Secret Los Angeles: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure

“Secret Los Angeles: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure” showcases the hidden gems around the city of LA. 

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anny Jensen moved to Los Angeles from New York to become an actor more than 10 years ago. His day job as a writer took him in another direction—writing for the likes of Thrillist, Time Out and TravelZoo.

Jensen recently released his book “Secret Los Angeles: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure,” which dives into LA’s “secret” spots that locals and visitors might not be aware of.

“I was sort of doing it on my own as I got to know the history of the city and just checking out cool places and just had the opportunity to share those places with more than just my group of friends,” Jensen said. 

“It was sort of a natural thing that I used to do living in New York as well as living in Boston.”

He previously co-wrote the second edition of “100 Things to Do in Los Angeles Before You Die” in 2018. His co-author, Carrie Kim, followed Jensen’s travel writing and wanted his help when it came time to write the follow-up, “Secret Los Angeles.”

“I guess it would be more essential places to explore in terms of locals and tourist things you got to take off your bucket list,” Jensen said. “Then the publisher approached after that and said, ‘Hey, do you want to do this follow-up book, “Secret Los Angeles”?’ The publisher does a series of other cities across the country, too.”

Jensen completed several other guides for various cities and countries, including Iceland, and was excited to further look for Los Angeles’ “underground places.” 

“Having been here and writing about the city for 10 years, it triggered sort of my preliminary research; and then sitting down and getting ready to write the book and picking out specific places, that took about a year and a half,” Jensen said.

Jensen said it was tough to pick favorite spots. Highlights include Angeles Crest Creamery, a goat farm in Angeles National Forest, and original speakeasies.

“There are actually some of the original Prohibition-era speakeasies you can explore in various ways,” Jensen said. “There are some open where you can go for a tour with a group and it will take you around and you can explore these cool bars.

“Another that has really great history that I was enjoying in sort of digging into was the jazz history of Central Avenue and particularly the Dunbar Hotel, which was kind of the heart and the hub of the ’20s up until the ’50s and ’60s.”

He also touched on jazz legends such as Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald and their stays at the Dunbar Hotel when they performed nearby. 

“It’s a really cool piece of history that I think not everybody knows about, so it’s fun to explore and share that with people,” Jensen said.

Before COVID-19, he helped conduct in-person tours around the city. He is now hosting virtual tours and events to help promote his book. Previous online events include a virtual tour of Hollywood and a Zoom call featuring a whiskey tasting and poetry reading.

“I want people who are visiting LA and who live here and maybe who have lived here for their whole lives to get a chance to see the city in a new light,” Jensen said. “I want them to really explore these hidden corners, and I see (this book) as a launching pad to get them exploring more.”

He hopes to continue the virtual tours and eventually return to in-person events to “continue the exploration.”