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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hidden Los Angeles: The City's Best Finds

By Debrah Elliot

While Rodeo Drive, Disneyland and studio tours beckon tourists every year, there's much more to the Los Angeles area than shopping and theme parks. This diverse and immense city and its suburbs offer a myriad of unique hidden gems. From the quirky to the delicious, there are wonderful spots to discover all over the place. Here are just a few of the best spots in L.A.

There's really no shortage of great food in the L.A. area, but if you are looking for something cool, fun and historic, drive over to Alameda Street in the city's downtown area to Philippe's. This restaurant has been a downtown staple since 1903, and is known as the spot where the French dip was invented. This sandwich happened by happy accident when a customer's bread was dropped into the meat juices. The customer loved the sandwich so much, he came back to Philippe's the following day with several friends in tow. It quickly became a favorite at the restaurant, and soon the sandwich was famous nationwide.

In Los Angeles, it seems like there is a coffee house on every corner, but all coffee houses are definitely not created equally. If you want to sample the best and freshest gourmet brew in the L.A. area, you cannot beat Island Monarch Coffee in Culver City. The proprietors use only the freshest beans and the finest purified water to create the many coffee drinks on their menu. Still-green beans are shipped in from Latin American and Hawaii and then roasted and blended. These beans are freshly ground for each order to ensure that every cup of coffee is perfect.

There are some truly odd and even somewhat spooky adventures to enjoy in the Los Angeles area. One option would be to head to Griffith Park and check out the remnants of the Old Zoo. The Los Angeles Zoo is open and thriving in Griffith Park, but what we're talking about is the remains of the original zoo. This "ghost" zoo still features abandoned cages and enclosures. The Old Zoo is located before you reach the new zoo, and there is a parking lot by the Old Zoo Picnic Area sign. A short, easy hike from the parking lot will take you to the zoo.

There are museums to suit anyone's interest in Los Angeles. You can see mammoth bones, a Space Shuttle and wax figures of famous actors. In addition, there are two impressive car museums. The Petersen Automotive Museum is an excellent option, but it is pretty well known and centrally located on Museum Row (also known as Wilshire Boulevard). Another option would be to head out to Sylmar and check out the Nethercutt Museum. Historic cars, mostly dating from about 1910-1935, abound at the museum. Row after row of restored automotive gems can be enjoyed, and you also can tour a historic train car and locomotive. If you book a guided tour, you'll gain access to the Nethercutt Collection, which includes everything from a large collection of music boxes to grand pianos to rare hood ornaments.

Of course, these are just a few of the attractions and eateries you might consider. There are plenty of other options, including some amazing seaside and canyon hikes, historic walking tours, tiny donut shops actually shaped like donuts, sea adventures where you will encounter dolphins, whales and sea lions and plenty of great sunsets that don't cost a penny to enjoy.

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