West LA is a mixed residential and commercial district between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. The area is especially known for its abundance of Japanese restaurants and stores, with ramen shops, sushi joints, karaoke spots, and shops filled with kawaii, kitsch, and traditional goods. Nearby attractions include The Getty, Beverly Gardens Park, the Playboy Mansion, Rodeo Drive Walk of Style, and the Museum of Jurassic Technology. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit different from the norm, West LA and its surroundings have plenty of hidden gems, too. Step away from the tried-and-trodden trail and explore these lesser-known jewels around West LA:
The Wende Museum
Located in nearby Culver City, the free-to-enter Wende Museum houses art and artifacts related to the Cold War era. If you’ve ever wanted to see a wooden statuette of Lenin, a paint-splattered Lenin bust, household effects from East Germany, diplomatic gifts, and evidence of communist propaganda, this is the place to come. The museum offers an interesting peek into the past as it works to promote change.
Located in Beverly Hills, Spadena House is a creepy sight. Also known as the Witch’s House, the storybook house was deliberately designed to look run down, eerie, abandoned, and whimsical. In the work of a Hollywood art director, the unusual dwelling features an uneven pointy roof, tiny shuttered windows, and a wild garden. You can’t go inside as it’s now a private residence, but it’s well worth a photo stop to ogle the curious exterior.
UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden
Sitting in the southeast of UCLA’s campus, the peaceful Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden stretches across more than 7 lovely acres. Escape the city buzz and stroll through this tranquil West LA garden to reconnect with nature. Divided into several distinct zones, the botanical garden features an ancient forest, woodlands, a stream, and a desert garden and showcases flora native to California, Hawaii, and other regions.
Also housed within UCLA’s grounds, the Hammer Museum is a top spot for art lovers. Collections include works from artists typically overlooked in the past and hip pieces from contemporary creatives. There’s no charge to browse the diverse exhibits. The museum also operates the interesting Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, which contains dozens of thought-provoking sculptures in diverse artistic styles.
UCLA Meteorite Gallery
Another offbeat attraction on UCLA’s campus, the Meteorite Gallery, boasts the biggest collection of space rocks on the West Coast. Educational and free to visit, the gallery has all kinds of meteorites discovered from all around the globe. Some rocks are even older than the solar system!
The Fowler Museum
Also operated by UCLA, the Fowler Museum showcases art and cultural artifacts from across Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific region. You can view exhibits from times gone by as well as those from the present day, with pieces such as Guatemalan clothing, Day of the Dead figures, Inuit art, Ghanaian textiles, a Nigerian beaded throne, Tanzanian urban arts, Indonesian sculptures, Chinese puppets, and Maori cloaks. The museum offers free admission.
Virginia Robinson Gardens
You’ll find the elegant Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills. A great place for nature lowers, the lush botanical gardens surround one of the area’s first luxury estates. The mansion itself is especially photogenic, with a striking pool pavilion, organized gardens, and a wealth of flora to enhance its beauty. From the Rose Garden and Italian Terrace Garden to the Great Lawn and Kitchen Garden, the site offers plenty of natural diversity. Note: Visitors must pre-arrange docent-led tours.
As well as the above eight attractions, other hidden gems in and around West LA include:
- Holmby Park, once a popular celebrity hangout in the past, with play areas, BBQs, and picnic areas
- Greystone Mansion, an impressive and imposing historic estate in Beverly Hills
- Mosaic Tile House, a bright, whimsical mosaic-adorned home from the 1940s, located in Venice
- Museum of Tolerance, where you can examine global racism and prejudice, is situated close to Beverlywood
- Beverly Canon Gardens, home to water features, public gardens, and elegant walkways