Whether it’s Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica or Malibu, Los Angeles is packed with things to see and do. So, if you’re planning your next trip, this is your go-to list for the things to do in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is known for many things: the entertainment industry, expansive beaches, a great culinary scene and a renowned nightlife. But if you want to boil LA down to its most essential bits, it’s important to experience the attractions that make it the spectacular city that it is. On any given day, you can swim in the sea, hike up a mountain, see someone famous and shop until you drop. So, as you think about packing for the ultimate LA adventure, make sure your suitcase is filled with swimming suits, hiking boots and plenty of space for souvenirs.
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Warner Bros Studio Tour
To get an insider’s insight into the world of Warner Bros, you can take our specially curated Art Tour of LA which includes a street mural tour led by a Warner Bros artist.
Speaking of cars, the Petersen Automotive Museum is ground zero for motor enthusiasts of all ages. There are rotating exhibits that ensure no two trips will be the same, and there are numerous events to keep your interests piqued behind the wheel. One of the most interesting parts of the museum is The Vault, where an extra 250 rare and unique cars are on display.
La Brea Tar Pits
Whether the La Brea Tar Pits are an archaeological marvel or simply an oddity of nature is up to interpretation, but whichever you think, they are a unique, and free, place to take a date. You’ll get to see asphalt seep and bubble up through cracks in the earth, as it has been doing for 65 million years, and watch a team of archaeologists at work excavating fossils. If you’re lucky, they’ll discover the remains of a wooly mammoth while you’re there, like they did in 2006. Afterward, you can grab dinner at one of the famed food trucks lining Wilshire Boulevard – El Chato Taco Truck draws crowds in from near and far for their award-winning tacos, quesadillas, and burritos.
Soaring 69 floors above downtown LA, the OUE Skyspace is the perfect way to get a handle on the size and scope of the entire city. Gain all-day access to the most epic views along with interactive displays, informational movies about the city, and a bar with local beer and wine as well as snacks. The space also includes a glass slide that whips you down to a lower floor while helicopters buzz between the nearby skyscrapers. Throughout the year, OUE Skyspace holds events that include movie screenings, sunset and sunrise yoga, and a variety of holiday parties.
Natural History Museum
For dinosaur lovers, this classic Downtown LA museum is an absolute must-visit. Located in Exposition Park, the Natural History Museum opened in 1913. Today, it houses more than 35 million artefacts, including the Dinosaur Hall with a T-Rex trio and Triceratops fossil, the Age of Mammals with giant fossilized mammoths and Nature Gardens with more than 600 plant species.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the largest art museum in the western US. With holdings of Islamic, Asian and Latin art, LACMA also arguably boasts one of the most diverse art collections around. Outside, visitors will also the infamous Urban Light installation – 202 cast iron antique street lamps that have been restored and light up Wilshire Boulevard. Centrally located between the beach and downtown Los Angeles, LACMA is among LA’s most popular tourist attractions.
Any trip to LA should include a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway that carves through the mountains of Malibu on one side and hugs the bright blue ocean on the other. Heading deep into this urban oasis, you’ll find Point Dume, a promontory point with soaring cliffs, pristine beaches, and wildlife that includes sun-bathing sea lions and whale spouts off in the distance. The Point is also next Zuma Beach, which is the ideal tanning and chilling spot that makes the busy streets of LA feel thousands of miles away.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
In 1953, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president E.M. Stuart came up with an idea that would culminate in one of the world’s most famous sidewalks: the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1961, after numerous heated debates over which celebrities should have a star, construction ended on the Walk. Back then, there were 1,558 stars; today, there are over 2,600, with more added every year.
You can find the Walk of Fame along Hollywood Boulevard between Gower Street and La Brea Avenue; Vine Street between Yucca Street and Sunset Boulevard; and Marshfield Way between Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. Along the route, guests will also encounter the historic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, as well as the legendary TLC Chinese Theater, host of numerous notable film premieres and, at least for three years, the Academy Awards. Pause at Sunset Boulevard and Bronson Avenue to get a clear view of the distant Hollywood Sign. Expect these streets to be packed with tourists, as well as street performers vying for attention and tips.
The most obvious choice, Disneyland and its sister park, California Adventure, are pretty self-explanatory, and their princess castles and magical land filled with fairytale characters are universally known. The lesser known secret is that discounted tickets are available through many organizations for Southern California residents, and those who live nearby can also purchase a season pass to come whenever they want for only $30 per month.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, commonly referred to as the Getty, is an art museum spread across two campuses: the Getty Center and Getty Villa. The Getty Center, opened in 1997, is breathtaking in many ways. Architect Richard Meier is behind its modern design, and its position on a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains offers incredible views. Thoughtful exhibits, spectacular gardens and a restaurant and cafe stand to keep guests entertained for hours. The Getty Villa can be found towards the easterly end of the Malibu coast, and is dedicated to the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.
Admission to both the Getty Villa and Getty Center is free, but you can take a guided tour and make the most of LA’s art scene as part of Culture Trip’s curated Art Tour of LA.
Arguably one of the best lookout points in LA, the Observatory itself also offers hosts of activities once inside. Not only does the Observatory provide free public telescope usage almost every clear-skied evening, it also holds public star parties once a month where visitors can look through a variety of telescopes with well-informed amateur astronomers. Leading from Griffith Park to the Observatory is a bevy of hikes, from the well-known Firebreak trail to the lesser-known Western Canyon loop. The Berendo Stairs, located at the intersection of Berendo Street and Cromwell Avenue, also offer an alternate route up to the Observatory (there are even benches at either end and the midway point of the 181 stairs).
Rodeo Drive is synonymous with luxury and affluence. Though the Beverly Hills street itself is two miles (3.2 kilometers) long, the Rodeo Drive tourists flock to is a much shorter section bounded by Wilshire Boulevard to the south and Santa Monica Boulevard to the north. High-end stores including Louis Vuitton, Versace, and Dior call this area home. Visitors may also want to stop by the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the exterior of which was prominently featured in the film Pretty Woman.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier, which opened in 1909, was once known as the final stop on the famed Route 66 that originally ran from Chicago to LA. Now, the pier is the most picturesque spot in Santa Monica and features a bevy of attractions, such as amusement park rides, kitschy restaurants and a calendar of events that includes big-name concerts, fireworks displays and huge holiday parties. Instagram-fanatics will find plenty of selfie spots for the maximum amount of likes on this Pacific Ocean point.
Venice Boardwalk is home to the weird, wonderful, wacky and wild. Along this famous stretch of seaside streets is the world-renowned Muscle Beach, hard-top basketball courts, a skate park and so much more. Buskers abound singing and dancing for dollars, while other merchants peddle their artistic and holistic wares along the way. Every bit of LA culture can be found on the boardwalk, and you’ll find yourself gawking at once-in-a-lifetime sights of pure zany humanity. If you fancy experiencing the area like a resident, hop on an electric bike and follow your guide through the sights of Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Enjoy the ocean breeze as you cruise along the boardwalk. If you have any questions, ask your native LA guide who’s on hand to answer anything you want to know.
Home to legendary music venues the Viper Room, Whisky a Go Go, and the Roxy Theatre, the Sunset Strip has seen major performances from rock royalty since the 1960s. The Strip is more than just music though, as it’s also home to famous hotels like the Standard, Chateau Marmont, and Sunset Tower, as well as big-time comedy clubs like the Comedy Store and the Laugh Factory. On any given night, you could run into A-list celebs, music gods, and comic legends while dining, drinking, and just cruising this famous boulevard.
Not only can bibliophiles lust after the numerous books found in the lovely Huntington Library, but they can step outside and be transported to a garden only found in a Jane Austen novel. Roses and marble statues surround the ponds and waterfalls, with a Japanese-style bridge in the middle of it all. Lovers of romance and historical fiction will enjoy sitting among the flowers while reading Pride and Prejudice. To immerse further in the experience, visitors can also enjoy tea and freshly baked pastries in the Rose Garden Tea Room, which overlooks the garden.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the resting place of celebrities like Cecil B. DeMille, Johnny Ramone and Estelle Getty. The grounds themselves are an incredible destination, filled with gardens and gorgeous architecture, but the events hosted onsite make this a must-visit spot. In addition to concerts held on-site, the cemetery is host to a series of outdoor movie screenings each summer.
The Santa Monica Mountains divide Los Angeles between the city and the San Fernando Valley, and driving along Mulholland Drive is one of the best ways to see all that LA has to offer. The long and winding road features scenic overpasses that give you bird’s-eye views of Downtown, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Warner Bros Studios, Universal Studios and the ocean. Mulholland Drive starts in Hollywood and extends west to Malibu until it connects with the Pacific Coast Highway.
California Science Center
Have you ever wanted to see a space shuttle up close and see how astronauts live and work in space? If you head over to the California Science Center, you’ll get the chance to explore every detail of the Space Shuttle Endeavour and learn about the history of air and space travel. Other exhibitions at the museum include an IMAX theater, the world’s largest display of LEGO art and interactive exhibits and attractions.
This article is an updated version of a story created by Juliette Bennett Rylah.
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