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Things To Do

16 Mini Adventures Every L.A. Local (And Visitor!) Ought to Embark on At Least Once

December 20, 2014 by Jeannette Swanson

Even if you can’t get out of town due to time or cost, it’s always fun to have some mini-adventures right here in Los Angeles. See, the thing is there’s more stuff to do in the city of angels than you probably ever imagined, so much so that even figuring out where to start can be a bit overwhelming. Hence, we created this list.

Perhaps you’ve been to a majority of these places at least once, but even so, perhaps reading about them again here is just a reminder that it’s time to go out and explore.

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Either, enjoy the rundown, and hopefully you’ll be planning soon on how to get started on your (mini) adventures throughout the city!

[RELATED: 40 Fun & Free Things to Do in Los Angeles Every Angeleno Should Try Once]

Olvera Street

Olvera Street is a Mexican Marketplace in one of the oldest parts of Los Angeles. Coming to Olvera Street as a child was always a special treat; a delicious adventure one might say. I’d save my appetite for some of the best enchiladas and tacos around; I’ve always had quite the appetite for Mexican food. The block-long marketplace attracts around two million visitors a year and it’s easy to see why. You get the best food, entertainment from mariachi players and folkloric dancers and handcrafted items. Take a free tour courtesy of Las Angelitas del Pueblo or join in on celebration days.

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Venice Beach

No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a trip to Venice Beach, specifically Muscle Beach. Dating back to the 1930s, Muscle Beach is the locale for bodybuilding and anyone with an interest in outdoor workout equipment. If you’re not into outdoor fitness, don’t worry; you can be a spectator in between shopping spurts to Venice Beach’s wide collection of shops. Keep in mind that people watching may be the best sport you may engage in on this stretch of land.

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Hollywood Sign

Perhaps one of the most famous signs in the world, the Hollywood Sign has been an American cultural icon since its creation in 1923. You can view the sign from the street or take one of three hiking trails that will lead you behind the sign or the fourth that only offers views, any closer could get you arrested. If you don’t feel like hiking you can also see it from Hollywood and Highland, Griffith Observatory and Mulholland Drive.

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View from Mt. Lee

A view from the top of Mt. Lee. Credit: James Gubera via flickr

Rodeo Drive

A majority of my out-of-state friends will ask when is the last time I’ve been to Rodeo Drive. It’s hard to break their star struck hearts, but I tell them I’ve been only once that I can remember. This two-mile long street is not the place I’d go to just because or because I was in the neighborhood, but it’s a kind of place that you should see at least once, especially for out of towners. I suggest window-shopping and people watching unless you have some serious cash to drop. Maybe even take a selfie so you can say, “I was there.”

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La Brea Tar Pits

Visit the La Brea Tar Pits at Hancock Park where fossils were formed because of oil seeping through rock. On display at the Page Museum are reconstructed fossils of prehistoric animals found in the tar pits and replicas of extinct animals. Drop in now if you’re interested in Ice Age fossil excavation sites or gift shops that have big plush dinosaurs for the little ones.

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Getty Villa

This architectural masterpiece in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood really leads you to believe you’re in a Roman Villa. Go for the art, exhibits, gardens or go to just say you’ve been. Entry into the Villa is always free; the only thing you’ll have to pay for is parking and lunch at the Café at the Getty Villa or Coffee Kiosk if you’re trying to make your day at the Villa stretch as much as you can.

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Getty Villa Los Angeles

Getty Villa. Credit: Amatullah Guyot

Universal City Walk

If you have a large family and can’t afford or justify entrance into Universal City, try strolling the Universal City Walk instead. Eat at the Hard Rock Café Hollywood or Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and end your night at Howl at the Moon (if you’re visiting without the family.) I haven’t yet been to this Howl at the Moon location, but if it’s anything like the one in Destin, FL you’re in for an awesome night. This place does dueling pianos, on-stage performances and is just laid back in general. Universal City Walk really has it all, check out their website for all happenings.

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Philippe’s

Home of the famous French Dipped Sandwich, Philippe the Original was one of my favorites, especially after seeing a show at the Pantages Theatre. This historic deli knows how to pack a crowd, so be prepared to wait a bit in line before you get to order your sandwich and a serving of potato or macaroni salad. You will get a fantastic meal here and if you’re lucky enough you may get a quiet seat in the back room.

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Original Farmers Market

Since 1934 the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market has offered a wide variety of produce, restaurants, and specialty shops. Of course the farmers market has evolved over the years, but it’s still remained one of Los Angeles’ historic sites that should be checked off your list.

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Los Angeles Original Farmers Market

A produce stand at The L.A. Farmers Market. Credit: k lachshand via flickr

Griffith Observatory

If your school didn’t take you here on a field trip, now is the time to visit. Check out the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, use their free public telescopes in the evening or join a star party one Saturday a month. The views here are spectacular and it has been the backdrop for many films and television shows.

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The Queen Mary

I’m sure many of us have had their Prom at the Queen Mary or have been to for their Halloween events. If you haven’t been yet you’ve got to check out this floating legend. It acts as a full-service hotel and entertainment venue and also has a rich, paranormal history. The Queen Mary is said to have around 150 spirits aboard, with a heavy concentration in the engine room. If ghosts isn’t your thing, that’s okay, because this liner has a variety of year-round activities including New Year’s Eve under the stars, ScotsFestival and the Queen Mary Golf Classic.

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Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier can be more family friendly than Venice Beach with its aquarium, arcade, amusement park and carousel. Treat yourself to a milkshake or sundae at Soda Jerk, Santa Monica Pier’s classic soda fountain. If you’d rather have a margarita go to Mariasol Cocina Mexicana at the Pier’s west end. And what the heck, end the day with a funnel cake! Have fun and don’t count calories when you spend the day at this pier.

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Chinatown

My first traditional Chinese dress was purchased in Chinatown many years ago. I remember putting on the beautiful red dress and securing nylon stockings to the top of my head so I could pretend I had beautiful long black hair. Chinatown may have some of the area’s most delicious dim sum and markets where hard-to-find ingredients are prominent. You should also check out the Thien Hau Temple and The Undiscovered Chinatown Walking Tour the first Saturday of every  month. For $20 you’ll be shown the temple, herbal shop, antique stores, art galleries and much more.

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KCRW Summer Nights in Chinatown

KCRW Summer Nights in Chinatown

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Urban Adventure West

Embark upon a big kid scavenger hunt where points of interest include Olvera Street, Union Station, Disney Hall and L.A. Cathedral. Think of this as a one city Amazing Race where you’re presented with 20 questions that will lead you to historic sites around the city. The race is 49 bucks and you’ll need to purchase a round trip Metro ticket, but what a unique way to explore Los Angeles.

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Serenity Park Parrot Sanctuary

Find the Veterans Administration campus in Westwood and then let the sound of parrots lead you to the open-air facility where the sanctuary’s parrots are ready to carry out a conversation or two with you. Best thing about this is it’s FREE.

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Venice Canals

For year-round fun check out the Venice Canals, conveniently located near the Venice Pier and Muscle Beach. This is a great place to go on a morning walk or for a first date since it gives you lots of space to take a leisurely stroll (lots of space means lots of time to get to know your date.) The bridges are really cool too and if you’re bringing children it gives them a spot to run back and forth on, perfect before nap time.

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