Planning the ultimate Southern California trip? Kick-start your travels by exploring all the best things to do in Los Angeles. From world-class museums to stunning beaches—and all the famous celebrity stops in between—L.A. offers something for every style of traveler.
Whether you’re looking to feel the sand between your toes in Santa Monica and Venice Beach, or spot celebs in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, the top tourist attractions in Los Angeles can keep your travel plans stacked for days. L.A. is also one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the world, packed with top-notch restaurants, trendy art galleries, and museums. And no matter when you plan your trip, the weather in L.A. is beautiful year-round.
Ready to discover what to do in Los Angeles? Plan your trip with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Los Angeles, CA.
Best places to visit in Los Angeles, CA
Convinced Los Angeles isn’t much more than a concrete jungle? Let Griffith Park change your mind. Covering a whopping 4,310 acres on the eastern fringes of the Santa Monica Mountains, the massive park is L.A.’s favorite outdoor hotspot.
Griffith Park is home to a large network of hiking trails, unleashing some of the best hikes in Los Angeles. Even if you’ve only got one day in Los Angeles, spending time sauntering in the hills to spectacular views over the entire city is a must.
For a great introduction to Griffith Park, tackle the trails leading to the world-famous Griffith Observatory. Not only are the vistas from the observatory fantastic, but it’s also home to one of the most powerful Zeiss telescopes in the world. If you’re a dreamer, insomniac, astrology student, or space enthusiast, gazing into the sky at the Griffith Observatory is a must.
Even if you don’t want to marvel at the stars, the engineer-minded among us can gaze in awe and wonder at the Griffith Observatory’s rare Tesla coil, sending bolts through the air.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
For movie buffs, one of the most famous landmark attractions in Los Angeles is the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The famed sidewalk sprawls more than 15 blocks on Hollywood Boulevard, featuring over 2,700 brass and terrazzo stars emblazoned with the names of Hollywood legends and the masterminds working behind the scenes.
More than half of the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame are dedicated to musicians, directors, musical and theatrical groups—and even fictional characters! Check out the official site to find your favorite star and pay your own tribute.
Within the famous zip code of 90210, better known as Beverly Hills, you’ll be able to explore the world of luxury, including its most famous street: Rodeo Drive. The most iconic shopping district in L.A., Rodeo Drive is a must-see, especially if you’re looking to spot a celeb or two.
Rodeo Drive is home to many of the world’s most luxurious brands and is an L.A. hotspot for celebrity sightings. Whether you drool over fine cars or fine gowns, Rodeo Drive will not disappoint, making it one of the top points of interest in Los Angeles.
If you’re on a tight travel budget, it’s probably best to stick to window shopping along Rodeo Drive. But if you’ve got some space on the Amex (and the means to pay it off), there’s hardly a better place on the planet to splurge and treat yourself to some high fashion and extravagance.
Universal Studios Hollywood
For movie lovers, a tour of Universal Studios Hollywood will be one of the highlights of your trip to Lose Angeles. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like on a film set or wanted to see movie props up close, embarking on a Studio Tour here is a must. Universal Studios Hollywood is pure entertainment at its finest—it is an amusement park after all!
Despite the name, Universal Studios Hollywood is not actually in Hollywood proper. It is, however, well worth the short drive into the San Fernando Valley. Take a day at the theme park to enjoy the shows, experience the rides, and learn all about behind-the-scenes studio life in Hollywood.
Despite all the urban charms of central L.A., the City of Angels is just as famous for its beautiful beaches and surfable waves. And there’s no better place to witness this side of the city than Zuma Beach.
Located in the beach town of Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway, Zuma Beach is one of the area’s cleanest beaches, both in and out of the water.
Whether you want to take a swim, dive and explore, surf, or just take in the views, Zuma Beach is the perfect escape. It’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular beaches in Los Angeles!
At the tip of Zuma Beach, Point Dume is the one of best places to see in L.A. for capturing epic coastal views. Whether through your camera lens, rose-tinted glasses, or the ingenuousness of a child, no stroll along Zuma Beach is complete until you’ve reached Point Dume to soak up its dramatic vistas.
Echo Park is a neat little self-contained area in the heart of L.A. In this hip & trendy neighborhood, you’ll find a barrage of great restaurants, shops, and a local artist community. What makes Echo Park one of the best places to go in Los Angeles, however, is its beautiful lake.
With the year-round temperate weather in Los Angeles, you can enjoy a spin on a swan boat or a jog on the pedestrian path around Echo Park Lake—no matter what time of year you visit.
Want to take a breather after your excursions? Relax on one of the benches along the lakefront to take in the beautiful views and listen to the sounds of the water fountains. (If the breeze is just right, you might even feel the coolness of the fountain spray on your face!)
Santa Monica Pier
If your California road trip includes the legendary Route 66, follow it to its western end to land at Santa Monica Pier. Jutting out onto the crystal-clear waters of Santa Monica Bay, the historic fishing pier is the centerpiece of the beach city and one of the top-rated places to go in Santa Monica.
Don’t mistake this attraction for a one-trick pony: The Santa Monica Pier is for far more than fishing or watching a beautiful sunset. The pier also hosts the Pacific Park amusement park, including a Ferris wheel and roller coaster, as well as many shops and restaurants.
Planning a beach day in L.A.? You can spend an entire day swimming, eating, drinking, and taking in all the fun at Santa Monica Pier. At the end of the day, sit back under the orange glow from the setting sun, reminding you to pause for a moment and breath in the salty sea air.
Runyon Canyon Park
Looking to check out the famed Hollywood Sign? Plan for a visit to Runyon Canyon Park. Hiking the trails within the 160-acre park will not only provide you with a great view of the sign but also with the beautiful views of Los Angeles. If you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon a trail passing through one of the mansion estates.
This Santa Monica Mountains park is large, but that doesn’t mean it’s empty. Runyon Canyon Park is one of L.A.’s most popular, and you’ll need to share the trails with hordes of locals—and their dogs.
Although you’ll find some trails lined with enchanting palm trees, much of the park isn’t very shaded. Be sure to be prepared for your fun in the sun by bringing along some water, a hat, and sunscreen.
Planning an excursion to Venice Beach? Don’t miss out on the Venice Canals. Modeled after the canals of Venice, Italy, these historic canals are among the top Los Angeles tourist attractions. (Even if you can’t take a romantic gondola ride on them!)
Visiting the Venice Canals, you’ll bike or walk over bridges and along boardwalks through a beautiful residential neighborhood filled with sleek modern homes. If you’re traveling with the kid, there’s even a children’s park where you can relax and feed the hungry ducks.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
No matter if you’re a traditional art lover or not, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is beyond awe-inspiring. Spread across seven buildings and 20 acres of real estate, the museum lets you enjoy every kind of art imaginable, not to mention the building’s stunning architecture.
There’s something for everyone both inside and outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As it’s the largest art museum in the Western USA though, the trick is to find what speaks to you.
Even if perusing paintings isn’t your thing, check out the famous vintage street light art installation. It’s an “illuminating” exhibition!
Perched in the Santa Monica Mountains, The Getty is one of L.A.’s must-see attractions for art lovers. The famed art museum offers a massive collection of American and European art, including paintings, drawings, photos, sculptures, and decorative arts.
Aside from the works of art, The Getty’s architecture is worth a gander. Spend some time wandering the grounds, marveling at the modern architecture and gardens, including a cactus garden and sculpture garden.
After browsing the collections at The Getty in Brentwood, venture down along the Malibu Coast to Pacific Palisades to check out its other campus: The Getty Villa. While the Getty Center features “modern” works of art, the Villa specializes in ancient artwork from the Greek and Roman empires.
RELATED: Top Points of Interest in Malibu
Walking through the Getty Villa is an opportunity to truly step back in time. Roaming among the Roman-inspired architecture, you’ll find yourself walking through the history rather than simply admiring it on the walls.
No L.A. landmark is more iconic than the Hollywood Sign. Perched on the slopes of Mount Lee, the sign lights up the faces of the dreamers believing in the hope that Los Angeles offers.
Getting to the Hollywood Sign is another story. The movies may make it seem like you can just drive right up to it. But as is often the case with Hollywood, the reality is quite different.
To get the Hollywood Sign, you’ll have to hike. There are a handful of hiking trails, both easy and difficult. The most common route is via Mount Lee Drive starting at the end of Deronda Drive. Although it’s the most direct route, it’s also the least interesting and most packed with tourists.
For a more interesting approach, opt for the Canyon Drive Trail (6-mile round trip) or the Lake Hollywood Drive Trail (3-mile round trip).
Grand Central Market
Built up an appetite? Visit L.A. like a local and check out the Grand Central Market, the largest and oldest in Los Angeles. For foodies, Grand Central Market is one of the best places to go in Los Angeles.
With the ethnic diversity in Los Angeles, you can find almost any cuisine your palate could desire at this market. Dine and feast, and return tomorrow; you’ll always find more food stalls and restaurants tempting you to try more food than you could possibly gobble down in one sitting.
Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens
One of the top L.A. attractions, the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens boasts over 270 animal species and 800 plant varieties, spread out over several thematic areas. Whether you’re looking to see monkeys swinging around a tropical rainforest or Asian elephants parading in their natural habitat, you’ll find it here.
And there’s so much more to see at the Los Angeles Zoo than animals and plants. The highly-visited zoo offers experiences for everyone, with everything from zoo camps for tiny tots to nighttime dance parties for the over-21 crowd.
Looking to add to the experience? The Los Angeles Zoo even lets you go on behind-the-scenes tours to learn more about the animals and their habitats. Leave with fun facts that’ll impress any trivia master.
As its name implies in Spanish, Descanso Gardens are the ideal place to rest and relax in L.A. A beautifully manicured 150-acre botanical respite, the gardens also offer gardening classes—and even a small hedge maze for the younger crowd.
For anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles, a step into the relaxing, transformative world of Descanso Gardens is a must. Nothing beats walking around the lushness of the gardens or sitting back in a comfy seat, drinking in the sunlight, and becoming intoxicated by the rich floral aromas.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Located in Exposition Park, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is an L.A. must-see for history & science lovers. The museum houses the only T Rex growth follis series, including a full-grown adult skeleton that’s one of the most complete in the entire world.
Besides its popular dinosaur exhibitions, the Natural History Museum also has interactive areas including the Discovery Center and Butterfly Pavilion; you can be sure to get your hands dirty here!
If dinosaur bones aren’t your thing, explore the beautiful Nature Gardens, home to over 600 species of plants.
OUE Skyspace LA
Looking for more “interactive” things to do in Los Angeles? Visiting OUE Skyspace LA is an authentic Los Angeles experience that’s almost too much to put into words. You really must “just do it”!
The main attraction at OUE Skyspace LA is its famous glass Skyslide. At just 43 feet long, the slide itself isn’t very long, but it is high. Leaving the US Bank Tower’s 70th floor for the 69th, it’ll give you a breathtaking view of the city—if you don’t squeeze your eyes shut.
If the thrill of the OUE Skyspace Skyslide isn’t enough, don’t worry: You can also hang out on the Skyspace observation deck or eat at the restaurant one floor up.
(It might be best to eat at the restaurant after experiencing the Skyslide instead of before; just a suggestion!)
Best places to stay in Los Angeles for sightseeing
As the second-biggest city in the United States, choosing among the best places to stay in Los Angeles can be a tough task. For most travelers, Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills are good places to start your accommodations search.
Stay downtown without breaking the bank with a night at the cool citizenM. The new hotel offers guests chic comfortable rooms and tons of great amenities, including a fitness center, shared lounge, restaurant, and bar.
Add a dash of style to your Los Angeles sightseeing agenda with a say at the InterContinental. This luxurious hotel charms with spacious modern rooms, some overlooking the city. After filling your days with all the top Los Angeles points of interest, cool down with a dip in the outdoor pool or sip cocktails at the hotel’s cool rooftop bar.
Want to splurge on one of L.A.’s top luxury accommodation experiences? Look no further than the JW Marriott. Besides relaxing in your sleek and decked-out contemporary room, soak up beautiful city views from the rooftop bar or sling back cocktails and a lovely dinner at one of the four on-site restaurants & bars.