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
Italian-born tile-setter Simon Rodia began building the Watts Towers using nothing but scrap metal in the 1920s. Scaling the towers with a window-washer’s belt and bucket, he decorated them over the next three decades with consumer objects, such as green glass from bottles of 7-Up or Canada Dry and tiles from Malibu Pottery, as well as jewelry, marble and seashells. There are 17 of these intriguing structures, the tallest stretches nearly 100 feet into the sky. They still exude a kind of spectral beauty years after they were built.
Find more weird and fun ways to explore L.A.
There’s nothing cartoonish about the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which is the crown jewel of the Music Center. Designed by Frank Gehry, the auditorium has an open platform stage and some of the finest acoustics you’ll find anywhere in the world—plus a semi-secret garden. The Hall is home to the internationally acclaimed LA Philharmonic, led by Gustavo Dudamel, and the LA Master Chorale, but offers a surprisingly varied program of concerts and performances throughout the year.
Get cultured in more of the city’s best performing arts centers.
For chic clothes and delicious food, the place to go shopping is the junction of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue. Here, you’ll find The Grove, an open-air mall where you can browse through about 50 top-brand stores. Adjacent, you’ll find the Original Farmers Market. Set up in 1934, it’s expanded from selling fresh produce to offering an international culinary experience from a vast range of stalls.
Slice up the freshest tomato you’ve ever tasted at the city’s best farmers’ markets.
Sure, we all love streaming our music in an instant, but as anyone who’s desperate to hear that arcane track off of that mid-’80s Tom Robinson album knows all too well: it isn’t perfect. Sometimes, only the physicsal product will do—and that’s where Amoeba comes in. It’s the largest independent record store in the countryight, and the variety of music crammed in here is incredible. Plus, the prices are good and the knowledgable staff really care about their music. It’s the right place to find CDs and vinyl that you’ve been struggling to find elsewhere.
Looking for live music? Check out the best upcoming concerts.
One of Los Angeles’s most famous thoroughfares, if you’re looking for a joyride, a cruise down Mulholland Drive is essential. This is the road of classic make-out points, Hollywood chase scenes and spectacular scenic splendor. The whole thing can be drive in its entirity in less than hour, including time to stop at the half dozen or so overlooks to take in the views. Just watch how you drive around those blind curves, alright?
Trying to find even more stunning views of the city? Check out the best hikes in L.A.
There are a bunch of brilliant laughter joints in Los Angeles, regularly hosting up-and-comers and superstar comedians on the same stage. Dynasty Typewriter and the UCB Theatre both deserve particular mention, though, for their cutting-edge comedy—and you’re pretty much guaranteed to catch familiar sitcom faces, especially during UCB’s acclaimed Asssscat improv show. If you’re in the mood for more traditional stand-up, head to iconic clubs like the Laugh Factory, Improv, Comedy Store and Largo.
See some of your favorite stand-ups perform at the best comedy clubs in L.A.
Telling the compelling story of Japanese immigration to the United States, the Japanese American National Museum is one of the city’s best. It all began in 1882 when employers were barred from importing Chinese labor, leading to the arrival of thousands of Japanese workers instead, only to find themselves sent to internment camps during the Second World War. This museum tells their story in vivid fashion, through documentary and art exhibitions, and a moving display of artifacts from their internment camps.
Explore the rest of Little Tokyo while you’re in the area.
If there’s one thing that L.A. knows how to do really well, it’s throw a good party. Throw yourself into the night at Avalon, the city’s pre-eminent nightclub, where the music policy favors European house and techno. Or if you’re looking for more of an authentic rave experience, seek out warehouse-like venue The Smell. From outside, it looks like squat, but once you step through the doors, you’ll discover the latest in indie-noise and political art-punk. It’s perfect for bright young hipsters thanks to its no-booze policy.
Stay out late at the city’s best club nights.
Who invented the juicy beefy French dip sandwich? Where’s the best place to eat one? The answer may well be Philippe the Original. It’s been in business since 1908 and certainly claims to have whipped up the dip (but it’s not the only one; see Cole’s). Savvy customers opt for the traditional lamb or lighter turkey filling, and then ask the server to double-dip the bread in meaty juice, before adding a splash of house mustard. The wines served by the glass aren’t bad either, but the sandwich is king.
Satisfy your wallet and your stomach with the best cheap eats.
If you’re in Los Angeles to take in as much culture as possible, you’ll be spoilt for choice at the city’s three-in-one attraction Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. It’s an ingenious multi-purpose venue, which is home to an art gallery, a substantially stocked library and elaborate botanical gardens. The hilly Japanese garden and cacti-filled desert garden are among the favorites. Take a whole day out to explore this fabulous Pasadena-adjacent place.
Stop and smell the flowers at the rest of the city’s best botanical gardens.