Things to Do in Los Angeles
Spanning eight states and 2,448 miles (3,940 kilometers), Historic Route 66 has become a cultural icon, immortalized in song and on the silver screen. This romanticized road trip from Chicago to Santa Monica offers drivers an inside look at classic America—kitschy roadside attractions, diners, historic motels, and plenty of 1950s nostalgia.
One of LA's most distinguishing icons, the famous Hollywood Sign proudly stands on Mt. Lee (Mount Lee) in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Los Angeles and the California movie industry it has come to symbolize. This LA landmark first appeared on its hillside perch in 1923 as an advertising gimmick for a real-estate development called Hollywoodland. Each letter stands 50 feet (15 meters) tall and is made of sheet metal painted white.
Only in Los Angeles are stars so common that they can even be found on the sidewalk. Studded with more than 2,600 brass stars across 18 city blocks, the Hollywood Walk of Fame features names of celebrities in mini monuments. See if you can spot the stars of your favorite motion pictures, TV shows, live theater, and more.
Just over the hill from sunny Santa Barbara lie the Santa Ynez Valley and the small, Danish-style town of Solvang. Founded in 1911 by a group of Danish teachers, Solvang (Danish for “sunny field”) is now a bustling hub of activity, ripe with wine-tasting rooms, a fairy-tale-esque downtown, and all sorts of quirky shops.
The legendary 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) stretch of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood known as the Sunset Strip extends east–west from Beverly Hills to Hollywood, laid end to end with celebrity-studded music venues dating back to the heyday of rock and roll, comedy clubs, boutiques, restaurants, hotels, and cocktail bars with stellar views of the surrounding city.
Known for its free-spirited vibe, Venice Beach is a happening, upscale outlier of Los Angeles, fronted by the iconic Venice Boardwalk, officially known as the Ocean Front Walk. Encounters with pickup basketball teams, fortune tellers, and roller skating sunseekers are pretty much guaranteed—especially on hot Southern California summer days. Beyond the sand, visit the skate park, the famous Muscle Beach outdoor gym, and Abbot Kinney Boulevard, featuring trendy restaurants, stylish boutiques, galleries, and cafés.
Peek into old Hollywood on a visit to the historic TCL Chinese Theatre. This quintessential California landmark, featured in movies since 1927, is still a favorite location for star-studded red-carpet premieres. A recent upgrade to the theater’s seats and IMAX 3D equipment enhances the experience while keeping the theater’s original charm.
Griffith Park is one of the largest city parks in North America, covering a vast 4,310 acres (1,744 hectares). An oasis in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, this green space caters to visitors of all ages and interests with attractions such as the Los Angeles City Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, and the iconic Hollywood sign.
One of the most famous shopping districts in the world, Rodeo Drive attracts a well-heeled crowd of label lovers who exercise their credit cards at designer shops like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany, and Gucci. Between the elegant storefronts, luxury cars, and swaying palm trees, it’s a Hollywood movie scene come to life.
Set along California’s Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica has two claims to fame: the Santa Monica Beach and pier. At Santa Monica Beach, miles of sand host playgrounds, parks, picnic areas, staffed lifeguard stations, and the original Muscle Beach. Nearly 8 million visitors frequent the area each year, most of whom follow the boardwalk to the Santa Monica Pier, whose neon-lit arch and ferris wheel are instantly recognizable from film and TV.
More Things to Do in Los Angeles
One of the world's oldest continuously operating movie studios, Universal® Studios Hollywood presents an entertaining mix of thrill rides and live action shows, plus a tram ride. The large California theme park cleverly integrates the shows and rides with behind-the-scenes presentations on movie-making.
Formerly known as the Kodak Theatre, the 180,000-square-foot, 3,400-seat Dolby Theatre now showcases Dolby Laboratories' state-of-the-art sound technologies. Situated in the popular Hollywood & Highland mall complex, the elegant Dolby Theatre hosts the famed Academy Awards.
Periodically, the Dolby also plays host to charity benefits, movie premieres, special events and other televised award shows. The theater's soaring stage, one of the largest in the United States, has featured the national premiere of Pixar's Brave, the American Idol finals, the Daytime Emmys, the American Ballet Theatre and even President Barack Obama, while out on the campaign trail.
One of Los Angeles’ most popular shopping destinations, The Grove is an open-air retail and entertainment complex. Stretching across 575,000 square feet (53,419 square meters), the mall hosts dozens of shops, restaurants, and even a movie theater. A trolley serves the complex—ride it for fun or just to rest your feet.
Open since 1934, the Los Angeles Farmers Market, aka the Original Farmers Market, draws both locals and visitors to its 100-plus food stalls, grocers, eateries, and other vendors that sell everything from fruit, meat, and baked goods to skincare, candles, flowers, and housewares. You can easily spend a couple of hours here eating, browsing, and people-watching.
From the Hills to the Sign, the Los Angeles neighborhood of Hollywood has become synonymous with the entertainment industry—and, often, its glamorous appeal. Match your handprints and footprints to those of Hollywood stars on the Walk of Fame; look out for celebs in Tinseltown; and visit famed theaters, such as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre—now the TCL Chinese Theatre—and the Egyptian.
With more than 1,400 mammals, birds, and reptiles representing more than 270 species, the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens is one of the world's best zoos. Visit to see and learn about animals from across the globe, ranging from elephants to chimpanzees to Komodo dragons, including roughly 60 endangered species.
Whether it’s hiking or horseback riding, biking or busing, there are plenty of ways to explore the well-heeled neighborhood of Hollywood Hills. Its famous bright white Hollywood sign has become an iconic California image and its panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley have made it worth venturing outside the city for tourists hoping to capture the perfect sunset picture.
Travelers can climb to the top of Mt. Hollywood or wander through scenic Griffith Park. John Anson Ford Theater, the Hollywood Bowl, the Hollywood Reservoir and Forest Lawn Memorial Park are also popular sites on a visit to this famed high-rent neighborhood, but visitors would do just as well to drive around the quiet streets taking in some of the most classic (and impressive) residential architecture in California.
Santa Catalina—widely known as just Catalina—is a beautiful Southern California island just off the coast of Los Angeles. With rocky terrain, blue waters, and Mediterranean flair, it’s an idyllic escape from the City of Angels, and hard to believe that it’s only a 1-hour ferry ride away. Catalina’s only small town, Avalon, is home to boutique shopping, oceanfront dining, and harbor views. There are plenty of chances to get in or on the island’s stunning waters as well—if you can drag yourself of off the beach.
While it’s best known for its movie stars, one of the City of Angels’ most elegant attractions is this gorgeous 1913 Beaux Arts palace. Like a smaller, west coast version of New York’s American Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) contains a microcosm of the whole world, both indoors and out in the Southern California sunshine.
Highlights of the museum are an enormous Dinosaur Hall full of sea monster fossils and T. Rex skeletons, three halls’ worth of amazingly realistic wildlife habitat dioramas (the African hall is like a safari that stands still), and a 150,000-specimen Gem and Mineral Hall full of gold, diamonds and other sparkly distractions. But be sure not to miss the soaring Rotunda at the center of the building, with its intricate stained glass dome, graceful bronze statues, and colorful paintings by artist Charles R. Knight, which illustrate mid-20th-century scientists’ findings about the prehistoric world.
You’ll rarely see a bigger collection of stuffed animals or a more opulent collection of pre-Columbian treasures. Try to avoid eye(s) contact with the tarantula in the Insect Zoo, but seek out a unique collection of Zuni fetishes; these tiny stone, bone and antler carvings found in a glass case by the ground floor stairs were made by the Zuni people, a Native American tribe from New Mexico.
Outside, take a wander through the Edible Garden to learn the names and leaves of common kitchen herbs, or to see what an artichoke looks like in full flower. Out in the Butterfly Pavilion (open May-October), the popular goal is getting these winged beauties to land on you – even if it’s just for a few seconds.
One of Los Angeles’ most storied intersections, Hollywood and Vine has long been associated with silver-screen glitz and glamour. Once home to major movie studios as well as cinematic legends like Charlie Chaplin and Marlene Dietrich, the intersection now features on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and is host to other historical landmarks.
Tucked into the plaza of a Century City office complex, this 10,000-square-foot streamlined building is the only museum in Los Angeles dedicated to both digital and traditional print photography. Run by the Annenberg Foundation, a longtime patron of American arts and culture, both admission and docent-led tours at the Space are free to the public.
Open since 2008, exhibits have included images from rock ’n’ roll history, dissertations on beauty culture, stories of war, and career retrospectives of famous photographers. Works are displayed on high-resolution, state-of-the-art glass screens, and table-mounted “surface” screen allow visitors to interact with photos, zoom in and out on their details.
On a busy downtown street corner, the Walt Disney® Concert Hall's twisted-metal landmark building bursts from the Los Angeles cityscape. Designed by Frank Gehry and acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, the building’s interior features walls and a ceiling finished with Douglas fir and unparalleled sound, making it a must-see attraction for lovers of music and architecture.
One of the most-visited Madame Tussauds in the world, Madame Tussauds Hollywood stands on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Highlights include wax figures of entertainment icons; film directors such as Alfred Hitchcock; movie characters such as E.T. and the X-Men; as well as pop stars, infamous criminals, and athletes.
Hailed as one of Southern California's most beautiful beaches, Newport Beach beckons with miles of wide-open, sandy shores that make Los Angeles traffic feel a world away. Despite being fringed by multimillion dollar real estate, the beach maintains a laid-back vibe thanks to an endless summer surf culture and tourist-friendly amenities.
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