20 Ultimate Things to Do in Los Angeles
October 17, 2013 4:00 pm Post a comment
Enjoy Santa Monica Pier
The fantasy of Southern-California living is tied into the area’s breathtaking ocean views, perennially sunny weather, palm trees, and beachy lifestyle. Ride the Ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier for a view of LA’s magnificent mountains flush against the cityscape and Pacific Ocean. During the summer, enjoy outdoor concerts here, too. From the pier you can walk to nearby beaches and meander north along Ocean Ave. Or, for evening drinks, head south toward the hotels Casa Del Mar, Shutters on the Beach, or The Huntley Hotel. Fulfill your shopping desires at the Third Street Promenade, (essentially a multi-block outdoor mall), also just a few blocks away.
Tour The Getty Center
The Richard Meier-designed Getty Center does not disappoint. This branch of the museum (The Getty Villa is north on the PCH) houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, decorative arts, and European and American photographs. But many also visit for the tram ride up the hill to the entrance where you’re rewarded with beautiful city views (where on clear days you can see all the way to the ocean), gardens, stunning architecture, and a roster of cultural events.
Visit Classic Hollywood Attractions
LA’s movie business is a big lure for many travelers. The Hollywood & Highland complex, which houses a giant mall and the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held, has been dubbed the closest thing the city has to Times Square. It’s packed with tourist-y attractions like Madame Tussauds Hollywood and street performers dressed up as Superheroes. But make an effort to see past the kitschy miniature, plastic Oscar statues, take in great views of the Hollywood sign and visit classic Old Hollywood standbys like the TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Walk of Fame, Musso & Frank Grill (serving Hollywood since 1919), and The Hollywood Museum in the historic Max Factor Building that exhibits movie-making memorabilia. After sightseeing catch great food at Sunset & Vine, enjoy delicious cocktails at The Redbury, and relax at the nearby W Hollywood.
Get Active at Griffith Park
Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America and offers many fun activities for all ages including pony rides, miniature train rides, the Los Angeles Zoo, a Merry-Go-Round for kids, along with adult-oriented attractions like hiking (the Sierra Club even leads hikes here), tennis, golf, picnicking, horseback riding, and a farmer’s markets. There’s also the Greek Theatre for concerts, The National Autry Center for arts and culture, and Travel Town railroad museum. Griffith Observatory offers education, romantic city views (including the Hollywood sign), and exciting star shows.
Insider Tip: Griffith Park is near Hollywood but also Los Feliz where, at night, you can hear crooners at The Dresden—made famous in the movie Swingers. Also check out Alcove Café and Bakery on Hillhurst for a good little lunch spot.
Take in Art at LACMA
Don’t be fooled by the naysayers who lament that Los Angeles has no culture—the city has attracted some of the most creative minds on the planet and displays great artwork at the LA County Museum of Art. While there, visit the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, the Urban Light outdoor sculpture, their permanent collection, and a hit exhibition like the thrilling James Turrell retrospective, at LACMA until April 2014.
Explore Disney Hall & Downtown LA
Whether you're at Disney Hall to hear Gustavo Dudamel passionately conduct the LA Philharmonic (2013 is Disney Hall’s 10th anniversary so look for special events and performances) or to take in Frank Gehry’s architectural masterpiece, let the hall be just the beginning of your downtown LA visit. Exciting attractions include the stunning, landmark Bradbury Building; the short but stellar Angels Flight Railway; the all-inclusive L.A. Live metropolis that includes the Staples Center where the Lakers and other teams play, as well as restaurants and a concert venue; the Grammy Museum and much more. For great eats check out Chinese cuisine on Olvera St, or stop in at Grand Central Market. You'll find lots of great bars downtown, including The Edison for retro, artisan cocktails. The Los Angeles Conservancy walking tours can help you pull it all together.
Stroll along Venice Beach
The Venice Canals offer scenic strolls across pretty, little bridges, among ducks, and artsy, expensive homes. See the antics on Venice Beach and then head over to Abbot Kinney for a taste of local life with bohemian flair—enjoy shopping, restaurants, bars, art galleries, antiques, and more. Rent a bike for beach excursions then stop in the Hotel Erwin for drinks at sunset. The eatery Lemonade offers casual fare to take out or eat in and Gjelina offers delicious upscale options.
Experience Universal Studios Hollywood
There are a wealth of activities at Universal Studios thanks to the many amusement park rides, shops, restaurants and theaters. Be sure to take the tram studio tour to experience creatures from Jurassic Park, travel through Dr. Seuss's "Whoville" and be attacked by the shark of Jaws!
Cruise the Sunset Strip
OK, so even if you’re not planning on riding the mechanical bull at Saddle Ranch or living out your Rock & Roll fantasies at the historic Whisky a Go Go, this drive isn’t just a snapshot of iconic LA history. There’s shopping and eateries at Sunset Plaza and we like Chateau Marmont, and Sunset Tower Hotel for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just a swanky cocktail.
Insider Tip: Another pretty drive, especially if you have to get from Mid-City to the West Side and you have the time, is the drive along Sunset Blvd. all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Explore Silver Lake
To truly experience Silver Lake, start at Intelligentsia Coffeebar. The line may be long but the coffee is great, and there’s excellent people watching. Then walk East along Sunset Blvd. to check out the many independent clothing stores, restaurants, and unique shops. Favorite stores include Mohawk General Store for handcrafted homewares and leather goods, and Bar Keeper for all your unique bar-stocking needs. The enclave also offers popular food trucks and farmer's markets.
Listen to Music at the Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl, a legendary, modern amphitheater, is the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and, in addition, hosts a multitude of diverse musical acts. During the summer, try to see a performance that includes fireworks, as many do, for a wondrous and memorable Los Angeles experience. You can buy food there but small picnic baskets are welcome. If it’s an LA Phil event, bottles of wine are allowed too.
See Contemporary Art at MOCA (and Visit Little Tokyo)
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA often features cool video installations and other cutting edge projects, and is located in a warehouse space in Little Tokyo. This makes it a good opportunity to also visit The Japanese American National Museum next door, have a bite at Hama Sushi, or nibble on Japanese rice "mochi" cakes and "manju" (a sweet bean-filled rice cake) at Fugetsu-Do Confectioners, then stroll around Little Tokyo’s “Secret Garden” technically called The James Irvine Garden, featuring a waterfall flowing from a 170-foot stream.
Drive the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu
If you have the time, this is the perfect scenic drive to take in the Southern California vistas. Take the PCH to dramatic El Matador Beach then drive a little further and feast on fresh, steamed seafood at the super-casual Neptune’s Net while watching the parasailers, motorcycle club patrons (some of them lawyers/ weekend warriors) and beautiful people pass through. Along the way stop at Zuma Beach, Malibu Country Mart and adjoining shopping complex Malibu Lumberyard, or the Annenberg Beach House.
See the Science Center and the Natural History Museum
See the Space Shuttle Endeavor, go the IMAX Theatre or see ecosystems in action at the California Science Center (try the astronaut food at the gift store!). At the History Museum, marvel at Dinosaur Hall and the Butterfly Pavilion. Both attractions are kid-friendly but they’re pretty nifty for grown-ups, too, and even offer dance, music, and lecture nights for adults.
Sample and Stroll at the Grove
At the Grove, there’s a fountain synchronized to piped-in music, a trolley, upscale to reasonably-priced shops and eateries and the Farmer’s Market at the west end of the complex. The market includes 110 stalls and more than 30 restaurants. During the holidays there’s even a giant Christmas tree and nightly faux snowfall.
Hike Runyon Canyon
In LA, if you’re not running and biking on the ocean, there’s a good chance you’re hiking. Runyon Canyon is where you’ll find many celebrities marching up the mountain, often with their off-leash dogs. Street parking at this popular spot is competitive so you may find yourself circling a bit. There are a several hiking trails of varying intensity and a lawn where free yoga is offered. There’s not a lot of shade on the dusty trails, so wear sunscreen and bring a hat. Revel in terrific views of the city and Hollywood sign. The park is only blocks away from the Old Hollywood landmarks, so if you can shower nearby, make this part of your early morning then head off sightseeing.
See Artifacts at the Museum of Jurassic Technology
A quirky educational institution dedicated to the "advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic," the Museum of Jurassic Technology houses a collection of oddities, relics, curiosities and artifacts. It is guaranteed to be a unique experience. Be served complimentary tea and cookies and then peruse the oil portrait gallery of canines from the Soviet Space Program.
Dine at The Ivy
Having lunch at The Ivy is an LA must-do. Known as a popular celebrity hangout, understand that there's a good chance you’ll be parting the sea of paparazzi to get through the entrance. Afterwards? Keep the chic vibe going with a little shopping on Melrose Place, where you'll find boutiques from Carolina Herrera, Chloé, Kate Somerville, Marc Jacobs, Marni, Oscar de la Renta, and Temperley. Or mosey over to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills where you'll find Chanel, Cartier, Christian Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Harry Winston, Jimmy Choo, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tiffany & Co., Valentino. Post Beverly Hills shopping, head to the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel for haute people watching.
Eat Sushi in the Valley
Indulge at In-N-Out Burger
To get a taste of local living, a must-visit is In-N-Out Burger (it’s been known to attract post-Red Carpet award show, celebrity-laden limousine visits). Order off of the secret menu: perhaps a protein-style double-double, with grilled onions, no sauce? If you’re a carnivore there’s a good chance that this iconic California eatery will delight.