22 of the best things to do in Los Angeles

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Los Angeles, the sprawling city of dreams, embodies the essence of the American West Coast. From the sun-kissed beaches of Santa Monica to the glittering lights of Hollywood, LA offers a wealth of experiences that cater to every traveler’s desires. Whether you’re a culture vulture, a beach bum, a foodie, or an adventure seeker, there’s something for everyone in the City of Angels. In this guide, we’ll take you on a tour of the 22 best things to do in Los Angeles, including hidden gems and local secrets.

1. Explore Griffith Observatory

Perched on the slopes of Mount Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory offers breathtaking views of the city and the stars above. Don’t just visit during the day; come back at night to stargaze through telescopes. Secret spot: Hike up to the observatory during sunrise for a magical experience with fewer crowds.

2. Soak up the Sun at Santa Monica Beach

With its iconic pier and vibrant boardwalk, Santa Monica Beach is the quintessential LA seaside destination. Ride the Ferris wheel on the pier for a bird’s-eye view of the coastline and explore the bustling Third Street Promenade for shopping and dining.

3. Hike to the Hollywood Sign

For the best photo ops, take the less-crowded trail from Griffith Park to get up close to the Hollywood Sign. Alternatively, opt for a guided hike to learn about the sign’s history and the city’s filmmaking lore. The journey to the sign is an adventure in itself.

4. Visit the Getty Center

This stunning museum not only houses an impressive art collection but also boasts exquisite architecture and gardens. Admission is free, but parking has a fee. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the beautiful gardens and sculptures before or after exploring the museum’s artworks.

5. Wander through The Broad Museum

Contemporary art enthusiasts will find joy in exploring this museum’s thought-provoking exhibits, including works by artists like Jeff Koons and Jean-Michel Basquiat. While admission is free, it’s advisable to reserve tickets online to avoid long lines. Don’t miss Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room” for an immersive art experience.

6. Stroll Along Venice Beach Boardwalk

Venice Beach is a cultural melting pot and a prime spot for people-watching. Discover street performers, quirky shops, and the famed Muscle Beach Gym. Secret spot: Check out the Venice Canals, a tranquil oasis hidden within the neighborhood, reminiscent of Italy’s canals.

7. Experience Universal Studios Hollywood

Go behind the scenes of your favorite films and TV shows at Universal Studios. While the theme park is the main attraction, don’t miss the studio tour for a glimpse into movie magic, including iconic sets from classics like “Psycho” and “Jurassic Park.”

8. Tour the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States. Explore its diverse collection, including the iconic “Urban Light” installation by Chris Burden. Secret spot: Keep an eye out for special exhibitions and events held at the museum, including outdoor film screenings.

9. Discover the Griffith Park Old Zoo

Tucked away in Griffith Park, this abandoned zoo offers an eerie and unique exploration opportunity. Explore the animal enclosures and learn about the history of the zoo. Secret spot: Go at dusk for a slightly spooky but atmospheric experience, and bring a flashlight to explore the darker corners.

10. Dine at Grand Central Market

This historic food hall in downtown LA is a haven for food lovers. Savor a diverse range of culinary delights, from tacos to ramen to gourmet ice cream. Secret spot: Try Eggslut’s famous breakfast sandwiches for a delicious start to your day, or visit Sarita’s Pupuseria for authentic Salvadoran pupusas.

11. Hike in Runyon Canyon

Get a workout while taking in panoramic views of Los Angeles. Choose from various trails catering to different fitness levels. Secret spot: Hike early in the morning to avoid the heat and crowds, and keep an eye out for celebrity sightings, as this is a popular spot for locals and stars alike. If you are taking a special someone with you, you can also go on the romantic helicopter tour with a mountain landing.

12. Explore The Last Bookstore

Lose yourself in the labyrinthine stacks of this independent bookstore in downtown LA. The store’s “book tunnel” and artsy displays make it a unique literary destination. Secret spot: Look for the hidden art galleries within the store, showcasing the work of local artists.

13. Ride the Metro to see the murals

Los Angeles Metro is not just a means of transportation; it’s also a canvas for some of the city’s most vibrant street art. Take the Metro Red Line and explore stations like Hollywood/Western, where you’ll find captivating murals that add an artistic touch to your commute.

14. Visit the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

Located in the upscale neighborhood of San Marino, the Huntington offers a delightful blend of art, culture, and nature. Explore the extensive library, admire world-class art collections, and take a tranquil stroll through stunning botanical gardens.

15. Explore Little Tokyo

Step into a slice of Japanese culture in the heart of LA. Little Tokyo offers authentic dining experiences, unique shops, and cultural events. Don’t miss the Japanese Village Plaza, where you can browse traditional crafts and enjoy delicious mochi ice cream.

16. Taste Authentic Tacos in Boyle Heights

Explore the neighborhood of Boyle Heights for some of the city’s best tacos. Locals flock to spots like Guisados and El Mercadito for mouthwatering Mexican cuisine. Enjoy a taste of LA’s diverse culinary scene in this historic area.

17. Visit Hollywood and Celebrity Homes

Embarking on a bus tour to explore celebrity homes in Hollywood is a thrilling adventure into the glamorous world of the stars. As you board the comfortable tour bus, you’ll be guided through the exclusive neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and Bel Air, where you’ll catch glimpses of opulent mansions and iconic landmarks. With a knowledgeable guide providing fascinating insights, you’ll have the chance to see the lavish residences of Hollywood’s elite while indulging in a taste of the celebrity lifestyle.

18. Discover the Magic Castle

This private club in Hollywood is dedicated to the art of magic. While you’ll need a membership or an invitation to enter, the castle’s exterior is a charming sight. Secret spot: If you’re lucky enough to score an invitation, don’t miss the opportunity to witness a live magic performance in the castle’s intimate theaters.

19. Experience the Watts Towers

Explore the remarkable Watts Towers, a collection of 17 interconnected sculptures created by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia. These intricate structures are a testament to human creativity and persistence. Learn about the history of the towers and their unique construction.

20. Visit the Museum of Jurassic Technology

Step into a world of curiosities and oddities at this eccentric museum. It’s a surreal experience filled with intriguing exhibits and a touch of the absurd. Don’t try to make complete sense of it—just embrace the quirkiness.

21. Explore El Matador Beach

Escape the city’s hustle and bustle and head to El Matador Beach in Malibu. It’s a hidden gem with sea caves, rocky outcrops, and stunning sunsets. Secret spot: Arrive early in the morning to have this picturesque beach mostly to yourself and explore the tide pools.

22. Take a Day Trip to Joshua Tree National Park

While not in LA itself, Joshua Tree National Park is a scenic desert landscape just a few hours’ drive away. Explore its unique rock formations, go hiking, and stargaze in this otherworldly setting. Secret spot: Discover hidden oases like Barker Dam and explore the surreal landscapes during sunrise or sunset.