85+ Best & Fun Things to Do in LA (Los Angeles) in 2023
Last updated: May 13th, 2023
The best and most fun things to do in LA! From the top attractions to favorite local experiences, written by someone who’s a regular visitor.
As a Californian who visits the LA area at least once per year, what I love most about the city is that there’s always something new to do each time I visit.
It’s a destination that has endless spots to explore–whether it’s famous sights or those quirky and unique places all over the city.
I may not like the gridlock traffic (or drivers) sometimes, but it would be wrong to say that Los Angeles is overrated.
The city is a sprawling metropolis that has a little something for everyone, you just have to know where to look.
To get you brainstorming and excited for your next trip to Los Angeles, I put together a detailed Los Angeles guide full of first-hand knowledge and personal recommendations.
This Los Angeles bucket list draws on my numerous visits to the city over the past 20+ years. I lived in San Diego for five years, and my sister lived in Los Angeles at the same time, so I would visit her a lot.
And, as I mentioned above, we still visit at least once per year to see family and check out more things to do around the city since there are always new attractions popping up.
All this is to say that this is probably the most comprehensive guide you’ll find to the best things to do in Los Angeles, California on the internet.
And it’s actually written by someone who has a ton of first-hand experience with exploring the city, not AI or someone who has never visited themselves. A somewhat rare occurrence in this day and age. 🙂
Let’s dive in so you can enjoy your time in the City of Stars to the fullest!
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.
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Universal Studios Hollywood
One of the top things to experience in LA is Universal Studios Hollywood.
Universal Studios Hollywood not only offers up plenty of thrills for a fun family, solo, or couple’s day out, but it’s also very quintessential Los Angeles.
You can see Hogwarts from Harry Potter come to life here (and sip on butterbeer 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 at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and the Revenge of the Mummy Ride.
Although it’s another touristy spot in Los Angeles, I personally love visiting Universal Studios Hollywood at any time of year.
My most recent visit was during the holidays last year, and I was able to experience the popular Grinchmas show, complete with fake snow at the end.
Not to mention, sipping on a butterbeer at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter feels even more magical during the holidays.
That said, I’ve also visited during other seasons, and it has been just as fun.
You can grab your admission ticket ahead of time here so you can bypass the line.
Local tip: Download the Universal Studios App ahead of time for a full list of maps, wait times, and showtimes on your phone.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
The Walk of Fame is one of the top things to do in California and a must-see place in Los Angeles–you really can’t get more LA than Hollywood!
It’s boisterous and bustling and not for everyone, but it’s something you should experience at least once, even just for the photo ops.
I’ve been to the Hollywood Walk of Fame a few times now, and I always love the people watching while trying to find my favorite stars.
It might be touristy, but it’s one of the more fun (and free) things to do in Hollywood.
And it’s surprisingly 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 the last time I was there.
There are now more than 2,700 terrazzo and brass stars that line the famous Hollywood Boulevard, taking up 15 blocks. That’s a whole lot of famous people.
Local tip: 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. Also, try to avoid the people dressed up in costumes that are always walking along this area of Hollywood. They will take a photo with you and then demand quite a bit of money for it.
TCL Chinese Theatre
While hanging around the famous stars on Hollywood Boulevard, don’t forget to check out another popular sight on Hollywood Boulevard–the TCL Chinese Theatre (originally Grauman’s Chinese Theatre).
When the TCL Chinese Theatre 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 historic and looks beautiful. I’ve still only seen the theater from the outside, but it’s on my to-do list to one day watch a movie inside of it.
Even if you don’t have time to go inside, taking a photo outside this well-known sight is still worthwhile.
Madame Tussauds Hollywood
Similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum is one of the most popular Hollywood tourist attractions to experience.
The one in LA is 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.
Although to be honest, if you’ve been to other Madame Tussauds locations, it might not be as novel.
Madame Tussaud’s 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.
You may as well get up close and personal with famous people if you’re in Hollywood, right?! When I visited, my favorite experience was posing on top of the T-Birds’ card from Grease while singing Grease Lightning.
You can grab your admission ticket ahead of time here to avoid having to wait in line.
Feeling hungry after your time sightseeing in Hollywood? Read our guide to the best restaurants in Hollywood.
Among the best free things to do in the Los Angeles area is the Griffith Observatory–one of the most visited public observatories in the world!
The Griffith Observatory is also a great place to start a hike to the iconic Hollywood Sign.
Even if you’re not interested in the hike, it’s worthwhile to visit the Griffith Observatory for the views and the observatory itself.
It’s one of my favorite spots in LA and provides one of the best viewpoints looking out over the sprawling city from the south side of Mount Hollywood.
The first time I visited was the first time I realized just how beautiful of a city Los Angeles can be.
If you’ve ever seen James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause or La La Land, you’ll know that Griffith Observatory has featured in many Hollywood movies 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 Griffith Observatory just for the view, but if you’re interested in astronomy, you should visit the inside of the observatory too (especially since it’s free). It’s open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Inside, you can view exhibits, look through telescopes, and watch live shows at the planetarium. The only thing that costs money is parking and the Samuel Oschin Planetarium.
You can also see the Hollywood Sign from the Griffith Observatory, although it’s pretty small and far away.
Local tip: I highly recommend taking public transit or using a ride-share app to get to the observatory, especially if you’re visiting on the weekend.
Public transit up to the park and observatory couldn’t be easier. Just hop on LADOT’s Dash Observatory/Los Feliz bus for 50 cents. The bus runs every 20-25 minutes and conveniently picks up near Hollywood Boulevard.
If you want to drive, get there early because parking fills up fast!
For many who visit LA, Griffith Park is where you can see what’s beyond the Earth’s atmosphere at the famed Griffith Observatory. For others, it’s where you can hike to the top of the Hollywood Sign.
But there are so many other activities to do inside Griffith Park besides these two main attractions.
At more than 4,300 acres and five times the size of New York’s Central Park, Griffith Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States today.
It’s not uncommon to see several different events simultaneously while strolling through it on a given day.
One of the most popular things to do at the park is simply enjoying an early morning stroll on the many different trails.
First-time visitors can get directions to the starting points of different hiking trails at the Griffith Park Ranger Station near the main gate.
If you’re looking for a unique sight, head west off the main trail before ending your adventure near the Bronson Cave. The Bronson Cave was the famed “Bat Cave” in the 60s Batman television series.
Another unique Los Angeles attraction at Griffith Park is the Old LA Zoo. The Los Angeles Zoo was here before it was abandoned and changed locations to a different area of the park.
At the Old LA Zoo, you can walk through abandoned animal enclosures (where picnic benches have now been added) and reminisce on what used to be. It’s also a popular place for budding photographers.
Other popular things to do in Griffith Park include:
- LA Zoo & Botanical Gardens–the LA Zoo Lights are also definitely worth a visit in December. I went last year, and it was one of the coolest light installations I’ve seen in the city (and I’ve been to a lot).
- The Autry Museum of the American West
- Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum & Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn
- Fern Dell
- Bette Davis Picnic Area
- Wisdom Tree on the Cahuenga Peak Trail
- Amir’s Garden
- Griffith Park Train Rides–especially their Holiday Light Festival Train Ride. I went on this last year, and it was so much fun!
Have you even been to Los Angeles if you haven’t seen the Hollywood Sign?
The Hollywood Sign is one of the most famous Los Angeles landmarks and an attraction most people want to see up close when they visit LA.
A common misconception–that I also had 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 tell you that seeing the Hollywood Sign up close is an ordeal and will probably involve a sweaty workout.
This is because the best way to get up close is to hike to the Hollywood Sign.
You can tackle a few different trails to get to the sign, or a handful of viewpoints offer unobstructed views if you’re not big on hiking.
For more in-depth info on the Hollywood Sign, you can read our article on the easiest and best ways to get to the Hollywood Sign for more details.
Cruising the iconic 1.6-mile Sunset Strip 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 primarily 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.
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.
Tour Famous Movie Locations
Being the home of the film industry, many of LA’s famed landmarks have been the backgrounds in key movie and TV scenes over the years.
You may be surprised by the number of buildings, restaurants, and street corners that somehow feel familiar on your visit to LA.
Although there are plenty of tours you can hop on that will take you to some famous spots, it can be fun to do a self-guided tour without the crowds.
Plan your self-guided tour by researching all the LA movie locations that appeal to your cinematic experience, and go early!
You only need a car or a TAP card and a smartphone with Google Maps to get around on public transit.
Here are a few top movie locations in the city to get you started. For more, you can check out this article with a list of movie locations by decade.
Union Station is an iconic building in Los Angeles. It has been a set location in many movies, including the sci-fi thriller Blade Runner and The Dark Knight Rises.
As you walk inside Union Station, you’ll notice the building has an atmosphere that makes you feel like you’ve stepped onto a movie set. The furniture is seemingly from a different era.
Let’s not forget that Union Station is also LA’s main railway station, so you may end up here anyway if you plan to make a day trip.
Vacationers can ride on a southbound Amtrak train to experience the Orange County beach scene or go further south to visit San Diego.
Although I’ve mostly been to Union Station when I was getting off a train from San Diego, the last time I was in LA, I visited just to walk around and take in the architecture.
So, even if you don’t have a day trip planned, it can be a fun place to visit.
And it’s also very conveniently located to check out the nearby sights of downtown LA, such as Chinatown, El Pueblo, Little Tokyo, and Grand Park.
Many movies filmed in Los Angeles have this local food staple in at least one scene. It makes sense; a large donut on top of a small food stand is pretty memorable.
Randy’s Donuts is especially famous for its appearance in Mars Attack and the Iron Man series.
Movie watchers love the building’s unique look. Employees are used to the attention as visitors come daily to take photos in front of the business.
Venice Beach Boardwalk & Venice Beach
Walking the Venice Beach Boardwalk is one of the best activities in LA, especially if it’s your first time in the city.
I love Venice Beach because it’s an entirely different side to LA from what you might find in pretty much any other neighborhood.
There are also many fun, free things to do in Venice and tons of delicious healthy eateries.
The Venice Beach neighborhood is a mix of skateboarders, hippies, drum circles, local arts and crafts, hipster cafes, and a lot of people smoking weed. It’s the perfect place to take it all in and people-watch.
The first time I visited Venice, I was a freshman in college, and I just remember the many places offering easy access to medical marijuana cards. This was before weed was legalized in California.
It was a good introduction to the hippie vibes of the neighborhood.
I’ve been back to visit Venice Beach numerous times since and some of my favorite things to do include the following:
- Watching the impressive skateboarders do their thing at the skatepark
- Enjoying an impromptu dance performance
- Eating a healthy vegan lunch
- Buying local handicrafts at the pop-up outdoor markets
- Relaxing on Venice Beach
There are also beach volleyball courts along the three-mile stretch of sand and spots where you can rent surfboards, bodyboards, and skimboards on the beach.
One of those not-so-secret LA attractions anymore with its popularity on Instagram, the Venice Canals Historic District is still a fun spot to explore just a few minutes from Venice Beach.
The man-made canals were built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney and still attract many Los Angeles locals and visitors daily.
On a nice day, rent bikes and ride along the beautiful canals before heading to The Strand bike path for the best Los Angeles vibes.
Beverly Hills & Rodeo Drive
Head to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive for the polar opposite of Venice.
As you might already know, Beverly Hills (aka 90210) has been a historically upper-class city in Los Angeles for years.
That’s right, this area is actually its own incorporated city.
Rodeo Drive is where you’ll find expensive designer shops, such as Armani, Tiffany & Co, Versace, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Fendi.
In other words, it’s a great place to window shop.
Even though the stores are a little out of my price range, I always have more fun than I think I will simply walking along the two-mile Rodeo Drive.
Besides the luxury shops, you’ll find palm tree-lined streets, impeccably dressed locals, and tons of souped-up sports cars along Rodeo Drive.
My favorite place in Beverly Hills that meets my budget? Sprinkles Cupcakes! This is where you can try the best cupcakes of your life. I’m not even joking–they’re SO good.
If you’re wondering what else to see in Beverly Hills besides Rodeo Drive, other places to visit include Beverly Gardens Park, Greystone Mansion, and the Beverly Hills Sign.
Alternatively, one of the best things to do in Beverly Hills to get a good overview of the city is to hop on a tour. This segway tour is an excellent option to start with.
Santa Monica Pier & Santa Monica Beach
There are a lot of fun things to do in Santa Monica. But if you’re wondering what the #1 thing to do is, the Santa Monica Pier is by far this LA city’s most famous attraction.
The pier is over 100 years old and is the official endpoint of the famous and historic Route 66.
More than that, there are tons of things to do in things to do at the Santa Monica Pier.
Two of my favorites are taking in the stunning ocean views and riding the classic amusement park rides at Pacific Park.
At Pacific Park, you can choose from fast food eateries, fresh popcorn, an arcade, a rickety roller coaster, a giant Ferris wheel, and a merry-go-round that has been operating since 1922.
It’s a fun place to go for the whole family. It’s also a fun date night idea in Los Angeles.
Another one of my favorite experiences is enjoying the beauty and energy of the Santa Monica Pier at night.
However, before the sun goes down, take some time to also enjoy Santa Monica Beach, one of the most popular attractions near Los Angeles.
As the most famous beach in Los Angeles County, Santa Monica Beach has been bringing visitors to its beautiful shores for years.
Besides laying in the sand, I love hopping on the massive swings near the pier.
Santa Monica Farmers Market
Another one of the most popular Los Angeles attractions is the Santa Monica Farmers Market.
Unlike the more touristy Original Farmers Market, the Santa Monica Farmers Market is where you can enjoy the local community’s charm.
Locals spend hours purchasing homegrown fresh fruits and vegetables from this market. Many of those items will be the highlighted ingredients at top LA restaurants later in the day.
You can start your day with a tub of fresh fruit from one of the local farms or a sizzling breakfast burrito filled with chorizo, egg, and black truffles.
Also, the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market offers its fair share of celebrity sightings. You can spot many of your favorite TV or movie stars shopping at their favorite market stands.
The market’s configuration is a series of large walkways between each stall. You can stroll and shop without feeling other shoppers on top of you during the market’s hectic rush hours.
Although Silver Lake tends to get more attention these days, nearby Echo Park has become a trendy neighborhood in recent years.
The neighborhood overflows with colorful street murals, fun bars, vegan eateries, indie live music venues, and a bustling nightlife scene.
This is a great place to start if you’re looking for a more local perspective of Los Angeles.
There are many things to do in Echo Park, so you should give yourself at least an afternoon to explore the neighborhood.
One of the best family activities in Los Angeles (or a fun date) is to rent a paddleboat at Echo Park Lake.
Paddling around Echo Park Lake is one of the best things to do in the Los Angeles area on a nice day.
Or, if you don’t want to get on the water, there’s also a nice path that goes around Echo Park Lake so you can still soak up the beautiful lakeside setting.
Once you’re done with the lake, you can choose one of the following activities to explore more of Echo Park:
- Discover the colorful murals around the neighborhood
- Visit the Echo Park Time Travel Mart
- Grab a coffee from Woodcat Coffee Bar
- Peruse the books at Stories Books & Cafe
- Explore Elysian Park
- See the Victorian homes in Angelino Heights
- Enjoy a live show at the Echo & Echoplex
- Catch a baseball game at Dodger Stadium
I love how LA is so multicultural, and this neighborhood is the 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.
There are plenty of things to do in Little Tokyo, and spending an afternoon here will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Japan.
There’s a lot to love about this cultural neighborhood.
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.
It’s also a great place to try something new. The last time I was there, I went to Chinchikurin and tried Japanese okonomiyaki (a savory pancake)–it was delicious!
Lastly, you won’t want to miss singing your heart out at MAX Karaoke Studio in the evening.
Japanese American National Museum
Dedicated to sharing Japanese American history and culture, the Japanese American National Museum goes through over 130 years of Japanese American history.
From home movies made from the 1920s to the 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.
You can count on a city like Los Angeles for quality live theater. There are many theaters and performing arts centers to watch a play or musical.
Some top LA locations include the Geffen Playhouse and the Los Angeles Theatre Center, which produce challenging new plays.
If you’re looking for the classics, head to the Pantages Theater for Broadway shows.
Tickets sell out fast, so be sure to purchase them in advance!
Exposition Park is a vast 160-acre urban park in the city 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.
California Science Center
Located in Exposition Park, the California Science Center is an interactive museum and a great option if you’re looking for free things to do in Los Angeles.
The fun exhibits teach you about human inventions, innovations, and the life sciences. You can also learn all bout the US space shuttle program here, including the retired space shuttle, The Endeavor.
If you’re looking for educational kids’ activities in LA, and you don’t want to spend the ticket price at the Natural History Museum, the California Science Center is a popular museum with the young ones.
Local tip: If you’re looking for more free museums in LA, check when the free museum days are in the city. You can find the complete list here.
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 LA.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located in downtown LA and is part of the Los Angeles Music Center Complex.
At the concert hall, you can see a performance by the talented Los Angeles Philharmonic in the winter or simply take a ton of photos from the outside.
One feature that I love about the Walt Disney Concert Hall is the free self-guided tours they offer every day.
I did this last year while I was staying in downtown LA and it was such a cool way to learn more about the history of the building.
It also allowed me to take my time walking through one of the most impressive architectural landmarks in Los Angeles.
All you need is a phone and headphones to do the tour, and then just make sure to check in for the tour in the lobby.
Local tip: Even if you take a tour of the building, you won’t be able to see the auditorium where live shows happen unless you buy a ticket to one of them because of rehearsal schedules.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
See where all the movie magic happens at Warner Bros. Studio. A studio tour is one of the best things to do in Burbank in the San Fernando Valley.
Unlike Universal Studios, which is part amusement park and part 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 and give you a good glimpse of the movie business, TV and movie sets, backlots and sound stages, and memorabilia.
Grab your tickets ahead of time for the original studio tour here.
And Warner Bros. isn’t the only place where you can take a studio tour. There’s also a Paramount Pictures Studio Tour, a Universal Studios tour, and more!
A 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 is one of the top 10 live music venues in the US.
The Hollywood Bowl is where you’ll see LA entertainment at its finest, and seeing a show here is a fun Los Angeles experience.
There’s 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 at the Hollywood Bowl that interests you.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) & Urban Light
Considered to be one of the best museums in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the Western US and attracts around a million visitors annually.
Located on Museum Row, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was designed by Peter Zumthor and houses over 150,000 pieces of art ranging from ancient times to the present day. The museum also regularly hosts a film and concert series.
Local tip: Don’t miss Chris Burden’s Urban Light, LACMA’s most Instagram famous art installation with 202 vintage street lights.
La Brea Tar Pits & Museum
A visit to the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum is one of the best things to do in Los Angeles with kids.
The La Brea Tar Pits is a paleontological site where you can see the remains of saber-toothed tigers, dire wolves, and more.
Fifty thousand years ago, animals roaming the LA area became trapped in bubbling tar. The adjoining museum exhibits Ice Age artifacts recovered from the pits.
You can view the La Brea Tar Pits from the outside for free. Admission to the La Brea Tar Pits museum is approximately $15 for adults, with discount rates for children, college students, and seniors (the price depends on the time of the season).
You can also schedule personal tours of the facility that grants access to the fossil lab, lake pit, and observational pits.
The Getty Center
The Getty Center is a good thing to do in LA for anyone interested in art and architecture, and it’s also one of the more interesting things to do near UCLA.
Take some time while there to enjoy European and American art from Medieval times to the present.
You can stroll through the elaborate gardens, including a cactus garden and a sculpture garden.
And make sure to admire the famous architecture of the Getty Center with a free 45-minute architecture tour.
The Getty Center also provides some of the best views in Los Angeles from the perch of the Santa Monica Mountains, and there are a few 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 an excellent place to start.
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 is a massive and ornate sight to behold.
At the Villa, the scenery will transport you from Southern California to the ancient world of Greece and Rome while you walk through an elaborate and well-manicured property.
44,000 Etruscan, Greek, and Roman antiquities are in the collection 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.
Nestled between lavish Beverly Hills and trendy West Hollywood, the famous Melrose Avenue offers a classic LA experience.
From Beverly Blvd to Santa Monica Blvd, Melrose is a treasure trove of vintage shops.
There’s also a plethora of dining options on Melrose. From vegan breakfasts to patio lunches and nice dinners, you can taste a good mix of the Los Angeles food scene here.
And, if you’re looking for something to do in Los Angeles at night, head to the Melrose Rooftop Theater in the summer to catch a movie.
This rooftop bar offers happy hour drink specials before showing a classic film on the big screen.
The Bradbury Building is one of the most beautifully designed buildings in LA, and that’s saying something with the city’s fondness for unique architecture.
If you’re wondering what to do in downtown LA and are into design, photography, or simply cool historic buildings, don’t miss this building.
Like 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.
The Bradbury Building is also the oldest commercial building still standing in central LA.
I visited the Bradbury Building the last time I was in LA. It’s a beautiful spot to take a break from the sometimes chaotic nature of downtown LA. Just note that guests are only able to access the ground level.
Local 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. Although I loved walking around the ground floor on my own, I wish I’d done this while visiting to learn more about the history of the building.
The Grammy Museum
If you’re a music-lover looking for fun museums in LA, don’t miss out on the Grammy Museum near the Staples Center.
The museum features exhibits 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.
Also, note that it’s closed on Tuesdays (something I didn’t realize the last time I tried to visit).
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
It might sound creepy to visit a cemetery during a trip to LA, but the 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 many famous stars, including Johnny Ramone, whose statue plays guitar for eternity over his gravestone.
The cemetery is 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 of 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 best non-touristy things to do in the city and a fun thing to do in Hollywood at night.
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 Last 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.
On my last visit to LA, I was staying around the corner from it, so, of course, I had to visit.
It was the perfect cozy escape from the unusually cold winter weather.
And honestly, The Last Bookstore was even cooler than I thought it would be with its wide selection of books, numerous book-themed art installations, and maze-like interior.
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is an excellent place in Los Angeles to spend a day.
This impressively-designed building is also home to the Geffen Theatre, and you can catch a picturesque view of the LA skyline from the building’s terrace level.
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures houses over 13 million movie artifacts, including costumes, movie posters, props, screenplays, and pre-production set design drawings from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Highlights in the permanent collection include the robe from The Big Lebowski and Dorothy’s ruby slippers.
You can also find several temporary exhibits that focus on celebrating the movie business and two state-of-the-art theaters that showcase film classics to all paid guests.
Music Box Steps
If you’re looking for a unique and weird thing to do in the Los Angeles area, take a nostalgic walk up the “Music Box” steps from the classic Laurel and Hardy movie.
Located in LA’s Silver Lake neighborhood, this staircase connects Vendrome Street (at the base of the hill) to Descanso Drive (at the top).
The 133 steps became famous in the comedy duo’s movie, The Music Box, where Laurel and Hardy attempt to deliver a piano to a home at the top of this long flight of stairs.
The movie went on to win the first Academy Award for Best Live Action Short in 1932. A commemorative plaque sits at the staircase’s lower steps.
Don’t be surprised if you meet other Laurel and Hardy fans preparing to take that epic uphill climb while you’re there!
Runyon Canyon Park
For such an urban area, there’s a surprising amount of Los Angeles nature to explore.
Take Runyon Canyon Park, for example. This 160-acre park in the Hollywood Hills is a popular hiking and running spot for locals.
One of the hikes to the Hollywood Sign starts from here, but more than that, the hikes at this park 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 hikes to tackle at this Hollywood Hills park; most are a few miles roundtrip with various elevations–perfect for an outdoorsy start to your day.
Local tip: There isn’t much shade at Runyon Canyon, so bring a hat, sunscreen, and plenty of water on your hike.
If you’re fond of botanical gardens, you don’t want to miss out on the 150-acre Descanso Gardens when you visit 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 also offer unique things for kids.
One unique event at Descanso that I’d highly recommend during the holidays and one that I went to last year is the Enchanted Forest of Light.
It’s full of colorful and interactive light installations that are perfect for a date night or family outing.
Note: Admission to the Descanso Gardens is $9 (or $6 for students or seniors, $4 for children 5-12).
The Japanese Garden
If you’re looking for a peaceful moment in usually-busy LA, head 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.
It’s the ideal place to take a break from the city and maybe bring a good book to read on a nice day.
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.
It’s one of the best tours in Los Angeles (rated the #1 bike tour in LA!).
It covers 32 miles of Los Angeles adventures and history, from West Hollywood to Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina Del Rey.
Begin your day hob-knobbing with celebrities in Beverly Hills and end up relaxing on Venice Beach or seeing the boats at Marina Del Rey.
Electric bikes are also available if you don’t want to work up too much of a sweat.
Pacific Coast Highway
One of the top adventures to do in LA is road-tripping on the Pacific Coast Highway. Who doesn’t love driving the coastline on a sunny SoCal day?
The PCH runs through some of Southern California’s most iconic beach cities.
Your first stop should be the Santa Monica Pier (mentioned above), which opened in 1909.
Santa Monica is a popular beach destination for LA residents, and where you can find the final landmark on Route 66. The benches along the boardwalk are perfect for people-watching on a lazy afternoon.
The next stop I’d recommend on a PCH road trip is Venice Beach (also mentioned above), which some describe as Santa Monica’s older punk rock brother.
Park your car and rent a bike for the day. Ride on the boardwalk and periodically stop to watch some great street performers.
In addition to the traditional street performers, Muscle Beach’s outdoor workout area is crawling with world-class weightlifters. You might also spot surfers trying to catch waves on the mellow beach.
Don’t forget to enjoy oysters and other seafood delicacies at small cafes found along the Venice Beach boardwalk.
There are numerous stops you could make along the southern portion of the PCH. If you’re looking for a complete list, read my guide to doing a Pacific Coast Highway road trip.
I’ve also written about the best places to stay and eat along the Pacific Coast Highway because it’s a road trip I’ve taken many times in my 28+ years of living in California.
Zuma Beach is a popular beach in Malibu and slightly less touristy than Santa Monica Beach.
This beach is mainly known for its great surfing and long pristine stretches of sand, perfect for sunbathing and chilling out for an afternoon.
If you go in the winter, you might even spot a grey whale making its annual migration from the beach (so it’s good to bring binoculars).
Another good aspect of Zuma Beach is the amount of parking. There are eight parking lots with around 2,000 parking spaces.
Aside from Zuma, there are lots of Malibu beaches worth checking out. Point Dume State Beach, which sits on the Northern side of Malibu Bay, is another fantastic spot to whale watch.
And El Matador, along the Pacific Coast Highway, offers stunning cliffside views and pristine waters.
Local 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.
Looking to make a day of it in Malibu? Read our guide to the best things to do in Malibu.
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 still at the center today.
This monumental work of Outsider Art is the world’s largest single construction created by one individual.
Sabato Rodia was an Italian immigrant and a construction worker.
He built the towers using steel rebar, glass, tile, and porcelain, adorning the outside with found objects like scrap metal and glass bottles.
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.
Barnsdall Art Park & Barnsdall Gallery Theatre
A great date night idea in Los Angeles is an evening at the Barnsdall Art Park & Barnsdall Gallery Theatre.
Off the corner of Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard in East Hollywood, Barnsdall Art Park is the community’s lone outdoor venue.
The park is home to several small museums and the famous Hollyhock House. The Hollyhock House is LA’s first commission work by the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Wright’s futuristic design incorporates the hollyhock flower, hence that house’s name.
The Barnsdall family donated the home and surrounding property to the city of Los Angeles in 1927.
The back lawn offers the perfect panoramic view of the LA skyline at night.
During the summer, exhibitions at the parks galleries and plays at the theater give local artists a platform to promote their work.
Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market is a food emporium that brings different cultures and cuisines together in one location.
The 300,000-square-foot retail marketplace houses forty different stalls. Plus, Grand Central Market hosts a weekly bazaar and other cultural events each month.
This staple of the Los Angeles food scene has been on the ground floor of the Homer Laughlin Building for over a hundred years.
Stop by Grand Central Market to grab lunch or shop for premium grocery items like fine cheeses or specialized spices.
This is another sight that I went to a lot last time I was in LA since I was staying just a couple of blocks away.
The food can definitely be on the pricier side for the portions, depending on where you go, but everything I had was delicious.
I also love how quiet it is in the mornings and how the buzzing atmosphere ramps up during the lunch rush. There’s also a cool Kobe mural in the market that’s worth checking out.
Los Angeles Food Tour
There are many famous places to eat in LA, so taking a Los Angeles food tour to get a “taste” of a few of them is a great introduction.
One tour I recommend is the Downtown Los Angeles Food Tour, an intimate tour of local cuisine in Downtown LA that takes you through some of the top emerging restaurants and bakeries.
Another option is the West Hollywood Food Tour, which visits the five most popular West Hollywood eateries. Plus, you’ll get tips to avoid local tourist traps.
Or, check out the Little Tokyo and LA Arts District Food Tour to visit one of the booming food locations in Los Angeles and sample food from markets, shops, and food stands.
Food tours are great because you can really immerse yourself in the neighborhood they’re in.
Not to mention, get a first-hand look at the local food cuisine, and take the guesswork away from new visitors to LA.
It’s also a great thing to do alone in LA because it comes with built-in dining companions!
Angeles National Forest
Only 30 minutes from downtown Los Angeles (without too much traffic), 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 driving too far outside LA.
There are 650,000 acres to explore in the forest, so you can bet there are plenty of hiking opportunities–from easy hikes to more challenging all-day adventures.
If you’re looking for romantic things to do in Los Angeles, spend a couple of days on Catalina Island southwest of LA.
Begin your adventure with a short 45-minute boat ride from the Long Beach pier. The water is so blue that you’ll feel like you’re heading to the Greek Isles.
Once you arrive, there’s so much to see on Catalina Island.
You could rent a golf cart and travel to the island’s famed Botanical Gardens.
Or at Descanso Beach Club, you can rent a cabana near the shoreline for the day, take one of their aerial zipline courses, or go snorkeling near the marina.
And a Catalina Island evening wouldn’t be complete without dining at a beachfront restaurant. Avalon Grill is a good option that offers an upscale menu.
I’ve been to Catalina Island twice so far–once for a solo day trip to explore Avalon and once to backpack the Trans-Catalina Trail over five days.
As you can probably imagine, the two trips were very different from each other, but it gives you a good idea of the wide variety of activities you can do on the island.
If you’re looking for more recommendations, check out my guides to Catalina Island hiking, the best beaches on Catalina Island, and camping at Parsons Landing.
Ready for more island adventures in California? Read our guide to the best California islands to visit.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
If you’re in the city on the second Sunday of the month, shop for unique treasures at the 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.
Just note that there’s an admission price to get into the flea market, starting at $12 per person.
Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags Magic Mountain is a highly-popular amusement park in the LA suburb of Valencia, featuring 19 world-class roller coasters and over 100 different rides.
Most notably, the popular Kingda Ka is one of the world’s tallest roller coasters.
The best day to visit the theme park is a weekday to avoid crowds.
It’s also best to work your way from the back to the front of Six Flags for shorter lines since most people choose rides closer to the front entrance when they enter.
Six Flags is a great summer attraction for the entire family. Admission to this amusement park starts at $64.99 if you buy online.
If you’re looking for an alternative art museum to LACMA that isn’t quite as crowded, check out The Broad.
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 world’s largest postwar and contemporary art collections.
Local tip: Even though it’s a free museum, you still need to book a reservation ahead of time online. And any additional exhibits usually cost money and need a separate reservation. This is something I didn’t realize last time I visited, so although I got to see the impressive free galleries, I missed out on Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms.
LA Arts District
The LA Arts District is a great spot to spend a day or evening.
West of Little Tokyo and east of the Los Angeles River, numerous former industrial warehouses have been transformed into art studios and covered with street art and graffiti.
The neighborhood is full of art galleries and museums showing fun exhibits and cutting-edge contemporary art.
You can find influential institutions like Hauser & Worth and The Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles alongside smaller, artist-run spaces.
Head to the Arts District Co-op to take home some handmade pieces from local, independent vendors.
Alongside the street art, micro-breweries, trendy eateries, and gastro-pubs have popped up all over the neighborhood.
Grab a drink or a bite after an afternoon of browsing contemporary and modern art and street art.
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 bell ringing, visit on July 4th, August 15th (for the National Liberation Day of South Korea), September 17th (commemorating Korean Constitution Week), New Year’s Eve, January 13th, or the 1st Saturday of every month at 11:30 am.
Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden is a rich historical resource still owned by the Huntington family.
Make sure to bring your walking shoes for your day at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden.
It’s a two-mile trail around the 96,000-square-foot San Marino property.
The Huntington Library is home to the world’s largest collection of British medieval manuscripts, unpublished poetry, rare photographs, and copies of classic books.
The Huntington Family art collection includes European art from the 15th-early 20th Century and American artwork from colonial times to the present day.
And the perfectly manicured garden features 27,000 living plants!
Admission to The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden is $25-$29, depending on if you’re visiting during the week or weekend, but parking is at least free.
Local tip: Weekend and Monday holiday visits require an online reservation ahead of time. Regular weekday reservations aren’t required but are still recommended.
Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
If you want to enjoy the outdoors and go somewhere known for its breathtaking views, head to Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.
This urban park is a beautiful place in Los Angeles and offers free exhibits about local conservation and restoration efforts in the area, hiking trails, and great views of downtown LA.
Note: Parking is $2 at Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.
Looking for fun places to eat in Los Angeles? LA’s taco truck scene began as a local phenomenon and has since become a staple dining option.
Although San Diego also has some great options for Mexican food, LA’s taco trucks are right up there as the best places to try authentic Mexican food in California.
These are some of the best taco trucks in Los Angeles to get you started:
- Leo’s Taco Truck (1515 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019, 5525 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028, 2400 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006, and 415 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026)
- Tacos Los Carnalillos Taco Truck (467 W Vernon Ave #451, Los Angeles, CA 90037)
- Birrieria Los Gonzalez (2524 Maple Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90011)
- El Chato Taco Truck (5300 W Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036)
- Tacos Tamix Taco Truck (1998-1982 S Hoover St, Los Angeles, CA 90007)
- Taco Zone Truck (2064 Montana St, Los Angeles, CA 90026)
Angel’s Flight Railway
Right in the heart of Downtown L.A., you’ll find the ornate, bright orange archway marking the entrance to the Angel’s Flight Railway, a historic funicular railway.
A funicular is essentially a cable car that runs up and down a steep slope.
This particular funicular opened in 1901 and ran between Hill Street and Olive Street until 1969. It’s operated in its current Bunker Hill location since 1996, using the original, bright orange 1901 cars.
This historic landmark has made numerous film and television appearances, from the original Perry Mason to La La Land, to The Muppets.
You can take a ride on this little piece of history for just $1 every day between 6:45 am and 10 pm.
One of the best things to do near Universal Studios Hollywood is exploring Universal CityWalk.
Universal CityWalk is an outdoor playground for those interested in shopping and various dining options.
There’s also an 18-screen movie theater, including IMAX dual 4K laser projection and an indoor skydiving spot.
It’s one of my favorite places to hang out and grab food and drinks before or after a visit to Universal Studios.
There’s always fun energy at Universal CityWalk. It’s a great spot to find a happy hour, people watch, or simply walk around and enjoy the atmosphere.
Los Angeles Zoo
Founded in 1966, the Los Angeles Zoo is a 133-acre complex that features 270 different animal species and over 800 different plant species in the gardens.
One of the top exhibits at the zoo is the California Condors, a species that almost became extinct in California.
Since 1982, the LA Zoo has worked to bring the California Condor population up and out of near extinction (although they’re still considered an endangered species).
Besides the usual zoo attractions and exhibits, you can experience behind-the-scenes tours with animals at the LA Zoo, and the young ones can attend zoo camp.
This is one of the best things to do in the Los Angeles area with kids because the zoo offers so many interactive experiences for children.
For adults, check out Roaring Nights in the summer to party and dance the night away at the zoo.
During the holidays, don’t miss the LA Zoo Lights. I went to it last year and it’s hands-down the best light installation event you’ll find in LA in the winter.
Whether you’re looking for a good place for a shopping spree or you just want to window shop, look no further than The Grove.
The Grove is a one-stop shop where you’ll find some of the 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, annual fashion shows, and a summer concert series every year.
Los Angeles City Hall & LA Observation Deck
At the top of LA City Hall, the LA Observation Deck is one of the best things to do in the Los Angeles area for free and provides some of the city’s best views.
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 an excellent excuse to walk through the historic Los Angeles City Hall.
I visited the Observation Deck last time I was in LA, and it ended up being one of my favorite experiences from that trip.
You just have to go through a metal detector and check in at the front desk. They’ll then give you directions on how to take the two elevators up to the top.
I went on a weekday by myself, and I was one of the only people there with some of the best views of downtwon LA and beyond.
If you’re looking for a night of creepy ghost stories, go on a ghost tour in Los Angeles.
The Haunted Hollywood Tour visits glamorous haunted Hollywood locations. During it, you’ll see local crime, accident, and trauma sites that garnered nationwide headlines.
Another option in Hollywood is the Haunted Hollywood Walking Tour, which visits hotels, theaters, and other haunted landmarks along the boulevard.
Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk
The Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk used to happen every second Thursday of each month and was one of the best free events in Los Angeles, but it has changed since 2020.
These days, the downloadable guide is available at all times and allows you to explore the art scene in DTLA on your own schedule every day of the week, as long as it’s during business hours.
It’s a great free way to check out the local art scene and some of the top galleries in the area.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles
El Pueblo de Los Angeles is 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 the short documentary above for more information on the history of El Pueblo de Los Angeles and its importance to LA as a city.
I visited El Pueblo last year and spent an afternoon taking in the history of the area–there was a lot to see!
Here are a few of my favorite things that I did in the neighborhood (all of which were free):
- Avila Adobe
- Olvera Street shopping
- Plaza Firehouse
- Italian American Museum of Los Angeles–I especially loved their exhibit on the history of Pinocchio
- Pico House
- Sepulveda House
- Our Lady Queen of Angels Church
- La Plaza de Cultura y Artes–this is probably the most informative museum in the area, and I like that it includes art and history in one museum.
- America Tropical Interpretive Center
- Chinese American Museum Los Angeles–I didn’t get to visit this museum since it was closed the day I went, but it’s on my list for next time.
Bob Baker Marionette Theater
A performance at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater is a fun activity in LA for families.
The longest-running live puppet show in the United States, Bob Baker Marionette Theater’s mission is to educate and celebrate life’s little things.
In “Hooray LA!”, the legendary puppeteer performers bring the city’s famous people and places to life.
The production features over a dozen hand-crafted marionettes that take you from the 1933 Earthquake to today’s headlines.
Malibu Creek State Park
Malibu Creek State Park is a sprawling 8,215-acre green space that’s the perfect spot to get away from the city, just 25 miles away from downtown Los Angeles.
Malibu Creek State Park is a prime hiking destination with multiple trails through the Santa Monica Mountains.
One of the most popular hikes at the park is the Rock Pool and Century Lake Trail, which takes you past the old M*A*S*H TV site and the Planet of the Apes wall.
For a complete list of our favorite hikes at this park and Malibu as a whole, read our guide to the best Malibu hikes.
The Strand Bike Path
If you’re looking for outdoorsy and cheap things to do in the Los Angeles area, consider a bike ride on the Strand Bike Path.
The 40-mile Strand Bike Path travels through Kings Harbor in Redondo Beach and begins at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades.
You can stop at the Santa Monica Pier to have lunch before heading south to Manhattan Beach. Afterward, ride to Redondo Beach for dinner near King Harbor.
Local tip: The Strand Bike Path is especially busy during summer weekends, so it’s better to plan for a weekday ride whenever possible.
Museum of Tolerance
Another essential museum in Los Angeles, the Museum of Tolerance tackles the heavy topics of racism and prejudice worldwide.
There’s a strong focus on the Holocaust at this museum as well, including the life of Anne Frank.
Additionally, the museum talks about the struggles of Latino families in California and general issues of intolerance.
Battleship Iowa Museum
Visiting LA’s iconic landmark, the Battleship Iowa Museum at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, is a fun day out for history buffs.
The USS Iowa participated in World War II, the Korean War, and the Cold War.
It’s best known as the “Battleship of President” as it was the main transportation for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s trip across the Atlantic during WWII.
The battleship served the United States for 50 years before decommissioning in 1990.
Guests can track the same footsteps as the sailors who served on the USS Iowa in guided behind-the-scenes tours.
Each tour guide is well-versed in the battleship’s rich history and will show several off-limit locations on the boat.
Ticket prices range from about $25.95 for adults to $17.95 for kids, with discounts for seniors and military members.
The proceeds help support local education, veterans, and community programs associated with the Battleship Iowa Museum.
If you’re already making the trek to San Pedro, make a day of it with our guide to the best things to do in Long Beach, which is right next door.
Pink’s Hot Dogs
The iconic Pink’s Hot Dogs has been serving up delicious dogs in Hollywood since 1939.
Stop by any time of the day or night (it’s open until 2 am on weekends for the late-night crowd) and sample one of their creatively-topped menu items.
Chomp into a Martha Stewart Dog topped with bacon, sauteed onions, mushrooms, and nacho cheese, or a Lord of the Rings Dog–aptly named for its onion rings and BBQ sauce embellishments.
Pink’s Hot Dogs appears in numerous movies, TV shows, and travel books and has a long list of celebrity patrons.
Note: As of May 2023, the Holyland Exhibition is closed for restorations until further notice. It will reopen in time for the museum’s 100th anniversary in 2024. Check the website for updates.
Any Indiana Jones fans here?
The Holyland Exhibition is a small museum filled with artifacts 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 should be on your list of interesting things to do in LA.
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 just outside the city, Will Rogers State Historic Park offers various activities to enjoy.
Take a tour of the original ranch from Thursday-Sunday or tackle one of the moderate two-mile hikes on the property.
Other options for things to do include 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.
Note: Parking is $12 at Will Rogers State Historic Park.
Looking for more state parks to visit? Find our complete list of California State Parks here.
Live Taping of a TV Show
Going to a live TV show taping is one of those quintessential rites of passage 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 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 should definitely come hungry.
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, one of the US’s top five automobile museums.
The museum showcases over 250 American and European cars from 1898 to 1997.
Other museum features include collections of mechanical musical instruments and antique furniture.
Another popular attraction in Hollywood is the Dolby Theatre (formerly known as Kodak Theatre), where the Academy Awards take place each year.
Besides the Academy Awards, other events happen at the Dolby Theatre year-round, from music award shows to concerts and even the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
If you 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.
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 a love letter to the act of storytelling.
Visit the museum for an overall unique experience and to learn a plethora of random facts.
This is admittedly one of those more hipster things to do in the city, but still worth a visit.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
One of the best parts about this aquarium is that admission is free (just note that there’s a recommended donation of $5 for adults and $1 for children).
Although not as well known and popular as the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is one of the most popular things to do with kids in LA, or for any marine life enthusiast.
At the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, you’ll find the world’s largest concentration of Southern California marine life.
The aquarium is another Frank Gehry-designed building located in a stunning part of LA, next to Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park.
It’s easily one of the best free things to do in Southern California for the whole family.
The Hollywood Museum
One of those very Hollywood things to do is to head to The Hollywood Museum for a vast 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, 10,000 authentic Hollywood treasures call this museum home.
Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn
Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn is a model train museum in Griffith Park, just down the road from the zoo on Zoo Drive.
From the outside, this little museum looks like a quaint, old-fashioned barn. The building is a replica of an identical one that stood in the backyard of Disney’s childhood home.
Inside, you can view the famed animator’s collection of train memorabilia.
One of the best things to do on a Sunday in Los Angeles is Smorgasburg LA, which offers an array of delicious foods at its location at the edge of the Arts District.
This sprawling, open-air food market is the largest in the country and operates year-round.
There’s no admission fee, so you can wander around, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells.
Find every type of cuisine you can dream of in a fun, carnival-like atmosphere.
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.
Over two decades, it transformed from a traditional 1940s house 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 an excellent way to spend an hour in the city.
Note: It’s only open on Saturdays from 1 – 3 pm, and reservations are recommended.
Galco’s Soda Pop Stop
One of those secret places in Los Angeles that’s 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!
The store has been family-owned and operated for over 100 years. It’s the perfect spot to stop for a refreshing soda pop on a hot day.
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 for 66 miles and curves around the San Gabriel Mountains’ rocky landscapes, reaching 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.
The road is usually closed in winter due to snowfall 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.
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 is still a working restaurant in Baldwin Park.
Eaton Canyon Falls
If you’re craving some outdoor time during your Los Angeles vacation, the Eaton Canyon Falls Trail is an easy, four-mile hike just outside of Pasadena.
The trail takes you to Eaton Canyon Falls, a gorgeous, 40-foot waterfall that empties into a small pool. On warm days, you can even wade in the refreshing waters.
This hike is a popular local experience in LA, so expect to run into other hikers if you’re there on the weekend.
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 terrain and good views.
Most hikes start from Trippet Ranch, and I recommend giving 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.
Note: Dogs aren’t allowed on any trails at Topanga State Park, and parking is $10.
All-You-Can-Eat Korean BBQ
With a decent-sized Korean population in LA, sampling Korean cuisine is an excellent thing to do when you visit 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 city’s most popular Korean BBQ experience.
Other Things to Do in LA (Honorable Mentions)
- Admire the mid-20th-century architecture at the Eames House.
- Catch a flick at the Electric Dusk Drive-In.
- Go to a midnight showing of The Room–a local and fun thing to do in LA at night.
- Enjoy a First Friday on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
- Bar hop in Highland Park.
- Go to a baseball game at Dodger Stadium.
- Standup paddleboard in Marina del Rey.
- Shop for vinyl records at Freakbeat Records or Amoeba Music.
- Laugh out loud at a comedy show at The Hollywood Improv, The Comedy Store, or Laugh Factory.
- Rollerskate at Moonlight Rolleryway.
- Watch the sunset at Hermosa Beach.
- Explore Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, Ascot Hills Park, or Franklin Canyon Park.
- Have a picnic with a view at Hermosa Natural Park.
- Wander the 127 acres of flora at the LA Arboretum.
- Marvel at the Natural History Museum, larger than all the other Natural History museums in the Western US.
- Visit the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.
- Take the kids to Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.
- Make a day trip to Disneyland and the Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim.
- Hike at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park.
- See the California poppies in bloom at Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve.
- Visit Hsi Lai Temple, one of the West’s largest Buddhist temples.
- See how the stars live on a Celebrity Homes Tour.
- Take a mini-meditation retreat for an afternoon at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine.
- Do as the locals do, and get a taste of the weekend brunch scene in LA.
- Go for a hike in sprawling Temescal Gateway Park.
- Dine at a celebrity-owned restaurant, like Ryan Gosling’s Tagine or Robert DeNiro’s famed Nobu.
- Dabble in the magical arts at the Magic Castle, a private magician’s club offering classes to the public.
- Investigate LA’s Underground Tunnels— but beware! They technically aren’t open to the public.
- Check out the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection.
- Spend a day lounging in the sun at Manhattan Beach.
- Walk around LA’s Chinatown neighborhood.
- Admire the facade of the Ennis House, designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
- Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art–another free museum for which you should make reservations ahead of time.
- Ride the Angel’s Flight Railway–one of those quirky things to do in the city that I actually loved experiencing (plus, it saves you from having to walk up a steep hill).
- Explore the sprawling Grand Park.
- Watch a performance at the Music Center.
- Appreciate the architecture inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on W Temple St.
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9 thoughts on “85+ Best & Fun Things to Do in LA (Los Angeles) in 2023”
Love it! thank you for taking your time to share your experience with us,
Very inspiring list. This makes me want to get my super high heels on, fake *brand name* bag and start being all “LAish”
Thanks, Rebecca! Surprisingly it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it to be with the shallow mentality last time I was there. Perhaps I just hung out in the right places though!
This is such a great guide! Going back to LA in January so definitely taking this list along with me. Already planning on Hollywood Forever and the Getty Villa.
Thanks Chelsea! Yay, hopefully you’ll be able to get some unique ideas on what to do with your time in the city. Hollywood Forever & Getty Villa are great places to start with!
Great list! I lived in LA and hated living there, but it is a fun place to visit since you don’t have to deal with the traffic every single day 🙂 Lots of great food & wine to be enjoyed, and Griffith Park is awesome. I’ll have to check out some of the breweries you’ve listed here the next time I visit. And you’re right: there is always something new & exciting in LA!
Thanks Marlynn! I would have to agree with you, I love visiting L.A. but I’m not sure if I would live there myself. The foodie & wine scene is something I haven’t checked out so much in the city yet, I’ll have to make that a priority next time I’m in town.
I’ve lived here my whole life and have never done many of these things…that’s a shame! I need to get on that for 2016!
I think that’s the great thing about L.A. though, there’s always something to do! Even if you’ve liver there for ages. This is as much a list for myself too when I come back to visit, goals for 2016 to be sure.