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The best things to do in Westwood

Discover the best things to do in Westwood, from free museums to hidden gardens in the UCLA neighborhood

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Andrew Adams
Royce Hall.

Westwood and the Spanish-tiled storefronts of Westwood Village are inextricably tied to the UCLA campus, but there are plenty of things to do in Westwood that don't require tuition. Whether you're checking out the area's essential museums, historic movie theaters and hidden gardens or cruising through the stunning estates of Holmby Hills, you'll find plenty of things to do in Westwood.

9 things to do in Westwood

Hammer Museum

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Industrialist Armand Hammer founded this museum in 1990, primarily to house his own collection, and it opened just three weeks before he died. Now, under the ownership of UCLA, the Hammer stages fascinating shows of modern art, photography and design, from video installations to American comic art. The shows are supplemented by the Hammer's public events calendar—arguably one of the best in the city—chock full of free lectures and talks, concerts, films and screenings, performances, parties and more. And, as if this museum couldn't get any more friendly to the public, the Hammer now offers free admission every day.

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Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden

There's a rock star-level roster of art hanging out in plain sight on the UCLA campus in the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden. With works by Miro, Matisse, Rodin, Arp, Lachaise, Zuñiga, this five-acre sculpture garden is a treasure trove of art—70 pieces in all—and it's one of the most impressive outdoor sculpture collections in the U.S. Group tours of the garden are available through the Hammer Museum, or take a self-guided one.

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Fowler Museum

Contemporary artworks representing cultures from all over the globe are the focus at this gem of a museum tucked away on UCLA's sprawling campus. From animal figurine collections to Tibetan Buddhist prints to illustrated ethnographies—pretty much every exhibit here is guaranteed to teach you at least one thing about the world you didn't know before.

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Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

Read a book or find your favorite flower on the rolling hills of UCLA's Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens, a beautiful collection of gardens on the southeast corner of campus. Tip: the self-guided tour is fascinating—you'll see specimens straight out of a botanical fantasy, including a dragon tree from the Canary Islands in the desert section and weeping myrtles from Western Australia.

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Fox Village Theater

Opened in 1931 and host to decades of premieres, this single-screen movie theater is easily Westwood Village's most iconic structure thanks to its 170-foot-tall Spanish Mission-style tower and its neon Art Deco "Fox" sign. Along with the Bruin Theater across the street, the auditorium currently operates as a Regency Theatres location.

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Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary

Forget Forest Lawn (and Hollywood Forever). Some of the biggest A-listers are buried in the relatively tiny Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park. Visit and pay your respects to the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Truman Capote, Natalie Wood, Roy Orbison, Jack Lemmon—the list goes on.

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Royce Hall

Named for American philosopher Josiah Royce, UCLA's grand 1,800-seat theater has a history of legendary performances that dates back to the 1930s, when Jimmy Dorsey’s Band, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and Arnold Schoenberg graced the stage. The stellar jazz lineup reflects the diversity and scholarship of the current scene, which has hosted everyone from Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer to David Sedaris. Take in the Romanesque architecture that makes this one of the more elegant places in the city to absorb jazz.

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Geffen Playhouse

The Westside's most glittery theatrical venue is home to a good-sized main stage, the Gil Cates Theater, and the cozier Skirball Kenis Theater. The company offers a mix of new work and local premieres, frequently with big-name—though sometimes second-tier—Hollywood talent.

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Diddy Riese

Going to this decades-old scoop shop is as much an L.A. rite of passage as it is a way to procure sweet treats. Even on a chilly afternoon, the line for Diddy Riese can stretch around the block. It's no wonder: at just $2, the massive ice cream sandwiches here are a seriousl steal. Choose any two freshly baked cookies—chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter...you name it—then add a scoop of ice cream, with flavors ranging from vanilla bean to strawberry cheesecake chunk. Just remember: it's cash-only. 

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