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Things to do in Los Angeles

Sightsee in the city of stars.

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Reality TV shows highlighting celebrity romps and the lives of the super-rich give a superficial glimpse of what it’s really like to work and play in Los Angeles. Locals know it as the West coast epicenter of creativity, diversity and inspiration.

You won’t have to look hard to stay entertained in Los Angeles.

Things to do in Los Angeles with Kids

Los Angeles has a plethora of hands-on activities and exciting places for the kiddos to explore. Here are some ideas:

  • Ride the ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier.
  • Face down some dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
  • Interact with exhibits at the Kidspace Children’s Museum.
  • Enjoy a puppet show at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater.
  • Learn and play at the Discovery Cube Los Angeles.

Unique things to do in Los Angeles

If you’re looking for an offbeat LA experience, you don’t need to run for the hills — these thrills exist in the heart of the city:

  • Catch a Mexican wrestling-burlesque mash-up at Lucha VaVoom.
  • Go clubbing at the California Institute of Abnormalarts.
  • Pick up past and future essentials at the Time Travel Mart.
  • Make art that glows by taking a class at the Museum of Neon Art.
  • Peruse eclectic gifts at Soap Plant Wacko.

Fun things to do in Los Angeles

Let loose and let the LA good times roll:

  • Sing karaoke at an underground K-town bar
  • Get dinner or lunch in Little Tokyo
  • Shop the open-air Melrose Trading Post
  • Be an audience member for a TV show taping
  • Laugh your head off at a Groundlings comedy show
  • Take a ride on historic Angel’s Flight railway — a round trip ticket is just $2

Free things to do in Los Angeles

On a budget? Keep your cash with these free LA activities:

  • Unwind at Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens
  • Stroll through charming St. Vincent Court
  • View the city from City Hall’s observation deck
  • Lounge on the lawn of the gorgeous Los Angeles Public Library
  • Wander through The Last Bookstore
  • Hike across the Bridge to Nowhere
  • Listen to groovy tunes at Amoeba Music
  • Cruise along the iconic Mulholland Drive
  • Admire curated art, architecture and gardens at The Getty

Top landmarks and attractions in Los Angeles

Newcomers could start with LA’s most popular stops and classic eats.

Hollywood trail

1. Hike the Hollywood trail.

Few landmarks are as iconic as those nine block letters rooted above the Los Angeles skyline. See for yourself by hiking the Mt. Hollywood Trail in Griffith Park. The beginner-friendly three-mile loop is free to hike, and you’ll be rewarded with priceless views.

Take a guided hiking tour
Echo Park Lake

2. Paddle Echo Park Lake.

Rent a pedal boat or walk the path around Echo Park Lake, a man-made oasis in the heart of La La Land. Grab a sandwich at Beacon and pay respects to the Lady of the Lake statue before taking it easy beneath the palms.

View LA tours and activities
Grand Central Market

3. Get lost in Grand Central Market.

Since 1917, this grand emporium has hosted local food, floral and craft vendors in the heart of DTLA. Shop delicacy groceries and fresh produce or fill your belly with hot ready-made fare. Sights and smells are free.

Go on an LA food tour
Griffith Observatory

4. Explore the Griffith Observatory.

Open to everyone for free, Griffith Observatory sits on Mount Hollywood’s south slope and offers a planetarium, telescopes, and a breathtaking view of the Los Angeles basin.

Book a private tour of Griffith Observatory
Getty Center

5. Visit the Getty Center or the Broad.

The Getty, an art-lover’s oasis, has two locations to visit. See Van Gogh and Monet masterpieces, plus 20th century sculpture from Isamu Noguchi and Henry Moore. Admission to the Getty Center is free, though you’ll need to pay for parking.

And the Broad, founded in 2015, is packed with Insta-worthy contemporary art for an at times surreal and always stimulating experience. Admission is free.

Book a Getty Center tour
universal studios

6. Catch thrills on a roller coaster at Universal Studios, Disneyland and more.

Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping rides or a family-friendly day trip, Los Angeles’ amusement parks cater to big and little kids alike.

Universal Studios is a dream for movie buffs, while Disneyland offers a magical escape.

For the kids, head to Legoland. Or go seaside at Pacific Park at the Santa Monica Pier — admission is free.

Hollywood Bowl
fruit stand farmers market

7. Chow down at the Original Farmers Market.

Explore hundreds of restaurants and grocers at the Original Farmers Market. An LA fixture as historic as it is delicious, the market first opened in July 1934. Don’t miss the hot sauces at Light My Fire.

View LA farmers market tours
Hollywood Bowl

8. Book a seat at the Hollywood Bowl or Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Spend a night under the stars and catch a concert at the renownedHollywood Bowl. Tucked into the concave hillside of Mt. Hollywood, this natural amphitheater has hosted everyone from Bob Dylan to The Beatles.

And watch a dance or musical performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Designed in the deconstructivist style by tastemaker Frank Gehry, it’s just as thrilling to view from the outside.

Free self-guided audio tours and guided tours are available for both venues.

Get show tickets for the Hollywood Bowl

Case study: Sarah's experience

Sarah Barness profile photo
Sarah Barness
Credit Card Editor

As an LA native, the Hollywood Bowl has been a scene my whole life. I even worked as an usher there two summers just to catch the shows. And if I had to choose one event in all of Los Angeles never, ever to miss, it’d be the Sound of Music sing-a-long at the Hollywood Bowl.

It’s as magical as it sounds. Thousands of people dress up as characters from the musical — yes, I dressed up as the hills one year — and everyone sings together as the film plays on a massive screen. I usually go with friends and family, and we bring a picnic and at least two bottles of wine.

The best part is how interactive the whole experience is. Every time the Baroness comes on screen, expect to hear 17,000 people hiss in unison. When Maria sings “I must’ve done something good,” you’ll see 17,000 lighters swaying. It’s pretty amazing.

Other places we love to go in Los Angeles:

  • Clifton’s Republic. Stand face-to-face with taxidermied creatures at this multistory cocktail bar.
  • Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Wander through acres of specialized gardens and revel in extensive European and American art.
  • Museum of Jurassic Technology. Marvel at unique and unorthodox memorabilia from the Lower Jurassic.
  • Self-Realization Fellowship. Meditate beneath the Lake Shrine and wander through the Temple’s gardens for free.

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Best seasonal events in Los Angeles

While seasons may be less clearly defined in Los Angeles than other parts of the country, it’s still an easy way to organize annual events. No matter when you travel, you can leave your parka at home.

Spring

  • Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. The largest book festival in the US occurs each April. Stop by for author appearances and lectures by industry speakers. All outdoor events are free to the public.
  • Cherry blossom festivals. Admire blush-pink blooms at celebrations all around LA, from Monterey Park to Huntington Beach and Descanso Gardens.

Summer

  • Wine tasting at Barnsdall Park. Pay $35 for four glasses of vino and bring cash for food truck grub at this community picnic hosted by a DJ. Event is held every Friday in the summer, though you’ll want to get tickets in advance.
  • Movie screenings at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Catch an outdoor flick at the famous resting place on weekends. Tickets cost between $12 and $20.

Fall

  • Halloween Horror Nights. Universal Studios brings many of its spine-chilling scary stories to life. General admission is between $67 and $77, while an Ultimate Fear Pass for 32 nights is $299.
  • Dia de los Muertos. The traditions of Mexico’s Day of the Dead are brought to life around LA, from art installations in Grand Park to the Jardin de Recuerdos (Garden of Memories) at the Natural History Museum.

Winter

  • Heart of LA – CicLAvia. For one day in early December, streets are closed to motor vehicles and open to pedestrians, runners, cyclists and skaters. It’s free, and lasts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Outdoor ice skating. Glide beneath palm trees and skyscrapers at Pershing Square near downtown LA. Access to the ice plus skate rental is about $14 per hour.

Bottom line

There’s no shortage of sites to see — and places to eat — in sunny Los Angeles. After you’ve set your itinerary, find the most effective routes to hop from place to place in LA.

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