Best things to do in L.A.
What is it? A free, contemporary art museum in Downtown L.A.
Why go? Three words: Infinity Mirror Rooms. The persistently popular museum has two of Yayoi Kusama’s immersive, mirror-laden rooms (and the standy queue to prove it). Elsewhere in the museum, Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection of 2,000 postwar works includes artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and Jeff Koons.
Don’t miss: Free tickets are available on the first day of the previous month. If you miss out on reservations, monitor the Broad’s wait time on Twitter.
What is it? A European-style food hall that’s been operating in Downtown L.A. since 1917.
Why go? Even if you’re not there for the food, it’s worth a trip; people from all corners of L.A. mix and mingle among rows of spices, produce and vintage neon signage. Of course, if you’re hungry it’s a great place to get cheap pupusas, carnitas tacos and aguas frescas, as well as food from handsome, trendy eateries like Sticky Rice, Belcampo, Sari Sari, Horse Thief BBQ, Eggslut, McConnell’s and G&B Coffee.
Don’t miss: Tacos Tumbras a Tomas serves the hall’s go-to taco, particularly the carnitas and al pastor.
What is it? A gorgeous and instantly recognizable outdoor amphitheatre that’s been hosting concerts since the LA Philharmonic first played there in 1922.
Why go? Nestled in an aesthetically blessed fold in the Hollywood Hills, the 18,000-seat venue can bring out the romantic in the terminally cynical. It’s the summer home of the LA Phil (and boozy picnics).
Don’t miss: As long as there’s no performance going on (which is most days in the winter and spring), it also doubles as a public park.
What is it? An Art Deco observatory that dates back to 1935
Why go? The vista from this hilltop landmark is 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.
Don’t miss: 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.
What is it? Chris Burden’s Urban Light, a piece made up of 202 cast-iron street lamps gathered from around L.A. and restored to working order, that stands outside of the massive museum.
Why go? Yes, snag your streetlight selfies. But you’d be selling yourself short if you don’t venture beyond the photo-friendly installation; LACMA’s collections boast modernist masterpieces, large-scale contemporary works, traditional Japanese screens and by far L.A.’s most consistently terrific special exhibitions.
Don’t miss: Be on the lookout for limited runs of “Rain Room” and a Jame Turrell light installation, both of which have been added to LACMA’s permanent collection.
What is it? A concert hall and home of the LA Philharmonic designed by famed local architect Frank Gehry.
Why go? Cruise along Grand Avenue and you can’t miss the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a twisted metallic explosion of Frank Gehry’s imagination. While you’ll need to buy a concert ticket to see the stunning auditorium, we think the exterior is just as exquisite.
Don’t miss: Climb up the staircase on Grand Avenue, near 2nd Street, and you’ll find a garden hidden behind the hall. Bring a bagged lunch or a climb along the building’s lustrous exterior.
What is it? A postcard-worthy seafood shack on the Pacific Coast Highway toward the western edge of Malibu.
Why go? The fried ocean bites and weekend biker crew make Neptune’s Net an unique destination. (Alternatively, dine up the coast with locals at Malibu Seafood, where the long line is worth the wait for fresh fish and seafood).
Don’t miss: The outdoor patio affords views of surfers, kite boarders and fellow diners, many of whom will be large, hairy and leather-clad. For an even closer ocean view, take your food across the street and sit on a clifftop boulder.
What is it? Dozens of public, outdoor stairways scattered around Silver Lake’s verdant hillsides.
Why go? These WPA era staircases are well-suited for a workout or a fitness-included tour of the area. Though some homeowners have tried to prevent open access, make no mistake: These sets of stairs are for public use. You can find an exhaustive list in author Charles Fleming’s Secret Stairs.
Don’t miss: Highlights include the heart-painted Micheltorena Stairs (Sunset Blvd and Micheltorena St) and the Music Box Steps (Vendome St and Del Monte Dr), of Laurel and Hardy fame.
What is it? A space shuttle, Endeavour, that’s permanently houses at the California Science Center.
Why go? The final ship to be built in NASA’s space shuttle program, Endeavour inspires a reach-for-the-stars ambition unlike any other exhibit in the city. And its story is distinctly rooted in L.A.: Endeavour was built in Palmdale and, almost 123 million miles later, rolled along our streets to its permanent resting place in the museum.
Don’t miss: Timed tickets are required for Endeavour on weekends and during holiday periods, but you can freely visit during the week.
What is it? A free hilltop art museum with a rolling lawn overlooking the ocean.
Why go? From the ocean to the mountains northeast of Downtown L.A., the panoramic views from this artopolis more than compensate for its relative inaccessibility (you need to ride a tram to the museum).
Don’t miss: You’ll find proper picnic tables down the hill at the tram station, but we highly suggest sitting on the lawn adjacent to the Central Garden.
What is it? A former reservoir turned public recreation area at the center of one of L.A.’s most buzzing neighborhoods.
Why go? The historic Echo Park Lake has finally become a family-friendly destination worthy of its bold backdrop: the Downtown skyline amid the lotus flower blooms, fountains and the Lady of the Lake statue. You can push your way through the lake in a pedal or swan boat ($11–$25 per hour) or stroll around the path that hugs its borders.
Don’t miss: Make sure to stop at the revived boathouse and its breakfast pit stop Beacon.
What is it? A mighty metallic bell and pavilion in San Pedro donated by South Korea in 1976.
Why go? Perched over the Pacific, this grassy spot overlooking the ocean is known for its namesake bell, with an ornately painted hipped roof. The exposed hillside is an ideal spot to fly a kite thanks to persistent winds coming off the ocean.
Don’t miss: The bell rings only four times each year: Fourth of July, National Liberation Day of Korea (Aug 15), New Year’s Eve during Constitution Week in September.
What is it? An all-glass slide attached to the side of a building, 1,000 feet above Downtown L.A.
Why go? Skyslide, the glass-encased slide attached to the U.S. Bank Tower’s exterior, shuttles visitors from the 70th floor down to the 69th. The slide isn’t as terrifying as you’d think—some sqeuals and expletives aside—mostly because it’s over and done with in fewer than five seconds.
Don’t miss: L.A.’s marine layer means views in the morning can be fogged in. Swing by later in the day; sunset is particularly memorable from up here.
What is it? A series of small canals that run through the beachfront neighborhood—hence the name, Venice.
Why go? Tucked between the grimy Venice Boardwalk and the posh Abbot Kinney, the Venice Canals offer a completely different side of the famed beachfront neighborhood. Take a stroll through these three canal-lined blocks and you’ll discover an idyllic scene: arching pedestrian bridges, charming beach houses, bunches of ducklings and the occasional paddle boarding bulldog.
Don’t miss: Though you won’t find boat rentals anywhere along the canals, you can bring your own non-motorized vessel to tour the neighborhood at water level (enter via the launch ramp at Venice Boulevard).
What is it? A century-plus–old contraption that uses millennia-old technology to project a moving image.
Why go? Head to the Santa Monica Senior Center (of all places) to find a tiny room containing a camera obscura apparatus that’s more than 100 years old. Sneak a kiss in the dark as tiny strangers stroll across the disk, oblivious to your PDA.
Don’t miss: Give the wooden wheel a whirl to focus the image—and to pretend to be a pirate.
What is it? A grand, white concrete tower that’s served as L.A.’s city hall since 1928.
Why go? It’s the cheapest 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.
Don’t miss: Look for the 1984 Olympic torch near the Spring Street exit.
What is it? A Pacific Palisades hillside park with multiple viewponts of the ocean.
Why go? With a variety of terrain, flora and views of the Pacific and city, Temescal Canyon Park is great for trail runners, hikers and dog walkers. 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.
Don’t miss: The stop signs. Seriously. They’re photo enforced, and you’ll be sent a $100 fine if you roll through.
What is it? A 50-foot waterfall located in an easy-to-access canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Why go? Los Angeles is a beautiful place, and it’s not afraid to flaunt it. Case in point: Eaton Canyon. The Pasadena-area park is one of the most accessible and easygoing trails where you’ll truly feel like you’ve slipped into the wilderness.
Don’t miss: On weekdays only, you can cut out the most boring part of the hike and park just barely over a mile from a waterfall.
What is it? Take a fuel-efficient walking tour and cherish Los Angeles’ urban architectural heritage.
Why go? The Los Angeles Conservancy walking tours take in the city’s top sights and most beautiful buildings, including Downtown’s historic theaters and Art Deco buildings (on a weekly basis) as well as the modern skyline (bi-monthly). Be sure to reserve a place well ahead, because the tours are incredibly popular.
Don’t miss: Each June, the Conservancy hosts classic film screenings in the Broadway theaters during Last Remaining Seats.
What is it? Local Hollywood historian Philip Mershon’s tour of a history-filled quarter-mile area in Hollywood.
Why go? Mershon’s walk centers mostly around Sunset and Gower and makes no mention of the Walk of Fame or the Hollywood Sign. Yet by the end of the tour, you’ll have visited the origin of nearly all the major Hollywood studios and their immortal works of pop culture. Now that’s a Hollywood tour we can get behind.
Don’t miss: The tour’s area has become a revitalized entertainment industry hub in recent years, with high-end public programming at screenings at NeueHouse Hollywood.
What is it? A historic library, museum and sprawling gardens that was the bequest of entrepreneur Henry E. Huntington.
Why go? The Huntington is a daunting destination to tackle in 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.
Don’t miss: Sit down for an afternoon spread of tea, scones and sandwiches at the lovely Rose Garden.
What is it? A staggeringly colossal flea market held outside of the Rose Bowl the second Sunday of each month.
Why go? The sheer size and scale of this flea market means that it encompasses multitudes: new and old, hand-crafted and salvaged, the cheap and the costly. There are plenty of duds, to be sure, but come out early enough and you may go home with that perfect purchase.
Don’t miss: Stray from the main loop around the stadium; there are rows and rows of old furniture, albums and vintage clothes and accessories that fill the adjacent parking lot.
What is it? A Westside lookout best known for its 282 steep, concrete stairs to the top.
Why go? The views from the top offer some of the best views of the region, with the ocean on one side and the Downtown L.A. skyline on the other (set against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains in the winter). Once you reach the summit, sit at the long park bench and take in the 360-degree views.
Don’t miss: If you’d rather not beat up your knees, take a shortcut and drive up to the top of the hill and park in one of the many empty spaces ($6).
What is it? An Arts District arcade bar.
Why go? If ever there was a bar to geek out in, this one is it. L.A.’s first arcade bar boasts more than 40 classic arcade cabinets and pristinely preserved pinball machines—all fixed with cup holders for endless booze-fueled sessions. An homage to the golden age of arcade games, cocktails here have names like Princess Peach, Zangief and Power Up.
Don’t miss: Swing by the last Sunday of the month for an open pinball tournament (or join the L.A. Pinball League, which plays on Tuesday nights).
What is it? A multi-concept space from the chefs behind San Francisco’s beloved bakery, Tartine, and Arizona’s legendary Pizzeria Bianco.
Why go? Think of the Manufactory as a warehouse within ROW DTLA with multiple spots to visit and eat your way through. In addition to baked goods from Tartine, there’s also the dinner-only restaurant, Alameda Supper Club, plus a walk-up window for pastries, ice cream and coffee. There’s even a market, where you’ll find a great curation of home goods and pantry staples, and a nearby coffee roastery and lab from Coffee Manufactory.
Don’t miss: Explore the rest of ROW DTLA while you’re in the area, including design-minded boutique Poketo, hidden sneaker shop Bodega and fragrance supplier Scent Bar.
What is it? A series of four farmers’ markets held every week year-round in Santa Monica.
Why go? The next time you’re at a restaurant and tempted to ask the waiter where your astoundingly fresh beets came from—don’t. We’ll save you the trouble and answer for you: the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market.
Don’t miss: While the market occurs on a couple of days (Wed, Sat and Sun) in various parts of Santa Monica, the best day to go is on Wednesday along Arizona Avenue.
What is it? A warehouse-sized record store in the middle of Hollywood.
Why go? Sure, Spotify is great, but anyone in search of that arcane track off of that mid-’80s Tom Robinson album knows it isn’t perfect. Neither is Amoeba, but it is the largest independent record store in the United States, and the variety of music on offer is amazing, the prices are fair and the staff really know their music.
Don’t miss: The shop hosts free shows a couple of days a week, including release parties from major artists (tickets for those are typically available with the purchase of a record).
What is it? A glassy chapel designed by architect Lloyd Wright on an oceanfront road.
Why go? Accessible via a dramatic oceanfront drive—no matter which direction you approach from—architect Lloyd Wright’s enchanting glass church drinks in tree-dappled sunlight through its faceted shell. All are welcome to admire the serene sanctuary’s intimate structure—though you may have to do so from the outside if there’s a wedding in progress.
Don’t miss: Across the street, Abalone Cove Shoreline Park is the perfect starting point for beachfront trailheads.
What is it? A mountaintop observatory, and a winding, scenic drive to get there.
Why go? 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 and its adjoining picnic area as it’s located within the Angeles National Forest.
Don’t miss: Take a self-guided tour of the grounds, or a seasonal docent-led tour ($15) of the observatory on weekends. The observatory sometimes offers ticketed, late-night stargazing events.
What is it? A Chinatown walk-up restaurant that serves the city’s best Nashville hot chicken.
Why go? The former pop-up turned permanent Far East Plaza spot serves chicken (white or dark) with whatever level of heat you can handle, from “Country Fried” to “Howlin’ Hot.” You’re supposed to be sweating. You’re supposed to get messy. You’re supposed to be eating some of the best fried chicken in town.
Don’t miss: Your chance to actually order some. The line regularly hits a two-to-three-hour wait on weekends; swing by on weekdays before closing for a shorter wait, which you can track on Twitter.
What is it? One of Southern California’s most beautiful beaches and a frequent Hollywood filming location due to its iconic rock face.
Why go? If you can find a free space along Westward Beach Road or you’re willing to pay for parking, you’ll be rewarded with this wide and rarely crowded patch of sand and surf. As all the parking spots are only steps from the sand, Point Dume is the perfect place to pack a picnic for a beachfront meal as seals and dolphins frolic during sunset—just watch out for those hungry seagulls.
Don’t miss: An easygoing dirth path climbs from the sand to the top of the point, with tons of yellow wildflowers in the winter and spring.
What is it? A model train workshop housed inside of a red barn that used to reside in Walt Disney’s Holmby Hills backyard.
Why go? Walt Disney used to ride his own 1/8th scale live-steam railroad—the “Carolwood Pacific Railroad”—around his backyard until he shifted his focus to a much bigger project: Disneyland. In 1999, the red barn that he used as his workshop was moved to Griffith Park’s Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum. Every third Sunday of the month, you can visit the barn to find a collection of train models and memorabilia.
Don’t miss: Legendary Disney artists and engineers are known to pop in during open hours.
What is it? A Harry Potter-themed land at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Why go? This meticulously detailed land, which features shops and edible delights in Hogsmeade village and a thrilling ride inside Hogwarts Castle, should delight even those Muggles unfamiliar with the Potterverse—particularly if you have a mug of Butterbeer in your hand.
Don’t miss: Hogwarts Castle features light shows projected onto its exterior during the summer and holidays. Also, if you buy your ticket online, you can enter the land 30 minutes before it opens.
What is it? A hillside botanical garden in La Cañada Flintridge that harbors a year-round collection of native flora.
Why go? This delightful tribute to the horticultural magic of Southern California includes more than 600 varieties of camellia (best seen between the middle of February and early May), as well as groves and hillsides of native plants.
Don’t miss: Visit during the spring to see the cherry blossoms bloom in the Japanese garden, or during the holidays for the stunning Enchanted: Forest of Light.
What is it? A screening series held at Hollywood Forever Cemetery every summer.
Why go? While the booze- and picnic-friendly vibe are enough for some people, the excellent film programming makes this outdoor series rise above the rest each summer. Oh, that and the fact that it’s held at the final resting place of Old Hollywood’s screen legends.
Don’t miss: Cinespia holds costume parties and special screenings during the off season in historic Downtown L.A. theaters.
What is it? A boozy cantina in Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Why go? The immersive new section of the classic theme park brings the Star Wars universe to life with a new planet—Batuu—transporting you to it with a whopping 14 acres of immersive, painfully detailed terrain. The standout, though? Oga’s Cantina, a wonderfully seedy-looking bar with a Droid manning the tunes and all sorts of colorful, bubbling cocktails—yes, they’re serving alcohol at Disneyland now.
Don’t miss: Try the Fuzzy Tauntaun, with a foam top that’ll make your lips tingle, or the Jet Juice, a bourbon-based shooter that’ll have you questioning whether you’re above the legal limit to pilot the Millennium Falcon.
What is it? An L.A.-via-London structure from architects SelgasCano with a crisscross of airy rainbow tunnels that’s set up at the La Brea Tar Pits.
Why go? We’re sure the pavilion’s Insta-worthiness will be the biggest attraction for most visitors, but take a moment to admire some of the whimsical architectural details: the colorful latticework of shadows on the floor, the calm canopy of streamers overhead, the iridescent shimmer of the plastic walls, the winding hallway that hugs the pavilion’s exterior.
Don’t miss: Coworking space Second Home and the Natural History Museum, who are hosting the pavilion, have planned a slate of programming at hte pavilion, including the likes of Universal Music, Netflix, World Wildlife Fund, David Lynch, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Frieze LA, LACMA and the mayor’s office.
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Going out and doing things satisfies our need to explore, to learn and to grow (and then to brag about it on social media). Our hope is that the DO List becomes not just your bucket list, but your inspiration to experience and appreciate the corners of magic in the world.