L.A. is filled with hidden gems to discover and explore, but we tend to overlook the obvious spots without realizing that some of the best the city has to offer, is hiding in plain sight. At these spots, you’ll find a diverse mix of both locals and tourists from all walks of life just going about their business. While most Angelenos would usually steer clear of these attractions, they tend to hold unique aspects which made them iconic in the first place. Here are all the essential things to do in Los Angeles at least once.
1. Stay on the pulse of cutting-edge creativity at The Broad
Browse around 2,000 works of art, all housed in this groundbreaking building. The Broad is considered to have the world’s best collections of contemporary and postwar art and constantly brings in renowned contemporary artists for temporary exhibitions every few months.
2. Become part of a famous show
In Tinseltown, the line between reality and fiction is always blurred. With hyper-produced, large-scale experiences and actors seamlessly roaming between sets and the streets, fantasy just becomes a part of everyday life. The Stranger Things experience in Los Angeles is no different and it’s your chance to dabbling the acting world—which is an essential Los Angeles experience. In this expansive retro universe, you’ll dive straight into a unique storyline, discover your own powers and team up with El and the gang to save the day. There’ll also be arcade games, interactive scenes, exclusive merch and delicious bites from the show to enjoy. Get your tickets before the portal closes for good.
3. Gaze at the stars at Griffith Observatory
The Griffith Observatory is a must-see in L.A., which is why it’s number one on our list – what better way to get to know a city than to peer out at the fantastic views, including the famous Hollywood Sign? Come day or night, both experiences are different in their own right – telescopes are available to look at the starry sky and several exhibits can be found inside. Oh, and another added benefit is that it’s totally free—you just have to get yourself there. The easiest way is to take the DASH Observatory bus from Vermont / Sunset Metro Red Line Station, or alternatively, get an UBER.
4. Wander through centuries of art at The Getty Center and The Getty Villa
You need to ride around the train and explore the living artworks within the gardens of the monumental Getty Center or wander amongst Roman-style columns of the Getty Villa at least once in L.A. These cultural gems exude art and beauty on every level. In addition to the 19-20th century European art that can be found in the museums, the entire premises are an architectural treat to walk around in.
5. Take photos and listen to jazz at LACMA
You haven’t been to L.A. unless you’ve attempted to capture Chris Burden’s iconic Urban Light “Urban Light” installation in front of LACMA. Once you’ve done that you’ll have over 100,000 artifacts to explore inside the museum. You can even catch live jazz on select Sundays.
6. Immerse yourself in cinematic magic at The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Hollywood finally has a dedicated place that honors the incredible creative legacy that put this coastal desert on the map. This state-of-the-art museum is the first of its kind in the country and, once again, the impressive structure is just as jaw-dropping as the contents. You can even visit it for free.
7. Walk, skate or cycle around Santa Monica & Venice Beach
The good thing is that you can see Santa Monica and Venice in under an hour because they’re walking/biking distance apart. With the opening of the new Metro Rail Expo Line, there’s a direct route from Union Station in DTLA to Downtown Santa Monica. From there, it’s a 5-minute walk to the third street promenade, where you’ll find restaurants and all the biggest name-brand shops. Look out for the giant Ferris wheel, located on the Santa Monica pier. From there you walk along the beach until you reach the Venice Boardwalk. During this walk, you’ll pass by Muscle Beach; aka the birthplace of the fitness boom in the US, where there are always people doing incredible gymnastics. You’ve reached the end of the walk once you get to the skate park, stick around for a bit and watch the talented skaters do their thing!
8. Immerse yourself in creativity in the Arts District
With the current gentrification of Downtown L.A., the Arts District has become one of the most popular spots amongst locals and tourists. Its history began back in the 70s when artists started illegally occupying spaces for their studios and have slowly developed as the place to be for creatives. You can find wall art, galleries, breweries, and much more!
9. Belt it out with an evening of karaoke in Koreatown
Step into the neighborhood that never sleeps, where neon-soaked streets are packed with exciting experiences and curiosities. This L.A. neighborhood is a must when it comes to nightlife (yes, that includes karaoke), but also has a vibrant food scene, incredible spas and tranquil hideouts to discover.
10. Spend a Sunday on Melrose Avenue
What’s more L.A., than spending the day shopping on Melrose Ave? Melrose is known for its cool wall art, funky/trendy shops and great cafes. It’s perfect for a stroll on a sunny day (which is pretty much every day), whether you’re there to go shopping, or just get a coffee. Check out Melrose trading post, a market that happens every Sunday where you can find vendors selling things like antiques and vintage clothes. You may also want to stop by the Insta-famous hot pink Paul Smith wall for that obligatory wall snap.
11. Hop on the trolley at The Grove
The Grove is an outdoor open-plan shopping mall and is within walking distance from Melrose so you can easily combine both into a day of activities. You can find more shops, several food vendors, places for drinks, a cinema and an overall cozy atmosphere. You should come just before sunset to get the best of both worlds because the vibe is completely different during the day and night. While the twinkling lights and rushing fountains are an experience on their own, you should head to the rooftop parking spot for epic views of the city too.
12. Marvel at luxury without limits along Rodeo Drive
This street name must pop into your head right after Melrose when you think of L.A. right? Known for its luxury brand shops, you can find it in the heart of Beverly Hills, and although not everyone can afford to shop there- you can’t come to L.A. and not check out Beverly hills!
13. Catch top comedians at the Laugh Factory
The Laugh Factory is a chain of comedy clubs that can be found in Chicago, Las Vegas, Long Beach, Reno, Scottsdale and of course, Hollywood. It’s one of the most famous comedy clubs, home to some of the biggest names in stand-up comedy today. We recommend going to the event “Chocolate Sundaes” which is held every Sunday. You can rsvp here and either choose the time slot between 19:00-21:00 or 21:00-23:00. The entry is free, with the only requirement being a two-drink minimum per person.
14. Watch fantasy come to life at Universal Studios
Does this really need any explanation? Universal Studios is one of the most quintessential things to do in Los Angeles, and it’s right in the heart of Hollywood so it’s easy to get to. You can get a guided tour of real-life movie lots and studios, see the re-imagining of Hogwarts where you can buy wands, Butter Beer, and anything else Harry Potter related and go on a bunch of thrilling rides! On top of that, in 2023 it will be home to the first Nintendo World in the USA.
15. See a concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall
You simply cannot leave L.A. until you’ve watched the LA Phil play at the mind-blowing building designed by one of the most famous architects in the world Frank Gehry.
16. Spend the summer at The Hollywood Bowl
A sweaty, boozy summer of music is a right of passage in this town. The Bowl has been a music mecca since it opened in 1922 and has continued to cement its place as a top music venue in the world with its curated music roster. Whether it’s a centennial celebration, summer concerts, or an immersive theater show, you’ll never be disappointed with a visit to this attraction.
17. Feast at Grand Central Market
There are hundreds of incredible food markets in Los Angeles, but none have featured in as many films as this one. You might as well get a taste of the city with the delicious offerings while reliving romantic a moment from La La Land.
18. Watch planes at In-N-Out
While L.A. may offer top-notch dining, In-N-Out has become part of the city’s culture. Getting your favorite order “animal style” while watching planes fly overhead in the longest line you’ve ever seen, is an essential thing to do.
19. Take in the views from Yamashiro
Los Angeles is all about the views and this historic hilltop restaurant is undoubtedly one of the best places for to witness the skyline. Dine in an ornate Japanese-inspired setting with delicious food while taking in the sweeping vistas of the twinkling city lights.
20. Take the shortest railway in town at Angels Flight
Los Angeles is filled with unique rides and modes of transport, but this is definitely one that you can’t skip. For almost two centuries this charming red, wooden railway has been carting people between Hill Street and Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill. It’s one of the cheapest thrills in the city and it’s also a cute date idea.
22. Hike to the Hollywood Sign
Have you even been to L.A. if you don’t have a lycra-clad selfie in front of the iconic real estate development sign? It may seem like a cliche, but the Hollywood Sign holds so much history and mystery, plus it is surrounded by the most incredible natural scenery, that it has to be on your list of things to do in Los Angeles. So you might as well pair a typical local activity (hiking) with sightseeing with a Hollywood Sign hike.
23. Catch a Dodgers game
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, the buzz of a full stadium in the City of Champions cannot be missed. Get into the spirit with a giant michelada and cheer on the “Boys in Blue” at this premier sporting venue.
24. Drive over Sixth St Bridge
The Sixth Street Viaduct connects Downtown Los Angeles with the Boyle Heights neighborhood. Take an evening drive past the 3,500-foot concrete creation and enjoy the glow of the city as a backdrop.
25. Dress Up For A Night At Magic Castle
The Magic Castle is Hollywood’s famed private clubhouse devoted to the art of magic. This alluring châteauesque residence is made up of parlors, hidden rooms, and mysterious illusions that will leave you bewildered. It’s considered one of the most unusual places on the planet and is definitely one of the classic Los Angeles things to do at least once. While you need to befriend a magician to be invited, it’s well worth the endeavor.