Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis, each neighborhood unique. Some are pressed against the sea; others are brimming with tourists hoping for a glimpse of a celebrity, while others are teeming with skyscrapers. The ambitious tourist will have to visit each of them if they aspire to hit these 20 uniquely L.A. attractions.
Santa Monica Pier
Route 66 begins in Chicago, but here is where it ends. The Santa Monica Pier opened in 1909, but it wasn’t until 1916 that carousel carver Charles I.D. Looff and his son added amusement park Pleasure Pier, which grew to include the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome (a carousel), and various carnival rides. There are several shops and restaurants here, and guests may also use the pier to fish.
Santa Monica Pier, 200 Sana Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA, USA, +1 310 458 8900
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 dressed as favorite characters, 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 a massive 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 manifests through taxidermy tableaus and an artificial tree that rises through multiple floors. One of the best secrets is a hidden cave that can be found by locating a second-floor staircase and following it around the bend. The cafeteria serves American comfort food and desserts, the bars sling craft cocktails and beer, while Pacific Seas specializes in Polynesian food and tiki drinks.
Clifton’s Republic, 648 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 627 1673
Universal Studios Hollywood
There are two distinct areas of this massive entertainment compound. There’s amusement park Universal Studios Hollywood, where guests will find key attractions like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Simpsons’ Springfield, a permanent Walking Dead maze, and the park’s annual Halloween Horror Nights every autumn. For those who don’t wish to splurge on a park pass, however, there’s also Universal CityWalk, which is home to shopping, restaurants, bars and a movie theater as well as a number of restored neon signs. Both are accessible via public transit by taking the Metro Red Line to Universal City and then using the pedestrian bridge to walk to the Universal tram stop.
Santa Monica is beautiful, but crossing over to Venice is a whole different experience. A stroll down the iconic Venice Boardwalk provides gorgeous ocean views, shopping, food, bars, vendors, and eclectic street performers. Key spots in the area include Venice Skate Park and Muscle Beach Venice.
Venice Boardwalk, 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA, USA, +1 210 396 6764
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.
Jumbo’s Clown Room
Those who seek to have a raucous time like a local may drop by Jumbo’s Clown Room. This small, red and black bar has been around since the ‘70s when opened by the eponymous circus clown. These days, it’s famous as a bikini bar, with talented dancers and contortionists conquering the stage nightly. Performers choose their own 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.
Jumbo’s Clown Room, 5133 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 323 666 1187
Museum of Jurassic Technology
It’s hard to explain what this museum 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 places in L.A., 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.
This museum opened in downtown L.A. in 2015, and it 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 in advance 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 Broad, 221 S Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 232 6200
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art boasts over 130,000 objects in its massive collection, as well as a steady rotation of fascinating and accessible exhibits. In addition to the museum itself, public artworks Levitating Mass and Urban Light can be enjoyed outside without a ticket. There’s also a small coffee shop, C+M, and Ray’s and Stark Bar for Mediterranean food and drinks. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, and free for members and children 17 and younger. Some exhibits may require special tickets.
LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 323 857 6000
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. Admission is free. Parking is $15.
Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 310 440 7300
Chinatown is full of superb dining destinations, art galleries, and unique shops. Chinatown Central Plaza is a popular spot for photos, and nearby General Lee’s is great for a balanced cocktail. Other highlights include the diverse art galleries of Chung King Road, a bronze statue of film star Bruce Lee, and the top food offerings tucked into the nearby Far East Plaza.
Griffith Park consists of over 4,000 acres, with highlights including train museum Travel Town, its gorgeous hiking trails, and, of course, the Griffith Observatory®. Guests may peer through telescopes, check out a show at the planetarium, or explore astronomy exhibits. Admission is free, while tickets to the planetarium shows range from $3–7.
Griffith Observatory, 2800 E Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 473 0800
This open-air mall is home to shops, restaurants, bars, an American Girl café, and a movie theater. It’s known for celebrity sightings and a trolley that ferries guests from one end of the mall to the other. Adjacent to The Grove is the Original Farmer’s Market, which has been there since 1934 and where numerous food vendors offer all sorts of fare, from casual to upscale.
The Grove, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 323 900 8080
Museum of Broken Relationships
The original Museum of Broken Relationships has been open in Zagreb, Croatia since 2010. This Hollywood iteration, opened in 2016, is the only other museum of its kind in the world. On display are various relics of failed relationships, all provided to the museum by anonymous donors. Each one is featured alongside a story explaining the item’s significance. While some tales are certainly tragic, others are uplifting or humorous.
Grand Central Market
Established in 1917, Grand Central Market is a one-stop shop for every craving. A hodgepodge of vendors offer an overwhelming selection of various cuisines, plus there’s coffee, beer, wine, ice cream, and juice. In addition to meals, which are perhaps best enjoyed on-site via counter seating, guests may also shop for produce and sundries here.
Grand Central Market, 317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 213 624 2378
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. Though graveyards are typically linked with either the tragic or the morbid, Hollywood Forever regularly hosts concerts, film screenings, and other events for the living to enjoy.
Hollywood Forever, 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, USA, +1 323 469 1181
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; thus, the Eames House is also known as Case Study House No. 8. The couple lived in this home until their deaths in 1978 and 1988, respectively. Since 2004, the Eames Foundation has managed the house. Guests can see the home’s striking exterior for $10 (reservations required 48 hours in advance) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, with the exception of Wednesdays and Sundays. Interior tours are $275 for up to two people.
Eames House, 203 Chautauqua Boulevard, Pacific Palisades, CA, USA, +1 310 459 9663
For a pleasant stroll, visitors may seek out the Venice Canals. Developer Abbot Kinney, who was hoping to recreate the appearance of the canals found in Venice, Italy, installed several man-made canals in 1905. In 1910, other developers made six more canals. While the original canals fell into disrepair and were ultimately filled, the other six were restored in the ‘90s and remain today.
One of Los Angeles’ best-known hiking destinations is Runyon Canyon Park, which consists of some 130 acres and starts just two blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard. The untamed chaparral and stunning views draw many joggers, walkers, and hikers (and sometimes their dogs) daily.