Los Angeles: Must-See-Places
From dreams of the silver screen to nearly perfect year-round weather, there’s something exciting and energizing about LA. With beach boardwalk people-watching, world-class museum visits, celebrity spotting, and satisfying any cuisine craving you might have, LA is great for long-weekend trips or to pass through during a road trip. Because the greater LA area is huge, easily overwhelming, and challenging to figure out exactly how to best visit, here are some of our favorite sites that should make your list while visiting the City of Angels.
**Please note that due to COVID-19 protocols some of these sites may be closed. Please check their websites for up to date information.
1. Hollywood Sign + Griffith Observatory
If it’s a great picture of the Hollywood Sign you’re after, drive to 3000 Canyon Lake Drive or head down Mulholland Drive to the Hollywood Bowl Overlook.
Or you can get there on foot—people often forget there's great hiking in LA. While there are many ways to hike to the back of the Hollywood Sign in Griffith Park, Modern Hiker notes that only one feels like an “actual wilderness adventure.” They suggest you take the recently-added trail to Cahuenga Peak. Note that you can’t get too close to the actual sign itself, as it’s a protected site.
After your hike, The Trails Cafe is a cute spot in Griffith Park to grab a bite, and the nearby Parker Gallery is a great place to check out some pieces by under-recognized artists before making your way back to the car.
You can also get a great view of the sign from Griffith Observatory —a destination in itself. An art deco landmark from 1935, the Griffith Observatory offers visitors a high-tech planetarium, public telescopes, and panoramic views of Downtown LA, the Los Angeles Basin, Hollywood, and the Pacific Ocean. Entry is free, with a modest fee if you want to see the programs in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Note: Mondays the site is closed.
2. The Getty Center
Ah, the Getty. Spend an afternoon here and feel as if you’ve been transported to a Star Wars film set somewhere in Tuscany (or more specifically, it’s what they use for Starfleet’s HQ in the new Star Trek movies and as the real heaven in The Good Place). The modern/futuristic architecture planted on a 600 acre (240 ha) site in Brentwood in the Santa Monica Mountains brings you 900 feet (270 m) above sea level, providing spectacular views.
After you’ve parked, take the free tram up to the museum and let your art exploration begin! The Getty is home to numerous permanent and temporary exhibits, with some of its most well-known paintings including Van Gogh's Irises, Manet's Jeanne (Spring), and Rembrandt's An Old Man in Military Costume.
After exploring the exhibits, grab a snack at the cafe, take some photos of the beautiful surrounding views of LA, and take a stroll through the beautiful gardens. Then stick around for a spectacular sunset before heading to the tram and back down to the parking lot.
Note that it’s best to go here during the weekdays if possible, as the weekends can get quite busy.
3. Venice Beach + Santa Monica
If you’re in the LA area for more than a day or two, it’s imperative you make it to Venice Beach, arguably one of the best spots for people-watching in the world. Start by walking Abbot Kinney Boulevard, known for its great shopping, galleries, and restaurants (it was once designated the Coolest Block in America by GQ). Head to the boardwalk for a stroll and to check out Muscle Beach, the breakwater for surfing and the skate park, and don’t forget to walk the canals that give Venice its name.
For food, stop at The Butcher's Daughter for vegetarian and vegan fare. For the meat-loving or all-food loving crowd, head to Gjelina and/or their bakery Gjusta for some delicious shakshuka, or The Tasting Kitchen for Mediterranean cuisine. For great beer and a spot right on the boardwalk, go no further than the Venice Ale House . Other options include the Italian restaurant Scopa Italian Roots , which has a speakeasy in the back called Old Lightening, The Rose Venice which is good day or night, Casablanca for Mexican food and homemade tortillas, Superba Food + Bread for brunch, Deus Ex Machina - Emporium Of Post Modern Activities for coffee, and Zinqué for French fare and great outdoor seating.
Once you’ve wrapped up in Venice, head north to Santa Monica. Santa Monica can be a little touristy (most people hit the 3rd St Promenade), but there are spots off-the-beaten path that are definitely worth visiting. One such place is Main Street, which has cute shops and cafes like The Victorian . Other notable restaurants in the area include Fia , a killer restaurant with a beautiful garden, Esters Wine Shop & Bar which has an awesome happy hour with daily pours of red, white, and rose, and Cassia — right next door—which has scrumptious Southeast Asian dishes.
If you're looking to party, The Bungalow Santa Monica is a classic scene. Meanwhile, the Santa Monica Proper Hotel is gorgeous with a rooftop pool. The Santa Monica Pier is touristy but fun to stroll and in the summer they have a great summer concert series and sometimes screen the LA Opera, so keep an eye out for interesting programming.
4. Downtown Arts District
To start your exploration of the Downtown Arts District, head to Grand Central Market for breakfast, then venture to the Hauser & Wirth gallery, The Box gallery, Art Share L.A. , The Broad museum (pronounced like “road”), and/or MOCA Grand (MOCA).
If you get hungry, stop in at Hauser & Wirth’s restaurant Manuela or opt for Otium , offering New American cuisine and cocktails next to The Broad. Zinc Cafe is another great option for lunch fare and a casual ambience.
5. Mid Wilshire: LACMA, Tar Pits, Farmer’s Market
Mid Wilshire has it all—excellent museums, kid-friendly activities, and delicious food. Start your visit atLACMA (the Los Angeles County Museum of Art) which has great rotating exhibits in addition to a stellar permanent collection. During the summer, they also have free jazz nights; and of course, don’t forget to take photos at the famous LACMA lights. The museum is currently undergoing a renovation so check their website for up-to-date information.
After exploring this world-class museum, head over to the La Brea Tar Pits, which is great for kids. The La Brea Tar Pits & Museum are home to a group of tar pits formed from natural asphalt that has seeped up from the ground in the area for tens of thousands of years, preserving the bones of trapped animals—like the sculptures of elephants on display.
For food, head to the modern, French restaurantRépublique , The Sycamore Kitchen for delicious baked goods, or The Original Farmers Market where there’s something sure to please every member of the family. For those with a sweet tooth, make sure not to miss Milk Jar Cookies .
6. Hollywood Boulevard
For the ultimate "Tinseltown experience", head to Hollywood Boulevard. This is where you’ll find the Hollywood Walk Of Fame and famous old theaters like Grauman's Chinese, El Capitan, the Egyptian, and the Cinerama Dome.
If you want a studio lot tour, head to nearby Universal and spend a day at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park or check out the Paramount Pictures Studio tour. You can even buy a star map and take a drive through the Hollywood Hills to search out the homes of celebrities.
For food in the area, don’t miss Musso & Frank Grill , a fine dining establishment and Hollywood's oldest eatery where waiters serve classic American fare to diners in red booths. You can also head toDelphine for French-hued Californian eats and a raw bar, Roscoe's Chicken & Waffles (Hollywood) for—you guessed it—and Mel's Drive-In Hollywood for a classic burger.