8 Cool, Weird and Unique Things to Do in Los AngelesMain photo by Flickr user Kimon Berlin, used under a Creative Commons license. See below for other photo credits. Travel Lists los angeles
When most tourists visit Los Angeles, they often visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Santa Monica Pier, Rodeo Drive, and Disneyland. Most of these major tourist attractions in the city of Angels are far too expensive, and in some cases, downright dirty, and are places that no self respecting Angeleno would ever go. Instead, locals prefer the oddball side of L.A., of which there is no shortage of. From film screenings in a cemetery to 10,000 year old fossils, there is no shortage of weird activities. Here are a few of the most unique ones:
1. Have a Picnic at the Old Zoo
Tucked inside the foothills of Griffith Park is the site of the first Los Angeles Zoo. When the new (and current) zoo opened in 1966, the old zoo was abandoned, and rather than take away the cages and bear grottos, they were kept up. Today, you can explore these enclosures and even see where zookeepers would drop food to the animals. Since the Old Zoo is secluded, it’s become a popular picnic spot.
The abandoned zoo can be a little tricky to find. This dropped pin reveals the parking lot that is closest to the zoo. However, there are multiple hiking trails throughout Griffith Park and many do lead to the zoo. Depending on how adventurous you’re feeling, hiking to the old zoo is a great way to enjoy the beauty of Griffith Park.
2. Watch a Classic Movie at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
There are no cities in the world that host film screenings next to gravestones, with the exception of Los Angeles. Since 2000, Cinespia has hosted outdoor film showings in the summer at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. You won’t be sitting directly on a gravestone, as the films are shown on Fairbanks Lawn, a large grassy area that is ideal for picnics, but they are projected onto a mausoleum. Films aren’t the only events that take place there; concerts are frequently held as well. The cemetery itself is the final resting place of numerous Hollywood stars, including Joey Ramone, silent film actor Rudolph Valentino, and a memorial to Hattie McDaniel. If seeing a movie or a concert in a graveyard is a little too macabre for you, you can also attend a donation based yoga class there.
3. Catch a Puppet Show at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater
If you’ve ever watched Pinocchio and realized that you want to see a puppet show like that in real life, you need to visit the Bob Baker Marionette Theater. One of the longest-running puppetry theaters in the states, audiences gather in a circle and watch as the puppets fly, dance, and socialize with them. The puppets themselves were created by Bob Baker, who was an established puppeteer. At the end of each performance, children are given a free cup of vanilla ice cream. The shows, especially the one held for Halloween, are quite popular, so if you want to see over 100 marionettes perform, be sure to get your tickets early.
4. Buy a Vintage Book at The Last Bookstore
While there are many wondrous libraries around the world, there is only one that is housed inside an old bank. The Last Bookstore spans the atrium of the now defunct bank, and instead of stacking their books in a neat and orderly manner, the books at The Last Bookstore are carefully arranged by color, into various shapes, and tunnels. To match its older aesthetics, there are used books, rare books, and a unique collection of vintage books. It’s a must see for any book lover.
5. Visit Fossils from the Ice Age at the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum
Smack in the middle of Los Angeles you’ll find the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. Located inside LA’s “Miracle Mile,” the museum houses the numerous fossils that have been discovered at the site. Described by the museum as the “only excavated Ice Age fossil site found in an urban location,” some of the most impressive exhibits include the mostly intact, mummified baby mammoth fossil, fossilized dragonflies, and the opportunity to see what scientists have most recently discovered. Outside of the museum is the Lake Pit, which was a mining pit from the late 1800s. The mix of rain and groundwater have created a “lake,” which features a mammoth getting trapped in tar as he screams out for his family to help him. If this sight is a little too gruesome for you, head over to Hancock Park: a peaceful picnic spot with super sized critters of the Ice Age.
6. Learn how the Church of Scientology Feels About Psychiatry at Psychiatry: An Industry of Death
The Church of Scientology has a huge presence in Los Angeles (the Celebrity Centre is a literal mansion that takes up an entire block), and they aren’t afraid to share their thoughts on medicine. Scientologists really hate psychiatry, and they went so far to reveal their low opinion of it that they opened a museum. Technically ran by “The Citizens Commission on Human Rights,” Psychiatry: An Industry of Death features exhibits on some of the worst practices used to treat mental illness, including electro-shock therapy, straightjackets, lobotomies, psychiatric drugs, and the poor state of psychiatric hospitals throughout history (referred to as insane asylums). While the museum does fairly critique these practices, there are also exhibits focused on how psychiatry is not an actual medical practice, has harmed endless patients, and is one of the major reasons for the rise of Nazis. This unusual museum is certainly a sight to behold.
7. Go Bowling at Highland Park Bowl
In 1927, Highland Park Bowl opened inside a speakeasy disguised as a doctor’s office, where one could get a “prescription” for medicinal whiskey. As the years went on, the bowling alley was used for many other events until it nearly fell apart. In 2015, the building was refurbished to resemble its original 1920s setting. Highland Park Bowl’s original wooden arches and eight lanes were refurbished, while the old pins were transformed into chandeliers and lamps. Along the walls are posters for vintage bowling leagues and cigarette machines. In order to fully complete the jazz age experience, Highland Park Bowl hosts jazz concerts.
8. Sip on a Tropical Cocktail at The Tonga Hut
In 1958, brothers Ace and Ed Libby opened The Tonga Hut. Today, it’s Los Angeles’s oldest running tiki bar, and it’s a true throwback to the kitsch of the 1950s. Canoes, fountains, grass-skirted women, and a massive tiki named “Big Mo” are all part of the campy fun. There are 78 different drinks on the menu, and you can even try to finish them all in one year. If you win, you become an official member of the Loyal Order of the Drooling Bastard. You’ll get your very own plaque on the wall with your own D.B. name.
Sarah Mina Osman is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about pop culture, travel, mental health, and identity. You can keep up with her on Twitter @SarahMinaOsman. She has a deep appreciation for sloths and tacos.
Bob Baker Marionette Theater photo by Terrell Tangonan, used by permission of the theater
Highland Park Bowl photo by Wonho Frank Lee, courtesy of Highland Park Bowl
Hollywood Forever Cemetery photo by Flickr user chotda, used under a Creative Commons license
Old Zoo photo by Thomas Hawk, used under a Creative Commons license
The Last Bookstore photo by Flicr user vagueonthehow, used under a Creative Commons license
La Brea Tar Pits photo by Kimon Berlin, used under a Creative Commons license
Psychiatry: An Industry of Death photo by Museum Geek, used under a Creative Commons license
Tonga Hut photo by Steven Miller, used under a Creative Commons license