Intellectual and Cultural Attractions in Los Angeles

While Los Angeles may be best known for Hollywood glitz and the party life of young celebs, there is also a more cerebral side to LA that provides plentiful opportunities for the thoughtful traveler. Glitz and substance are not mutually exclusive. Since celebrities have the ability to draw attention to important issues of the day, they are often seen spearheading discussions on hot topics. Whether you're an avid reader, a scientist, an activist, or just curious about the world, here are some Los Angeles pursuits to activate your gray matter.

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    LACMA And Writers Bloc Present Julian Fellowes In Conversation With Patt Morrison
    LACMA And Writers Bloc Present Julian Fellowes In Conversation With Patt Morrison. WireImage / Getty Images

    Writers Bloc presents public conversations where authors are interviewed by their peers followed by general Q&A. Many of the guests are celebrity authors, who are interviewed by other celebrities, like Harry Sherer being interviewed by Steve Martin, or Carol Burnett being interviewed by Tim Conway. The venues vary but are mostly on the west side.

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    Los Angeles Mayoral Canidates Wendy Greuel And Eric Garcetti Take Part In Debate
    Debate hosted by Zocalo Public Square and KCRW. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

    Zocalo Public Square is a series of panel discussions and lectures on topics relevant to Angelenos, and often to people from elsewhere as well. Recent topics include "How Do We Experience Art?" "How Women Are Transforming the Middle East," "How Will Water Scarcity Change the World?" "How is Globalization Changing Higher Education?" and "Does Rail Have a Future?"

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    Griffith Observatory Museum
    Griffith Observatory Space Museum. Photo © 2007 Kayte Deioma, licensed to

    Griffith Observatory has excellent astronomy exhibits in addition to the public telescopes and planetarium show. They also have star parties, film screenings, lectures and other special events. It's one of the top free things to do in LA.

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    A Mars Rover at JPL in Pasadena
    A Mars Rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Photo © 2004 Kayte Deioma, licensed to

    NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, where the Mars Rover Program is managed and all the satellites in space are monitored, offers weekly public tours and monthly lectures on a variety of topics related to space exploration and technology.

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  • 05 of 10
    American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood
    American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Photo © 2004 Kayte Deioma, licensed to

    American Cinematheque is a non-profit organization that promotes an on-going dialogue between filmmakers and film-goers through screenings of classic and independent films in conjunction with panel discussions with directors, cast and crew. They operate out of the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood and the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. They screen a variety of themed festivals throughout the year, and in conjunction with the Oscars, present panels with nominated film editors and other technical categories.

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    Los Angeles Central Library
    Los Angeles Central Library. Photo © 2008 Kayte Deioma, licensed to

    The Los Angeles Central Library sponsors [ALOUD], a series of lectures, readings, performances and discussions that take place at the library or at other venues in Downtown Los Angeles. The Art Deco Central Library is worth visiting for its architecture and book and periodical collection as well as the temporary art exhibits. See the calendar of events and exhibits at the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

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    Esotouric Tours
    Esotouric Tours. Photo © 2007 Kayte Deioma, licensed to

    If you're a fan of Raymond Chandler, John Fante, Charles Bukowski, the Black Dahlia murder or Film Noir, then Esotouric tours of Los Angeles (read Review) are probably right up your alley. Experts on those particular themes will introduce you to less-explored areas of LA that feature prominently or have significance to the subjects. They add special subject tours related to holidays or other occasions, so keep an eye out. Tickets are sometimes discounted at

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    Polly Samson And David Gilmour Book Signing For 'The Kindness'
    Book signing at The Last Bookstore. Greg Doherty / Getty Images

    Authors, including celebrities, come out to promote their books at local bookstores and book fairs. The annual LA Times Festival of Books and the West Hollywood Book Fair are great places to see authors, listen to them talk about their books, and get autographs. On a regular basis, you'll find big-name celebrities promoting their books at local bookshops like Barnes & Noble at The Grove.

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  • 09 of 10

    University Lectures and Events Open to the Public

    Former U.S. Assistant Secretary Of Education Diane Ravitch Explores 'Education On The Edge' At CSUN
    Former U.S. Assistant Secretary Of Education Diane Ravitch Explores 'Education On The Edge' At CSUN. Michael Buckner / Getty Images

    Southern California has a richness of intellect at our many universities and colleges, most of which present a variety of public lectures and discussions as well as arts and cultural programs. 

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    Keep It Clean To Benefit Waterkeeper Alliance Live Earth Day Comedy Benefit
    Keep It Clean To Benefit Waterkeeper Alliance Live Earth Day Comedy Benefit. Getty Images for Waterkeeper All / Getty Images

    If there's a cause you're passionate about, there's a good chance that there are people in Los Angeles who share that commitment, whether it's the environment, curing disease, stopping violence or supporting education, etc. Find out what fundraisers and cause-related festivals and events are going on this week at It's a great way to meet locals and see the heart of LA that you won't find at most tourist attractions.