The internet provides a quick and painless way to buy anything your heart desires — books, decor, sex toys, even weed. But it will never be an experience. The internet does not have knowledgable shopkeepers to talk to or ask questions (those pop-up windows that try to emulate real interaction are a joke) nor does it have an environment that puts the wares into context. The right music, eye-catching displays, and the cool people inside L.A.'s brick-and-mortar spaces make them destinations. Here are some of the best for a true retail adventure.
Best Gift Shop From the Dark Side
The go-to shop for goth gifts and gloomy interior decor, Memento Mori breathes a refreshing yet sepulchral mist across this hipster-dense strip of Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park. Constantly changing collections of vintage funeral and mourning items share space with gloomy jewelry, death-centric books and lugubrious gifts. Ethical taxidermy, poison bottles and morbid barware are just some of the items to be spotted on the shelves, along with funereal clothing and ephemera. Whether you're looking for embalming tools, an assemblage of wee mice bones or another memorable collectible, Memento Mori's selections turn death's sting into pure consumptive pleasure. 2209 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; (323) 962-7834, mementomori-la.com. —Lisa Derrick
Best Bookstore Escape
You know you're in a unique bookstore when there's a comfortably at-home cat roaming the aisles. The cat's name is Zeus, and the store is the Iliad Bookshop. Tucked away in a quiet nook of North Hollywood, with a mural of literary giants on the building, the Iliad specializes in used books. And unlike other bookstores and libraries, which tend to be so spacious you're forced to concentrate over the din of the crowd, the Iliad is practically archaic in its tranquility. With countless aisles of books, classic and modern, the Iliad's inventory is vast (and incredibly affordable). Opened in 1987 by owner Dan Weinstein, this antiquated haven for bibliophiles easily could have found a home in Paris or New York. But, hey, it's ours! And remember to pet Zeus. You'll find him sagely resting on a shelf, eyes at half-mast, knowing the true spirit of contentment. 5400 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 509-2665, iliadbooks.com. —Chad Byrnes
Best Proof That Every Day Is Halloween in L.A.
A true destination for goths, ghouls and monster fans, Halloween Town is a massive shadowy emporium with an absolutely mind-bending array of all things Halloween- and horror-related. Chock-full of shock horror monster gear — apparel, home decor, fine art, novelties, bric-a-brac, literature, DVDs, statuary, headstones, lighting and FX stuff — it's a comprehensive stock of beastly merchandising. A block away is an entire other store with masks, costumes, props and accessories, and two doors down is another costume shop exclusively for children. Need a Forbidden Planet lunch bucket or a sculpture of the Creature from the Black Lagoon? Head to Halloween Town and run amok. 3021 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank; (818) 848-3644, halloweentownstore.com. —Jonny Whiteside
Best Funhouse for Sex Freaks
The LGBTQ community is arguably a little more open-minded about sexuality, so oftentimes you'll find some unique sex shops within the gayborhood. This is definitely the case in West Hollywood, where Chi Chi LaRue's provides a more vibrant environment than WeHo's better-known Pleasure Chest. You can find anything that fits your sexual fantasy amid the store's huge selection, including sex toys, lubes and porn. Whether you're gay or straight, there's something for everyone in the store, located at the center of the WeHo strip, whether you're looking for a bachelorette party gift (Bride's Last Ride is a bridal bar scavenger-hunt pack) or a six-piece “Deluxe Drilldo Set.” The store even hosted a meet-and-greet with Stormy Daniels in 2018 when she stopped by to promote her new line of shirts. There's also plenty of fetish gear and tons of different condoms, because safe sex is key. A second store, Chi Chi LaRue's Circus, will be opening on the east side of WeHo near Hamburger Mary's, in the former Circus of Books space. The plan is to combine the current feel of the original LaRue's with the history of Circus of Books; the new store will feature a Tom of Finland store-within-a-store. At Chi Chi LaRue's, sex is about being explorative and definitely not vanilla, unless there's sprinkles. 8861 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 337-9555, chichilarues.com. —Michael Cooper
Best Classy Pot Palace Over the Hill
With a waiting area that features walls covered in high-end art, luxurious furniture and even a gold-throne selfie area, Sherman Oaks' Higher Path began raising the bar for cannabis shops back in 2013. Free tea and coffee set the scene as you are greeted by the knowledgeable staff, who are patient, pleasant and well-versed in the ways of weed, happy to explain everything from the product to the latest laws. This is due in part to the philosophy of founder Jerred Kiloh, an entrepreneur with a background in design who attempted to bring his Northern California roots to the Valley. As part of his mantra, Kiloh believes in elegance, experience and education so his customers can get the most out of each visit. Keeping consumers well versed on cannabis culture while elevating the elegance of local dispensaries will serve Kiloh well as he plans for future expansion. 14080 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 385-1224, thehigherpath.com. —Erin Maxwell
Best Energy Boost
The power of crystals is no longer looked upon as new age mumbo-jumbo, mostly because their ability to help people with healing, focus, love or making life changes has been proven to work for so many people on a personal level. Crystal energy makes you feel good, and the process of learning about and purchasing these transformative items should, too. At Spellbound Sky, you will be enlightened, entertained and educated by knowledgeable owners Mark Phillips and Martin Anguiano and their staff, learning what each crystal does and how to use it, which combinations work well together and the best way to set your intentions while using them. Jewelry, candles and oils that aid in combating negative energy (which is often the first step in making positive changes) complement the crystal stock here, all of which is not only metaphysically uplifting but gorgeous to look at. Whether you buy the wares for decor, fashion or something more meaningful, the result is the same — pleasing visions and joyful vibrations. 4210 Santa Monica Blvd., Silver Lake; (323) 284-8115, spellboundsky.com. —Lina Lecaro