[Updated September 2016]
Los Angeles may be known for its car-driven culture, but for a more memorable vacation, we suggest ditching your wheels and exploring the city on foot. These diverse walking tours cover history, nature, food, and a few dearly departed celebrities.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery was in disrepair for years, but now it’s a place for concerts, movies, and a tour of its famous and infamous denizens. The Cemetery of the Stars tour is a two-hour walk ($15) that’s more of a wonderful homage to film history than an obsession with the macabre. Guide Karie Bible’s enthusiasm is infectious, pointing out lipstick kisses on Rudolph Valentino’s crypt, the cenotaph of Toto (who is actually buried under the 101 freeway), and the rock and roll memorial statue for the late Johnny Ramone.
The Los Angeles Conservancy offers a variety of walking tours by highly-informed docents addressing the history and architecture of downtown LA. The two-and-a-half hour Art Deco tour is a must as LA sports some of the best examples of the style. No reservations are required, and the tour is offered every Saturday ($15).
If food is central to your travel agenda, try a Melting Pot Food Tour (pictured above). The Original Farmers Market Food tour covers the history of the market on Fairfax and then proceeds with mouth-watering treats. In two and a half hours, you will experience divine English toffee, scrumptious local donuts, decadent caviar cheese, and freshly churned peanut butter. It’s pricey at $59 for adults ($45 kids), but you can skip breakfast and lunch to make room for all the yummy things you’ll devour.
Griffith Observatory houses a planetarium, telescope, and exhibit space on a high peak in Griffith Park. Incredible views of Los Angeles make a visit to the Observatory worth it (free admission and parking). In addition, there is a monthly free sunset walk from the Observatory where park rangers share the history of the park and museum guides school visitors on astronomy. Stargaze with the experts, watch bats zoom past you, and hear the coyotes howling through the canyons.
If you’re keen to do a walk without a guide, check out the Secret Stairs self-guided walks through neighborhoods like Silver Lake and the Hollywood Hills. Many locals don’t even know that the hidden, yet public, staircases exist. These walks will give you a history of a lost 1920s pedestrian Los Angeles, stunning vistas, and a serious uphill workout. Some walks are available for free online and there’s book with many more to choose from.