Nine shopping-free ways to spend the day after Thanksgiving in L.A.

By David A. Keeps
November 18, 2015
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Los Angeles is a world-class shopping destination—the first U.S. city to have flagship stores for Neapolitan tailoring masters Isaia, and COS, the upscale clothing brand launched by H&M in 2007—but there are 364 other, less-crowded days for retail therapy. Here are some alternatives to the hustle and bustle of L.A.’s famed shopping strips and mega-malls.

1. Take a Hike

Park your car at Trails Café on Fern Dell Road in Griffith Park, grab a beverage, and climb the steep and winding 20-minute aerobic path up to the Griffith Observatory, which offers killer views of the Hollywood sign and the sweep of the L.A. basin, both coming and going. Admission at the Art Deco masterpiece—made famous in the James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause—is free.

2. Ride the Metro

Los Angeles’ subway and light rail system is cheap, clean, and relatively convenient. From numerous stops in both Hollywood and downtown, you can reach Koreatown, Chinatown, Pasadena, Los Feliz, Universal Studios theme park (which just launched the new Fast & Furious Supercharged ride), the Autry National Center western museum, and even the historic ocean vessel Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific in downtown Long Beach.

3. Picnic Breakfast

Fans of chef Ludo Lefebvre, the king of pop-up restaurants, now have one more spot to queue up for. In addition to his ticketed tasting menu restaurant Trois Mec and the bistro Petit Trois, the tattooed French impresario just launched Trois Familia, a neighborhood French-Mexican café with white painted indoor picnic tables in a strip mall on a suddenly hip stretch of Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake.

4. Prowl Downtown

From the new Broad Museum to the classic Bradbury Building, featured in Blade Runner, The Artist, and 500 Days of Summer, Los Angeles is filled with architectural splendors—including Frank Gehry’s monumental Walt Disney Concert Hall (check out the garden in the back with a fountain made from Delft china). And don’t miss out on nearby Grand Park, a vibrant urban green belt that stretches from City Hall to the Music Center.

5. Howl at the Petersen

The city’s famed automotive museum is filled with Hollywood classics, hotrods, and the Popemobile, but its recent renovation into a mess of steel ribbons wrapped around a red building designed by New York architecture firm Kohn Pederson Fox, has caused a civic uproar. After you’ve had a look—and a laugh—head over to the more stylish spots on Museum Row—the La Brea Tar Pits, The Craft and Folk Art Museum, and the campus of LACMA (featuring Ray’s & Stark Bar, which has a water sommelier, yes, you read that right)—or meander over to Little Ethiopia (Fairfax Avenue, south of Olympic Boulevard), and try the rich stews and injera flatbread at Messob or Meals by Genet.

6. Improvise

Los Angeles is known for its many famous improv troupes that have launched the careers of SNL stars and comedians. Among them: Upright Citizen’s Brigade, Groundlings, and Second City. But Improv Olympics is where it all began, and it’s a secret gem on the comedy scene in the heart of Hollywood, with its own bar.

7. Space Out

At Exposition Park, a complex of institutions including the 1984 Olympic stadium and the National History Museum of Los Angeles (check out the amazing gem vault), the California Science Center features a pavilion displaying the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

8. Hit the Beach

It might be too cold to swim, but you can check out the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica pier and boardwalk, and the Venice Canals on a $68 two- to three-hour guided bicycle tour from Pedal or Not. You can use this as an excuse to burn off the Turkey Day calories, or just cruise—all bikes have standard pedals and an electric motor.

9. Embrace the Dark Side

Walking down Hollywood Boulevard, you’ll get hustled by all kinds of tour operators, including the TMZ bus that departs from the famous Chinese theater. For an even more salacious experience, head over to Sunset Boulevard and join one of the Tragical History Tours, which highlight true Hollywood crimes. Why not cap it all off with a visit to one of the city’s favorite goth haunts Museum of Death? It is Black Friday, after all.

David A. Keeps is on the Los Angeles beat for Travel + Leisure. The host of Ovation TV's "Art and The City," he writes regularly about travel and design. Follow him on Twitter at @davidkeeps and Instagram at @davidkeepsinsta.