Los Angeles is a big, sprawling city surrounded by high mountains, forests and valleys, it has stunning beaches, lots of sunshine and it is the entertainment capital of the world; No wonder it attracts millions of people from all over the globe every year.
Think Los Angeles and you think Hollywood where magic has been made for decades. But it is much more than that. It is a culturally diverse city with a rich history packed with mind-blowing museums, exciting family attractions, shopping delights, and plenty of sightseeing opportunities.
The city has a good public transportation network that includes subways, rail, buses, and shuttles to help you get around and explore most of the attractions without renting a car.
To help you plan your visit and make the best of your time in Los Angeles, check out this list of must-see attractions.
1. Griffith Observatory And The Hollywood Sign
Start your exploration of this magnificent city with a visit to Griffith Observatory on Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park for spectacular views over Los Angeles, Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean.
An absolute must on your way there is to take pictures of the Hollywood Sign, one of the most famous landmarks in America that regularly features in movies and television programs and is known to people all over the world.
Admission to the beautiful Griffith Park and Observatory is free, and what makes it worth the visit, besides the beautiful surroundings and views, is that you can use its public telescopes every night that the observatory is open to view the night sky. It includes the use of the Zeiss telescope on the roof.
The planetarium at the Observatory hosts regular shows throughout the day, which you can attend at a nominal fee.
2. Griffith Park
The park itself is the ideal place to spend some time outdoors with more than 50-miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.
At the heart of the park, you will find the Greek Theatre, an open-air amphitheater where you can take in a show, and other attractions which include the Botanical Gardens, two historic golf courses and the Autry Museum of the American West.
3. Venice Beach
Experience the fun the city has to offer and visit Venice Beach, the eclectic, bohemian beachside resort with its circus-like feeling, famous Boardwalk, street performers and interesting shops. The list goes on and on …
Venice Beach has a 4 km long promenade along which artists and vendors, street performers and fortune-tellers gather to entertain the crowds. Look out for the Art Walls covered with colorful graffiti.
The skate plaza and Muscle Beach outdoor gym attracts thousands of people to the area, as does Abbot Kinney Boulevard with its stylish boutiques, coffee bars, and eateries where foodies will be in their element. In Venice Beach, there is also no shortage of tattoo parlors and cannabis shops.
Venice Beach is modeled after Venice in Italy, complete with man-made canals built by the tobacco millionaire and developer, Abbot Kinney, in 1905 as part of what he saw as his Venice of America plan.
4. Santa Monica Beach And Pier
If a day on the beach is what you are after, then the wide, flat Santa Monica Beach with its palm trees, pier and Ferris wheel is the place to spend a day. It is a walkable beach town with a very laid-back atmosphere.
The area has 3 miles of shoreline and features The Strand, a 22-mile bike path that runs along the Pacific Ocean and a huge pedestrian-only outdoor shopping district, The Third Street Promenade. On the Santa Monica Pier, you will find Pacific Park, an amusement park with a roller coaster, carnival games, fun rides, and bumper cars.
Plan your day to end with a walk on the pier to watch the sunset and take a ride on the Ferris wheel to complete your visit. You can reach Santa Monica by car or by taking the Metro’s Expo Line.
5. Universal Studios Hollywood
You have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and see how movies are made in a fully operational, working studio when you visit Universal Studios, Hollywood.
Take the Studio Tour, one of the many exciting and thrilling rides you will experience in the park, for an almost 60-minute ride in a tram with a live tour guide from the Upper Lot into a working film studio. Along the way, you will see and experience flash flood scenes, the Bates Motel and come face to face from the shark in Jaws.
Its best rides include Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Transformers: The Ride-3D, and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and the latest one, Jurassic World The Ride.
Plan your day well, start early and choose the best ticket option. You can either buy an All-Inclusive Pass that allows you to do everything or build your own pass to select only the attractions you want to visit.
6. The Sunset Strip
Think of Hollywood and the movies and a cruise in a convertible down the palm-lined Sunset Boulevard will most likely come up as it was used as the setting of several well-known films like the classic Sunset Boulevard.
The world-famous road is 22 miles long and stretches from Hollywood to Malibu. It takes you past places like Beverly Hills, Bel Air, UCLA and Brentwood, all well-known from movies and TV shows and series.
Sunset Strip, plastered with glittering billboards at night, is the place to go if you want to experience the nightlife and music clubs so popular in the city. The Strip is home to classic music venues like The Roxy Theatre and the Rainbow Bar & Grill. It is best to explore Sunset Strip by car, but you will find city buses that cover most of the thoroughfare.
7. Rodeo Drive
Remember Julia Robert’s shopping-spree in the movie Pretty Woman? That was in Rodeo Drive, a high-end shopping street in Beverly Hills where you might even spot celebrities if you are lucky.
It is a very expensive shopping street, so don’t expect to find bargains. You might want to go to take an “I was here” picture and to admire the beautiful European-styled shopping area with designer shops like Armani, and Coco Chanel, and jewelers like Tiffany and Cartier.
8. The Getty Center
A visit to the Getty Center is an experience not to be missed. It is much more than a museum and attracts people because of its impressive architectural buildings, beautiful gardens and spectacular views of Santa Monica.
Your experience starts upon arrival at the tram station at the bottom of the hill on which the center is built, from where you are transported to the top by tram.
The Paul J Getty museum is the wealthiest art institution in the world that houses an incredible art collection including Renaissance paintings, Baroque sculptures, and decorative art. The collection extends to outdoor sculptures that are displayed on the terraces, gardens and also in the Central Garden, which is a work of art itself.
Inside the center are theatres, shops, a cafeteria, and restaurants. Admission is free, and you can get there by car, bus or taxi.
9. TCL Chinese Theater
Get a glimpse into Hollywood’s Golden Age when you visit the TCL Chinese Theatre on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
This movie palace was the venue for most of the major red-carpet movie premieres since 1927 and is also the place where the stars go to watch their movies. In the Forecourt of the Stars, you will see hand- and footprints of famous movie stars from 1927 to this day.
Originally known as Grauman’s Chinese Theater, its name was changed to TCL Chinese Theater in 2013 when one of China’s biggest electronic manufacturers, namely TCL, joined hands with the Grauman Chinese Theater in a 10-year naming rights partnership. The benefit of the partnership was that the theater was upgraded and now also features the world’s largest IMAX auditorium.
You can take a tour of the theatre, or just take in a show of a newly released film for a true Hollywood experience.
10. Hollywood Walk of Fame
While you’re in the area, you might as well take a walk and follow the stars down the Walk of Fame along Hollywood Boulevard.
The sidewalks between Gower And La Brea Streets are scattered with tiled and brass stars serving as monuments to achievements in the entertainment industry including movies, theater, radio, TV, and music.
There are more than 2500 stars embedded in the sidewalks and you will recognize names of great musicians and actors, directors and producers, musical and theatrical groups and even fictional characters.
If you look up, you will find numbered banner signs with interesting information about the history of the area. You can also pick up a map to guide you through the starry patch. The Walk of Fame is a three-and-a-half-mile round-trip walk.
11. Paramount Pictures Studio
If a real Hollywood experience is what you are after, you must pay a visit to the Paramount Pictures Studio. It is a working studio, and the only remaining major one left in Hollywood.
It offers guided tours for a behind-the-scenes-experience to see sound stages and studio sets that you might recognize from current movies and TV shows. The tour includes a visit to the backlot where exterior scenes are filmed, of which some sections look like parts of Chicago and New York. Paramount Studios is in Melrose Avenue, about 3 miles from the Walk of Fame.
12. La Brea Tar Pits
A weird and wonderful attraction in the heart of Los Angeles is the La Brea Tar Pits, the world’s only active, Ice Age excavation site where hot tar is still bubbling from the earth 40,000 years later.
The natural asphalt that seeps from the ground in the area has preserved the bones of trapped animals over many centuries, and today scientists research the tar pits and excavate the tar to find and display specimens that died there in the George C. Page Museum.
More than 3.5 million fossils have been discovered on the site and the museum is home to many of the artifacts found at the tar pits. In the museum, you will see one of the largest, most fascinating collections of Ice Age fossils in the world, including mammoths, giant sloths and saber-toothed cats.
To make the most of your visit you can take the Excavator Tour to see scientists working on fossils, visit the dig site where scientists still discover Ice Age specimens and walk around Lake Pit.
13. California Science Center
To satisfy your curious mind visit the California Science Center in Exposition Park for hands-on, interactive exhibitions that focus on technology, innovation, and the environment.
Its top attraction is the Space Shuttle Endeavour, on permanent display in the Samuel Oschin Pavilion at the California Science Center. At the Endeavour Together: Parts & People-exhibit you will see the external fuel tank and other artifacts from the Endeavour.
Another exhibit worth spending time at is “Ecosystems”, where visitors pass through different zones and encounter different environments like familiar urban areas to the North Pole. It is an engaging, interactive exhibit where you will learn how humans and animals adapt to their different environments and features a mixture of live plants and animals.
Find out which Science Spectacular Shows and demonstrations you can attend during your visit by getting a schedule from the information desk on arrival. To attend an IMAX show, special activities like a climbing wall, motion simulator and high wire bicycle you will need separate tickets.
14. Urban Light At The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Bask in the glow of Urban Light, the assemblage sculpture at the Wilshire Boulevard entrance to the LACMA. The installation by artist Chris Burden consists of 202 restored, vintage streetlamps that once lit the streets of Southern California.
At night the solar-powered lamps forming the Urban Lightwork of art lights up the vicinity of the Miracle Mile where the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is located. It has become one of the most visited and photographed landmarks in Los Angeles, and the one thing that most visitors will identify the museum with.
The museum itself is well worth a visit, featuring 150,000 works of art from ancient times to current, contemporary art. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is on Museum Row, adjacent to the La Brea Tar Pits.
15. Disneyland Park
Known as the happiest place on earth Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is the only theme park that was not only designed but also completed under the direct supervision of Walt Disney himself. Who would not want to visit Disneyland Park, the very first Disney theme park, that the great man himself created?
It is the typical Disney fantasyland where the classic fairy tales come to life with Sleeping Beauty’s castle at its center, exciting, thrilling rides, the Magic Happens parade and all the Disney magic you expect.
You can stay at a Disneyland resort hotel or choose one of the off-site hotels of which some are closer to the park than the on-site hotels. You can get to Disneyland by car, bus or train.
Travel Tips To Plan Your Los Angeles Visit
When planning your trip to Los Angeles keep in mind that Hollywood is the best neighborhood to stay in if you visit the city for the first time, but if you are on a budget Venice Beach is the best option.
There are many ways to save money in the city. Lots of the attractions charge no admission fee, but you can save money on the attractions where you have to pay by buying a Go Los Angeles Pass.
For discount tickets on performances, bay cruises, guided tours and more, use Goldstar online for reservations.
Instead of dinner, go to a restaurant for lunch instead as you will get lunchtime specials at many amazing restaurants on their most popular dishes.