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Los Angeles is one of the best-known American cities to people around the world and thus a very popular travel destination. However, as with most great cities, LA also has a lot to offer beyond the headlines. It’s not just Hollywood, sunny sidewalk cafes, and celebrity sightings, after all. A city this big and dynamic is bound to have some less advertised attractions and hole-in-the-wall finds that are perfect for tourists who really want to get to know the place.
To that end, here are some ideas for things to see and do in Los Angeles while avoiding the obvious tourist spots (although plenty of those are worth your time as well).
Visit The Barcades
The bar arcades, or “barcades,” represent a trend that’s taken off in much of America, but which is particularly prevalent in Los Angeles. These establishments preserve a sort of frozen-in-time, old-school LA charm. They’re essentially places where you can get your retro gaming in with a variety of arcade machines while also enjoying a drink, some dancing, and other fun activities like billiards. Some barcades have a theme (often 80’s inspired), while others are more “anything goes” types of spaces. Just be sure to bring plenty of quarters and competitive friends!
Check Out Some Poker Rooms
If arcade games aren’t your speed, you might be surprised to learn that LA is also home to a number of live poker rooms. They’re every bit as legitimate as the more famous ones in Vegas and are sort of hidden gems of the LA entertainment scene. Some of the best rooms are the Bicycle Casino (or “The Bike”), the Hollywood Park Casino, and the Gardens Casino. They each have their own special charm and are well worth a visit if you enjoy the occasional game of poker. You’ll find all types of games and tables, including both high and low stakes options. There’s also typically a range of experience amongst players, meaning you can find a game whether you’re a beginner, just having fun, or a seasoned player in search of a challenge.
Visit Nearby Beaches
As we mentioned in our previous article on travelling internationally, considering when to travel is extremely important. LA is almost an exception, however, in that it’s essentially beach weather for most of the year and very rarely is it too cold to hit the sand, which, let’s face it, is part of the draw of Southern California! Whenever you visit, be sure to put some of the local beaches on your list. El Matador beach is known for its picturesque views and is favoured amongst wedding planners and photographers for good reason. If you’d like to see some cool sea creatures, try the Abalone Cove Shoreline Park, where you can find octopi, hermit crabs, sea hares and anemones in the tide pools during low tide.
Watch Movies Outdoors
Why go into a sticky, grimey movie theatre (even in the film capital of the world) when you can watch movies outside? LA has a variety of pop-up movie spots –– some conventional, vintage drive-ins and others that are more park-like screenings with picnics, lawn chairs, and blankets. A few notable ones are the Electric Dusk Drive-In in Glendale and the Street Food Cinema, which changes locations, so you’ll have to plan carefully. Here’s a nifty calendar with drive-ins and their locations and showings to help you plan your trip if you happen to be eyeing LA sometime soon.
See The Last Bookstore
Okay, so it’s not actually the very last bookstore in LA. It is, however, an absolute treasure. This bookstore is located in a grand atrium that used to be a bank. In order to maintain the rustic feel of an old library, the gently used, well-maintained books have been arranged (or disarranged) on the walls in no particular order, inspiring book seekers to really hunt for new books, and enjoy that oddly pleasant, musty smell of old paperbacks and dust jackets in the process. This is one of the most Instagrammed book shops around thanks to its gorgeous interior and labyrinthine shelves, making it a great stop even if you don’t happen to be a bookworm.
A trip to Los Angeles doesn’t necessarily mean visiting Hollywood Ridge, although it’s highly recommended. Instead, feel free to go off the beaten path and find those little things –– a night at a poker room, or a drive-in movie in the heart of Hollywood, that will make your vacation particularly memorable. Whatever you choose to do specifically, it’s a wonderful city to explore and one where you almost can’t go wrong.
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