Los Angeles Guide: Food, Hikes, Free Attractions, Museums & Shopping

Los Angeles is just one of those cities that you have to spend time at one point in your life. People come from all around the world to walk among the stars, marvel at the Hollywood Sign and relax on its beaches. I have been dozens of times and am still pulling back the different layers of the onion that make up one of the United States most famous cities. I have never been one to just do the normal tourist attractions though, so this guide is full of ideas ranging from donuts to hikes that will let you explore the unique side of this famous city. Click the photo to read a post on that specific item and to start your journey exploring this famous city. Be sure to let me know your favorite spots in the comments.

Donuts

What's not to love about these delicious circles of sugar and carbs? Honestly, I could eat donuts every day if I thought it was good for me. The LA donut game is strong as well, here are my favorites in the city.

California Donuts

Kettle Glazed

Stans Donuts

Fonuts

Nickel Diner

Randy's Donuts

DK Donuts

Food

Like any big city, Los Angeles knows how to make great food. They have all the things you would anticipate like In and Out and Chipotle, but they also have a plethora of amazing options that serve unique food that you will not soon forget. Here are a few of my favorites.

Bottega Louie

Apple Pan

Philippes French Dip

Pinks Hot Dogs

Atticus Creamery & Pies

Portos Bakery

Daikokuya

Dino Chicken

Clifton's Cafeteria

Free Attractions

LA can be expensive to explore but it does not have to be. There are so many free things you can do in this massive city that you can easily spend an entire weekend exploring without spending any money. I love trying to find my favorite movie locations as well, since this city is full of them and you can see some of my favorite spots below.

Observation Deck

Walt Disney's Barn

Angel's Flight

Union Station

Los Angeles Movie Locations

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Griffith Observatory

Venice Canals

Great LA Wall

Phantasma Gloria

Hiking

If you are looking to get outside and explore after eating some donuts then there are a lot of great opportunities for you to do that in this urban jungle. Runyon Canyon is a popular spot but there are a ton of other great options such as exploring the remains of the old LA Zoo or making your way up to the Hollywood Sign.

Hollywood Sign

Bee Rock

Old LA Zoo

Murphy's Ranch

Vanalden Cave

Museums & Entertainment

While the Getty is the most famous museum in Southern California and for good reason, there are still a lot of other museums that deserve your time as well. I personally love seeing the cars at the Peterson Auto Museum and couldn’t recommend it more. Also, there are some fun spots for entertainment to check out such as the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.

Grauman’s Chinese Theater

The Hollywood Museum

Getty Center

Peterson Auto Museum

Velaslavasay Panorama

Bob Baker Marionette Theater

Museum of Jurassic Technology

Watt's Towers

Egyptian Theater

LACMA

La Brea Tar Pits

The Broad Museum

Shopping

This is not a traditional shopping list as you would no doubt head to Rodeo Drive or some of the other famous places if you are into fashion. I like the off the beaten path stuff though so I put my favorite book shop, record shop and just a collection of strange places for unique gifts.

Last Bookstore

Five Strange LA Shops

Wacko Soap Plant

Amoeba Music

Time Travel Mart

Hotels

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Los Angeles History

Permanent settlers from Spain and Mexico arrived in Los Angeles in 1781 to establish "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles di Porciúncula." The settlement’s name honors a shrine to Mary, Mother of God, Santa Maria degli Angeli (Our Lady of the Angels), but many historians say they do not fully understand why the settlers chose this name. Just 12 years earlier, the Southern California basin was primarily inhabited by indigenous Americans of the Luiseno tribes.

Los Angeles, an Inland Settlement

Los Angeles started as an inland compound on the Río Porciúncula. The settlers preferred the safety of a wide valley river instead of the ocean. They felt that potential attackers could more easily approach a seaport settlement. About ten thousand Native Americans lived in the area at the time.

Mexican Land Grants for Building and Farming

Settlers were granted free ranchos, or land grants, as well as exemption from taxation and the purchase of tools. The oldest residential building in Los Angeles is Avila Adobe erected in 1818 by Don Francisco Avila, a farmer-rancher.

More than 800 ranchos were awarded to settlers between 1784 and 1821. The new land-owners raised European grains, began mining operations, and put cattle out to graze in never-ending expanse of Southern California fields.

The average ranchos grant was in the thousands to hundreds of thousands of acres. Native Americans frequently tended crops and herded animals on the early ranchos.

Ranchos and Prime Los Angeles Real Estate Through the Years

The Rancho San Pedro started as the grant of 75,000 acres in 1784. A total of more than 91,000 acres were eventually awarded.

Today, the original grant includes most of the prime Pacific coast towns, including San Pedro, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, the Palos Verdes, and Torrance. To the east of river, the grant included what is now Lomita, Carson, Harbor City, and some parts of Paramount and Long Beach. The original building is maintained as a museum.

The Gilmore Adobe, built in 1852, is now located at 6333 West Third Street and originally included the LaBrea Tar Pits. The Mayor of Los Angeles provided the land grant to Antonio Jose' Rocha and Nemisio Domingez. The original adobe building remains in the parking lot, surrounded by the LA Farmer's Market and "The Grove." CBS TV City was once housed here.

In the 1920s and 1930s, oil wells dotted oil fields on the property. Gilmore Stadium was also later built here.

Traditional Spanish-Mexican Architecture and Social Divisions

The new settlers sought to reproduce Spanish social hierarchies, government, and religious institutions. They built missions, presidios (a kind of fortress), and distinguished social classes such as army-clergy-civil groups.

Some of the settlers married Native American women, and the children of these unions were socially recognized by declining degrees of European blood. Colonists defined the importance of converting indigenous persons to Christianity. They simultaneously hoped to capture the Natives as a controlled labor force.

Los Angeles River

The importance of the Los Angeles River is key to understanding how the city developed. The river’s plentiful trout and other freshwater fish, surrounding waterfowl, deer and other animals roamed the area. Wild grapes, elderberries, and lush vegetation were everywhere, with the exception of the land area that is now Beverly Hills. That space, according to the author of “The Los Angeles River” (1999) was a disgusting swamp.

Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Los Angeles

By 1850, Los Angeles’ population reached 3,530 people. The formerly lush inland surroundings were now “barren” and “desolate” according to historians. All the trees were gone, the wetlands were dry, and irrigation to water the enormous ranchos had diverted the river.

By 1900, the generous river of the first settlers was now a memory. The river water contained the artifacts of civilization. About 170,000 people lived in the city of Los Angeles by the turn of the century. The origins of the ranchos were largely forgotten and were now incorporated as residential areas.

In 1950, the U.S. Census reported that almost 4.5 million people lived in Los Angeles. By the year 2000, that figure more than doubled. In 2010, greater LA became the place that more than 18 million people call home.

Los Angeles Today

LA is now the largest metropolitan area in California and the second largest metro area in the United States. The city is the 20th largest in the world.

Now it is your turn, what did I leave off this list that you love exploring in Los Angeles? Be sure to leave in in the comments to others can find it as well.

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About JoshMc

Thanks for checking out the blog, I am happy to be sharing my adventures with you! You can get to know me by reading my about me, which includes a video and additional information on the site, myself and my full disclosure. Also, follow along on Twitter here or read all of my posts on this blog here.

  • GooliZAP

    awesome! you should make a Guide for the coachella valley/desert cities too–like, palm springs, indio, joshua tree, etc.

    • Good idea, thanks for the suggestion!

    • Deb

      Agreed! There’s so much out there!

  • Gedz

    You are awesome and I cannot get enough from your suggestions and ideas. You should make a guide book publish. I will definitely follow your site. Thank you and awesome job.

    • Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it!

  • Brett Aaron Stauffer

    The La Brea Tar Pits are one of my favorite Natural History locations in the west. I also really enjoy the Getty Center. Fantastic website. Keep up the great work!!