These 7 Iconic L.A. Spots Are Way More Interesting Than the Hollywood Sign

You’ve seen the names on Hollywood Boulevard, taken a selfie with the Hollywood sign in the background and surfed Malibu. So icon-wise, you’re good, right? Not yet—you need to check out these interesting, odd and moving spots around town to really know Los Angeles. Because we’re so much more than sunshine and smoothies.

The 8 Most Photogenic Places in Los Angeles

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Waves Of Flags Memorial

Every year in September, a flag for each of the victims of the 9/11 attacks springs up on the stretch of Pepperdine University on the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s a beautiful, breathtaking tribute that’s worth a visit.

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Grand Arts High School

Properly known as the Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, this public high school created a lot of controversy in 2008 when it unveiled an ornamental tower rising from its 950-seat performing arts theater. (The theater alone cost $49 million.) Not only are school budgets overall tight, but not everyone is a fan of a log flume that exists outside a waterpark. Still, it’s something to look at while you’re driving on the 101.

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Sunken City

It’s every homeowner’s nightmare: You’re snug in your seaside bungalow and then—bam!—it slides into the ocean. That’s what happened to a San Pedro community in the 1920s, when an unexplained landslide sucked 11 inches of land mass a day into the bay. You can still see the fenced-off ruins (alongside the Korean Friendship Bell and wintering monarch butterflies) at Point Fermin Park.

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This six-story, 60-ton sculpture manages to be hidden in plain sight. Designed to play music and flash lights, this 1975 kinetic art installation sits next to City Hall near Grand Park, but you probably haven’t noticed it because its tech operations had glitches when it was built and it was derided as “three wishbones in search of a turkey.” But now there’s a movement to spruce it up with a new operating system for full-functioning grooviness.

Department Of Power And Water

This DTLA building was erected in 1963, before drought and energy efficiency concerns made its concept problematic. Why not have a huge public structure surrounded by a moat and fountains that are kept blazingly lit at all hours of the day, wasting the very resources the department is meant to control? But hey, those fountains are baller.

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The Bonaventure Hotel

This fully mirrored, 35-story DTLA extravaganza has 1,354 guest rooms. But it’s pretty much overlooked in the rush toward today’s boutique hotels and luxury high-rises. Pity, because this 1970s hotel was designed as a utopian city-within-a-city and has odd retro features like an indoor running track and a rotating cocktail lounge.

Beverly Hills High School Tower

Another day, another controversial LAUSD tower. You’ve noticed this one while driving through Beverly Hills and mused, What’s hidden under that big flowered thing? Answer: An operating oil well. One that earned the school hundreds of thousands of dollars. In 2001, it was covered with a flowered scrim made by terminally ill children who painted on vinyl and christened the “Tower of Hope.” Then Erin Brockovich (note: file under “you can’t make this stuff up”) filed a suit claiming it was a health hazard, at which time it was nicknamed the “Tower of Hope You Don’t Get Cancer.” The drilling has stopped, and a cleanup has been ordered. But its duality makes it so iconically Los Angeles.