Attractions

Your guide to the best attractions and activities in LA, including theme parks, tourist sights and historic sites

Things to Do

84 Los Angeles attractions for tourists and natives alike

Visit these essential Los Angeles attractions, whether you're a tourist in for the weekend or a native looking to explore

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Free attractions in LA

Make a pit-stop at these free attractions in LA—from wallet-friendly cultural centers to iconic sites in the city.

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The 8 essential Disneyland tips

Whether you're a Disney parks veteran or a first timer, follow these eight tips to cut through the crowds and have a blast at Disneyland and California Adventure

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101 things to do in Los Angeles

Your essential guide to the best things to do in LA this season, from stair hikes to welding workshops and more

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Best parks in LA

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Griffith Park

Spanning an impressive 4,210 acres, it's easy to get lost in LA's largest public green space, much of which remains unchanged from the days when Native Americans settled here. For more activity-minded folks, there are myriad attractions (Griffith merry-go-round, LA Zoo, the Observatory), plus hiking routes, horseback riding trails and three sets of tennis courts.

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Grand Park

The slow, lumbering mission to turn Downtown LA into a vibrant cultural hub got a lift when a portion of Grand Park's 12 acres officially opened to the public in July 2012. Dotted with fountains, picnic lawns, bright pink benches and plenty of nooks from which to sit and people-watch, Grand Park is a bright urban oasis that proves the city has a sense of romance. The park plays host to performances, gatherings and other community events.

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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Tongva Park

Parking lots turned into parks—it's the latest transformation sweeping LA, and who could complain after setting eyes on Santa Monica's Tongva Park? This idyllic and well-designed ocean-adjacent oasis harbors a playground, meadows, waterfalls, walking paths and a conch-like, wireframe lookout to the Pacific. Artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle's kinetic sculpture Weather Field anchors the park as a minimal, serene and instantly memorable landmark.

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Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area

Griffith may get all of the attention, but Kenneth Hahn is impressive in both size and topography for a park in the middle of the Westside. On top of the usual list of amenities, the Culver City park contains a lotus pond, fishing lake and sand volleyball court. But the urban oasis really establishes itself with over seven miles of walking and hiking trails through the Baldwin Hills, with views of almost every corner of the LA—from the South Bay and the Pacific Ocean to Downtown and the San Gabriels.

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Best museums in LA

Museums

11 essential museums

Don't leave LA—whether you're a resident or a tourist—without seeing these truly great LA attractions.

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Museums

Natural History Museum

The NHM's original Beaux Arts structure was the first museum building in Los Angeles, opening with Exposition Park itself back in 1913. Its massive collection spans more than 35 million objects and specimens (not all of them are on display at any one time), making it second in size only to the Smithsonian's. It's an immense place, so it's well worth planning your visit. Those with only a little time to spare should head directly to the truly dazzling collections in the Gem & Mineral Hall, where the exhibits include a 4,644-carat topaz, a 2,200-carat opal sphere and a quartz crystal ball which, with a diameter of 10.9 in and a weight of 65lb, is one of the biggest on earth. A six-year, $135-million program of renovations wrapped up in 2013, including the addition of 108,000 square feet of indoor space. The Otis Booth Pavilion now welcomes visitors into the museum from the north with a six-story light-filled glass entrance, featuring a stunning, 63-foot-long fin whale skeleton. Twelve new galleries and five exhibits have opened, including "Becoming L.A.: Stories of Nature and Culture," which examines the Los Angeles region's history from Native Americans to the Catholic missions, the Industrial Revolution and the World Wars, to the present day. Outdoors, the Nature Gardens features 3.5-acre urban wilderness with a pond, dry creek bed, beautiful landscaping and other features that attract local critters. The Nature Lab features interactive multimedia and live animal habitats, t

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Art

Getty Center

Recommended: Getty Center to-go guide Los Angeles's hilltop acropolis was conceived as a home for the hitherto disparate entities of the J. Paul Getty Trust, but that's the only straightforward thing about it. Architect Richard Meier was hired to build the museum in 1984, but it took 13 years, several additional designers (to work on the interior and the landscaping) and $1 billion to complete. The end result is a remarkable complex of travertine and white metal-clad pavilions that resembles a kind of monastic retreat designed for James Bond. Its relative inaccessibility is more than compensated for by the panoramic views, from the hills and the ocean in the west all the way around to Downtown in the east.Once you've parked at the bottom and taken the electric tram ride up the hill, one thing becomes apparent: it's a big place. To the west of the plaza is a café, a restaurant and the circular Research Institute, which houses one of the world's largest art and architecture libraries, and a roster of public exhibits. Beyond it is the Central Garden, designed by Robert Irwin. North are the other institutes (some off-limits to the public) and the Harold M Williams Auditorium, where talks and symposia alternate with concerts and film screenings. And to the south, up a grand Spanish Steps-style stairway, is the museum lobby, an airy, luminous rotunda that opens to a fountain-filled courtyard surrounded by six pavilions housing the permanent collection and often-excellent temporary

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Art

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Recommended: See Top 10 works at LACMA While LACMA's collections have long been the most impressive in the city, the 20-acre complex of buildings in which they've been housed has been quite the reverse. A bewildering jumble of architectural styles blighted further still by abysmally poor signage, they never really did the artworks justice. At last, though, things have improved. Funding difficulties and public outrage forced the museum to abandon Rem Koolhaas's original plans to rebuild almost the entire complex from scratch in 2002. However, Renzo Piano's subsequent blueprint for a less dramatic and less expensive redevelopment of the museum did get the go-ahead. The aptly named Transformation is still a work in progress, but the museum is already a lot more visitor-friendly (attendance increased from 600,000 in 2005 to nearly 1,000,000 in 2011). It all starts with the entrance: the BP Grand Entrance Pavilion gives the museum a proper focal point. The entrance includes the installation of Chris Burden's Urban Light, a piece made up of 202 cast-iron street lamps gathered from around LA, restored to working order.The Broad Contemporary Art Museum (widely known as BCAM), funded by LA philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, is home to a dazzling selection of modern work. Spread over three floors, the selection of pieces on display is strong on American artists—there's a very impressive Richard Serra piece on the first floor; Cindy Sherman and Jenny Holzer are among the artists r

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Art

MOCA Grand Ave

The main branch of LA's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) houses thousands of artworks crafted from 1940 until now. Spend half an hour or an entire afternoon absorbing contemporary pieces from lesser known artists, punctuated by sightings of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock works. For just $12 ($7 students and seniors), you can have your run of the place, including a free audio tour and access to outdoor installations. If you plan your visit for a Thursday night between 5pm and 8pm, admission to MOCA Grand Ave is on the house.

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Best gardens in LA

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Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens

You'll find cultural glories inside the library's impressive book collection—the bequest of entrepreneur Henry E. Huntington—but the Huntington's highlights are outdoors in its vast jigsaw of botanical gardens, arguably the most glorious in the entire Los Angeles region. The acres and acres of public gardens are divided into a variety of themes, including a prickly desert garden, a serene Japanese garden and bamboo forest, as well as an ever-expanding assembly of Chinese pagodas, pavilions and bridges.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Museums

Descanso Gardens

This delightful tribute to the horticultural magic of Southern California includes more than 600 varieties of camellia (these are best seen between the middle of February and early May, when there are around 34,000 of the plants in bloom) and some five acres of roses. There are also lilac, orchid, fern and California native plant areas, as well as a tea house donated by the Japanese-American community.

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Attractions

Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden

These gorgeous grounds in Arcadia, very close to the Santa Anita racetrack, have been designed as an educational facility (the plants are mostly arranged by region, and tours are available), but many people simply come here for a little peace and quiet. You could wander these gardens for hours, taking in tropical forests and waterfalls, trees and fish. Plus, be on the lookout for wild peacocks.

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Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

The LA Zoo's greatest asset is its location in the isolated hills of Griffith Park. It's a pretty popular place, but the zoo's size—80 acres, plus a huge parking lot—means that, like the park itself, it rarely feels busy. There's not a separate botanical garden here, but you will find over 800 different plant species, from native succulents to prehistoric cycads, labeled and catalogued throughout the zoo's continentally-themed habitats.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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More attractions in LA

Museums

Griffith Observatory

"If every person could look through that telescope," declared Griffith J Griffith, "it would revolutionize the world." More than 70 years after this iconic building opened, the world remains unrevolutionized, and the city smog means that the views are not as crystal-clear as they were in Griffith's day. However, after a five-year program of renovations at the observatory, the 12 in. Zeiss refracting telescope is once again open to the public, providing the crowning glory for this wonderful old landmark.You could comfortably spend a few hours here just taking in the exhibits and the shows. The ground floor holds the Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, a pair of complementary displays that focus on humans' relationship to the stars; a Foucault pendulum, directly under Hugo Ballin's famed mural on the central rotunda; and the handsome, high-tech Samuel Oschin Planetarium. And downstairs, accessible via the campy displays of space-slanted jewelry in the Cosmic Connection Corridor, you'll find a number of other new exhibits. At the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, you can see a short film about the history and resurgence of the observatory. Pieces of the Sky documents, brightly and informatively, the impact made on Earth by meteorites and other falling debris. The Gunther Depths of Space contains crisp descriptions of the planets, a bronze of Albert Einstein and a vast, 2.46-gigapixel image of the night sky taken from the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County. And there are

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Disneyland Resort

The longstanding Disneyland resort isn't just a set of theme parks: it's a spectacular piece of pop art that's as bright or as dark as you'd like it to be. Incorporating two parks—the 50-year-old, near-mythic Disneyland, plus the younger and less-celebrated Disney's California Adventure—the resort calls itself "The Happiest Place on Earth." And if you bring the right mood with you, it'll likely live up to its nickname.Certainly, Disney does all it can to get you in the right mood. Disneyland isn't so much a park as its own separate world; there are even three Disney-operated hotels in the resort, so you need not have the illusion shattered at the end of the day. The hotels, though, do bring to attention the main drawback to spending time here: the sheer expense. You can save hundreds of dollars staying at one of the non-Disney hotels just outside the property, and you may need to do so in order to afford the steep prices of food, drink and admission. It's worth noting, though, that ticket prices drop if you visit for multiple days, recommended if you want to get a real feel for the place and enjoy all the rides.Both parks boast dozens of dining spots, with cuisine ranging from burgers and pizza to pastas and seafood. Still, you may want to dine at Downtown Disney, a pedestrian-only avenue of nightclubs (including a House of Blues) and restaurants between the two parks. It's not that the food is that much better, but if you're going to be paying Disney's high prices, you might

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Attractions

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

Run by environmental charity Heal the Bay and located underneath the pier, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium takes an educational tack; indeed, it's closed during the morning to allow for school field trips. It's a low-key place, a galaxy away from the likes of SeaWorld, but there's fun here for youngsters in the form of touch tanks full of crabs, snails and the like. A good option for parents who can't bear the raucous atmosphere on the pier.

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Universal Studios & CityWalk

More than any of its Southern California competitors, Universal Studios is a theme park with a capital 'T'. The theme here, of course, is the movies. The park offers a necessarily selective ramble through the studio's hits and even one or two of its misses; it's difficult to know whether the park is here to promote the movies or vice versa. Either way, it's hard to shake the feeling that you've bought tickets to a colossal marketing exercise.The rides aren't as exciting as you might expect: certainly, they lack both Disneyland's charm and the sheer terror inspired by Six Flags Magic Mountain. You're here for the illusion of glamour, the silver-screen memories brought back by the rides rather than the rides themselves. Kids may enjoy Jurassic Park: The Ride, and all ages should be tickled by the ride based on The Simpsons. Other films brought to something approaching life include Transformers, The Mummy and, bizarrely, Waterworld. However, the pick of the themed attractions, for both grown-ups and kids, is the cheeky Shrek 4-D movie.Similarly, the studio tour itself is more about association than excitement. Despite all the hype boasting of how you're being let behind the scenes, the closest you'll likely get to seeing some actual action is spying the occasional spark's car parked behind an otherwise faceless sound stage. Still, once you've resigned yourself (and your kids) to a star-free afternoon, there's a great deal to enjoy, from old movie sets seemingly left lying around

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Shopping and style

The Grove

In a town where most malls are housed inside bland, air-conditioned structures, this upscale open-air center has been a hit. There are only around 50 retailers, but the selection is strong (an Apple Store, Barneys New York Co-Op, Crate & Barrel, Lucky Brand, the West Coast's flagship Abercrombie & Fitch) and there's also a decent movie theater. Fears that it would kill the adjacent Farmers Market have, happily, proven groundless.

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Hollywood Bowl

This gorgeous outdoor amphitheatre has been hosting concerts since the LA Philharmonic first played here in 1922. Nestled in an aesthetically blessed fold in the Hollywood Hills, the 18,000-seat venue can bring out the romantic in the terminally cynical, and the glorious setting almost makes up for the somewhat dodgy acoustics. It's the summer home of the LA Philharmonic, but it's hosted everyone from the Beatles to Big Bird, and today mixes classical concerts with all manner of rock and pop.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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