A sprawling metropolis boasting everything from Hollywood glamour to beaches and world-class gastronomy, Los Angeles has it all. While you’d be hard-pressed to explore all that the city has to offer in a single trip, here’s our guide to unmissable Los Angeles attractions.
Undoubtedly among Santa Monica’s most iconic landmarks and one of LA’s top attractions, Santa Monica Pier dates back over 100 years. Home to the Pacific Park amusement park, the pier is recognizable for its solar-paneled Ferris wheel and rollercoaster, and it also boasts an original 1920s carousel hippodrome and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Though open all year round, the pier comes into its own during the summer months when it plays host to concerts, movie screenings and other activities, many of which are free to the public.
In 1953, Hollywood Chamber of Commerce president EM 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 TCL Chinese Theatre, 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.
Clifton’s Republic is a magical place to eat, drink and explore. Once a multi-café franchise – founded in 1931 by Clifford Clinton – this specific Clifton’s, in Downtown Los Angeles, is the last one standing. It shut down in 2011 for restoration and has been reopening in phases since 2015. Clifton’s stands five stories tall and includes a cafeteria, the Pacific Seas tiki bar, and a Redwoods-themed bar that features taxidermy tableaus and an artificial tree that rises through multiple floors. The Marketplace cafeteria serves American comfort food and desserts, and the Monarch drinks lounge and Gothic Bar offer craft cocktails and beer. The Pacific Seas specializes in Polynesian food and tiki drinks.
Universal Studios is the ultimate place to experience LA’s movie-making magic. From studio tours through classic film sets to immersive experiences in films like Harry Potter and Jurassic Park, Universal is a must-visit spot for any first-time LA travelers. And, for the more adventurous set-goers, a visit to WaterWorld is unforgettable.
Just south of Santa Monica lies bohemian Venice. A stroll down the iconic Venice Boardwalk provides gorgeous ocean views, shopping opportunities, food, bars and eclectic street performers. Key spots in the area include Venice Skate Park and Muscle Beach Venice. Enhance your stroll with a coffee from Groundwork Coffee Company or Menotti’s Coffee Stop.
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 like 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(1990).
Those seeking a raucous time may like to drop by Jumbo’s Clown Room. This small, red-and-black bar has been around since the ’70s and has become something of a Los Angeles institution. These days, it’s famous as a bikini bar, with talented dancers and contortionists conquering the stage nightly. Performers choose songs on an old jukebox, with song selections including metal, ’90s alt-rock, and ’70s and ’80s throwbacks. Guests may not take pictures, and tips for dancers are expected.
It’s hard to explain what the Museum of Jurassic Technology is exactly. It isn’t organized in any logical way, and some of the information may not be entirely true. Yet it’s one of the most fascinating museums in LA, containing a surreal assemblage of seemingly unrelated objects. There is a collection of very, very tiny sculptures, each made from a strand of hair; a room full of letters sent to the Mount Wilson Observatory; a gallery consisting solely of paintings of dogs who were involved in the Soviet Space Program; decaying dice from magician Ricky Jay; and a Russian tea room where human guests share the space with unusually tame birds.
Opened in Downtown LA in 2015, The Broad contains some 2,000 pieces of contemporary art, including Jeff Koons’ Balloon Dog and selfie-favorite the Infinity Mirrored Room by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Guests must reserve tickets online and should book an additional ticket for the Infinity Mirrored Room if they wish to see it. Food and cocktails are available at the adjacent modern American restaurant, Otium.
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 see the famous Urban Light installation – 202 restored cast-iron antique street lamps that light up Wilshire Boulevard. Centrally located between the beach and Downtown Los Angeles, LACMA is among LA’s most popular tourist attractions.
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 café 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 parking is $15.
Set within Downtown Los Angeles, Chinatown is full of superb dining destinations, art galleries and unique shops. The neon-drenched Chinatown Central Plaza is a popular spot for photos, while nearby General Lee’s boasts the most innovative cocktails in the neighborhood. Head to Yang Chow restaurant for classic Chinese dishes, or savor fried chicken at Howlin’ Ray’s at Far East Plaza. Other highlights include the diverse art galleries of Chung King Road – Coagula Curatorial and The Good Luck Gallery are two of the best – and a bronze statue of film star Bruce Lee.
Located in stunning Griffith Park – LA’s largest public green space, spanning over 4,000 acres, and a popular LA attraction in itself – the Griffith Observatory sits on the southern face of Mount Hollywood and boasts some of the best views of the city, including downtown and the Hollywood Sign. Opened in 1935, the Griffith Observatory offers free-to-use telescopes, exhibitions and a high-tech planetarium. Admission to the Observatory and its grounds is free, but there is a small charge for tickets to the planetarium shows.
Far more than an open-air mall, The Grove is nothing less than an LA institution. This shopping destination is home to a plethora of stores – from Nordstrom to Anthropologie and Apple – restaurants, bars, a movie theater and even an American Girl doll café. For a snack and a moment of respite, pop into Sprinkles for a cupcake or Groundwork for a dose of caffeine. Along with shopping, The Grove is known for celebrity sightings and the iconic trolley that ferries guests from one end of the mall to the other. Adjacent to The Grove is the Original Farmer’s Market, which dates back to 1934 and is a hotspot for fresh produce and high-quality food vendors.
As it features an art gallery, an impressive library and elaborate botanical gardens, it’s not only bibliophiles who will love the enchanting Huntington Library. After exploring the library’s exhibitions and collections of rare books, step outside and be transported to a garden straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Roses and marble statues surround the ponds and waterfalls, with a Japanese-style bridge in the middle of it all. 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. Admission is free the first Thursday of the month, $25 on weekdays and $29 on weekends.
Established in 1917, Grand Central Market is a one-stop shop for every craving. Here you can find vendors offering an overwhelming selection of cuisines – from decadent breakfasts at Eggslut to handmade pupusas at Sarita’s Pupuseria – plus there’s coffee from G&B and juice from Press Brother’s, along with a host of choices for wine and beer. In addition to meals, visitors can also shop for fresh produce and sundries here.
It might seem morbid for a cemetery to feature in a list of must-visit sights, but the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is undoubtedly one of LA’s top attractions. This cemetery is known for its famous permanent residents, including director Cecil B DeMille, actress Judy Garland, and The Beatles’ George Harrison. Johnny Ramone of The Ramones was cremated after his death in 2004, but a bronze statue stands as a memorial to the musician in this cemetery. The burial ground comes into its own in the summer when Hollywood Forever regularly hosts concerts, film screenings and other events for the living to enjoy.
Designers Charles and Ray Eames – the husband-and-wife duo who gave us the Eames chair – built the Eames House in 1949 as part of the Case Study House Program. The couple lived in this home (also known as Case Study House No 8) until their deaths in 1978 and 1988, respectively. Since 2004, the Eames Foundation has managed this landmark of mid-20th-century modern architecture. Visitors can see the home’s striking exterior for $10 (reservations required 48 hours in advance) from 10am to 4pm daily, with the exception of Wednesdays and Sundays. Interior tours are $275 for up to two people.
For a pleasant stroll, there is no better spot than the peaceful (and Instagram-worthy) Venice Canals. Developer Abbot Kinney, who was hoping to recreate the appearance of the canals found in Venice, Italy, installed several human-made canals in 1905. In 1910, other developers made six more. While the original canals fell into disrepair and were ultimately filled, the other six were restored in the ’90s. Now the Venice Canals are a much sought-after location for living and a hit among visitors to LA, thanks to their combination of tranquility and vibrant color.
One of Los Angeles’s best-known hiking destinations is Runyon Canyon Park, comprising some 160 acres of land and trails that start just two blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard. The untamed chaparral and stunning views draw many joggers, walkers and hikers (and their dogs), while celebrity sightings are common thanks to the park’s proximity to the Hollywood Hills.