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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
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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 you’re only in town for a short time, you could spend all your trip wandering around L.A.’s essential museums without even making it to Hollywood. This city is big—and stuffed with so many worthwhile experiences that you’ll never be asking yourself what to do—so expect to put in the miles taking in everything it has to offer, from the beaches of Santa Monica to the vibrant historic streets of the Arts District and 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.

Plan what do to in L.A. with these 20 great places to visit

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 and G&B Coffee.

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

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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 the stunning installation of Chris Burden’s 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 brand-new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

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

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 (open Fri–Sun; 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.

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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—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 seven must-see works at the Getty.

For a glimpse of the stardust on which the city’s built, stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where more than 2,600 of the entertainment world’s most illustrious names are immortalized in pink terrazzo and gold lettering. For film fanatics, the famous hand and footprints at the Chinese Theatre are a requisite stop—though the tourist-choked area leaves much to be desired. Countless galas, premieres and award ceremonies have passed through over the decades and although the area isn’t nearly as glitzy as you imagined, Hollywood 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.

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Be starstruck in seconds at the Broad
Photograph: Courtesy Maris Hutchinson/EPW Studio/Yayoi Kusama

7. Be starstruck in seconds at the Broad

Only one of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms is currently open (the more immersive one is still closed). Timed tickets are required.

Whenever a new museum opens in Los Angeles, it’s a big deal. Over half a decade in now and the arrival of The Broad has still caused quite a stir in L.A. 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, 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.

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. 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..

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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: Rozette Rago

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 Avengers Campus—and the adjacent California Adventure. 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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