13 Best Alternative Things to Do in LA

Downtown Los Angeles at dusk

Pete Saloutos / Getty Images 

If you're a regular visitor to Los Angeles, you've probably already visited the top Los Angeles attractions, or maybe you're the kind of traveler who likes to avoid "tourist traps" and wants to do something a little more unique and less crowded. In either case, there are alternative things to do in Los Angeles ranging from going kayaking through downtown LA to offbeat, unusual museums. 

01 of 13

Kayak the LA River

Kayaking in the LA River

LA River Expeditions

2825 Benedict St, Los Angeles, CA 90039, USA
Phone +1 213-447-6731

Most people who know the LA River don't think of it as being particularly navigable. It's more of a concrete drainage canal along most of its route from the San Fernando Valley through Downtown LA and Long Beach to the Pacific Ocean. But, a 2.5 mile stretch of the river just north of Downtown has been designated the Los Angeles River Pilot Recreation Zone and is open to kayaking through its shallow rapids Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The route is strenuous and requires portage in a number of areas. If you don't have your own kayak, a couple of outfitters are running guided group tours of the river including LA River Expeditions and LA River Kayak Safari.

02 of 13

Get a Korean Spa Scrub

Wi Spa

Wi Spa / Facebook

3915 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019-3256, USA
Phone +1 323-857-0666

The international diversity of Los Angeles means that you can get a variety of cultural experiences without leaving the city. A Korean Spa is not for the overly modest as men and women walk around in the nude in their gender-specific areas.

The traditional Korean scrub involves the worker vigorously scrubbing down every inch of your bare body with a rough loofah mitt to get rid of all the dead skin cells. It might also involve an optional milk rinse before you're hosed off.

There are inexpensive Korean Spas where no one speaks English and mid-range (​Olympic Spa) to higher-end spas (Wi Spa), which also includes more western treatments), where English is spoken, and prices are similar to western day spas for equivalent treatments.

The day-use fees without treatment are much lower than most western spas and include multiple hot and cold tubs, saunas and relaxation rooms. Most of the Korean day spas are open late or even 24/7. If you don't want to venture into Koreatown, some western spas, like Tikkun Holistic Spa in Santa Monica, also offer a Korean scrub treatment.

03 of 13

Hike and People Watch in Runyon Canyon

View from Runyon Canyon

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

2000 N Fuller Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046, USA
Phone +1 818-243-1145

Just three blocks west and 2 blocks north of where the Hollywood Walk of Fame ends at the Hollywood-La Brea Gateway, is the entrance to Runyon Canyon Park at the end of Fuller Avenue. The canyon runs through the Hollywood Hills from just above Hollywood Boulevard north about 2 miles to famed Mulholland Drive. You can also park on the Mulholland Drive side and hike south. There are multiple dirt roads and trails with varying degrees of difficulty, but they all involve hills. This is not the place to get away from it all. You'll see groups of mothers and nannies with strollers on the wider trails, 80s rocker types with big hair in tracksuits, goth teens hiking in all black, lots of hot-bodied Angelenos running the steep upper trails, and maybe even a celebrity or two. There are 1-mile and 2-mile loop trails from the Fuller entrance that take you up to points overlooking Hollywood. And, there's an off-leash dog area inside the park.

Other great places for a wilderness hike in the city include the vast Griffith Park and Franklin Canyon Park in Beverly Hills.

04 of 13

Get a Haircut or a Shave

American Vintage

American Vintage Barbershop / Facebook

760 N La Cienega Blvd 3rd Fl, West Hollywood, CA 90069, USA
Phone +1 310-854-4922

People actually come to LA specifically to go to a particular Beverly Hills hair salon where their favorite celebrity gets his or her hair styled. In addition to the famous stylists to the stars like Tracey Cunningham, Sally Hershberger , or Andy LeCompte who can make you feel like a million bucks for a hefty chunk of your paycheck, you can get a new look cheap at the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Santa Monica (as long as you're open to some wild possibilities and you're not in any hurry).

Whether you're going for Mad Men, zoot suit or other vintage looks, guys can visit one of the numerous retro barbershops in LA (Barber Shop Club, Baxter Finley, The Proper), and Long Beach (American Vintage, Razorbacks, Hawleywood's, Syndicate) for a ducktail or pompadour cut and old-fashioned straight line razor shave. If you want your team name or some exotic pattern carved into your hair, check out Legends.

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05 of 13

Go on an Esotouric Tour

Esotouric Tour Guide conducts a John Fante tour of Los Angeles, CA

TripSavvy / Kayte Deioma

Esotouric offers quirky tours based on old crimes like the Black Dalia murder, iconic LA authors, and curmudgeons like Raymond Chandler, John Fante, and Charles Bukowski, as well as random subjects based on current events or whatever strikes their interest. Some tours are scheduled regularly while others are sporadic special events.

06 of 13

Shop a Flea Market or Swap Meet

Rose Bowl Flea Market

Paul Mounce - Corbis / Getty Images

1001 Rose Bowl Dr, Pasadena, CA 91103, USA
Phone +1 323-560-7469

In Southern California, flea markets are sometimes called swap meets, so you'll hear them referred to both ways. Many of them include as much new merchandise as used. One of the best-known is the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena on the 2nd Sunday of the month.

A convenient one to visit if you're staying right in LA is the Melrose Trading Post, which takes place every Sunday at Fairfax High School in LA. The weekly Orange County Marketplace on Saturdays and Sundays (except Easter weekend and during the OC Fair) at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa is another giant one, in competition with the Rose Bowl, featuring a wide variety of new product vendors in addition to the traditional flea market fare.

The monthly Long Beach Antique and Collectibles Market is a more curated selection of sellers on the 3rd Sunday of the month. The Silverlake Flea is every Saturday. Some of the flea markets charge admission ($2-$15).

07 of 13

Take a Cooking Class

Taking a cooking class

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

LA has really become a foodie town and the proliferation of cooking TV shows has made a lot of people want to try their hand at something a little more exotic in the kitchen. In response, recreational cooking classes have popped up at kitchen stores, in restaurants, hotels, traditional cooking schools, and independent businesses that just offer cooking classes for foodies and hobbyists with no designs on a food services career.

So you can spend hundreds of dollars on dinner for two at a fancy restaurant or/and you can take a fun class to learn to make something exotic you can cook for your friends when you get back home. Check out some of the best cooking classes in LA which include Cook LA, a hands-on cooking school with classes for adults and children in Studio City near Universal Studios and the kitchen store, Sur la Table, which offers a wide variety of cooking and baking classes at their store located at the Los Angeles Farmer's Market.

08 of 13

See Some Improv Comedy

Westside Comedy

Dyana Valentine / Flickr

1323-A 3rd St, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA
Phone +1 310-451-0850

You are more likely to see a stand-up comedian touring the country than an improv comedy troupe, so you usually have to find the best improv comedy teams at their home base, and for many, that's in Los Angeles. Check out venues like Westside Comedy in Santa Monica or Upright Citizens Brigade on Franklin and Sunset. ComedySportz has improv shows for adults and kids.

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09 of 13

Visit one of LA's Most Unusual Museums

Bunny Museum

FREDERIC J. BROWN / Getty Images

5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
Phone +1 323-857-6000

Most tourists head for the LA County Museum of Art, the Getty Center, the Natural History Museum, or the California Science Center, which are all amazing. If you want to get beyond the obvious, you might want to check out the Los Angeles Police Museum, where you'll find exhibits on the history of the LAPD with armored cars, radios, and badges or the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, or make an appointment to visit the Bunny Museum in Altadena, totally devoted to rabbits and holding a world record for its collection of 35,872 bunny items.

10 of 13

See LA's Intellectual Side

Writers Bloc

Writers Bloc Presents / Facebook

2940 Mandeville Canyon Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90049-1010, USA
Phone +1 310-443-9925

Los Angeles may be known for celebrity glitz and superficiality, but the city has its more cerebral side. After all, they have multiple major universities, science and technology centers, and arts and design schools in the area, all with programming and events open to the public.

Sometimes you can find glitz and brains at the same time when celebrities come out to participate in intellectual gatherings like Writers Bloc conversations and Zocalo Public Square a blend of journalism and ideas in a public setting. 

11 of 13

Take a Performance Class

Stella Adler Academy

Stella Adler Academy of Acting & Theatre - Los Angeles / Facebook

Think you have star potential, but not ready to leave your day job or enroll in a full-time performing arts program? There are a variety of acting, singing, comedy and instrumental workshops that range from an evening to several weeks that let you get a taste to see if you like it or shore up your skills to take home.
Performance Workshops in LA include the Stella Adler Acting School and the TVI Actors Studio both of which offer short-term classes and workshops.

12 of 13

Get a Tattoo

Shamrock Tattoo

VALERIE MACON / Getty Images

9026 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069-1819, USA
Phone +1 310-271-9664

Body art has moved from alternative to mainstream in Los Angeles on both men and women. Some folks go for full coverage in multicolored glory. Others go for the subtlety of a little shoulder mark or anklet. You can make an appointment with Johnny Depp's favorite tattoo artist, Mark Mahoney at Shamrock Social Club in West Hollywood, check out one of the old school shops with Navy heritage in Long Beach, or choose any of dozens of tattoo parlors across LA for a little bit of body art.

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13 of 13

Go Ghost Hunting on the Queen Mary

Royal Mail Ship (RMS) Queen Mary

Supannee_Hickman / Getty Images

1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA
Phone +1 877-342-0738

There are lots of different Ghost Tours in LA, but on the late-night Dinner and Ghost Tour on the Queen Mary, you get to explore the depths of the ship at night and try your hand at sensing and measuring the ship's ghosts with a variety of instruments.

Participants will start with a first-class group dining experience at the art deco Sir Winston’s Restaurant and Lounge before going on a fun and spooky haunted history tour guided by a trained paranormal guide. On the tour, you'll hit the Queen Mary’s most notorious paranormal hotspots and hear scary tales of the ship’s resident ghosts.

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Best Alternative Things to Do in LA