10 Los Angeles tourist attractions for crowd haters

If being swept along in a crowd of agitated tourists and having to wait for hours to enjoy almost anything just doesn't appeal to you, you might want to avoid some of the more famous Los Angeles tourist attractions like Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood during their peak hours. If you'd rather not have a mass of humanity joining you, here are some typically less populated places to visit.

1. Descanso Gardens
Flower lovers and anyone seeking a little tranquility ("Descanso" does, after all, translate to "place of rest") will enjoy stopping to smell the roses here, along with camellias (it's the biggest collection in North America) and lilacs. Located in La Canada (pronounced can-YAH-dah) Flintridge, Descanso Gardens is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is about $10 for adults.

2. Paramount Ranch
Why shell out the equivalent of a car payment to take your family to Universal Studios when you can visit an authentic Western movie set for free? Since 1927, the Old West town facades have been used in old and new classics like "Gunsmoke" and "WestWorld," along with definitely-not-classics like "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas." The movie set is now part of a national park hidden in the hills of Agoura. Open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. Free.

3. Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
There's plenty to see besides other tourists at this sprawling complex in San Marino, about 12 miles northeast of downtown L.A. There's a library (with rare copies of the Gutenberg Bible and Shakespeare plays from 1623), four art galleries (don't miss the famous "Pinkie" by Thomas Lawrence and "Blue Boy" by Thomas Gainsborough) and 120 acres of botanical gardens. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is around $25 for adults and free for kids.

4. Craft & Folk Art Museum
Not far from the much more popular (i.e., crowded) Los Angeles County Museum of Art is this little gem. You don't have to be especially crafty to enjoy the ever-changing exhibits that challenge our ideas about craft and folk art. Open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is about $10 for adults and free for children under 10.

5. Franklin Canyon Park
You won't find any white-knuckle thrill rides at Franklin Canyon Park, but don't be surprised by the thrill of hearing the "Andy Griffith Show" theme whistle inside your head here. That's because the fishing hole in the opening credits was really Myers Lake, located in this 600-acre Beverly Hills park. You may also recognize it from "Creature from the Black Lagoon," "Gilligan's Island" and many other beloved movies and TV shows. Free. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

6. The Museum of Jurassic Technology
Although the name might lead you to believe there are movie dinosaurs on display, that's not at all what you'll find in this extremely weird and wonderful Culver City museum. Exhibits include a scale model of Noah's Ark, oil paintings of dog cosmonauts, and a horn that may or may not have grown from a woman's head in the 1600s. Free tea and cookies are served in a tearoom. Open Thursday through Sunday in the afternoon. There's no admission fee, but donations are appreciated.

7. Roundhouse Aquarium
If you're hankering to gaze at fish but just don't want to deal with the hassle and expense of a trip to the much larger Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, this free little aquarium at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier is a good alternative. There's an interactive tidepool exhibit that lets you touch marine critters, as well as a shark tank and a living reef tank. Open weekday afternoons and from 10 a.m. to sunset on weekends; the hours are extended during the summer. Donations are accepted.

8. Lomita Railroad Museum
If you love trains, you've got to take the 45-minute drive south (it's a bummer, train buffs, that Metrorail won't get you here yet) to Lomita and visit this hidden gem that may remind you of the train depot at (the very, very crowded) Disneyland. You can even sit inside a 1910 Union Pacific caboose and the cab of a 1902 Southern Pacific steam locomotive. Open Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is about $4.

9. The International Printing Museum
Sure, it may sound like a snoozefest to whippersnappers born in the digital age, but this Carson museum will surprise them. It offers a fascinating look at the process of how books are made. Visitors can even operate one of the antique printing presses and take home a really cool souvenir. Open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is around $10.

10. Point Vicente Interpretive Center
Whale-watching cruises off the coast of L.A. are typically packed with people and not recommended for anyone prone to seasickness. (You really don't want the captain announcing, "Thar she blows...chunks!") A better alternative for crowd haters is the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, located on a Rancho Palos Verdes clifftop overlooking the Pacific Ocean. From December through April, it's not unusual to see whales making their way north to Alaska, and no Dramamine is required. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free.

Laura Goldman is a freelance writer and native Angeleno. Check out her i Still Love Dogs blog and follow her on Twitter.