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Los Angeles Off the Beaten Path

AAA/Frank Swanson
By AAA Travel Editor Frank Swanson
November 04, 2019
You can cover a lot of ground visiting Los Angeles tourist attractions—the city covers 472 square miles—so you’ll want to have a plan to make the most of your Southern California vacation. Once you’ve done the usual theme parks and movie studios, you might want to explore some of these hidden gems in L.A. Adding these to your itinerary will give you a bit more of the big picture of this great, big city.
AAA/Frank Swanson

Hollyhock House

4800 Hollywood Blvd.
(323) 988-0516
Somehow managing to keep a low profile atop a hill with fantastic views of Los Angeles, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House has enjoyed its desirable perch in Barnsdall Art Park for close to a century. The house, which has been likened to a Mayan temple, was originally envisioned by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall as the focal point of an avant-garde theater colony, but she became disillusioned with the project and its architect and gave the house and land to Los Angeles in 1927. Of the three residences Wright designed here, Hollyhock House is the only one that’s been renovated. A smaller home is being restored, and a third was torn down. By the way, hollyhocks were Aline’s favorite flower, and you can see Wright’s abstract interpretation of hollyhock blossoms as a design pattern throughout the building.
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AAA/Frank Swanson

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

6000 Santa Monica Blvd.
(323) 469-1181
Stroll through the manicured, parklike grounds at Hollywood Forever Cemetery and visit the final resting places of literally dozens of movie and TV legends. Rudolph Valentino, Cecil B. DeMille, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney and Peter Lorre are just a few of the illustrious names you may recognize. There’s also Estelle Getty of “Golden Girls” fame; Holly Woodlawn, known for her work with Andy Warhol; Dee Dee Ramone of The Ramones; and Scott Weiland, lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots. In recent years the cemetery has become a Los Angeles family attraction during cultural events that include concerts, plays and classic films shown on the Fairbanks Lawn.
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AAA/Frank Swanson

Japanese American National Museum

100 N. Central Ave.
(213) 625-0414
The Little Tokyo district in downtown Los Angeles is home to shops, restaurants, museums and monuments that recall the heritage of Japanese Americans and their contributions to the nation’s history. Among the many stories told at the excellent Japanese American National Museum is of the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. Exhibits illustrating what happened include personal objects from those forced to live in the camps as well as actual portions of a barracks from the Heart Mountain camp in Wyoming. Among the most touching items on display from the period are the letters from children to Miss Breed, a beloved San Diego librarian.
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AAA/Frank Swanson

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

900 Exposition Blvd.
(213) 763-3466
For a cool (and educational) destination on a hot day, nothing beats the Natural History Museum in Expo Park. Although not exactly among the hidden gems in Los Angeles, this 100-year-old institution deserves to be more than just a staple for elementary school field trips. You could get lost wandering the seemingly endless corridors and galleries at this place, and each turn reveals a new, eye-catching exhibit. Dinosaur skeletons posed as if still engaged in a life-or-death battle are a specialty here, but there are many other displays as well: preserved mammals in dioramas from around the world, outdoor areas filled with living spiders and butterflies, and a huge whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling in the lobby.
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flickr/Travis Wise

Wayfarers Chapel

5755 Palos Verdes Dr. S.
(310) 377-1650
Although you’re still in the bustling L.A. metro area, you’ll feel like you’re a world away when you enter the glass-enclosed sanctuary among the redwoods known as Wayfarers Chapel. The view of the Pacific and Catalina Island from the chapel’s bluff-top setting is magnificent. The interior space with its glass roof and walls, wooden beams and stone foundation blends seamlessly with the surrounding landscape, which is exactly what architect Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, intended when he designed the chapel in the 1940s. The “Glass Church,” as it is known, was designed as a memorial to Emanuel Swedenborg, the 18th-century theologian who believed in creating harmony between the outer, natural world and the interior realms of mind and spirit.
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