10 obscure Los Angeles attractions that will blow your mind

Look, anyone can stroll the Hollywood "Walk of Fame" or shop along Rodeo Drive, but it takes the true adventurer to explore the highly unusual in art, history, architecture and sport in Los Angeles. So stop hitting those tourist traps, act like a local, and check out below any (or all) of these mind-blowing L.A. scenes.

1. Old Zoo at Griffith Park

Old remnants of the Griffith Park Zoo, Los AngelesRemnants of the Old Zoo at Griffith Park. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons/Junkyardsparkle)

There's definitely a surreal vibe as you walk through the decaying Old Zoo at Griffith Park. Originally opened in 1912 and closed in 1966 (when the new L.A. Zoo opened), the old zoo still has animal cages and other enclosures like the bear caves, many plastered with graffiti. As part of Griffith Park's picnic area and hiking trail, this relic is an eerie space to visit.

2. "The Hobbit's House"

Feature on the Hobbit House. Lawrence Joseph designed and built a story book home and apartments tha
LA Times via Getty Images

Wedged between a ginormous, under-construction apartment complex and hospital offices in Culver City, the Lawrence Joseph Fantasy Residence and Apartments, aka "The Hobbit's House" was constructed by Walt Disney craftsman Lawrence Joseph over a period of years (1946-1970). Looking like it was built for "The Hobbit," this European-styled fantasy cottage is a must-see, especially if you're visiting The Museum of Jurassic Technology (below).

3. Bob Baker Marionette Theater

Puppeteer Bob Baker, 88, co-founder of the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in Downtown Los Angeles, is
LA Times via Getty Images

Most attend live theater at the Ahmanson or Pantages (so passé), but why not live on the edge and take in a show at a marionette children's theater? Founded in 1963 by Bob Baker and Alton Wood, Bob Baker Marionette Theater is the longest running puppet theater in the nation. The company's motto, "pulling the strings on family fun since 1963" delights, as do shows such as the "Nutcracker," and "Fiesta," and the upcoming "Bob Baker Day."

4. 'Skeletons in the Closet' The L.A. Coroner's Gift Store

Los Angeles County Coroner gift shop sales clerk,MIKE NELSON via Getty Images

Some may think it's crazy that the L.A.'s Coroner's Office has a gift store, but somehow for Los Angeles, it somehow seems fitting. With the byline, "...to promote how fragile life is," Skeletons in the Closet sells everything from crime scene beach towels to T-shirts and baseball hats, all with the L.A. Coroner's logo.

5. Museum of Death

noir stills in LAMCT via Getty Images​​​​​​​

The Museum of Death is not for everyone. And I sincerely mean that. This museum was founded by J.D. Healy and Cathee Shultz in 1995 "to fill the void in death education in the USA." The Hollywood venue exhibits works like serial murder artwork, crime scene and morgue photos, videos of autopsies, the Heaven's Gate Cult Recruiting video, coffin collections and other such atrocities. Yikes!

6. The Last Bookstore

The Tunnel of Books at The Last BookstoreThe Tunnel of Books at The Last Bookstore. (Photo credit: Lori Huck)

The Last Bookstore is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the dying bookstore. After all, who these days opens a brick and mortar, 22,000 square-foot, multi-story bookstore? Josh Spencer, that's who, and through various incarnations, Spencer has made this store one of the most stunning, museum-like bookstores in the world. Visually dazzling, it's a local's favorite with its 250,000 new and used books and graphic novels, and a huge vinyl collection. Plus there are live readings and events.

7. Velveteria

LOS ANGELES, CA - July 13, 2014: Jona Bechtolt, right, points out a painting to Claire Evans, left,Katie Falkenberg via Getty Images​​​​​​​

Located in downtown L.A.'s Chinatown, Velveteria is a celebration of pop art's velvet paintings. Sure such lofty pieces may have once lived in your grandparent's house, but no worries, owners Caren Anderson and Carl Baldwin have created a velvet art museum, which houses roughly about 400 of their 3,000-piece collection of velvet celebrities, religious figures, clowns, and animals, including a strong showing of unicorns. Plus, there is a spectacular black light room for the special velvets.

8. Venice Canals

The Venice Canals of Los Angeles
The Venice Canals of Los Angeles. (Photo credit: Lori Huck)

Why not bring Venice Italy to Los Angeles? That was Abbot Kinney's dream in 1905 when he built the man-made Venice Canals to offer a hint of Italy. But the real thrill, at least today, is to walk along the canals and bridges and see the diverse architectural styles of homes. It's a terrific walking tour that's open only to pedestrians.

9. L.A. Derby Dolls


Forget about the Lakers, the Rams, and the Dodgers, you can see them all on TV. For the live-action sports enthusiast, look to the L.A. Derby Dolls. That's right, Roller Derby. L.A.'s premier, all-female banked track roller derby league, the Derby Dolls are an entirely volunteer-run organization that is fun, spirited and in-your-face competitive. Current bouts take place at the "Dolloseum." (Note: at press time, the Dolloseum was renovating; check DerbyDolls.com for schedule information.)

10. The Museum of Jurassic Technology

A library restored to it's time period is one of the exibits at the Musium of Jurassic Technology inLA Times via Getty Images​​​​​​​

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is definitely the most quirky and fascinating museum that Los Angeles has to offer (sorry LACMA). With its dim lighting and offbeat tone, this "curiosities" museum features exhibits both from the natural and man-made worlds. It's all oddly mesmerizing with displays of micro-miniature art, floral radiographs and collections from the Los Angeles area mobile home parks, to name just a few.

Lori Huck works in television development as well as writes on entertainment, travel and the arts. She's a fan of the vibrant arts scene in Los Angeles and is a member of various film, television, and arts organizations.

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