When friends from out of town come to visit me in LA, the ones who've never been here before always want to see the same things: the Walk of Stars, Mann's Chinese Theater, Rodeo Drive; the same things tourists in LA have been doing for forty or fifty years. Instead, I devised my own tour. A must for everyone is Clifton's Cafeteria downtown, which I blogged about in a post called LA's Uncanniest Eatery. It's one of the city's original theme restaurants -- the theme being a redwood forest, so you eat among indoor waterfalls and redwood stumps and animatronic gophers, all basically unchanged since 1935. It's rumored that Clifton's inspired Walt Disney to create his theme park.

Another must-see are the Watts Towers, a junk-art institution created in a local man's backyard in the 50s and 60s, which I'm convinced would be LA's equivalent of the Statue of Liberty today if it weren't smack-dab in the middle of a neighborhood that a lot of people are afraid to go to. If you're coming to LA, let me reassure you: it's safe. Just don't come at night, and don't wander off.

If the visitor in question is really adventurous (and I have the time), I'll take them out into the desert to see some desolate, inspiring weirdness. This includes but is not limited to the Salton Sea, Joshua Tree National Park, and Salvation Mountain. (All three links lead to posts I've done on those places.)

What are some cool places to visit in your neck of the woods that aren't on the tourist trail?