Almost everyone in the world would have seen some part of Los Angeles in a TV series, movie, documentary, or some other film set. Home to Hollywood and all the glamour that comes with it, LA is a huge city with plenty to see and do but also so varied that there’s truly something to keep anyone busy for months. I’ve been a few times and each time I see a new part of the city that surprises me. Below you will find the best things to do in Los Angeles.
The best memories I have of LA is travelling with a group of mates at the start of our overland trip from LA to Buenos Aires. Being the start of the trip meant we were full of cash and excitement to start the holiday. We stayed in Venice Beach which is still the best area to stay in LA. So what did 6 Aussie backpackers do when they hired a car in LA? We drove to Compton of coarse…but that won’t make this list.
- Take a hike with a view at Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon
- See a live game of basketball, baseball, American Football, soccer, surfing or even ice hockey
- Surf, swim or just lie on a golden-sand beach
- Visit the bohemian beach-side suburb of Venice
- Hollywood stars, signs and everything entertainment
- Visit a house completely covered in mosaic tiles
- Have lunch in an old bear enclosure
- Jump off a cliff and paraglide over LA’s beaches
- Attend an event at the Los Angeles Adventurers Club
The 28 Best Things to Do In Los Angeles
There are thousand of things to do in LA and the best will really depend on you and what you like to do. But here are a mix of the usual, unusual and some of my favs…not in any order.
Hike up to Griffith Park
Griffith Park is a 16 square kilometre park in the centre of the city full of hiking trails over hills with panoramic views of downtown, Hollywood, and beyond. Once you reach the top you’ll find Griffith Observatory which is home to heaps of astronomical stuff including the Tesla coil which discharges lightning every hour on the hour. Walking from the Hollywood sign to the Griffith Observatory takes about an hour and a half and Warner Brothers Studio, The Hollywood Bowl and the Hollywood Walk of Fame are all close by. The Observatory is open every day except Monday.
Eat lunch in An Old Animal Enclosure
Ever wondered what its like to be on the other side of the animal exhibits at a zoo? Then check out LA’s Old Zoo Picnic Area. The zoo was closed in 1966 when the new zoo opened but many of the old areas are still accessible meaning you can go into the old cages, wander through the old exhibits and even have a picnic in the old bear enclosure. The old zoo is located in Griffith park near Spring Canyon just over an hour walking from the Observatory.
Bike and Kayak down the LA River
If you’re keen to see more of the outdoors other than the hikes around the Hollywood sign then head over to the LA River where you can spend the day biking and kayaking along the river. You can hire the equipment yourself or go on an organised tour with LA River Kayak Safari who offer tours that include both a bike ride and kayak paddle down the river.
Join a Free (Or Not Free) Walking Tour
I did the free walking tour which was really informative and included a history of Los Angeles and some interesting stories, particularly of Hollywood and the entertainment industry. There’s a lot of walking tours to chose from in Los Angeles both paid and free (although you’ll tip the guide anyway). You can find a link in the Resources section.
Visit the Japanese Cultural Village
Located near Little Tokyo (obviously) is a 460sqm warehouse packed with colourful and cultural pieces of Japanese art, antiques, paintings and random collectables. The collection is the proud work of the fashion designer Peter Lai who has collected the items for decades. A casual visit will cost $15 or you can get a guided tour for $30.
Stroll around Venice Beach
The beach is known for its boardwalk lined with shops, stalls, street performers and general bohemian feel. With its famous street performers, trendy cafes and tattoo parlors, Venice Beach has a mixture of everything from skateparks, smoke shops, children’s play areas to fishing piers, bike paths and ‘Muscle Beach’.
See venice Canals
Venice is named after the canals that run through it developed by millionaire tobacco tycoon Abbot Kinney in 1905 who wanted his own version of Venice in Los Angeles. Venice Canals are impressively pristine with bridges and beach houses surrounding the canals, it feels a world away from Venice Beach despite just being a few blocks away.
Go See the Hollywood Sign
One of the most iconic landmarks in Los Angeles is the Hollywood Sign. The sign was originally built in 1923 and was meant to be a temporary advertisement for a housing development. However, the sign quickly became a symbol of the film industry and has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles. Hike up Mount Lee to get a closer view of the sign or take a tour of the surrounding Hollywood Hills.
Visit Europe at St. Vincent Court
Since 1957 this alleyway has been decorated with fake shopfronts and brick-paved streets which gives it a European feel. Filled with umbrellas and outdoor dining, grab lunch here and practice your Italian (on Duolingo) while in downtown LA.
See the Mosaic Tile House
While you’re wandering around Venice Beach head a few blocks away from the beach and check out the colourful and somewhat trippy Mosaic House. The entire house, inside and out, is covered in mosaics that have taken Cheri Penn and Gonzalo Duran decades to build. It’s best to book a visit in advance as it’s only open for a few hours on Saturdays, see the Resources section below for a link to the website.
Walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame
The walk of fame is a footpath / sidewalk lined with stars honouring people who have contributed something significant to entertainment. The US entertainment industry loves to pat itself on the back so the Walk of Fame now has close to 3000 stars with several people having received more than one star over the years.
Visit the Old Town at El Pueblo
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument is a vibrant and historic landmark located near the site of one of the first settlements in LA. Over two centuries ago, 44 settlers from Native American, African and European backgrounds traversed over 1,000 miles from present day Mexico to create this agricultural community back in September 1781. Since then it has fallen under the control of Spain, Mexico & USA. Today, the main street Olvera Street, is a pedestrian-only market lined with stalls selling handmade pottery, jewelry, and leather goods.
Paddleboard Around Marina Del Rey
Just south of Venice Beach is the man-made habour Marina Del Rey where you can see marine life, houseboats and impressive yachts. One of the best ways to explore the area (and if the weather allows) is to rent a kayak for a couple of hours or join a stand up paddleboard tour.
Watch a Live TV Recording
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in LA, join the audience in a live recording. Late shows, game shows, talent shows all offer the chance to join the audience to play, sing or laugh your way through the recording session. Most shows are booked directly but if you’re your not fussy then check out Sony Pictures for a list live recordings while you’re in town.
Catch some Live Sport
Los Angeles is home to some of the biggest sporting teams in the country and weather you’re a sports fan or not you should try to fit in a game during your stay in LA. The biggest sporting event in in the city is to see the LA Lakers play basketball at the Crypto.com Arena but you can also see a baseball, soccer, American Football or even an ice hockey game while in town. If you prefer water sports you can catch the The World Surf League which is held at Huntington Beach.
paraglide at Malibu
For something a bit more exciting (but also a bit more costly), jump off a cliff in Malibu to enjoy views of the Santa Monica Mountains while gliding over the ocean and beaches of Los Angeles. Options include an 20-minute motorised flight taking off from the beach or a 30-minute glide jumping off from a cliff.
Hike Runyon Canyon
Another hiking destination close to Griffith Park is Runyon Canyon Park which has some great hiking trails including an easy loop trail that circles a mountain called “The Rock,”. You’ll get great views of Downtown LA on one side and the Hollywood Hills on the other.
Visit the Adventurers Club
If you found this site and made it this far, chances are you like to fill your travels with adventure. The home of adventurous travel in LA is the Adventurers Clubs where members meet regularly to discuss their adventurers. This isn’t the type of club discussing visiting the Statue of Liberty but rather their trips across the Arctic or Himalayas. Events are usually held weekly and visitors are welcome to register to attend. You can find more details in the resources section below.
See a Show at the Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is an outdoor amphitheatre that has been hosting musical performances since 1922. The venue is located in Hollywood and features a variety of musical genres, from classical to pop. If you’re on a tight budget but want to check it out anyway you can pick a cheaper event, pack a picnic and sit on the lawn before heading in to watch the show.
Walk along Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica is a lively beach with golden sands, food trucks, restaurants and tacky souvenir shops spread across its famous pier. The pier houses Pacific Park which has carnival rides and a 30 metre Ferris wheel that’s lit up with thousands of LED lights every night.
Tour Universal Studios
If you’re a movie buff then you’ll definitely want to do the Universal Studios tour where you’ll see the sets and feel like you’re behind the scenes on many of your favourite movies and TV shows. The tour includes a visit to Universal’s theme park, which has Jurassic Park and Harry Potter rides.
Eat at Grand Central Market
A busy food market where you have heaps of food options. The market has been open for over 100 years and some of the vendors have been there for over 50 and others added every year.
Go Window Shopping in Beverley Hills
Beverly Hills is home to some of the most exclusive shopping and dining in LA with Rodeo Drive being full of high-end designer stores. Not my type of thing but when you’re in LA you should at least go have a look if you have enough time.
Head Back in Time at La Brea Tar Pits
The La Brea Tar Pits are a group of tar pits located in Hancock Park where you can see a large collection of fossilised animals, including mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and wolves. Scientists work in live excavations and many of their discoveries end on on display in the museum.
Every Sunday, Smorgasburg Los Angeles in downtown LA sets up its stalls and offers even more options than the Central Market. Smorgasburg has over 100 vendors ranging from vegan dishes to tacos and seafood, you’ll definitely find something to snack on. There are also stalls selling arts and crafts as well as an open-air bar serving cocktails and craft beer.
The explosion of colour and tropical vibe is the creation of the famous bartender Ray Buhen. Located on Sunset Boulevard means you can drop in for a drink in between checking out the Hollywood Stars.
Clifton’s Republic is a unique site spread over a few levels where each area has a different theme. Originally a cafeteria full of waterfalls and a redwood forest the style has continued but the designs are slightly different. The bar is located at 648 South Broadway and opens from 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays and usually has a cover charge.
Go to A Theme Park
Los Angeles has heaps of theme parks to choose from whether you want to take your kids or just hang out with Mickey Mouse yourself. I haven’t been to any myself but Disneyland, Legoland, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Universal Studios are the big 4 and all offer a different experience including rides and things to keep adults entertained.
Take A Day Trip
There’s some great day trips out of Los Angeles, here are some of the best.
Glen Ivy Hot Springs – Get away from LA and chill out at Glen Ivy Hot Springs – an oasis in a valley located in Corona. Relax in naturally fed hot mineral baths surrounded by lush greenery before alternating between hot and cold plunge pools. Glen Ivy is 1.5 hours drive from Los Angeles.
Santa Barbara – Check out the beautiful Californian coastline with its spectacular cliffs, golden-sand beaches, and picturesque towns. Depending on where you set off, driving can take anywhere between 40 minutes and 2 hours. There are plenty of scenic lookouts and stops worth visiting along the way.
Skiing / Snowboarding – There’s plenty of options available for a few days escape to the ski fields from Los Angeles. The closest (but not the best quality) is Mt Baldy which can be reached within 1.5 hours from Los Angeles.
Travel Resources for Visiting Los Angeles
LA Free Walking Tour – Free walking tour of Los Angeles with experienced guides paid by tips
LA Adventurers Club – Regular events are open to visitors and the club is full with interesting artifacts.
The Mosaic Tile House – Visit an entire house made of mosaics, book ahead of time as reservations are essential.
Tiki-Ti Bar– Lively Tiki-themed bar in Sunset Boulevard.
Clifton’s Republic – Themed bar and restaurant where you can sip cocktails under a tree next to a canoe
Viator – Huge selection of activities, tours and experiences with great cancellation and price match policies.
Get Your Guide – Great selection of experiences from sea, land and air.
SkyScanner – The best place to start looking for flights. They compare prices from a huge amount of
Hostelworld – Thousands of hostels with millions of reviews. You can also contact other travelers before you arrive.
Travel Insurance – None of us plan to fall off motorbikes or break a leg snowboarding but if it happens make sure you’re covered.
Booking.com – One of the best accommodation booking pages available. This is my benchmark before searching for a better deal (which often can’t be beaten).
AirBnB – Huge range of home to rent across the globe and discounts for longer stays.
RentalCars.com – The best site for renting cars while travelling, they find the best rates and provide great insurance options.