With so many world-famous sites and attractions, 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 LA’s essential museums without even making it to Hollywood. This city is big, 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 go and things to do, 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.
Start your visit in L.A. with these great things to do
Get active on Venice Beach
Venice Beach has long been known as the bohemian epicenter of California, and while the area gets more 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 brilliant place for people watching, with radical pamphleteers, skateboarders and body builders all making their presence known. Grab lunch at the local Figtree’s Café before browsing the shelves at Small World Books. This vibrant district is welcoming to all walks of life.
Looking to relax by the ocean? Check out the best beaches in L.A..
Stroll along the stars in Hollywood
You're never far from a Hollywood celebrity or two in L.A. For a glimpse of the stardust on which the city's built, stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where almost 2,500 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 an essential stop. Countless galas, premiers and award ceremonies have passed through over the decades and although it may not all be quite as glitzy as you imagined, Hollywood still has its charms.
Thinking of making a day of it? Find our favorite things to do in Hollywood.
Bow down to the masters
The Getty Center is packed full of artistic masterpieces and enjoys on an awe-inspiring hilltop location with incredible views of L.A.. Sure, it might not have the rich collections of Old World galleries, but The Getty's impressive exhibits cover a broad sweep of history. Among the highlights hanging here are works by Rubens and Impressionists such as Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh and Cézanne. The French decorative arts get plenty of love and the growing photography collection is also well worth a look. The gardens are particularly impressive, with works by Miró and Moore to be found in the fine sculpture garden.
Make sure to see these seven must-see works at the Getty.
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.
Walk it off
Feast your eyes on Los Angeles’ urban architectural heritage from up close with a leisurely walking tour. The Los Angeles Conservancy walking tours take in the city’s top sights and most beautiful buildings, from Downtown’s historic theaters and Art Deco buildings (on a weekly basis) to the modern skyline tour (bi-monthly). These tours are extremely popular, so make sure you book a place in advance.
Thinking of exploring L.A.’s growing skyline? Here’s everything you need to know about Downtown Los Angeles.
Get curious with a Jurassic experience
Despite the name, this pseudo-scientific nook has nothing to do with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park or any of its sequels. The Museum of Jurassic Technology is home to a repository of curiosities: from scientific wonders such as a bat that can fly through walls to impossibly tiny sculptures and other artistic marvels. The institute is an intriguing combination of fact and fiction, and much more exciting than chasing - or being chased by - CGI dinosaurs.
Get weird with a trip to some more off-the-beaten path museums.
The collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, are housed in a vast 20-acre complex of buildings, expertly renovated in 2008 with more redesigns on the way. The focal point is the BP Grand Entrance, which includes the stunning installation of Chris Burden’s Urban Light. The Broad Contemporary Art Museum is home to a dazzling selection of modern works. LACMA sits just across the street from the Petersen Automotive Museum and the Craft & Folk Art Museum, as well as the under-construction Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
Make sure to check these 10 must-see works of art at LACMA.
Smarten up 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. 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.
Get animated with Mickey and Minnie
You’re never too old for Disneyland. This legendary theme park overflows with brilliant things to do, spread over seven 'lands' and the adjacent California Adventure. After making sure you're up to speed with a few essential Disneyland tips, 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 wonderfully wet Grizzly River Run and the epic Indiana Jones Adventure.
Make sure to get on the 25 best Disneyland rides while you’re there.
Be starstruck in seconds
Whenever a new museum opens in Los Angeles, it’s a big deal. The arrival of The Broad has caused quite a stir in L.A. thanks to the museum’s distinctive design, free admission and post-war art collection. One Insta-friendly piece in particular has been pulling in the crowds: Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room, which transports viewers into a twinkling, pulsating starfield of LEDs. It might only be a 45-second-experience, but the wait time is measured in hours, so to cut down on the entry line, make your way to the first-floor installation as soon as you step inside the museum and get to grips with the ticketing system.
Have time to kill before your Infinity Mirrored Room reservation? Explore the best things to do by the Broad.