L.A. can be an awful place to visit if you don't have a friend to guide your trip. That's where you, fellow Angeleno, come in: your friends are coming to visit, and wherever you decide to take them can completely temper their take on Los Angeles. Maybe they're from somewhere landlocked and flat and will be floored by our hills, mountains and beaches. But maybe they're those East Coast friends who arrive all prepared to dump on your very way of life (sorry, New Yorkers).
For either occassion, here's where you should take your out-of-town friends to show them the very best L.A. has to offer, from the city's most redeeming major attractions to those in-the-know gems that'll have your friends searching for an apartment before you can even take them back to the airport.
15 places to go and things to do with your friends
We can't think of a more dazzling spot that so consistently wins over out-of-towners and natives alike. The iconic building's vista is stunning, particularly at night when Los Angeles twinkles below. Inside you'll find a bevy of exhibits, including a Foucault pendulum, a Tesla coil and a planetarium show. Give yourselves 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.
Picky eaters and avid Instagrammers will all find something to love at Grand Central Market. Full of bucket-list dining options from Eggslut to McConnell's, all of you can hit up separate vendor stalls and reconvene at a table together. Make sure to stop by at the Bradbury Building across the street, the stunning brick building featured in Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer.
If you're hitting the beach in Malibu—we highly suggest showing off Zuma and Point Dume—or perusing the antiquities at the Getty Villa, then you owe yourself the extra 20-minute trek to Malibu Seafood. Even if you're nowhere near the oceanside staple, it's worth a visit for its super-fresh seafood and sunny views of the Pacific from its three-tiered patio. This place has slightly less character (and fewer biker characters) than Neptune's Net, but the food is undeniably fresher and more flavorful.
Whether your friends are car-free transit riders or giving you grief about L.A. traffic, show off the upside to driving in L.A. Fill up the tank, wait out rush hour and treat them to a scenic drive along PCH, through Malibu Canyon or up into L.A.'s winding hillsides and mountain roads—may we suggest Angeles Crest Highway?
Where else can you see sitcom stars and top-notch comedians perform in a tiny theater for only a couple of bucks? Avoid the Sunset Strip comedy clubs and come to UCB instead. The improv theater's signature ASSSSCAT show is always a great one for first-timers; grab tickets early for the Saturday show at UCB Franklin or wait in line for the free Sunday show at UCB Sunset.
Face it: Your friends need that "Infinity Mirrored Room" selfie. Thankfully, you, in-the-know Angeleno, already secured entry to the museum at opening time for the whole crew. If you missed out on free tickets (available at noon on the first day of the month prior to your visit), at least you'll have some good company to pass the time during the standby line's often two-hour-plus wait.
Your friends may insist on seeing the Venice Boardwalk, but do you really want them to have to endure massive crowds, weed shops and mediocre street performers? The Venice Canals, however, offer a completely different side of the famed beachfront neighborhood. Take a stroll through these three canal-lined blocks and you'll discover an idyllic scene: arching pedestrian bridges, charming beach houses, bunches of ducklings and the occasional paddle-boarding bulldog.
Do your New York friends ever brag about how awesome Smorgasburg is? Well, the Brooklyn export has landed in the Arts District and become a hotbed of fantastic food and retail vendors, with some testing out their dishes before launching a full-blown brick-and-mortar elsewhere in the city. Bonus: there is plentiful—and free, for two hours!—parking in the nearby ROW DTLA parking garage.
You and your friends are never too old for a day at Disneyland, and we'll almost guarantee that your friends' local amusement park has nothing on the happiest place on Earth. Long waits in line fly by with good company—and maybe with a little bit of booze from the many bars around California Adventure or Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar.
The Grove's newer and unquestionably superior sister shopping center is one of those only-in-L.A.—or rather, Glendale—sort of experiences. If your friends insist on shopping, go here. And if they're hungry? Go here. Put your names in at Din Tai Fung and then pass the wait time with a wander through the outdoor mall—and maybe a little pre-dinner dessert at the Pie Hole. Alternatively, head across the street to hit up Eggslut, Shake Shack, Mainland Poke, Greenleaf or Philz Coffee.
In what other cemetery can you catch a screening of The Big Lebowski and a concert from Sufjan Stevens? Hollywood Forever Cemetery houses the remains of luminaries such as Cecil B. DeMille and Mel Blanc and modern day pop culture heroes like Johnny Ramone—and a cenotaph for Toto. In the summer, Cinespia screenings and concerts take over the event lawn, fall sees the standout Day of the Dead festival and throughout the year the handsome Masonic Lodge hosts intimate concerts.
A visit to Malibu Wines is almost a rite of passage for Angelenos. It's easy to see why: the picturesque vineyard and tasting room boasts plenty of lawn space for picnicking and the pours behind the bar are fast and plentiful. Looking for something a little more adventurous? Malibu Wine Safaris combines the experience of a zoo and winery on their two-hour nature tour, where you'll get to personally feed animals while stopping to taste various wines from Saddlerock Ranch.
Your friends will insist they've had good tacos before. They are wrong. Show them L.A.'s specialty with a whirl around the city's best taco spots. There's no single taco to rule them all, so show off a little bit of everything, whether from a truck like Ricky's or a swanky patio like Salazar, and from dollar tacos at Leo's to high-end tastes from Guerrilla Tacos.
Toss away your Muggle tendencies, throw on a set of robes, pick up a wand and go full-blown Potterhead with your friends at the Wizarding World. Universal Studios' Hogsmeade- and Hogwarts-themed land is pure magic, and that's before you even start guzzling Butterbeers—which are non-alcoholic, though you can pick up a proper brew from the Hog's Head Pub.
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. It's a perfectly enchanting way to cap off your friends' equally perfect visit.