23 fun things to do in Los Angeles for every type of traveler
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Think of Los Angeles and images of your favorite celebrities and supermodels might come to mind. But the City of Angels is so much more than that. Visit this sprawling metropolis to enjoy world-class art museums, theaters and concert halls, amusement parks and beaches. And, don’t forget all the shopping and dining! This week TPG is talking everything Los Angeles, from how to get there on points and miles to where to stay to what to do.
A visit to Los Angeles may seem overwhelming. The city is vast and full of cool things to see and do. Since it’s one of the top destinations on the planet and the airport (LAX) is the third busiest in the world, it can be difficult to figure out where to start.
Fortunately, the City of Angels has scores of attractions and plenty of entertainment that will appeal to travelers with all different interests and tastes. Here are just 23 of our favorite Los Angeles sights to help you chart your course.
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Fun things to do for the Instagrammer
If you’re traveling with teens, or maybe you’re just always on the hunt for your next great viral moment, LA has tons of great spots where you can pose for Instagram photos.
Murals on Melrose Avenue
Melrose is peppered with fantastic street murals, many of which have been specifically designed with social media in mind. Start around the 8200 block of Melrose, where the much-photographed pink wall at the Paul Smith store is located. From there, you can pretty much walk in either direction and find dozens of vibrant backdrops.
Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign
One of the most easily recognizable areas of LA, and famous for appearing in movies (including a dreamlike dance scene in “La La Land”) the Griffith Observatory is an Art Deco masterpiece perched on a hill overlooking the city. If the views and excellent planetarium shows aren’t enough, visitors can walk down the street for an up-close view of the Hollywood sign.
You know that photograph of a person standing on palm tree-lined street with the Hollywood sign in the background? Sure, there are a lot of palm trees in LA, but this one is iconic. You can find your perfect backdrop at South Windsor Boulevard between 4th and 5th Streets in Beverly Hills.
Fun things to do for the starstruck
Los Angeles is synonymous with celebrities, and many visitors come here hoping to see some of their favorite stars in real life. It’s not as easy as it might seem, unless you’re willing to camp out and wait for a star sighting. But there are a few alternatives that come close.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
Many of film studios offer tours for the visiting public, and we like the Warner Bros Studio Tour best. It’s a working studio backlot with movies and TV crews filming all the time, include favorites like “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” The studio has a really great guided bus tour that takes you past storefronts and houses from many favorite series. In addition, several interactive display areas keep fans entertained for hours. Visitors can tour the prop warehouse, see the famous Central Perk coffee house from “Friends”and walk the red carpet for their own Academy Awards moment.
Believe it or not, this is a great place to spot celebrities coming or going to their next fabulous destination. Hanging out in the public departure or arrival entrance areas can pay off big since many stars fly commercial airlines on a regular basis. This requires patience and an eagle eye, of course, but it’s not uncommon to spot a celebrity at LAX. (Tip: Look for the people wearing sunglasses inside the terminal and accompanied by a phalanx of handlers all wearing black.)
Related: 18 time-saving travel hacks for LAX
It’s not often you’ll see a celebrity on Hollywood Boulevard, but it does bring out famous people at certain times. When a celebrity gets his or her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, there’s a ceremony and unveiling with the star and their celebrity friends. Also, film debuts often take place at the movie theaters along the boulevard, and the stars of these films and other celebrities always attend. These dates are typically published in advance, and fans can go early and stake their territory near the red carpet.
The Dolby and TCL Chinese theaters
Home to the Academy Awards, the Dolby Theater is located within the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood. Of course, if you’re not interested in joining the throngs of fans outside on Oscars night, you can visit throughout the year and get a taste of the action. Just around the corner is the famous TCL Chinese Theatre (Grauman’s), best known for the handprints and footprints of movie stars in the pavement out front.
Fun things to do for shoppers
Whether you’re into high fashion of funky streetwear, Los Angeles has a store for you.
The Grove Shopping Center
A mega shopping mall full of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues, The Grove is a spectacle. Some visitors come to Los Angeles specifically to visit The Grove — and hopefully spy a celebrity while shopping. If nothing else, it’s s fun place to eat, enjoy the water fountain show designed by the same folks who created the dancing fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and see a film at the 14-screen movie complex. The Grove shopping center even has a historic replica of LA’s former streetcars.And it’s not a bad place to shop, either.
Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood has long been a hot spot for fashion finds. What started as a collection of secondhand stores and up-and-coming designers has now become the spot to see and be seen. Start at Fred Segal for great men’s and women’s fashions in a department store-like setting, and walk along Melrose Avenue in either direction to visit trendy shops, bistros, tattoo parlors and designer boutiques.
Third Street Promenade
Located in Santa Monica just blocks from the pier and beach, Third Street Promenade is a popular destination for both visitors and locals. Years ago, the city closed Third Street to traffic for several blocks, which allows shoppers to stroll around freely. Outlets from many popular retailers are well represented here, peppered with great restaurants, surf shops and live street performers.
The Grande Dame of all shopping streets, Rodeo Drive has been home to luxury retailers for decades. Here, visitors can find the likes of Harry Winston, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Coach and many more designer brands. Rolls Royces, Maseratis, Bentleys, Range Rovers and the occasional Lotus fill the parking spots. Fashionably dressed women and men shop as if money is no object, and visitors can participate — or simply walk around and take in the scenery. For a break, walk to the end and have a nice cocktail at the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel: location for the filming of “Pretty Woman.”
Fun things to do for beach bums
Whether you’re seeking a Baywatch experience or a casual bike ride down the boardwalk, LA’s beaches are among the most iconic in the world.
The beaches of Santa Monica are wide, clean and incredibly popular. There’s so much to see and do at Santa Monica Beach in addition to lounging on the sand and surfing the waves. The most photographed location in LA, the Santa Monica Pier, offers an amusement park at the end with a famous Ferris Wheel and other rides. Nearby, an outdoor play area is home to a constant rotation of athletes, tightrope walkers, gymnasts and more, who practice amazing feats on the sand. Rent bikes and cycle down the boardwalk, borrow a board and surf the waves or simply relax and enjoy the scenery.
The canals of Venice, Italy have been recreated in this beachside enclave of homes, shops and restaurants. More creative and bohemian than its neighbors along the coast, Venice Beach has a wide boardwalk constantly filled with colorful personalities. Street musicians are common, and vendors sell all sorts of crafts and goods while weightlifters flaunt their strength in the sand. Wild and fun, but probably not the best spot for little kids, Venice Beach feels like San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury with a burnished Southern California beachside flair.
Home to the rich and famous, Malibu Beach is lined with amazing homes, but not as easy to get to as others — it’s a drive north along Highway 1 and then a scramble for parking. The beaches here can be very nice, particularly the wide stretch of Zuma Beach that’s very popular. If you go, arrive before 11 a.m. for the best beach blanket location and a shot at parking.
Will Rogers State Beach
North of Santa Monica and south of Malibu, Will Rogers State Beach is located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of LA. We love this beach because it’s often less crowded than its neighbors and offers sand volleyball courts, a playground, restrooms and more. If you’re looking for less of a scene, this is the beach for you. Locals prefer beaches like this one where many tourists are not.
Fun things to do for thrill-seekers
Some would say Los Angeles is thrilling enough, and yet there are still more adventurous activities for travelers who crave more. Some of the most famous amusement parks and thrill rides in the world are located in LA, and guests can hardly escape without visiting at least one.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Both a film studio and theme park, Universal Studios Hollywood is home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and some of the most exciting rollercoasters in California. Their studio tour incredibly entertaining, and the rides here appeal to visitors of all ages. At the more thrilling end, Jurassic Park: The Ride is pretty hair raising, as is Revenge of The Mummy. Tamer options include Flight of the Hippogriff, Despicable Me and more.
Disneyland is an experience like no other. Technically in Anaheim (about a 40-minute drive south of LA), Disneyland is everything for everyone. All the famous characters come to life here. New to the park this year is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a land devoted to the movie phenomenon. Galaxy’s Edge is home to new thrill rides and a collection of themed activities and outlets.
Knott’s Berry Farm
Just up the road from Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm is a fun-filled amusement park with some pretty awesome rides. Not for the faint of heart, the thrill rides here are enough to make your head spin. Ghostrider, Silver Bullet, Xcelerator and Hang Time are all sure to elicit shrieks of delight. While here, make sure you have a slice of Knott’s famous boysenberry pie.
OUE Skyspace and Glass Slide
OK, this experience is like nothing our family has ever done. Located atop one of the highest skyscrapers in Downtown Los Angeles, the glass Skyslide runs along the outside of the building. That’s more than 1,000 feet and 73 stories in the air, suspending riders in solid glass with a view to the street below as they slide. The experience was more than a bit unnerving, but we did it and survived. A number of other interactive exhibits at OUE Skyspace can keep visitors entertained for hours. Plus, the views of LA from the observation deck here are unmatched.
Fun things to do for culture hounds
Los Angeles is known for its dedication to the arts, and became what it is today largely because it’s the center of the entertainment universe. More than that, Los Angeles is home to some of the most interesting arts and culture venues in the world.
The J. Paul Getty Museum
With striking architecture and an imposing site on a Pacific Palisades hilltop, the J. Paul Getty Museum houses a world-class collection of masterpieces, antiquities, photographs and more. Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, Picasso and others all grace the walls at The Getty. The galleries here are voluminous, and a visitor could spend an entire day at this museum. Take some time to stroll around the gardens here too, as they’re peaceful and impressively landscaped.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
LACMA has become one of those places visitors must visit when they come to LA. Not only is it an architectural beauty, but the collections here are beyond impressive. The largest art museum in the West, LACMA offers a breadth of works spanning from ancient to modern times. It’s also home to one of LA’s most iconic Instagram spot, “Urban Lights” by artist Chris Burden, a dense collection of vintage streetlights installed close together.
Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA)
Over recent years, Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) has evolved and come into its own. The Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall was a game changer here, as was the Staples Center, where visitors can catch a sporting event or see top-billed musicians in concert. LA Live is a must-see in this area for a concert, movie or play and a great meal. The Grammy Museum is a fantastic collection dedicated to the music industry, and The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is home to the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. Add the historic Ahmanson Theater and the Mark Taper Forum to the mix for stage productions, and DLTA hits all the marks.
With so many fun things to do in Los Angeles, a weekend getaway may simply not be enough time. In order to take advantage of all the amazing activities and attractions, you’ll want to spend a week or more — or, at least, be prepared to plan a return trip!
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