32 Rad Under-The-Radar L.A. Spots You've Got To Visit

[UPDATE: This story was originally published on October 16.]
Although we know some of you are TCFS (read: too cool for school), many of us are still uncovering the many nooks and crannies of L.A. — especially in a town full of implants (you know which kind we're talking about). And that's the true beauty of Tinseltown — no matter how long you've lived here, you can still discover something new. Your curiosity will never be satiated.
And, since R29 is all about pioneering new ground, we've put on our camo and tried to unearth some of the coolest tucked-away spots that even natives might not know about. From waterfall hikes and Ryan Gosling's eatery (yep, he owns a resto) to the bridge referenced in that famous Chili Peppers ode to our hometown, these 32 places will make you say "no" to The Grove and "yes" to exploring uncharted territory. Just step right up, and choose your own adventure!
Advertisement
1 of 6

Photos (clockwise from left): Via Adamson House; Camera Obscura, Photographed by Molly Cranna; Via Channel Islands

The Adamson House
Okay, so maybe tours aren't your thing. They're not really ours either, to tell you the truth! However, nestled right next to movie-star mecca, The Colony, in Malibu, sits a home and property that was — no joke — the highlight of our summer. Now a surfer-bro desto (Surfrider Beach is the dwelling's front yard), the land itself was once inhabited by the Chumash Indians, and the famed Rindge family bought the land while their daughter, Rhoda Rindge Adamson, built a dreamlike Spanish Colonial Revival in 1930. Trust, the sublime tiles (made in the 'Bu, to boot!) will have you Instagramming all day long. We'll leave the rest of the history lesson to the docents, but let's just say there are charming tales of love and drama, all set amidst dope classic décor you won't find anywhere else.
Historic Adamson House And Blue Lagoon Museum, 23200 PCH (at PCH); 310-456-8432.

Camera Obscura at the Santa Monica Senior Recreation Center
Yeah, you read that right, we're sending you to a geriatric hangout! The name may conjure the Scottish band (apologies if "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken" is stuck in your head all day!), but this spot isn't about audios — only awe-inducing visuals. On the second floor, you'll find a periscope, dubbed a "19th Century version of a webcam," that actually sparked the entire invention of photography. It projects images from the panoramic Pacific onto a disk in the middle of the room. It's hard to explain, but once you go you'll understand what a rare encounter you've had (in fact there are only a few of these instruments remaining in the world, two of which are in CA). The best part is that it's free and you can take in the views for as long as you like. Who knows? Maybe you'll meet a new senior buddy while you're at it!.
Senior Recreation Center, 1450 Ocean Avenue (between Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway Street); 310-458-8644.

Camping On The Channel Islands
Who didn't read Island of the Blue Dolphins as a tot? If not, here's a brief synopsis: The '60s children's classic was based on the true story of a Nicoleño Indian child stranded for 18 years on San Nicolas Island — one of those oft-blurry mounds right off of our coast. As it turns out, the islands are no longer as isolated as they once were. You can camp on all five, year-round. Private and public boats will charter you there for fairly cheap, but if you want to be super swank, there's puddle-jumping jet services, too! Once you arrive, the fees are only $15 per night, and even though it's only 60 miles from the Santa Barbara sand, it's truly the adventure of a lifetime.
Island Packers, 1691 Spinnaker Drive (near East Harbor Boulevard), Ventura; 805-642-1393.

Other Notables:
MAK Center for Art at the Schindler House, 835 North Kings Road (between Willoughby and Waring avenues); 323-651-1510.
Secret Stairs-LA
2 of 6

Photos (clockwise from left): Via Backbone Trail; Via Eaton Canyon; Exposition Rose Garden, Photographed by Molly Cranna

Backbone Trail Hikes
You may know Temescal, Topanga, and Will Rogers like the back of your hand, but did you know that the Santa Monica Mountains are all connected by a 68-mile trail? Or that the Mediterranean eco-system surrounding those great outdoors is only found five places in the world? You can choose to do day-hike legs of your choosing (leaving one set of wheels at the start, the other for your stopping collapsing point), but starting November 1st you can sign up to complete the entire journey with a knowledgeable ranger in a series of eight day hikes. Or, you could just pack a sleeping bag, do a piece of it, and doze off under the stars with pals in one of the many designated areas! (The Musch Trail Camp at Topanga is our personal favorite).
Backbone Trail

Eaton Canyon Waterfall
In our desert climate, there's plenty of weak-sauce waterfalls — especially in the summer — but we've yet to hit this one when the agua wasn't fully flowing (that's not to say it hasn't happened, of course!). It's either a .5- or 1.5-mile hike depending on where you park, but we hadn't come across this path in all of our years trekking the mountains around our town until recently.
Eaton Canyon Waterfall, 1750 North Altadena Drive (at North Veranada Avenue); 626-398-5420.

Exposition Park Rose Garden
Just about every weekend, whilst en route to the Coliseum, USC fans and foes trample right through this freshly scented park in the heart of the concrete jungle — and some others just simply aren't aware of its existence. Surrounding a stunning central fountain, there are over 200 varieties of roses and 200,000 bushes that make for ideal peace-and-quiet time, or a lazy-day date. Even if you're not a botanical buff, this space has Facebook photo-shoot fun embedded into every patch of grass!
Exposition Park Rose Garden, 701 State Drive (at South Figueroa); 213-763-0114.

Other Notables:
Southern California's Wafarers Chapel, 6118 Palos Verdes Drive South (near Sea Cove Drive); 310-377-1650.
The Gamble House, 4 Westmoreland Place (near North Orange Grove Boulevard); 626-793-3334.
Advertisement
3 of 6

Photos (clockwise from left): American Way, Photographed by Molly Cranna; Via California Market Center; The Great Wall of Los Angeles, Photographed by Molly Cranna

American Way Thrift Store
If you read us regularly, this Burbank shop may not be that off the beaten path since we've mentioned it a time or two. It's still a crazy treasure trove, though, with Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays as the critical days to go (1/2 off everything!). Oh, and if you've ever wanted to create a Jonathan Adler-esque shelf with the varying '60s multi-color glass vases and decanters, hit that North wall right when doors open at 9 a.m., ladies!
American Way Thrift Store, 3226 West Magnolia Boulevard (at North California Street); 818-841-6013.

Sample Sales At The California Market Center
The hundreds of showrooms in the Fashion District downtown may seem off-limits to everyone but big-time buyers, but many of them open up their doors with lots of home, clothing, and accessories goodies for wholesale grabs on Sample Sale Fridays. Check the site for specific dates, and plan on bringing cold hard cash!
The California Market Center, 110 East 9th Street (at South Main Street); 213-630-3600.

L.A. River Murals
If you've ever taken a California Art History class, your professor would be phoning it in if she or he didn't mention Judy Baca. The activist and founder of SPARC's life work is one of the world's largest and thought-provoking murals, for which she enlisted people of all education levels, colors, and ages — really, the entire community chipped in. What was once a hideous San Fernando Valley ditch now bares the emblems of Cali's past, and it's something every Angeleno should mandatorily see, whether they've lived here since birth or are fresh out of LAX. Baca describes it best: "It is a tattoo on the scar where the river once ran."
The Great Wall of Los Angeles, Coldwater Canyon Avenue (between Oxnard Street and Burbank Boulevard); no phone.

Other Notables:
Gold Bug, 22 East Union Street (at North Fair Oaks Avenue); 626-744-9963.
Caine's Arcade, 538 North Mission Road (near East Cesar E Chavez Avenue); 323-225-5997.
Solstice Canyon, Solstice Canyon Road (at Corral Canyon Road); 805-370-2300.
4 of 6

Photos (clockwise from left): Caravan Book Store; It's A Wrap, Photographed by Molly Cranna; Via Hollyhock House

Caravan Book Store
While most people are mooning over The Last Bookstore downtown, we prefer to pick up our dusty pageturners at Caravan Book Store in the historic Pacific Mutual building. Owned by Leonard Bernstein and in his family for over 50 years (he worked there as a child), the cluttered-in-the-best-way-possible spot has a romantic, old-world vibe that we deem essential when digging for rare ink. Beside his charm, Bernstein's specialty is Western libros, so if you're in need of a dose of L.A. history, here's where you'll find countless lessons. And, if you're not exactly in the market to buy a first-edition Avedon coffee-table tome (there are fashion finds, too!), it's still worth stocking up on unique and cheap postcards to be framed for gifts later!
Caravan Book Store, 550 South Grand Avenue (between West 5th and West 6th streets); 213-626-9944.

Hollyhock House
As of Friday, the renovations of Frank Lloyd Wright's Los Feliz architectural feat will be complete, and for $7, you can get a tour of oil heiress and philanthropist Aline Barnsdall's former abode. Named for the mistress of the manor's favorite flower, the home was Wright's first project ever, deeming it a National Historic Landmark of epic proportions. It's also really the premier example of a bona fide SoCal-suited style (incorporating landscape with interiors and accommodating our picturesque views). You'll find that Barnsdall was an eccentric lady, and the tour is telling of interesting demands the builder had to meet!
Hollyhock House, 4800 Hollywood Boulevard (between North Edgemont and North Berendo streets); 323-644-6269.

It's A Wrap Thrift Store
Even movie studios are liquidating these days, and this is where the old sets, costumes, and props go after they've had their fifteen minutes of fame. It's the only store of its kind in Lala (anywhere?), and they display new merch daily. When you wrap your head around it, these items really get very little use anyway since they're shot for quick spurts of time — so they're even more gently worn than what you'd nab at a consignment shop. Psst, we hear Mad Men likely only has two more seasons to go, so you might want to start counting down for those hand-me-downs now!
It's A Wrap, 1164 South Robertson Boulevard (between West Pico Boulevard and Whitworth Drive); 310-246-9727.

Other Notable:
Z Gallerie Outlet, 1855 West 139th Street (between Gramercy Place and South Western Avenue); 310-630-1200.
Wolves Mouth
5 of 6

Photos (clockwise from left): Vineland Drive-In Movie Theater; Wacko Soap Plant; Marilyn Monroe's Resting Place; Photographed by Molly Cranna

Vineland Drive-In Theater
Hollywood Forever has closed its cinematic gates for the season, and this is actually a grand alternative you may remember even when it's back in action! Seven days a week in the City of Industry (a hop, skip, and a jump from DTLA), you can have a throwback moment at this modern-flick-projecting drive-in. The shows start at dusk, and for nine bucks, you can always catch a double-feature. Right now you can take your pick between pairings like Hotel Transylvania and Pitch Perfect, or Argo and Trouble With The Curve.
Vineland Drive-In Movie Theater, 443 Vineland Avenue (between Austen Way and Moccasin Street); 626-961-9262.

Marilyn Monroe's Resting Place At Pierce Brothers Cemetery
We love Norma Jean, but we're not necessarily Marilyn fanatics, so super fans, forgive us for this one! We were positively shocked to learn that behind the corporate skyscrapers of the Wilshire Corridor lies a serene cemetery where the original Blonde Bombshell was laid to rest. Joe DiMaggio vowed to deliver roses to the site every day after she passed, and when he met the pearly gates, Hugh Hefner took on the financial responsibility for the poetic gesture (she was Playboy's first cover girl and his crush clearly never faded). Further proof of Hef's undying love? He also bought the plot right next to the lipstick-drenched crypt.
The Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, 1218 Glendon Avenue (between Wilshire Boulevard and Wellworth Avenue); 310-474-1579.

Wacko Soap Plant
Talk about a domino effect! This shop opened modestly enough in '71 in Los Feliz as a small family-owned biz that doled out soaps, leather, and pottery. When it moved to Melrose, it was whacked out as “a pop culture toy shop with punk-rock attitude” with an addition of the La Luz de Jesus Gallery (featuring really trippy art shows that you can hit the openings of every first Friday). Now, its current location on Hollywood houses two-million items from lava lamps to wacky knickknacks in 6,500-square feet. You might want to pack a Xanax for this one (or, if you go there, any mind-altering anything!).
Wacko Soap Plant, 4633 Hollywood Boulevard (at Rodney Drive); 323-663-0122.

Other Notables:
Santa Monica Lawn Bowls Club, 2439 Wilshire Boulevard (near South Park View Street); 310-990-0168.
The Autry National Center of the American West, 4700 Western Heritage Way (near Zoo Drive); 323-667-2000.
6 of 6

Photos (clockwise from left): Via Sunken City; Via Night Gallery; Via Tagine

Night Gallery
This is the only visual space we know of that keeps vampire hours. Open from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., the nocturnal Lincoln Heights joint's noir walls are just one reason why it's the antithesis of a typical stuffy viewing exploit. Columbia grad and artist-slash-co-owner Davida Nemeroff calls it a place for “smoking, drinking, and art.” Sounds like a must-visit triple threat to us!
Night Gallery, 204 South Avenue 19 (at North Broadway); 650-384-5448.

Tagine
Maybe you knew it, maybe you didn't, but Ryan Gosling is a restaurateur — and he actually plates delish food (obviously not by his own sexy hands). The Moroccan eatery is as sultry as its owner, and we recommend the seven-course tasting menu for the full exotic culinary experience. Wonder if he and Eva will host their rehearsal dinner there someday?
Tagine, 132 North Robertson Boulevard (near Wilshire Boulevard); 310-360-7535.

Sunken City
You know those rumors you always heard about chunks of land falling off the Cali coast? Well, starting in 1929 in San Pedro, what scientists have termed as a "slump" of land actually did slip into the sea. Global warming may continue to take its toll, but it's a shutterbug's paradise where vivid tagging is set against bucolic waves splashing against eroding cliffs. Definitely check it out before it's swallowed for real! (P.S.: We'd never advocate ducking beneath the wrought-iron fences — don't get busted).
Sunken City, 500 West Paseo Del Mar (near South Gaffey Street); no phone.

Other Notables:
Bronson Caves at Griffith Park, 3200 Canyon Drive (near Carolus Drive); 323-666-5046.
Reel Appeal, 2911 Winona (between North Ontario Street and North San Fernando Boulevard); 818-565-3569.
Sierra Club Moonlight Hikes

Advertisement

More from Los Angeles

Watch

R29 Original Series