The 15 Best Experiences in Los Angeles

Santa Monica beach is the perfect spot for a swim in LA
Santa Monica beach is the perfect spot for a swim in LA | © iStock / Getty
Photo of Paul Feinstein
Travel Expert6 January 2020

Los Angeles is a popular destination for tourists looking to get a glimpse of the glitz and glamor of the City of Angels, or soak up the Southern California sunshine. But if you’re looking to take your holiday to the next level, then it’s an experience you need. Thankfully, Culture Trip has compiled the ultimate list of trips and activities in and around LA to ensure your visit is one to remember.

Los Angeles is known as a city of dreamers, and while not everyone can be a Hollywood star, they can experience a whole host of exciting activities. Want to ski and surf in the same day? No problem. You can hike, bike, swim and even take to the skies to experience the beaches, mountains and inner-city offerings of LA via one of these expertly curated experiences.

Hollywood Food and Alcohol Tour

Bar, Restaurant, Cafe, North American
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Taste sugary churros on an insider food tour | ©Cindy Prins

Beyond Hollywood’s ritzy strips is a diverse culinary scene. This Hollywood Food and Alcohol tour takes you through A-listers’ favorite dining spots, where you’ll get to feast on the best kinds of treats, from sugary churros to pitchers of margaritas. Learn about a different side of this star-studded district with your local guide, who’ll fill you in on all the latest celebrity gossip.

Venice Beach Two-Hour Surf Lesson

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Surfer in the waves
Take to the waves off Venice Beach to feel like a local | ©Tjeerd Kruse / Alamy

You can’t visit LA without taking a dip in the Pacific, and what better way to experience the waters than after catching a wave or two? For two hours, you’ll get instructions from professional surf experts on the famed white sands of Venice Beach. By the end of the group lesson, they’ll have you standing, riding, and quite possibly hanging ten on the waves. Boards and wetsuits are provided, and the lessons are great for all levels of ability.

Urban Adventure Quest Mini Scavenger Hunt

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Learning about LA’s history has never been more fun with this urban scavenger hunt. Playing off the hit TV show The Amazing Race, the hunt combines sightseeing LA’s Downtown sites with an interactive activity that will take you from the Los Angeles Public Library to the LA Live entertainment complex, via plenty of historic parts of Downtown. The whole activity syncs with a smartphone and is a fun way to learn and play at the same time.

Marina del Rey: Kayak and Paddleboard Tour with Sea Lions

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Sea lions and seals resting on a pier at Fisherman Village, Marina del Rey, California
Experience local wildlife such as sea lions in Marina del Rey | ©Lstock / Alamy

California’s shores are packed with incredible marine life, and this kayaking and paddleboard adventure gets you up close and personal with some of the friendliest and most curious. For two hours, you’ll paddle through the main marina between playful sea lions, excitable dolphins and dive-bombing seabirds, as well as spending time aboard a sailboat learning about the area and the many species living side-by-side with their human pals.

Hollywood Hills Hike

Natural Feature, Music Venue
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Hollywood sign. View from behind on a clear day.
Get close to the Hollywood sign and take in the views from the peaks in Griffith Park | ©Serge De Marre / Alamy

The middle of Los Angeles is home to an entire mountain range with endless epic hiking opportunities. One of the best is a hike with the Hollywood sign as your backdrop. This 2.5-hour jaunt takes you deep into Griffith Park, while a guide will regale you with the oft-bizarre and sometimes macabre history of the famous sign. The views are stunning from the top, so don’t forget your camera (and water).

Buena Park 2-hour Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament

Historical Landmark
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This is one of those ‘only-in-LA’ experiences. Welcome to the world of chivalry, knighthood, jousting, and falconry. For two-hours you’ll be wowed as medieval fights take place in front of your eyes while feasting on a four-course meal. Medieval Times is about an hour outside the city – traffic pending – and will transport you to the Middle Ages in this best of ways.

Malibu Beach: Surf Tour in a Vintage VW Van

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark
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Classic Vintage Surf Van on the Beach
For that true SoCal feel, only a camper van and surfboard will do | ©EpicStockMedia / Alamy

If you want to be an Instagram influencer for a day, this might be the package for you. Hop into a vintage VW van as you cruise the absurdly picturesque Malibu coastline. Along the way, you’ll stop at the Malibu Pier and then get a private surf lessons so you can ride those waves with a backdrop of million-dollar mansions towering over the beach. If you’re lucky, your surfing buddies might include sea lions who love swimming and sunbathing in Malibu as much as the Hollywood stars.

30-Minute Tandem Paragliding Experience

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Soar above the city on a hair-raising paraglide | ©Guille Faingold

This experience is NOT for the faint of heart. But if you’re not acrophobic and love an adrenaline rush, this is a truly spectacular way to see the city. For 20-30 minutes, you and a very experienced instructor will tandem paraglide over the beaches and mountains of Malibu and get a panoramic bird’s-eye view of the epic waves, diverse marine life and beachside architecture along the way.

The Original Paint Nite Los Angeles by Yaymaker

Art Gallery
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Art, food and wine are a winning combination, and in this creative experience, you get to indulge in all three. Your night will start out with some food and drinks (sold separately) and then you’ll get to the art-making. All supplies are provided including paints, brushes and the canvas on which you’ll be creating your masterpiece. At the end of the night you’ll take home your work as well as some new artistic skills.

Salsa Lesson, Dancing, Burlesque and Mojitos

Music Venue
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Dancing feet.
Learn Latin American moves and dance the night away in an underground club | ©iStock / Getty Images

LA has a vibrant underground scene with hidden speakeasies, lascivious Latin music and sultry salsa dancing. In this experience, you’ll get a 45-minute dance lesson to master the basics of salsa, merengue and bachata to prepare you for the night ahead. Once you’re ready, you’ll head out to a hidden club in Hollywood where Cuban music blares from a live three-piece band, burlesque performers dance and blow fire on the bars, and a dance floor beckons you to show off your newly learned steps.

A Creative Los Angeles Photography Workshop

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Quite a Few Palm Trees
Take part in a creative Los Angeles photography workshop | ©Ronnie Comeau

If you’re looking to elevate your Instagram feed, want some professional-level pictures to take home or just have a hankering to get creative, then this camera workshop is for you. Not only will the instructors give you a great lesson on getting the most from your camera or smartphone, they’ll then take you around LA to lesser-known, but very photogenic spots to test out your newly learned skills.

LA Brewery Yoga

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They dub themselves, “beer drinkers with a yoga problem”, and if you suffer from the same affliction, then you’ll find this class ideal in more ways than one. Kicking off at the not-so-early hour of 11am, you and other beer-drinking yogis will do some mixed-level vinyasa flow yoga for an hour. Afterwards, you’ll shake off the tingling yoga vibes and start drinking beer. Sometimes you never know how a combo will work out until you try it – and this one is a match made in heaven. Namaste.

Take an Electric-Bike Ride Through the Venice Canals

Natural Feature
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venice cruiser
Explore the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica by bike | ©iStock / Getty Images

A little more exciting than your average bike tour, this one is electrically powered and takes you along the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica to the colorful Venice Boardwalk and into the lesser-known Venice Canals. The canals were developed in the early 20th century to mimic the idyllic city of Venice in Italy, and today the series of waterways are occupied beautiful multi-million-dollar houses. The bikes themselves can be pedaled, but if you find yourself getting tired, just switch to the electric mode for smoother sailing.

Tour Homes of the Rich and Famous

Architectural Landmark
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Rodeo Drive street sign in Beverly Hills California USA
Beverly Hills is home to a host of Hollywood celebrities | © iStock / Getty

If you’re eager to see how the A-list stars of your favorite shows and movies live, then hop on this open-air van for a ride with the rich and famous. This tour will pack in a lot, including famous sites like the Hollywood Sign and Sunset Strip, but also point out the mega-mansions of megastars along the way. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch celebs drinking coffee, picking up the morning paper, or maybe just walking their dogs.

Catch a Movie in a Famous Cemetery

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The Tombstone of Johnny Ramone. Image shot 2014. Exact date unknown.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery was opened in 1899 and is the final resting place to a bevy of famous stars. | ©Paul Briden / Alamy

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery was opened in 1899 and is the final resting place to a number of silver-screen celebrities. Everyone from musical legend Judy Garland to actor Rudolph Valentino and gangster Bugsy Siegel is buried here. Tours of the cemetery are interesting, of course, but a movie screening in the grounds is the best way to experience the place. Throughout the year, the cemetery screens classic films, cult favorites, hilarious comedies and long-winded epics.

Jessica Dellow contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on January 6, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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