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Korean Bell
Photograph: Michael Juliano

The 24 best things to do in Los Angeles

Your essential guide to the best things to do in Los Angeles, from stair hikes to welding workshops and more

By Michael Juliano
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August 2020: If you’ve kept up with this list before, you might notice some pretty glaring omissions right now. Simply put: We’ve had to remove nearly all major attractions and museums as they’re still closed. But in their place we’ve added more outdoorsy spots, plus some ways to safely get a meal out. And remember: Please wear a face covering and practice social distancing.

Looking for the best things to do in Los Angeles? We have you covered with the very best that L.A. has to offer. Whether you’re a culture vulture, outdoorsy type or simply a lover of our fine city, there’s more than enough here to keep you busy. Even lifelong Angelenos will find something new to add to their to-do list, between the city’s landmark attractions, ever-changing inventory of the best restaurants in Los Angeles, essential L.A. museums and even some off-the-beaten path secrets. How many of the best things to do in Los Angeles will you try?

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere.

You can also find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now.

Best things to do in L.A.

Rancho Palos Verdes
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Andrew Sterling

Take a scenic drive around the Palos Verdes Peninsula

Things to do

What is it? Ten miles of streets, mostly along Palos Verdes Drive, hugging the coast from the Torrance border to San Pedro.

Why go? The first third of the drive sticks mostly to spectacular real estate a few blocks inland, but after you round Point Vicente, the drive changes dramatically. For a few miles past Terranea, there’s nothing but undeveloped oceanfront hillsides, winding roads and golden-hued bluffs.

Don’t miss: Take a stroll by the Point Vicente Interpretive Center for views of the nearby lighthouse.

Grand Central Market
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Have tacos and egg sandwiches at Grand Central Market

Restaurants Lunch Downtown Historic Core

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 SariHorse 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.

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The Strand
Photograph: Estrategy/Wikimedia

Bike the Strand

Sports and fitness Cycling

What is it? A 22-mile bike path, officially known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, that traces nearly the entire extent of L.A.’s westward-facing coastline.

Why go? It’s the best way to tour the coastline. The path starts at Will Rogers State Beach and winds its way all the way down to Torrance County Beach.

Don’t miss: If you’d rather take the path at a walking pace, you’ll find pedestrian-friendly forks in Santa Monica, Venice and Manhattan Beach.

Mission Tiki Drive-In Theatre
Photograph: Stephanie Breijo

Travel back in time at the drive-in

Movies

What is it? About a half-dozen drive-in movie theaters in SoCal that are still going strong.

Why go? Well, it’s basically the only way to see a movie right now that’s not on your couch. But it’s also tons of fun, cost effective and one of the few ways you can go out safely right now.

Don’t miss: The ArcLight has been hosting a couple of movie premiere events at drive-ins, and some free series have popped up, as well.

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Pasadena outdoor dining
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Have dinner on a closed street

News Eating

What is it? Lanes or entire streets that have been shut down to make more room for outdoor dining.

Why go? Well, honestly, eating outside might be the only way to dine out for a while, and these street closures put a novel (and safe) spin on it.

Don’t miss: Burbank, Long Beach, Pasadena and Torrance have all made notable pushes for street closures.

Neptune's Net
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Have an oceanfront, roadside meal at Neptune’s Net

Restaurants Seafood Ventura County

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 a 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 famous spot is currently open as a drive-through. So take your food across the street and park in the dirt patch by the water, with views of surfers and kite boarders.

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Huntington Library
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Stroll through the stunning gardens at the Huntington Library

Things to do Event spaces San Marino

What is it? A historic library, museum and sprawling gardens that was the bequest of entrepreneur Henry E. Huntington.

Why go? The Huntington’s distinctly themed gardens are easily the most stunning manicured outdoor spaces in SoCal. Thought its library and museum are currently closed, the gardens are open with reservations.

Don’t miss: Go for a stroll around the Chinese garden, which is nearing the completion of its massive expansion.

Echo Park Lake, lotus
Photograph: Rozette Rago

Pedal around Echo Park Lake

Things to do Echo Park

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.

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Rosie the Bulldog at Rosie's Dog Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia/Justin Rudd

Take your pup to the only off-leash beach, Rosie's Dog Beach

Attractions Beaches Long Beach

What is it? A pooch-friendly paradise in Paradise.

Why go? The four-acre waterfront spot is the only legal off-leash dog beach in L.A. County. The park is named after the area’s late local canine celebrity, Rosie the English bulldog.

Don’t miss: The entrance. There are no fences marking the dog-friendly area—though you’ll know you’re in the right spot if you see the colorful “Dogs at Play” sculpture—so you’ll want to stay between Granada Avenue and Roycroft Avenue between 6am and 8pm daily.

Urban Light at LACMA
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Ruben Gutierrez

Pose in front of streetlights at LACMA

Museums Art and design Miracle Mile

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? Though LACMA is currently closed, yes, you can still snag your streetlight selfies. In addition, Michael Heizer’s teetering boulder Levitated Mass is still viewable, as well. 

Don’t miss: Be on the lookout for the 26-foot-tall Yoshitomo Nara sculpture sitting on Wilshire Boulevard.

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Venice Canals
Photograph: Roberto Nickson

Walk along the Venice Canals

Things to do Venice

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).

Level 8 Drive-In at the Americana
Photograph: Courtesy Kimberly Zsebe/The Americana at Brand

Watch a movie in a parking lot

Movies

What is it? Drive-in movie theaters popping up in parking lots all over town.

Why go? Normally, summer movie season means watching classic films in a cemetery or on a rooftop. But this summer they’ve all gone to the drive-in. Street Food Cinema, in particular, has been bringing screenings to spots from Simi Valley to Ontario to Orange County.

Don’t miss: New series and screenings are sprouting up constantly, so be sure to check back all season long for updates.

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Korean Bell of Friendship
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ryan Stavely

Fly a kite by the Korean Bell of Friendship

Things to do San Pedro

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.

Malibu Creek State Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Tobin

Get some fresh air at Malibu Creek State Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Santa Monica Mountains

What is it? An 8,000-acre mountainous park that looks unlike anything else in L.A.

Why go? With dramatic gorges, open pastures, lush forests, hidden pools and jagged peaks, Malibu Creek is simply one of the most stunning spots in Southern California.

Don’t miss: A bit of silver screen history; you can spot remnants of the M*A*S*H set and splash in the rock pool that was featured in Planet of the Apes.

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Temescal Gateway Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Matthew Robinson

Admire the coastline atop Temescal Gateway Park

Things to do Pacific Palisades

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.

Micheltorena Stairs
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Alissa Walker

Hike the Silver Lake Stairs

Things to do Walks and tours Silver Lake

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.

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El Matador State Beach
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Adele Payman

Watch the sunset from El Matador

Attractions Beaches Malibu

What is it? A small but beautiful state beach in Malibu dominated by rocky coves.

Why go? Because it’s easily the most scenic stretch of coastline in the region. It’s only accessible via a steep gravelly path from a paid parking lot. But the effort is worth it, whether it’s to watch the waves lap against the rocks or see the sunset.

Don’t miss: The tide. The beach here is pretty narrow and sand comes at a particular premium when high tide rolls in.

Baldwin Hills
Photograph: Benny Haddad

Tackle 282 steps at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

Things to do Culver City

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).

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farmers' market
Photograph: Courtesy Caroline Attwood

Achieve your farm-to-table dreams at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market

Shopping Markets and fairs Santa Monica

What is it? A series of 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 in various parts of Santa Monica, the best day to go is on Wednesday along Arizona Avenue.

Howlin' Rays hot chicken
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Brave the hot chicken—and the waits—at Howlin’ Ray’s

Restaurants Soul and southern American Chinatown

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—which you can now do via Postmates in select areas. Previously, the line would regularly hit a two-to-three-hour wait on weekends, long enough that you could track it on Twitter.

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Descanso Gardens
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Stroll through SoCal flora at Descanso Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens La Cañada

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: Composer Pete M. Wyer has crafted “The Sky Beneath Our Feet,” a site-specific musical piece that plays out across 72 independent speakers scattered across the garden’s forest of coast live oaks.

Angeles National Forest, Mt. Wilson
Photograph: Michael Juliano

See L.A. from 6,000 feet up at the Mount Wilson Observatory

Things to do Angeles National Forest

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. Admission to the area is free, but you’ll need to buy a Forest Service Adventure Pass in order to park at the site and its adjoining picnic area as it’s located within the Angeles National Forest.

Don’t miss: Right now, all you can do is admire the views nearby. But when things return to normal: Take a self-guided tour of the grounds, or a seasonal docent-led tour ($15) of the observatory on weekends. If you’re traveling with a group, you can book an after-dark session on the observatory’s 60-inch telescope. Otherwise, the observatory sometimes offers ticketed, late-night stargazing events.

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Malibu
Photograph: Courtesy Jenna Day

Relax on the sand at Point Dume State Beach

Attractions Beaches Malibu

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.

Corgi
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Audrey Fretz

Spend time with your dog at the South Coast Botanic Garden

Things to do Walks and tours South Coast Botanic Garden, Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates

What is it? A twice-a-month block of dog-friendly hours at the Palos Verdes botanical garden.

Why go? To spend some quality outdoor time with your four-legged best friend, of course. Every second and fourth Wednesday of the month during the summer, you can roam the gardens’ 87 acres with your fur baby.

Don’t miss: Nabbing a reservation. You—the human—will need a reservation and a face covering, while your best friend—the pup—will need to remain on their leash at all times, including in the parking lot.  

Looking for more places to explore?

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Uluru’s ‘Field of Light’
Photograph: Mark Pickthall, courtesy Field of Light, Uluru, Bruce Munro 2016

The 40 best things to do in the world right now

Things to do

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.

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