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Photograph: Time Out/Michael Juliano

The 45 best things to do in Los Angeles

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

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano
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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 that are still accessible, an 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?

November 2021: Your Halloween costume may still be sitting in your hamper, but ready or not, Christmas is already here. Well, kind of: Holiday lights are back this month, so we’ve added them to our list. But we’ve also added some stellar art exhibitions at LACMA, MOCA and the Broad, and extended our outdoor movie picks.

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.

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • San Marino
  • price 2 of 4

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, especially its recently expanded Chinese garden. The library and museum are equally impressive; all require reservations on weekends.

Don’t miss: Kehinde Wiley’s bold, poppy-filled response to The Blue Boy, which is currently on display opposite the 18th-century portrait.

  • Things to do
  • Griffith Park

What is it? A 4,000-plus–acre rugged park in the center of the city.

Why go? The trails, the flora, the views, the howls of coyotes down the canyons at night, the twinkly lights of Downtown in the distance—L.A. may not have a grassy, centralized park, but Griffith’s massive, hilly wilderness makes for a stellar alternative.

Don’t miss: Even when the Griffith Observatory is closed (it’s temporarily only open Friday through Sunday), you can still drive or hike up to the grounds of the landmark Art Deco dome to take in the unparalleled viewsWherever you end up hiking, we highly suggest listening downloading Ellen Reid’s Soundwalk, a location-based musical composition that transforms as you move about the park.

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  • Museums
  • Movies and TV
  • Miracle Mile
  • price 2 of 4

What is it? A permanent home for the history of moviemaking that’s finally open.

Why go? The collection includes the sorts of cinematic treasures you’d expect from the people who put on the Oscars: the Rosebud sled for Citizen Kane, Dorothy’s ruby slippers, R2-D2, the Dude’s robe from The Big Lebowski, the sole surviving shark from Jaws and the flowery May Queen dress from Midsommar. And it’s also debuted with a magical Hayao Miyazaki retrospective.

Don’t miss: The gift shop. Prepare to part ways with some cash over Totoro plush and Almodóvar earrings.

  • Restaurants
  • Downtown Historic Core
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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.

Take a food tour of Downtown L.A.

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  • Art
  • Painting
  • Miracle Mile

What is it? Two official paintings of Barack and Michelle Obama, which typically hang in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, make their only West Coast stop.

Why go? Kehinde Wiley’s green, foliage-filled portrait of Barack Obama is so boldly colorful that you need to see it in person to believe it. And Amy Sherald’s grayscale depiction of Michelle Obama, adorned in a geometric dress, pops against its blue background.

Don’t miss: LACMA has filled the adjacent gallery with the excellent “Black American Portraits,” a two-century–spanning display of works with Black Americans as the subjects. Both are included in general admission (with free weekday afternoons for L.A. County residents, and totally free days on November 7, 9 and 20 and December 14).

  • Sports and fitness
  • Cycling
  • Venice

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.

Take a guided bike ride along the coast.

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  • 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 in recent years finally became 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.

Don’t miss: 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.

  • Art
  • Film and video
  • Little Tokyo

What is it? A surreal, warehouse-sized art exhibition from the Swiss video artist at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA.

Why go? Unlike all of the cash-grab “immersive” events, “Pipilotti Rist: Big Heartedness, Be My Neighbor” is the real deal. The retrospective has turned the Geffen into a swirling playground where over a dozen of Rist’s colorful creations play out over entire walls or tucked into bookshelves.

Don’t miss: You have a 72-hour window after you visit to come back for a second time—for free. You’re going to want to.

 

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  • 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.

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Downtown

What is it? A free, contemporary art museum in Downtown L.A.

Why go? Three little words: Infinity Mirror Rooms. Well, technically just room for the moment—of the persistently popular museum’s two immersive, mirror-laden Yayoi Kusama installations, only one is currently open. Of course, there’s plenty more to see, from Robert Therrien’s oversized Under the Table to more than a dozen Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings.

Don’t miss: Ragnar Kjartansson’s mesmerizing video installation The Visitors goes back on display starting November 20.

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  • Things to do
  • Markets and fairs
  • Downtown Arts District

What is it? A Sunday market with dozens of food vendors in the Arts District.

Why go? The weekly food fest is like an incubator for L.A.’s next big food spot, with more than 80 food and retail stalls at ROW DTLA. You’ll also find the I Love Micheladas beer garden for local brews and micheladas.

Don’t miss: There are 18 brand-new food vendors that’ve debuted on the 2021 lineup.

  • Movies

What is it? Multiple series of pop-up movie screenings, which are splitting their times between alfresco picnic-style events and drive-ins.

Why go? Even though it’s nearly winter, L.A.’s roving movie series are still screening outdooors. Melrose Rooftop Theatre and Rooftop Movies at the Montalbán are both on beautiful terraces while Rooftop Cinema Club is running a DTLA rooftop and a Santa Monica “drive-up.”

Don’t miss: New series and screenings are sprouting up constantly—especially as we near the holidays—so be sure to check back for updates.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Westside

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). So too do the masterpieces on display, particularly its Impressionist paintings and baroque and French decorative arts.

Don’t miss: Pacific Palisades sister institution the Getty Villa is absolutely worth a visit, too, and brimming with Greek and Roman antiquities. Both museums require a free reservation.

  • Things to do

What is it? A handful of holiday lights displays that are about to flip the switch.

Why go? Nearly all of L.A.’s ticketed displays were canceled last year, but by the end of this month they’ll all be back, including Enchanted at Descanso Gardens and L.A. Zoo Lights. Some of last year’s new displays are returning, including South Coast Botanic Garden’s GLOW and an Elf on the Shelf event that’s flipped from a drive-through to a walk-through.

Don’t miss: If you can tolerate the early start to Christmas cheer, ticket prices and crowd levels tend to be way more manageable earlier on in all of these events’ runs.

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  • 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).

  • 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: Take a self-guided tour of the grounds, or a seasonal docent-led tour ($15) of the observatory on weekend afternoons (same-day tickets are available at the Cosmic Cafe). For late-night stargazing, you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for the rare ticketed event.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Ventura County
  • price 2 of 4

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, or grab a superlative lobster roll at Broad Street Oyster Co.).

Don’t miss: Take your food across the street and park in the dirt patch by the water, with views of surfers and kite boarders.

  • Things to do

What is it? A cluster of U-pick farms in Oak Glen.

Why go? Apple pie, apple cider, apple turnovers, apple fritters: If any of those have you smacking your lips in anticipation, you’ll want to head east to feast on freshly-baked apple treats, or to pick them yourself at a trio of farms.

Don’t miss: Apple picking season typically runs from Labor Day through Thanksgiving, though this year most farms in Oak Glen weren’t expecting good harvests until October.

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  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Downtown
  • price 3 of 4

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. You can look inside the stunning auditorium on a self-guided tour, but the exterior is also 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.

  • Movies

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

Why go? For nearly a year, it was one of the only ways to see a first-run movie that wasn’t on your couch. But even with regular theaters open again, we still think it’s tons of fun and cost effective.

Don’t miss: We particularly love the programming at Mission Tiki in Montclair.

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  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • USC/Exposition Park

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 to visit the museum right now (though you don’t need an additional reservation to see Endeavour). There’s a $3 service fee that you can skip if you get your ticket at the box office—but then your time of choice won’t be guaranteed.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • 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 and during Constitution Week in September.

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  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Hollywood
  • price 2 of 4

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.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Santa Monica Mountains
  • price 1 of 4

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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  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • Things to do

What is it? Leaves that change color.

Why go? Because it’s one of the only things that mark’s the passage of time in L.A. Look, it certainly won’t look like New England, but if you drive over to Oak Glen or Big Bear you’re sure to see some color on the trees (a bit closer to home, botanical gardens are our go-to).

Don’t miss: Peak foliage time. Expect some yellows and reds by mid-October, with the peak set to arrive and quickly pass by early November.

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Anaheim
  • price 3 of 4

What is it? A Marvel-themed, superhero-filled land at Disney California Adventure Park.

Why go? If you’re an MCU obsessive, then you’re going to want to add Disneyland’s newest area to your Infinity Gauntlet. You can see Spider-Man’s high-flying stunt-double animatronic launch 65 feet in the air, feast on a hilariously-proportioned Ant-Man–inspired chicken sandwich and encounter acomic-universe–deep roster of costumed character encounters.

Don’t miss: There are a lot of changes going on with Disneyland’s queueing systems, so we suggest brushing up on Genie Plus before you plan your attack for getting on the Spider-Man–themed 3-D ride WEB SLINGERS.

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  • Things to do
  • Pasadena

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 outside of the Pinecrest Gate, which is just barely over a mile from the waterfall.

  • Things to do
  • Rancho Palos Verdes/Rolling Hills Estates

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.

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  • Art

What is it? A digital projection that turns famous Vincent van Gogh paintings into wall-and-floor-covering animations.

Why go? “Immersive Van Gogh” chops up and reassambles the Dutch painters works into a music-video-like experience at Amoeba’s former Hollywood home. It’s remarkably expensive and loud, but undeniably photogenic.

Don’t miss: The real thing. L.A. is lucky enough to boast museums with actual Van Gogh canvases, including Irises at the Getty and five paintings on display at the Norton Simon.

  • 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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  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Downtown Financial District
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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 (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.

  • Bars
  • Downtown Arts District
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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 Kill Screen, Zangief and Dr. Mario.

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).

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  • Shopping
  • Pasadena

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.

  • 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.

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  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Malibu
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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’t 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.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • La Cañada
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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: The seasonal blooms, including—as mentioned—camellias in the winter, and tulips and the Japanese garden’s cherry blossoms in the spring.

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  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Hollywood
  • price 1 of 4

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: Its new address. The shop recently moved from its longtime home on Sunset Boulevard to a spot at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue.

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  • Attractions
  • Theme parks
  • Universal City
  • price 3 of 4

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: Speaking of that sweet treat, you can hack together a Butterbeer float with an order of soda and ice cream. Just a heads up that you’ll need to secure a reservation to visit.

  • Museums
  • History
  • Griffith Park

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.

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  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Pacific Palisades

What is it? A meditation garden in the Pacific Palisades.

Why go? Get lost in your thoughts at one of L.A.’s best kept secrets: the 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 offer some increasingly rare assets today: peace and tranquility.

Don’t miss: A reservation. You’ll need one right now to visit the meditation gardens, which are open for free from Wednesday through Sunday.

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