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Kooky, perma-tanned, rollerblading Venice Beach never changes. Photo: Shutterstock
Kooky, perma-tanned, rollerblading Venice Beach never changes. Photo: Shutterstock


Explore the real Los Angeles

Leave the bus-bound tourists cruising stars’ homes behind, grab a car, and enjoy the real Los Angeles.

Los Angeles sometimes gets a bad rap – for being vacuous, for the traffic, for Disneyland. Over the past decade, however, the city has undergone some interesting changes, becoming less of a one-industry town and supporting burgeoning culinary and arts scenes.

And here’s another thing: LA is surprisingly beautiful. Warm in both personality and climate, and always on the move, it’s also littered with well-preserved Spanish colonial and mid-century architecture, and some of the best contemporary public projects. Natural beauty is also in abundance, and the city’s historical pockets of counterculture have become larger and more visible. Given a week and a car, you can discover it all.

The Broad

The latest addition to the city’s collection of public art galleries opened in September 2015 and contains the private collection of philanthropists Edythe and Eli Broad (pronounced “Brode”): around 2,000 works of postwar and contemporary art by artists including Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Tickets are free and can be reserved in advance for timed entry.

The Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed building, which features a veil-like white façade and adjacent green space with 100-year-old olive trees, joins the same city block as Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall (the home of the LA Philharmonic) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which is housed in a sunken, red-sandstone building designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki.

221 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

The Getty Center. Photo: Shutterstock

The Getty Center

Another stunning piece of architecture (by Pritzker-winning Richard Meier) housing an extraordinary collection of art, the Getty Center in Brentwood overlooks Los Angeles from its perch atop a hill. Part of the fun is that visitors travel up to the entrance from the car park via a cable-pulled funicular.

It contains a huge collection of pre-20th century European art alongside 19th and 20th century American, Asian, and European photographs, and outdoor sculpture displayed on its terraces and gardens.

1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles

The Cinefamily

Founded by “alpha film nerd” and now executive creative director Hadrian Belove, the Cinefamily is housed within the Silent Movie Theater and set out to foster a spirit of community around its program of “exceptional, distinctive, weird, and wonderful films.” It runs about 14 films a week, enhanced by everything from potlucks and special guests to dance parties.

611 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

One of  two lakes at beautiful Fraklin Canyon. Photo: Shutterstock

Franklin Canyon

Hike the mountainous Franklin Canyon, a 605-acre public park, with two lakes and trails lined with California oaks and sage, that will make you forget you’re even in the city. LA Mountains has a full guide to the area’s many beautiful parks.

2600 Franklin Canyon Drive, Beverly Hills

The Venice Beach Boardwalk

Kooky, perma-tanned, rollerblading Venice Beach never changes, except for the addition of miles of walking, jogging, and cycling-friendly boardwalk under the palms lining the beachfront, and perhaps an even larger cloud of marijuana smoke enveloping the surrounding area, thanks to the drug’s 2010 decriminalization and the range of “medical marijuana” dispensaries that have sprung up in its wake.

Ocean Front Walk, Los Angeles

Subliminal Projects, Echo Park

Skateboarder, artist and creator of the Barack Obama “Hope” poster Shepard Fairey set up this gallery space in the offices of his Studio Number One design agency to host a roster of subversive artists.

1331 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Origami Vinyl, Echo Park

The area lies at the center of the indie music scene, and this small storefront, record label, and occasional practice venue is one of its liveliest players.

1816 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Spectacular views across the glittering expanse of the city at Griffith Park Observatory. Photo: Shutterstock

Griffith Park Observatory

Get high in LA … at the white landmark made famous in Rebel Without a Cause. As well as spectacular views across the glittering expanse of the city, punctuated by the towers of Downtown, the observatory runs a regular events program at its planetarium, and the surrounding 4,130-acre park has a variety of walking and hiking trails.

2800 E. Observatory Road, Los Angeles

DTLA Gallery Mile

Discover Downtown LA’s blossoming DIY arts scene. This walk is organized by a nonprofit artists’ collective for the second Thursday of each month. It leads visitors through the galleries and studios that have proliferated in this formerly seedy part of town.


The Reform School, Sunset Junction

A mix of handcrafted whimsy and some serious style gives this school-themed art, design, and craft shop a character of its own.

3902 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Text: Sam Eichblatt

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