29 Los Angeles attractions for tourists and natives alike

Visit these essential Los Angeles attractions whether you’re a tourist in for the weekend or a native looking to explore

L.A. covers a staggeringly huge amount of land (and ocean), so it’s no surprise that the list of Los Angeles attractions is equally impressive. If you’re a tourist looking for things to do, you’ll find plenty of vacation inspiration, from Hollywood tours to a day at the one the city’s best beaches. And locals, you may discover ways to fall in love with the city all over again in our extensive list of Los Angeles attractions.

1
Griffith Observatory
Photograph: Courtesy Daniil Vnoutchkov
Museums, Science and technology
Griffith Observatory
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The vista from this hilltop landmark is stunning, particularly at night when Los Angeles twinkles below. Inside you’ll find a bevy of exhibits, including a Foucault pendulum, Tesla coil and planetarium show. Give yourself plenty of time before the 10pm closing to gaze through the 12-inch refracting telescope on the roof, otherwise you can look through the far less crowded modern, reflecting telescope on the front lawn. Just a heads up that parking now costs $4 per hour.
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2
Getty Center
Museums, Art and design
Getty Center
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What’s now called the Getty Villa served as the decades-long home for the J. Paul Getty Trust’s extensive art collection. But in 1997, the Getty Center opened. The end result is a remarkable complex of travertine and white metal-clad pavilions that houses ornate French furniture, recognizable Impressionist pieces and rotating exhibitions. Its relative inaccessibility is more than compensated for by the panoramic views, from the hills and the ocean in the west all the way around to Downtown in the east.
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3
Santa Monica Pier
Photograph: Courtesy Matthew LeJune
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites
Santa Monica Pier
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Considered the focal point of Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica Pier includes a Ferris wheel, aquarium, fairground games and cotton candy stands. On warm weekends, the stretch is busy with families, beach bums and gym bunnies, who work out in public at the original Muscle Beach just south of the pier. Lately, the Pier has played host to a number of outdoor film and music events, bringing a (slightly) hipper clientele to the boardwalk.
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4
Huntington Library
Photograph: Courtesy the Huntington Library
Things to do, Event spaces
Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
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The bequest of entrepreneur Henry E. Huntington is now one of the most enjoyable attractions in the Los Angeles region. It’s also not a destination that you should attempt to explore in full during a single day: between the art, the library holdings and the spreadeagled outdoor spaces, there’s plenty to see, and most of it is best enjoyed at lingering leisure rather than as part of a mad day-long dash. From a Gutenberg Bible to an exquisitely landscaped Japanese garden, nearly every inch of the estate’s grounds and collection is essential.
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5
Grand Central Market
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Restaurants, Lunch
Grand Central Market
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This European-style food hall has been operating on the ground floor of the iconic Homer Laughlin Building since 1917. 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, Horse Thief BBQ, Eggslut and G&B Coffee.
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6
Venice
Photograph: Courtesy Matthew LeJune
Attractions, Beaches
Venice Beach and Boardwalk
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People-watching is the raison d'être at Venice Beach: Expect attention-grabbing street formers along the sort-of-grimy Venice Boardwalk and pumped-up gym obsessives working out at Muscle Beach. The sand itself, though, is soft and spacious with postcard views of the mountainous coastline. 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
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7
“Urban Light” at LACMA
Photograph: Courtesy Museum Associates/LACMA
Museums, Art and design
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
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Chris Burden’s Urban Light, a piece made up of 202 cast-iron street lamps gathered from around L.A. and restored to working order, has quickly become one of the city’s indelible landmarks. But you’d be selling yourself short if you don’t venture beyond the photo-friendly installation; LACMA’s collections boast modernist masterpieces, large-scale contemporary works, traditional Japanese screens and by far L.A.’s most consistently terrific special exhibitions.
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8
Hollywood Bowl
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/vagueonthehow
Things to do, Event spaces
Hollywood Bowl
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This gorgeous outdoor amphitheatre has been hosting concerts since the LA Philharmonic first played here in 1922. 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); as long as there’s no performance, it also doubles as a public park.
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9
The Broad
Photograph: Iwan Baan, courtesy the Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro
Museums, Art and design
The Broad
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Three words: Infinity Mirror Rooms. Downtown’s persistently popular contemporary art museum has two of Yayoi Kusama’s immersive, mirror-laden rooms (and the standy 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 and Jeff Koons. Find out more in our complete guide to the Broad.
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10
Hollywood Sign
Photograph: Courtesy Sasha
Attractions, Sightseeing
The Hollywood Sign
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Originally created in 1923, the then “Hollywoodland” sign was supposed to be up for only a year and a half, yet here it is almost a century later. Getting close to the  Hollywood Sign, though, is an often contentious issue thanks to pressure from local homeowners. You can catch a dead-on glimpse of the sign on Beachwood Drive, or farther up the hill near Lake Hollywood Park. Looking to get even closer? Go horseback riding at Sunset Ranch of lace up for a trek along the dirt road on Mt. Lee Drive to where you will be standing directly above the Hollywood Sign and can experience a total 360-degree view of the cityscape.
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11
Disneyland.
Photograph: Paul Hiffmeyer, courtesy Disneyland
Things to do, Event spaces
Disneyland Resort
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The longstanding Disneyland resort isn’t just a set of theme parks: It’s a spectacular piece of pop art filled with familiar characters. Incorporating two parks—the 60-year-old, near-mythic Disneyland, plus the younger, recently revamped Disney California Adventure—the resort calls itself “The Happiest Place on Earth.” And if you bring the right mood with you and tackle the best Disneyland rides, it’ll likely live up to its nickname.
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12
SkySpace US Bank Tower
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Attractions, Towers and viewpoints
OUE Skyspace LA
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Though the U.S. Bank Tower may no longer be the tallest building in the West thanks to the Wilshire Grand, it’s made some sky-high additions: restaurant 71Above, an open-air observation deck and a glass slide. Those last two are both part of the OUE Skyspace LA. Skyslide, accessible with an additional ticket, is an outdoor glass slide suspended 1,000 feet above Downtown Los Angeles. Tip: Skip the morning hours and wait for the typical marine layer to burn off for the best visibility.
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13
Rodeo Drive
Photograph: Torsten Bolten
Things to do
Rodeo Drive
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Many people dream of being Julia Roberts shopping on Rodeo Drive, but few can afford to buy from the array of high-end designers seen in the film Pretty Woman. Window-shopping, then, is the order of the day on this famous Beverly Hills street. Along Two Rodeo—the $200-million faux cobbled walkway—browsing tourists mingle with serious spenders. A hop away is Anderson Court, which is the only shopping mall designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
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14
Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry
Photograph: Courtesy LA Phil
Music, Music venues
Walt Disney Concert Hall
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As the $274-million crown jewel of the Music Center, Disney Hall opened in 2003 to rave reviews. The novelty hasn’t yet worn off: Both inside and out, this is a terrific venue. Designed by Frank Gehry, the hall is the home of the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale, but the schedule is surprisingly varied throughout the year. The complex also includes the 250-seat Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theatre, a restaurant and a roof garden.
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16
Starline's Hop-on Hop-off Tour
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Things to do
Hollywood Walk of Fame
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If you can stomach the suspect superheroes, claustrophobia-inducing crowds and never-ending line of gift shops, tattoo parlors and lingerie stores, there’s actually a lot of old Hollywood history and glamour to discover along the Walk of Fame. The immortalized names on those famous five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars run from the Walk’s western extreme at the Hollywood and La Brea Gateway to the Pantages Theater at Gower, and additionally on Vine from the Capitol Records Building down to Sunset, near where the original movie studios sprang up a century ago. Make a pilgrimage to the Dolby Theatre, home of the Academy Awards. Or find a respite from the commotion inside a movie palace or the historic Hollywood Roosevelt.
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17
Malibu
Photograph: Courtesy Jenna Day
Attractions, Beaches
Zuma Beach
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Put in the extra miles and you’ll be rewarded with a clean, wide patch of sand and surf at Zuma. A popular spot on weekends and holidays for locals and destination beach-goers, this Malibu beach can hold crowds with plenty of onsite parking (pay at the lot or for free along PCH) and lifeguards on duty. Surfers can catch some waves at this sandy beach break, but waves tend to close out, making this a perfect spot for boogie boarders and body surfers. Venture to nearby Point Dume for idyllic hikes and repelling.
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18
Gamble House.
Photograph: Martin Green
Things to do, Cultural centers
Gamble House
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This graceful house originally built for one of the heirs of the Procter & Gamble fortune remains one of the best examples of both the Arts and Crafts movement and Charles and Henry Greene’s masterful handiwork. Programming at the Gamble House is exceptional; there are tours that focus on things like the art glass or the details and joinery in the house, as well as more casual events like Brown Bag Tuesday, when visitors bring their own picnic lunch to eat on the grounds, followed by a 20-minute tour.
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19
Griffith Park
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Things to do
Griffith Park
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Spanning an impressive 4,210 acres, it’s easy to get lost in L.A.’s largest public green space, much of which remains unchanged from the days when Native Americans settled here. For more activity-minded folks, there are myriad attractions (Griffith merry-go-round, L.A. Zoo, the Observatory, Travel Town), plus hiking routes and horseback riding trails.
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20
The Grove
Photograph: Courtesy the Grove
Shopping, Shopping centers
The Grove
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In a town where most malls are housed inside bland, air-conditioned structures, this upscale open-air center has been a hit. There are only around 50 retailers, but the selection is strong (Apple, Anthropologie, Topshop) and there’s also a decent movie theater and destination-worthy sweet shops like Laudrée and 189 by Dominique Ansel. Make sure to head next door to the Original Farmers Market, which has hosted mom-and-pop eateries and vendors for over 80 years.
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21
Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House at Barnsdall Art Park
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman
Things to do, Cultural centers
Barnsdall Art Park & Hollyhock House
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After oil heiress and philanthropist Aline Barnsdall bought this cute little hill after the end of World War I, she engaged Frank Lloyd Wright to build her a group of buildings at its summit. The though full complex was never completed, the handsome Hollyhock House was. More than eight decades later, the site still hosts exhibitions in a variety of different gallery spaces as well as tours of Wright’s structure. In the summer, the park hosts a variety of alfresco cinema nights, wine tastings and cultural events.
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22
La Brea Tar Pits
Photograph: Courtesy Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Museums, Natural history
La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
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Back in 1875, a group of amateur paleontologists discovered animal remains in the pits at Rancho La Brea, which bubbled with asphalt from a petroleum lake under what is now Hancock Park. Some 140 years later, the pros are still at work here, having dragged millions of fossils from the mire in the intervening years. Many of these specimens are now on display in this delightfully old-fashioned museum. Outside, the pits still bubble with black goo—you can watch paleontologists at work in the excavation of Pit 91 and toil away at the fossils waiting to be found as part of Project 23.
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23
Third Street Promenade.
Photograph: Courtesy Downtown Santa Monica
Shopping, Shopping centers
Third Street Promenade
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A four-block pedestrianized stretch that runs down Third Street from Wilshire Boulevard to Colorado Avenue, Third Street Promenade is a pleasant (but sort of bland) parade of mostly familiar brand names. The restaurants are ordinary, but the Wednesday morning farmers’ market is legendary. At the Promenade’s southern end is the revamped Santa Monica Place shopping center.
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24
Chinese Theatre
Photograph:
Movie theaters, Multiplex
TCL Chinese Theatre
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It’s still a great place to catch a movie, but most people come to the Chinese Theatre for the hand and/or foot imprints of around 200 Hollywood stars. The courtyard is usually choked with snap-happy tourists measuring their own extremities against the likes of John Wayne and Judy Garland, but you can avoid the crowds by catching a flick inside, where the auditorium is as stunning as the IMAX screen’s projection quality.
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25
Endeavour
Photograph: Michael Juliano
Museums, Science and technology
California Science Center
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Permanent exhibit galleries at this kid-friendly Exposition Park museum explore life sciences, human innovation and powered flight. But the real attraction here is the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which was very pubicly paraded through L.A. to reach its temporary home at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion—a permanent structure slated to display the ship upright is in the works. While the rest of the museum is free, Endeavour requires $2 time tickets on weekends, a bargain to come face to face with one of this country’s most iconic engineering marvels.
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26
Watts Towers
Things to do
Watts Towers
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When Italian-born tilesetter Simon Rodia moved to Watts, the neighborhood was ethnically mixed. Three decades later, when he left, it was predominantly black and Latino, widely seen as the heart of L.A.’s African-American community. In the intervening years, though, Rodia had constructed its single iconic structure, an extraordinary piece of folk art with nothing but found objects (salvaged metal rods, cast-off pipe structures, broken bed frames) and, as they grew upward, steel and cement to prevent interference from both neighbors and the authorities.
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27
The Magic Castle.
Photograph: Courtesy the Magical Castle
Things to do
Magic Castle
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Speak the secret phrase to the owl scultpure in the lobby of this private club, and the rest—well, we don’t want to ruin the surprises in store for visitors at this magical institution. The mansion is over a century old, but since 1963 it’s been the home of the Academy of Magical Arts, an exclusive organization made up of roughly 2,500 American magicians. If you can’t find a member to tag along with, stay at the adjacent Magic Castle Hotel for access.
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28
The Comedy Store
Photograph: Mike Dillon
Comedy clubs
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We tend to take L.A.’s diverse comedy scene for granted, but consider for a minute that you can walk into a comedy club practically any night of the week and see legendary comics kill—or bomb—their performances. There are big name stand-ups at the Laugh Factory, familiar faces from TV sitcoms at the Comedy Store, future SNL stars at the Groundlings Theatre, unexpected drop-ins at the Improv and LA’s thriving alt comedy scene at Largo and UCB.
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29
Things to do
Movie studios
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Find out what’s hiding behind those sliding elephant doors with a peek into the sets and sound stages of L.A.’s many movie studios. Take a walk through cinema history at Sony Pictures Studios—the former MGM backlot—that’s housed everything from The Wizard of Oz to Breaking Bad. Or, if you’d prefer a more leisurely look, take a tram ride through the expansive city streets and sound stages of the Warner Bros. and Paramount studio lots.