The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles

January 16, 2016

There’s no shortage of things to do in Los Angeles.

From the shopping found on Rodeo Drive to the movie-star magic of Hollywood, the options abound at this sprawling vacation destination. Divide your time between the museums, attractions, outdoor pursuits and beaches of greater Los Angeles, or make your trip all about the epic theme parks that call this region home. Follow my guide to the things to do in Los Angeles to design your ideal vacation.

close up of the Hollywood Boulevard sign on a sunny day in Los Angeles, California, USA

Of course, you have to visit Hollywood.

It’s easy to get your celebrity fix in LA. The entire town is sprinkled with stardust. Walk the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame to see where the stars are immortalized with glittering stars, or check out the famous hand and footprints at the Chinese Theatre. At Universal Studios, you can go behind-the-scenes of movie-making while also riding blockbuster-based attractions. For a guided trip through Hollywood, bus tours are ideal. You can see all of the highlights of Hollywood and get the inside scoop on the celebrity homes, hangouts and landmarks of Tinseltown.

Venice Beach
Despite being modeled after its namesake city in Italy, Venice Beach has become a haven for California culture. You need to embrace the eccentric when you visit, as a free spirit flows through and creates a quirky atmosphere. The main claim to fame is the Venice Beach Boardwalk. It’s always a great spot to people watch, what with its ever-changing cast of characters and freewheeling beachgoers.  Speaking of the beach, it’s usually bustling and is known more for its sunbathing than swimming. In California, it’s relay more about being seen. Along Venice Beach, there quirky restaurants and shops. I especially like the food options on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

Walking path to the Griffith Observatory - Los Angeles, California, USAGriffith Observatory & Park
For a stunning view of Los Angeles, head to the top of Mount Hollywood to the Griffith Observatory. Its south facing location provides impressive views of greater Los Angeles and its sprawl towards the Pacific Ocean. There are 4,200-acres to explore at here, and more than 50 miles of hiking biking trails.  Trek to a waterfall for or climb to scenic overlooks. It’s a great place to get up-close to nature in Los Angeles. Of course, the planetarium host interesting exhibits and shows, and has a giant telescope for skyward observations. A minimal fee of $3-7 is need to visit the planetarium, but the scenic sights and hikes at Griffith Observatory are absolutely free.

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Santa Monica Beach & Pier
Santa Monica is classic California. Featuring one of the most celebrated stretches beach. Three miles of soft sands make it an ideal spot to sun and swim. Stroll the renowned Santa Monica Pier, take in the urban a beach atmosphere of Third Street Promenade, and dine at award-winning, palate-pleasing restaurant. There are about 340 days of sunshine here a year, making it one of the top 10 beach cities in the world.

Girl and Mom Standing with Sleeping Beauty at Disneyland castle in Los Angeles, California, USA

Spend your first day in Los Angeles experiencing the magic of Disneyland.

Los Angeles Theme Parks
Make a dream come true at Disneyland, witness movie magic at Universal Studios Hollywood, ride the spectacular thill coasters of Six Flags Magic Mountain. The options are abundant when you look for amusements in Los Angeles. Nearby visitors can access LEGOLAND, Knott’s Berry Farm, SeaWorld and more. No matter which theme parks you choose to visit, you’re promised world-class thrills and once-in-a-lifetime memories.

Rodeo Drive
Fashion is key to the LA scene. This is especially true at Rodeo Drive, an upscale shopping street lined with high-end designer stores.  It was forever seared in the minds of movie-goers in Pretty Woman, and everyone dreams of going on a shopping spree on this cobblestone street. Even if that’s not in the cards, it’s worth a visit to window shop, mingle among celebrity shoppers and simply take in the surreally swanky atmosphere.

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ground view of water and building at The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum in Los Angeles, California, USALa Brea Tar Pits
Located on museum row, the La Brea Tar Pits are an attraction both kids and parents marvel at. Believe it or not, this is the world’s most famous ice age fossil excavation site with more than 100 tons of fossils found. The reason is due to the hot tar that has been bubbling from the earth for more than 40,000 years. It’s a gooey, bizarre sight made even more interesting by the excavation tours, special encounters and fossil lab featuring the findings of La Brea. Viewing the tar pits is free of charge, v but the museum is $12/adults.

Runyon Canyon
If you’ve ever flipped through a celebrity magazine, you’ve no doubt seen a picture of a star hiking Runyon Canyon. It’s a popular place to hike the Los Angeles hills, and with a location just two blocks of Hollywood Boulevard, it’s easy to access. The hike can be strenuous because it’s so dry and hot, but the old Hollywood feel of the area, largely due to the old mansions and estates located throughout the park, make it worth it. Plus, the view at the top of the canyon of San Fernando Valley and Pacific area pretty fantastic. This free activity can be done any day of the week, from dawn to dusk.

distant view of the Warner Brothers Studio Tower in Los Angeles, California, USAStudio Tours
For an authentic Hollywood experience, a studio tour is in order. Paramount Studios and Warner Bros. Studios both offer popular backlot tours featuring notable sites from some of your favorite movies and television shows. At Paramount, a two-hour tour covers sound stages and studio sets from current pop culture hits as well as lot locations that create scenes from almost any part of the world. Friendly tour guides help visitors make the most of this behind-the-scenes tour. The same can be said for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.  View real sets and soundstages where the greatest names and most iconic television shows made history. The 110-acre backlot tour covers behind-the-camera action and includes an interactive soundstage experience.

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The Getty Center
While somewhat tricky to get to, The Getty Center is worth finding as it’s one of the most impressive architectural achievements in the United States.  It’s also home to world-famous art works, ranging from the renaissance to baroque to photographic pieces. Artists such as Rubens, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and Van Gogh line the walls. Surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains, the Getty Center is beautiful inside and out.

Museum Row on Miracle Mile
You could spend days exploring the museums on Miracle Mile. The previously mentioned La Brea Tar Pits is found on along this section of Wilshire Boulevard, as is LA County Museum of Art, Craft and Folk Art Museum, and Petersen’s Auto Museum. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, Miracle Mile is near many other fantastic sites including Chinatown, the Fashion District and Melrose. Hancock Park also draws visitors and the mix of restaurants centered along Miracle Mile makes it easy to fuel up during your day.

These are just a few of the things to do in Los Angeles. This sprawling urban city is vast, but with a little bit of planning you can make the most of your time here.

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