things to do in Los Angeles

100+ Best Things to do in LA | The Ultimate Bucket List

 

The best things to do in LA! From the top attractions to favorite local experiences, best beaches, festivals, and recommendations for where to stay and eat.

There’s no doubt that Los Angeles gets a bad rap, mostly from people who have spent a weekend in the city and the majority of their time in Hollywood.

Don’t get me wrong, LA isn’t perfect, but it has a lot more going on than what you might see on the surface (read: smog and traffic).

The city can be a headache to get around due to its lacks of efficient public transit and notorious traffic jams, but the City of Stars is magical in its own right. And not just because of the famous people.

You just have to know where to look for that magic.

Luckily, there are endless things to do in LA – there’s a reason why it’s one of the top destinations in California. It’s a city where you would find it hard to ever be bored, because there’s so much to do no matter what you’re into.

If you can get past all the negative stereotypes that people tend to attach to Los Angeles, you’ll discover a large number of unique activities and sights around the city that should be experienced at least once.

This LA bucket list is to be saved and referenced for whenever you’re in the City of Angels next. Maybe you’ll have a massive layover in LA in the near future, or perhaps you’ll find yourself in the city one day and be lost for what to see besides the main Los Angeles attractions.

things to do in downtown los angeles

To get you brainstorming and excited for your next trip to Los Angeles, I present you with this detailed LA guide and a list of 100+ things to do in LA.

Enjoy your time with the stars!

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips. 

 

100+ Best Things to Do in Los Angeles, California

I broke down this list by the best things to do in Los Angeles, from local attractions, outdoor activities and hikes, museums, food & drinks, tours, events, and day trips from Los Angeles.

Feel free to navigate from the table of contents above to go through this Los Angeles bucket list.

Looking for the best place to stay in Los Angeles? Check out this post!

los angeles points of interest

Top Things to do in LA

Universal Studios Hollywood

One of the top things you need to do in LA is make a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood. It not only offers up plenty of thrills for a fun family, solo, or couples day out, it’s also very quintessential Los Angeles. 

This is where you can see Hogwarts come to life (and sip on butter beer in Hogsmeade), take a tour of famous movie sets, and witness live action over-the-top performances that will blow your mind.

A few of my favorite experiences at the park include WaterWorld, Hogsmeade, and the Revenge of the Mummy Ride.

Pro tip: download the Universal Studios App ahead of time for a full list of maps, wait times, and show times on your phone, and grab your admission ticket ahead of time here so you can bypass the line.

things to do at universal studios hollywood

Venice Beach Boardwalk

Walking the Venice Beach Boardwalk is one of the best activities in LA, especially if it’s your first time in the city.

The reason why I love Venice Beach so much is that it’s a completely different side to LA from what you might find in, well, pretty much any other neighborhood. There are also a lot of fun free things to do in Venice and a ton of delicious healthy eateries. 

This is where you’ll discover the counter culture of LA. Venice is a mix of skateboarders, hippies, drum circles, local arts and crafts, hipster cafes, and a lot of people smoking cannabis.

Venice Beach is the perfect place to just take it all in and people watch. You can watch the impressive skateboarders at the skate park, maybe enjoy an impromptu dance performance, enjoy a healthy vegan lunch, or buy some local handicrafts at the pop-up outdoor markets.

things to do in venice ca

Beverly Hills & Rodeo Drive

For the polar opposite of Venice Beach, head to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.

As you might already know, Beverly Hills, or the famous 90210, has been a historically upper class city in Los Angeles for years. That’s right, Beverly Hills is actually it’s own incorporated city.

Rodeo Drive is where you’ll find expensive designer stores, such as Armani, Tiffany & Co, Versace, Gucci, Fendi, and pretty much anyone who is anyone in the upscale designer industry.

If you’re wondering what to see in Beverly Hills besides designer stores, other things to see in Beverly Hills include the Beverly Gardens Park and the Beverly Hills Signs.

My favorite place in Beverly Hills that meets my budget? Sprinkles! This is where you will try the best cupcakes of your life. I’m not even joking, they’re SO good.

Alternatively, if you’re trying to figure what to do in Beverly Hills to get a good overview of the city with a local guide, this segway tour is a good option to start with.

what to do in beverly hills - Rodeo Drive

Madame Tussauds Hollywood

Similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Madame Tussauds is one of the most popular Hollywood tourist attractions to experience. The one in LA is actually the only Madame Tussauds I’ve been to, and I’d say it’s worth a visit at least once if you haven’t been to a wax museum before.

If you’ve been to other Madame Tussauds locations, it might not be as novel, but this is one of those places to visit in Hollywood if you have a couple of hours to spare and want to pose with wax replicas of your favorite stars.

It’s not for everyone, but you may as well get up close and personal with famous people if you’re in Hollywood.

Pro tip: grab your admission ticket ahead of time here to avoid having to wait in line.

Exposition Park

A huge 160-acre urban park in Los Angeles, Exposition park is where you’ll find some of the best museums in Los Angeles, sports facilities, and entertainment venues.

Good museums to visit at Exposition Park include the California Science Center, California African American Museum, and the Natural History Museum.

You can also relax in the Los Angeles Rose Garden or catch a Los Angeles FC soccer game at the Banc of California Stadium.

Dolby Theatre

Another popular attraction in Hollywood, located next to the TCL Chinese Theatre, the Dolby Theatre (formerly known as Kodak Theatre) is where the Academy Awards are held each year.

Besides the Academy Awards, there are events that happen at Dolby Theatre year round, from music award shows, to concerts, and even the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

If you really want to dive into the history of this iconic Los Angeles events venue, I’d recommend going on a Dolby Theatre behind-the-scenes tour.

places to visit in hollywood - dolby theatre

Walt Disney Concert Hall

On the list of popular things to do in DTLA, the Walt Disney Concert Hall has been hosting live performances since 2003 when it first opened.

The Concert Hall is most famous for its modern and unique architecture designed by Frank Gehry, which has made it a great place for photography in Los Angeles.

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located in downtown LA and it’s part of the Los Angeles Music Center Complex. This is where you can see a performance by the talented Los Angeles Philharmonic in the winter, or simply take a ton of photos from the outside.

Pro tip: You won’t be able to see the auditorium where live shows happen, even if you tour the building, unless you buy a ticket to one of the shows because of rehearsal schedules.

However, even if you just go to see the building from the outside, it’s one of the most impressive architectural landmarks in Los Angeles and well worth a visit if you’re into design.

Walt Disney Concert Hall - cheap things to do in la

Universal CityWalk

One of the best things to do near Universal Studios Hollywood, whether you decide to go to the park or not, is exploring Universal CityWalk. 

Universal CityWalk is an outdoor playground for those interested in shopping and a variety of dining options. There’s also an 18-screen movie theater, including IMAX dual 4K laser projection and an indoor skydiving spot.

I especially love walking around Universal CityWalk before sunset or just after. To me, this is when you can really feel the energy of the place and enjoy a happy hour or the dueling pianos at Howl at the Moon.

Santa Monica Pier

If you’re wondering what to do in Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Pier is by far the most famous attraction in the city. The pier is over 100 years old and the official end point of the famous and historic Route 66 in the US.

More than that, it provides stunning views looking out over the ocean and classic amusement park rides for the whole family or a fun date night.

Plus, there are tons of things to do at Santa Monica Pier. You can choose from fast food eateries, fresh popcorn, an arcade, a rickety roller coaster, giant ferris wheel, and a merry-go-round that has been in operation since 1922.

things to do near santa monica - santa monica pier

The Japanese Garden

If you’re looking for a peaceful moment in the usual busy nature of the LA, head over to The Japanese Garden next to Woodley Park. This 6.5 acre garden is ranked #10 out of 300 public Japanese Gardens in North America, which probably gives you an idea of how impressive it is.

The garden features a zen meditation garden, a wet-strolling garden, and a tea garden. This is the perfect place to take a break from the city and maybe bring a good book to read on a nice day.

Sunset Strip

A must see in California, cruising the iconic 1.6-mile Sunset Strip in Los Angeles is one of the best things to do in West Hollywood and a Los Angeles hot spot you shouldn’t miss out on. 

The Strip is part of the much larger Sunset Boulevard that stretches for 22 miles, all the way from Hollywood, through Beverly Hills, and some of the best Malibu attractions. It’s one of the most famous streets in LA.

The Sunset Strip is fun to explore at any time of day, but it’s especially known as one of the best places to go out at night in LA.

This is where you can check out trendy rooftop bars like SkyBar and Tower Bar, or go to a live show at the iconic Viper Room or Whisky a Go Go. This is also where popular comedy clubs like The Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store are located. 

Besides the LA nightlife scene, the Sunset Strip features the largest independent book store in LA, called Book Soup, and Sunset Plaza, a shopping center with over 20 stores.

Los Angeles Zoo

Founded in 1966, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a 133-acre complex that features 1,400 animals that are from 270 different species and over 800 different plant species in the gardens.

Besides the usual zoo attractions, at the LA Zoo you can experience behind-the-scenes tours with animals and the young ones can attend zoo camp. This is one of the best things to do in Los Angeles with kids because the zoo offers so many interactive experiences for children.

For those 21 and up, check out Roaring Nights in the summer to party and dance the night away at the zoo.

family things to do in los angeles - la zoo

The Grove

If you’re looking for a good place for a shopping spree, look no further than The Grove.

The Grove is a one-stop shop where you’ll find some of best shopping in Los Angeles (and every type of store imaginable). There are also a variety of upscale eateries, a 14-screen art deco themed movie theater, and they feature fashion shows and a summer concert series every year.

Little Tokyo

One aspect that I love about Los Angeles is how multicultural it is and Little Tokyo is a perfect example of LA’s melting pot of cultures coming together in one city.

Little Tokyo is a historical neighborhood in Los Angeles and where the largest Japanese-American population in North America Lives. Spend an afternoon in Little Tokyo to feel like you’ve been transported to Japan.

There are plenty of things to do in Little Tokyo. You can visit the Japanese American National Museum, try some delicious Japanese hotpot or ramen, and shop in the Japanese owned shops that line the streets.

In the evening, don’t miss out on singing your heart out at MAX Karaoke Studio. There is a lot to love about this cultural neighborhood.

things to do in little tokyo, los angeles

Warner Bros. Studio

One of the best things to do in Burbank is to see where all the movie magic happens at Warner Bros. Studio. Unlike Universal Studios, which is part amusement park as well as a movie studio, Warner Bros. solely houses movie studios.

At Warner Bros. Studio, you can tour some of the most popular and oldest movie studios in Los Angeles. Tours last anywhere from two to six hours hours and give you a good glimpse of the movie business, TV and movie sets, backlots and sound stages, and a whole lot of memorabilia.

Grab your tickets ahead of time for the original studio tour here.

things to do in burbank ca - warner bros studio

The Original Farmers Market

Foodies unite! The Original Farmers Market is THE place for all your Los Angeles foodie dreams to come true. This historic Los Angeles landmark has been around since 1934 and offers everything food related – from food stalls, to delicious sit down eateries, and local produce.

There are over 100 gourmet grocers and restaurants to choose from at The Original Farmers Market so you will definitely want to come hungry.

Pro tip: this is also the perfect place to take a food tour in Los Angeles. I’d recommend hopping on this one if you want to learn more about the history of the farmers market and taste a whole lot of good food.

fun cheap things to do in la - the original farmers market

Best Free Things to do in LA

Griffith Observatory

By far one of the best free things to do in LA – the Griffith Observatory!

You might choose to visit the Griffith Observatory if you plan to hike to the Hollywood Sign from there. But, even if you’re not interested n the hike, definitely make a visit to Griffith Observatory. It’s one of my favorite spots in Los Angeles and provides one of the best views looking out over the city.

If you’ve ever seen James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause or La La Land, you’ll know that Griffith Observatory has been featured in many a Hollywood movie over the years. And it’s easy to see why once you get up there, it’s naturally stunning and cinematic.

Honestly, it’s worth it to go up to the Griffith Observatory just for the view, but if you’re interested in astronomy it’s worth it to actually go inside the observatory too (especially since it’s free). Inside, you can view exhibits, look through telescopes, and watch live shows at the planetarium.

Note: You can see the Hollywood Sign from the Griffith Observatory, it’s just very small and far away.

los angeles at night - Griffith Observatory
The view from Griffith Observatory at night, one of the best things to do in Griffith Park.

Hollywood Sign

One of the top places to visit in California. Have you even been to Los Angeles if you haven’t seen the Hollywood Sign up close? The Hollywood Sign is one of the most famous Los Angeles landmarks and an attraction that most people want to see when they visit LA.

A common misconception, that I had too before I visited for the first time, is that you can easily drive up to the sign and snap a few quick pictures and peace out. WRONG.

Let me be the one to break it to you that seeing the Hollywood Sign up close is an ordeal and will probably take you a good half day workout to do.

This is because you actually have to hike up to the Hollywood Sign. There are a couple different trails you can tackle, the first one I’d recommend is the trailhead that starts from Canyon Drive.

This is a 4-mile hike roundtrip and takes anywhere from 2-3 hours to complete. However, this is also the most popular way to get up to the Hollywood Sign, so parking can be difficult and the trail is usually crowded.

Alternatively, you can do the hike that starts from Griffith Observatory, which is 6-miles roundtrip. Just note that this is a more challenging trail than the one from Canyon Drive, so make sure you’re prepared to tackle an uphill climb.

It’s free to park at Griffith Observatory, but again this is LA and parking fills up fast. Sometimes it’s better to just park nearby and call a shared ride to take you up to the observatory. The same can be said for the Canyon Drive Trail.

If you’re traveling by yourself and not keen to hike alone or you simply want to hike with a group, this is a good group hiking tour to check out. In general, Griffith Park and Observatory is a great thing to do alone in LA. 

hollywood sign hike - things to do at griffith park, los angeles

Hollywood Walk of Fame

One of those must see places in California, you really can’t get anymore LA than the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It might be touristy, but this is one of the more fun things to do in Hollywood.

This is one of those spots to visit at least once in Los Angeles, if even just for the photo ops. And if you’re wondering what to do in Hollywood for free, this is one of best things to do.

It might sound cheesy, but it’s actually pretty fun to pose in the place where one of your favorite stars stood and was honored with a star ceremony.

I posed with the stars of Tom Hanks and Ingrid Bergman last time I was there.

There are now more than 2,600 terrazzo and brass stars that line this famous walkway, taking up 18 blocks in total. That’s a whole lot of famous people.

If you’re looking for a specific person’s star, you can use the Star Search on the official website for the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

While you’re hanging out around the famous stars, don’t forget to take a look at another famous sight on Hollywood Boulevard – the TCL Chinese Theatre.

When it opened in 1927, it was the most ornate and impressive theater in the world. You can still watch movies at the theater today and the interior is beautiful and historic.

things to do in Hollywood, Los Angeles

LA Observation Deck

At the top of the LA City Hall, the LA Observation Deck is one of the best things to do in LA for free and provides some of the best views of the city.

There’s no need to pay for one of those expensive sky decks in LA, the free LA Observation Deck provides 360 degree views from the heart of the city. Plus, it’s a good excuse to walk through the historic Los Angeles City Hall.

The Getty Center

The Getty Center is the thing to do in LA for anyone interested in art and architecture. Take some time while you’re there to enjoy the European and American art, from Medieval times to the present.

You can also take stroll through the elaborate gardens, which include a cactus and sculpture garden. Lastly, make sure to admire the famous architecture of the Getty Center with a free 45-minute architecture tour. 

The Getty Center provides some of the best views in Los Angeles from the perch of the Santa Monica Mountains, and there are a few Getty Center restaurants on the property if you get hungry. These include two cafes, a couple of coffee carts, and one sit down restaurant (reservations recommended).

If you’re looking for free stuff to do in LA, the Getty Center is a good place to start.

best free things to do in los angeles - getty center

The Getty Villa

The Getty Villa is part of the same museum as the Getty Center, but a completely different experience and location. The Getty Villa is situated on the eastern side of the Malibu coast and it is a massive and ornate sight to behold.

At the Villa, you’ll be transported to the ancient world of Greece and Rome while you walk through an elaborate and well-manicured property. There are 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities housed here dating from 6,500 BC to 400 AD.

Admission is free to The Getty Villa, making it one of the more popular free things to do in Los Angeles, but note that you have to reserve timed tickets ahead of time by phone or the museum’s website. Also note that even though it’s free to enter the museum, parking costs $20.

free things to do in la - getty villa

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Looking for fun free things to do in LA today? One of the best parts about this aquarium is that admission is free (just note that a donation of $5 for adults and $1 for children is recommended).

Although not as well known and popular as the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Central California, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is a popular thing to do with kids in Los Angeles or for any marine life enthusiast. 

At the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, you’ll find the largest concentration of Southern California marine life in the world. The aquarium is also another Frank Gehry-designed building, and it’s located in a stunning part of LA, next to the Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park.

It’s easily one of the best free things to do in Southern California for the whole family.

Hike at Runyon Canyon Park

Runyon Canyon Park is a 160-acre park in the Santa Monica Mountains that is a popular hiking and running spot for locals. This is where one of the hikes to the Hollywood Sign is located, but even more than that, the hikes here provide stunning views over Hollywood and Los Angeles as a whole.

As mentioned above, this is a popular spot for hiking in Los Angeles so don’t expect to have the trails to yourself. It’s also a dog-friendly park so you’ll see quite a few happy dogs off leash and running around.

There are a few different hikes to tackle at Runyon Canyon Park, most are a few miles roundtrip with various elevations – perfect for an outdoorsy start to your day.

Pro tip: There isn’t much shade at Runyon Canyon Park, so make sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water on your hike.

los angeles nature - runyon canyon park

Venice Canals

One of those not-so-secret LA attractions anymore with its recent popularity on Instagram, the Venice Canals Historic District is still a fun spot to explore in Venice Beach. Rent bikes and ride along the beautiful canals on a nice day for the best kind of Los Angeles vibes.

The man-made canals were built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney and still attract tons of LA locals and visitors alike every day.

things to do in venice beach california - venice canals

Drum Circle in Venice Beach

As I mentioned above, Venice Beach is all about that alternative lifestyle in LA. I can’t think of a better activity that exemplifies this than a good old fashioned drum circle. And the one in Venice Beach can get huge and last for hours.

If you want to lean into your musical side for the afternoon, head over to Venice Beach on Saturday or Sunday and follow the beat of the drums to find the circle. The drum circle usually happens from noon and lasts well after sunset with plenty of dancing and percussion for hours on end.

It’s a fun thing to do in Venice Beach on the weekend.

Bradbury Building

The Bradbury Building is seen as one of the most beautifully designed buildings in LA, and that’s saying something with the city’s fondness for unique buildings.

If you’re wondering what to do in downtown LA and you’re into design, photography, or simply cool historic buildings, don’t miss this building. Similar to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, it’s one of the best places to take pictures in Los Angeles.

Built in 1893, this five-story office building is most famously known for its unique ironwork and naturally lit atrium of walkways and stairs. It’s also the oldest commercial building still standing in central LA.

Pro tip: Hop on one of the inexpensive Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours to learn more about the history of the Bradbury Building and other famous downtown Los Angeles landmarks. 

cool museums in la - Bradbury Building

Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk

One of the most fun things to do in downtown LA at night on a Thursday, the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk happens every second Thursday of each month and gives you the chance to explore the art scene in DTLA.

The Art Walk has been running for 10 years along Spring Street and Main Street in Downtown LA. Just grab a gallery guide at one of the participating art galleries (check their website) for a self-guided tour of local galleries, artist studios, and cultural events.

This is one of the best free events in Los Angeles that happens every month, so don’t miss it if you’re in town on the first Thursday of the month.

Drive the Angeles Crest Highway

Seen as one of the most scenic drives in California (and also one of the most treacherous), the Angeles Crest Highway goes through the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County.

The highway is a two-lane road that goes on for 66 miles and curves around rocky landscapes and reaches 7,000 feet in elevation at its highest point.

Because of the high altitude, it’s not unusual for the weather to change dramatically when you start climbing up the mountain. In winter, the road is usually closed due to snow fall and avalanche hazards.

However, it’s stunning to drive during the Los Angeles summer and a great road trip option from Los Angeles if you’re looking for a beautiful drive near the city. 

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Okay, granted it might sound creepy to visit a cemetery during a trip to LA, but Hollywood Forever Cemetery isn’t just any old cemetery. This is one of the most famous cemeteries in the world and one of the best free things to do in Hollywood.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery was founded in 1899 and is the final resting place for a number of famous Hollywood stars. The cemetery has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and offers 50 acres of peaceful greenery to walk around and pay your respects to those who have passed.

Maybe this is a weird thing to admit, but I actually enjoy walking through cemeteries. I find them peaceful and meditative places.

One unique aspect about the cemetery is that they host regular events and movie nights. Check out their events calendar for a full list of upcoming events.

The movie nights aren’t free, but they’re one of the the best non-touristy things to do in LA and a fun thing to do in Hollywood at night.

Korean Bell of Friendship

Gifted to LA in 1976 by the Republic of Korea, the Korean Bell of Friendship is a beautiful structure and bronze bell at Angel’s Gate Park. This spot also provides sweeping views of the Los Angeles Harbor and the Catalina Channel.

If you want to be there for the ringing of the bell, make sure to visit on July 4th, August 15th, September 17th, New Year’s Eve, January 13th, or the 1st Saturday of every month at 11:30 am.

korean bell of friendship - free stuff in la

Unique Things to do in LA

The Last Bookstore

I LOVE bookstores, the more unique the better. And Los Angeles does not disappoint with The Last Bookstore, known as one of the coolest bookstores in the world and one of the more quirky things to do in downtown Los Angeles.

This bookstore sells new and used books and records and showcases local art in a multilevel space that used to be a bank.

The bookstore has become especially popular on Instagram in recent years, but more than just going there for the ‘gram, it’s the perfect place to visit if you love all things books.

unique things to do in la - the last bookstore

John Sowden House

Also known as the ‘Jaws House’, the John Sowden House is a Lloyd Wright designed mansion that was built in 1926. It got its moniker for the shark mouth-like facade that is featured on the outside of house, but the house is actually ancient Mayan-themed in design.

I mean, this is LA. You gotta go weird or go home.

The mansion is 6,000 square feet, located in the heart of Hollywood, and has been featured in numerous films and TV shows over the years. The house has been shrouded in mystery for a long time, with its most notable mystery being its potential ties to the Black Dahlia murder.

They have offered public tours in the past, but the John Sowden House has changed hands again recently so they may have stopped those for the time being.

However, they still host various non-profit events throughout the year (if you can get an invite) and it’s an iconic building to see from the outside if you’re into architecture.

Eames House

Built in 1949, the Eames House is a famous property in LA and a testament to modern mid-20th century architecture.

This is another one of those fun cheap things to do in Los Angeles if you’re into architecture. Note that although standard tours are only $10 they’re only of the exterior and you have to book 48 hours in advance. 

El Pueblo de Los Angeles

A historical monument built in 1781 marking where the city of Los Angeles was first founded. If you’re into history, this is one of the best things to see in Downtown LA. 

El Pueblo is on the National Register of Historic Places and takes up 9.5 acres in downtown Los Angeles, showcasing the founding and growth of the city through various historical buildings.

I’d recommend watching this short documentary for more information on the history of El Pueblo de Los Angeles and its importance to LA as a city.

Mosaic Tile House

One of those more unique things to do in Los Angeles, the Mosaic Tile House is probably unlike any house you’ve seen before.

Over the course of two decades, it was transformed from a traditional 1940s house, complete with a white picket fence, to a piece of modern art by Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran. The house is now completely covered in colorful mosaic tiles.

It costs $20 to tour, but if you’re looking for a unique experience in LA and want to support local artists, this is a good way to spend an hour in the city. Note that it’s only open on Saturdays from 1 – 4pm and reservations are recommended.

Galco’s Soda Pop Stop

One of those secret places in Los Angeles that is a favorite with locals, Galco’s Soda Pop Stop is where you’ll find every flavor of soda imaginable.

And when I say every flavor imaginable, I’m not exaggerating – there are 600 flavors to choose from in this one store. The store has been family owned and operated for over 100 years, and it’s the perfect spot to stop in at for a refreshing soda pop on a hot day.

The Original In-N-Out

If you’ve been in California for a hot minute, you probably know that In-N-Out is a big deal here. The best way to offend a Californian is to claim you like Shake Shack more than In-N-Out. Please just don’t.

We take our beloved In-N-Out seriously here, it’s an essential stop on any California road trip, so it’s no surprise that The Original In-N-Out is a LA attraction in its own right. It has been serving burgers since 1948 and it’s still a working restaurant in Baldwin Park.

Watts Towers Arts Center

The Watts Towers Arts Center is the masterpiece of Sabato Rodia, who spent 33 years creating the 17 interconnected sculptural towers that still exist at the center today. It’s the world’s largest single construction created by one individual.

Public guided tours of the towers happen on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10:30 am to 3 pm and Sunday from 12:30 pm to 3 pm. There are no tours on rainy days, but don’t worry, rainy days are pretty unusual in Los Angeles anyway.

Electric Dusk Drive-In

If you’re looking for romantic things to do in Los Angeles, think about going to the drive-in!

The Electric Dusk Drive-In is one of the best cheap things to do in LA and great for a date night in the city. It’s one of the few drive-ins that still exist in California as so many of them have closed in the past decade. 

The drive-in features movies from the 80s, 90s, 00s, as well as recent films, at an affordable price.

Local Things to do in LA

Rose Bowl Flea Market

Located in the historic Rose Bowl Stadium, the Rose Bowl Flea Market is one of the best places to shop in Los Angeles for an eclectic mix of antiques, apparel, crafts, and other random items.

This is one of those fun things to do in Pasadena, and, as the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. If you’re in LA on the second Sunday of the month, shop for your own unique treasures at the Rose Bowl Flea Market.

Just note that there is an admission price to get into the flea market, starting around $9 per person.

local things to do in los angeles - rose bowl flea market

Midnight Showing of The Room

Okay, you’re going to have to have an open mind for this local experience in LA, but The Room has become a cult film in Los Angeles and it’s a hilarious movie night that you should have at least once in the city.

The Room is one of those movies that is so bad that it’s great. There was even a more recent movie made about Tommy Wiseau (the creator and star of The Room), starring James Franco.

The film plays regularly in LA because it is still so popular. If you can catch a midnight showing at Regent Theatre, it’s a fun thing to do in LA at night.

Here’s a trailer for the film.

Hollywood Bowl

Another fun thing to do in LA at night is to see a show at the Hollywood Bowl. Located in the Hollywood Hills, the Hollywood Bowl has been a performance venue since 1922 and one of the top 10 live music venues in the US. This is where you’ll see LA entertainment at its finest.

Seeing a show here is a fun Los Angeles experience. There is every kind of music genre that performs on the stage at the Hollywood Bowl, so whatever your music preference, you’ll probably find a show that will interest you.

First Fridays

First Fridays are art, food, or community events that happen all over the US on the first Friday of every month and the ones in LA are particularly fun and immersive.

There are numerous First Fridays that happen around the city every month, but Abbot Kinney is a good First Friday to start with. You’ll find some of the best food trucks in Los Angeles at the Abbot Kinney First Friday, as well as a festive atmosphere.

All-You-Can-Eat Korean BBQ

With a decent sized Korean population in Los Angeles, there are tons of delicious all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ spots around Koreatown and other parts of LA.

Grab lunch or dinner from Hae Jang Chon in Koreatown for the most popular Korean BBQ experience in the city.

Paddle Boats at Echo Park

Echo Park has become a trendy neighborhood in recent years, with colorful street murals, hipster bars, vegan eateries, indie live music venues, and a bustling nightlife scene.

For a more local perspective of Los Angeles, experience one of the many of things to do in Echo Park. The neighborhood alone is worth an afternoon of exploration.

If you’re looking for family activities in Los Angeles or even romantic things to do in LA, I would also recommend renting a paddle boat at Echo Park Lake. Paddling around the lake is one of the best things to do in Los Angeles on a nice day.

things to do in echo park, los angeles - paddle boating

Bar Hop in Highland Park

If you’re wondering what to do in LA at night and you’re over 21, head over to Highland Park.

Once known for its dive bars and sloppy-ish nights out, Highland Park has quickly become a trendsetter in the LA nightlife scene these days.

The Los Angeles neighborhood continues to attract a wide net of people, and it’s easy to see why – you can find pretty much any type of bar in Highland Park. This makes it a great neighborhood for bar hopping.

A few favorites spots to stop by include Sonny’s Hideaway, Barcade LA, Block Party, The Hermosillo, and La Cuevita.

Baseball Game at Dodger’s Stadium

As a Giant’s fan, it’s hard to recommend going to see the Dodger’s play since they’re basically our arch nemesis, but when in LA, right?

All jokes aside, seeing the Dodger’s play at Dodger’s Stadium should definitely be on your Los Angeles to do list because it is such a classic LA experience to have.

And Dodger’s fans are very annoying enthusiastic, so even if you’re not a huge fan of baseball, the experience of watching a game in Dodger’s Stadium surrounded by hardcore fans is a quite the experience to enjoy. 

what to do in downtown la - dodger's game

Malibu Wine Safari

What to do in Malibu? Go on a wine safari of course!

Malibu is a stunning beach city just west of Los Angeles, known for its celebrity homes, good hiking, and pristine beaches. It’s also known for one of the more unique things to do in Southern California – the Malibu Wine Safari.

If you want to mix an African safari with wine tasting (I mean, who wouldn’t?), look no further than the wine safari in Malibu.

On the safari, you’ll explore the 1,000 acre Saddlerock Ranch and Vineyard in Malibu, complete with zebras, camels, alpacas, bison, and a giraffe named Stanley, oh and of course, wine.

It’s by far one of the best things to do in Malibu and only 30 minutes from LA.

Stand Up Paddle Board in Marina del Rey

Another fun water activity in LA besides paddle boating at Echo Park Lake, is stand up paddle boarding in the stunning Marina del Rey. Marina del Rey is an incorporated seaside community in Los Angeles, and the place where Lana del Rey got her stage name from for all you LDR fans.

Marina del Rey is the largest man-made small-craft harbor in North America, home to around 5,000 boats and absolutely stunning. You can choose to go with a guided tour if stand up paddle boarding is a new activity for you or simply rent a SUP by the hour.

However you want to go about it, SUPing is the perfect way to explore the harbor and that LA sunshine.

off the beaten path los angeles - marina del rey

Shop for Vinyls

There’s no doubt about it, people who live in Los Angeles have a thing for vinyl. It has become a favorite pastime for many a Los Angeles local to go on a vinyl hunt on the weekends for new records to add to their collection.

If you want to buy a new vinyl or you simply enjoy walking through record stores like me, check out Freakbeat Records or Amoeba Music for your local vinyl fix in LA.

Enjoy a Comedy show

Los Angeles isn’t just about the movie business, it also has a great comedy scene that features already established comics and up-and-coming comics who come through the city on a regular basis.

A few good spots to check out a quality comedy show include The Hollywood Improv, The Comedy Store, or Laugh Factory.

Rollerskate at Moonlight Rollerway

Looking for a fun activity for the whole family or a good date night idea in Los Angeles? Head over to the Moonlight Rollerway for a retro roll around an old school roller rink.

The Moonlight Rollerway has been open since the 1950s and it still has the feel of that decade when you walk in. Make sure to stop by on Tuesday night to hear the owner play the organ as you roller skate.

Best Beaches in LA

Santa Monica Beach

Probably the most famous beach in the greater LA area, Santa Monica Beach has been bringing visitors to its beautiful shores for years. And it’s easy to see why with how accessible it is to get to from downtown LA.

To give you an idea, it only takes around 35 minutes to get from downtown LA to Santa Monica Beach (with usual LA traffic).

Santa Monica is its own city in Los Angeles County and the official end point of the famous Route 66 highway in the US.

If you want to make a day of it and explore one of the most popular attractions near Los Angeles, there are plenty of fun things to do in Santa Monica besides the beach. One of my favorite experiences? Once the sun sets, enjoy the beauty of the Santa Monica pier at night.

things to do in santa monica - best beaches in la

Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach is a popular beach in Malibu and slightly less touristy than Santa Monica Beach. Zuma Beach is particularly known for its great surfing and pristine long stretches of sand, perfect for sunbathing and chilling out on for an afternoon.

If you go in the winter, you might even spot a grey whale making its annual migration from the beach. Another good aspect about Zuma Beach is the amount of parking. There are eight parking lots with around 2,000 parking spaces.

Pro tip: The water at Zuma Beach is colder than other beaches around Los Angeles, and it’s known for rough tides and riptides so be mindful if you go swimming.

malibu beach things to do - surfing at zuma beach

Venice Beach

Another famous beach in LA that is worth at least one visit, even if it’s just to check out the Venice neighborhood around the beach. The Venice Boardwalk along the beach is where you’ll find street performers, street art, local crafts, and unique shops.

Make sure to walk by the skate park and the nearby outdoor gym that is Muscle Beach before finding a good place to lay out on the sand. There are beach volleyball courts along the three-mile stretch of sand, and spots where you can rent surf, body, and skim boards right from the beach.

best beaches in la - venice beach

Hermosa Beach

If you’re looking to visit a less touristy beach in Los Angeles County, think about spending the day at Hermosa Beach.

Located just southwest of downtown LA, Hermosa Beach is its own city and offers long stretches of white sand and a more local atmosphere. This is a great spot to bring the whole family and catch a stunning sunset. Just note that parking around the beach can be tough to find sometimes.

la beaches - hermosa beach

Manhattan Beach

If you want to check out more LA cities that are centered around the beach, Manhattan Beach is a good place to start. Before you find a spot on the beach, walk along the The Strand Bike Path that takes you along oceanfront mansions and volleyball courts.

The small Manhattan Beach Pier is a good place to take in the Pacific Ocean views and watch the surfers below. The beach can get busy on the weekends, but it’s mostly full of locals.

Related: A Drive through the LA Beaches

best beaches in los angeles - Manhattan Beach

Outdoor Activities & Hikes

Will Rogers State Historic Park

This park isn’t just named after famous actor Will Rogers, it was also his former estate until his sudden death.

Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, there are various activities you can enjoy in the historic park. Take a tour of the original ranch from Thursday-Sunday, or tackle one of the moderate two mile hikes on the property.

There are also horseback riding lessons and tours every day except Monday with Westside Riding School, plenty of picnicking opportunities, polo games, and even movies in the park. This is one of the best parks in Los Angeles for its sheer variety of things to do.

Parking is $12 at Will Rogers State Historic Park.

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area

A popular state park in Baldwin Hills Mountains, Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area is one of the largest public parks in Los Angeles and the perfect urban oasis for a relaxing afternoon in Los Angeles nature.

There is a little something for everyone at this expansive park, from baseball fields, soccer fields, picnic areas, children’s play areas, barbecue areas, basketball courts, fishing lakes, outdoor fitness courses, volleyball courts, and five miles of hiking trails, among various other activities.

If you’re looking for things to do with kids in LA that involves the outdoors and plenty of space for running around, this park is a good family friendly option. 

Parking is $6 at Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area.

Ascot Hills Park

If you’re looking for more of a retreat from the crowds, Ascot Hills Park is a beautiful place in Los Angeles that features hiking trails, rolling hills, and views of downtown LA, Dodger Stadium, and the Hollywood Sign.

The Ascot Hills Park trail is a moderate two-mile loop that has wildflowers in the spring and good views. It’s also dog friendly, but you have to keep dogs on a leash.

Descanso Gardens

If you’re fond of botanical gardens, you will not want to miss out on the 150-acre Descanso Gardens in Los Angeles. Visit for a relaxing stroll around the world renowned horticultural displays, or come to enjoy one of the many concerts, events, or classes they offer at the gardens.

Traveling with young ones? Check out their events calendar because they often offer unique things for kids to do in Los Angeles too. 

Admission to the Descanso Gardens is $9. ($6 for students or seniors, $4 for children 5-12).

best parks in los angeles - Descanso gardens

Franklin Canyon Park

Franklin Canyon Park is a huge 605-acre park located near Benedict Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains, offering five miles of hiking trails, a large lake, and duck pond.

The three main trails at Franklin Canyon Park are Discovery, Berman, and Hastain, which are all great for beginner hikers. This is another one of the best things to do in LA with kids if you want to be in nature, because the park has a stroller friendly trail around the reservoir.

Pro tip: they like to give $100 tickets at this park for not stopping fully at stop signs. There are hidden cameras so make sure to come to a complete stop (some people recommend for a good 10 seconds) at the stop signs to avoid getting a pricey ticket.

Topanga State Park

Another park located in the Santa Monica Mountains, Topanga State Park is one of the best parks on this list for hiking. The park offers 36 miles of hiking trails through various types of terrain and good views.

Most hikes start from Trippet Ranch and it’s recommended to give yourself at least a couple of hours, even for the shorter hikes in the park. A good hike to start with is the Musch Trail to Eagle Rock, which takes around two hours and provides stunning views at the top.

Pro tip: dogs unfortunately aren’t allowed on any of the trails at Topanga State Park and parking is $10.

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

If you want to enjoy the outdoors but also want to go somewhere that is known for its breathtaking views, head over to Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.

This urban park offers free exhibits about local conservation and restoration efforts in the area, hiking trails, and, of course, great views looking out over downtown LA.

Parking is $2 at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. 

Vista Hermosa Natural Park

Another park that features fantastic city views, Vista Hermosa Natural Park offers easy trails, picnic areas, a pond, playground, and grassy fields to lay out in the sun.

One of the best things to do on a Sunday in Los Angeles is to bring a picnic to the park and enjoy the city views on a nice day. This is also a great place to take in the LA skyline at night. 

Pro tip: This spot has become fairly popular on Instagram in recent years so expect some crowds and selfie sticks where the main view is, especially on weekends.

LA Arboretum

Not quite as impressive as Descanso Gardens but still worth a visit in its own right, the LA Arboretum is another botanical garden and arboretum in Los Angeles, offering 127 acres of flora and fauna.

The garden is located at a historical site near the San Gabriel Mountains and offers tons of events for adults and kids throughout the year, which you can check out here.

Admission to the LA Arboretum is $9. ($6 for students or seniors, $4 for children 5-12).

Best Museums in LA

California Science Center

Located in Exposition Park, the California Science Center is an interactive museum and another one of those things to do in Los Angeles for free. Through free exhibits, you’ll learn about human inventions and innovations and the life sciences.  

If you’re looking for educational kids activities in LA, this is a popular museum with the young ones.  

Pro tip: If you’re looking for more free museums in LA, make sure to check when the free museum days are in the city. You can find the full list here.

The Nethercutt Collection

If you’re a fan of old cars, you can’t miss out on The Nethercutt Collection.

This multi-level antique museum’s main draw is its automobile collection, which is considered to be one of the top five greatest automobile museums in the US. The museum showcases over 250 American and European cars that date from 1898 to 1997.

Other features of the museum include collections of mechanical musical instruments and antique furniture.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Considered to be one of the best museums Los Angeles, the LACMA is the largest art museum in the Western US and attracts around a million visitors every year.

Located on Museum Row, the museum has over 150,000 pieces of art ranging from ancient times to present day. The museum also regularly hosts film and concert series. 

Pro tip: don’t miss Urban Light, LACMA’s most famous art installation that consists of 202 vintage street lights.

free museums in la - urban light

Natural History Museum

Los Angeles is kind of like Texas sometimes with the whole ‘go big or go home’ mindset, and the Natural History Museum is no exception.

This museum is the largest natural and historical museum in the Western US, holding 35 million artifacts and specimens from over 4.5 million years of history.

If you love dinosaurs or anything related to natural history, this is one of the best Natural History Museums to visit in North America.

Pro tip: Skip the line and grab your tickets ahead of time here.

The Grammy Museum

If you love music and watching the Grammy Awards every year, don’t miss out on the Grammy Museum near the Staples Center. The museum features exhibits that talk about the award show’s long history and past winners.

I’d recommend giving yourself at least two to three hours to walk through the museum.

The Hollywood Museum

One of those very Hollywood things to do, head over to The Hollywood Museum for a huge collection of all things Hollywood.

Appropriately housed in a historic art deco building, at the museum you can learn more about your favorite Hollywood legends, films, and TV shows through four floors of memorabilia.

From costumes to props, scripts, vintage collectibles, and photographs, there are 10,000 authentic Hollywood treasures that call this museum home.

Japanese American National Museum

Dedicated to sharing the Japanese American history and culture, the Japanese American National Museum is located in Little Tokyo and goes through over 130 years of Japanese American history.

From home movies made from the 1920s to 1950s to historic photographs, artifacts, art, and oral histories, this is a thorough museum to visit to learn more about Japanese culture in the US.

Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Founded by a group of Holocaust survivors in 1961, the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust is an important museum to honor those who were lost in the Holocaust and educate future generations about the tragic loss of human life.

This was the first museum ever founded by Holocaust survivors in the US.

Museum of Tolerance

Another important museum to visit in Los Angeles, the Museum of Tolerance tackles the heavy topics of racism and prejudice around the world. There is a strong focus on the Holocaust at this museum as well, including the life of Anne Frank.

The museum also talks about the struggles of Latino families in California and general issues of intolerance.

Museum of Death

One of the more weird things to do in LA, the Museum of Death focuses on the topic of death with the purpose of making people happy to be alive. This is a pretty heavy and dark museum, so make sure you’re mentally prepared before visiting.

Expect to find all things relating to death and murder, including serial killer artwork, antique funeral memorabilia, Manson Family memorabilia, coroner instruments, pet death taxidermy, and crime scene photographs.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum

Looking for fun museums in LA that are good for the whole family? Ripley’s is another weird museum in Hollywood but much lighter than the Museum of Death.

It’s a bit of a tourist trap, but the interactive exhibits and Hollywood memorabilia are a fun way to spend an hour if you have time to spare in Hollywood.

I’d recommend only making a visit if you have kids who would enjoy the interactive nature of the museum, otherwise it’s not as impressive as other museums on this list. 

The Broad

If you’re looking for an alternative art museum to LACMA that isn’t quite as crowded, The Broad is a good option. Founded by philanthropist Eli Broad, this is another popular free museum in Los Angeles.

The museum showcases contemporary art from the 1950s to up-and-coming artists of today, and regularly hosts family art workshops on the weekends.

The Broad is home to over 2,000 works of contemporary art, making it one of the largest collections of postwar and contemporary art in the world.

best museums los angeles - the broad

Holyland Exhibition

Any Indiana Jones fans here? The Holyland Exhibition is a small museum filled with artifacts that were discovered by the man rumored to be the real-life inspiration behind Indiana Jones – Antonia F. Futterer.

If you love archeology, old artifacts, or Indiana Jones, this museum is worth a visit.

Museum of Jurassic Technology

If you’re looking for cool museums in LA that are all about an eclectic experience, look no further than the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

It’s hard to describe the museum without experiencing it yourself, but let’s just say it’s meant to be a love letter to the act of storytelling. Visit the museum for an overall unique experience and to learn a lot of random facts.

This is definitely one of those more hipster things to do in LA, but worth a visit. 

Food & Coffee

A few fun places to eat in Los Angeles, as well as my top picks for where to get your caffeine buzz on and your sweet tooth satisfied. Some of my favorite stuff to do in California is eat to my heart’s content, and LA definitely does not disappoint with its foodie scene. 

Coffee & Tea

  • Tea Master Matcha Cafe & Green Tea Shop
  • Balcony Coffee and Tea
  • Philz Coffee

 

discover los angeles

 

Breakfast/Brunch

  • Met Her At A Bar
  • Eat This Cafe
  • EAT
  • Eggslut

 

Lunch

  • Pink’s Hot Dogs – one of those famous places to eat in LA
  • Leo’s Taco Truck
  • Broken Mouth | Lee’s Homestyle
  • Howlin’ Ray’s

 

Dinner

One of the best things you can do in LA at night is experience one of the many foodie spots in the city for a nice dinner.

  • The Morrison
  • A Food Affair
  • Bavel
  • Bestia

 

Dessert

  • Saffron & Rose Ice Cream
  • SK Donuts & Croissant
  • Diddy Riese – one of the best things to do near UCLA that you can’t miss out on 
  • Sprinkles Cupcakes – one of the my favorite things to do in Beverly Hills – grabbing cupcakes from Sprinkles

 

things to do in beverly hills - sprinkles

Nightlife & Live Music Venues

There is a lot to do in Los Angeles at night and these bars and live music venues are a good place to start. 

  • Pig ‘N Whistle
  • Idle Hour
  • Tiki-Ti
  • Seven Grand
  • Hotel Cafe
  • Troubadour

Best Tours in LA

Intro to Los Angeles City Tour

This 6-Hour Los Angeles City Tour is one of the most comprehensive and best tours in Los Angeles. If it’s your first time to the city or you’ve simply never experienced the popular Los Angeles attractions before, this is a good thing to do in LA for a full overview of the city.

Stops include Venice Beach, downtown Los Angeles, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, Sunset Strip, and movie star homes, as well as local recommendations for where to eat, shop, and go out at night.

best los angeles tours

The Ultimate Los Angeles Bike Tour

I love a good bike tour to get my bearings in a new city. There’s something about riding a bike around a city that allows you to get a feel for the local culture (and some exercise while you’re at it). And, The Ultimate Los Angeles Bike Tour is no different.

This is rated the #1 bike tour in LA and covers 32 miles of Los Angeles adventures and history, from West Hollywood to Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina Del Rey. Electric bikes are also available if you don’t want to work up too much of a sweat.

Los Angeles Brewery Tour

The Los Angeles brewery scene has taken off in recent years. So, if you’re into craft beer I would highly recommend hopping (pun intended) on a brewery tour to give you a taste of the best beers around the city.

The East and Central LA Brewery Tour if a good place to start to explore the brewery scene in Downtown and Central LA. The tour lasts around 4.5 hours and includes a flight of four beer and an expert beer guide.

Alternatively, if you want to do your own brewery tour, check out this post where I lay out my favorite breweries to visit in California, including a few in Los Angeles.

tours in Los Angeles

Short Day Trips from LA

Angeles National Forest (30 min)

Only 30 minutes from Los Angeles, Angeles National Forest is seen as the ‘backyard of Los Angeles’ and a popular outdoorsy weekend getaway from the city.

The Angeles National Forest is one of the best places to immerse yourself in nature without having to drive too far outside of LA.

There are 650,000 acres to explore in the park. So, you can bet there are plenty of hiking opportunities, from easy hikes to more challenging all day adventures.

Disneyland & California Adventure (45 min)

There are so many things to do in SoCal, but one of the most popular things to do in California with kids (or not) is visiting Disneyland & California Adventure!

Disneyland is one of those California attractions that you should visit at least once, because the Disney Parks are unlike any other amusement park in the world. 

Pro tip: go during low season (Jan-April) and get to the park as early as possible to get first dibs on rides without having to deal with long wait times. Also, make sure to grab your tickets ahead of time here. It’s all about avoiding those lines for the best experience.

Southern California attractions | Disneyland & California Adventure

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park (1 hour)

One of the top adventures to do in LA, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area is a 932-acre park that is actually located in Los Angeles County, even though it’s an hour drive away from downtown (this should give you an idea of how sprawling LA is).

The Vasquez Rocks Natural Area is located in the high desert and features stunning rock formations that have been there since prehistoric times. Visit the area for a good picnic spot, hike, or for horseback riding.

Santa Barbara (2 hours)

One of the top California places to visit for locals who grew up in the state. Santa Barbara is often overlooked for those who aren’t from California, but it is a beautiful city just a couple of hours north of Los Angeles. It’s a great spot for a romantic getaway from LA or a fun girlfriend’s weekend away.

The city features a relaxed seaside vibe, fresh fish on the harbor, and uniform Spanish Colonial architecture with white stucco buildings and red-tile roofs.

best day trips from la - santa barbara

Palm Springs (2 hours)

Another one of the most popular cities to visit near Los Angeles, Palm Springs can either be a relaxing time in the desert or all about crazy pool parties.

The city is known for its hot springs, upscale hotels, golf courses, and spas. There are also plenty of choices for more outdoorsy activities, such as hiking or mountain biking.

Expect to splurge a bit with a trip to Palm Springs, but it’s such a beautiful area in California that it’s worth visiting at least once. 

best weekend trips from los angeles - palm springs

San Diego (2-2.5 hours)

There’s so much to love about San Diego and I will always recommend spending as much time as possible in the city, but if you only have a day in LA to spare, it’s still worth a visit.

Head to Ocean Beach for fresh fish tacos, ride a roller coaster at Belmont Park, check out the many museums at Balboa Park, or simply enjoy one of the countless stunning beaches that San Diego has to offer. There’s a little something for everyone in America’s Finest City.

If you want a full guide to San Diego and the many things there are to do around the city, check out my detailed post on the city here.

how to get from los angeles to san diego

Joshua Tree National Park (2.5 hours)

My favorite national park in the state and one of the best things to do in California – visiting Joshua Tree! Joshua Tree features a unique desert landscape full of funky looking Joshua Trees, cholla cacti, and a ton of good hiking opportunities.

If you’re looking for unique spots to visit in Southern California, Joshua Tree is probably my favorite trip from this list. It’s definitely worth visiting the park for a couple of days if you have the time to really explore it.

Check out my post on the best Joshua Tree hotels here if you plan to stay in the area for longer than a day trip.

day trips from la - Joshua Tree

Seasonal Events

  • Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game (January)
  • Golden Dragon Parade (January)
  • California Strawberry Festival (May)
  • Los Angeles Film Festival (June)
  • LA Pride Festival and Parade (June)
  • 626 Night Market (July-August)
  • Los Angeles County Fair (Aug-Sep)
  • All My Friends Music Festival (October)

 

los angeles vacation

The aspect I love about Los Angeles is that there is always something new to do each time I visit. It’s a city to explore, not only for the famous sights but also for those quirky and unique places that exist all over the city.

I may not like the traffic sometimes, but it would be wrong to say that Los Angeles is overrated. It’s a sprawling metropolis that has a little something for everyone.

Related: 101 Things to Do in California

 

Best Time to Visit Los Angeles

best time to visit los angeles

There really isn’t a bad time to visit LA with how warm Southern California weather is year round.

With that said, if you want to avoid the hottest part of the year when the crowds and the smog are at their worst, avoid the summer season if possible, from June through August. June is also when you tend to get ‘June gloom’ in Southern California – a month of mostly foggy mornings and afternoons.

One of my favorite times of the year to visit Los Angeles is in the spring when the air quality is decent from March to May. The fall and winter are also good times to visit for slightly cooler temperatures and better deals on accommodation.

The only thing to note is that there might be a small chance of rain during the winter, but, let’s be honest, this is LA we’re talking about. Rain is not a given and you can usually count on two hands the number of days per year that it rains in the city.

Just keep in mind that a lot of the famous award shows in Los Angeles happen in the winter, so the city might be busier than usual on those weekends. It’s worth it to check ahead of time when the Grammys and the Academy Awards take place if you plan to discover Los Angeles in the winter.

Where is Los Angeles?

Los Angeles is situated in Southern California on the West Coast of the USA. The city is 380 miles south of San Francisco (~6 hours), 120 miles north of San Diego (~2.25 hours), and 140 miles north of the US-Mexico border (~2.75 hours).

los angeles landmarks - the Hollywood sign

How to Get from San Francisco to LA

The easiest way to get from San Francisco to LA is by car via I-5 South. The journey takes about six hours without heavy traffic. It’s best to give yourself up to eight hours though with usual LA traffic. You can book your rental car here.

Another way to get down to LA from San Francisco if you don’t want to drive is Megabus. The Megabus trip takes around 7-9 hours and costs $20. You can grab tickets for Megabus here.

Alternatively, you can take a Greyhound bus, which takes anywhere from 8 to 12 hours and costs $24. With that said, I’d always choose Megabus over Greyhound since Greyhound is notorious for breaking down and or having delays all the time. It’s usually not worth the hassle.

Lastly, flying is a good option if you’re looking for the most convenient and efficient way to get to LA from San Francisco. You can sometimes find flights for as cheap as $60-$80  one way and flying time is only about an hour and a half. You can find cheap flights to LA here.

Note: Another great way to get down to Los Angeles from San Francisco is to tackle the famous Hwy 1 in California, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway.

If you have time, I would recommend taking this route as you’ll be able to see the best California coastal scenery on the way down.

However, it’s best to make it a two-day trip if you take Hwy 1 the whole way since the drive takes at leat 8.5 hours, and that’s if you’re just driving straight through without stops.

How to Get from San Diego to LA

There are two good options to get from San Diego to LA – driving or taking the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train.

If you want to drive, take I-5 N for the fastest route. The journey usually takes around 2.5 hours, sometimes more if there’s heavy traffic coming into LA. You can book your rental car here.

The Pacific Coastliner train is a much more scenic option and one that I used to take all the time when I went to school in San Diego and came up to LA to visit my sister on the weekends.

This is probably one of the most scenic train rides I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing and it takes about the same amount of time as driving (~3 hours) and only costs $35. You can grab Amtrak tickets online here.

You can also take a Greyhound bus (unfortunately, there’s no Megabus that leaves from San Diego). The journey takes around 2.5-3.5 hours and costs $12. You can purchase a Greyhound ticket online here.

How to Get from LAX to LA

things to do near lax

The most convenient and inexpensive option to get from LAX to downtown LA or other central neighborhoods is the LAX FlyAway bus.

The price of the bus depends on where you’re going in LA, but it is usually around $8. There are no reservation required, you just hop on the bus directly from the airport when you arrive. You can find out more info about the FlyAway bus here.

Another convenient but slightly pricier option is to take an Uber or Lyft from the airport to get to exactly where you need to go in the city. There are options for shared rides via Uber Pool or Lyft Shared (or Shared Saver) as well if you want to do a shared ride to save money.

Uber and Lyft fares vary greatly depending on where you’re going, but you can usually expect to pay anywhere from $30-$50 for a private Uber or Lyft and around $25-$30 for an Uber Pool or Lyft Shared to get into the city.

LA Travel Tips

If you’re going to be in LA for a few days to a week, grab the Go Los Angeles Card here – If you plan to spend up to a week in LA and it’s your first time in the city or you simply want to check off a bunch of popular sights, I’d suggest getting the Go Los Angeles Card.

You can build your own itinerary with a 3-, 4-, 5-, or 7-day pass, and it gives you access to 30+ attractions in the city.

Pro tip: to really make the most of this card, plan out the attractions you want to fit into each day ahead of time and make sure to use the pass for Universal Studios. That alone will basically pay for itself since admission to Universal Studios is over $100. You can find out more about the pass here.

unique things to do in southern california - freestone mansion

Most of the live TV show tapings are free – Going to a live TV show taping is one of those quintessential rites of passages to have as a tourist in Los Angeles.

The good news is that most of them are free and relatively easy to score tickets to (assuming you book well in advance). You can check out this site for upcoming show options.

The water is pretty cold – This might be surprising with how hot it gets in LA, but California has two major cold fronts that basically make the majority of the California coastline water very cold, including the water at LA beaches.

Going to the beach is a fun thing to do in California, but if you plan to be swimming in the ocean for long periods of time (i.e. you’re a surfer or water sports enthusiast), make sure to rent a wet suit.

LA can be chilly at night, especially near the beach – It makes sense that the city cools off a lot once the sun goes down with how cold the water is. If you plan to be out for the whole day, and especially if you’re ending your day near the beach, bring a sweater for those cold ocean breezes at night.

It’s best to have a car to get around the city – As much as I hate to recommend driving because Los Angeles already has its fair share of traffic jams and smog, it really is the best way to get around the city.

The public transit in LA is unfortunately nowhere near as good as San Francisco or New York, and it usually takes a while to get anywhere on it (depending on where you are, of course).

If you only have a short time in the city, either take Uber/Lyft, rent a car to get around, or stay in a neighborhood that is central to a lot of attractions, such as Hollywood.

The tap water is not the best – Although the water quality in LA has gotten better over the years, contaminants are not always reported or regulated and the majority of locals who live in the city avoid tap water, opting for filtered water in their homes.

To be on the safe side, it’s best to drink filtered or bottled water while you’re in the city.

Where to Stay in Los Angeles

With over 48 million tourists that visit LA each year, there’s accommodation for every budget in this city.

If you’re looking to travel on a budget for your Los Angeles vacation, the city has its fair share of boutique hostels and inexpensive hotels. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a nice stay for a weekend getaway, the city has plenty of options for that too. As well as everything in between.

These are my picks for the top three places to stay in Los Angeles, no matter your budget! 

where to stay in Los Angeles

BUDGET 

PodShare Venice

This cozy hostel is located in one of the most eccentric neighborhoods in LA (Venice Beach) and it is the perfect place to make new friends.

Not only can you watch movies together on the communal flat-screen TVs, you can also explore Venice Beach with all of its cute cafes & restaurants and unique locals right outside your door.

There are options for either a single, twin bed, or a queen bed in mixed dorms.

Check availabilityhere

MID-RANGE

Hotel Aventura 

Just a short walk away from the center of Koreatown, Hotel Aventura is a stylish boutique hotel with sleek rooms and upgraded amenities – an on-site fitness center, business center, and plenty of Nespresso machines to go around.

Check availability here

LUXURY

Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills

As if Beverly Hills wasn’t ritzy enough, you also have the Waldorf Astoria in the neighborhood in all its 5-star glory.

Expect the royal treatment if you’re a guest here, with spectacular food, service, and amenities such as a beauty salon, spa services, and rooftop pool. Prices are steep but well worth it for the experience of staying here. Plus, you can say that you stayed at one the best hotels in LA.

Check availability here

For a full list of recommendations for where to stay and a guide to LA neighborhoods, check out this post.

 


 

PRACTICAL INFO FOR LOS ANGELES

Find accommodationbook your rental car, or sign up for a local tour.

Book a vacation rental on AirBnB (and get $40 off your first booking).

Buy your Los Angeles Guide here.

Looking for more California travel inspiration, make sure to check out my bucket list for the whole state here

 

100+ Things to do in LA | The Atlas Heart

 

best things to do in la

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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
Mimi McFadden
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The best things to do in LA! From the top attractions to favorite local experiences, best beaches, festivals, and recommendations for where to stay and eat. | 100+ Things to do in LA | The Atlas Heart | #thingstodoinla #thingstodoinlosangeles #losangeles #californiatravel #california #californialove #westcoast #adventuretravel