LA Hidden Gems: 17 Crowd-Free Activities

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 and carrying poorly folded maps. Au contraire.

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 us 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 serve as an art gallery and 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.

Multicolored concrete stairs with black metal railing surrounded by greenery2. Echo Park Lake

After a recent renovation, Echo Park Lake has become a revitalized destination for non touristy things to do in LA, 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.

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While there, go for a pedal boat ride, see the Lady of the Lake statue, and visit the restored Boathouse. Plus, drop by Time Travel Mart to shop and browse cool souvenirs.

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 one of the hidden gems in Los Angeles. Plus, the perfect off the beaten path Los Angeles 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.

concrete path through a cactus garden surrounded by palm trees and greenery4. 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 tourist things to do in LA.

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 at Universal Studios, Warner Brothers, or other LA attractions, 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.

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After hitting the hiking trail or the water, reserve a camping spot in the main campgrounds or backcountry if you’re feeling adventurous.

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

Bright entrance to a cave with rock walls and a sandy floor at Leo Carillo State Park6. Los Angeles Museums (That Aren’t the Getty)

Still looking for things to do in LA not touristy?

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 other Los hidden gems 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:

And if you’re looking for museums and non touristy things to do in Santa Monica, the Museum of Flying must be in your travel itinerary. See vintage aircraft and aviation art exhibits without worrying about the big mob.

To truly avoid the crowds, get your tickets in advance and skip the lines.

7. The Bradbury Building

Type “less crowded places to visit near me” on your search browser, and you’ll most likely find The Bradburry Building as one of the top results.

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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 and undeniably one of the hidden gems LA.

This iconic building is also a stop on several downtown LA walking tours.

shot looking up at black iron staircases in a brick building with a glass roof
Photo Credit: Ashim D’Silva via Unsplash

8. Amoeba Music

Music lovers looking for non tourist 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. It’s the perfect place for audiophiles looking for one of the underrated things to do in LA.

Get ready to spend time browsing through their massive inventory of records. You never know what gems you might find at this off the beaten path LA store!

9. Chandelier Tree in Silver Lake

One of the best non touristy places to visit is Chandelier Tree. However, we are dishearted that it has permanently closed.

Not to be confused with the Chandelier Tree in Northern California, Silver Lake’s Chandelier Tree is a marvel of its own.

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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, making it one of the best hidden gems in Los Angeles. Sit back, grab a bottle of wine, and relax by the ocean. As one of the Los Angeles non touristy things do, this winery offers sweeping views of the area near Topanga Beach along with events, wine tours, and more.

Couple sitting on a blanket with a wine and cheese board next to the ocean on the beach11. Go to the Beach

While you can visit touristy beaches such as Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier, there are plenty of non-crowded beaches aka LA hidden gems to explore in and around the City of Angels. When we go to the beach, the last thing we want to do is push my way through a crowd for a tiny plot of sand.

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The city stretches throughout a distinct coastal plain located between the Pacific Ocean and mountains, so you will never run out of beaches to visit.

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

Two women with their arms around each other walking down the beach with the ocean in the background12. 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 best non touristy things to do in LA, 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, one of the hidden food gems in Los Angeles.

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, a United States food classic. Whether you’re into quick bites or filling food, the options are endless.

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!

people browsing and dining at selections at Grand Central Market with glowing neon signs in Grand Central Market, Los Angeles, California, USA
photo Credit: Grand Central Market via Facebook

14. Explore Little Tokyo and Koreatown

While other tourists flock to Hollywood, those looking for non touristy things to do in Southern California 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 that welcomes a variety of ethnicities. With this diverse blend of cultures, Koreatown offers numerous things to do, from theaters and shopping centres to restaurants and museums. Explore and discover these shops that are LA off the beaten path. 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?

Folks looking for low key things to do in Los Angeles can enjoy and save serious dough at the same time here. Instead of paying top dollar for concert tickets, catch one of their rehearsals at the famed concert venue without paying a dime.

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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.

Aerial View of The Hollywood Bowl at night illuminated with blue and purples lights - Los Angeles, California, USA
Photo Credit: Hollywood Bowl via Facebook

16. Malibu Wine Safaris

[Updated 2024] Malibu Wine Safari has permanently closed.

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. It’s definitely one of the must-visit hidden gems in LA.

Sure, you can go to the LA Zoo at Griffith Park. 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. Just like in San Pedro, there are far better trails and hidden gems Los Angeles to explore; all without iPad-wielding travelers.

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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

Your LA vacation doesn’t have to include celebrity tours in the San Fernando Valley, bumping with paparazzi at The Grove, and other tourist trap adventures like the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Instead, take advantage of hidden gems Los Angeles off the beaten path destinations, and local haunts. What Los Angeles non-touristy things will you do on your trip?

Which Crowd-Free Places Are You Most Excited To Visit?

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