Best things to do in Los Angeles
Top 10 travel activities, visits and attractions
The best activities, attractions, visits and excursions in Los Angeles
You’re looking for the best things to do in Los Angeles ? The best travel activities, visits and attractions? You’re in the right place! To help you organize your trip and not miss anything, our TOP 10 gathers the best things to do and see : points of interest, tourist attractions, excursions, sightseeing tours, monuments, museums, etc.
To save time and money, we advise your to book in advance your hotel rooms, activities and touristic services (insurance, transport…). In order to help you, we’ve selected the best offers available on the net. You will find all links in this article, together with a listing of our favorite travel websites. Have a nice trip . – By Flo, Caro & the Team
In this article, you will find :
- The TOP 10 things to do in Los Angeles
- Other visits and activities that you may love (for those who want to try and see everything !)
- Travel tips and good deals to organize tour trip (hotel rooms, car rental, travel insurance…)
- Other articles that may interest you (Activities Bora Bora, Activities Emirates, Visit D-Day Landing Sites…)
What to do and see in Los Angeles - TOP 10 activities and visits
1. Discover LA’s beaches: Venice Beach, Santa Monica…
Venice Beach and Santa Monica are definitely LA’s must-see beaches! They’re located next to one another and extend over several miles. They represent the typical Californian lifestyle we have in mind, in a very pleasant atmosphere to have a walk and relax. LA has a lot of other beaches to discover where you can surf or depart on a whale watching cruise.
It’s impossible to visit Los Angeles without spending some time at the beach! Take the opportunity to swim in the Pacific Ocean’s warm water, take some pictures in front of the famous lifeguards cabins, and have a walk along the sea.
- Santa Monica (must-see) – Pacific Park
This is LA’s most famous beach. You absolutely have to go to the famous Pier where the Pacific Park is located. You’ll love walking above the water and enjoy the view and atmosphere (especially during sunset). The only downfall is the place very crowded by tourists, but it’s still worth the visit.
- Venice Beach (must-see) – Broadwalk & Canals
This one’s our favorite beach in LA! Be sure to walk through the Boardwalk and discover the small shops that face the beach. You’ll love the laid-back Californian atmosphere! Venice Beach is a unique place where you’ll also see outdoor weight rooms, a large skate-park, and many places to jog, ride a bike, or roller-skate! Some people may find it “cliché”, but it’s actually a really cool place! Last but not least: don’t miss the canals, located only a few minutes from the beach! This is one of the most charming areas in LA, with a very different vibe from the rest of the city!
Venice Beach and Santa Monica are located right next to each other. The best way to discover them is to rent a bike or roller-blades and use the bike lanes along the sand (there are many renting shops by both beaches). The view and the atmosphere are amazing! You can also take the pedestrian path, but it is still a little more than 2 miles from Pacific Park to the Venice Beach canals. That’s the route we took and it’s definitely the one we recommend. If you wish to continue the ride, you can also take the 26 miles bike path. This cycling route follows the coast for about 25 miles from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance State Beach.
- Long Beach: Aquarium & Wildlife observation cruises
You don’t really go to Long Beach for the beach, but rather for its attractions and activities! It’s where you’ll find the Aquarium of the Pacific, perfect for a family visit. It’s also where whale and dolphin-watching cruises depart from. The Californian coast is ideal to observe marine mammals. If you’ve never had the chance to see whales, we really recommend you this activity. You get to observe the animals in their natural environment, so every cruise is different. You never know what you’ll see… During our tour, we were lucky enough to see whales, sea lions and about 30 dolphins racing with our boat!
- If you go towards the south-east: Huntington Beach & Newport Beach
If you continue on the road towards San Diego, you’ll come along other beaches that may be worth the detour. Huntington’s is a surfer’s paradise! From the pier, you can watch experienced surfers take the biggest waves, while surfing lessons are also available for beginners (these lessons are also offered at other beaches, but Huntington beach is the most famous). In Newport Beach, we especially invite you to discover the small seaside neighborhoods. The houses have a beautiful architecture and it is a really nice place to walk around.
- If you’re going to the north-west: Malibu & El Matador
In terms of beaches, Malibu is definitely the most iconic of all! It’s not our favorite, but if you pass by heading North, you should definitely stop by! We prefered the El Matador Beach, which nature is well preserved. Located at the foot of a large cliff, it has a very romantic atmosphere, and offers a beautiful view of the landscapes that await you on the Californian coast.
2. Visit Hollywood and walk down the Hollywood Boulevard
- Free : access to the Walk of Fame
- Admission fee : Madame Tussauds & attractions ($)
Impossible to visit Los Angeles without going to Hollywood and the famous Walk Of Fame! This sidewalk, located at the two ends of Hollywood Boulevard counts over 2600 stars. Each star is associated to the name of a celebrity from the show-business (cinema, music, TV, radio or theater). The place is very touristic and you’ll find many attractions and activities linked to Hollywood and cinema.
To be honest, we were a bit disappointed by the place in itself, not very well maintained and very crowded. Nevertheless, it remains a must-see as the place is so iconic!
Looking for your favorite celebrities’ stars is actually quite fun. As foreigners, there were many names we didn’t know, but it was nice to come across worldwide famous names such as Celine Dion and Steven Spielberg. You’ll definitely be tempted to take a selfie in front of your favorite star!
In addition to the Walk of Fame, we recommend a visit to the Hollywood Museum and Madame Tussauds. At the first one, you can see many costumes and accessories used in Hollywood movies (Indiana Jones’ whip, Rocky’s gloves, Marilyn Monroe’s dresses…). In the second one, you discover the wax statues of the biggest stars, all in a pretty fun environment. There is no security cord, so you can take very cool pictures with the different statues. Accessories are even provided to increase interaction! We advise you to plan your visit at the end of the day, shortly before the last authorized entry (the guards will then leave you 1 hour to visit the place). That’s what we did and we were almost alone in the museum, which was very pleasant!
You can also see a movie at Grauman’s Chinese Theater (TCL), one of the most famous cinemas in the world! If you are not interested in any of the films on show, you can take a guided tour of the hall or admire the building from outside. The same goes for the Dolby Theatre, the famous hall where the Oscars are awarded! You can take a guided tour of the building or just see its exterior façade. Finally, you can go through the Hollywood & Highland Center, a shopping center offering a beautiful view of the famous HOLLYWOOD sign (see more details with the TOP #3).
3. See the Hollywood sign
- Free : access to the observation points
- Admission fee : guided walking tour or horse riding tour ($$)
This famous sign has been erected since 1923 on the southern slope of Mount Lee, a hill overlooking the Hollywood district. The sign is huge, each letter is over 43.5 feet tall, and the total length is over 345 feet, which simply makes it the largest billboard in the world!
The sign stands at an altitude of 1568 feet which makes if visible from several places in the city, but its access remains prohibited. The most famous viewpoints are the following:
- Griffith Observatory: you can enjoy the remarkable view on LA, but it’s not really the best place to see the Hollywood sign, too far away and offers a view from the side
- Lake Hollywood Park (our #1 choice): this nice site offers a central view on the sign. You can also get closer to the letters by parking your car by the dog park, and following the road. You then only have to walk about 10 minutes to enjoy a very clear view. If you walk about 30 minutes more, still following the road, you’ll discover what is probably the best view on the Hollywood sign! You won’t see the sign at all during those 30 minutes walk, it’ll only be at the end of the path that you’ll see it again. You can also take the Lake Hollywood Trail, a 2-hour walk around an artificial lake, but the view on the sign is farther away.
- Hollywood & Highland Center: this shopping center has many stores and restaurants. Its architecture was thought to offer a beautiful view on the Hollywood sign, so it’s a perfect place to admire the letters (from far away). The center is located on Hollywood boulevard so it’s easily accessible.
- During a hike: from the Griffith Park, you can take the Brush Canyon Trail. It’s about 6.2 miles (back and forth), and you get to go very close to the sign, and even walk behind it! Be careful not to break the rules and to cross the security barrier: the site is watched 24 hours a day and legal proceedings are heavy!
- During a horseback ride: those guided group tours offer amazing views LA and the Hollywood sign
4. Visit the Universal Studios Hollywood (and/or Disneyland)
- Admission fee ($$)
Universal Studios is one of the best amusement parks in the world! Not only are there amazing rides (roller coasters, 4D attractions..), but it’s where you’ll find the biggest outdoor filming studios! You’ll be able to discover the settings of famous movies and TV shows like Desperate Housewives, the War of Worlds or Jaws!
If you’re looking for things to do in Los Angeles with kids, we definitely recommend this visit! Like all amusement parks, Universal Studios Hollywood is divided in different sections/worlds. The two must-sees are the studio tour and the Harry Potter™ world!
You visit the studios by small train, and you ride around the different settings. You’ll discover the famous streets of Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives, or see the plane crash from the War of Worlds. We’ll leave you discover, but the tour is really worth it (with a (very) big surprise at the end!). The world of Harry Potter™ is amazing with all its decorations and settings, you feel like you’re actually in the movies!
In terms of rides, there are a few good roller coasters (The Mummy ride is really cool!), but also some 4D attractions (with pyrotechnic and 3D effects). Those type of attractions are really typical to Universal, you don’t really see them in other parks. They’re quite impressive but can make you dizzy. Make sure you also watch the Waterworld show, which is worth the detour (although the movie isn’t). Among the latest attractions of the park, you can now walk through The Walking Dead inspired settings, with zombies disguised actors! This type of attraction can frighten some and bore others, but we really recommend this one for its oppressing atmosphere!
In terms of organization, we advise you to arrive early, at the opening if possible. Start-off with the most popular rides to avoid queues (especially the ones located in the Harry Potter™ world). To hop-on the studio tour, you’ll also have to wait in line.. If you don’t want to wait, you can choose to buy an Express ticket (you are able to skip lines ONCE for each ride/show/tour) or the VIP ticket (unlimited skip-the-line + private studio tour). Just so you know, those tickets are much more expensive than the regular one, so it’s your choice to make!
If you like amusement parks you can also go to Disneyland, which actually regroups two parks: Disneyland (the very 1st one created by Walt Disney which is similar to Orlando’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Paris, with a recent Star Wars world), and Disney California Adventure (a more unique park with its famous roller coaster and ferris wheel; it also has an amazing show in the evening, probably the most beautiful produced by Disney!). The parks are located in Anaheim, which is about 1h from Downtown LA. Small tip: you’ll pay less if you buy a combined ticket for both parks!
Tickets for Universal Studios Hollywood are cheaper on the Internet than directly at the park. We therefore advise you to book in advance if you want to save money!
5. Visit the Warner Bros Studios (and/or Paramount)
- Admission fee ($$)
For true cinema lovers, the Warner Bros studios is a must-see! These studios are in operation, so it is not uncommon to come across crews in the middle of filming during the visit. Unlike Universal Studio, there are no attractions. However, you can see the backgrounds of the Hollywood movie settings! The two visits therefore complement each other perfectly!
The only way to discover the Warner Bros studios is during a guided tour. It’s not like a park you can freely walk around, but a working place we’re only allowed to pass by! Tours last around 3h in small trains that take you through the different parts of the studios. In addition to English, many different languages are available.
Walking stops are also planned, including a stop at the legendary Friends coffee shop, the Central Perk. If possible, you can also see the sets of a TV series, sometimes even during a shoot! During our visit, we were able to see the apartments of Penny and Leonard/Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory series. At the end of the tour, you reach a small museum that you can visit freely. Various costumes and accessories are on display, including the famous sorting hat from Harry Potter™ ! If you like cinema, you’ll have a great time on this visit!
Paramount Studios offers a similar experience, but didn’t visit them. They are very well located, at the center of Hollywood. In fact, they’re the last studios still in operation in this neighborhood!
Reservation required + Limited capacity
WARNING – Visits to Warner Studios are by reservation only, at a predefined time. It is not possible to obtain tickets directly at the entrance, as the tours are almost always sold out. If you wish to make the visit, we advise you to book online.
6. Stroll around the fancy neighborhoods (Beverly Hills, Bel Air…)
- Free : strolls on your own
- Admission fee : guided tour of celebrity houses ($$)
Everyone knows the City of Angels is also the city of celebrities! In the most exclusive neighborhoods of the city, you’ll see magnificent villas and residences. These rich properties are mainly in Beverly Hills, Bel Air or Malibu. In Beverly Hills, you’ll find Rodeo Drive, the perfect destination for shopping lovers!
You’ve probably heard the names of those places before as each of them had their own dedicated TV series (90210 Beverly Hills with Brandon and Brenda, Baywatch with Pamela, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with Will Smith). We particularly recommend Beverly Hills and Bel Air (as we’ve mentioned earlier, for the beach, Santa Monica and Venice Beach are nicer than Malibu).
If you want to see celebrities’ houses and find out who lives where, you can go on a guided tour. You will then tour the main residences and also pass by Mulholland Drive. You might as well be warned that most of the residences are well guarded and can therefore only be seen from a distance! If you want to avoid the overly touristy side of these tours, you can opt for a bike tour. These tours are done freely (without a guide and therefore without other tourists), with the help of a map showing the main residences.
For shopping, you will find many luxury boutiques on Rodeo Drive. This is where the shopping scenes from the film Pretty Woman and many other movies and TV shows are set. If you’re looking for bargains, you’ll find malls and outlets. The ones at Camarillo Premium Outlets (about 1 hour west of downtown Los Angeles) offer many brands at bargain prices.
7. See the city from the Griffith Park & Observatory
- Free : access to the park & observatory, hikes
- Admission fee : zoo & museums of the park ($)
The Griffith Observatory is an astronomical observatory located in the Griffith Park. Entrance is free and allows you to learn more about the cosmos. It’s its location that actually makes the particularity of the observatory: nestled on top of a hill overlooking the city, it offers an incredible view of Los Angeles! The park has also managed to preserve a wild and natural environment, so there are beautiful hiking trails.
You’ve probably already seen the Griffith Park and the observatory before! They appear in some famous movies like La La Land, Rebel Without a Cause, Transformers, Terminator, and in the GTA5 video game. We recommend a visit at the end of the day, just before sunset. You’ll then be able to enjoy the colors of the sunset above LA’s skyline.
You can also plan an entire day to walk around the park and enjoy the many activities that are available there. There are over 50 miles of hiking trail, with some taking you close to the Hollywood sign (see our TOP #3). Make sure you carry a water bottle with you as some of the areas of the park are very dry!
You’ll find different attractions like the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens in the park. This zoo has over 1200 species of animals from all around the world, like gorillas, koalas, komodo dragons, and a variety of exotic plants! You can also visit an open-air amphitheatre and small museums. One of them is particularly interesting for Western fans: the Autry Museum of the American West. There are various exhibitions about life in the West and the Gold Rush era (paying).
8. Walk through Downtown Los Angeles
- Free : walks and certain attractions
- Admission fee : rooftops ($)
Although Downtown LA is less famous than other districts, you’ll find some of the best walks and attractions of the city! It’s home of the first house built in LA, a very cool observation deck, and many rooftop bars!
During your walk in Downtown Los Angeles, we recommend you to see or visit the following places:
- Olvera Street: this is where you’ll find the first house built in LA (number 10 of the street)! The shops and restaurants have a very mexican vibe!
- Chinatown: Los Angeles’ Chinatown is very exotic. You can see many signs with Chinese names as well as very colorful buildings (red, yellow, green, pink…)
- Grand Central Market: this covered market appeared in 1917. You’ll find a bunch of local products, a paradise for foodies!
- Union Station: it’s the biggest train station of LA, appears in many movies like Blade Runner, The Island, Gangster Squad… It’s a really nice building which is worth the detour!
- The Charmed Manor: the TV series Charmed takes place in San Francisco but it was actually filmed in LA. The famous Halliwell manor can be seen directly in the streets! You can’t visit the inside of the house (all indoor scenes were filmed in studios anyway), but you can easily remember the outdoor scenes when looking at the manor from outside! It’s a really fun stop to make for Charmed fans. FYI, the manor is located at 1329 Carrol Avenue, CA 90026, Los Angeles.
- Walt Disney Concert Hall: this concert hall, dedicated to classical, jazz and contemporary music, has an extraordinary architecture. It is possible to visit it free of charge outside of performance hours, with a guide or audio-guide!
- Bars / Rooftops: if you want to take a break during your walk and sip on a fresh cocktail, you’ll have plenty of cool bars and rooftops to choose from!
- Angel’s Flight: this funicular built in 1901 was at its time the smallest railway in the world (298 feet)! For 1$, it allows you to reach Grand Avenue on the heights of Bunker Hill.
Of course, there are many other things to see in Downtown LA, many more surprises await you in this very cool district!
9. Visit Los Angeles’ nicest museums
- Free : Getty, Broad… (see below)
- Admission fee : LACMA, NHM… ($) (see below)
Los Angeles has many quality museums, and the great thing is most of them are free! Their rich and varied collections will delight lovers of art, science, automobiles or even dinosaurs!
Here are the main themed museums of LA:
- Petersen Automotive Museum (paying – Automotive & Cinema) : this museum dedicated to automobiles has an exterior façade with a unique architecture. Inside, you can see more than 100 models that have marked the history of the automobile and the cinema! You can see the famous Aston Martin of Skyfall (James Bond), the Batmobile of Batman Returns or a life-size model of Lightning McQueen, the car from the animated film Cars…
- La Brea Tar Pits & Museum (entrance for the park is free / museum is paying – Natural History): This site is absolutely unique as it is the last fossil deposit still exploited in the United States! Fossils of mammoths, saber-toothed tigers and other prehistoric animals (10,000 to 40,000 years old) have already been found here. You can take a free walk in the park to see the ancient deposits and liquid tar pits. To discover the hundreds of fossils and skeletons of prehistoric animals collected on the site, admission to the museum is required. The ticket also allows you to observe the researchers in full activity (research on the excavation sites and in the laboratory). It is a very interesting visit that we recommend!
- NHM – Natural History Museum (paying – Natural History): it’s the largest natural history museum in the West! It has one of the most beautiful dinosaur collections in the world, with about twenty entire skeletons! There are also many fossils, minerals, precious stones and naturalized animals
- Madame Tussauds & Hollywood Museum (paying – People & Cinema): both museums exhibit wax statues of the world’s biggest stars (Madame Tussauds) and film costumes and accessories (Hollywood Museum). If you’re looking for activities to do in Los Angeles with kids, one of those museums is a good option! For more details on these museums, take a look at our top N°2 (Hollywood Boulevard)
- The Nevercutt Museum & Collection (free – Old cars): this museum also exhibits a variety of automobiles, but is particularly interested in old models. You can find over 250 models dating from 1898 to 1997.
- California Science Center (free – Science): access to permanent collections is free of charge. You can also participate in different interactive experiences. This is an ideal activity for family with kids!
LA is also home of beautiful art museums:
- Getty Center (free – Art): this art museum is actually a gigantic cultural center. It’s composed of five main buildings with a modern and unique architecture built around a central courtyard. Four of these buildings display the permanent collections while the fifth is devoted to temporary exhibitions. The main collections are (magnificent) European paintings, ancient arts, manuscripts, decorative arts, photographs and drawings.
- The Broad (free – Art): this contemporary art museum exhibits more than 2,000 pieces collected by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. We advise you to book a visit on the internet (free of charge) to avoid queuing at the entrance. When you arrive at the museum, we also recommend that you reserve your ticket for the Infinity Mirrored Room (which can only be obtained once at the museum). You’ll then have 45 seconds alone access to an incredible room filled with mirrors and LED lights (an effect that is both magnificent and indescribable).
- LACMA – Los Angeles County Museum of Art (paying – Art): not only is this the biggest museum of art of LA, but also of the entire West! Thousands of art pieces are exhibited in seven buildings. The collections come from all around the world (USA, Korea, Japan, China, Europe, Polynesian islands, Egypt, etc.)
- The Getty Villa (free- Art): this rich villa exhibits the collections of greek and roman art of the Getty Museum. Entrance is free of charge but you need to book a specific time in advance.
10. Spend an evening on Sunset Boulevard
- Free : walks
- Admission fee : bars and nightclubs ($)
Sunset Boulevard sounds so Californian when you say it! This huge street extends on 24 miles from the east of LA to the Pacific coast. It crosses some of Los Angeles’ iconic districts like Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Sunset Boulevard is also very well known for its nightlife, with its many bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
The busiest part of Sunset Boulevard is the 1,5 mile Sunset Strip. It’s been partying since the 1930s, and many bars and restaurants are regularly visited by celebrities (keep your eyes open ;)!
Here are some of the most famous bars and clubs:
- Whisky A Go Go: this iconic bar/club is linked to the history of Rock. Many bands have performed there: Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters or The Doors for example.
- Bar Marmont: this bar is attached to the luxury hotel of Château Marmont and is one of the best known of the city. Drinks are expensive, but it’s one of the best place to spot celebrities, if this is something you’re interested in!
- Pearl’s Rooftop: this classy bar is actually a rooftop, offering one of the best possible views on the Sunset Strip. You can also sip on amazing cocktails!
- Mondrian’s SkyBar: this classy lounge bar offers a nice view on the Sunset Strip AND an indoor pool!
It’s difficult to guarantee the access into these bars as they’re quite exclusive… hopefully you’ll get lucky! However, there are of course many other great bars and clubs that we recommend you to discover randomly on your evenings out!
Other things to do and see in Los Angeles (activities, excursions, attractions, visits...)
In addition to the activities listed in our TOP 10 you’re looking for other ideas of what to do in Los Angeles ? Here is a selection of other things to do and see during your stay :
- Knott’s Berry Farm: this amusement park is located about 50 minutes from Los Angeles, next to Anaheim. It’s the perfect park from thrill seekers as there are more than 10 intense rides (roller coasters, drop towers…)
- Six Flags Magic Mountain: this other amusement park is located at about 45 minutes from Downtown LA. It’s one of the best parks in the USA in terms of sensations as there are over 20 thrilling roller coasters!
- Aquarium of the Pacific: this aquarium presents the ecosystem of the Pacific Ocean, with more than 11 000 fish and marine species!
- USS Iowa: this former battleship took part in World War 2 and the Korean War. You can visit this historic ship.
- Queen Mary: this iconic liner launched in 1934 is now moored at the docks of Long Beach. It can be visited and you can even spend a night on board!
- Huntington Library, Art Collection & Botanical Gardens: this site is composed of a large library (including a Gutenberg Bible), a collection of artworks (mainly French, British and American art) and botanical gardens.
- Original Farmers Market: this famous market in Los Angeles has been popular with both tourists and locals since 1934! There are many stalls with food from all over the world.
- Whale Watching: All year round, it is possible to watch whales off the coast of Los Angeles. Observation cruises lasting a few hours depart from the ports of Long Beach, San Pedro or Newport Beach.
- Ferry to Santa Catalina Island: there are many activities to do in Los Angeles, but when leaving the city you can find other very nice places like Santa Catalina. This very famous island is located about 35 km from the Californian coast. It can be reached with the Catalina Express ferry, boarding at the port of San Pedro, Long Beach or Dana Point.
- Los Angeles Lakers NBA game: Seeing an NBA game in the United States is always a great experience. In Los Angeles, you can attend the games of the legendary Lakers team at the Staples Center.
Travel tips to visit Los Angeles and organize your trip (hotels, sightseeing tours...)
Book accomodation in Los Angeles : you’ll find the greatest choice on Booking. This is the website we use for all our travels. They propose the best prices and different types of accomodations (budget hotel, luxurious hotel, appartments…).
Book travel activities in Los Angeles : you can book the best activities online on Viator (american website – many offers and sightseeing tours), Get Your guide (european website – our favorite choice with lots of good offers), Tiqets (european website – great one to book tickets for museums or attractions) or Ceetiz (european website with a large offer of activities worldwide and many promotions)
Book a flight to Los Angeles : you will generally find best prices on Skyscanner.
Rent a car in Los Angeles : it is important to make a booking before departure, as prices on site are much higher than those displayed online. We advise you to use Rentalcars.
Check our other "TOP 10 activities" wordwide - Best Things to do
As an American, Florent is in charge of the English website. He’s been travelling for years and already lived in 5 different countries. Francois and Caro are the ones you will see the most on the pictures. Indeed, we are an international team composed of travellers from different cultures and countries. We think it’s the best way to find and highlight the best activities each destination can offer!