6 Unique Tours In Los Angeles
Anyone who's ever walked along Hollywood Boulevard has been solicited by folks hustling tours of celebrity homes and movie landmarks. We're not knocking those tours, but if it's not your thing, we understand and we have a list just for you. Here are a list of our favorite offbeat tours, including dark journeys through the macabre and one that's hosted by a clown.
Dearly Departed Tours
Dearly Departed has been conducting grim and grisly tours around Los Angeles for a decade, and their storefront on Sunset Blvd. has been open to the public for the last couple years. This is where you'll meet the rest of your tour group, but the Hollywood spot also has some chilling artifacts on display, like the suitcase Jayne Mansfield packed the night she died and pieces of Sharon Tate's fireplace. Founder Scott Michaels says their staple tour is the 'Tragical History Tour.' This tour has been acknowledged as the inspiration for the tour seen on FX's American Horror Story: Murder House. The 25-mile tour is three hours of bad news, including notorious crimes, the fates of Hollywood icons like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, plus lesser known but equally unlucky Angelenos. There are no ghosts or legends to drive ticket sales at Dearly Departed (though they do offer a ghosts and legends walking tour if you're curious), as Michaels says "the truth is good enough." In fact, they strive to tell stories the way they actually happened and often debunk false mythology.
In addition to the Tragical History tour, Dearly Departed also offers a number of specialty tours. Helter Skelter retells the story of the Manson Family, and there are tours showing famous movie scenes. Near Halloween, you can take a tour with only shooting locations from horror films. One of their more unique tours is the Nasty Nellie Tour, in which actress Alison Arngrim (best known for portraying Nellie Oleson on Little House on the Prairie) talks about her experience growing up a child actor in L.A.
Every year, Dearly Departed raises money to mark one unmarked grave, usually a person from the entertainment industry, and they also donate to a victims' rights charity set up by Sharon Tate's mother, Doris Tate.
Dearly Departed. 6603 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. Dates and times vary. Tragical History Tour is $48, see website for other tour info and pricing.
Crimebo is our favorite guide to the bizarre and macabre side of Los Angeles. He's a clown with a well-researched knowledge of Los Angeles' most treacherous urban legends. Jump in Crimebo's van and he'll take you to an apartment building where they say a cannibal granny used to live, or the spot where they found one of the Hillside Stranger's victims. Maybe he'll take you down to the old L.A. County Jail and tell you about a mysterious prisoner who never had a cellmate he cared for—there was a rumor that cops would stick you with this guy to get rid of you. Or Crimebo might take you over to Linda Vista Hospital, rumored to be one of the most haunted places in Los Angeles. While Dearly Departed is 'just the facts, ma'am', Crimebo's as much a showman as a tour guide, and a ringmaster as much as a historian. Crimebo also does some walking tours.
Crimebo once appeared on The Travel Channel. His guests freak out about a cockroach, so we're actually not sure how they made it through the whole thing without losing control of a bodily function or two.
Esotouric offers a robust array of tours, often delving into a noir world of back alleys and intrigue. They offer a chance to walk in the footsteps of L.A. legends like Raymond Chandler, shocking misdeeds. And there are tours that expose the historical significance of downtown's beautiful buildings. Occasionally, they even pair up with Crimebo, or a forensics expert that can shed some light on their process. Some upcoming tours will walk guests through the true crime stories of the Night Stalker and the 60 Freeway Slayer, two notorious SoCal serial killers, and sinister side of Echo Park. A new tour puts an Estouric spin on Hollywood: "No, you won't see the stars' homes or hear about their latest real estate deals, but we'll show you where some colorful characters breathed their last, got into trouble that defined the rest of their lives and came up with ideas that the world is still talking about."
Esotouric. Times, dates and ticket price vary.
A+D's Urban Hikes with Mike the Poet
The Museum of Architecture and Design offers urban hikes around interesting neighborhoods hosted by Mike Sonksen, perhaps better known as Mike the Poet. Mike, a native Angeleno, leads the tour with an emphasis on architecture and history, of course, but he also performs his poetry along the way. Past tours have included Koreatown, Leimert Park and the L.A. River. The next urban hike hits Highland Park.
Urban Hikes. Dates vary, but all start at 11 a.m.
On Saturday from May through October, the Museum of Neon Art offers a three-hour tour in a double decker convertible that explores the different pieces of flickering neon around Los Angeles. Hosted by 15-year veteran Eric Lynxwiler, the tour explores history, architecture and culture in Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. In particular, guests visit DTLA's Broadway District and Hollywood Boulevard. There are two intermissions, frequently in Chinatown and at Canter's where guests can use the bathroom, get a bite or grab a drink. Lynxwiler says his top three neon signs in L.A. are an animated Buddha in Chinatown, a glowing heart at a church in Westlake and a blue-haired baker at Canter's Deli.
Neon Cruise. Saturdays at 7 p.m., May through October. $55/person. 4th and Main, DTLA.
L.A. Art Tours
This unique handful of tours offers a small group the chance to explore DTLA's modern art scene. They offer private tours and the occasional special event, but their guided group tours are fun, casual and informative. The downtown L.A. Graffiti and Mural Tour is led by local artists who explain not only the history and personalities of the street art visited, but some insight into how street art is created and its culture. We toured with Hector Calderon, who took us around the Arts District and showed off a number of recent murals. The tour also includes a stop at Art District Flea, which sells locally made art and other goods. L.A. Art Tours also offers a tour of the Brewery Arts Complex, the world's largest live/work arts colony, as well as the Santa Fe Art Colony Tour. Here, guests will meet working artists in their own environments.
L.A. Art Tours. Location, price and times vary.