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

Photograph: Pedro Szekely/Flickr
Griffith Observatory.

LA covers a staggeringly huge amount of land (and ocean), so it's no surprise that the list of Los Angeles attractions is equally impressive. If you're a tourist looking for things to do, you'll find plenty of vacation inspiration, from Hollywood tours to a day at the one the city's best beaches. And locals, you may discover ways to fall in love with the city all over again in our extensive list of Los Angeles attractions.

Major attractions

Santa Monica Pier

Considered the focal point of Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica Pier includes Pacific Park, a traditional set-up stocked with a Ferris wheel, aquarium, fairground games and cotton candy stands. On warm weekends, the stretch is busy with families, beach bums and gym bunnies, who work out in public at the original Muscle Beach just south of the pier. Lately, the Pier has played host to a number of outdoor film and music events, bringing a hipper clientele to the boardwalk.

RECOMMENDED: A tour of Santa Monica's Montana Avenue

Read more
Free

Griffith Observatory

Critics' pick

"If every person could look through that telescope," declared Griffith J. Griffith, "it would revolutionize the world." More than 80 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. But the vista is no less stunning, particularly at night when Los Angeles twinkles below. Inside you'll find a bevy of exhibits, including a Foucault pendulum, Tesla coil and planetarium show. Give yourself plenty of time before the 10pm closing to gaze through the 12-inch refracting telescope on the roof, otherwise you can look through the far less crowded modern, reflecting telescope on the front lawn.

RECOMMENDED: Proposal ideas in Los Angeles

Read more
Los Feliz Free

Venice Beach

People-watching is the raison d'être at Venice Beach, which effectively continues from the southern end of Santa Monica Beach without a break. Jump into the flow of the winding Venice Boardwalk, where you can skate or cycle, watch or play volleyball or basketball, and check out the pumped-up gym obsessives who work out at Muscle Beach. Surfers may want to opt out of the less than pristine waters with inconsistent waves. For a completely different side of Venice, take a stroll through the idyllic Venice Canals (centered around Venice Boulevard and Dell Avenue). Street parking is usually jammed, but there are several beachside lots.

RECOMMENDED: Abbot Kinney guide

Read more

The Hollywood Sign

What may be one of the biggest LA mysteries is how to get as close as possible to the iconic Hollywood Sign. Originally created in 1923, the then "Hollywoodland" sign was supposed to be up for only a year and a half, yet here it is over 90 years later. You can catch a dead-on glimpse of the sign on Beachwood Drive, or further up the hill near Lake Hollywood Park. Looking to get even closer? Lace up for a trek along the dirt road on Mt Lee Drive to where you will be standing directly above the Hollywood Sign and can experience a total 360-degree view of the cityscape.

RECOMMENDED: Hollywood tours

Read more
Free

Disneyland Resort

Critics' pick

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.

RECOMMENDED: The 8 essential Disneyland tips to make the most of your visit

Read more

Sunset Strip

Just below the star-studded Hollywood Hills, West Hollywood’s mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard has long been the epicenter of a unique mix of sleaze and glam. It’s nearly impossible to miss the building-sized billboards, kitsch—Mel’s, Pink Dot, Carney’s, Saddle Ranch—and legendary clubs—Whiskey A Go-Gothe Roxythe Viper RoomHouse of Blues—that line the famous street. Though the music scene has mostly fled east, you’ll still find industry types mingling in Sunset Plaza’s high-end restaurants and boutiques.

Read more

Los Angeles City Hall

Critics' pick

The grand, white concrete tower has stood tall as a city icon since 1928, and today it's the easiest way to take in an elevated view of Downtown and beyond. If you’re ever passing through the Civic Center during public hours—weekdays 9am-5pm, enter on Main Street—then you owe yourself a visit to the 27th floor observation deck. While you're there, walk around the surrounding park and look for the 1984 Olympic torch near the Spring Street exit.

Read more
Downtown Free

Hollywood Walk of Fame

If you can stomach the suspect superheroes, claustrophobia-inducing crowds and never-ending line of gift shops, tattoo parlors and lingerie stores, there’s actually a lot of old Hollywood history and glamour to discover along the Walk of Fame. The immortalized names on those famous five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars run from the Walk’s western extreme at the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway to the W Hotel and Pantages Theater at Gower, and additionally on Vine from the Capitol Records Building down to Sunset, near where the original movie studios sprang up a century ago. Make a pilgrimage to the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards. Or find a respite from the commotion inside a movie palace or the historic Hollywood Roosevelt

RECOMMENDED: Things to do in Hollywood

Read more
Free

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 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. But the main draw here is the studio tour. You won't see much actual moviemaking, but stunt sets and recent additions like the reimagined King Kong section add some excitement.

Read more
Universal City

LA Live

LA Live is an entertainment venue located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. Adjacent to Staples Center, it is the home of Nokia Theatre, Regal Cinemas and various bars, hotels and restaurants such as the towering JW Marriott, WP24 and SBE's swanky Katsuya—jam-packed almost every night of the week (especially pre-Lakers, Clippers and Kings games) with tourists and locals alike.

Read more

Outdoor

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.

Read more
Los Feliz Free

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.

RECOMMENDED: The 18 best parks in Los Angeles

Read more
Downtown Free

Runyon Canyon

This 160-acre park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains has one main loop, plus a bevy of dirt hiking trails. It's also got one of the friendliest off-leash dog policies. The sea of buff trainers and their sleek, sweaty clients can get to be too much during the busy morning and weekend workout traffic, but you'll be rewarded with some of the best views of the city (and, if you're lucky, a chance to gawk at power-walking celebs). The southern entrance is at the end of Fuller Avenue in Hollywood; the northern entrance is off the 7300 block of Mulholland Drive.

RECOMMENDED: Best hikes in LA

Read more
West Hollywood Free

Zuma Beach

Make the drive past Will Rogers and Surfrider beaches and you'll be rewarded with a clean, wide patch of sand and surf at Zuma. A popular spot on weekends and holidays for locals and destination beach-goers alike, this Malibu beach can hold crowds with plenty of on-site parking (pay at the lot or park for free along the PCH) and lifeguards on-duty. Surfers can catch some waves as this sandy beach break, but waves tend to close out, making this a perfect spot for boogie boarders and body surfers.

RECOMMENDED: Best beaches in LA

Read more
Malibu

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; many do, taking in tropical forests and waterfalls, trees, fish and the occasional peacock.

RECOMMENDED: San Gabriel Valley neighborhood restaurant guide

Read more
Arcadia

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The owners of Hollywood Forever have been criticized for promoting the place as a tourist attraction, but any cemetery that houses the remains of such celluloid luminaries as Cecil B. DeMille and Jayne Mansfield would probably become one regardless. It's also the resting place of Rudolph Valentino; legend has it that a mysterious "Woman in Black" still stalks the cemetery, mourning the demise of Hollywood's original loverboy. Aside from popular posthumous celebs, Hollywood Forever is also home to summer outdoor movie screenings; Cinespia-hosted sleepovers with projected films, live music and games; as well as a number of unique concert events (past performers include Bon Iver, the XX, and Sigur Ros).

RECOMMENDED: Outdoor movies: Best open-air places to watch movies in LA

Read more
Hollywood

Will Rogers State Historic Park

The former home of writer, cowboy philosopher, trick-roper and the first honorary mayor of Beverly Hills has been maintained as it was in the 1930s. The 186-acre grounds give access to some good hikes; one path takes you to Inspiration Point, from where you get a breathtaking view of mountains and sea. Polo matches are held on weekends, and you can also take horse-riding lessons: call or check online for details.

Read more
Pacific Palisades Free

Barnsdall Art Park & Hollyhock House

After oil heiress and philanthropist Aline Barnsdall bought this cute little hill after the end of World War I, she engaged Frank Lloyd Wright to build her a group of buildings at its summit. The complex was designed to include a cinema, a theater and an array of artists' studios alongside Hollyhock House, Barnsdall's proposed home, but it was never completed and she never moved in. Barnsdall went on to donate the house, guest house and 11 acres of the land to the city on the premise that they be used as a public art park. More than eight decades later, the site still fulfills that role, with exhibitions in a variety of different gallery spaces. Reservations for tours of the restored buildings—now a Historic National Landmark—aren't required unless you're in a group of ten or more. In the summer, the park hosts a variety of al fresco cinema nights, wine tastings and cultural events that bring out a nice mix of singles, couples and young families.

Read more
Los Feliz Free

Annenberg Community Beach House

Critics' pick

What started as an opulent beachfront estate built by William Randolph Hearst for Hollywood star Marion Davies in the 1920s is now a modern, community beach club open to the public, thanks to Wallis Annenberg of the Annenberg Foundation, who provided $27.5 million for the transformation. Completed in 2009, the five-acre beach house accommodates a main house with a rec room for board games, ping pong and classes and events, a swimming pool, a splash pad, beach volleyball and tennis courts, soccer fields, canopies, a cafe and rentals for paddle boards.

Read more
Los Angeles

Korean Bell of Friendship

Critics' pick

There's a quiet history that pervades the San Pedro coastline through the Point Fermin Lighthouse, Sunken City and the last vestiges of Fort MacArthur, with its decommissioned battery of heavy artillery that once protected the port. But just up the hill, perched over the Pacific, sits one of the most idyllic spots in all of LA: the Korean Bell of Friendship. The mighty metallic bell's rusty green finish complements the ornately painted hipped roof—its paint job has seen better days, but that doesn't detract from the beauty of the 1976 goodwill gift from South Korea. The exposed, grassy bluff is an ideal spot to fly a kite or just lounge in the grass of Angel's Gate Park. If you've resisted romance with the South Bay, let this be your first date.

Read more
San Pedro Free

Museums

Getty Center

Critics' pick

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.

RECOMMENDED: Los Angeles museums guide: The Getty Center

Read more
Brentwood Free

Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens

Critics' pick

The bequest of entrepreneur Henry E. Huntington is now one of the most enjoyable attractions in the Los Angeles region. It's also not a destination that you should attempt to explore in full during a single day: between the art, the library holdings and the spreadeagled outdoor spaces, there's plenty to see, and most of it is best enjoyed at lingering leisure rather than as part of a mad day-long dash. From a Gutenberg Bible to an exquisitely landscaped Japanese garden, nearly every inch of the estate's ever-growing grounds and collection is essential.

Read more

Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits

Back in 1875, a group of amateur paleontologists discovered animal remains in the pits at Rancho La Brea, which bubbled with asphalt from a petroleum lake under what is now Hancock Park. Some 140 years later, the pros are still at work here, having dragged more than 3.5 million fossils from the mire in the intervening years. Many of these specimens are now on display in this delightfully old-fashioned museum. Outside, the pits still bubble with black goo—in summer, you can watch paleontologists at work in the excavation of Pit 91 and inhale the nasty tang of tar in the air.

Read more

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Critics' pick

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 had been quite the reverse. At last, though, things have improved thanks to a few exquisite focal points: 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, the Renzo Piano-designed home to a dazzling selection of modern work; and Levitated Mass, a 340-ton boulder commissioned by Michael Heizer that "floats" above a pathway.

RECOMMENDED: 10 must-see works at LACMA

Read more
Los Angeles

Natural History Museum

Critics' pick

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; the revamped dinosaur and mammal halls, as well as "Becoming L.A.: Stories of Nature and Culture," fill out the rest of the museums worthwhile spots.

Read more
USC/Exposition Park

California Science Center

A fusion of two longstanding prior facilities, the California Science Center opened in 1998 in a bright, airy building directly in front of the Rose Garden in Exposition Park. Permanent exhibit galleries explore life sciences, human innovation and powered flight. But the real attraction here is the recent addition of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which was very pubicly paraded through LA to reach its temporary home at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion—a permanent structure is slated to open in 2018. While the rest of the museum is free, Endeavour requires $2 time tickets, a bargain to come face to face with one of this country's most iconic engineering marvels.

Read more
Free

MOCA Grand Ave

Critics' pick

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.

Read more
Downtown

Annenberg Space for Photography

Specializing in photography, this newly founded, privately funded space takes an innovative approach to displaying its digital and print works. More than just images on a wall, exhibits at the Annenberg often incorporate videos and/or music, creating a more dynamic experience for the visitor. The free admission and $1 parking help attract a younger crowd to the otherwise more corporate neighborhood. (It is housed adjacent to the intentionally intimidating CAA offices.) Bring a date on a Saturday evening and spend 30 minutes wandering through the gallery before catching a movie across the street at the Century City AMC. During the summer, Saturday evening concerts in partnership with KCRW turn the space into a vibrant hot spot.

RECOMMENDED: Free museums in LA

Read more
Free

Los Angeles Zoo

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. The list of the zoo's highlights is headed by the Campo Gorilla Reserve, which opened in November 2007 and now serves as a home for six great apes, and the rather smaller Spider City, which comes with an agreeable schlock-horror theme and suitably dim lighting. If you want to visit, it's worth bearing in mind that some of the larger animals may seek shady refuge from the extreme heat on warm summer days, and by no means will all of them be visible.

Read more

Getty Villa

Critics' pick

In 1974, oil magnate J. Paul Getty opened a museum of his holdings in a faux villa on a Malibu clifftop. Eventually the decorative arts and paintings were moved to the Getty Center, and the villa was closed for conversion into a museum for Getty's collection of Mediterranean antiquities. Today, there are roughly 1,200 artifacts on display at any one time, dated between 6,500 BC and 500 AD, and organized under such themes as Gods and Goddesses and Stories of the Trojan War. Even if you're not interested in the art, the palatial courtyards and manicured gardens are worth the visit.

Read more
Pacific Palisades Free

Food & Drink

Grand Central Market

Critics' pick

Buried in the heart of Downtown LA is this European-style food hall, which has been operating on the ground floor of the iconic Homer Laughlin Building since 1917. Some food vendors merit more praise than others, though Mexican- and South American-themed stalls offering treats like pupusas, carnitas tacos and aguas frescas remain some of the most popular. Recently, the market has emerged as a haven for handsome, trendy eateries Sticky RiceHorse Thief BBQEggslut and G&B Coffee.

RECOMMENDED: Best gourmet food stores

Read more
Downtown

Sprinkles ATM

We think Beverly Hills' Sprinkles might just bake the best cupcakes in LA—simple ingredients, time-tested recipes and a fun rotating weekly schedule of flavors all add to the flagship bakery's unique charm. But what happens when you want a fluffy, sugary fix at two in the morning? The cupcake ATM, of course! This 24-hour vending machine stays continually stocked with the bakery's best treats, making it possible to indulge your sweet tooth around the clock.

Read more

Kogi BBQ

Craving the taste explosion that only Korean short ribs and Mexican quesadillas can deliver? Catch one of Kogi's Korean taco trucks as they travel throughout LA Tuesday-Friday. Find out if a truck will be in your neighborhood by scouring Kogi's weekly schedule—you don't want to miss out on this LA street food staple!

RECOMMENDED: Time Out with Kogi's Roy Choi

Read more

In-N-Out Burger

Southern California may have spawned the golden arches, but no other regional fast food export has a local and out-of-towner following quite like In-N-Out. "Did you go to In-N-Out?" is bound to come up in any conversation when a tourist visits LA. And honestly, it's hard to argue with less-than-$3 cheeseburgers, late-night hours and a not-so-secret menu that offers a surprising level of customization for a fast food spot.

RECOMMENDED: Underground LA: Best restaurant secret menu items in LA

Read more

Yamashiro

Built as a private art museum in the 1920s, this Japanese palace is a spectacular structure with extraordinary views of Hollywood. For years, it was a beautiful building in which to eat bad food, but Jason Park's new kitchen team has made a major difference: the restaurant is now worth a look even if you don't get a table with a view. Japanese, Korean and Chinese traditional items are presented alongside sensible and occasionally daring fusion ideas.

RECOMMENDED: Things to do in Hollywood

Read more
Hollywood

The Original Farmers Market

Critics' pick

Back in 1934, local farmers began selling produce at the corner of 3rd and Fairfax. A handful of stalls still sell groceries, but they're outnumbered by 30-plus catering stands offering a culinary round-the-world trip. Alongside the American comfort food served at the historic, 24-hour Du-Par's restaurant, you can get everything from Texas barbecue (Bryan's Pit BBQ) to Parisian crêpes (French Crepe Company), N'awleens po'boys (Gumbo Pot) to sunny Mexican fare (¡Loteria!). For dessert, you can't beat Bennett's Old-Fashioned Ice-Cream.

RECOMMENDED: Neighborhood guide to Fairfax Village

Read more
Los Angeles

Chateau Marmont

Critics' pick

One of the many beautiful things about this Hollywood Hills fixture is that it's barely changed over the decades. The hotel still attracts the brazen and the beautiful (everyone from Led Zeppelin to Lindsay Lohan has stayed here; John Belushi OD-ed in bungalow 3); it still offers a quintessentially glamorous LA experience; and it still promises its guests absolute discretion.

RECOMMENDED: Best hotel bars

Read more
West Hollywood

Philippe the Original

Critics' pick

In business since 1908, Philippe the Original claims to have invented the French dip sandwich ($7). Savvy customers select the traditional lamb or lighter turkey filling, then ask the server to double-dip the bread in the meaty juice; a French dip sandwich is also incomplete without some of the sinus-clearing house mustard. The wines by the glass aren't bad, a concession to the lunch trade from nearby food desert City Hall.

RECOMMENDED: LA's best dishes: French toast smackdown

Read more
Chinatown

Pink's Hot Dogs

You can argue over LA's best hot dog, but Pink's is certainly the city's most famous. The stand, open since 1939, most notably serves up hot dogs named after local legends and Hollywood heroes, from the Huell Howser Dog to the Brando Dog. Prepare for a long line stocked with tourists by day and clubgoers by night.

Read more

Bona Vista Lounge

Be a tourist in your own town for a night. Past the lobby bar and up on the 34th floor, Downtown’s Bonaventure hotel is home to the famous Bona Vista Lounge. Sure, it’s a little cheesy—moderately-priced, classic cocktails are served in souvenir glasses—but it is a fun, classic LA thing to do. And the bar doesn't offer just regular, sky-high views—the lounge rotates, the better to take in all of Downtown's night views.

RECOMMENDED: Bars with a view

Read more
Downtown

Shopping

The Grove

Critics' pick

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, Topshop, 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.

Read more
Fairfax/Beverly/La Brea/Third St.

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. Window-shopping, then, is the order of the day. Along Two Rodeo—the $200-million faux cobbled walkway—browsing tourists mingle with serious spenders. A hop away is Anderson Court, which is the only shopping mall designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Read more

Third Street Promenade

A four-block pedestrianized stretch that runs down Third Street from Wilshire Boulevard to Colorado Avenue, Third Street Promenade is a pleasant but bland parade of mostly familiar names (Gap, Starbucks et al). The restaurants are ordinary, but the Wednesday morning farmers' market makes up for it. At the Promenade's southern end is the revamped Santa Monica Place shopping center, which reopened in August 2010.

RECOMMENDED: A tour of Santa Monica's Montana Avenue

Read more
Santa Monica Free

Chinatown Central Plaza

When Chinatown relocated to its current location in the 1930s, the Central Plaza was to be the neighborhood's vibrant hub of activity. And while the neighborhood isn't quite as bustling as it once was, the neon-drenched square still attracts tourists and locals alike with its shops, restaurants and events such as KCRW's Summer Nights. Local lore often traces the look of the area back to Cecil B. DeMille, but it was in fact designed by the resident Chinese community. There was, however, a Hollywood-backed (and highly orientalist) competitor named China City that burned down in the '40s.

RECOMMENDED: Chinatown neighborhood guide

Read more
Chinatown Free

Olvera Street

Walk through old-world Mexico at Downtown's historic site where tourists and locals alike roam the promenade dotted with restaurants and stores. Don't leave without picking up Mexican candies and souvenirs and sampling various tacos and huaraches.

Read more
Downtown

Original LA Flower Market

Visit the Original LA Flower Market in—where else?—the Flower District, Downtown. Restaurateurs, wedding planners, florists and botany geeks (and okay, some tourists) make up the early morning hustle and bustle among rows of flowers, plants and “floral accessories” from around the world. Come out later during public hours to grab a bouquet for a friend, take some great pictures or just indulge your senses. Insider tip: Avoid Wednesdays and Fridays if possible—they’re busiest.

Read more
Los Angeles

Malibu Country Mart

As Malibu's main hub, this casual outdoor shopping and dining center attracts a mix of both locals grabbing lunch in wetsuits, celebrities pretending they don't want to be seen and tourists who stroll through after a day at the beach. Restaurants range from take-away sandwich shops to upscale eateries, while the shops mostly sell the quintessential LA staples: designer jeans and $100 T-shirts. Make sure to also check out the adjacent Malibu Lumber Yard, a virtual extension of the Country Mart, with additional shopping and dining options but in a more modern setting.

Read more
Malibu Free

Rose Bowl Flea Market

Critics' pick

This flea market around the exterior of the Rose Bowl is staggeringly colossal—but what else would you expect from a 90,000-seat stadium? On the second Sunday of each month, an odd mix of vendors populates the loop around the stadium: for every eye-catching artwork, there's a ratty $5 T-shirt, and for each elegant craft there's a competing "as seen on TV" demo. But you may have more luck in the rows and rows of old furniture, albums and vintage clothes and accessories that fill the adjacent parking lot. There are plenty of duds, to be sure, but come out early enough and you may go home with that perfect purchase.

RECOMMENDED: Best LA craft fairs

Read more
Rose Bowl Stadium

Theaters

Hollywood Bowl

Critics' pick

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 Phil, but it's hosted everyone from the Beatles to Big Bird, and today mixes classical concerts with all manner of rock and pop.

RECOMMENDED: Things to do in Hollywood

Read more
Hollywood

Chinese Theatre

It's still a great place to catch a movie but most people come to the Chinese Theatre for the hand and/or foot imprints of around 200 Hollywood stars. As legend has it, Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped into the wet cement outside the new building during construction; in response, theater owner Sid Grauman fetched Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks to repeat the "mistake" with their feet and hands, beginning the tradition. The courtyard is usually choked with snap-happy tourists measuring their own extremities against the likes of John Wayne and Judy Garland, but you can avoid the crowds by catching a flick inside, where the auditorium is as stunning as the IMAX screen's projection quality.

RECOMMENDED: What to see in Hollywood

Read more
Hollywood Free

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Critics' pick

As the $274-million crown jewel of the LA Music Center, Disney Hall opened in 2003 to rave reviews. The novelty hasn't yet worn off: both inside and out, this is a terrific venue. Designed by Frank Gehry, the hall features a 2,265-capacity auditorium with an open platform stage. The hall is the home of the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale, but the schedule is surprisingly varied throughout the year. The complex also includes the 250-seat Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre, a gallery and a roof garden.

RECOMMENDED: The best performing arts centers and theaters in Los Angeles

Read more
Downtown

El Capitan

Yearning to relive your childhood and indulge in a Disney flick? El Capitan's your spot—the lavish 1926-built theater screens Disney's most current feature along with classics in between releases. Tickets are indeed pricier than other nearby cinemas, but then again, where else do you get to order an ice cream sundae and see a 2,500-pipe organ be played before the show?

RECOMMENDED: The 11 best movie theaters in Los Angeles

Read more
Hollywood

Egyptian Theatre

Built by the same man who erected the Chinese Theatre and El Capitan Theatre, the Egyptian was faithfully restored by American Cinematheque in 1998 (who also run the Aero in Santa Monica). The not-for-profit company continues to deliver a wide range of excellent themed mini-festivals and one-off Q&As with legendary figures, as well as classic films and contemporary indie cinema. On Sundays, the LA Filmforum screens experimental films and video art.

Read more
Hollywood

The Forum

It's been a while since this 17,500-seat space was the city's go-to arena, and its fading halls were beginning to belie its rich history: "Showtime" Lakers, Gretzky-era Kings, '84 Olympics, Led Zeppelin, Queen and a ridiculously long set from Guns N' Roses. The Staples Center hogs the spotlight these days, but, as it turns nearly a half-century old, the Inglewood venue is poised to regain some of its former glory. Now, after a $100 million renovation—thanks to New York's Madison Square Garden Company—the Forum is shaping up to be fabulous once again. The reenergized arena showed off its facelift with six shows from the Eagles, complete with a revolving vinyl record of "Hotel California" on the roof.

RECOMMENDED: Five Los Angeles neighborhoods to watch in 2014

Read more

Off-the-beaten path

Watts Towers

When Italian-born tilesetter Simon Rodia moved to Watts, the neighborhood was ethnically mixed. Three decades later, when he left, it was predominantly black and Latino, widely seen as the heart of LA's African-American community. In the intervening years, though, Rodia had constructed its single iconic structure, an extraordinary piece of folk art with nothing but found objects (salvaged metal rods, cast-off pipe structures, broken bed frames) and, as they grew upward, steel and cement to prevent interference from both neighbors and the authorities.

Read more
South

Museum of Jurassic Technology

Don't be fooled by the name: this is not some kind of Spielbergian dinosaurland. It's far more interesting than that. Hidden behind an unassuming, windowless storefront, David Wilson's Museum of Jurassic Technology presents itself as a repository of curiosities, scientific wonders and artistic miracles. Fact is mixed with the fantastical, through the elaborate and beautiful treatment accorded to everything from the history of trailer parks to 17th-century Renaissance man Athanasius Kircher. Which exhibits, if any, are bona fide? Which, if any, are satirical? And, most crucially of all, does it matter? A subversive, witty and brilliant enterprise, the Museum of Jurassic Technology challenges the very nature of what a museum is or should be, while also taking its place as one of the most fascinating attractions in the entire city.

RECOMMENDED: Best off-the-beaten path museums

Read more
Culver City

Wi Spa

There are Korean saunas—a classic LA experience—and then there's Wi. The 24-hour mega spa is the Disneyland of Koreatown saunas—families and children included, to the lament of those looking for a relaxing experience—complete with treatment rooms, five different heated rooms, hot tubs, dry and steam saunas, TV lounge area, restaurant, library and sleeping rooms. Couples and groups laze (and sweat) in the co-ed jimjilbang—the dress code is oversized T-shirts and khaki shorts—before heading into separate men and women's areas where clothing is not allowed and a body scrub is a must do for baby soft skin.

RECOMMENDED: Korean spas

Read more
Koreatown

Amoeba Music

Critics' pick

While the longstanding likes of Rhino in Westwood and House of Records in Venice have fallen by the wayside, the LA branch of SF's Amoeba has gone from strength to strength; indeed, this is the largest independent record store in the US. The variety of stock (CDs and DVDs, new and used) is awesome, the prices are fair and the staff know their onions.

Read more
Hollywood

Magic Castle

Speak the secret phrase to the owl scultpure in the lobby of this private club, and the rest—well, we don't want to ruin the surprises in store for visitors at this magical institution. The mansion is over a century old, but since 1963 it's been the home of the Academy of Magical Arts, an exclusive organization made up of roughly 2,500 American magicians. If you can't find a member to tag along with, stay at the adjacent Magic Castle Hotel for access.

Read more
Hollywood

Mount Wilson Observatory

High up in the San Gabriel Mountains, the Mount Wilson Observatory affords terrific views of the surrounding region. If you're traveling with a group, you can book an after-dark session on the observatory's 60-inch telescope. Admission is free, but you'll need to buy a Forest Service Adventure Pass in order to visit the site as it's located within the Angeles National Forest; see the website for full details.

Read more
Los Angeles Free

Echo Park Time Travel Mart

At first glance, the inside of this storefront resembles any other market in the area—but look closer and you’ll find a collection of funny “time travel” curiosities that one needs in order to visit the past and future. Oddities include Robot Toupees, Aeon Bottled Time (i.e. sand in a bottle), Barbarian Repellent, Primordial Soup In a Can, and a whole bunch of books. What’s going on? The market is a ruse: everything in it is indeed for sale, but the store is actually a front for 826LA, a nonprofit organization which tutors kids ages 6 to 18.

Read more
Echo Park

Richard Simmons’ Slimmons Studio

This is fitness class as interactive performance art. Richard Simmons—yes, we’re talking Simmons of Sweatin’ to the Oldies—shows up as anything from the fifth member of KISS to a glam aerobics version of Black Swan and greets each and every devotee of his crazy-haired genius with an individual smile, hug, pat on the ass or wickedly inappropriate comment. The ready-to-sweat audience—who lines up an hour before class to ensure a spot in the packed studio—encompasses all types, from super-fit college students to gray-haired grannies to chair-sitting regulars who punch and shimmy with the best of them! Slimmons is open all week, but Simmons himself teaches on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays when he’s in town. Call the studio to confirm the week of.

RECOMMENDED: Best workouts: Top 10 only-in-LA fitness workouts

Read more

Mariachi Plaza

Witness an 80-year old LA tradition—and hear some great music—at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, just east of Downtown. Since the 1930s, mariachi bands have gathered here, decked out in their charro (traditional Mexican horsemen) suits, waiting to be hired to play at parties or restaurants. Take note of the historic 1889 Boyle Hotel, better known as “Mariachi Hotel,” where many of the musicians live.

Read more
Boyle Heights Free

Bob Baker Marionette Theater

Critics' pick

Nothing says childhood entertainment quite like a puppet show, and the longest-running marionette theater in the nation delivers, big-time. The kitsch factor is high here—original puppets (some worse for wear), cheesy old songs and ancient decor—but that only adds to the legendary vibe. In fact, it’s been declared a historic cultural monument by the city of Los Angeles, and tykes truly delight in watching the marionettes come to life in the darkened theater space. They can even purchase a puppet of their very own, post-show, after being treated to free ice cream (and coffee for adults), plus a backstage tour.

Read more
Echo Park

Comments

2 comments
Alliha J
Alliha J

I have never been to Los Angeles in my life but heard a lot about it because my aunt lives there and she used to tell me about this stunning region. I was pondering to celebrate this New Year there to see my aunt and the other relatives after finishing the https://twitter.com/goldenbustours and this blog is helpful for me in this matter because now I got the adequate detail about its attractions’ and I can visit there easily. I have a great wish to see the Venice Beach and the Hollywood Sign and I hope it will be fulfill soon.