So much history, so many stories, urban legends and dreams, all marbled together to ensure that will never be a shortage of things to do in Los Angeles. The City of Angels, as the name Los Angeles translates in Spanish, is the home of Hollywood and the birthplace of the American movie scene, for many decades attracting aspiring actors, artists and musicians from all over the world, all pulled in by the promise of fame and fortune. These days, while the glittering lights of Hollywood’s past glory days are slightly less bright and much of the city has become a tourist attraction commemorating the good old days, Los Angeles, the City of Angels, remains a centre of theatre, art, culture and creativity for the entire country.
Of course, you should make a point of seeing the popular iconic sights the city has to offer, like the Hollywood sign, Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard and Rodeo Drive, but there are so many more things to do in Los Angeles, which most tourists would never see.
Cool and Unusual things to do in Los Angeles
While there are plenty of big shows to see and mainstream entertainment in Los Angeles, the real action takes place underneath all of that, in the back street bars, theatres and converted warehouses, where grass roots artists and performers hone their skills in front of small, live audiences. Much of these artists draw inspiration from a style which evolved from the early days of American variety performance in the mid-1800’s, known as Vaudeville. A more mature and evolved form of the male entertainment found in men-only bars, Vaudeville attracted mixed-gender audiences and became popular among the middle classes. This classic style is now enjoying a massive comeback in bars, fringe theatres and converted warehouses all over the city, amazing crowds with unique combinations of comedy, dance, circus tricks, slapstick, knife-throwing, live music, burlesque and acrobatics, all re-interpreted in a modern creative context. These live performances truly are some of the most unique, creative and entertaining acts you will ever see!
The only problem is that if you don’t know anyone is Los Angeles, then you may never find them, in which case you could leave Los Angeles having only seen several tourist hot spots. That’s why we spoke to some real local Los Angeles artists and performers to bring you this list of cool and unusual things to do in Los Angeles that most tourists will never see!
ONE LOOK – An Evening of Silent Vaudeville with Lindsay Benner
It been said that “one look is worth a thousand words”, in which case this classic pairing of live vaudeville and silent cinema is a novel unto itself. Curated by Lindsay Benner, one of LA’s foremost variety performers, this pop-up explores the depths of wordless communication, with each program designed with a diﬀerent location in mind. In this evening of Variety entertainment worthy of Hollywood Cinema’s roots, One Look truly is worth a thousand words. Explore the depths of communication available without words in the unique combination of live silent variety performance with silent ﬁlm. To ﬁnd out the venue and details for the next “One Look” you must register for invites online.
Scot Nery’s Boobie Trap is a true variety show, incorporating big names in cirque, variety, comedy, magic, and music. Scot Nery hosts new guest performers every Wednesday at Way 2 Much Entertainment in Echo Park, Los Angeles.
Every act has four minutes to do something wildly weird and entertaining. Audiences may see a great comedian, a stunning trapeze act, a serious singer, a comedy sketch, and then a woman making a dress using a piece of fabric and a stapler. The performers are some of the best in their ﬁelds and Scot Nery’s Boobie Trap gives them an opportunity to scour the darkest, weirdest corners of their minds. There are an average of 16 acts per show that are fast-paced, fun, interactive, and imaginative.
The Tomorrow Show with Ron Lynch
Tomorrow! with Ron Lynch is LA’s longest-running standup comedy and variety performance show, now in its eighth year! Every Saturday at midnight in the Steve Allen Theater, it has been named one of the best comedy shows in Los Angeles by LA Weekly. A variety show in the truest sense, bringing together all genres of performance, from magic and music, to standup and spoof dating shows. All the ever-changing talent is strung together with the comedy genius of Ron Lynch himself!
A fun and free place to dwell in a front yard of vaudeville magic. Visit this silver lake landmark at night and be transported into wherever the magic place in your mind takes you. This old Sycamore tree on West Silver Lake Drive has 30 vintage chandeliers dangling from its branches. The owner, Adam Tenenbaum, rescued the light ﬁttings from a ﬁlm set he was working on and decided to spice up the tree outside his 1920’s home. Public reaction to the tree has been incredible from locals and visitors alike, even attracting wedding proposals and photo shoots. You could think of the Chandelier Tree as a static installation which embodies style and ethos of the Vaudeville era.
Monday Night Tease! has a cast that rotates weekly with beautiful burlesque performers, a charming chanteuse or two, a captivating crooner, prestidigitation, juggling, live bands and more.
Cinefamily – the Silent Movie Theatre
Cinefamily’s counter-programming combines bold curation with unique presentations that make events there frankly un-missable. The non-proﬁt cinematheque took over the Silent Movie Theatre in the Fairfax District (installing four rows of couches in the process) and its mission statement aims to foster “a spirit of community and a sense of discovery”; the former by means of an intimate patio upon which you can mingle whilst sipping a cocktail, and the latter by combining one-oﬀ screenings with long-form Q+A’s between legendary ﬁlmmakers, live bands, variety pre-shows, comedians interrupting ﬁlms and epic mix tapes. Every night of the week is something diﬀerent, a veritable treasure trove for the avid cineaste, even without mentioning the secret oﬀ-calendar screenings for its members.
Dinner and a show, and a party, and live music, and cupcakes and comedy and champagne punch and a two-night sleep-over and magic and mysterious underground tunnels and more shows and more food and more drinks and still more shows and Sunday brunch and gifts and autographs and new friends and once-in-a-lifetime memories… and so much more!
Getting around Los Angeles – why we decided to drive
While Los Angeles does have a public transportation system which is being improved all the time, it’s still just not quite there yet and in a city as sprawling and spread out as Los Angeles, the best way to get around is still in a car. Rather than a city where all the action happens in the centre, gradually spreading outwards to the suburbs where very little actually happens, the centre of Los Angeles mostly accommodates the financial and business activities of the city and little else. Outside of the centre the city sprawls outwards in a random arrangement of low-rise neighbourhoods and communities, each with its own style, personality and centre of day and night time activity. This is why you really need a car to explore Los Angeles.
We had a cool little mini-SUV, the Mazda CX-3, which was about the size of a compact, with extra clearance, a higher seating position, more headroom and 4 wheel drive. Did we need the 4 wheel drive in Los Angeles? No not really, but we were using the Mazda CX-3 as part of a Mazda USA #DrivingMatters campaign, and part of a much bigger California road trip in the desert and the mountains, through Joshua Tree National Park. So it was nice to have the extra traction in some of the narrow, twisting bends and on the occasional gravel roads.
What was great about the Mazda CX-3 in Los Angeles was the size and maneuverability in city traffic, where you often need to change lanes at short notice, darting into spaces that appear in the flowing traffic, not to mention pulling U-turns. The heightened suspension had little advantage on the city streets, but did provide extra visibility across other cars, allowing better decision making in traffic, as well as having an all-round better idea of what’s going on around you.
The punchy little petrol engine with automatic gearbox made city driving easy, while the sequential paddles on the steering column gave the extra control I wanted when passing people on the freeway, or on some of the mountain roads outside of the city, especially when using the SPORT button!
There wasn’t a great deal of space in the car for luggage, so we had to use the back seats to store most of it. For just two people travelling, or three to four locally, obviously this wasn’t a problem, but it’s certainly not a road trip car for three or more people, as in reality you wouldn’t fit more than one normal-size suitcase in the boot / trunk. On the plus side, we drove across town to a show with a full car of 5 people and everyone was comfortable!
The interior of the car was very stylish, including the on-board computer and head-up display, although some of the materials felt a little cheap, like the plastics on the doors and especially the arm rest, which creaked and felt like it might break when I leaned across it to open the passenger door. Aside from those two things though, everything felt pretty good – the seats were really comfortable and trimmed in smooth, soft leather.
All in all, if you have the option of a Mazda CX-3 on the rental list, I would recommend choosing it over something like a compact Ford Fiesta as it’s a much better driving experience. If you need to carry more than 2 people plus luggage, then you’re going to need something bigger, like a Mazda 3 or a Mazda 6.
Thank you to Mazda USA for sponsoring our Mazda CX3 for getting around Los Angeles and a few other cool spots in California!