A vibrant, diverse metropolis, there’s a multitude of incredible things to do in Los Angeles, California.
From spotting stars of the silver screen to viewing stars in the heavens from Griffith Observatory, this West Coast city has it all. You can relax on a balmy beach, tour premier art galleries, and see a celebrity headlined show all on the same day (if you time it right with traffic, that is).
I am an LA local and in this guide, I’ll cover 56 of the very best attractions in LA – my beloved hometown. Everything from Hollywood glitz and Beverly Hills luxury to theme park thrills and Santa Monica beach beauty.
And while you’re here, bookmark my where to stay in Los Angeles guide for lots of tips on where things are located and how to get around.
Ok, let’s dive right in!
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!
Best Things to Do in Los Angeles
Santa Monica Pier
Eat, drink, and be merry at this fun-filled beachside favorite
Visitors of every age will delight in the many offerings of Santa Monica Pier. It‘s adjacent to one of LA’s best beaches and is lined with restaurants and shops. From sunrise to well after sunset – particularly during sunset – there is something to be enjoyed.
Attached to Santa Monica Pier is Pacific Park – a cheerful amusement park with carnival games and rides. The Ferris wheel is famously photographed from below, but the view aboard this soaring attraction is spectacular.
If you’re short on time, this and the Getty Museum can be done on the same day. That said, if you have time to spare, each is worth a full-day visit.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Some of Santa Monica’s best hotels are within steps of this attraction. Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel features an outdoor pool and in-house coffee roasters.
Hike to an iconic sight high above the city
Few sights in Los Angeles rival the iconic Hollywood sign. I lived in Hollywood for about a decade and the most common question from travelers was “Where is the sign?” Well, folks, I’m here to tell you, the Hollywood sign is… not in Hollywood.
Originally, this was a billboard for a fancy housing development, leading to it being surrounded by, you guessed it, a whole bunch of fancy houses. It’s one of those neighborhoods in LA with narrow, twisty streets that are very easy to get lost in.
While you can spot the Hollywood sign from all over town, it requires a pretty good camera to get a decent shot from a distance. The best way to get a closer look is on a guided hike like this official Hollywood Sign hike.
The trail is rated easy to moderate but it is about 4 miles roundtrip. If you’re not up for that trek, then there are good photo ops for this feature from Lake Hollywood and on N. Beachwood Drive, north of Franklin Ave, and south of Rosalia Drive.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? The rooftop bar at Mama Shelter Los Angeles has a great view of the Hollywood Sign.
TCL Chinese Theatre
Catch a showing in a Hollywood landmark
Originally Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, TCL is no mere movie house. This cinema palace is one of the original top attractions in Hollywood.
The best thing to do here is to see a film. Big-name projects are showcased on an Imax screen with top-tier Dolby Atmos sound. Often the movie playing had its first public showing here, at one of their legendarily dazzling, star-studded premieres.
It’s here you’ll find celebrities’ hand & footprints immortalized in cement in the Forecourt of the Stars. Though this area is currently closed to the public, lovers of architecture and Hollywood history can get a closer look on a VIP tour.
Right next to the theater you’ll find Hollywood & Highland, the largest mall on Hollywood Boulevard. In the northeast corner is Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards. You can see the Hollywood sign from the back patio near the Dolby.
👉 🎥 Pro Tip: Try D-BOX! These ultra-comfortable reclining lounge seats feature customizable motion perfectly synced to the action on screen.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Embrace action and fantasy in an adventurous amusement park
📍 Map It: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608 | Phone: (800) 864-8377 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 10 pm daily | Entrance: $109+, all entries
Though Anaheim is home to many of California’s theme parks, LA lays claim to Universal Studios Hollywood. Even if rides aren’t your thing, there are plenty of shows, characters, and sights to enjoy. Plus, CityWalk offers three full blocks of fun shopping and dining, no admission required.
A top attraction here is the Backlot Tour, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at filmmaking in one of the world’s foremost film studios. If you watch any sort of mainstream media, then chances are something you’ve seen was shot on the Universal backlot.
What’s your Hogwarts house? Leave Muggle-dom behind and enter the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. Somehow the foam atop the butterbeer is even more delicious than the drink… magic!
Looking for a day trip from San Diego? Consider this private and small group Universal Studios LA Tour from San Diego.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Having a place close by can be an especially welcome treat after a long day at the park. Sheraton Universal is a great hotel, right across the street.
Roam art galleries and gardens in an architectural marvel
The Getty Center is my favorite spot in all of LA, and one of the best things to do in California. In addition to world-class art and architecture, the Getty has picture-perfect viewpoints that you won’t find anywhere else. Famously featured as the Star-Fleet Academy in the 2009 reboot of Star Trek, it has always been a stunning place to visit.
Make sure you go to the garden! This exquisite oasis features a bright array of flowers and plants suitable to the Southern California climate. It’s one of the most serene, inspiring spots I’ve encountered in any city.
Admission is free, but there is a $20 parking fee for vehicles.
📸 Pro Tip: The light in the garden is exceptionally beautiful for about two hours before closing.
Santa Monica Beach
Soak up sun and sea on a gorgeous beach
Santa Monica beaches are sublime. Soft sand, gentle waves, and lots of kid-friendly activity areas make it a great choice for a family beach trip. Folks of all ages set up umbrellas and play music, lending to a festive atmosphere.
There are ample beach volleyball courts for those looking to get in a match, and beachside shops rent out bikes and water toys to fully dive into fun in the sun.
North Santa Monica beach is ideal for a quiet, romantic stroll at sunset, or for watching seabirds trot along the water’s edge. Check out my complete guide to what to do in Santa Monica.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Santa Monica makes a great base for Los Angeles vacations. Guests at Casa del Mar can walk straight onto the beach from the hotel’s oceanview pool.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Seek out stars on Hollywood’s most famous street
Featured in LA movie montages since 1955, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of the most notable sights in Los Angeles. Travelers can dive straight into the Hollywood vibe on a stroll down the boulevard.
I love the way faces of all ages light up when they spot a star they’ve been searching for. It’s a most pleasant reminder of the joy entertainment brings to people across the globe.
The most popular section of the walk of fame is between Orange Drive and Highland Avenue. During the day this area is fun for the whole family.
Hollywood lives up to its reputation for glitz, glamour, and a smidge of grime. As in any big city, keep an eye on your belongings and be wary of pickpockets. You will see increasingly adult-themed offerings going east, toward Vine Street. After dark, Hollywood is definitely geared toward a 21-and-over crowd.
⭐ Pro Tip: Stars get moved around, which can make finding a particular celeb hard to find. The easiest way is to search the Walk of Fame Online Directory.
Venice Beach Boardwalk
Wonder at street performers and coastal beauty along LA’s wildest beach
If you’re looking for full-on immersion in Cali vibes, then head over to Venice Beach.
Street performers serenade passersby pursuing souvenir shops, while artists make and sell handmade, one-of-a-kind items. The air tends to be fragranced by traces of California’s favorite herbal refreshment – also readily available from shops along the boardwalk.
Parents may find Venice a bit full-on for young children, especially after sundown. Folks looking to enjoy the party vibes should stick to the bars and legal weed shops, and keep an eye out for scammers.
👉 Pro Tip: Venice has a lot to offer beyond the boardwalk! The Venice canals are enchanting. A Venice Boardwalk & Canals walking tour with an expert local guide is a great way to see the best of both worlds.
Brunch Cruise From Marina del Rey
Enjoy champagne and a brunch buffet while cruising the marina
📍 Map It: 13755 Fiji Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292 | Website | Weekends Only | Entrance: $82 & up | 👉 Los Angeles Premier Brunch Cruise from Marina del Rey
I recently took this brunch cruise from Marina del Rey with Viator, and really enjoyed it. They offer free-flowing champagne and a hearty buffet while the cruise glides smoothly around the marina among sailboats and sea lions.
Live music rounds out the pleasant ambiance of the main dining area, and there’s ample deck space to take in the sights without bumping shoulders with other guests. Popular for celebrations with a partner or friends, this is a great weekend LA activity. Just be sure to book your tickets in advance, as the cruise has limited sailings.
Play, dine and drink in a hub for sports and live entertainment
📍 Map It: 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90015 | Website | | Phone: 213-763-LIVE (5483) Toll-free: 866-LIVE-4-LA (866-548-3452) | Accessible 24 Hours
Sports fans will be right at home in L.A. Live. Across from the crypto.com arena (formerly Staples Center), this complex is packed with busy sports bars and restaurants.
The Novo and Microsoft Theater host massive concerts and other performance arts. Anyone with business at the Los Angeles Convention Center will find this a convenient spot for making connections over dinner or drinks.
The RealD Premiere Cinema at Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live boasts the largest screen in Los Angeles. Their ICE IMMERSIVE theater includes luxury seats and screen panels on the side walls. 4DX offers a full sensory experience with special effects including motion, fog, mist/rain, even scents that replicate the atmosphere on-screen.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? The J.W. Marriott Los Angeles L.A. Live is a great hotel for anyone attending an event in this complex.
Escape into an eclectic, artsy enclave of canyon country
Topanga is a rural retreat prized by everyone from aging hippies to the Hollywood elite. Curving between steep canyon walls, this scenic route gives visitors a taste of California wilderness. You’ll definitely want a car for this one! Check out Discover Cars for great deals on Los Angeles rentals.
Along the canyon road, you’ll find pockets of vibey shops and restaurants. Owl Falls, a spring-fed waterfall at Jalan Jalan Imports, is a perfect spot for a meditative moment.
Foodies will also find lots to love in Topanga. The Inn of the Seventh Ray is the epitome of rustic elegance. Just across the street, pizzeria Endless Color serves up a fantastic squash blossom pie. On weekends adjacent shops stay open late, creating a festival-like atmosphere with open-air tables, music, and dancing.
🚙 Pro Tip: Screenshot your route details before heading out for destinations in canyon country or the hills! GPS service sometimes drops out in these areas, even close to town.
The Griffith Observatory
Peer at the heavens from one of the world’s premier public observatories
📍 Map It: 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027 | Website | Phone: (213) 473-0800 | Hours: 12 pm – 10 pm, Friday; 10 am – 10 pm, Saturday & Sunday | General Admission: Free | 👉 Browse Griffith Observatory Tours on Viator
Perched high on a hill, Griffith Observatory is a marvelous spot to see the city of stars and the stars above. The striking Art Deco building with its backdrop of a sprawling metropolis is a singularly magnificent sight.
Presentations in the planetarium surround viewers with stellar visuals accompanied by a live storyteller. Explorers with an interest in space can set their curiosity free in exhibits exploring the sky, then gain a whole new perspective through the lenses of Zeiss and solar telescopes.
Rideshares and taxis to Griffith Observatory can get pricey, so it’s worth considering a rental car to visit this attraction. Even better, you’ll have wheels to explore Griffith Park. Check out Discover Cars for great deals on Los Angeles rentals.
🪐 Love Space? This private tour of Griffith Observatory gets you access without the crowds.
👉 Also bookmark my full list of the 23 best Los Angeles beaches.
Surf, party, and chill in a vibey beach town
Hermosa Beach is a fun, funky surf town in the heart of South Bay. Cafes at the end of Pier Avenue deliver hearty servings and bottomless mimosas. DJs and bands provide live music day and night, adding to the party vibe.
Music fans and history buffs can go in-depth on this Hermosa Beach guided audio walking tour led by the “Godfather of South Bay Punk.”
👉 🏄 Want to try surfing? Waves near Hermosa Beach Pier are great for beginners. Start simple with a body board rental.
Swim, surf, or fish from the pier on a mellow beach
South of Venice Beach and Marina del Rey, Manhattan Beach is equal parts chic and tranquil. Guests can dine in trendy, inventive restaurants and browse fashionable boutiques. This is a lovely beach town for couples to have a romantic getaway.
Manhattan Beach Pier is picturesque and uncomplicated. The roundhouse at the end of this 928-ft concrete bridge houses a small aquarium with free admission.
🛫 Got an early flight? Skip the airport hotel and spend your last night beachside. The Sea View Inn at the Beach is just 10 minutes from Los Angeles International Airport.
Embrace serenity on quiet, uncrowded beaches
Malibu is well known as the poshest of LA beach areas, appealing to those looking to leave the noisy city crowds behind for a while. This high-end oasis is situated about 30-minutes north of Santa Monica, and 45-minutes to an hour from central LA.
Zuma and Leo Carillo on the north end of Malibu are most well-known. The stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway to the south, between Santa Monica and Malibu, is where visitors will find the hidden gems.
Carbon, Las Tunas, and La Costa beaches are pristine, idyllic spots, while Topanga and Malibu Lagoon, a.k.a. Surfrider, are beloved by surfers.
⛱️ Pro Tip: Though beachfront mansions and privately-owned beach areas can make Malibu trickier to access, all coastline is open to the public. Topanga, Las Tunas, and Malibu Lagoon all have parking areas that make access easier.
Relax far from the hustle & bustle on a white sand beach
On the north end of Malibu, Zuma offers 1.8 miles of white sand beach. Ample amenities include restrooms, restaurants, showers, and volleyball nets. Beach wheelchairs are available for guests with limited mobility.
Having water a bit colder than other Southern California beaches hasn’t stopped Zuma from being popular with swimmers and body surfers. Visitors should be cautious though, as the area is known for rough surf, rip-tides, and even the occasional shark sighting.
Zuma is best for an LA day trip, as it’s a solid hour from LA proper. It is a straight shot up the Pacific Crest Highway, so this is a great opportunity for a pleasant drive up the coast. Discover Cars can set you up with wheels for a fair bit less cash than rideshares to/from this location.
👉 Love Beaches? Check out our guide to the 23 best San Diego beaches.
LA Museums & Culture
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Meander galleries and create your own art in fabulous photo ops
📍 Map It: 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036 | Phone: (323) 857-6010 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily, Closed Mondays | Entrance: $25, adults; $10, Ages 3 – 17; $21, Seniors (65+ with ID) | 👉 Browse LACMA Tours on Viator
Art aficionados will appreciate the collection on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. While the museum is undertaking a major renovation set to open in 2024, curators put together an impressive set of smaller exhibitions.
Much of the work currently showcased here is focused on artists of color and that of peoples indigenous to California. It’s a good way to embrace the diversity of Los Angeles during your visit.
📸 Pro Tip: Urban Light, a forest-like stand of restored antique street lamps, is one of the most popular social media shots in the world. Created by artist Chris Burden, the lamps run on solar power and are lit from sunset to sunrise. You’ll find this display right in front of LACMA, at the intersection of Wilshire Drive and Ogden Avenue.
California Science Center
Engage with interactive exhibits and expand your view in IMAX theaters
Inquiring minds will find great satisfaction at California Science Center. This engaging, interactive museum provides fun exhibits dedicated to space, ecosystems, and more.
The newest arrival here is by far the largest – Space Shuttle Endeavor. The whole city was abuzz when it arrived. I remember pulling over in traffic to watch it fly in atop a 747.
📚 Related Reading: If you’re looking forward to a splendid splash with aquatic creatures in the touch tank here, consider a day trip to The Aquarium of the Pacific! Our things to do in Long Beach guide has lots more useful info on this and other Long Beach attractions.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Immerse yourself in music at a concert in a stunning architectural marvel
Few buildings in LA are as striking as the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Eye-catching curves of steel and unparalleled acoustics make this venue a feast for the senses, inside and out.
As the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, this is a must-see for travelers who appreciate classical music. Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel has crafted an enthralling calendar of symphonic concerts.
🚆 How to Get There: The DTLA location of this attraction makes it an easy one to access via public transportation. From Hollywood, take the Red Line subway at Hollywood and Highland south. Exit the train at the Civic Center/Grand Park station. Walk one block south on Hill Street, then make a right on 2nd Street and walk two short blocks west to arrive at the destination. While there, check out these other top DTLA attractions.
Enter a world of contemporary art masterpieces
📍 Map It: 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 | Website | Phone: (213) 232-6250 | Hours: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday; Closed Monday & Tuesday | Entrance: Free (special exhibitions may be excluded from free admission)
Directly across the street from the concert hall is The Broad, one of LA’s premier contemporary art museums. Modern art enthusiasts will be agog at the mind-bending displays held in this 120,000-square-foot institution.
Popular works include pieces by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Barbara Kreuger. My personal favorite is Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.
🎫 Pro Tip: Though admission to The Broad is free, museum policy is strict about timed tickets for popular exhibits. Make sure to reserve online before your visit!
Los Angeles Zoo
Stroll botanical gardens and view wild animals
Get wild at LA Zoo! Dedicated to creating a better future for wildlife, this destination provides active, inspiring experiences for all ages.
Some of the most popular animals here are great apes, tigers, and elephants. Plants in the large botanical garden serve an encompassing look at flora and fauna. Some are actually grown to feed the animals in the park!
🐘 Love zoos and animal parks? Check out another stunning piece of SoCal! Travel Lemming’s local writer Ashleigh has created a trove of excellent San Diego travel guides, loaded with fun things to do in San Diego.
Seek out vibrant murals across the city
Los Angeles has a long and storied history as a hotspot for street art. Gorgeous murals appear on walls throughout the city. Local artists create imaginative campaigns with subjects ranging from shadow cats to amusing cartoon sheep.
It’s no surprise that some of the most famous works are those of Banksy. One of the guerilla artist’s most popular pieces is a mural known as “Crayon Shooter,” at the intersection of Glendon Avenue and Kinross Ave.
I’m always happy to spot the work of WRDSMTH, who blends uplifting phrases and imagery. Keep an eye out for these, there are quite a few about!
👉 🎨 Pro Tip: The Arts District in downtown Los Angeles definitely has the lock on abundance in this art form. It’s a great spot to marvel at massive murals and get lots of vibrant photos – in daylight, ideally. If you’re not a specific location for an event, this area is one to avoid at night.
Take a ride through Los Angeles history on the world’s shortest railway
📍 Map It: 350 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90071, top station; 351 S Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, lower station | Website | | Phone: (213) 626-1901 | Hours: 6:45 am – 10 pm, daily | Fare: $1 | 👉 Browse Angels Flight Tours on Viator
This one is a real deep-dive local secret. Even friends of mine who have lived here for years didn’t know about Angels Flight until I mentioned it.
A historical landmark, Angels Flight is a 118-year old funicular railway that runs between Grand Street and Hill Street. If you’re getting around downtown LA on foot, that’s going to save you a lot of walking. And it’s a good time, to boot!
🍽️ Pro Tip: The lower station of Angels Flight is right across the street from Grand Central Market. This staple of the Los Angeles food scene is a great place to grab a fresh, inexpensive, delicious meal.
La Brea Tar Pits
Pause for a peek at natural history in a pleasant park
Another frequent sight in film montages is that of La Brea Tar Pits’ prehistoric creatures caught in perpetual peril (though it’s been a while since these shots didn’t need a little enhancement in post-production). These days, the lake commonly portrayed as bubbling tar is just regular old water.
Visitors can see and smell tar and oil seeping through the earth’s crust in other areas of the grounds. Cones mark small puddles at random intervals. The setting is a poignant juxtaposition of nature’s power amid a sea of human endeavor.
🦴 Love Paleontology? In the same park as La Brea Tar Pits, you’ll find the Page Museum. One of three natural history museums in Los Angeles city, Page offers patrons a literal window into scientists’ work.
Tour music history in interactive exhibits
📍 Map It: 800 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015 | Website | Phone: (213) 725-5700 | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 10 am – 6 pm Saturday; Closed Tuesday | Tickets: $18, Adults; $15, Seniors (65+); $12 Students w/ Valid ID; $12 Ages 5-17; $15 Military w/ Valid ID; Free, 4 years and under
Music lovers will be entranced by the pieces of music history gathered in the GRAMMY Museum at L.A. Live. The Recording Academy has curated a collection that appeals to fans of all ages and genres.
My personal favorite is the Crossroads exhibit. Here you can choose your own adventure through music from now to the beginning of recorded sound.
Fashion lovers can catch a peek at garments sported by platinum-selling artists. Featuring looks from the red carpet and stage, this area allows patrons to glimpse the glamour of Music’s Biggest Night.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Treat yourself to luxury enjoyed by legends at The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles L.A. Live, just a three-minute walk from the museum.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Experience amazing exhibitions at one of LA’s oldest cultural institutions
📍 Map It: 900 W Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007 | Website | Phone: (213) 763-DINO (3466) | Hours: 9:30 am – 5 pm, closed Tuesdays | Tickets: $15, adults, $7, children 3-12, $12, seniors & students, Free for children 2 & under
Hands-on exploration and a Dinosaur Encounters show are highlights of this family-friendly museum in Exposition Park. After Dinosaur Hall, delve into the Age of Mammals, and hear the tale of P-22, L.A.’s most famous feline.
Outside, the Nature Garden is home to California native birds, lizards, squirrels, and butterflies.
🏛️ Love Museums? Exposition Park is home to several great ones. For those who are culturally inclined, it’s a great spot to knock out multiple attractions in one fell swoop.
The Getty Villa
Peruse Greek and Roman antiquities in a recreation of a Pompeiian villa
📍 Map It: 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 | Website | Phone: (310) 440-7300 | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm, closed Tuesdays | Entrance: Free; Parking: $20 per car or motorcycle
Getty Villa transports guests to a world of classical luxury. A re-creation of the largest villa in pre-Vesuvius Herculaneum, this tranquil setting is cooled by the ocean breeze.
Leisurely walks in dreamy gardens are enchanting, especially for partners on a romantic day out. Artfully arranged galleries of sculpture and artifacts appeal to anyone with an interest in antiquity.
Located along the Pacific Coast Highway, this attraction is about 15-20 minutes north of Santa Monica in light traffic. Having a car is ideal if you’re coming from pretty much any other part of town. Whether it’s for your whole trip or a day trip, Discover Cars has great deals.
🎨 Love Artsy Vibes? Pair your visit to Getty Villa with a canyon cruise. Topanga Canyon Boulevard meets PCH right next to the villa. Shops, restaurants, and residents of this beautiful canyon enclave are peak creative.
Wander the manicured grounds of a lavish estate
📍 Map It: 905 Loma Vista Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210 | Website | Phone: (310) 285-6830 | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday; 10:30 am – 4:30 pm Wednesday – Friday | Entrance: Free | 👉 Browse Greystone Mansion Tours on Viator
Built in 1927 by Los Angeles oil baron Ned Doheny, Greystone Mansion is a palatial mansion on the northeast side of Beverly Hills. Visitors can enjoy lush, green grounds featuring Gothic and neoclassical styles.
Greystone has been a setting for more than 120 major film & television projects. Fans of anything from soap operas to comic book blockbusters will notice familiar locations around this historical landmark.
💰 Pro Tip: Free activities in Beverly Hills are uncommon. Greystone is a great opportunity for travelers on a budget to experience a snippet of this exclusive enclave.
Revel in the creativity of modern artists
📍 Map It: 152 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 | Website | Phone: (213) 626-6222 | Hours: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday & Sunday; Closed Monday & Tuesday | Entrance: Free (special exhibitions may be excluded from free admission)
Best known as MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art is the only artist-founded museum in Los Angeles. There are two locations, MOCA Grand and MOCA Geffen, both located in downtown LA.
Prominent features from the permanent collection include Number 1, 1949 by Jackson Pollock and The Rothko Room, a collection of eight paintings by Mark Rothko.
🍽️ Pro Tip: Lemonade at MOCA is a great place to grab a quick, healthy, inexpensive meal.
Japanese American National Museum
Engage with Japanese heritage at this intriguing museum
📍 Map It: 100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 | Website | Phone: (213) 625-0414 | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Tuesday through Sunday | Tickets: $16, adults; $7, student or youth; $7, seniors (62+), Free for children 5 & under
Located in the same complex as MOCA Geffen, the Japanese American National Museum holds an insightful curation of cultural heritage, interactive storytelling, history, and art.
Ongoing exhibitions provide a poignant, illuminative look at Japanese American history.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? The Miyako Hotel specializes in traditional Japanese beauty and hospitality.
Stroll lush gardens, browse literature, & enjoy art in a peaceful setting
📍 Map It: 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108 | Website | Phone: (213) 626-6222 | Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday – Monday, Closed Tuesday | Entrance: $25 weekdays, $29 weekends, adult; $21/$24, seniors (65+), active military, students; $13, youth 4-11; Free, children under 4
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is a cultural complex located in San Marino, 45-minutes to an hour southeast of central Los Angeles. Those with an interest in books or botany will find it well worth the drive.
Among locals, the botanical garden is the biggest draw. With themed gardens from ecosystems spanning the globe, something is always in bloom. A cafe and coffee house on the grounds make it a great spot for a relaxing & romantic getaway.
The library is an exceptional research library, containing over 11 million items spanning 1,000 years of recorded history. Highlights include the Ellesmere manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and one of Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
🚙 Pro tip: Leave early! The traffic going southeast is much worse in the afternoon, so make this attraction the first stop of your day.
Hikes, Parks, & Scenic Overlooks in LA
Cruise a curvy scenic route along the apex of the Hollywood Hills
Traversing the spine of the Hollywood Hills is Mulholland Drive, a scenic drive offering panoramic views. With Los Angeles to the south and San Fernando sprawl to the north, there’s a new vista around every turn.
A word about those turns… drivers beware. Mulholland’s curves are so notorious they inspired a rollercoaster at Disney California Adventure Park. For those not confident behind the wheel, this Private Luxurious tour lets someone else do the driving while you take in the view.
🚙 Pro tip: Mulholland Drive runs east/west from Cahuenga Avenue in Hollywood to the 405 freeway on the westside. If the place you’re staying in LA is in Hollywood or WeHo, Mulholland is a gorgeous route to the Getty Center. Head to the coast for sunset and wait out the evening rush hour.
Runyon Canyon Park
Hike a local favorite trail with panoramic views
If you’re looking to get a good workout in the great outdoors, then go for a hike up Runyon Canyon. Nestled at the foot of the star-studded Hollywood Hills, this 2.7-mile loop is challenging without being exhausting.
Keep an eye out for wildlife! While they prefer less human-heavy areas, coyotes, deer, and rattlesnakes do live around here.
⭐ Pro Tip: Hoping to spot a celeb? Runyon Canyon Park is a great spot for seeing stars. Just make sure to be respectful. Folks may not want to snap a pic mid-workout or when they’re out for a hike with their pets.
Hike to a secluded park with views over West Hollywood and Beverly Hills
A locals’ favorite, Fryman Canyon is a charming pocket of peace and quiet just off Mulholland Drive.
The Betty B. Dearing Trail runs through the park. Black walnut trees shade the five-mile trail, connecting Fryman to neighboring Franklin Canyon, Coldwater Canyon Park, and Wilacre Park.
Visitors keen on experiencing this and other Los Angeles nature attractions will be best served by renting a car. Check out Discover Cars for some great deals.
🚗 How to Get There: From West Hollywood, you’ll take Laurel Canyon Blvd North, then make a left onto Mulholland Drive. There is a paved parking lot for Fryman on the south side of Mullholland Drive, less than a mile west of Laurel Canyon.
Malibu Creek State Park
Hike to hidden rock pools and iconic locations from television history
Tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountains between Malibu and Calabasas, this state park offers hiking trails leading to rock pools, gorges, and breathtaking views. Culturally, Malibu Creek was an important region to Chumash Native Americans for hundreds of years.
About 2.5 miles in you’ll find an old production location from the hit TV show M*A*S*H*, complete with markers and a restored ambulance like those used on the show. I watched this in reruns as a kid. At a specific bend on this trail, my internal soundtrack automatically plays the opening bars of the theme song.
⛺ Love camping? Malibu Creek offers a campground with shower facilities.
Angeles National Forest
Hike picturesque trails through scenic wilderness
📍 Map It: 12371 Little Tujunga Canyon Rd, San Fernando, CA 91342 | Website | Visitor Guide | Phone: (626) 574-1613 | Accessible 24 hours
Located in the San Gabriel Mountains east of Los Angeles, the Angeles National Forest is the vastest expanse of wilderness near LA. Nature lovers can explore 557 miles of hiking trails, including a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, which extends from Mexico to Canada.
Native trees include oak, pine, and chaparral. Rivers, streams, and lakes feed the forest and provide glorious settings for camping and fishing trips.
This area has been affected by multiple wildfires. All visitors should practice extreme caution and may build fires only in the fire rings and stoves provided.
🚗 How to Get There: Accessed via the 5, 405, and 210 freeways, this location is over an hour from central Los Angeles. You’ll definitely want a rental car. Check out Discover Cars for great deals on Los Angeles rentals.
Point Mugu State Park
Trek sand dunes, beaches, and hiking trails in the rugged Santa Monica Mountains
With rocky cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, beaches, river canyons, and valleys, Point Mugu covers the spread with coastal wilderness. Hiking trails in the park flourish in springtime as wildflowers come into bloom.
The enormous sand dune near Mugu Rock is an incredible spot to watch the sun slip away over the Pacific horizon. There’s ample parking along this part of PCH, so you won’t need to pay the park entrance fee to enjoy this dazzling spectacle.
Point Mugu is the northernmost attraction in this guide. About an hour and a half from L.A., the park encompasses much of the coastal wildland between Malibu and Oxnard.
For those who can handle chilly water, the beach offers swimming, bodysurfing, and surf fishing.
Hike, picnic, and play in green space and wild California chaparral
Griffith Park is the number one place in central Los Angeles for outdoor recreation, with hiking trails, picnic areas, and activities aplenty. The wilderness of this urban park is an ideal place to escape the chaos.
Attractions in the park cater largely to families. Kids flock to the merry-go-round, playgrounds, pony rides, and train rides. Two golf courses, tennis courts, and a soccer pitch offer all-ages playtime.
Fern Dell is a shaded trail bordered by over 50 species of fern and other tropical plants. Nearby, the Trails Cafe serves simple snacks and coffee.
👉 Pro Tip: Visit Griffith Park early in the day. After about 4:00 it gets surrounded by stop-and-go traffic on all sides.
Venice Skate Park
Drop in on this iconic oceanfront skate haven
It’s been suggested that this Venice Beach mainstay is the most visited skate park on earth. It’s not hard to see why. Set far out onto the beach, the only thing separating the cement from the sea is sand.
An iconic location for videos, the park is popular with spectators. The skate community doesn’t love the crowds, but they know it’s to be expected. Even so, expect an occasional side-eye when taking pictures.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Check out the Venice V Hotel. Oceanfront views from every room!
Echo Park Lake
Glide among patches of lily pads in swan boats
A few miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, Echo Park is a great LA neighborhood to get a taste of local life in the Los Angeles area. Echo Park Lake is a marvelous hidden gem. Broad lawns offer plenty of space for relaxation, while ducks and geese waddle the grass looking for picnic scraps.
The biggest draw here is the swan boats. Paddling around the little man-made lake is great fun! Cost-effective, too, at just $11 p/person for an hour. At dusk, the swans are lit, casting twinkles across the water.
📸 Pro Tip: The view of downtown LA is phenomenal from Echo Park Lake, especially in the golden hour just before & after sunset.
Barnsdall Art Park
Take in splendid vistas from a peaceful bluff
On a bluff at the border of Hollywood and Silverlake, the Barnsdall Art Park is a largely undiscovered local secret. Tree-lined paths slope upward to a lush lawn. Whether with friends or a romantic partner, this park makes a wonderful setting for good conversation and a bottle of wine.
Barnsdall Gallery Theatre focuses on showcasing diverse voices and unique performing arts. The Hollyhock House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both sites were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and have yet to reopen to the public.
🌇 Pro Tip: Barnsdall is a fantastic place to watch the sunset.
Sony Pictures Studio Tour
Peek behind-the-scenes into iconic soundstages and popular gameshows
Several legendary Los Angeles studios offer tours, and anyone eager to peek behind the curtain will be thrilled at the insider access!
On Sony Pictures’ two-hour walking tour, you’ll see soundstages used in films such as The Wizard of Oz and Spider-Man. Game-show enthusiasts win with visits to the sets of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Sony Pictures is just 5 minutes away from The Culver Hotel. Housed in an artfully restored 1924 flatiron building, this boutique luxury hotel boasts no two rooms alike.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour
Get insider access to the studio home of mega-hits like Friends and the DC Universe
📍 Map It: 3400 Warner Blvd, Burbank, CA 91505 | Website | Phone: (818) 977-8687 | Hours: 9 am – 3:30 pm Thursday through Sunday, closed Tuesday and Wednesday | Tickets: $69, adults; $59, children ages 5-10 yrs.
Warner Bros. specially crafted this tour to provide guests with a fun, interactive experience. On top of a backlot tour, you can take a seat beneath the sorting hat and try your hand at repotting baby Mandrakes.
Social media mavens will want to make sure their devices are fully charged. Fans can pose in photo-ops with the actual couch & fountain from the opening of Friends, Wonder Woman’s lasso, and the original Batmobile. Just to name a few!
Located in the San Fernando Valley, Warner Bros. is further from central Los Angeles than other attractions. If you need a rental car for your visit, check out Discover Cars.
🚗 How to Get There: If your GPS shows a dreaded red line on the 101 Fwy, take Cahuenga Boulevard north from Hollywood. Stay to the right to bypass the freeway. Remain on Cahuenga until Barham, then make a right. Barham becomes Olive Ave, which will take you all the way to the studio address.
Universal Studios VIP Tour
Get an exclusive, private look at LA’s most popular film studio and theme park
📍 Map It: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608 | Website | Phone: (818) 622-8477 | Tickets: $349 & up
Universal Studios is unparalleled when it comes to backstage access. Park-goers willing to splurge are in for a special treat with this indulgent experience.
VIP guests are welcomed with snacks and refreshments in the VIP lounge. Next, enjoy an exclusive opportunity to explore the industry’s busiest backlot. Your expert guide will also escort you to the front-of-the-line at popular rides and locate the best seats at shows.
Other perks include complimentary valet parking and a gourmet meal in a private VIP dining room.
👉 Love Traveling in Style? Cruise your own custom Los Angeles itinerary in a mint-condition 1976 Cadillac El Dorado on this classic car tour of Los Angeles.
Paramount Pictures Studio Tour
Wander the grounds of Hollywood’s longest operating studio
Paramount is a classic. As the oldest film studio still located in Hollywood, they relish offering a glimpse into what it might have been like to make pictures in the golden age of Hollywood.
Bordered on the north end by Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the main gate of Paramount makes for a great photo op. And free! You don’t even have to go onsite to get a decent pic here.
Out of an abundance of caution, Paramount is not currently conducting tours. Please check their website for updates.
🛎️ Need a Hotel? Check out Hollywood Historic Hotel, just a 5-minute walk from Paramount Studios.
Be part of the action on talk shows and reality tv competitions
Want to be on TV? Sign up to be an audience member at a live taping and you might just get your shot!
Shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and Real Time with Bill Maher have resumed filming with a live audience. You can find these and other avenues for audience participation at the Iota website.
👉 Pro Tip: Unless you’re a huge fan, steer clear of the big competition shows. A talk show taping will take a few hours, but an episode of America’s Got Talent could easily last all day.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Pay your respects at celebrities’ final resting place
Indulge morbid curiosity by meandering rows of gravestones and marble crypts, including several belonging to stars from throughout Hollywood history. In spring, the blossoms of pink trumpet trees brighten the landscape.
Want to roll through without trodding amongst the tombstones? This Hollywood sightseeing by electric bike tour gives you exactly that option.
There is more here for the living than just visiting those who have gone to the great beyond. A Masonic Lodge located on the grounds hosts concerts and even the occasional comedy show. In summer, Hollywood Forever hosts outdoor film screenings on the Fairbanks Lawn. The schedule for 2022 hasn’t been released yet, so check www.cinespia.org for updates.
👻 Love spooky stuff? Delve into dark lore on a haunted Hollywood tour.
Live Entertainment in LA
Hollywood Pantages Theatre
Catch touring hits from Broadway in a gorgeous Art Deco theater
Pantages is the premier venue for live theater in Los Angeles. Located directly across from the W Hollywood, the site has been fully restored to its original 1930s glory.
Shows staged here are top-notch Broadway hits. The calendar for 2022 includes Pretty Woman: The Musical – a particularly fitting choice for a theatre on Hollywood Boulevard! Other productions for this year are Rent, Tootsie, and Moulin Rouge! The Musical.
Having been to a few performances here, I’ll happily attest to getting a good vantage point from seats at all price points.
🍸 Pro Tip: Check out the bar next door. Frolic Room is a festive, divey bit of old-fashioned fun.
Revel in incredible sound in an open-air amphitheater
A legendary concert venue, the Hollywood Bowl stage has been graced by icons like Billie Holiday and the Beatles. The open-air auditorium has incredible acoustics, and every seat in the house is good.
The best way to enjoy shows at the bowl is to bring a picnic – ticketholders may bring in food and drinks, so grab a bottle of wine and some charcuterie for a romantic date night.
Events at the Hollywood Bowl are equally fun with a group of friends. 14 picnic areas surrounding the venue are available for anyone’s enjoyment, with or without a ticket. Tables are on a first-come, first-served basis, so if there is a show that night, get there early.
🚌 How to Get There: The area is not easy to navigate, on foot or in a car, and parking is expensive. The best way to get to a show is to use the Bowl Shuttle, which offers a free parking lot and a stop near the Hollywood & Highland Metro station.
Music, comedy, and trendy restaurants
The Sunset Strip is a stretch of Sunset Boulevard between Doheny Drive and Crescent Heights Boulevard. There are a bunch of great hotels and places to party in this area.
At the west end, the big draws are divey rocker bars and live music. The Viper Room, The Roxy, and Whisky A Go-Go feature a mix of up-and-coming artists and established talent. East of La Cienega Boulevard, you’ll find House of Blues, The Comedy Store, and Laugh Factory.
Hotels along Sunset Strip are designed with a modern art aesthetic, giving guests plenty of postable moments. Many of those on the south side of Sunset have amazing views over Los Angeles. The London West Hollywood features panoramic views from its rooftop pool.
Shoppers will find an upscale collection of boutiques in Sunset Plaza. Restaurants in this charming mall are longstanding favorites.
Laugh out loud at performances by comedy superstars and rising talents
Comedy fans are in for a real treat! LA audiences get a chance to see the industry’s top talent in their local clubs, refining the material that that ends up in specials for Netflix or HBOMax.
The Comedy Store on Sunset has three stages and an outdoor bar. South of Sunset on Melrose Ave., Hollywood Improv hosts shows seven nights a week. Other popular clubs include The Laugh Factory, on Sunset, and Largo at the Coronet, on La Cienega.
👉 Pro Tip: If you catch the late show at the Improv, stick around afterward for a drink at the bar. Their signature cocktails are delish, and often as not a comic or two will hang out after the gig.
Enjoy performances from talented queens in lively bars and restaurants
The LA drag scene is pop-ping, honey! Some of the most talented drag queens in the world perform in restaurants and bars in West Hollywood and beyond.
Hamburger Mary’s, Micky’s WeHo, and Precinct DTLA host weekly events. With brunches, bingo nights, and karaoke options, there’s sure to be something to fit any schedule. Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Boulet Brothers’ Dragula are likely to spot some familiar faces.
👉 Pro Tip: Drag shows are a great way to maximize your resources. You’ll get a show, a meal, and drinks, all in one stop. Just remember, always tip the queens!
Shopping & Dining Activities in LA
Indulge in ultimate luxury at exclusive designer boutiques
Rodeo Drive is all bougie, all the time. Shops here are known for exclusivity and extravagance, promises they deliver on. Designer boutiques behind velvet ropes line both sides – allowing only a few patrons in at a time was a thing here long before social distancing.
Bentley, Rolls Royce, and various supercars make up the bulk of what’s parked out front. Rodeo Drive is a place where wealth comes to be spent and displayed. That said, fashionistas will enjoy dressing up and browsing, even if you don’t have the coin to splash out on luxury purchases.
At the south end, Rodeo Drive is anchored by the ultra-luxurious Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel. To the north, across Santa Monica Boulevard, shops give way to residential mansions.
⭐ Pro Tip: The most common place to see a celebrity is in a Beverly Hills restaurant. Reality shows occasionally film around here as well.
Santa Monica Farmers’ Market
Pick up California produce fresh from the farm
📍 Multiple locations
A treasured aspect of California living is the availability of fresh produce and protein. Santa Monica Farmers’ Market provides a glimpse of our state’s bountiful harvest.
Travelers looking to save can take this opportunity to gather an inexpensive supply of healthy, delicious snacks for your trip. Vendors will happily help you choose items that require no refrigeration.
Along with produce, you’ll find gourmet nuts, veggie chips, and pasties. Sellers of handmade goods and art also have stalls at the markets.
Markets in the area run on the following schedule:
- Downtown Santa Monica – 250 Arizona Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401, 8 am to 1 pm every Wednesday and Saturday.
- Virginia Avenue Park – 2200 Arizona Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90404, 8 am to 1 pm every Saturday. (The most ‘local vibe’ market, featuring live music & prepared food vendors.)
- Main Street – 2640 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405, 8:30 am to 1:30 pm every Sunday.
🚶 How to Get There: The Downtown and Main Street markets are within walking distance of the area’s most popular hotels.
Grand Central Market
Relish a bevy of delicious offerings in a dynamic marketplace
Grand Central Market opened over a century ago and has been bringing together the cuisines and cultures of Los Angeles ever since. With dozens of vendors, there’s something here to suit every taste.
Trendy newcomers like Eggslut serve up noms equally hashtag-able and delish, so long as you’re willing to brave the ever-present line. Other stalls include fresh-made pasta, old-school delis, bright ceviche tostadas… the list goes on and on.
🏢 Love History? Across from Grand Central’s Broadway Street entrance, you’ll find one of LA’s historic buildings, the Bradbury Building. The oldest commercial building in the city, this ornate five-story office building has featured in films such as Blade Runner and Oscar-winner The Artist.
Eat and shop in a downtown center of Japanese culture
Got a hankering for ramen? Look no further than Little Tokyo. In addition to excellent noodles, this is the best place in town to get Japanese delicacies like uni for a reasonable price. Sushi lovers will be delighted by the offerings at Kura, a revolving sushi bar.
Fashionistas can find before-they-were-trending bargains aplenty in plaza boutiques. One of the most popular is the Sanrio store, which often has a line out the door.
For seekers of spirituality, take a moment for contemplation in one of Little Tokyo’s beautiful Buddhist temples. The James Irvine Japanese Garden at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center is an elegant zen hideaway.
📚 Read Next: 35 Best Things to Do in Orange County, California
As you can see, any trip to Los Angeles can be a fun-filled adventure. I hope this guide is helpful in planning yours!
Looking for other amazing destinations in Southern California? Check out our guide to the 27 Best Things to Do on Catalina Island (in 2022).
Have fun exploring all the fun things to do in Los Angeles!