For generations, Los Angeles has been a city of dreamers. More creatives live in L.A. than any city in history - they are the artists that inspire us, that make fantasy into reality, and will shape the skyline of this global metropolis into the next century. From stunning architecture and world-class art, to spectacular landscapes and hidden gems, read on and discover the most magical places in Los Angeles.
The Last Bookstore sells more than 250,000 new and used books and magazines. In addition to its vast selection of titles across all genres, the store itself is a must-see for its interior design alone. Not only are there books for sale, but printed material is adapted to create a unique environment where novels, anthologies, manuals and storybooks actually become a part of the store's own layout, too. Don’t miss the mezzanine level, which includes the Labyrinth Above The Last Bookstore (the back room sells 100,000 books for $1 each!), Gather Yarn Shop and the Spring Arts Collective gallery shops.
Two of L.A.'s most iconic public artworks are located at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA): Urban Light and Levitated Mass.
Located on Wilshire Boulevard in front of the museum’s BP Pavilion, Urban Light is a large-scale assemblage sculpture by Chris Burden. The striking installation consists of 202 restored street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s - many of which lit the streets of Southern California. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in February 2018, Urban Light has become one of the most photographed cultural attractions in L.A., beckoning visitors with its ethereal glow well into the night.
Levitated Mass, a 2012 large-scale sculpture by Michael Heizer, is located on the north side of the LACMA campus. The installation features a 340-ton granite megalith that’s balanced over a 456-foot-long concrete trench. Visitors have found numerous ways to Instagram the massive boulder, from underneath to creative poses both near and far away.
Los Angeles has been called one of the most Instagrammed cities in the world, thanks in great part to the fantastic “cheese grater” on Grand Avenue, The Broad. One of L.A.'s newest icons, the contemporary art museum is free to the public and features Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, along with exclusive exhibits that ignite the mind.
Located on Broadway across from the historic Grand Central Market, the stunning Bradbury Building has appeared in movies, TV, music videos, and is mentioned frequently in literature. Built in 1893, the building was featured prominently in the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Film noir fans will recognize the Bradbury from films such as Chinatown (1974), D.O.A. (1950), and I, The Jury (1953). After admiring the intricately detailed architecture, be sure to take a selfie with the Charlie Chaplin statue that’s located near the lobby.
Situated at the southwestern tip of Griffith Park, Ferndell Nature Museum is a 20-acre botanical oasis that features a quarter-mile meandering trail, 20-plus waterfalls and 17 footbridges, all canopied by more than 50 fern and tropical plant varieties. The shaded, breezy spot has long been a favorite haven for Angelenos, especially on warm summer days.
The Stahl House is instantly recognizable from the award-winning photograph by Julius Shulman, the image that would come to represent modern Californian architecture of the 20th Century, and was named one of the 100 Most Influential Images of All Time by TIME Magazine in 2016. Built in 1957 by architect Pierre Koenig at the behest of property owner, Buck Stahl, the home was later inducted into the landmark Case Study House program by Arts & Architecture magazine, as "Number 22.” The Stahl House was declared a Historic-Cultural landmark of the City of Los Angeles in 1999. In 2007, the American Institute of Architects listed the Stahl House as one of the top 150 structures on their “America’s Favorite Architecture” list, one of only 11 in Southern California. In 2013, the Stahl House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A sunset tour of the house is a quintessential Los Angeles experience and not to be missed.
Sometimes it just takes one person to create something extraordinary that positively affects an entire neighborhood and beyond. The Chandelier Tree is the work of Adam Tenenbaum, who has attached more than 30 chandeliers to a century-old sycamore tree on his property as "a gift to the Silver Lake community." Located at the corner of W. Silver Lake Drive and Shadowlawn Avenue, The Chandelier Tree casts its warm glow every night - the romantic aura has worked its magic on at least one marriage proposal. A colorful meter in front of the tree accepts donations - after all, those chandeliers don't light up for free!
The Petersen Automotive Museum is housed in a building that opened in 1962 as a department store designed by architect Welton Becket, who also designed the Capitol Records Building. Following a $125-million renovation, the Petersen reopened to the public in 2015. The striking new exterior wraps the museum with ribbons of stainless steel that evoke motion, speed and the lines of a bespoke automobile. At night, the color and steel forms are lit from within by LEDs to accentuate the sculptural facade of the building.
Yet, beyond all the flash of the new facade and the traveling exhibits, there is an extra-special part of the museum: the Vault. Open by appointment only, the Vault is the Petersen’s underground collection storage facility, home to cars representing 100 years of automotive history - many have rarely been seen by the public. Visitors can take a behind-the-scenes tour of this collection and get an intimate look at cars that aren’t on display in the museum galleries. A docent will guide small groups through the vault while sharing stories about this world-class automobile collection.
Located in the West Adams Historic District, the Velaslavasay Panorama is an exhibition hall, theatre and garden dedicated to the production and presentation of unusual visual experiences, especially those of the 360-degree variety. Traditionally, the panorama is an immersive 360-degree painted environment, often including a three-dimensional faux terrain in the foreground of the painting to enhance the illusion of depth and simulated reality. The Velaslavasay Panorama presents a spectacular art form that has been nearly lost due to technological advancements, and maintains its wonder. Truly, an “only in L.A.” marvel.
Located a few blocks from the Downtown Santa Monica station of the Metro Expo Line, the Camera Obscura is a unique experience that's been compared to an "analog webcam." Originally located on the beach, the Camera Obscura was built in 1898 by Robert F. Jones, nephew of Senator John P. Jones, co-founder of the town of Santa Monica. The Camera Obscura features a periscope and white screen in a darkened room. Mirrors reflect images from 360 degrees, guided by the visitor with an old-fashioned captain's wheel. The Camera is adjacent to the Art Lab, a mid-century arts and culture center that hosts classes and events. Admission to the Camera Obscura is free - check-in at the office with an ID to borrow the key.
The Art of Enlightenment is on curious display at the Bhagavad-gita Museum in Culver City. A group of Hare Krishna students traveled to India in 1973 to learn the ancient method of clay working. After careful study, the artists returned to the U.S. to apply their ancient craft knowledge along with more modern technologies to create 11 stunning dioramas. Opened to the public in 1977, the museum promises that those who pass through the doors of the museum rarely leave unchanged, perhaps because of the museum’s charming retro, lost-in-time quality. It’s a fascinating 45 minute visual lesson in transcendentalism that will leave visitors in awe.
The exquisite Wayfarers Chapel (aka “The Glass Church”) is located in Rancho Palos Verdes, situated on cliffs above the Pacific Ocean. Architect Lloyd Wright, son of the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, conceived of Wayfarers Chapel as a “tree chapel,” a natural sanctuary set in the middle of a forest. Lloyd Wright’s design is regarded as one of the foremost examples of Organic Architecture, which promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world. A popular wedding venue because of its spectacular design and location, the Wayfarers Chapel was featured prominently on The O.C. and appeared in other TV series like 90210.
Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park is a 905-acre park located in Agua Dulce, about an hour north of Downtown LA. The park’s otherworldly rock formations reach heights of 150 feet and are the result of tens of millions of years of seismic activity and erosion. Vasquez Rocks is named for the outlaw Tiburcio Vásquez, who used the area as one of his many hideouts. A portion of the famed Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches 2,663 miles from Canada to the Mexico border, passes through Vasquez Rocks. The gentle incline and numerous trails provide plenty of options in exploring the park, especially when combined with views from atop the famous rocks. Note that there is very little shade throughout the park, so plan accordingly.