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.
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 hipper clientele to the boardwalk.
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"If every person could look through that telescope," declared Griffith J. Griffith, "it would revolutionize the world." More than 80 years after this iconic building opened, the world remains unrevolutionized, but the vista is no less 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.
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People-watching is the raison d'être at Venice Beach, which effectively continues from the southern end of Santa Monica Beach without a break. Jump into the flow of the winding Venice Boardwalk, where you can skate or cycle, watch or play volleyball or basketball, and check out the pumped-up gym obsessives who work out at Muscle Beach. For a completely different side of Venice, take a stroll through the idyllic Venice Canals. Street parking is usually jammed, but there are several beachside lots.
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What may be one of the biggest LA mysteries is how to get as close as possible to the iconic Hollywood Sign. Originally created in 1923, the then "Hollywoodland" sign was supposed to be up for only a year and a half, yet here it is over 90 years later. You can catch a dead-on glimpse of the sign on Beachwood Drive, or further up the hill near Lake Hollywood Park. Looking to get even closer? 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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The longstanding Disneyland resort isn't just a set of theme parks: it's a spectacular piece of pop art that's as bright or as dark as you'd like it to be. 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, it'll likely live up to its nickname.
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Just below the star-studded Hollywood Hills, West Hollywood’s mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard has long been the epicenter of a unique mix of sleaze and glam. It’s nearly impossible to miss the building-sized billboards, kitsch—Mel’s, Pink Dot, Carney’s, Saddle Ranch—and legendary clubs—Whiskey A Go-Go, the Roxy, the Viper Room, House of Blues—that line the famous street. Though the music scene has mostly fled east, you’ll still find industry types mingling in Sunset Plaza’s high-end restaurants and boutiques.
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Though the US Bank Tower may be losing its distinction as the tallest building in the West 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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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 W Hotel and 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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More than any of its Southern California competitors, Universal Studios is a theme park with a capital 'T'. The theme here, of course, is the movies. The main draw here has long been the studio tour—that is, until the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
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LA Live is an entertainment venue located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. Adjacent to Staples Center, it is the home of Nokia Theatre, Regal Cinemas and various bars, hotels and restaurants such as the towering JW Marriott, WP24 and SBE's swanky Katsuya—jam-packed almost every night of the week (especially pre-Lakers, Clippers and Kings games) with tourists and locals alike.
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Spanning an impressive 4,210 acres, it's easy to get lost in LA'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, LA Zoo, the Observatory), plus hiking routes, horseback riding trails and three sets of tennis courts.
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The slow, lumbering mission to turn Downtown LA into a vibrant cultural hub got a lift when a portion of Grand Park's 12 acres officially opened to the public in July 2012. Dotted with fountains, picnic lawns, bright pink benches and plenty of nooks from which to sit and people-watch, Grand Park is a bright urban oasis that proves the city has a sense of romance. The park plays host to performances, gatherings and other community events.
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This 160-acre park at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains has one main loop, plus a bevy of dirt hiking trails. It's also got one of the friendliest off-leash dog policies. The sea of buff trainers and their sleek, sweaty clients can get to be too much during the busy morning and weekend workout traffic, but you'll be rewarded with some of the best views of the city (and, if you're lucky, a chance to gawk at power-walking celebs).
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Make the drive past Will Rogers and Surfrider beaches 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 alike, this Malibu beach can hold crowds with plenty of on-site parking (pay at the lot or park for free along the PCH) and lifeguards on-duty. Surfers can catch some waves as this sandy beach break, but waves tend to close out, making this a perfect spot for boogie boarders and body surfers.
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These gorgeous grounds in Arcadia, very close to the Santa Anita racetrack, have been designed as an educational facility (the plants are mostly arranged by region, and tours are available), but many people simply come here for a little peace and quiet. You could wander these gardens for hours; many do, taking in tropical forests and waterfalls, trees, fish and the occasional peacock.
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The owners of Hollywood Forever have been criticized for promoting the place as a tourist attraction, but any cemetery that houses the remains of such celluloid luminaries as Cecil B. DeMille and Jayne Mansfield would probably become one regardless. Aside from popular posthumous celebs, Hollywood Forever is also home to summer outdoor movie screenings; Cinespia-hosted sleepovers with projected films, live music and games; as well as a number of unique concert events (past performers include Bon Iver, the XX, and Sigur Ros).
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The former home of writer, cowboy philosopher, trick-roper and the first honorary mayor of Beverly Hills has been maintained as it was in the 1930s. The 186-acre grounds give access to some good hikes; one path takes you to Inspiration Point, from where you get a breathtaking view of mountains and sea. Polo matches are held on weekends, and you can also take horse-riding lessons: call or check online for details.
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. Barnsdall went on to donate the house, guest house and 11 acres of the land to the city on the premise that they be used as a public art park. More than eight decades later, the site still fulfills that role, with exhibitions in a variety of different gallery spaces. In the summer, the park hosts a variety of al fresco cinema nights, wine tastings and cultural events that bring out a nice mix of singles, couples and young families.
What started as an opulent beachfront estate built by William Randolph Hearst for Hollywood star Marion Davies in the 1920s is now a modern, community beach club open to the public. Renovated in 2009, the five-acre beach house accommodates a main house with a rec room for board games, ping pong and classes and events, a swimming pool, a splash pad, beach volleyball and tennis courts, soccer fields, canopies, a cafe and rentals for paddle boards.
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After a massive makeover, the Eastside's historic Echo Park Lake has finally become a family-friendly destination worthy of its bold backdrop: the Downtown skyline amid the lotus flower blooms and fountains. The lake has been around since 1860—it was once used as a drinking water reservoir, and later as a recreational park with canoes and fishing. Today, you can push your way through the lake in a pedal boat or stroll around the path that hugs its borders. Either way, make sure to stop at the revived boathouse (and its breakfast pit stop Square One at the Boathouse) and the Lady of the Lake statue.
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Perched over the Pacific sits one of the most idyllic spots in all of LA: the Korean Bell of Friendship. The mighty metallic bell's rusty green finish complements the ornately painted hipped roof—its paint job has seen better days, but that doesn't detract from the beauty of the 1976 goodwill gift from South Korea. The exposed, grassy bluff is an ideal spot to fly a kite or just lounge in the grass of Angel's Gate Park.
Los Angeles's hilltop acropolis was conceived as a home for the hitherto disparate entities of the J. Paul Getty Trust, but that's the only straightforward thing about it. Architect Richard Meier was hired to build the museum in 1984, but it took 13 years, several additional designers (to work on the interior and the landscaping) and $1 billion to complete. The end result is a remarkable complex of travertine and white metal-clad pavilions that resembles a kind of monastic retreat designed for James Bond. 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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While LACMA's collections have long been the most impressive in the city, the 20-acre complex of buildings in which they've been housed had been quite the reverse. At last, though, things have improved thanks to a few exquisite focal points: Chris Burden's Urban Light, a piece made up of 202 cast-iron street lamps gathered from around LA, restored to working order; the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, the Renzo Piano-designed home to a dazzling selection of modern work; and Levitated Mass, a 340-ton boulder commissioned by Michael Heizer that "floats" above a pathway.
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LA's newest contemporary art museum, the Broad, is the public home for Eli and Edythe Broad's collection of 2,000 post-war works. You'll find familiar pieces from the likes of Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, as well as spectular installations like Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Mirrored Room." Outside, the museum's plaza features a lovely olive tree grove that sits in front of Otium, the museum's signature restaurant from French Laundry alum Timothy Hollingsworth. The museum is free, though reservations are highly recommended. Find out more in our complete guide to the Broad.
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 more than 3.5 million 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—in summer, you can watch paleontologists at work in the excavation of Pit 91 and inhale the nasty tang of tar in the air.
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 ever-growing grounds and collection is essential.
The NHM's original Beaux Arts structure was the first museum building in Los Angeles, opening with Exposition Park itself back in 1913. Its massive collection spans more than 35 million objects and specimens (not all of them are on display at any one time), making it second in size only to the Smithsonian's. It's an immense place, so it's well worth planning your visit. Those with only a little time to spare should head directly to the truly dazzling collections in the Gem & Mineral Hall; the revamped dinosaur and mammal halls, as well as "Becoming L.A.: Stories of Nature and Culture," fill out the rest of the museums worthwhile spots.
A fusion of two longstanding prior facilities, the California Science Center opened in 1998 in a bright, airy building directly in front of the Rose Garden in Exposition Park. Permanent exhibit galleries explore life sciences, human innovation and powered flight. But the real attraction here is the recent addition of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which was very pubicly paraded through LA to reach its temporary home at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion—a permanent structure is slated to open in 2018. While the rest of the museum is free, Endeavour requires $2 time tickets, a bargain to come face to face with one of this country's most iconic engineering marvels.
Miracle Mile was the first commercial development in LA designed expressly for the benefit of drivers, and so a former department store makes an apt home for this museum of car culture. A 2015 redesign has since turned the automotive history museum into more of a high-tech gallery, with about 150 cars on display. There's a glimpse into the rise of car culture in Southern California, but that mostly takes a backseat to a focus on the progress, dominance and dazzling good looks of the automobile. You'll find a mix of famous Hollywood cars, sumptuously swooping vintage vehicles and high-performance supercars.
The main branch of LA's Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) houses thousands of artworks crafted from 1940 until now. Spend half an hour or an entire afternoon absorbing contemporary pieces from lesser known artists, punctuated by sightings of Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock works. If you plan your visit for a Thursday night between 5pm and 8pm, admission to MOCA Grand Ave is on the house.
More than just images on a wall, photography exhibits at the Annenberg often incorporate videos or music, creating a more dynamic experience for the visitor. The free admission and $1 parking help attract a younger crowd to the otherwise more corporate neighborhood. Bring a date on a Saturday evening and spend 30 minutes wandering through the gallery before catching a movie across the street at the Century City AMC. During the summer, Saturday evening concerts in partnership with KCRW turn the space into a vibrant hot spot.
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The grand, white concrete tower has stood tall as a city icon since 1928, and today it's the easiest way to take in an elevated view of Downtown and beyond. If you’re ever passing through the Civic Center during public hours—weekdays 9am-5pm, enter on Main Street—then you owe yourself a visit to the 27th floor observation deck.
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The city's main library is worth a look even if you've no interest in borrowing books. The exterior is an Egyptian and Mediterranean beauty, topped with a dramatic, tiled pyramid tower and decorated with bas-reliefs. The most stunning features, though, reside in the second floor rotunda, with its deco-meets-arabesque dome, California history mural and globe chandelier. There's also a fine program of lectures and discussions in the Mark Taper Auditorium.
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Train travel has gone in and out of fashion, but the last of the great American rail stations is just as handsome as the day it opened: its Mission-style exterior opens up into a grand waiting area with marble tiles, faux wood beam ceilings and Art Deco touches. Wander through its halls and courtyards and you’ll find a building rich with history, locomotion and—with the coming of high-speed rail and a new concourse—progress.
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The Bradbury Building's nondescript (but still good-looking) brick exterior belies any sense of significance or its Blade Runner fame. Walk through the archway entrance on Broadway, though, and you're greeted with a stunning, light-flooded alley of wood, iron and brick. From the amber glow to the wrought-iron grillwork, that first glimpse inside is simply awe-inspiring.
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With its art deco exterior, classy paddock gardens and San Gabriel Mountains backdrop, Santa Anita Park conjures a romanticized time when horse racing was the sophisticated sport and vice of choice. But the Arcadia venue has also played host to fierce, skillful competition and continues to today, in particular as the frequent home of the Breeders' Cup. Santa Anita Park also affectionately refers to itself as the "Home of Seabiscuit." Free tram tours depart every Saturday and Sunday during race season to visit Barn 38, where the famous horse often stayed.
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This cylindrical tower is so closely tied with postcard pictures of sunny California that it’s hard to separate the building from the lore. (It looks like a stack of records? Purely a coincidence.) But that’s also part of its appeal; whenever you see its blade-like spire rising above the 101, its cool, white shades make you feel like you’re living the dream.
Angels Flight is literally the little funicular that could: The block-long railway weathered mechanical problems, extended closures and relocation to keep pulling passengers up Bunker Hill over a century after its initial opening. Service has been suspended here since 2013, with no sign of a reopening in sight. But you can still walk up to its hilltop station and down an adjacent staircase—with delicious treats at Grand Central Market waiting at the bottom.
Food & Drink
Buried in the heart of Downtown LA is this European-style food hall, which has been operating on the ground floor of the iconic Homer Laughlin Building since 1917. It's still a great place to get cheap pupusas, carnitas tacos and aguas frescas, but recently the market has emerged as a haven for handsome, trendy eateries like Sticky Rice, Horse Thief BBQ and G&B Coffee—and a persistent line for delicious breakfast sandwiches at Eggslut.
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We think Beverly Hills' Sprinkles might just bake the best cupcakes in LA—simple ingredients, time-tested recipes and a fun rotating weekly schedule of flavors all add to the flagship bakery's unique charm. But what happens when you want a fluffy, sugary fix at two in the morning? The cupcake ATM, of course! This 24-hour vending machine stays continually stocked with the bakery's best treats, making it possible to indulge your sweet tooth around the clock.
Craving the taste explosion that only Korean short ribs and Mexican quesadillas can deliver? Catch one of Kogi's Korean taco trucks as they travel throughout LA Tuesday-Friday. Find out if a truck will be in your neighborhood by scouring Kogi's weekly schedule—you don't want to miss out on this LA street food staple!
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Southern California may have spawned the golden arches, but no other regional fast food export has a local and out-of-towner following quite like In-N-Out. "Did you go to In-N-Out?" is bound to come up in any conversation when a tourist visits LA. And honestly, it's hard to argue with less-than-$3 cheeseburgers, late-night hours and a not-so-secret menu that offers a surprising level of customization for a fast food spot.
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Back in 1934, local farmers began selling produce at the corner of 3rd and Fairfax. A handful of stalls still sell groceries, but they're outnumbered by 30-plus catering stands offering a culinary round-the-world trip. Alongside the American comfort food served at the historic, 24-hour Du-Par's restaurant, you can get everything from Texas barbecue (Bryan's Pit BBQ) to Parisian crêpes (French Crepe Company), N'awleens po'boys (Gumbo Pot) to sunny Mexican fare (¡Loteria!). For dessert, you can't beat Bennett's Old-Fashioned Ice-Cream.
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You can argue over LA's best hot dog, but Pink's is certainly the city's most famous. The stand, open since 1939, most notably serves up hot dogs named after local legends and Hollywood heroes, from the Huell Howser Dog to the Brando Dog. Prepare for a long line stocked with tourists by day and clubgoers by night.
Built as a private art museum in the 1920s, this Japanese palace is a spectacular structure with extraordinary views of Hollywood. For years, it was a beautiful building in which to eat bad food, but Jason Park's new kitchen team has made a major difference: the restaurant is now worth a look even if you don't get a table with a view. Japanese, Korean and Chinese traditional items are presented alongside sensible and occasionally daring fusion ideas.
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The oldest surviving Bob’s Big Boy location, this 1949 spot's colossal neon sign and familiar, rotund Big Boy recall a time when roadside restaurants screamed at drivers for their attention. The parking lot might as well be a second dining room with car hop service on Saturday and Sunday nights as well as a classic car meet-up on Fridays. You'll find a real sense of pop culture history inside, with a designated booth that the Beatles once dined at and the knowledge that David Lynch neurotically came by every day at 2:30pm for seven years to slurp down a chocolate milkshake.
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One of the many beautiful things about this Hollywood Hills fixture is that it's barely changed over the decades. The hotel still attracts the brazen and the beautiful (everyone from Led Zeppelin to Lindsay Lohan has stayed here; John Belushi OD-ed in bungalow 3); it still offers a quintessentially glamorous LA experience; and it still promises its guests absolute discretion.
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In business since 1908, Philippe the Original claims to have invented the French dip sandwich ($7). Savvy customers select the traditional lamb or lighter turkey filling, then ask the server to double-dip the bread in the meaty juice; a French dip sandwich is also incomplete without some of the sinus-clearing house mustard. The wines by the glass aren't bad, a concession to the lunch trade from nearby food desert City Hall.
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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 (an Apple Store, Barneys New York Co-Op, Crate & Barrel, Topshop, the West Coast's flagship Abercrombie & Fitch) and there's also a decent movie theater.
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. 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.
A four-block pedestrianized stretch, Third Street Promenade is a pleasant but bland parade of mostly familiar names (Gap, Starbucks et al). The restaurants are ordinary, but the Wednesday morning farmers' market makes up for it. At the Promenade's southern end is the revamped Santa Monica Place shopping center, which reopened in August 2010.
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While the longstanding likes of Rhino in Westwood and House of Records in Venice have fallen by the wayside, the LA branch of SF's Amoeba has gone from strength to strength; indeed, this is the largest independent record store in the US. The variety of stock (CDs and DVDs, new and used) is awesome, the prices are fair and the staff know their onions.
When Chinatown relocated to its current location in the 1930s, the Central Plaza was to be the neighborhood's vibrant hub of activity. And while the neighborhood isn't quite as bustling as it once was, the neon-drenched square still attracts tourists and locals alike with its shops, restaurants and events such as Summer Nights. Local lore often traces the look of the area back to Cecil B. DeMille, but it was in fact designed by the resident Chinese community. There was, however, a Hollywood-backed (and highly orientalist) competitor named China City that burned down in the '40s.
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Walk through old-world Mexico at Downtown's historic site where tourists and locals alike roam the promenade dotted with restaurants and stores. Don't leave without picking up Mexican candies and souvenirs and sampling various tacos and huaraches. At one end you'll find El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the city's original Spanish-turned-Mexican-turned-American settlement with a flowery pedestrian plaza filled with beautiful buildings that span over a century of history.
Visit the Original LA Flower Market in—where else?—the Flower District, Downtown. Restaurateurs, wedding planners, florists and botany geeks (and okay, some tourists) make up the early morning hustle and bustle among rows of flowers, plants and “floral accessories” from around the world. Come out later during public hours to grab a bouquet for a friend, take some great pictures or just indulge your senses. Insider tip: Avoid Wednesdays and Fridays if possible—they’re busiest.
Since its inception the mall has brimmed with shops and eateries—most of them small business owners—though a few local chains have joined the ranks. While shopping is a must at this outdoor mall, don’t leave the cherry blossom lined area, without sampling a few street snacks.
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As Malibu's main hub, this casual outdoor shopping and dining center attracts a mix of both locals grabbing lunch in wetsuits, celebrities pretending they don't want to be seen and tourists who stroll through after a day at the beach. Restaurants range from take-away sandwich shops to upscale eateries, while the shops mostly sell the quintessential LA staples: designer jeans and $100 T-shirts. Make sure to also check out the adjacent Malibu Lumber Yard, a virtual extension of the Country Mart, with additional shopping and dining options but in a more modern setting.
This flea market around the exterior of the Rose Bowl is staggeringly colossal—but what else would you expect from a 90,000-seat stadium? On the second Sunday of each month, an odd mix of vendors populates the loop around the stadium: for every eye-catching artwork, there's a ratty $5 T-shirt, and for each elegant craft there's a competing "as seen on TV" demo. But you may have more luck in the rows and rows of old furniture, albums and vintage clothes and accessories that fill the adjacent parking lot. There are plenty of duds, to be sure, but come out early enough and you may go home with that perfect purchase.
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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, and the glorious setting almost makes up for the somewhat dodgy acoustics. It's the summer home of the LA Phil, but it's hosted everyone from the Beatles to Big Bird, and today mixes classical concerts with all manner of rock and pop.
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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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As the $274-million crown jewel of the LA 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 features a 2,265-capacity auditorium with an open platform stage. 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 gallery and a roof garden.
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The Center Theatre Group programs two of the halls that make up DTLA's original cultural complex. At the north end, the Ahmanson Theatre presents pre- or post-Broadway fare, while the smaller Mark Taper Forum stages a wide range of new plays. Also part of the Music Center, the grand Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is the home base for LA Opera, as well as occasional concerts and dance events. Last, but certainly not least, the Center also includes the previously mentioned Disney Concert Hall.
Yearning to relive your childhood and indulge in a Disney flick? El Capitan's your spot—the lavish 1926-built theater screens Disney's most current feature along with classics in between releases. Tickets are indeed pricier than other nearby cinemas, but then again, where else do you get to order an ice cream sundae and see a 2,500-pipe organ be played before the show?
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Built by the same man who erected the Chinese Theatre and El Capitan Theatre, the Egyptian was faithfully restored by American Cinematheque in 1998 (who also run the Aero in Santa Monica). The not-for-profit company continues to deliver a wide range of excellent themed mini-festivals and one-off Q&As with legendary figures, as well as classic films and contemporary indie cinema. On Sundays, the LA Filmforum screens experimental films and video art.
It's been a while since this 17,500-seat space was the city's go-to arena, and its fading halls were beginning to belie its rich history: "Showtime" Lakers, Gretzky-era Kings, '84 Olympics, Led Zeppelin, Queen and a ridiculously long set from Guns N' Roses. Now, after a $100 million renovation, the Forum is shaping up to be fabulous once again with a steady stable of arena acts.
The only thing more over-the-top than this theater's big-budget musicals is its Art Deco decor. The former movie palace's vaulted lobby is lined with gold, silver and bronze statues. You'll find chevrons and swirls at every turn, but the theater's absolute stunner is the sharp starburst chandelier that engulfs the auditorium's ceiling in a golden latticework.
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Despite a name change after the theater's main sponsor switched from Kodak to Dolby in 2012, this 3,400-seat center remains one of LA's most impressive live entertainment venues, with a year-round series of high-profile screenings, premieres and events. Just ask the Academy Awards—they've signed on to host their annual star-studded broadcast here through at least 2033.
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 LA'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.
Don't be fooled by the name: this is not some kind of Spielbergian dinosaurland. It's far more interesting than that. Hidden behind an unassuming, windowless storefront, David Wilson's Museum of Jurassic Technology presents itself as a repository of curiosities, scientific wonders and artistic miracles. Which exhibits, if any, are bona fide? Which, if any, are satirical? A subversive, witty and brilliant enterprise, the museum challenges the very nature of what a museum is or should be, while also taking its place as one of the most fascinating attractions in the entire city.
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There are Korean saunas—a classic LA experience—and then there's Wi. The 24-hour mega spa is the Disneyland of Koreatown saunas—families and children included, to the lament of those looking for a relaxing experience—complete with treatment rooms, five different heated rooms, hot tubs, dry and steam saunas, TV lounge area, restaurant, library and sleeping rooms. Couples and groups laze (and sweat) in the co-ed jimjilbang—the dress code is oversized T-shirts and khaki shorts—before heading into separate men and women's areas where clothing is not allowed and a body scrub is a must do for baby soft skin.
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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.
High up in the San Gabriel Mountains, the Mount Wilson Observatory affords terrific views of the surrounding region. If you're traveling with a group, you can book an after-dark session on the observatory's 60-inch telescope. Admission is free, but you'll need to buy a Forest Service Adventure Pass in order to visit the site as it's located within the Angeles National Forest.
At first glance, the inside of this storefront resembles any other market in the area—but look closer and you’ll find a collection of funny “time travel” curiosities that one needs in order to visit the past and future. Oddities include Robot Toupees, Aeon Bottled Time (i.e. sand in a bottle), Barbarian Repellent, Primordial Soup In a Can, and a whole bunch of books. What’s going on? The market is a ruse: everything in it is indeed for sale, but the store is actually a front for 826LA, a nonprofit organization which tutors kids ages 6 to 18.
As its name implies, this Silver Lake tree is simply a century-old sycamore with about 30 chandeliers suspended from its branches. But the illuminated tree, located on a residential stretch of Silver Lake Drive, is lovely at night as food trucks and devoted followers often frolick to the neighborhood's favorite art project. Consider kicking in a donation at the parking meter out front; it costs $200 a month to light according to creators Brion Topolski and Adam Tenenbaum.
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Richard Simmons—yes, we’re talking Simmons of Sweatin’ to the Oldies—shows up as anything from the fifth member of KISS to a glam aerobics version of Black Swan and greets each and every devotee of his crazy-haired genius with an individual smile, hug, pat on the ass or wickedly inappropriate comment. Slimmons is open all week, but Simmons himself teaches on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays when he’s in town.
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The iron bars and rock enclosures left behind at this picnic area once formed the building blocks of the Griffith Park Zoo. After a half-century in operation, the complex shut down when the LA Zoo opened in 1966. But many of the structures still stand, with unlocked animal enclosures lining this hilly field on the eastern edge of Griffith Park. You'll find plenty of children monkeying around the cages, people picnicking on the front lawn and the occasional film shoot, but that doesn't prevent this place from feeling flat out creepy.
Witness an 80-year old LA tradition—and hear some great music—at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, just east of Downtown. Since the 1930s, mariachi bands have gathered here, decked out in their charro (traditional Mexican horsemen) suits, waiting to be hired to play at parties or restaurants. Take note of the historic 1889 Boyle Hotel, better known as “Mariachi Hotel,” where many of the musicians live.
Catharsis comes in many forms: a charged workout, a moment of zen in the woods or a dramatic social media soliloquy. Add a visit to this Hollywood museum of used hairbrushes and stained T-shirts to that list. The Museum of Broken Relationships, the self-described home for the ruins of love, started as a traveling exhibit back in 2006 before opening a permanent brick and mortar gallery in Croatia in 2010. Rather than dwell on the despair of a relationship's collapse, the museum preserves love's legacy through donated relics.
Nothing says childhood entertainment quite like a puppet show, and the longest-running marionette theater in the nation delivers, big-time. The kitsch factor is high here—original puppets (some worse for wear), cheesy old songs and ancient decor—but that only adds to the legendary vibe. In fact, it’s been declared a historic cultural monument by the city of Los Angeles, and tykes truly delight in watching the marionettes come to life in the darkened theater space.
These are L.A. County’s very own ancient ruins, minus the ancient part. A 1929 landslide caused a few blocks of seaside San Pedro to crumble the ocean. Today, you'll graffitied slabs of concrete that once functioned as streets and house foundations. The once semi-secret site has become a popular spot since the rise of social media. It's technically illegal to access the site and decidedly unsafe—let's not forgot how it became sunken in the first place—but you can walk along a fenced in trail to peer in from steady ground.