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101 things to do in Los Angeles: By category

Discover the best things to do in Los Angeles for foodies, culture vultures, partiers, outdoor types and more
Grand Central Market
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman Grand Central Market

Culture vultures, hiking addicts and music nerds alike, we've got you covered with tons of things to do in Los Angeles—101, to be exact. Fill your to-do list with these underground secrets and essential restaurants. How many will you try?

RECOMMENDED: See all of the 101 best things to do in Los Angeles


Photo courtesy Rancho Park Archery

Shoot a bow and arrow

Find your inner Katniss with beginning archery classes on Saturday mornings—first-come, first-served—at the Pasadena Roving Archers Range at the Lower Arroyo Seco Park. If it’s your first time, show up no later than 7:15am to get fitted with equipment—returning archers can sleep in and show up at 9:45am. Your first lesson is free, and a small donation is suggested for each one thereafter. You'll find similar promos in Westwood and the Valley, as well.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Look out on the city without any crowds

Gaze upon the ocean, mountains and Downtown skyline from this grand government tower. Whether you're begrudgingly stopping at a government building or just rolling by on a clear day—public hours are weekdays 8am-5pm—you owe yourself a visit.


Meander at Silver Lake Meadow

Go for an early morning or evening jog, play a game of bocce or laze away on the soft, grassy lawn. Silver Lake Meadow may be modeled after Central Park's Sheep Meadow, but LA Eastsiders have an outdoor playground year-round. Note: No pups allowed.

RECOMMENDED: A guide to Silver Lake

Japanese garden at Descanso Gardens.
Photograph: John Stanley, courtesy Descanso Gardens

Spend the day at Descanso Gardens

Go for a morning walk through this 1,600-acre park—including a five-acre rose garden. This delightful tribute to the horticultural magic of Southern California includes more than 600 varieties of camellia (best seen in the spring). Have lunch at the Cafe and then peruse the gift shop for botany-related books and trinkets to inspire your own garden.

Find your zen

Get lost in your thoughts at one of LA's best kept secrets: the mystical Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. Set on a 10-acre site that was used as a film set during the silent era, its lovely gardens evoke old Hollywood. Look out for the Dutch windmill chapel, the Mississippi houseboat and a number of gliding swans.

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Food & Drink


Take in the Pacific at a roadside seafood shack along PCH

Join the weekend biker crew at Neptune's Net, where the outdoor patio affords views of surfers, kite boarders and fellow diners, many of whom will be large, hairy and leather-clad. Dine with locals at Malibu Seafood, where the long line is worth the wait for fresh fish and seafood (grilled or battered and fried) and outdoor picnic tables. Or drop in at the Reel Inn, an oceanside fixture for fresh grilled fish served with fries and slaw. Grab a beer and head to the outdoor patio at sunset, then go back in to savor the nautical kitsch.


Bake a cake—or pretend like you did

At Duff Goldman's Cakemix in West Hollywood, Martha Stewart wannabes can pipe, stud and sparkle cakes with frosting, fondant, sprinkles and even edible air-spray paint and glitter—all with the help of on-site professional pastry chefs. If you're feeling hungry, the on-site bakery has cake slices and cupcakes in flavors like lemon-poppy seed and red velvet, along with beverages for sale.

RECOMMENDED: Bakeries in Los Angeles: Retro, throwback desserts

Fallen Fruit
Photograph: Courtesy Fallen Fruit

Forage for your food

Find up-for-grabs fruit, berries and other edibles throughout the city with Fallen Fruit's maps, showing trees that grow on (or overhang) public property—which means the goods are free for the taking.

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Music & Nightlife

Go where the Mariachis are

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.

Try shape note singing

This unique American tradition, often called Sacred Harp, brings people together to sing four-part hymns and anthems. While many of the songs have religious themes, the Fa-So-La LA group is purely secular—the only book they’ll push is the songbook. Meet-ups happen fairly regularly, all over the city, and newcomers are always welcome. Instead of singing regular music notes, you’ll sing shape notes, making it easy for first-timers to read the sheet music and participate fully. And we do mean fully—once you hear how beautiful a room full of shape note singers sounds, you’ll be hooked.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Be a pinball wizard

Pins & Needles—a tailor shop by day, clubhouse by night—houses 32 classic pinball machines and hosts eight-week league seasons with two weeks of playoffs and finals among three divisions, based on competitors' flipping skills. You can also find a few of the shop's machines at EightyTwo, the Downtown Arts District barcade.

Listen to the streets of Los Angeles is an amazing website that plays the LAPD police-scanner radio over ambient music, making for an eerie listening experience and, some might say, perfect background noise. Bonus: The site can stream scanners from the PDs in other cities, in case you’re wondering what’s up on the streets of Detroit.

Play bingo with drag queens

Hamburger Mary’s, West Hollywood's notoriously flamboyant burger joint, hosts a drag bingo night, Legendary Bingo, each Wednesday. Expect lots of interesting hostesses, plus prizes for each game and lots of laughs. Tip: Eat dinner elsewhere and stick to drinks during the game—the food here isn’t nearly as good as the live talent. The $20 donation is a little steep, but every penny goes to charity.
The Dresden Restaurant
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Pay Marty & Elayne a visit

Retrace key scenes from Swingers and find yourself at the Dresden, settling in for an evening with the inimitable musical duo Marty & Elayne. A beacon of genuine, unironic kitsch, nothing has changed at this storied local watering hole in umpteen years, from the corkboard walls to the wrought-iron lighting fixtures. The famed musical duo have been holding court in the lounge since 1982. Cozy up in an oversized booth, sip a martini and take it all in while they're still around.

RECOMMENDED: Things to do in Los Feliz


Watch an intimate show in a vaunted space

McCabe's Guitar Shop first opened its doors in 1958 and has since hosted an incredible list of performers. Past shows have included sets by Jeff Buckley, Cat Power, REM, Etta James, Tom Waits, T-Bone Burnett and Joni Mitchell, to name just a fraction of the talent that's played here.

Brush up on your jokes

Take a comedy workshop at Groundlings Improv School. If laughing at jokes (not making them) is more your thing, check out one of the sketch comedy improv acts. Alumni who got their start on the Groundlings stage include Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph, Kathy Griffin, Jon Lovitz, Will Forte and more.


Grab your partner, do-si-do

Triple Chicken Foot is LA's resident barn-dance band, regularly hosting square dances across the city at venues like HM157Echo Country Outpost, the Echo and more. Never square-, line- or circle-danced before? Don't fret: Each dance begins with a lesson, during which the "caller" walks everyone through a series of steps. It's a flirty, fun time—just don't forget comfy shoes.
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Arts & Culture

Catch a show at Bob Baker's Marionette Theater

Though Bob Baker has passed on, this enchanting bit of LA history is still alive. First opened in 1963, the kitsch factor is high here—original (some worse for wear) puppets, cheesy old songs and ancient decor—but it's good fun. After the show, guests are treated to free ice cream and coffee and a backstage tour.


Take a workshop at Machine Project

How to categorize this space? Installations have included a magical woodland and a picturesque shipwreck; activities range from a group weeping-and-laughter ceremony to a clothing-optional film screening to a gourmet ham bar—and that’s all in a single event! Machine Project provides support for its artist collaborators to throw all manner of happenings (stay informed via its website). Events happen around twice a week, usually in the evenings. Past workshops include bookbinding, MIG welding, millinery (a fancy term for hat making), sewing, and sauerkraut and homemade soda making.

RECOMMENDED: LA's best offbeat museums and institutions

LA Opera
Photo Courtesy LA Opera

Spend a night at the opera

LA Opera continues to impress each season under the direction of Spanish tenor and conductor Plácido Domingo. Never been to the opera before? Don't worry, you won't be too lost—English translations of everything sung onstage are projected on a screen for your understanding pleasure. Show up an hour early and catch the free pre-performance talk, which will make you an expert well before the curtains part.

RECOMMENDED: Best performing arts spaces in LA

Photo courtesy Craft & Folk Art Museum

Folk around

Ditch the crowds at LACMA and cross the street to the Craft and Folk Art Museum for modern crafts, workshops, screenings and quirky handmade pieces from local artists. Shows could take in anything from Venetian glassmaking to American printmaking, the circus-themed dioramas of Sonny King to a retrospective of work by Hungarian designer Eva Zeisel. Show up on Sundays for "pay what you can" admission.

Bergamot Station
Courtesy of Wikicommons, photo by CalderOliver

Go gallery hopping

The center of Santa Monica's art scene is Bergamot Station, a former trolley stop that's now home to 30-plus galleries. If you head here on a Saturday night, you're likely to find more than one gallery owner uncorking the chardonnay as they launch a new show.

Molten Metal Works
Photograph: Courtesy Molten Metal Works

Learn to weld

Molten Metal Works is a community metal workshop that hosts welding and other industrial arts classes all week long, many at night (when the sparks look prettiest!). Learn MIG welding, TIG welding, sculpture + furniture making and more.
Case Study House #21
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Visit a Case Study house for free

The Case Study House Program drew up 36 sets of plans for low-cost, modernist houses from some of the greatest midcentury architects. Some were never built, others were demolished, and of those left standing, most are tucked away on private property or behind invite-only events and exorbitant admission fees. That makes it all the more amazing that you can visit Pierre Koenig's Bailey House (Case Study House #21) for free and on a whim (walk-ups are welcome, though appointments are preferred).

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Shopping & Style

Photograph: Courtesy Original LA Flower Market

Stop and smell the flowers

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.

Pleasure Chest
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Talk about sex

The Pleasure Chest is one of the city’s (maybe even the state’s) classiest sex shops. And not only do they offer products for all your sexy needs, they also have a regular schedule of comedy nights and classes—see: Impact Play (spanking, flogging and more), Performance Anxiety (naughty comedy) and Sex With Men (sex with men)—to help spice things up in your love (or lust) life.

RECOMMENDED: Best sex shops in Los Angeles

Find crafts at Crafted

SoCal’s first large-scale permanent craft marketplace, Crafted is housed in—you guessed it—a warehouse at the Port of LA. One of the city's best craft fairs, Crafted is comprised of a patchwork of stalls housing local designers and food outposts every Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the year. Also on offer are craft demonstrations, live music, food trucks and special events, such as an Etsy craft party—call up your knitting circle!

Slimmons Studio
Photograph: Courtesy Richard Simmons

Aerobicize with Richard Simmons

There is truly no better motivation to get your high kicks right than having Richard Simmons (quite possibly in drag... or a cat costume) screaming in your face. He'll cheer you on, give compliments that would make the most brazen flirt blush, and may even shed a tear or two while reminding the class to drink enough water and eat healthy foods. It's by far the best and most bizzare time you'll have working out. (And he'll pose for photos with you post-workout!)


See an (educational) sex show

The Stockroom in Silver Lake is the place to go for fetish items like whips, ball gags and butt plugs. It's also a great place to take a class, as long as you don't mind live demonstrations. Classes at the Stockroom University are usually around $20, last for three hours and are "inflicted by" experts in fields such as hardcore sex, anal play and bloodletting (yep, you read that right). Stockroom classes make the Pleasure Chest look PG—so make sure you're ready to really get up-close and personal before signing up.


Chinese Theatre

Skip the Walk of Fame and watch a movie

There's a thrill that comes from seeing a movie inside the Chinese Theatre, home of seemingly every major movie premiere ever. While everyone else congregates around concrete footprints and brass names, you can admire the real star here: The auditorium's architecture is simply stunning, as is the picture quality on one of the biggest—now IMAX—screens in the country.

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Get lost in a film

LA's equivalent of the Cinemateque Francaise responds to Truffaut's inquiry—"Is the cinema more important than life?"—with a wholehearted "yes." Fairfax's historic Silent Movie Theater still screens early archives—and, yes, talkies from classics to more modern picks complete with Q&A's, live music and potlucks. You'll find everything here at Cinefmaily, from kitschy B-movies to punch-proud masterpieces—with fun concessions such as giant cupcakes and free coffee—plus lots of special guests and parties out back on the patio.

RECOMMENDED: Time Out with Cinefamily's Hadrian Belove


Take (or teach) a filmmaking class

Having a little film knowledge is practically a prerequisite for living in LA. Take a film class at the Echo Park Film Center and be a novice no more. Learn digital editing, documentary filmmaking, even stop-motion animation. Already know your stuff? Volunteer to teach adult or neighborhood youth/senior classes.

Get a sneak peak

See Hollywood's upcoming features at UCLA Extension's Sneak Preview. The $275+ class gets you screenings in the comfy Writers Guild Theater, plus rare movie previews and smart Q&As with the filmmakers and actors.

Walks, Hikes & Tours

Temescal Gateway Park
Photograph: Matthew Robinson

Tour Temescal Canyon

With a variety of terrain, flora and views of the Pacific and city, Pacific Palisades' Temescal Canyon Park is great for trail runners, hikers, and dog walkers—while it's technically illegal, dogs roam off-leash here. You'll experience vast, breathtaking views that span from Catalina to Downtown and enough varied terrain to keep you and your furry friend going—all the way to the Valley, should you dare.

RECOMMENDED: Best hikes with views of LA


Take a hike—a stair hike

LA is famous for its semi-secret network of public staircases, reminiscent of a time when residents actually walked (!) up and down hills to get to school, the supermarket and transit lines. More than 275 individual staircases—some neglected, some leading to hidden parks or bungalows, all a good workout—lace the Los Angeles area, from Pasadena to the Palisades. Pick up a copy of Charles Fleming's Secret Stairs—one of our favorite books about LA—to find a route near you.

Architecture Tours of LA

Be an architecture nerd for a day

Architecture Tours of LA offers daily trips from 9:30am to 1:30pm, during which you can admire the homes of Hollywood Hills, cover Pasadena's mansions and get schooled in Downtown LA's historic and contemporary buildings all before dinnertime. Frank Gehry groupies can hop on a five- to six-hour minivan tour of his finest hits in the city.

RECOMMENDED: House tour: Architectural homes in Los Angeles
Hop Louie
Photograph: jakob N. Layman

Check out Chinatown

Take a walk through LA's bustling Chinatown, the first established Chinatown in America. Explore the area's herbal shops, art galleries, antique stores and courtyards. Then stop in at one of the neighborhood's best bars, Hop Louie, for a tasty beverage.

RECOMMENDED: Chinatown guide

Historic Downtown tour
Photo courtesy Los Angeles Conservancy staff

Take a walking tour

Take a walking tour of DTLA, led by docents from the Los Angeles Conservancy. Choose from eight different themed tours, including the popular "Historic Downtown," "Art Deco," and "Broadway: Historic Theatre and Commercial District" tours.

LA River
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Kayak on the LA River

It may not be as pristine as the beach, but the river is increasingly becoming a worthwhile outdoor destination. During the summer the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority allows the public to use two designated areas—one in the Elysian Valley, the other in the Sepulveda Basin—to walk, fish, and use non-motorized and steerable boats such as kayaks.

Echo Mountain
Photograph: Benny Haddad

Visit a haunted forest

Avid hikers will recognize this spot as the Sam Merrill trailhead, "a quiet refuge from people and wild life forever”—so reads the dedication on the cobblestone gate of the Cobb Estate. But to ghost hunters, it's the Haunted Forest. At night, you're more likely to find curious teens than ghosts, though many report ghostly noises and the feeling that they're being watched in the dimly lit forest.

RECOMMENDED: 13 haunted spots in LA

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