4 Overrated L.A. Attractions, and Where to Go Instead
4 Overrated L.A. Attractions, and Where to Go Instead, Topanga Canyon Inn


A city the size of L.A. would take years to fully explore. But travelers have only a couple days or a week to see the highlights, and our guests are always asking us which locations are truly worth seeing. Some of L.A.’s most famous attractions are overrated–either they are too crowded, not all they’re made out to be, or there are simply better places to go. You’ll never run out of things to do in see in L.A., but, if like many you’re here for a short stay and want to see the best, we’ve picked our five alternatives to some of the area’s popular sites.

Tourist Trap: Hollywood Walk of Fame

Many of our out-of-town and international guests plan to visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but this popular area will have you fighting crowds and solicitors, and you won’t even see the Hollywood sign.

Where to go instead: Beverly Hills and Griffith Observatory

If you’re really looking for a sense of L.A. glamour, we recommend you visit Beverly Hills. Take a photo by the Beverly Hills sign at Beverly Hills Garden Park, visit the stores on Rodeo Drive, and enjoy the polished area’s shops, restaurants, bars, and take a drive through the surrounding neighborhoods and gaze at the manicured lawns and gorgeous mansions. Then make sure to visit Griffith Observatory and see it all from above–as well as a great view of the Hollywood sign and some actual stars.

Tourist Trap: Downtown L.A.

We’ve generally found the downtown to be a bit of a letdown. While there are certainly things there worth seeing, the sites in downtown L.A. are more limited, and parts of the area are still very funky.

Where to go instead: The Grove (Beverly Hills) or the Third Street Promenade (Santa Monica)

The Grove in Beverly Hills, and the farmer’s market that is its next-door neighbor, serves as a much nicer alternative to the bustle of the city. Take a charming trolley ride from one end of the giant outdoor shopping mall to the other, see a movie, and then browse the lively farmer’s market or visit one of the fun ice cream shops. Or, if you’ve already had your fill of the Beverly Hills scene, visit the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and enjoy a delightful evening ride on the Santa Monica Pier’s Ferris Wheel as it lights up at night, overlooking the city, ocean, and coastline.

Tourist Trap: Santa Monica Beach

Although we just suggested urban Santa Monica as one of our alternatives, its beach is fairly ordinary and is probably amongst the most crowded.

Where to go instead: Malibu Lagoon

For a much more memorable day at the beach, visit Malibu Lagoon State Beach. Where Malibu Creek merges with the ocean, a lagoon forms, creating a beautiful habitat for many birds and wildlife. There are many paths you can take, which wind their way to the beach, a long stretch of sand sprinkled with seashells and pretty stones. Nextdoor to the beach is the historic Adamson House, a tiled beauty and one of our favorite architectural attractions, a truly peaceful place from which you can absorb the sight of the coastline and enjoy the sound of the waves.

Tourist Trap: LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

This museum is often the first our guests mention on their list–but while the LACMA certainly houses many beautiful pieces, the area has other museums that far outshine it.

Where to go instead: Huntington Library & Garden, or the Getty Villa or Getty Center

The Huntington, or the two Getty museums, are unique locations that make the L.A. the cultural Mecca that it is. Drive out to Pasadena for the Huntington, and you could get lost exploring its endless botanical gardens, which include a giant greenhouse, rose garden, and Japanese garden complete with a Japanese house, gazebo, and lake. Its art collection spans several buildings, and includes famous pieces such as Pinkie and The Blue Boy, and the research library, available for dedicated scholars, also has a museum room full of original texts, such as one of the world’s few Gutenberg Bibles.

Closer to Topanga are the two Getty museums. The oldest, the Villa, feels both out of time and yet perfectly at home, perched on a hill overlooking the ocean, and houses Classical art, antiquities, and various exhibits–but the true attraction is its authentic architecture, sculptures, and gardens, ideal for a romantic day out. (Check their schedule for Greek plays in the outdoor auditorium). The larger Getty Center is a modern locus for art and research that boasts not only stunning white-stone architecture, collections spanning every time period (they are famous for their Van Gogh pieces), and serene gardens, but vast views of Los Angeles and the Santa Monica Mountains.

When our guests ask us what they should see in L.A., we often think, “Where do we even begin?” But after years of living in the area, there are a few locations that have proved to be classic visits and are dearest to our hearts. Just a short drive from our home and inn in Topanga, the locations listed above are places we will continue recommending for years to come. Book your stay with us now for a peaceful getaway next to L.A.’s finest attractions.