10 Touristy Places in L.A. That Are Actually Pretty Awesome

10 Touristy Places in L.A. That Are Actually Pretty Awesome
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L.A. may be a tourist destination, chock full of the traps that locals go out of their way to avoid, but there are some touristy places that are worth visiting more than once. In fact, you could go so far as to say that the following touristy places, pulled from our Best of L.A. 2013 issue, are actually pretty awesome. So, go ahead, join the tourists and rediscover some of these gems.

10 Touristy Places in L.A. That Are Actually Pretty Awesome
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1. Best Touristy Thing in Hollywood: The Hollywood Museum

The Hollywood Museum is billed as having the most extensive collection of show business memorabilia in the world, and after spending hours wandering four floors containing more than 10,000 artifacts, the exhausted visitor would have to agree (at least until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences opens its planned museum next to LACMA). In its previous incarnation as the Max Factor Building, you could visit its three color-coordinated makeup rooms and look at various beauty relics, and that was it. Now, however, it just goes on and on, four floors' worth, with Vegas-worthy displays of costumes, jewelry, machinery, props, sets, love letters and every manner of showbiz doodad. Mimicking its wax-museum neighbors, the facility even has a "torture chamber" of sorts in the basement, containing wonderful relics from classic horror films, like the life masks of Peter Lorre and Vincent Price, along with spooky props and some nice, dusty mummies. Even the old, Oz-like art deco employee restrooms are fun to visit, with their views of Hollywood and prim tile floors. 1660 N. Highland Ave., Hlywd. (323) 464-7776, thehollywoodmuseum.com .
 --Suzy Beal

Touch of Evil
Touch of Evil

2. Best Film Noir Location: Speedway and Windward Avenue

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Orson Welles' 1958 film, Touch of Evil, is revered by film geeks for its three-minute, single-take opening sequence, which follows Janet Leigh and Charlton Heston as they traverse a seedy Mexican border town. It's fun to retrace Welles' camera movements on the spot where it was filmed by walking from the southeast corner of Speedway and Windward Avenue, heading west to Ocean Front Walk, then turning north and proceeding just past Market Street. Regrettably, much has changed since 1958, but some old baroque colonnades remain, and a dazzling mural by Jonas Never pays tribute to this noir scene. Come by late at night and the din of nearby Townhouse Cocktails will contribute to the louche vibe, and if you upload Henry Mancini's syncopated soundtrack and plug in your earbuds, you'll be transported back in celluloid time. Windward Avenue at Speedway, Venice. --Jeffrey Burbank

 

10 Touristy Places in L.A. That Are Actually Pretty Awesome
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3. Best Hidden Trove of Marilyn Monroe Memorabilia : Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum

The eternal nature of Marilyn Monroe's spectral allure is one of Tinseltown's most tragic and pervasive phenomena, and to suddenly find yourself in a chamber stocked with her intimate personal effects is, simply put, a thrill. Believe or not, you'll find one at the Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. The place has MM's polka-dot bikini, sheer black baby-doll negligee, maribou-tufted Lucite bedroom slippers, Cherries à la Mode nail polish and even that bulky knit Mexican sweater she memorably donned for her final, hauntingly beautiful 1962 Santa Monica Beach photo session. 6780 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd. (323) 466-6335, ripleys.com/hollywood . --Jonny Whiteside

Transformers
Transformers

4. Best Theme Park Ride: Transformers Ride at Universal Studios

Humans manning the robot-turned-vehicle Evac are on a mission to help Autobot transformers stop evil Decepticon robots from destroying Earth. The moment the Transformers ride at Universal Studios begins, you are immersed in fierce action amidst burning skyscrapers and shattering glass -- thanks to ultra-high-definition 3-D glasses and 30-foot-tall photorealistic scenes in which you feel certain you are embedded (they're really playing on massive, undetectable screens). You're sitting in a "motion-base" vehicle, as in Disneyland's Star Tours, which means that while you feel as if you're plummeting hundreds of feet, you're actually in a two-story elevator. Heat warms your face as a Megatron missile starts to fry you, but you survive. At the victorious end, huge Optimus Prime looks proudly into your eyes and praises your service. This fantasy is so gorgeously detailed that you wish Evac could slow it all down a notch -- there's just too much to see. 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. (800) 864-8377, universalstudioshollywood.com. --Jill Stewart


 

10 Touristy Places in L.A. That Are Actually Pretty Awesome
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5. Best Pool Parties: The Standard Downtown L.A.

While the original Standard Hotel on the Sunset Strip boasts a serene, ground-level pool, the swimming facility atop its sister hotel, the Standard Downtown L.A. -- a 1950s-era high-rise listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- is reserved for serious partiers only. And by reserved, we mean you often have to RSVP in advance, wait in long lines and cough up $10 or $20 to gain admission to electronic dance music-soundtracked soirees with short, suggestive names like "Bask," "Incognito" and "Drenched." The Standard Downtown L.A. has three water-bed cabanas housed in plastic pods that resemble something out of a 1960s sci-fi movie, and a bar that will deliver you cocktails whether you're in the pool, on a sleek white lounge chair or on the dance floor. In other words: It's totally worth the hassle of getting in. The rooftop closes at 1:30 a.m., but Standard pool events often trickle into hotel-room parties that rage into the wee hours of the morning. 550 S. Flower St., dwntwn. (213) 892-8080, standard​hotels.com/downtown-la. 
--Jennifer Swann

10 Touristy Places in L.A. That Are Actually Pretty Awesome
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6. Best Way to Experience Space Travel: Griffith Observatory's Samuel Oschin Planetarium

The "Centered in the Universe" show has been blowing people's minds at the Griffith Observatory's Samuel Oschin Planetarium for the past seven years. In the span of 33 minutes, you'll travel through time and space from ancient Alexandria, Egypt, to Galileo's 17th-century workshop, to Hubble's deco-era Mount Wilson Observatory, to a modern-day research lab, looking at the ways in which humans have attempted to understand their place in the universe. The bit near the end, where you soar through galaxy clusters, really puts things in perspective -- talk about gripping. Yes, we all know Earth is small, but nothing beats a good visual. Plus, the entire presentation is narrated by a live presenter -- far more engaging than some lame, prerecorded celebrity voice-over. It's a thoughtful, artistic and elegant show that, unlike a lot of the obnoxious blockbusters screening at a mall near you, makes intelligent use of CGI. 2800 E. Observatory Road, Griffith Park. (213) 473-0800, griffithobservatory.org . --Gendy Alimurung

 

The Market at Santa Monica Place
The Market at Santa Monica Place
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7. Best Mall: Santa Monica Place

The standard suburban mall is roughly the same from Topeka to Topanga: There's your Banana Republic, your J. Crew, your Baby Gap. You can buy shoes at Nine West, a gift for your dude at Champs Sports and, when you're ready for a pause in the shopping, a salad and a glass of wine at California Pizza Kitchen. Yawn! Which is one reason we find ourselves drawn to Santa Monica Place. It's not just that we love a good Bloomingdale's (although, really, who doesn't love Bloomingdale's?), but also that the overall mix in this open-air shopping center is both smart and eclectic. You could go from buying a new dress at 3.1 Phillip Lim to lunch at the Curious Palate to purchasing your man a new shirt at Thomas Pink (a huge upgrade from Champs, protest though he might). With its great location just off the 10 freeway, adjacent to the Promenade, Santa Monica Place is the sort of non-mall-like mall you could get sucked into and never return. Oh, and did we mention there's a Barney's CO-OP? 395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica. (310) 260-8333, santamonicaplace.com. --Sarah Fenske

10 Touristy Places in L.A. That Are Actually Pretty Awesome
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8. Best Respite From the Grove: The Bars at the Original Farmers Market

Everyone knows that feeling when you snap at the Grove. You just blew the rent at Nordstrom, and the slow-walking tourists begin to feel as if they're caging you in. You need a calm oasis, and a beer. Thankfully, the bars at the Original Farmers Market provide both. Hop onto a stool at one of the building's two watering holes, and life suddenly seems a lot simpler. Maybe that's because, despite all the businesses that have come and gone in the last 80 years, the Farmers Market still exudes an old-timey spirit. Watching folks sniff produce and rap with the butcher is somehow soothing over a pint. The drinker next to you looks like he's been a regular since 1952, and even if he's sipping his same old domestic, the bar offers a great craft-beer selection and wine list, too. The vibe says "stay all day," and you just might. 6333 W. Third St., Fairfax District. (323) 933-9211, farmersmarketla.com. --Ali Trachta

 

10 Touristy Places in L.A. That Are Actually Pretty Awesome
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9. Best Miracle Mile Bar: Stark Bar at LACMA

For those days when you need a cultural excuse to day-drink, we present Stark Bar, geographically located between the antiquities and modern art exhibits at LACMA. Most museums give you the bare (but overpriced) minimum when it comes to food and drink, but here you'll get an expertly mixed cocktail like the Lemon Balla (gin, Moscatel wine, muddled lemon wedges, basil) for the same price you'd pay in a less provocative location. There's an impressive list of spirits to pick from (we recommend the Barbancourt rum), wine, beer and small bites to fortify you, and a bench of talent working the gorgeous bar. So pull up a red banquette, contemplate "Levitated Mass" and watch your quick little trip to art-peep turn into an all-day affair. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Miracle Mile. (323) 857-6197, lacma.org/visit/plan-your-visit/restaurants . --Erin Lyall

10 Touristy Places in L.A. That Are Actually Pretty Awesome
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10. Best Cheap Oysters: Chateau Marmont

In the midst of the absolute douchiest strip of Hollywood, Chateau Marmont remains a temple to Old Hollywood, a classier, more worn-in version of American excess. The hotel, restaurant and bar might still play host to starlets and showbiz drama, but early on a quiet Monday evening the bar is nothing but charming vintage glamour. Slide up to the bar, make yourself at home next to the antique parrot prints and brocade accents, and order a platter of oysters, which the kitchen sells at cost on Mondays. "Cost" means whatever the restaurant paid for them, which is usually $1.25 or $1.50 an oyster. There are generally three or four varieties to choose from, from both the East and West Coast. The bar also has wine specials to enjoy with the oysters -- a recent $9 Alsatian Sylvaner was a beautiful pairing for Malpeques, Naked Cowboys and more. 8221 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd. (323) 656-1010, chateaumarmont.com. --Besha Rodell

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Related Locations

miles
Chateau Marmont

8221 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046

323-656-1010

www.chateaumarmont.com

miles
24/7 Restaurant at The Standard

550 S. Flower St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071

213-892-8080

www.standardhotels.com

miles
Original Farmers Market

6333 W. Third St.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

323-933-9211

www.farmersmarketla.com

miles
Griffith Observatory

2800 E. Observatory Rd.
Los Angeles, CA 90027

213-473-0800

www.griffithobservatory.org

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