So I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I tell you that L.A. is huge. I know, I know.  But because it is so ginormous, my list of things to do in L.A. is just as ginormous. And I finally, just recently wrote down (and published) my L.A. bucket list of what I think are the best things to do in Los Angeles. And I came up with 150 (sigh). But I’ve done 40 in two years, which I’m not sure if I should be stoked or depressed about.

Nonetheless, as I was going over my Los Angeles bucket list and cross-referencing it with my more general life list, I found a lot of overlap. The point is this: Beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Los Angeles is really a rad place, and there are some unique things to do in L.A. that you can do in few places around the world. L.A stereotypes aside, how many places can you do things like have a drink at a bar that was an actual speakeasy during prohibition, attend a taping of your favorite television show, take a backlot studio tour, ride a free ferry to an island on your birthday, visit the Bat Cave, ride in an antique car, or surf and snowboard all in one day? So yes, not many.

So today I’m sharing a few of the more unique things I’ve done from my Los Angeles bucket list.

Los Angeles Bucket List Things to Do

1. Eat the original French dip sandwich at a real prohibition-era speakeasy. Spoiler alert: The French dip didn’t originate in France, but rather Los Angeles. Interestlingly enough, however, there are two places that claim to be the original French dip in Los Angeles, Philippe’s and Cole’s. Cole’s, however, is unique in that it’s not only one of the oldest restaurants and bars in L.A., but has roots in prohibition. Prohibition may have ended decades ago, yet the secrecy lives on at Cole’s through Varnish, a speakeasy-style bar in the back through what looks like nothing more than a closet door. Furthermore, Varnish has one of the best cocktail programs in all of L.A. While they have a cocktail menu that changes regularly, I personally like ordering the bartender’s choice. It’s kind of like a game of Cocktail Whammy. And if there’s a wait, simply sit down at Cole’s and order a French dip. Now if that’s not two birds with one stone.

Cole's French Dip and Speakeasy in Los Angeles

2. Attend a television show taping. This is quite possibly my favorite, albeit a little touristy, thing to do in Los Angeles. However, it is not for the impatient, nor for those who don’t like television or touristy things. The first television show taping I went to was for The Sing-Off, which was basically like American Idol, but for acapella groups. You’ll almost always have to wait in line at the beginning, while during the actual taping, you’ll often see and hear the same scenes numerous times until they get it right. As such, you may be at a taping for several hours, like I was. However, you get to see some of the best names in entertainment, with many of them often interacting with the crowd during it. Some of the more popular television show tapings in L.A. include Tosh.0, Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Price Is Right, and Ellen, though tickets for Ellen are often booked weeks in advance. It’s recommended to use a website like On Camera Audiences or 1iota to get tickets. Oh, and the best part, it’s free!

Warner Bros. Studio Tour

3. Take a picnic and watch a movie at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Alright, before you check out on this whole watching a movie in a cemetery thing, let me tell you that this is one of locals’ favorite things to do in Los Angeles. The proof is the fact that people start lining up to jockey for prime lawn seating well over an hour before gates open. And yes, I’ve been one of those people. So then you just roll your blanket out, pop open a bottle of wine, and grab a HOT-N-READY pizza next door from Little Caesars. What’s great about Cinespia’s movies in the cemetery is largely the backdrop of Hollywood and sitting under the cover of Los Angeles’ iconic palm trees at sunset, while enjoying beer, wine, and food with your friends. Bonus points that the movies are some of the most classic films, many of which sell out weeks in advance.

Cinespia movies in the cemetery at Hollywood Forever

California Double of Snowboarding and Surfing4. Complete the California Double. No, the California Double isn’t a double cheeseburger off the secret menu at In-N-Out. Rather, the California Double refers to skiing (or snowboarding) and surfing (or in my case, paddle surfing) all in one day. Theoretically, you could do the California Double of snowboarding and surfing in just a half day, since Southern California’s best ski resort, Bear Mountain, is just a couple hours away. In my case, I started with a sunrise paddle in Malibu, dropped my surfboard at home, picked up my snowboard, and was to Bear Mountain by lunch. I, however, took it up a notch by surfing Malibu in the morning, snowboarding Bear Mountain in the afternoon, and then hiking Runyon Canyon in the evening. California triple?

5. Visit the Beverly Wilshire Hotel’s Penthouse Suite, aka the Pretty Woman Suite. I have to confession to make. I was obsessed with Pretty Woman when I was a kid. This one, however, I put on my sisters, who did things like put wigs on me as a baby. However, I cannot tell a lie, as I had the Pretty Woman soundtrack on cassette tape and can sing you every word to “King of Wishful Thinking.” So obviously, I had to put the Beverly Wilshire Hotel’s Penthouse Suite on my Los Angeles bucket list, since it is the most famous suite in L.A., and perhaps all of America, clocking in at $30,000 per night. After seeing my L.A. bucket list, the Beverly Wilshire actually reached out to me, and asked me if I’d like to see it. Le duh, of course I do. Curious about how far I could push the envelope, I asked for cocktails, and they happily obliged.

Los Angeles bucket list: Beverly Wilshire Pretty Woman Penthouse suite

In short, this was one of the coolest things I’ve done in L.A. As I was walking around the suite, taking photos and videos, I kind of felt like I was in an episode of Cribz, or perhaps better called, Suitez. Wraparound balcony, check. Bathtub overlooking L.A., check. Fully stocked refrigerator, check. Master bedroom with a walk-in closet bigger than some studio apartments, check. However, I stopped just short of asking if I could if I could take my Walkman into the bathroom for a bubble bath.

Header photo by Steve Lyon

What’s on your Los Angeles bucket list?