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20 great things to do in Los Angeles for tourists

From star spotting on Rodeo Drive and at the Griffith Observatory to museum hopping between the Getty and LACMA, your guide to things to do in Los Angeles

Photograph: Courtesy LACMA
Chris Burden, Urban Light (2008), view at night

The list of things to do in Los Angeles is as long as the city is vast. If your time in town is limited, you could spend days in the museums alone and never even make your way to Hollywood. Expect to put in a few miles between hitting up Venice Beach and exploring a hip Eastside 'hood. But that's the great thing about this city: there are so many things to do and see, like the ones listed below, to get the most from your LA getaway.

Start your visit in LA with these great things to do

1

Get active on Venice Beach

Venice Beach has long been known as the kooky Mecca of California, and while it gets more than a fair share of mainstream tourists, the area nurtures its eccentric spirit. Skateboarders, radical pamphleteers and body builders: the visibility is great if you enjoy people-watching. Go for lunch at the local Figtree's Café before scanning the shelves at Small World Books. The bohemian district is welcoming to the gay community.

Looking to relax by the ocean? Check out the best beaches in LA.

2

See the sights of Hollywood

Hollywood celebrities are never far away in LA. To catch a glimpse of stardust, stroll the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where more than 2,400 figures from the entertainment world are immortalized in pink terrazzo with symbolic gold lettering. If you're a film buff, look out for the famous hand and footprints at the Chinese Theatre. Countless premieres and galas have passed through, adding to the renowned pagoda's star quality.

Thinking of making a day of it? Find our favorite things to do in Hollywood.

3

Marvel at big budget art

The Getty Center is the envy of museums worldwide for its generous endowments. Although it doesn't match the rich collections of Old World galleries, it has some impressive works covering a vast sweep of history. Among them are several paintings by Rubens and a sprinkling of Impressionists, including Monet, Renoir, Cézanne and Van Gogh. The French decorative arts and an expanding photography collection are definitely worth visiting. And don't forget to hunt out Miró and Moore in the fine sculpture garden.

Make sure to see these seven must-see works at the Getty.

4

Shop in style on Rodeo Drive

Many people dream of being Julia Roberts shopping on Rodeo Drive, but few can afford to buy from the array of high-end designers seen in the film Pretty Woman. So window-shopping is the order of the day. Along the $200-million ersatz European cobbled walkway Two Rodeo, browsing tourists mingle with serious spenders. A hop away is Anderson Court, which is the only shopping mall designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Fulfill your fashion dreams at the best shops in LA.

5

Take a walking tour

Take a fuel-efficient walking tour and cherish Los Angeles' urban architectural heritage. The Los Angeles Conservancy walking tours take in the city's top sights and most beautiful buildings, from Downtown's historic theaters and art deco (on a weekly basis) to the modern skyline tour (bi-monthly). Be sure to reserve a place well ahead, because the tours are incredibly popular.

More interested in celebrity homes and glitzy landmarks? Check out our Hollywood tour recommendations.

6

Squeeze in the Jurassic experience

Despite the misleading name, this scientific nook has nothing to do with Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. The Museum of Jurassic Technology is home to a repository of curiosities: scientific wonders include a bat that can fly through walls and artistic miracles such as impossibly tiny sculptures. The institute is an intriguing combination of fact and fiction, and much more exciting than chasing CGI dinosaurs.

Get weird with a trip to some more off-the-beaten path museums.

7

Marvel at Los Angeles' Museum Row

The collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, are housed in a vast 20-acre complex of buildings, expertly renovated in 2008. The focal point is the BP Grand Entrance, which includes the stunning installation of Chris Burden's Urban Light. The Broad Contemporary Art Museum is home to a dazzling selection of modern works. LACMA sits just across the street from the Petersen Automotive Museum and the Craft & Folk Art Museum.

Make sure to check these 10 must-see works of art at LACMA.

8

Wise up at the Griffith Observatory

You could happily spend a few hours browsing around the Griffith Observatory, even though you can't see much through the giant telescope. There's the popular Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, a pair of complementary displays that explores the connections between people and space. The star attraction is the building itself and its stunning view of the city from Griffith Park.

Don't miss out on these 83 other essential Los Angeles attractions.

9

Draw from towers of strength

Italian-born tile-setter Simon Rodia began building the Watts Towers using nothing but scrap metal in the 1920s. Scaling the towers with a window-washer's belt and bucket, he decorated them over the next three decades with consumer objects, such as green glass from bottles of 7-Up or Canada Dry and tiles from Malibu Pottery, as well as jewelry, marble and seashells. There are 17 of these intriguing structures, the tallest stretches nearly 100 feet into the sky. They still exude a kind of spectral beauty years after they were built.

Find more weird and fun ways to explore LA.

10

Get animated with Mickey and Minnie

You're never too old for Disneyland. This legendary theme park is packed with cool things to do, spread over seven lands and the adjacent California Adventure. Stroll down Main Street USA to experience turn-of-the 19th century America, head Westwards at Frontierland and tune into the music of New Orleans square, minus the floods and booze. Great rides include the stomach-churning Space Mountain and the epic Indiana Jones Adventure.

Make sure to get on the 25 best Disneyland rides while you're there.

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Comments

22 comments
johny g
johny g

Kapuskasing has the best roads, go there, its a total shit hole


David A
David A

Getty Villa, in Pacific Palisades? Santa Monica Pier? La Brea Tar Pits? The Hollywood Bowl? Olvera Street? Chinatown? Autry Center of the American West in Griffith Park? Petersen Automotive Museum? The Skirball Center? Museum of Tolerance? Melrose? Third Street? Abbot Kinney? Staples Center? Dodger Stadium? Rose Bowl? Colosseum? Topanga Canyon? Homes of the Stars? Universal Studios? Warner Bros Tour? Paramount Studios Tour? Sony Pictures Tour? The Hollywood Sign? Space Shuttle Endeavor at the California Science Center, next to USC? The Beach?

Bob R
Bob R

nice list :), not.

Shelli K
Shelli K

@Bob R This is pobably the least helpful comment on here! Do you have any suggestions of better things to do, or are you just trolling?

Tourist
Tourist

This list SUCKS; "power walk to conserve energy" - I have to come to LA to do that?! "Stock up on fresh produce" - that I can get from anywhere else? I'm a tourist, not grocery shopping! The whole list is obvious, weak and/or a not great idea.

tim
tim

yay!

Jhoenna
Jhoenna

I just posted a package deal to Los Angeles. I'll be sharing this post to our Facebook page for our readers' additional info about LA. http://bit.ly/186FaBH

Sara
Sara

Pretty much sums up the area :)

nullhogarth
nullhogarth

"Relentless smog?" The author of this piece obviously does not live in Los Angeles. While technically there is more air pollution in the LA basin overall than in some other cities, on most days the air here is clear.

Alexandre
Alexandre

this is not a recomendation for a Toruist. What about Hollywood?? You are saing that I should go visit some CD store?? C´mon...

Thor
Thor

Los Angeles also has some great whale watching and it is year round. Summer and fall giant blue whales and winter and spring the gray whale migration. Great way to see amazing coastlines and these amazing mammals.

The One
The One

wonderful stufff brozzzzz tots check itz outz manzzzz