The sprawling city of Los Angeles, in Southern California, has long been internationally known in the film and entertainment industries, especially for Hollywood, a place that has attracted aspiring actors and actresses from across the country for nearly a century. Today, LA is a culturally diverse city, with a growing culinary scene, incredible shopping, excellent museums, and a reputation as America’s creative center.
Sun worshipers who come to enjoy the warm climate and beaches will find all kinds of things to do and interesting neighborhoods to explore. Recent upgrades to the public transportation network and the addition of a bike share program in downtown LA have made traveling and sightseeing easier than ever. For families, nearby Disneyland and Universal Studios are major destinations that often warrant repeat visits. No matter your interests, Los Angeles makes a perfect vacation.
1 Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Theme Park offers a variety of breathtaking attractions based on movie themes, as well as being a working movie studio. You can tour the studios and go behind the scenes of some of Universal’s most popular movie sets. The main attraction for most people is usually the rides, which range from simulators to roller coasters. Favorite movie and TV themed rides and sets include The Wizarding World of Harry Potter , The Walking Dead , The Simpsons , and Transformers .
You can easily spend a day or two here, especially if the park is busy and the wait times are long. When you tire of the attractions, check out CityWalk, a three-block entertainment district with shops, restaurants and theaters.
To save time in long lines, consider purchasing a Skip the Line: Front of Line Pass at Universal Studios Hollywood. This handy ticket gives you one-time fast-track access to all the park’s rides, attractions and shows, as well as access to select behind-the-scenes attractions.
Adres: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
Official site: https://www.universalstudioshollywood.com/
Read also: Where to stay in Los Angeles
2 Griffith Park and Griffith Observatory
Griffith Park, in the eastern part of the Santa Monica Mountains, covering 4,210 acres, is the largest state park in California. The park is home to the Los Angeles Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, a planetarium, a Greek theater, an equestrian center established for the 1984 Olympics, golf courses, tennis courts, hiking trails and other attractions. Hiking trails and scenic drives through the mountains offer views of the city and beyond.
The Griffith Observatory is one of the city’s most interesting and experience-based attractions and it’s all free to the public. There are exhibitions and telescopes on site. The main highlight is a look through the Zeiss telescope, which is used for viewing the moon and planets. You can use the telescopes for free when the facility is open. Solar telescopes have also been used locally to view the sun.
The park and observatory are named after Griffith J. Griffith, who donated most of the park to the city in 1896 and sought funds from the city to build the observatory.
Official site: www.laparks.org/dos/parks/griffithPK/griffith.htm
3 Disneyland Resort
Just outside Los Angeles, Disneyland is California’s premier family destination. Disneyland Park, with rides and experiences in carefully crafted themed sets, is what most people imagine when they imagine Disneyland. Created during one of the expansions, Disneyland California Adventure Park offers even more action and adventure, with seven lands based on movie themes.
In addition to the attractions and Disney characters that roam the streets, the resort also offers a full range of amenities and services for a complete vacation. Hotels, restaurants, shopping and all kinds of entertainment are available at the Disneyland Resort.
Official site: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/
Hollywood is a suburb of Los Angeles and a destination in itself, with its own unique history and iconic sites. Hollywood attractions are closely linked to the film industry and the glamor of the silver screen. The Hollywood Sign Hill , Hollywood Boulevard , the Walk of Fame , and the Chinese Theater can easily take a day or two of sightseeing. If you’re lucky, you might even see a celebrity or two.
5 The Getty Center
On a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Getty Center, designed by Richard Meier, is a massive complex spanning 0.75 square miles and sitting on 110 acres. The uniquely designed building and beautiful grounds provide the perfect setting for this impressive museum. Collections include European paintings, drawings, sculpture and decorative arts, as well as photography from the 19th and 20th centuries. The Getty Center is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum, created by the late oil magnate, J. Paul Getty.
Adres: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles
Official site: https://www.getty.edu/
6 Santa Monica
Santa Monica is a unique destination that is both chic and laid-back, with a population that ranges from surfers, skateboarders and yoga enthusiasts to techies and business people. The beautiful stretch of golden sand along the coast and the famous Santa Monica Pier , with its iconic Ferris wheel, are where most tourists come to enjoy, but you can have all kinds of experiences in this beachside city next to LA. Shoppers will find a full range of options, from quirky and vintage stores to high-end boutiques. For a little activity, head to the 26-mile bike path along the waterfront or stroll along the Third Street Promenade to see street performers and do some shopping and people-watching.
The trip to Santa Monica is now much easier since the opening of the new Expo subway line, connecting downtown LA to Santa Monica.
7 Natural history museum
Although the Natural History Museum has numerous galleries and an extensive permanent collection covering a range of subjects, it is best known for its collection of dinosaurs. The 14,000-square-foot Dinosaur Hall has an amazing display of dinosaur skeletons, including a series of Tyrannosaurus rex fossils, known as the growth series, with three full skeletons ranging from infant to adult. There is also a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus on display.
The museum covers the natural history of California and areas around the world. Exploring the past 500 years of Southern California history, Los Angeles is another must-see exhibit. The Age of Mammals offers a look at evolution, climatic changes and shifting continents. Mammals are further explored in exhibitions that focus on specific continents. The Discovery Center offers hands-on experiences and is particularly interesting for younger visitors.
Address: 900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles
Official site: https://www.nhm.org
8 California Science Center
Free to the public, the California Science Center is home to the Space Shuttle Endeavor, as well as three other major exhibits. Endeavor, the main attraction, is currently on display at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion while the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center is being built. You can see the space shuttle and artifacts from the space mission and learn all about it and the people involved in the program.
The other three exhibitions in the Science Center cover topics related to the living world, technology and ecosystems. The Ecosystems exhibit features an 188,000-gallon kelp tank, as well as live plants, animals and fish. All three of these exhibitions have a Discovery Room, with interactive displays designed for children up to the age of seven.
Adres: 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles
Official site: https://californiasciencecenter.org/
9 The Broad
One of Los Angeles’s newest cultural attractions, The Broad, opened in late 2015 and was an instant smashing success. Tickets are free but generally book up a month in advance, and line-ups for standby tickets, which are first come, first served on the day of admission, can take hours, especially on weekends. The museum focuses on contemporary and post-war art, with some large and dramatic installations. More than 2,000 works of art are on display in this unique building, with a “veil-and-vault” concept. The museum was founded by Eli and Edythe Broad, who were long-time collectors of post-war and contemporary art.
Address: 221 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles
Official site: https://www.thebroad.org/
10 The original farmers market
The Los Angeles Farmers Market first began in 1934 as a very modest affair born of the hardships brought on by the Great Depression. At the height of the economic depression, eighteen farmers gathered and set up booths on an area of open land off Wilshire Boulevard to sell their produce directly to consumers. This experiment was so successful that the market continued to grow. At the time it was really a fruit and vegetable market, but over the years the market has grown to accommodate more and more vendors. Nowadays there are all kinds of fruit, vegetable and other food stalls, as well as restaurants and specialty shops. You’ll find everything from jewelry and candles to kitchenware and toys.
Adres: 6333 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles
Official site: https://www.farmersmarketla.com/
11 Los Angeles County Art Museum
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art claims to be the largest art museum in the western United States, with nearly 130,000 pieces spanning ancient to modern times. Of particular interest are the excellent collections of Asian, Latin American and Islamic art. The enormous complex consists of a number of separate buildings that have been purchased and renovated over the years. The most recent expansion, known as the Transformation, saw the opening of several new buildings on the western half of the campus, designed by Renzo Piano Building workshop.
The LACMA, as it is also known, is located next to the La Brea cultivation pits on a museum row.
Address: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Official site: https://www.lacma.org/
12 Venice beach
Venice Beach earns its reputation as a place to see and be seen, making it perfect for people who enjoy walking, although the atmosphere here is a bit unusual. This stretch of golden sand and the Venice Beach Boardwalk are always packed with people walking, biking, skating and jogging. Eclectic shops and street performers of all kinds line the walkway. The Skate Park, also near the beach, is frequented by some of the area’s best skateboarders, and there are a number of creative art installations nearby. At the aptly named Muscle Beach, people pump iron in the hot California sun. Food stands selling everything from shaved ice to kettle corn and funnel cakes make you feel like you’re walking through fairgrounds. This is not a typical family beach, but it is definitely worth a visit.
13 Long beach
Long Beach borders Los Angeles to the south, about 20 miles from downtown LA, and stretches along San Pedro Bay. This is another community in Los Angeles that you can easily spend a day exploring. Worth visiting are the historic Queen Mary ocean liner , now converted into a hotel and museum, the Aquarium of the Pacific , and the Museum of Latin America . You can also catch the Catalina Express from Long Beach for a trip to Catalina Island .
14 Page Museum and La Brea cultivation pits
La Brea Tar Pits were formed in Hancock Park 40 years ago when oil seeped through the rock. The tar pits would trap passing animals, which would become trapped in the substance. The tar then preserved the fossils over the centuries, leaving an incredible glimpse into another era. The Page Museum displays reconstructed fossils of prehistoric animals found in the giant tar craters of La Brea, as well as the process of fossil recovery. You can see how bones are worked and learn what happens behind the scenes before bones and skeletons can be rendered. The museum displays fully reconstructed fossils of a variety of mammals, including mammoths, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and others, all dating between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Address: 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
Official site: https://www.tarpits.org/
15 The Nethercutt Collection
If you are a fan of antique, vintage and classic cars, this is the place to visit. The Nethercutt Collection showcases an excellent range of cars from the 1890s to the 1970s. The pristine condition of these vehicles and the variety of models is more than impressive. The history of the cars and descriptions of their previous owners are displayed with the vehicles.
Address: 15151 Bledsoe Street, Sylmar
Official site: https://www.nethercuttcollection.org/
16 Museum of Modern Art (MOCA)
The Museum of Contemporary Art consists of three separate facilities and is dedicated to works from the 1940s and later. Pieces from the permanent collection are on display and regularly changing exhibitions feature new work and new media. The MOCA Grand, on Grand Avenue, is the museum’s main facility, housing the main galleries, as well as the largest museum shop and café. The MOCA Geffen is in Little Tokyo, in what used to be a police car warehouse. The MOCA Pacific Design Center is located in West Hollywood and has rotating exhibits.
Official site: https://www.moca.org/
Where to Stay in Los Angeles for Sightseeing
- Santa Monica . Shops, fantastic restaurants, blonde beaches and the famous Santa Monica Pier make this a natural magnet for tourists and locals alike. Easy access to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive are also a bonus for tourists. The Viceroy and the eco-conscious boutique hotel Shore are popular high-end accommodation options, and the stylish Shutters on the Beach exudes all the casual elegance of a family beach house. If you’re looking for a fantastic saltwater location without breaking the bank, try the Ocean View Hotel.
- Beverly Hills . Famous for the designer shops along Rodeo Drive, this exclusive celebrity enclave offers some luxurious hotels in a quieter area than Hollywood, yet with easy access to all the movie-themed attractions. Top high-end hotels include the famous Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, The Peninsula, the Beverly Wilshire and the Montage. For those looking for the glamor without having to match the price tag, the Beverly Terrace Hotel is a great option. Further north, Hotel Bel Air pampers guests amid 12 hectares of flower-strewn gardens.
- Hollywood: Star struck its way to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Bowl, and Universal Studios should remain here in the heart of movie country. Close to Beverly Hills, Hollywood abounds with the glitz and glamor of celebrities without touching the wallet. The Redbury Hollywood, The Hollywood Roosevelt and the Hollywood Celebrity Hotel are all highly rated options in the area.
- Anaheim . Families who go to the theme parks with the kids in tow usually base themselves here at a whimsical Disney-themed hotel. Popular options include the Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, within walking distance of the Disney theme parks. Staybridge Suites Anaheim is a more affordable option with convenient apartment-style accommodations.
- Downtown Los Angeles . Beneath the skyscrapers, new restaurants and art galleries are buzzing, and Downtown LA is finally finding its soul. Sports fanatics who play a game at the Staples Center, hipsters, foodies and business travelers often base themselves here and score cheaper hotel rates than at the typical tourist hotspots. Popular high-end hotel choices include the Omni Los Angeles at California Plaza near the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites. The Doubletree by Hilton is a popular mid-range option.
Tips and tours: how to get the most out of your visit to Los Angeles
- See the view: The Los Angeles Hop-on Hop-off double-decker bus tour offers a fun overview of the city with maximum flexibility.Enjoy 360-degree views from the open-air bus and hop on or off at more than 50 locations, including Beverly Hills, Hollywood, downtown LA and Santa Monica. Choose between a 24 or 48 hour ticket. If you’re looking for a tour, the 6-hour Los Angeles City tour is a great option. Learn all about LA’s hotspots from a local expert; peek at celebrities in Beverly Hills; and visit Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, the Sunset Strip, and some of LA’s most famous beaches. Transportation to and from the hotel is included.
- Save Money: If you plan to visit multiple attractions while in the City of Angels, the Go Los Angeles Card is a great way to save money. This versatile card gives you discounts at Los Angeles’ top attractions, restaurants and shops, including Six Flags Magic Mountain, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and more. If you buy a three-, four-, five- or seven-day Go, Los Angeles Card, you’ll also score an entry pass to Universal Studios.