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Griffith Observatory
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Jaredd Craig

30 Los Angeles attractions for tourists and natives alike

Whether you’re a tourist visiting for the weekend or a native looking to explore, these are the essential Los Angeles attractions for any trip

Michael Juliano
Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Michael Juliano
Contributor
Andrzej Lukowski
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L.A. covers a mindbogglingly massive volume of land (and for that matter, ocean too). So it’s no surprise that Los Angeles packs in an enormous number of world-class attractions. If you’re a tourist looking out for things to do, you’ll have no problem finding vacation inspiration, from Hollywood tours to a day at one of the city’s best beaches. And locals might very well find ways to fall in love with the city all over again in our extensive list of the best Los Angeles attractions.

Oh, and just a heads up: Masks are required indoors across the county, and you’ll need to show your proof of vaccination at most indoor venues in the City of L.A.

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30 essential L.A. attractions

  • Museums
  • Science and technology
  • Griffith Park
  • price 1 of 4

Though the grounds are open daily, the observatory itself is open Friday through Sunday.

The vista from the Griffith Observatory is stunning, particularly at night when the whole of Los Angeles twinkles below you. Inside this hilltop landmark you’ll find a selection of exhibits, including a Foucault pendulum, Tesla coil and planetarium show. Give yourself plenty of time before the 10pm closing to line up and gaze through the 12-inch refracting telescope on the roof. Otherwise don’t worry: you can look through the far less crowded modern, reflecting telescope on the front lawn. Just a heads up that parking now costs between $8 and $10 per hour—though you can take a DASH bus up there for only 35 cents.

  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Westside

Timed tickets required.

What we now call the Getty Villa was the decades-long Pacific Palisades home for the J. Paul Getty Trust’s huge art collection. But that all changed in 1997, when the Getty Center opened in Brentwood. It’s a truly distinctive building, a remarkable complex of travertine and white metal-clad pavilions. Inside you’ll find ornate French furniture, famous Impressionist pieces and a series of rotating exhibitions. It’s not exactly the most accessible of locations, but when you get there it’s more than compensated for by the astonishing views, which run from the hills and ocean in the west all the way across to Downtown in the east.

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

Timed tickets required.

Bequeathed to the city by railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington, this splendid library and art collection now makes for one of the most enjoyable attractions in the Los Angeles area. Between the library holdings, the art and the sublime outdoor spaces, there’s easily enough to see there to fill an entire afternoon—indeed, it’s definitely best taken at a leisurely pace rather than any sort of mad dash. From a Gutenberg Bible to an exquisitely landscaped Japanese garden, pretty much every inch of the estate’s grounds and collection is essential.

  • Restaurants
  • Downtown Historic Core
  • price 2 of 4

Operating on the ground floor of the iconic Homer Laughlin Building since 1917, this European-style food hall is a true Los Angeles mainstay. Even if you’re not personally in the market for food, you should definitely still come; people from all corners of L.A. mingle and mix among rows of spices, produce and vintage neon signage. And if you are hungry then boy have you come to right place: get yourself some affordable pupusas, carnitas tacos and aguas frescas, or else food from handsome, trendy eateries like Sticky Rice, Sari Sari, Horse Thief BBQ, ShikuEggslut and G&B Coffee.

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  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Downtown Santa Monica

The focal point of the iconic Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica Pier is bursting with fun (but crowded) things to do: it includes a Ferris wheel, aquarium, fairground games and cotton candy stands. On weekends when the weather’s warm, the stretch is busy with families, beach bums and the gym bunnies who do their public workouts at the original Muscle Beach, just to the south of the pier. In recent years, the Pier has played host to a number of outdoor film and music events, which tends to bring in a (slightly) trendier clientele to the boardwalk.

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

First opening at its prime location in the Hollywood Hills way back 1922, in the century since this stunning open-air amphitheatre has since then regularly featured on the screen large and small, and welcomed major acts to its stage. When there isn’t a concert on, members of the public are free to visit at any time. But if you do want to see some live concert action—and really, why wouldn’t you?—we’d strongly advise you to take along a picnic (perhaps one with a bottle of wine or two) when you go to see the LA Philharmonic or one of the many stellar pop acts that call in on tour.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Miracle Mile
  • price 1 of 4

Timed tickets required.

It feels like it’s taken no time at all for Chris Burden’s Urban Light (an outdoor art installation made up of 202 cast-iron street lamps that have been sourced from around L.A. and carefully repaired so they work again) to become one of the city’s most beloved landmarks. But it would be a shame if you just left it at the Instagram-friendly installation; step inside and you’ll find LACMA’s collections boast modernist masterpieces, large-scale contemporary works and by far L.A.’s most consistently terrific special exhibitions.

  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • Venice

Venice Beach is actually a pretty good beach: the sand is soft, the beach big, with postcard views of the mountainous coastline. However, people-watching is unquestionably the raison d'être here. Expect attention-grabbing street performers along the sort-of-grimy Venice Boardwalk and pumped-up gym obsessives working out at Muscle Beach. Street parking is usually jammed, but there are several beachside lots. For a completely different side of Venice, take a stroll through the idyllic Venice Canals

Book a Segway tour of the beach.

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  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Downtown

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

Three words: Infinity Mirror Rooms. Downtown’s persistently popular contemporary art museum has two of Yayoi Kusama’s immersive, mirror-laden rooms (and often the queue to prove it). Elsewhere in the free museum, Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection of 2,000 post-war works includes artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Jeff Koons and Kara Walker. Find out more in our complete guide to the Broad.

  • Attractions
  • Sightseeing
  • Hollywood

Originally created in 1923, the sign, which back then said “Hollywoodland,” was supposed to be up for only a year and a half. Yet here it is, almost a century later. Actually getting up close and personal to the Hollywood Sign is not as easy as you might think: it’s often a contentious issue thanks to the objections of local homeowners. On Beachwood Drive you can catch a dead-on glimpse of the sign, or again farther up the hill close to Lake Hollywood Park. You want to get closer still? You could always go horseback riding at Sunset Ranch, or even lace up for a hike along the dirt road on Mt. Lee Drive—eventually you’ll find yourself standing directly above the Hollywood Sign, with a jaw-dropping  total 360-degree view of the city.

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