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

things to do in Los Angeles

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 spent 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. It's a city where you would find it hard to be bored, there's a ton 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 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 tourist 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 a list of 125 things to do in LA. Enjoy your time with the stars!

Related: Where to Stay in Los Angeles

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+ Things to Do in Los Angeles, California

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

things to do in Hollywood, Los Angeles

Top Things to do in LA

1. Universal Studios Hollywood (grab your admission ticket online here)

2. Hollywood Walk of Fame  + TCL Chinese Theatre (it might be touristy but one of the most fun things to do in Hollywood is taking your picture with your favorite star)

3. Getty Center

4. Venice Beach Boardwalk

5. Beverly Hills & Rodeo Drive

6. Madame Tussauds Hollywood (grab your admission ticket online here)

7. Exposition Park

8. Dolby Theatre

9. Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall - cheap things to do in la

10. Universal CityWalk

11. Santa Monica Pier (if you're wondering what to do in Santa Monica, the pier is a good place to start)

12. The Japanese Garden

13. Hollywood Sign (one of the most famous Los Angeles landmarks!)

14. Sunset Boulevard

15. Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens (one of the best things to do in Los Angeles with kids)

16. The Grove (for shopping)

17. Griffith Observatory

los angeles at night - Griffith Observatory
The view from Griffith Observatory at night.

18. Little Tokyo

19. Warner Bros. Studio

20. The Getty Villa

Unique Things to do in LA

21. Hollywood Forever Cemetery + Evergreen Cemetery

22. The Last Bookstore (one of the coolest bookstores in the world)

23. John Sowden House

24. The Silent Movie Theatre

25. Eames House

26. Korean Bell of Friendship

27. El Pueblo de Los Angeles

28. Mosaic Tile House

29. Bradbury Building

cool museums in la - Bradbury Building

30. Galco's Soda Pop Stop

31. The Original In-N-Out

32. LA Observation Deck (at the top of LA City Hall) - one of the best things to do in LA for free and a fantastic view

33. Watts Towers Arts Center

34. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

35. Electric Dusk Drive-In (one of the best cheap things to do in LA and great for a date night)

Local Things to do in Los Angeles

36. Shop for antique treasures at the Rose Bowl Flea Market

37. Go to a midnight showing of The Room at Regent Theatre

38. Hike at Runyon Canyon Park

39. See a show at the Hollywood Bowl

40. Ride bikes along the Venice Canals

41. Enjoy one of the many First Fridays that happen around the city every month (Abbot Kinney is a good First Friday to start with)

42. Eat delicious all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ from Hae Jang Chon in Koreatown

43. Rent paddle boats at Echo Park

44. Bar hop in Highland Park

45. See a baseball game at Dodger's Stadium

what to do in downtown la - dodger's game

46. Go on a Malibu Wine Safari (one of the best things to do in Malibu!)

47. Stand up paddle board in Marina del Rey

48. Shop for vinyls at Freakbeat Records or Amoeba Music

49. Enjoy the drum circle that happens every Saturday and Sunday in Venice Beach

50. Drive the Angeles Crest Highway

51. Comedy show at The Hollywood Improv, The Comedy Store, or Laugh Factory

52. Rollerskate at Moonlight Rollerway

53. Grab some produce from the Original Farmers Market

54. Go on the Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk (every second Thursday of each month) - this is one of the most fun things to do in downtown LA on a Thursday.

Best Beaches in LA

55. Santa Monica Beach (and once the sun sets, enjoy the beauty of the Santa Monica pier at night)

56. Zuma Beach

57. Venice Beach (and make sure to stop by Muscle Beach while you're there)

things to do in santa monica - best beaches in la
Santa Monica Beach.

58. Hermosa Beach

59. Manhattan Beach

Related: A Drive through the LA Beaches

Outdoor Activities & Hikes

60. Will Rogers State Historic Park (one of the best parks in Los Angeles)

61. Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area

62. Ascot Hills Park

63. Descanso Gardens

best parks in los angeles - Descanso gardens

64. Franklin Canyon Park

65. Topanga State Park

66. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook

67. Vista Hermosa Natural Park

68. LA Arboretum

Museums

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

69. California Science Center

70. The Nethercutt Collection

71. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

free museums in la - urban light

72. Natural History Museum (grab your tickets online here)

73. The Grammy Museum

74. The Hollywood Museum

75. Japanese American National Museum

76. Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

77. Museum of Tolerance

78. Museum of Death

79.  Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum

80. The Museum of Contemporary Art

81. Holyland Exhibition

82. Museum of Jurassic Technology (Looking for unique and cool museums in LA? This is a good place to start)

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. 

Coffee & Tea

83. Tea Master Matcha Cafe & Green Tea Shop

84. Balcony Coffee and Tea

discover los angeles

85. Philz Coffee

Breakfast/Brunch

86. Met Her At A Bar

87. Eat This Cafe

88. EAT

89. Eggslut

Lunch

90. Pink's Hot Dogs

91. Leo's Taco Truck

92. Broken Mouth | Lee's Homestyle

93. 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.

94. The Morrison

95. A Food Affair

96. Bavel

97. Bestia

Dessert

98. Sprinkles Cupcakes (one of the my favorite things to do in Beverly Hills - grabbing cupcakes from Sprinkles)

things to do in beverly hills - sprinkles

99. Saffron & Rose Ice Cream

100. SK Donuts & Croissant

101. Diddy Riese

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. 

102. Pig 'N Whistle

103. Idle Hour

104. Tiki-Ti

105. Seven Grand

106. Hotel Cafe

107. Troubadour

Tours

108. 6-Hour Los Angeles City Tour

109. The Ultimate Los Angeles Bike Tour

110. East and Central LA Brewery Tour

tours in Los Angeles

Short Day Trips from LA

111. Disneyland & California Adventure (45 min) - Grab your tickets ahead of time here

112. Angeles National Forest (45 min)

113. Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park (1 hour)

114. Santa Barbara (2 hours)

115. Palm Springs (2 hours)

116. San Diego (2-2.5 hours)

117. Joshua Tree National Park (2.5 hours) - if you're looking for unique things to do in Southern California, Joshua Tree is probably my favorite trip from this list

day trips from la - Joshua Tree

Seasonal Events

118. Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game (January)

119. Golden Dragon Parade (January)

120. California Strawberry Festival (May)

121. Los Angeles Film Festival (June)

122. LA Pride Festival and Parade (June)

123. 626 Night Market (July-August)

124. Los Angeles County Fair (Aug-Sep)

125. 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 driving in the city and I may never move there, 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 6 hours without heavy traffic. It's best to give yourself up to 8 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 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's 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 and 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. 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.

What to Pack for Los Angeles

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 availability here

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.

100+ Things to do in LA | The Atlas Heart

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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.
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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