Planning a trip to Los Angeles but don’t know where to start? Discover LA’s best hotspots with this list of the best things to do in Los Angeles. Our friend Jeremy of Travel Freak lives in Los Angeles and has rounded up the best things to do in LA from a local’s point of view. We mixed in a few of the top attractions and tourist destinations and you have yourself a complete Los Angeles guide.
Top Things to Do in Los Angeles
Like with other big cities in the US, planning a trip to Los Angeles is challenging precisely because there is just so much to see and experience. In this list, you’ll find a range of places to go and things to do in Los Angeles, from the usual tourist jaunts to some of LA’s best-kept secrets. Updated by The Planet D team for 2023.
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Below are some of the top tours in Los Angeles. Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting LA!
Top Activities and Tours in Los Angeles:
Whatever you’re into and no matter where you’re staying, at least one of these options should pique your interest.
Brimming with culture, history, and creative energy, you can’t visit the West Coast of the United States without stopping in Los Angeles. And it’s not just for culture vultures—Los Angeles County’s sprawling 4,000 square miles is teeming with hikes, beaches, and all sorts of outdoor adventures!
Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard, and the sandy shores of Southern California – these are the spots every first-timer should see. Let’s start with the most iconic places in Los Angeles and continue to some lesser-known destinations. Are you ready?
1. Snap A Photo with The Famous Hollywood Sign
No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a sighting of LA’s most iconic landmark: the Hollywood sign. Sitting atop Mount Lee in the Santa Monica mountains, this famous attraction has a ton of viewing options with varying levels of difficulty.
If you don’t want to break a sweat, you can always just view it from afar driving down Beverly Drive. For a closer look, you can head up the Hollywood Hills to the family-friendly Lake Hollywood Park. And if you’re raring to do some hiking, you can take a ride-hailing service to the end of Deronda Drive. From the cul-de-sac, look for the white archway with the green gate and hike up the trail to the top of Mt. Lee.
Insider Tip: Consider hiking up to the Griffith Observatory for sunset instead. The Observatory boasts a number of fascinating artifacts and exhibits, from the 12-inch Zeiss telescope to the Rebel Without a Cause monument. However, its biggest draw is the astonishing view – here, you get a clear photo of the sign, as well as front-row seats to the city skyline.
No Los Angeles trip would be complete without at least driving through Rodeo Drive. A two-mile stretch lined with high-end designer brands like Saint Laurent, Gucci, Prada, Versace, and Chanel, Rodeo Drive is the epitome of style and luxury.
While it’s no longer the celebrity hang-out spot it used to be, it will forever be etched into pop culture thanks to that infamous shopping scene in “Pretty Women”. And while you’re in Beverly Hills, don’t forget to check out other glitzy places like the Greystone Mansion Gardens and the Beverly Hills Hotel.
If you want to spot celebrities, book a guided tour to see the Beverly Hills mansions where you’ll also hit Rodeo Drive and Hollywood film studios.
3. Drive Down Sunset Strip
There is nothing more quintessentially LA than driving through Sunset Boulevard as the sun goes down. And when the day bleeds into night, Sunset Strip – or the 1.5-mile-long stretch in West Hollywood from Doheny to North Crescent Heights – becomes abuzz with music and nightlife.
When the sun goes down, the city lights go up at The Roxy Theatre, Whisky A Go Go, and the Viper Room have housed some of the biggest names in music. Meanwhile, the Comedy Store and the Laugh Factory boast stand-up alumni like Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, and Chris Rock.
Book this full-day tour that includes Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. You’ll see iconic destinations like the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Farmers Market, and the Griffith Observatory.
4. Hit the Beach
From Baywatch to The OC, the beaches of Southern California have served as a backdrop for countless famous movies and television shows. And if you’re a surfer, Los Angeles is paradise. From the city, you’ve got easy access to some of SoCal’s major surf spots like El Porto, Zuma, Topanga, and Huntington Beach – the world’s surfing capital!
5. Venice Beach Boardwalk
Venice Beach is one of Los Angeles’ most iconic and lively destinations and for good reason. It’s a place where the city’s diverse culture, scenic beauty, and eccentricity converge, making it an unforgettable experience for visitors.
Venice Beach is known for its boardwalk that runs to Santa Monica Beach just as much as its sick waves. The Venice Boardwalk, or Ocean Front Walk is like a microcosm of all things LA, from surfers to street performers, vendors, buskers, skaters, and brawny dudes working out at Muscle Beach.
For fitness enthusiasts or those who just want to witness the spectacle, Muscle Beach is a historic outdoor gym where bodybuilders showcase their talents. You’ll also find one of the most famous skateparks in the world, the Venice Skate Park.
Inspired by Venice, Italy, the Venice Canals offer a more tranquil experience. The picturesque walkways along the canals are perfect for a leisurely stroll amidst charming houses and arched bridges, transporting you to a European-esque setting.
From shopping and dining to the beach and surfing, there’s something for everyone. Venice Beach is not just a beach, but a destination with a soul, where every visit feels like a new adventure.
6. Santa Monica Pier
For family-friendly fun, Santa Monica Pier is the place to be. It’s got a seaside amusement park, live music, an arcade, and plenty of restaurants and shops for all ages.
Start your visit by exploring Pacific Park, the amusement park located on the pier. Ride the famous Santa Monica Pier Ferris wheel, known as the Pacific Wheel, which offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and coastline. Don’t miss other thrilling rides like the West Coaster roller coaster.
7. Other Los Angeles Beaches
Understandably, if you’re wary of crowds, you can head for Will Rogers State Beach instead. Situated between Topanga and Santa Monica in the Pacific Palisades, this three-mile stretch of beach doesn’t see as many visitors as the others on this list.
And if you’re looking for a bit of adventure, there’s Point Dume State Beach, which sits at the end of Malibu on a bluff that juts out into the Pacific. Here, you can either take a dip in the clear blue waters, scuba dive next to sea lions, or even try your hand at rock climbing.
Insider Tip: Los Angeles’ Mediterranean climate doesn’t change very much, so any day is a beach day, really. But if you want to avoid summertime crowds, consider visiting from September to November.
8. Stroll Down Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood Blvd is somewhat Los Angeles’ equivalent to New York’s Times Square. Getting tens of thousands of visitors every day, it’s the ultimate tourist trap. But it’s iconic enough to merit a visit!
This is where you’ll find the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a 1.3-mile walkway bearing the names of hundreds of film and TV stars, directors, and producers. If you have kids in tow, make a game of who can spot their favorite celebrities first.
Apart from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Boulevard’s got other popular tourist attractions – from the TCL Chinese Theatre (originally Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) and the Dolby Theatre to historic movie theaters like the Vista Theatre and the American Cinematheque.
9. Grand Avenue
Grand Avenue is often considered the city’s cultural heartbeat. With its amalgamation of arts, architecture, and entertainment, the avenue is an essential destination for anyone visiting Los Angeles. Don’t miss the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry where you can attend a concert performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The Broad Museum is a Contemporary Art Museum that houses one of the more popular exhibits in the city, the Infinity Mirror Rooms by Yayoi Kusama. Or you can go across the street to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Be sure to book reservations in advance.
And make sure to stop at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion which hosted many events including the Acadamy Awards and is now home to the LA Opera.
10. Go Celeb Spotting at The Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Less than 10 minutes away from Hollywood Boulevard is the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the final resting place for some of the biggest names of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Think of it as a more peaceful – albeit macabre – alternative to the busy Walk of Fame. Here, you’ll find the graves of Mel Blanc, Jayne Mansfield, Cecille B. DeMille, Dee Dee, and Johnny Ramone.
11. Get Some Grub at The Original Farmers Market
Once you’re all tuckered out hunting for celebs, make your way to Fairfax and 3rd Street for the OG Los Angeles dining experience.
This historic marketplace has been around since 1934 and has developed into a multicultural hub for foodies. This spot is beloved by both travelers and locals alike and has been visited by countless celebrities, from The Beatles to James Dean.
12. Visit the Sound Stages of Your Favorite Films and TV Shows
Film and TV buffs will enjoy a tour of some of Hollywood’s biggest studios. At the Warner Bros studio, “Friends” fans can live out their ultimate fantasy with a visit to the Stage 48: Script to Screen soundstage, where a replica of the Central Perk Cafe permanently resides.
Meanwhile, at Paramount Studios, you can learn about its legacy as the longest operating studio in Hollywood and marvel at its massive New York Street backlot. And for a real blast from the past, you can head to Sony Pictures, which still houses the old Art Deco buildings of the former MGM studio that once stood on the lot.
If you are a film buff, you can also take a self-guided tour of your favorite filming locations around Los Angeles. Download this app for a GPS-guided app from Downtown LA to Griffith Park as you learn of Hollywood history and see famous shooting locations.
13. Visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
LACMA is the largest art museum on the West Coast. Their art galleries include works by the likes of Henri Matisse, Diego Rivera, Pablo Picasso, and Rene Magritte.
Outside, you can snap a photo next to two epic installations: “Urban Light”, which consists of 202 restored streetlamps from the 1920s and 1930s; and “Levitated Mass” a 340-ton environmental sculpture.
14. Take an Architectural Tour
Los Angeles has some of the most unique and acclaimed houses, buildings, and museums in the world. Book a tour and learn about the history behind some of the most celebrated architectural attractions in the city, like:
Richard Neutra’s Lovell Health House Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House The Walt Disney Concert Hall The Broad Museum The Richard Meier-designed Getty Center (home of the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Villa, and, the Getty Research Institute)
15. Visit the Getty Center
The Getty Center is one of Los Angeles’ most iconic cultural destinations, renowned for its extensive art collection, beautifully landscaped gardens, and breathtaking views of the city.
Located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, on a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Getty Center features the works of Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt.
Admission to the Getty Center is free, but parking is $20 ($15 after 3 p.m.). It’s recommended to check the official website for the latest visiting hours and any special exhibitions or events that might be taking place. The Getty Center is well-regarded for being family-friendly and offering a variety of programming for all ages.
16. Explore LA’s Secret Stairs
During the mid-1900s, Los Angeles had a pretty extensive trolley system, covering over 1,100 miles of track. Though the trolleys are now long gone, you’ll find remnants of them in the network of steep stairs that run through places like Silver Lake, Echo Park Lake, Pacific Palisades, and Beachwood Canyon.
The latter is a quaint residential community that a range of A-listers and former stars call home. So if you’re one of those travelers who likes hunting for gorgeous houses, this one’s for you. Plus, you get in a good cardio workout too!
17. Echo Park
While in the area, spend some time at Echo Park Lake, the neighborhood’s crown jewel. You can rent paddle boats or just take a leisurely walk around the lake. Rent a swan boat in advance to enjoy a quieter side of Los Angeles
This area is known for its vibrant street art and murals. Take a walk through the neighborhood and discover the colorful and often thought-provoking contemporary art adorning the walls and buildings.
18. Griffith Park
Angelenos know the best part of LA is its abundance of hiking trails, parks, and a ton of other outdoor adventure options.
For a quick urban hike, there’s Griffith Park. Griffith Park is about six times the size of New York’s Central Park and is home to the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, the Bronson Canyon Caves, the Los Angeles Zoo, the Greek Theatre, and a 53-mile network of trails and paths.
Then there’s the Runyon Canyon hike, which is a 3.5-mile hiking trail up in the Santa Monica Mountains. Runyon Canyon is the only park that allows dogs to run off-leash, so if you’re traveling with your pup, don’t miss out on this trail.
If you’re looking to plan out more intense day trips, there is no shortage of options either – California has 300 state parks! And while camping is still currently off the table, there are still plenty of fun things to do, like.
19. Dodgers Stadium
If you’re a sports fan, head to the nearby Dodger Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Try to catch a baseball game or take a tour of the stadium.
20. Silver Lake
Silver Lake is another vibrant neighborhood located in the central region of Los Angeles that is known for its eclectic atmosphere, trendy shops, restaurants, and artistic community.
The neighborhood is named after the Silver Lake Reservoir, a large body of water that serves as a picturesque centerpiece. The reservoir is surrounded by a walking path popular among residents for jogging, walking dogs, and enjoying scenic views.
21. Cycle the Strand
The Strand, also known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, is a 22-mile bike path that starts at Will Rogers State Beach and passes through the Pacific Palisades and down to Santa Monica, Redondo, Manhattan, Venice Beach, and Torrance County Beach.
Take a bike ride along this beautiful path. Bear in mind that it’s a laid-back path that sees travelers of all ages and levels. So, if you’re looking to do some sprints, this may not be the trail for you.
22. Immerse in Japanese Culture in Little Tokyo
Home to the US entertainment industry, Los Angeles is a melting pot of art, talent, and culture.
Little Tokyo is a 135-year-old neighborhood located in Downtown Los Angeles. As the second oldest neighborhood in the city of LA and one of only three official Japantowns in the US, Little Tokyo is a historical, cultural landmark.
You can learn about the experiences of Japanese Americans throughout history at the Japanese American National Museum, find unique gifts for friends at home at the Bunkado shop, or have homestyle Japanese food on 1st Street. Read more about Tokyo The Best Things to do in Tokyo, Japan
23. Feast at The Grand Central Market
Another must-see in Downtown LA, Grand Central Market is a foodie’s heaven. Come on an empty stomach because Grand Central is brimming with good grub.
Must-tries include Villa Moreliana’s tacos, Belcampo Meat Co.’s dry-aged beef burger, and Eggslut’s infamous egg sandwiches. For dessert, McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream is the way to go.
To check out more of the Los Angeles food scene, book this downtown food tour that starts at Pershing Square. Sample foods from the emerging LA food scene as you hear about Hollywood history.
24. Catch A Concert at The Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is the premier venue for live music in Los Angeles. The massive amphitheater has hosted all kinds of musicians – from Hall and Oates to Lady Gaga – but it’s the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra that gets to call it home.
The park area used to be open to the public during the day, and visitors could watch rehearsals for free.
25. Explore Exposition Park
When traveling with your kids, it’s important to find destinations that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Here are our top 5 family-friendly things to do in Los Angeles.
If you and your kids are up for a field trip, head over to Exposition Park. The sprawling urban park houses attractions like the Banc of California soccer stadium, the Rose Garden, the California African American Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the California Science Center.
The Science Center is particularly interesting because it serves as the final resting place for the Space Shuttle Endeavour, the last operational shuttle built for NASA.
26. Enjoy the Petersen Automotive Museum
If you and your kids share a passion for cars, drive up Wilshire Boulevard and make a pit stop at Petersen Museum. As one of the largest automotive museums in the world, this museum showcases over a hundred vehicles in 25 galleries.
If you’re a big gearhead, you can pay an extra $20 to get into “The Vault”, an underground parking space where the museum keeps vehicles that have been rotated out of the exhibitions, as well as cars that have never been displayed to the public yet.
Here, you’ll find gems like Steve McQueen’s 1957 Jaguar and a 1998 open-top Cadillac Popemobile. Kids under 10 are not allowed in this area.
27. Learn About the Ice Age at The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
What makes pits of tar one of LA’s most popular attractions? The La Brea Tar Pits is the only active Ice Age fossil site that is located in an urban setting. Scientists have been digging up fossils from this area for over a hundred years, and all the artifacts from these excavations are displayed at the La Brea Museum.
Here, kids can learn about prehistory, archaeology, biology, and climate change. Overall, it’s a great place to engage your kids in a fun, interactive, and educational activity!
28. Experience the Thrills of Movie Magic at Universal Studios Hollywood
There is definitely no shortage of theme parks in California. You’ve got Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags, and Legoland, just to name a few.
But if you and your kids are pop culture nerds, Universal Studios Hollywood might be one of the only theme parks that really brings the magic of movies to life. Some of the park’s main attractions include the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Jurassic World ride, and the World-Famous Studio tour. Book your Skip the line Tickets for Universal Studios in advance to maximize your enjoyment.
29. Mulholland Drive
Another epic drive would be Mulholland Drive, which Jay Leno once described as the “spine of Los Angeles”. With the San Fernando Valley on one side and Beverly Hills on the other, the drive offers spectacular views of the Los Angeles Basin.
“The Snake”, a twisty segment filled with sharp turns, is also a favorite among bikers and car enthusiasts. Unfortunately, much of Mulholland Drive has been closed since the Woolsey fire ravaged the area.
Best Day Trips from Los Angeles
The greater Los Angeles area is huge and if you have a car and a few extra days, you should make your way to a few of these locations that are within driving distance from downtown. Some require a few days, and others can be done in an easy day trip.
30. Historic Battleship USS Iowa Museum
One of the most notable attractions is the historic Battleship USS Iowa Museum. Moored at the LA Waterfront in San Pedro, this iconic World War II battleship invites visitors to immerse themselves in American naval history through its intricate exhibits and guided tours.
A stone’s throw away is the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, which further chronicles the rich maritime heritage of the region.
31. Long Beach
Long Beach is another Southern California, coastal city located within the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. One of Long Beach’s most famous attractions is the Queen Mary, a retired ocean liner that has been permanently docked in the harbor since 1967. It now serves as a hotel, museum, and events venue. The ship is also known for its alleged hauntings and offers ghost tours.
The waterfront area of Long Beach is a bustling spot with a variety of restaurants, shops, and attractions. The Rainbow Harbor and Shoreline Village are particularly popular areas to walk around, dine, and enjoy views of the water.
It also naturally has several miles of beaches, which are great for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Belmont Shore is a popular beach neighborhood known for its laid-back vibe, and Alamitos Beach is known for being LGBTQ2s+ friendly
32. Summit Mt. Baldy
Standing at 10,066 feet or 3,068 meters above sea level, Mount Baldy (also known as Mt. San Antonio) is considered the highest peak in Los Angeles County.
There are numerous trails all over the mountain, from the short and sweet Mt. Baldy Notch trail, which is about 3.5 miles one way, to the Mt. Baldy trail, the longest (6.5 miles one way) and the oldest trail that takes you all the way to the summit. From the top, you get gorgeous views of LA. On a good day, you can even see Catalina Island.
In the winter, Mt. Baldy becomes a popular skiing destination as well.
33. Bungee Jump Off the Bridge to Nowhere
The Angeles National Forest covers over 700,000 acres of land, including the San Gabriel and Sierra Pelona Mountains. One of the most exciting things to do here is the Bridge to Nowhere hike in the San Gabriel Mountains. It’s a 10-mile hike featuring river crossings, tunnels, and an awe-inspiring 120-foot-high concrete bridge that leads, well, nowhere, as it’s wedged into the canyon.
If the hike isn’t exciting enough, you can also bungee jump off the bridge. And if you’re really craving for some adrenaline, you can even arrange for a night jump, where you fall into a pitch-black abyss and look up to a starry night.
A word of caution, however: always check the weather before embarking on this hike. In the wet season, the area is prone to flash floods. In the summer months, it can be an exhausting trip, as there is virtually no shade out there.
34. Go Bouldering in Joshua Tree National Park
If you only have time for one or two day trips, make sure one of them is a visit to Joshua Tree National Park. It’s about a 2-hour-and-45-minute drive from Los Angeles, but it’s well worth the visit.
Known as the place where two deserts meet – the Colorado and the Mojave deserts – the park is home to some of the most interesting landscapes this side of the US. Some famous sights include the eerie Skull Rock formation and the 30-foot arch of Arch Rock.
Joshua Tree’s massive rock formations make it a great site for bouldering and rock climbing too. Trashcan Rock, Lizard’s Hangout, and the Blob are some of the best spots for beginners. Read More: 11 Best Hikes in Joshua Tree National Park
35. Go Off-Roading in The Mojave Desert
Mojave Road is a 150-mile historic dirt road that starts at Beale’s Crossing by the Colorado River and ends at Drum Barracks in Wilmington, LA.
You can traverse the entire trail in three days, but make sure you have plenty of food, water, and gasoline with you, as there are virtually no establishments out in the desert. Be sure to bring tools, a spare tire, and emergency supplies as well.
As it is a rough and unmaintained desert road, you will need to bring a 4×4 vehicle with you.
36. Sail Off to Catalina Island
If you’re up for something a little more laid back, you can book a private charter to Catalina Island. On the trip, you can expect to sail next to dolphins, go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, and snorkeling in Catalina’s coral reefs.
Catalina Island is an hour-long boat ride from Newport Beach, Long Beach, or San Pedro Beach.
37. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway
The city of LA is as much the city of cars as it is the city of stars, with a car culture so enduring that it has shaped the way the city – and its surrounding area – has been designed. As such, LA is one of the best places for travelers to embark on a road trip.
One of the best routes you can take is the drive from Santa Monica to Zuma Beach in Malibu via the Pacific Coast Highway. The highway runs along the Pacific coastline of California, offering one of the most breathtaking views in the world. And while you’re in Malibu, make sure to check out biker’s hangout Neptune’s Net, a world-famous seafood and beer restaurant that sits right by the highway. Read more: The Ultimate Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary and The Best Viewpoints
About Los Angeles
Los Angeles is actually part of Los Angeles County, made up of 88 incorporated cities all in all. LA—also known as the City of Angels—is California’s most populous city, comprising some 80+ neighborhoods. The delineation of these neighborhoods can get pretty contentious, so don’t worry if you can’t find what you’re looking for on a typical map. If you’re lost, it’s best to ask a local!
Your main gateway into Los Angeles is through the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which is situated in the beachside neighborhood of Westchester. Head up northwest, and you’ll hit other famed beach towns like Venice, Santa Monica, the Pacific Palisades, and Malibu.
While LA has adequate public transportation, the best way to get around is by car. There’s a saying that “nobody walks in LA”—with the sheer size of the county and Los Angeles’ thriving car culture, it is pretty much true. No, I take it back—it’s 100% true. Compare car rental prices here.
Whether you’re looking for quick urban hikes, lazy beach days, sick surf sessions, or epic day trips out in the desert, Los Angeles is a dream for most adventure travelers. You’ll never run out of things to do in LA!
Read more about California