BY: KARINA ANASTASIA ROCHE
With over 40 million tourists visiting Los Angeles each year, and a population of more than 18 million in the greater L.A. area, the city’s famous attractions are crowded on weekends and packed during holidays and peak seasons. While we recommend the popular destinations–many of them are definitely worth seeing–we also wanted to share our list of equally beautiful, beloved, lesser-known attractions that will allow you to truly soak in the relaxing spirit of a vacation, rather than leaving you exhausted from waiting in lines.
1. Topanga Canyon
If you’re staying with us at the Topanga Canyon Inn, you’re already in L.A.’s best-kept secret. While most Angelinos know of Topanga in passing–many use the windy mountain boulevard for their commute or a shortcut to the ocean–and some can name a 1960s musician or two who lived here, most don’t know much else about it. As our local guests have told us time and time again, they never stopped to explore the jewels hidden between the folds of the hills, which includes romantic bridal trails, endless hiking with mountain, ocean, and city views, some of L.A.’s most rugged mountain biking, L.A.’s most romantic restaurant, and a cozy village full of boutique shops. Many of our local guests remark to us, “We had no idea all of this was here.”
2. The Getty Villa
Although one of our favorite L.A. museums, the Getty Villa, is by no means “hidden” or “secret,” their strict rules about pre-booked parking reservations keeps the crowds manageable. With limited parking, only so many visitors are allowed in at a time, preserving the serenity of the oasis on a mountaintop. Inspired by a 1st-century Roman villa buried in Pompeii, the Getty Villa seems both out of time and yet perfectly at home, perched on a hill overlooking the ocean. The climate and landscape of Southern California are remarkably like that of Italy, making it a perfect home for the reproduction commissioned in the 1970s by Getty Oil owner J. Paul Getty. The Villa houses Classical art, antiquities, and various exhibits, but the true attraction is its authentic architecture, sculptures, and gardens. For the complete Roman experience, check their schedule for Greek plays in the outdoor auditorium. Note that some galleries will be closed from January 2017 to spring 2018 due to renovations, but the Villa will still remain open.
3. Malibu Creek State Park
You would think a place as stunning as Malibu Creek State Park would be hectic during holiday months, but the park, tucked into the hills behind Malibu, has remained an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Some guests remark that they feel that they’ve seen this picture-perfect park before in film–that’s because this Hollywood-favorite spot was the location where M.A.S.H. was filmed, and the contrasting landscape of creek-cut meadows, golden in the autumn, and looming mountains and brooding oak trees makes it obvious as to why. You could spend all day here. We recommend the 2-mile loop trail hike to the rock pool, a pond framed by large stones and shaded under trees–an image from a fairy tale but (as of yet) unmolested by crowds.
4. El Matador Beach
This small and treasured beach north of Malibu is just out of reach of the bigger crowds that cover every inch of L.A.’s beaches in the summer. A hideout for many of Hollywood’s hottest celebrities, some parts of the beach become inaccessible during high tides, creating private sections of beach for the grand homes just a stone’s throw from the shore. Keep your eyes peeled and you might spot your favorite celebrity under a big hat and sunglasses, or accidentally find yourself in the middle of a fashion shoot, as this beach is popular with photographers. Despite all this, the beach feels remarkably peaceful and secluded, a short stretch of sand full of little coves and caves within towering rocks that are the real draw of El Matador.
5. Adamson House & Malibu Lagoon
The historic Adamson House, situated on Malibu beach but neatly enclosed from the traffic, allows you to enjoy L.A.’s history and outdoors without the crowds. This lovely former home of the “King and Queen of Malibu,” built in 1929, is a testament to the elegant and ornate architecture of pre-Great Depression California. The Adamson family were the last owners of what is now the city of Malibu, and ran Malibu Tile Works, whose lively, decorative Spanish tiles adorn the house and its many patios. Tours of the interior end early in the day (usually by 2pm), but the property is often open throughout the day, and you can explore the flowery gardens and patios at your leisure. It is definitely one of the most peaceful—and aesthetic—places in Los Angeles.
Next door to the museum and the state beach is Malibu Lagoon, one of the most beautiful natural sites in the Los Angeles area, an idyllic oasis that couldn’t be more perfect for a romantic walk or picnic. The creek pours into the ocean, creating a scenic habitat where countless bird species come to feed and nest. The recently renovated park has many seating areas, observation decks, and paths that take you throughout the lagoon. Rest on a shaded bench, enjoy gazing at the ducks and seabirds as they fish, and you’ll feel like you’re a world away from the crowded beach in the distance.
What we love most about L.A. is the multitude and variety of its attractions–there are so many and so many different things to do, and so close by. Topanga, as a central location for the area, is just a short drive away from tourist attractions and local secrets alike. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and find a quiet retreat, book your room with us and discover Los Angeles from a new angle.