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What all Los Angeles visitors should do (but don’t)

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What all Los Angeles visitors should do (but don’t)

story by: Anna Sarjeant

Los Angeles is all about Hollywood hillside, celebrity mansions and studio theme parks, right?

WRONG.

Well okay, it is, but if you’re looking for something a little different to do during your next LA holiday, here are nine alternative things to see in the town of tinsel.


1.  Slide down a 310m skyscraper
Los Angeles​' ‘Skyslide OUE Skyspace LA’ is quite possibly America’s best slide. You won’t find this in your average US park. A ride that loops around the outside of the US Bank Tower, thrill-seekers drop 14 metres along the exterior of the skyscraper, and it’s all Perspex so there’s only you, a thin sheet of plastic and 70 floors of nothingness between the ground and your derriere. The best bit? You have to sit on a piece of grey carpet – how retro! Like a modern day helter-skelter, but from the tallest building in Los Angeles, you’ll get a bird's-eye views of glittering downtown Los Angeles. And one or two lurches in your stomach.

HOT tip: Combine your slide experience with the tower’s two outdoor observation terraces, for stunning views across the San Gabriel Mountains.

2. Suck on an ice pop
Remember the ‘cheap as chups’ ice sticks you’d gorge on after school? Well, The Church Key on Sunset Boulevard puts an adult’s spin on these 90s kids’ classics. Alcoholic ice pops are made tableside, using liquid nitrogen and zesty flavours. From mango daiquiris to appletinis, they’re even served in their very own popsicle bag. Called “Odd-er Pops”, it’s the perfect mix of throwback fun and delicious frozen cocktails.   

HOT tip: Look out for happy hour specials, when Odd-er Pops are almost as cheap as their 90s non-alcoholic cousins.

3.  Sleep over in the museum
The Natural History Museum holds a very cool ‘Adults-Only All Nighter’ which allows adults (but there are some family events as well) to have a sleepover in the museum. Yup, overnight. Sometimes themed, there’s an open beer-and-wine bar as well as a mini buffet, but then it’s lights out by 10.30pm. Most people like to camp out in the African or North American Mammal Hall, however for an additional fee of $15USD, the really brave can sleep with T.Rex in the Dinosaur Hall.

HOT tip: Enjoy complimentary entry into the museum the following morning. Lights go on at 7am so you’ll be plenty ready for when the museum officially opens at 9.30am.

4. Seek solitude ​in secret gardens
Los Angeles is always a commotion. A sprawling concrete mass of drivers, industry and divas, it’ll suck you in and never spit you out. The good news is, the city does possess some respite, you just need to know where to look. Mildred Mathias Botanical Gardens is adjacent to UCLA and completely free to visit. Seven acres of tropical and sub-tropical garden plays host to a community of unusual plant life, native trees and lush ponds, replete with turtles and koi carp. Run by the botany department at UCLA, this one’s been something of an undiscovered gem since 1929.

HOT tip: Step outside the gardens and you’ll instantly find shops, pubs and restaurants. Or spend the entire day inside – there’s WiFi access so no need to break out into anxious hives.

5. Glug on a Galco's soda pop
Parched much? Of course you are. Well buddy, you've come to right place. Los Angeles is home to the infamous Galco's soda pop stop. A store which sells over 500 varieties of fizzy drink. Selling soda brands from every obscure corner of the USA, and as far flung as Romania, there are forgotten brands, crazy labels and flavours as weird as 'cucumber pop'. Make sure you have a yarn with the owner, because there’s nothing this guy doesn’t know about your favourite (or soon to be favourite) fizzy drink.

HOT tip: Find it at 5702 York Boulevard.

6. Shopping in Santa Monica
It’s the sleepy LA neighbourhood with a dash of sexy city sass. Santa Monica is the borough by the ocean, with plenty of shopping. Designers flood Main Street, which is also the best-known road in the hood. Montana Avenue is where you’ll find the quirks amidst the quintessential Cali vibes. Everyone here wears Lululemon and sips soy lattes through straws (thus dodging caffeine stained teeth) but it’s also where you’ll discover a niche range of shopping activities. Create your very own custom-blended fragrances at Pure Sense by Paula, or take part in a spot of ‘drum meditation’ at Seasons. Third Street Promenade offers a lovely outdoor shopping experience, while Wilshire Boulevard is lined with numerous mainstream stores. Pop into Haute Seconds for vintage labels at a fraction of their original price.

HOT tip: Just minutes from the ocean, grab a gourmet sandwich from one of several delis and go for a post-shopping picnic on the beach.

 

7. Dine in a railway carriage
Carney’s is something of a local LA legend. One of the most unique (and iconic) dining experiences in the city, this family owned diner is located on Sunset Boulevard and housed inside a former railway carriage. The bright yellow train is fronted by “Carney’s Express” signage and showcases all manner of train memorabilia. Not merely a gimmick, Carney’s is famed for serving some of the best American comfort food in LA. From hot dogs to beef burgers, to ‘train wreck’ fries, there’s a reason the Hollywood movies studios come to film here – and stay for dinner afterwards.  

HOT tip: Ask for a window seat and people watch from your carriage booth. There’s nothing more fascinating than LA locals.

 

8. Sunbathe on Bay Watch beach
If you’re looking for the classic LA beach, with the body builders, roller skaters and more colourful characters than grains of sand, look no further than the world famous Venice Beach. However, if you’re after a sandy spot a little more sedate, but one that still possesses a certain amount of LA glamour, try the Will Rogers State Beach. Referred to as ‘Bay Watch Beach’, many scenes were filmed here back in the late 90s. These days it’s a lot quieter than most, with easy access from the city, and an hours’ walk from Santa Monica Pier. But that’s along the coastal skimming Ocean Front Walk, with its startling Pacific Ocean views and plenty of opportunity to stop for brunch, lunch, coffee, wine and more.

HOT tip: Like most LA beaches, Will Rogers State Beach is well facilitated, with bathrooms, a playground and volleyball nets.

9. Find out about Scientology
Scientology is synonymous with Los Angeles, so where better to find out more than at the museum dedicated to the founder himself. The L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition highlights the entire life of Mr. Scientology, so if you're oddly fascinated about Tom Cruise's much publicised affliction with the religion, or you’d care to know more about the culture behind the quirkiness, this is the one for you.

HOT tip: With over 30 extensive displays, this isn’t for the faint-hearted; in any shape or form. Make sure you have the stamina to see it through. We suggest brunch first. 

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