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Urban Light at LACMA
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Ruben Gutierrez

The 20 best places to visit in L.A.

From spotting stars on Rodeo Drive to stargazing at the Griffith Observatory, plan ahead with these places to visit in L.A.

Michael Juliano
Edited by
Michael Juliano

With so many world-famous sites and attractions to visit, deciding on the best things to do in Los Angeles can be a bewildering task. If it’s your first visit, you may be inclined to beeline it to Hollywood—but then you’d be missing out on all of L.A.’s essential museums. Or you might have your heart set on getting star-struck in Beverly Hills—but then you’d be overlooking all of the remarkable restaurants farther to the east.

Our point is: L.A. is big, and stuffed with so many worthwhile experiences that you’ll never be asking yourself what to do but instead when you’ll find time to relax on the beach in Santa Monica, dine along the vibrant streets of the Arts District and grab a drink in super-hip Silver Lake.

There are so many great places to visit and things to see, it can be hard knowing where to start and what to fit in. This list should help you decide and get the most from your L.A. getaway.

20 great places to visit in L.A.

Relax on postcard-perfect beaches in Malibu
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Gerson Repreza

1. Relax on postcard-perfect beaches in Malibu

Put in the extra miles to venture north and west from Venice and Santa Monica and you’ll be rewarded with the most picturesque beaches in L.A. County. We couldn’t pick just one stretch of sand to visit in Malibu, so we’ll instead offer three: Point Dume for picnicking and sunbathing by an as-seen-on-TV scalable cliff, El Matador for sunsets among photogenic coves and outcrops and Leo Carrillo for secluded sand and an on-leash dog beach. If you’re hungry, we’ll recommend a trio of seafood spots, from east to west: superlative lobster rolls at Broad Street Oyster Co., excellent fish and chips at Malibu Seafood and fried goodness at Neptune’s Net.

Want to make a night of it? Book a stay at the best beachfront rentals in L.A.

Grab a bite at Grand Central Market
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

2. Grab a bite at Grand Central Market

Downtown L.A. has seen waves of change since this food hall first opened in 1917, and so too has the lineup of vendors here. But one thing stays consistent: People flock to GCM from all corners of L.A. to mix and mingle among rows of spices, produce and vintage neon signage. Tacos Tumbras a Tomas serves the hall’s go-to taco, particularly the carnitas and al pastor. But you’ll find worthwhile bites from the recent influx of trendy eateries, too, like Sticky Rice, Shiku, Sari SariHorse Thief BBQ, Eggslut, McConnell’s, the Donut Man and G&B Coffee.

Have a little bit of this and that at the rest of SoCal’s best food halls.

Museum hop along Miracle Mile
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Ruben Gutierrez

3. Museum hop along Miracle Mile

The collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, are housed in a vast complex of buildings, with a modern and contemporary art-filled west campus that opened 2008 and a single-building redesign on the way. The focal point is its grand entrance, which includes Chris Burden’s photogenic installation Urban Light. LACMA shares a park with the La Brea Tar Pits and sits just across the street from the Petersen Automotive Museum and Craft Contemporary, and next to the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (an excellent celebration of cinema from the folks who hand out the Oscars).

Make sure to check out all of the free museum days before you visit.

Gaze into the cosmos (and out onto the cityscape) at the Griffith Observatory
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Jaredd Craig

4. Gaze into the cosmos (and out onto the cityscape) at the Griffith Observatory

Sure, you can’t see all that much through its enormous telescope, but you can still spend a few hours browsing around the Griffith Observatory quite happily (closed Mon; grounds open daily). There’s the popular Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, a pair of complementary displays that examines the interplay between people and space. The building itself is the star attraction though—and the stunning view of the city from Griffith Park makes it worthy of a visit whether you’re a space buff or not.

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

Bow down to the masters at the Getty
Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

5. Bow down to the masters at the Getty

The Getty Center is packed full of artistic masterpieces and enjoys an awe-inspiring hilltop location with incredible views of L.A. and a stunning central garden. Among the highlights hanging here are works by Rubens and Impressionists such as Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and Cézanne—though the lovely French decorative arts galleries are our personal favorites. If you want to rewind the clock a few millennia, head west to the museum’s predecessor, the Getty Villa. The Italian-style estate is stuffed with largely Greek and Roman antiquities, and its palatial courtyard is worth the trip alone.

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

Stroll (briefly) along the stars in Hollywood
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Tim Wang

6. Stroll (briefly) along the stars in Hollywood

For a glimpse of the stardust on which the city’s built, stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where more than 2,700 of the entertainment world’s most illustrious names are immortalized in pink terrazzo and gold lettering. As iconic as it may all be, this stretch of Hollywood can be a pretty disappointing, overly touristy area. The same goes for the famous hand and footprints at the Chinese Theatre—though for film fantatics, we wholly recommend watching a movie inside its glorious auditorium. Nonetheless, countless galas, premieres and award ceremonies have passed through over the decades; though the area isn’t nearly as glitzy as you imagined, Hollywood, unpleasant as it may sometimes be, still has its (brief) place in a visit to L.A.

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

Stare into infinity at the Broad
Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

7. Stare into infinity at the Broad

Nearly a decade in now and the arrival of the Broad still feels like a gamechanger thanks to the museum’s distinctive design, free admission and post-war art collection. Yayoi Kusama’s pair of Infinity Mirror Rooms in particular continue to pull in the crowds—one which transports viewers into a twinkling, pulsating starfield of LEDs (you can reserve a time slot), the other via smaller reflective chamber that you can pop your head into.

Have time to kill before your reservation at the Broad? Explore the best things to do by the Broad.

Gawk at the sights along Venice Beach
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Viviana Rishe

8. Gawk at the sights along Venice Beach

Venice Beach has long been known as the bohemian epicenter of California, and while the area gets plenty of mainstream tourists, it still boldly embraces its eccentric spirit—for better or worse. Abbot Kinney has transformed into a high-end ’hood over recent years, but the boardwalk is still a, let’s say, unique place for people watching, with radical pamphleteers, skateboarders and body builders all making their presence known (if you’re simply after a picturesque stretch of beach, we suggest venturing to Santa Monica or Malibu instead). Grab lunch at the Fig Tree before browsing the shelves at Small World Books. Make sure to stray from the boardwalk and stroll along the Venice Canals, too.

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

Shop (or window-shop) in style on Rodeo Drive
Photograph: Courtesy Rahul Bhogal

9. Shop (or window-shop) in style on Rodeo Drive

We’ve all dreamed of being Julia Roberts shopping on Rodeo Drive, but very few of us could actually afford to shop in the designer boutiques and flagship stores seen in the film Pretty Woman. Which means 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 short journey away is Anderson Court, which is the only shopping mall designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Fulfill your fashion dreams at the best shops in L.A.

Get animated with Mickey and Minnie at Disneyland
Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

10. Get animated with Mickey and Minnie at Disneyland

Reservations are required.

You’re never too old for Disneyland. This legendary theme park overflows with brilliant things to do, spread over numerous themed lands (including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge) and the adjacent Disney California Adventure Park (home to Avengers Campus). After making sure you’re up to speed best food, stroll down Main Street USA for a taste of early-19th-century America, trek Westwards at Frontierland and soak up the music of New Orleans Square. Of course, there are dozens of rides too, including the epic Indiana Jones Adventure and, across the way in California Adventure, the uplifting Soarin’.

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

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