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Los Angeles | © Chris Yarzab / Flickr

16 Reasons Why You Should Visit Los Angeles at Least Once in Your Lifetime

Picture of Juliet Bennett Rylah
Juliet Bennett Rylah
Updated: 17 July 2017

Los Angeles, with its year-round pleasant weather and diverse selection of food and culture, should be a must-visit destination on anyone’s travel bucket list. For the unconvinced, here are 16 reasons why, including delicious food, balanced cocktails, and incredible architecture.

For the weather

Southern California has amazing weather. It’s sunny almost all year long, with average highs hovering around 70 to 80°F (21–27°C), and average lows in the upper 40s to low 60s (approximately 8–17°C). You won’t have to pack your snow boots, and most nights are fine with just a jacket. Unlike some of the desert cities, L.A. also tends to cool off at night, making it easy to get a good night’s rest.

For the diversity

Want a Hawaiian breakfast, Ethiopian for lunch, and all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ for dinner? Los Angeles can do that. L.A. is a diverse city where the cuisine, festivals, and culture of many ethnicities can be respectfully sampled and enjoyed. Neighborhoods such as Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Little Ethiopia, and Koreatown offer plenty of great food, as well as museums, galleries, shopping, and educational opportunities.

For the beaches

Los Angeles County has over 70 miles of coastline, and it’s all beautiful. Some tourists flock to the populated shores of Santa Monica or Venice Beach for people-watching and sight-seeing, while others prefer the more demure and secluded beaches of nearby Malibu. Orange County has gorgeous beaches too, and it’s just a short car or train ride away.

For the comedy scene

Most people associate quality comedy with New York or Chicago, but L.A. is also home iconic theaters and smaller stand-up shows. There’s usually a well-known headliner at famous clubs such as The Laugh Factory and The Comedy Store. Los Angeles also has two Upright Citizens Brigade theaters—a smaller, very affordable theater in Franklin Village, and a larger, yet still affordable theater on Sunset Boulevard. You can also catch great shows on the cheap in the theater at Meltdown Comics and The Virgil or open mics at numerous bars and cafés around town. An added bonus of watching comedy in L.A. is that it’s not entirely uncommon for a big name to show up and do a drop-in set at a smaller show or open mic. 

For the live theater

There are so many types of theater occurring in Los Angeles on a nightly basis that even the pickiest critic should be pleased. Traditional theater takes place in spaces such as The Geffen Playhouse, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and the Mark Taper Forum. Broadway shows rotate in and out of Pantages in Hollywood. Experimental and indie theater put on shows in several exciting venues along Santa Monica Boulevard in what’s known as Hollywood’s Theater Row or at Echo Park’s Bootleg Theater or North Hollywood’s Zombie Joe’s. More elusive, but no less enchanting, is Los Angeles’ immersive theater scene, which you’ll find scattered throughout the city in often secret locations.

For the Record: Scorsese – An American Crime Requiem at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts | Photo by Kevin Parry

For the food

Los Angeles is home to so much good food that even year-round residents can’t consume it all. Those looking for fine dining may try Providence, helmed by Chef Michael Cimarusti, Beverly Hills’ Spago or Santa Monica’s Mélisse. For hip spots, there’s Hot Hot Food, which specializes in numerous types of fried rice, Silver Lake Thai favorite Same Same, or Echo Park’s elegant Winsome. There’s also all of Thai Town, where people hail Jitlada as the champion of spice. Trendy outposts such as Salazar in Silver Lake (the shrimp quesadilla is amazing) or roadside carts or hidden backyard gems such as Dona Mary in Watts serve up excellent Mexican fare. New restaurants are opening up every week, meaning the scene is constantly evolving—just like your palate.

Same Same | © Juliet Bennett Rylah

For the cocktails

Though moderation is key, Los Angeles is home to numerous cocktail lounges where mixologists go to great lengths to whip up the most innovative of libations. Some top-notch gin joints include downtown L.A.’s The Varnish and Faith & Flower, Koreatown’s Lock & Key, and West Hollywood’s Salt’s Cure. And if you’re not in the mood to wait for the bartender to smoke a glass, crack an egg and peel an orange, some bars are specializing in draft cocktails. Idle Hour, a bar shaped like a giant barrel in North Hollywood, and downtown’s rock ‘n’ roll-style Slipper Clutch both offer on-point cocktails straight out of the gun.

The ‘Gin Street Girl’ from Salt’s Cure’s Tom Waits menu | © Juliet Bennett Rylah

For the magic

Los Angeles offers a surprising number of opportunities for magic fans. There’s the seminal Magic Castle, a private club for magicians. Those who are not magicians or members may enjoy dinner and a show if they can secure an invitation from a member. A trip to Universal Studios Hollywood will offer a chance to visit the town of Hogsmeade in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The butter beer is flowing, and plenty of photo opportunities abound. Plus, there are two rides: dark ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and coaster Flight of the Hippogriff. There’s also Black Rabbit Rose, a new magic-themed bar from the Houston Brothers that features cocktails made with spectacles, magic shows, a weekly jazz night, and plenty of tricks.

For the music

Tourists who come to L.A. hoping to see a concert or live rock show are in luck. The Sunset Strip offers all the storied venues of old, with new and established rock and alternative acts performing multiple nights a week. Indie places in Silver Lake, Echo Park, Westlake and Highland Park offer new and local bands, while big names take the stage at the Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theater, and the Staples Center. For those who just want to catch a show, there are also numerous bars where live music occurs nightly for a small cover fee or free.

For the hiking

People in Los Angeles love to hike, and they don’t have to leave the city to do it. Locals and visitors alike flock to Griffith Park, a 4000-plus-acre park in the middle of the city, where numerous trails and recreational opportunities take advantage of Los Angeles’ stellar weather. For those seeking more urban hikes, there are staircases scattered throughout L.A. that allow adventurers to work up a sweat without diving deep into nature. For those looking for a more remote experience, it’s a relatively short drive to explore Malibu State Park, the Angeles National Forest, Eaton Canyon or a number of other beautiful natural areas. With so many state parks and forests, visitors can either go on short hikes and be cleaned up by dinner or spend three days out in the wilderness.

To nerd out

Visitors seeking to embrace their inner geek can visit one of Los Angeles’ many comic book shops, board game cafés, or nerdy art shows. Galleries such as iam8bit, Creature Features and Gallery 88 have rotating nostalgic exhibits drawing from video games, TV, and movies. Game Haus in Glendale and Art Major in Koreatown allow guests to choose from a selection of board games. Game Haus—which has the larger selection of games—serves coffee, tea, food, and desserts, while Art Major serves beer, wine, and snacks.

Visitors can enjoy video games at different bars, including EightyTwo in the Arts District, The One Up in Sherman Oaks, Blipsy in Koreatown, and Button Mash in Echo Park. Comic book stores such as Meltdown, Golden Apple ComicsSecret Headquarters, and A Shop Called Quest offer games, comic books, graphic novels, apparel, and more. It’s also worth checking to see what special studio tours are available at Universal Studios and Warner Brothers, or if there are any good exhibits at the Paley Center for Media.

A Shop Called Quest | © Juliet Bennett Rylah

For the festivals

It seems like nearly every weekend Los Angeles is enjoying a food, cultural, film or art festival. They include Vegan Food & Beer Fest, L.A. Food and Wine, theater-centric Fringe Fest, the L.A. Book Fair, and even CatConLA. Yes, that’s a festival dedicated to cats and those who love them. They take place all over the city, in parks, stadiums and conference centers, and could be a fun centerpiece to an L.A. vacation.

For the art

Los Angeles is home to multiple art museums, including the Getty Center, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), The Broad, and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. In addition to these institutions, there are also numerous galleries, both large and small, offering shows from both established and up-and-coming artists. Some favorite art spaces include La Luz de Jesus (lowbrow), Hauser & Wirth (contemporary), and L.A. Louver (contemporary).

Jason Rhoades Installations, 1994 – 2006 at Hauser & Wirth | © Juliet Bennett Rylah

For the history

Los Angeles is ripe with history if you know where to look. TV and film legends were made at historic studios; rock stars got their start in local venues; L.A. hosted the Olympics in 1984. For a quick study, check out one of the historical-themed tours, such as Estouric’s The Birth of Film Noir Tour or the Museum of Neon Art’s Neon Cruise.

For the architecture

Art Deco architecture can be found all throughout the city, in neighborhoods including downtown L.A., Koreatown, and Mid-Wilshire, with gems such as the Eastern Central Building, the former Bullocks Wilshire department store (now a law school), and historic theater The Wiltern. A stroll down Broadway in downtown Los Angeles reveals even more gorgeous architecture in the form of beautiful theaters with huge marquees. These theaters open to the public for an annual event every October called Nights on Broadway.

L.A. is also home to numerous case study houses and other mid-century notables from the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, John Lautner, and Richard Neutra. Also of note is Paul Williams, who designed homes for stars including Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. And that’s just the tip of Los Angeles’ architectural iceberg.

See things you recognize from the movies and TV shows

Los Angeles cannot be separated from its significant contributions to film and television. Tourists who love seeing the real-life locations of their favorite TV shows and movies should be able to root out several hotels, restaurants, homes, and bars featured in cinema throughout the ages. Some popular locations include the Bradbury Building (featured in Blade Runner); the Rosenheim Mansion (featured in American Horror Story and Buffy the Vampire Slayer); and Korean restaurant The Prince (Chinatown, New Girl).