny Ramone’s Eternal Resting Place

Stroll among the legends of Hollywood history and imagine how death really makes us equal. There are no velvet ropes to stop you from walking right up to the graves of Douglas Fairbanks, Cecil DeMille, Fay Wray, Rudolph Valentino, Bugsy Seigel and Johnny Ramone. It’s also one of the more interesting cemeteries you’ll see, with the rich and famous of yesteryear attempting to out-do each other for eternity with elaborate headstones and mausoleums.

3. Silverlake

Sunset Boulevard between Vrigil Avenue and Alvarado Street

Silverlake neighborhood

Silverlake in Los Angeles

Once the home of gang-bangers of the latin variety, Silverlake in the last 20 years has undergone a hipster gentrification. What was once run-down laundromats is now cool cafes, restaurants, and thrift shops. For the uninitiated, the easiest way to explore Silverlake is to visit Sunset Boulevard between Vrigil Avenue and Alvarado Street. This is a place where you can see where young Angelenos write their screenplays and take acting classes — without throngs of tourists blocking the sidewalk. It’s also a place where you might spot a celebrity — you have a much better chance here than in Hollywood. Grab a coffee at the beloved Intelligentsia and people watch the famous or destined to be famous while taking break from shopping the trendy boutiques.

4. Watts Towers

1727 East 107th Street, Los Angeles

Watts Towers in Los Angeles

Watts Towers in Los Angeles

Built by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia over 33 years, Watts Towers is a series of sculptures constructed of steel and mortar and embellished with whatever Rodia could find — mosaic tiles, soda pop bottles, shells, you name it. The towers rise to 99 1/2 feet, the city limit for structures.

It’s also a great excuse to venture down into South Central LA’s Watts neighborhood, which is infamous for the riots in 1965 and still a place where Los Angeles’s less privileged live, although now the African American community is sprinkled with Latin immigrants over the last 20 years.

5. Angeles Crest Highway

California State Highway 2 north of Foothill Boulevard in La Canada

Angeles Crest Highway

A view of the highway and the valley below.

Escape the city remarkably easily on this scenic drive through Angeles National Forest. It often surprises visitors to Los Angeles how easily you can go from bustling metropolis to serene mountains almost in an instant. This is owe of those places — turn off Foothill Boulevard in La Canada and suddenly you are ascending the San Gabriel Mountains, and after just one turn there’s no city in sight. The highway ribbons through mountain passes along sheer drops to the valleys below. Enjoy watching the maniacs on motorcycles as they lean into these treacherous turns up and down the mountains.

Find a parking spot among the motorcycles at Newcombs Ranch restaurant on the side of the road for a rustic mountain meal. Stop at Switzer falls for a fun hike with the locals. Or just drive aimlessly and stop for the many photo opportunities. If you come in winter, you’ll get to frolic and that substance many Angelenos have only heard about — snow!