Whether you’re in the City of Angels for a long time or passing through, here’s a list of classic things to see and do. One thing almost all places in L.A. have in common is that they’re best reached by car.
Known from various movies, such as Rebel Without a Cause, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle and Yes Man, this space and science related building is situated in the hills above Hollywood.
It’s my all-time favorite place in L.A., and I can’t even put a finger on what it is that enchants me – maybe it’s the architecture, the city views or the place’s connection to space, but I’ve now been there several times and it never ceases to amaze me.
Entering the observatory (as well as parking) is free, but you can go see a movie in the planetarium theater for a small fee or grab a bite to eat at the little café.
From here, you can also see the Hollywood sign and get some great photos of L.A.’s skyline. My advice would be to go in the late afternoon and hang around for sunset to watch the city lights.
Walk of Fame
Okay, quite the cliché tourist attraction, but nevertheless a necessity when visiting L.A. and Hollywood! Find your favorite actor’s and singer’s name and lie down next to their stars or literally get into their footsteps at Chinese Mann’s Theater. Have a look at Dolby Theater, where the Oscars take place every year or do some shopping at Highland Center shopping mall.
Apart from Madame Tussaud’s, fashion stores, restaurants and souvenir shops, there isn’t much else to do, but worth a visit if you want that real L.A. experience.
To me, this is the thing that screams Los Angeles the most. Watch it from down below or go on a hike that takes you all the way up behind the sign (highly recommendable!)
There are several hikes to choose from, but I’ll explain one that also takes you to the Tree of Wisdom: If you’re going by car, park on Hollywood Blvd. and walk all the way up Wonder View Road to the trail head. If you’re getting an Uber, you can drive all the way up and get dropped off at the trail, there just isn’t any parking for non-residents.
The hike takes a couple of hours in total and, due to the steepness of the hills, moderately fatiguing but so very worth it! Be sure to bring lots of water and good shoes.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art is probably best known for their installation of lamp posts that are featured in quite a few movies, including rom-com Friends with Benefits starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. The outdoor area, which also has the massive rock on top of an underground walkway, can be accessed without paying, but the indoor area is for paying visitors only.
Regardless of whether you can afford to (or want to) shop here or not, it’s fun to walk down Rodeo Drive – pretend to be Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – or at least keep an eye out for celebrities. Close by, you’ll also find the Beverly Hills sign.
The vibe here is so relaxed (possibly due to the many marijuana shops?) and beachy, with girls on roller skates and pastel colored bikes and guys with long hair carrying surfboards -you know, the really stereotypical Californian. Eat some ice cream while walking along the boardwalk, where are numerous artists trying to sell all sorts of stuff, from paintings to jewelry and wooden signs, and an outdoor gym where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to work out (supposedly). There’s also a rink for skaters with mad skills that you definitely need to check out.
Just before sunset, visit the rooftop bar at Hotel Erwin and drink delicious cocktails while watching the sky put on a show. After dark, you must visit Townhouse – it’s one of the oldest bars in Venice that has burlesque shows in the hidden basement that functioned as a speakeasy during the prohibition. It’s such a cool little bar with great staff and pool tables.
The second most L.A. thing to me! Who hasn’t watched Baywatch and pretended that they were running out to save someone from drowning (or is that just me?). The 90’s TV-show was filmed in Santa Monica and was thus my first idea of what L.A. looked like. The pier, which is the last stop on Route 66 (or first depending on the direction) and is probably one of the most filmed areas of all time, and I couldn’t imagine visiting California without going here. There’s everything you could possibly need on a day out: an arcade, rollercoasters, buskers, shops and stalls with snacks, restaurant and of course a great place to watch the sun go down.
Next to the beach is a shopping area with lots of different stores and restaurants as well. It’s really cozy around Christmas time with lights and decorations everywhere.
Cute little architectural park with artistic installations that you’ll most likely encounter on your way to Santa Monica Pier. It has a great viewpoint, isn’t very busy at all and has some fairly decent toilets.
The old industrial part of L.A. is rising in popularity and has become the home of many hipster cafés and art shops. Additionally, it’s the best area to go looking for street art! Keep an eye out for celebs at the Urth Café, as the likes of Justin Bieber and the Kardashians have been spotted there.
If you have enough time and like rides, Universal Studios is a great place to spend the day. Eat lots of American snacks, experience a 4D cinema, see real artefacts from Jurassic Park and cruise by Wisteria Lane.
Although technically not in L.A., Malibu isn’t far from it. Drive along the coast and spot beautiful, expensive houses and make a stop at El Matador State Beach.
Hollywood Bowl is a music venue in the shape of an amphitheater with an appurtenant museum and restaurant. There’s so much history connected to the place with artists like the Beatles and Billie Holiday having played there. Look up the official website and see if there’s a show you’d like to catch during your visit and you’ll be spoiled in so many ways.
Not exactly in the greater Los Angeles area either, but if you’re from Scandinavia, this is a fun place to visit. Originally supposed to be a Danish village, it’s more like concoction of everything Scandinavia with a touch of Dutch.
Walk down the streets with Danish names and flags, eat Danish food and pastries and buy clogs and silly souvenirs that don’t really have anything to do with Denmark – just for the fun of it.
If you’re into shopping that doesn’t ruin you, there’s Camarillo Premium Outlets, 45 minutes north of Los Angeles. With brands like Nike, Disney and Ralph Lauren, there’s something to suit each person’s taste – even if you’re just hungry.
If you visit TravelZoo.com, you’re able to find lots of deals on activities as well as hotels and flights. I used the site for discounts on whale safari, football games, movie tickets and a private flying lesson!