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Last updated: August 31, 2022 • Traveling Around the World

Hidden Gems in Los Angeles

It doesn’t come as a surprise that you won’t find a shortage of articles on the internet with dozens of places you should not miss when taking a trip to Los Angeles, California. The city of Angels is one of the most visited US destinations for both international and domestic travelers. Even Angelenos – what Los Angeles residents are commonly referred to as – are in awe of some of the best-hidden gems in Los Angeles. A quick look at the mentions from this article will surely make it clear why even those who live there 24/7 love seeing their hometown like a tourist. There’s just so much to explore in the city of Los Angeles, California, that even living there 24/7 won’t give you enough time to enjoy all the hidden gems in LA besides everything else California has to offer.

Whether you are just visiting the city of stars. Maybe thinking about moving there in which case contacting the local real estate agents in Los Angeles CA should be the first thing you do, or maybe you are a brand new resident, there are plenty of things to enjoy for all interests, passions, and difficulty levels. If you like history, there’s Murphy’s Ranch. If you want nature, take your pick. You can find everything from bridges that lead to nowhere to caves and secret swings with astonishing views. And yes, the stars. Now, while there are parts of the city where you can see some of the night sky glistening in stars, we’re referring to A-list celebrities as many live in the city. Any foodie can discover the new treats and trends taking over California or enjoy familiar delicacies as the restaurant scene is incredibly diverse and ready to satisfy any taste or palate.

So, where to start? It depends on what you want to focus on. We’ll go over some of the different types of hidden gems in Los Angeles, and you can pick your poison at your own discretion. If, however, time allows you to, try to maneuver your adventure so that you cover most of the hidden gems in LA we’ll cover next. You won’t want to miss them, and we’d hate for you to regret not seeing one that sparked your interest.

Article Summary:

Hidden Gems in Los Angeles – the greater area

downtown skyline los angeles

Visiting Los Angeles is something so many people think about that many already know what they want to see before they even book the trip. It’s to be expected from such an internationally famous city. While you wander around Venice Beach, star-gaze at any celebrity sighting and strut your stuff just in case, a talent scout is watching you. Don’t forget; all that famous stuff is a small part of what Los Angeles offers.

If you really want to feel like an Angeleno, look at Los Angeles like a local and do what the locals do. You don’t even have to play a role. You only have to take a closer look and be mesmerized by the city’s intriguing combination of cultures, arts, and color. One of the best ways to discover a city, even if you’ve visited before or lived there, is by experiencing the little things. Plenty of the following hidden gems in Los Angeles are hidden in plain sight.

Regency Village Theater

Throughout your trip, you will have ample opportunity to watch movies and immerse yourself in the movie industry. However, if you want to treat yourself to an unforgettable movie experience, aside from any red carpet premiere, the Regency Village Theater is the place to go. Now, you might wonder, what makes this theater different from all the plethora of cinemas across Los Angeles? Well, the reason the Regency Village Theater is considered one of the best-hidden gems in Los Angeles is its history. 

The history mentioned above doesn’t only come with the theater’s old yet maintained structure but its architecture as well. Located close by the University of California, Los Angeles, in a quaint and quite unique neighborhood of Westwood, the Regency Village Theatre isn’t over-crowded like its alternative, TCL Chinese Theatre. Built by Percy Parke Lewis in 1931, the theater has more than 1,400 seats and an amazing sound quality. The display is not to be glossed over either, but the building’s design definitely sets it apart. The art deco style is garnished with a white tower that rises well above the surrounding area, and the big blue FOX sign brings a salute to the building’s past.

If you’re lucky enough and manage to plan your trip based on Hollywood movie premiers, it’s worth mentioning that despite its age, the Regency Village Theater still hosts up to three movie premieres every month. In Los Angeles slang, that translates to the whole 9-yards: red carpet, paparazzi, crowds of fans, and, of course, the cast and crew. If you don’t have one already, get an autograph journal, as you’ll need it throughout the duration of your trip.

Still, if you don’t want to stop by for a movie, premiere or not, a visit to the area will give way to an array of shops and restaurants where you can sit back and enjoy the city. The theater’s architecture can be an excellent view for a casual brunch.

Murphy Ranch

History may not always be the most pleasant of subjects, but this location takes it to another level. Not all of the hidden gems in Los Angeles are sensible, easy to digest or swallow, and this one is high up on that list. Nevertheless, history should not be forgotten, which is why promoting something as a tourism destination does not mean people who visit it will have a joyous experience there. 

Now that the trigger warning is out of the way, Murphy’s Ranch is one of the strangest and unnerving hidden gems of Los Angeles. A hike takes you to this ranch, but once you get there, you will be greeted by a home covered from top to bottom in graffiti. The graffiti is colorful, but the structure’s history is quite bleak. Before the Second World War, a Nazi sympathizer built this compound. Legends say that between 1933 and 1945, a colony of around 40 Nazi sympathizers lived in that part of the Rustin Canyon. Fortunately, as Germany lost the war, the need for its usage disappeared. The site was abandoned until a group of artists purchased the property.

The hike up to the compound starts just off the intersection of Casale Road and Sullivan Fire Road. A mile down the path, you’ll be greeted by a break in the fence, and steep stone steps will take you to the bottom of Rustic Canyon. Once you reach the bottom, keep to the left, and you’ll reach Murphy’s Ranch. In 1973, Los Angeles purchased the property, which is now covered in graffiti, making it a disturbing place to visit for those who want to understand the history and not repeat it. Most of the structures are covered in graffiti, but the paint can’t distract anyone who knows the purpose of the compound from the shocking realization of what could have taken place inside those structures. While it may look like a work of art, the truth behind it is terrifying.

The Sunken City

sunken city landscape

Once a thriving and exclusivist community in San Pedro, the Sunken City is what remains of the plans envisioned by the landowner of the South Bay and Harbor Area, George Peck. His plans included bungalows with high desirability but little development necessary. In other words, a developer’s gold mine. The six acres were supposed to provide fabulous views from the top of a seaside buff. However, in 1929, the earth began to move, and homeowners living in the area experienced gas and water line breaks. Slowly those lucky to have enjoyed the comfort of the bungalows began to move, and engineering reports demanded the closing of the development and suggested transforming it into parkland. 

The landslide was going to happen; the only uncertainty was whether or not the land would collapse into the sea. However, when the earth began to move at a rate of three inches per day and a large crevice was formed, the remaining homeowners moved their houses back. You can not visit the area, but you can look down at the Sunken City, also known as Los Angeles’ Atlantida, from the fence. Still, many find their way within the fenced-in area, and, as a result, graffiti can be spotted on any remaining surface of foundation, street, or road signs that remained locked in place, at least for the time being. Going inside the fence is trespassing, and against the law, so it’s sound to state that you should not enter the fenced-in area as you can be subjected to fines, besides the fact that the land is not steady. A short excursion in the area can be highly dangerous for anyone who ventures there.

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Hidden Gems in Downtown Los Angeles

unknown girl making sign with fingers

As we draw closer to the hidden gems in downtown Los Angeles, get ready to discover the city of angels like a local. Whether it’s the culture, the history, or the design of the downtown area of Los Angeles, you’re sure to find some one-of-a-kind locations that are worth visiting. Simply add their address in your google maps, and as you walk around the city, you will find yourself close to one or the other. There’s no need to plan these locations separately as they are easy to find once you know where they are located. As one of the best places to live in California, Los Angeles’s downtown area is packed with interesting adventures. You only have to know where to look for them.

The Masque

While many cities have their own punk origins, the city of Los Angeles, California, certainly has a way of making it interesting. For a combination of musical history, architecture, and weird location with an exciting past, we present to you the Masque. You’ll undoubtedly find yourself at one point during your trip on the infamous Hollywood Boulevard, turn southward on the N Cherokee Avenue, and before you know it, you’ll find the Masque. The only sign that lets you know you got there is a black steel door with the words, World Wonder, in bright orange letters. Talk about hidden gems in downtown Los Angeles; you can’t get more hidden than this. 

After opening in 1977 and housing legendary bands like The Go-Go’s, The Cramps, Dead Kennedys, and Black Flag, the fire marshal closed this legendary venue in 1979 as it did not comply with any fire or safety regulations. The owner, Brendan Mullen, didn’t even try to bring it up to code, and it has remained vacant ever since. While it currently belongs to the company World of Wonder, it serves as an archive with videotapes, boxes, and props. However, despite the change in ownership, graffiti can still be found on the remaining standing walls as a tribute to the chaotic beginnings of the Los Angeles punk scene with its anti-establishment direction that fits well in today’s California political direction. To see the profanities and slightly disturbing catchphrases scribbled on those walls by those who started the LA punk movement isn’t something easy, but it is definitely worth it if you manage to get it. That, however, isn’t as easy unless the company owning it allows you to.

California Institute of Abnormal Arts

male hand cut off heads

While this venue may sound like a place where you can enjoy a casual stroll as you take a look at artifacts or other exponents, it isn’t quite that. Located in North Hollywood, on Burbank Boulevard, this eclectic club hosts concerts and other events in an atmosphere that might remind you of a museum. Still, you won’t see any of the normal paintings or sculptures of other museums. Fun fact, the abbreviation for this institute is CIA.

You will see an array of macabre carnival artifacts, stuffed animals, mummified clowns, and many other oddities that are sure to shock and awe you. Also, concerts at the “institute” aren’t your everyday music shows as they are often called “freakshows”. If you want to describe them, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to put them into words. The fact that this event venue remains open despite its quite peculiar design and shows is a testament to our statement above. There really is a place in Los Angeles for the likes of everyone. Another location that was initially meant to be on this list is the Necromance shop, where you could purchase even more oddities. Just to mention a few so you can get an idea, the shop sold human tooth necklaces, frozen bats, or even gold earnings with beetles instead of gems. Unfortunately, however, the shop appears to have closed down. If that changes and these oddities attract you, don’t hesitate to stop by, even for a quick glance into a world that seems so outside of the norm.

Elysian Park

los angeles ca march

While the Elysian Park gives visitors quite the views of downtown Los Angeles, it is extremely underrated. It’s the oldest park in the city and second only to Griffith Park, visitors being able to occupy an entire day simply by exploring the park. However, while you can enjoy many historical sites and natural marvels, the Secret Swing is the most overlooked spot. With almost 600 acres available for exploration, it’s easy to understand why we included it in the list of hidden gems in downtown Los Angeles. 

If you want something more relaxing from this park or after you take your turn swinging away from your stress for the day, the Rock Garden located within the park, right behind the Police Academy, is as relaxing as they come. Seeing as not many people venture throughout the park, we can call it one of the hidden gems in downtown Los Angeles. After all, can you think of anything more LA than swinging from a graffiti tree on top of the 110 freeway? I think not. While the secret swing may not be ideal for a serene and peaceful afternoon as it sits right over the 110, it does provide some unforgettable views of the city and a short hike, so you can also thick off your daily exercise if you go all the way up there.

Hidden Nature Spots in Los Angeles

city dreams

Besides the aforementioned Secret Swing in Elysian Park, there are plenty of other hidden nature spots in Los Angeles, even if they aren’t located strictly in the downtown area. So, if you’re searching for some hikes and trails that you can enjoy during a weekend California trip, we selected a few for you because many people only think of Hollywood and celebrities when it comes to Los Angeles. The following hidden natural spots in Los Angeles will stray away from the ocean and delve deep into the remote and less known places around Los Angeles that even Angelenos will enjoy discovering.

The Bridge to Nowhere

The list of hidden nature spots in Los Angeles will begin with a bridge leading nowhere. Well, not quite literally, as the bridge found a purpose even if it most certainly isn’t the one it was initially meant to be. This hidden location can be found in San Gabriel National Forest, and getting there includes a 4.7-mile hike that can last on average for 1 hour and 50 minutes. Still, getting all the way to the hike trailhead is a 40-mile drive from downtown Los Angeles.

However, if you’re looking for a one-day trip while you’re visiting LA, then the Bridge to Nowhere is a must. The most interesting thing about this bridge is that, as mentioned, it did have a purpose. Back in the day, it was the primary connection between Los Angeles and Wrightwood, a city just across the San Antonio Mountain. However, in 1938 the roads were sunk by horrible floods and left the bridge standing in an apocalyptic scenery to this day. The purpose of this bridge changed due to the high risk in the area, and the road circles the mountain in order to connect the two towns. If you take this trip, you’ll need to do it by car as there aren’t other options available, so renting seems like the only option. However, once you’re there, you could push your adventurous alter-ego to the front and enjoy some bungee jumping while you’re at it.

Box Canyon

formations entered box canyon

Throughout the US, you will be able to find dozens of Box Canyons, but as you embark on discovering hidden nature spots in Los Angeles, the Box Canyon here is quite the adventure. Most tourist guides won’t include this hidden gem in Los Angeles, even if it’s less than an hour away from the city’s downtown area. Located in the city’s northwest, the canyon will give even the most experienced hikers a run for their money. The most surprising fact is that it isn’t as visited as one might expect, considering its incredibly close proximity to Los Angeles. 

Getting there means that you’ll enjoy quite the hike, but the hills surrounding it include narrow ravines, oases, slot canyons, and brightly-colored badlands for some of the most Instagram-able photos. The truth of the matter is that this canyon was left with a bad reputation due to a local cult that called it their home. Two members of that cult used some dynamite to blast the area up as they believed their leader of sleeping with their wives. While the story may not motivate anyone to go there for a hike, it is quite safe, but for the terrain, and if you want to enjoy a nature hike that pushes your physical limits, you shouldn’t miss it.

Bronson Cave

los angeles ca bronson cave

Another of the best-hidden nature spots in Los Angeles is the Bronson Cave, located at the end of Griffith Park on the city’s outskirts. While it is only 8 miles away from downtown Los Angeles, it gives visitors the feeling that they are in the middle of nowhere due to its rugged aspect. That same rugged wilderness and visual versatility is the reason why it might look familiar once you get there. The reason behind that familiarity is the fact that precisely the unique aspect of the cave made it become a feature in many Hollywood movies and TV shows. Most notably, it was the entrance to the Batcave in the Batman TV series of the 1960s. 

While the cave is very close to downtown Los Angeles, there aren’t many transport options to get there, so renting a car is necessary to get there or take a cab. The trail’s difficulty makes it ideal for children and older visitors, and something else that’s interesting about this particular cave is that it provides visitors with a great view of the Hollywood sign. 

Hidden Gems in Beverly Hills

beverly hills street palm view

We couldn’t write a whole article about the hidden gems in Los Angeles without including some that are particular to the Beverly Hills area. The following hidden gens in Beverly Hills are sure to make you turn your head left and right but not due to any celebrity sighting, but purely out of the sheer randomness of their existence. Well, not quite randomness, but the following hidden gems in Beverly Hills are out there.

The Witch’s House

Yes. You read that right. There’s a witch house in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. Suppose you’re used to trick or treating during Halloween. In that case, you’ll love to have a look at this Beverly Hills cottage that looks like it’s plucked straight out of a fairytale, especially during the spooky holiday as the residents like to have fun with the decorations. Also known as Spadena House, the property was built in 1921 when Willat Studio intended to use it not only for silent films but also as their office and dressing room area. In 1934 when the studio was closed, the Spadena family moved it to its current location in Beverly Hills. 

The house stands out on 516 North Walden Drive due to its pointy, lopsided roof and walls adorned with tiny windows and a distressed paint that covers them. It looks exactly how you would imagine the house from the fairytale Hansel and Gretel to look. You can take a look at it from a respectful distance, from the public street and sidewalk. While it looks incredible, it is privately owned and works as a residence, so do be respectful when you go to discover the fairytale house that everybody dreams of when they are young.

Sprinkles Cupcake ATM

girl in front of bank atm

The icing on top of the hidden gems in Beverly Hills has to be the Sprinkles Cupcake ATMs. After all, what can be sweeter than the icing on top of a sprinkled cupcake that you can get from an ATM? Actually, there are 6 Sprinkles Cupcake ATMs in Los Angeles, two of which can be found in the Beverly Hills area. One is located on the South Santa Monica Boulevard, quite close to the Witch’s House, while the other is within the Westfield Century City Mall. The other four are as follows:

Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks

Glendale Galleria on South Central Avenue

Dolby Theater on Hollywood Boulevard

The University of Southern California campus

The only reason why we mentioned all the locations is so that wherever you find yourself in Los Angeles, you’ll be able to find the closest ATM to you. We wouldn’t want you to put a damper on your cravings, especially while in LA. And, just so you know, the cupcakes are replaced throughout the day and stocked accordingly by the associated stores, meaning that you’ll most likely find the flavor you’re craving available at all hours – except the cupcake ATMs from the malls are limited to the mall’s open hours. The others are open 24/7 so go cupcake hunting.

Hidden Edible Gems in Los Angeles

patrons sit outdoors outside dinner restaurant

The cupcakes aren’t the only edible joys you’ll be able to find throughout Los Angeles. While the city is notoriously open-minded to some kinds of edibles, those aren’t the ones we’ll be covering in the current section. Sorry!

While we already mentioned that food is as diverse as the city’s population, food is a fundamental part of life in Los Angeles. We all know that culture has a way of seeping deep into how people from different parts of the world make, flavor, and design their foods, and that can be seen in every restaurant that caters to a specific culture. Word to the wise, however, when you explore the cruising in Los Angeles, try to stay away from debates aiming to figure out the best taco stand in the city, especially with Angelenos. They are vicious when it comes to their favorite food stands or restaurants but know that none of them are wrong. While you probably have your own preferences, we’ll just go over some places that stand out, and you’re free to try them out if they spark your interest.

San Gabriel

vegan vietnamese food lunch

Regarding food, San Gabriel is ideal for Asian food, as 60% of the area’s population is Asian. If you’re searching for the best Vietnamese or Chinese food in the city of angels in San Gabriel, you will find the best hidden food gems in Los Angeles. Any bánh mì lovers, dim sum enthusiasts, or bánh xèo gourmands will find these Vietnamese crêpes at their discretion in San Gabriel, so dig in and take your taste buds to new heights.

Lincoln Heights

Those taco stands we mentioned earlier that Angelenos fight over when trying to figure out which is the best are likely located in Lincoln Heights. On Avenue 26, where the first original stand was housed, the taco trucks and food vendors transformed it into a culinary phenomenon with most types of food available. In recent months the area saw a massive increase in popularity, with rumors stating that it has become the biggest street vendor market in all of the US. The atmosphere is intense, buzzing with enthusiasm and flavors, and the tacos are to die for.

Grand Central Market

los angeles central market

While this market can not actually be referred to as a hidden gem, especially for the locals, you shouldn’t miss it due to a technicality. Yes, people know about it. Yes, the experience is worth bending the rules for, which is why we included it. The wide array of food vendors in Grand Central Market will satisfy even the most pretentious food lovers out there with everything from Jewish delish to Mexican taquerias, all at reasonable prices, which says something considering that this is Los Angeles. What we can say about it is that it has quite the reputation for being authentic, so you shouldn’t miss it even if it isn’t technically part of the hidden food gems in Los Angeles as it is quite known, for a good reason.

Conclusion

Given the wide variety of experiences we listed for you throughout this article, we are sure that you will have an exhilarating trip when you decide to head toward Los Angeles. And why wouldn’t you have it? Besides everything that is listed above, just imagine bumping into your favorite celebrity and having even the smallest interaction with them. The photo and autograph opportunities don’t even cover the joy of meeting your idol. So make sure to pack a high-quality camera, get yourself camera ready, and get ready to embark on the trip of a lifetime. I would get plenty of sleep beforehand because, as chances are, you’ll have so much to experience that sleep will be the last thing you think about, especially if you meet your celebrity crush.

I hope you packed your backpack and are mentally prepared for everything there is to see in Los Angeles. Why shouldn’t as many people as possible get to shoot for the stars even if they only land on the Moon? Don’t forget to Like & Share this article with any of your friends and family that are considering a trip to the city of dreamers. Let us know if there is anything we missed that’s quite hidden and unknown in Los Angeles in the comments below, and we’ll be sure to keep it in mind for future articles.

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