Things to Do in Los Angeles: See the Best of the City of Angels
Take in the stars and sights on your next trip to Los Angeles. By Paul Oswell | January 13, 2022
There are two things you need in LA: a plan and a car. It’s the best way to take in the abundance of attractions and activities in the city. This famous destination – where you could spot A-listers at any turn – is all about entertainment, but you’ll also discover stunning beaches, high-end fashion and some of the best tacos in the country.
No matter if this is your first time visiting, or 50th, there’s so much to do and see, like:
Admire the sights: From Hollywood Boulevard to Rodeo Drive, you’ll see famous landmarks – and people – all over the city
Picnic under the stars: Pack a lunch and hike up to see the Hollywood Sign
Foodie heaven: From tacos to vegan cuisine, Los Angeles has something for every palate
Best Drives in Los Angeles
There’s something exciting about cruising in and around LA. You can pretend like you’re in a movie on Rodeo Drive or meander around Hollywood Hills. That said, planning ahead will help you to avoid LA’s notorious rush hour. We love LA, and while it’s a gateway to many stunning beaches, the roads can get congested.
Driving may not seem like an obvious thing to do in Los Angeles, but you can’t beat Mulholland Drive, which winds for 25 miles (40 km) along the scenic Santa Monica Mountains ridges. Head east to visit the retro-looking art community of Sierra Madre. You can travel even further back in time to prehistoric LA at the fascinating La Brea Tar Pits.
If you plan to leave the city, then Santa Barbara wine country boasts rolling vineyards (it’s about a 95-mile drive northwest of the city). You can admire the coastal views along the Pacific Coast Highway. Trade your car for a ferry ride to see some of the area’s most inspiring scenery. We especially recommend Catalina Island’s nature preserves and hiking trails.
Museums in LA
If you want to spend your days wandering through world-class museums, Los Angeles has you covered. The Getty Center has a spectacular European art collection. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the place to see everything from Greek ceramics to Peruvian silver to fashion through the ages. The California African American Museum (CAAM) has more than 6,000 works of art — including African art from the 19th century — and is free to enter.
The Huntington has a beautiful library, botanical gardens and artistic treasures. You’ll find dynamically colorful, contemporary works at the Museum of Latin-American Art (MOLAA). There’s a curious curation of exhibits on at the Museum of Jurassic Technology.
Head to the Beach
When considering things to do in Los Angeles, mother nature has much to offer. LA has many tranquil spots to decompress after sitting in traffic, including the highly recommended Huntington and Griffiths parks. Your kids will love Palisades Park in Santa Monica, which has playgrounds and 13 blocks of oceanside greenery. The Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden features 70 artworks within a quiet, scenic corner of the UCLA campus. The solitude of Greystone Mansion and Park comes with memorable views of Beverly Hills.
Beach life is a big part of the city’s character, making it one of the top things to do in LA. You can mingle with the surfers and the sun seekers, escape the worst of the summer heat or just take in the natural beauty of the coast. Manhattan Beach is a stunning seaside town with surf so great it inspired world-known musical hits. Santa Monica Beach attracts families with its vintage carousel and amusement park, and you can admire the physiques on display at Muscle Beach.
Eating and Drinking in Los Angeles
When it comes time to eat, the opportunities for foodies are endless and one of the best things to do in LA. Start with the most casual option; the city’s taco trucks are some of the best in the country. Food trucks are great for sampling everything from Korean to Indian food. You can find the trucks’ locations on Twitter, as they tend to move around.
For sit-down restaurants, Chinatown, Koreatown and Little Tokyo are great places to start for fantastic Asian food. Take a trip east to explore hole-in-the-wall options in the San Gabriel Valley for authentic flavors, too. Boyle Heights has top-notch Mexican food, and Westwood prides itself on Persian classics. There’s also Little Ethiopia, Thai Town... you name it, Los Angeles has it.
Theater in Hollywood Hills and Beyond
When considering things to do in LA, Hollywood cannot be ignored. There are both historic and quirky places to see music and theater here. The Greek Theater in Griffith Park and The Ford amphitheater in Hollywood Hills are both intimate and memorable.
Movie buffs can bask in the cinematic legacy of theaters such as The Egyptian Theatre (reopening in 2022 after a renovation) and TCL Chinese Theatre, or the fully restored Disney facility, El Capitan Theatre.
The Comedy Store on Sunset Strip is the place to go for laughs, and West Hollywood (WeHo) is where you can watch the famous Gay Parade (every June) and sip boozy drinks at the iconic gay bar, The Abbey. South LA is home to the African American Firefighter Museum, where you can tour a historic firehouse that was segregated from 1924 to 1955.
Where to Shop in LA
Shopping in Los Angeles can be an all-consuming activity. It’s a great way to rub shoulders with A-listers in high-end designer stores at the Beverly Center or Montana Avenue. Rodeo Drive and Melrose Avenue are famous places to shop, as well.
Expand your horizons, though, and head to the boutiques along the palm-lined Third Street Promenade or take in the laid-back elegance of Main Street in Santa Monica. Fans of vintage and kitsch should head to Abbot Kinney Boulevard in colorful Venice Beach.
Make Your Los Angeles Memory
The palm-lined boulevards, sandy beaches and potential celebrity sightings make Los Angeles a favorite getaway for many travelers, but there’s so much more to the sprawling city than meets the eye. You could spend a lot of time here, and still have so much to see and do. Do yourself a favor and make this a city you come back to again and again; we promise you that you’ll create new memories every time you visit.
Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel journalist. He lives in New Orleans.
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