The 12 best things to do in Los Angeles

Griffith Observatory - the best things to do in Los Angeles
One of the best things to do in Los Angeles is to hike up to Griffith Observatory and stay for sunset - © 2012 Andy Kennelly/Andrew Kennelly

Measuring 44 miles across at its widest, there’s no shortage of things to do in Los Angeles – the tricky part is finding the time to fit them all in. There are the perennial favourites, like the movie studio tours, surfing in Malibu or a trip to the ball game. Then there are the newer attractions, like the crop of contemporary art galleries that have opened up Downtown, revitalising the neighbourhood. There’s also shopping and stargazing and hiking to be done – follow the lead of the native Angelenos and rise with the sun to make the most of it.

Read on for our experts' top tips, while here are on our in-depth guides to the city's best hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping, plus how to spend a weekend in Los Angeles.

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Go stargazing in the Hollywood hills at the Griffith Observatory

You can drive up to the Griffith Observatory but it's much nicer to arrive by foot, hiking up one of Griffith Park's reasonably gentle paths and taking in the Hollywood sign and spectacular views over the city on the way. The Art Deco building is an impressive sight and it’s no less enchanting inside, with permanent exhibits exploring the cosmos and an excellent planetarium.

Insider's tip: One Saturday a month the observatory hosts a public star party, free to members of the public. With various telescopes dotted around the front lawn and knowledgeable astronomers on hand for questions, it’s a chance to get a closer look at the night sky.

Prices: Free

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles
Hiking up to the Griffith Observatory is a popular past-time for locals and visitors - Mark Edward Harris/Mark Edward Harris

Double your dose of culture at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection of over 135,000 objects. It’s popular with tourists and locals alike, who come for the innovative exhibitions and the Instagram-worthy outdoor sculptures, like Jeff Koons’ Balloon Monkey in the central courtyard or Chris Burden’s grid of restored vintage street lamps, Urban Light.

Insider's tip: The museum runs an ever-changing roster of special events, from art and music workshops to cookery classes with top chefs and family-friendly sessions every Sunday. Keep an eye on their monthly calendar to stay on top of what’s coming up.

Prices: ££

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles
LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States

Soak up Hollywood history at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

After years in the making, the long-awaited Academy Museum of Motion Pictures finally opened its doors to much fanfare in September 2021, with the striking Renzo Piano-designed Museum now the largest in the world solely dedicated to the art and science of movie making. Inside you’ll find four floors of gallery space – including a vast 1,000-seat theatre in its much-photographed glass dome – filled with cinematic treasures, including the sole surviving shark from Jaws, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz and the Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane.

Insiders’ tip: Pay the $15 extra for the Oscars Experience, where you’ll be able to step inside the Dolby Theatre on Oscar night via a spookily realistic simulation. You’ll hear your name called and get to hold one of the coveted golden statuettes, with the whole thing captured on video. Cheesy, yes, but good fun.

Prices: ££

Universal City

Take part in some movie magic at Universal Studios

A must-visit for thrill seekers and movie lovers, Universal Studios is home to several heart-thumping rides, including the King Kong 3D experience, Revenge of the Mummy and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Hop into one of their trolleys for the studio tour, which takes in the Bates Motel from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and an encounter with the shark from Jaws.

Insider's tip: Pay a bit extra for the VIP experience, where you can actually get off the trolley and explore the backlot on foot. Visit the sound stages where some of the biggest blockbusters were filmed and tour the Property Department, home to thousands of set pieces and props.

Prices: £££

Universal Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles
Universal Studios is a must-visit for thrill seekers and movie lovers


Browse the shops on America’s coolest street

Often dubbed as the coolest block in America, Abbot Kinney Boulevard is home to some of the most eclectic shops in the city. Beloved by Venice’s hipsters, the independent boutiques are the perfect place to pick up a quirky gift to take home - pick up a Venice Beach-scented candle from Tumbleweed & Dandelion or some whimsical stationery from Burro. There are plenty of places to refuel, too, such as vegetarian spot The Butcher’s Daughter and celeb favourite Gjelina.

Insider’s tip: Come on the first Friday of the month for Abbot Kinney’s evening food truck extravaganza. From 5pm dozens of the city’s finest food trucks crowd onto the boulevard, serving up everything from Thai, Southern soul, Greek and Vietnamese food.


Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Los Angeles
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is home to some of the most eclectic shops in the city - lovelightimages/Love Light Images

Cycle from Santa Monica to Venice

The Santa Monica to Venice bike path is one of the most famous in the world, and for good reason – there’s nothing quite like watching the sun set over the Pacific from this famous stretch of beach. Start at sleepy Will Rogers State Beach, just north of Santa Monica, and carry on past the gaudy Santa Monica Pier until you reach the Venice Beach Boardwalk, where you’ll be cycling along the grungy hawkers selling their tat, Muscle Beach regulars and the oceanfront skatepark. Perry’s Cafe and Beach Rentals, on Santa Monica's beachfront, is a good place to rent bikes. 

Insider’s tip: If you’re up to it, carry on the Marvin Braude Bike Trail for four more miles to explore Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey, one of LA’s smaller, more understated beach communities.

Prices: Free

Santa Monica beach, Los Angeles
The Santa Monica to Venice bike path is an LA must-do - stellalevi/stellalevi


Fast food done right at Grand Central Market

Downtown’s Grand Central Market, located opposite the cute Angels Flight funicular, made popular in film La La Land, is a proper foodie haven, serving up everything from Sari Sari’s spicy Filipino rice bowls to Olio’s wood-fired pizzas and Lucky Bird’s famous citrus-brined fried chicken. Always heaving with people and buzzing with neon signs, it feels like a little piece of New York in DTLA.

Insider’s tip: While you’re in the neighbourhood, check out the nearby Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, which encompasses tours of local galleries, artists’ studios and cultural institutions along Spring and Main Street.

Prices: £

Grand Central Market in Downtown is a foodie haven, Los Angeles
Grand Central Market is a popular attraction for foodies - Eddie Hernandez Photography/Eddie Hernandez Photography

Take a trip to see some out-of-this-world art at The Broad

The Broad, which opened in 2015, has swiftly cemented itself as one of the coolest art galleries in LA, with perpetual queues to visit its permanent collection. The gallery is home to some of the most exciting contemporary art in the city, such as Yayoi Kusama’s trippy Infinity Mirrored Room, an immersive installation with LED lights reflecting endlessly inside a mirrored room.

Insider's tip: Tickets for the gallery can book out weeks in advance,  but if you haven’t managed to nab any, don’t panic – they also release a batch of extra tickets online daily (pick them up here).

Prices: Free

The Broad, Los Angeles
The Broad is one of the coolest art galleries in LA

Step into a Gothic masterpiece at the United Theatre on Broadway

The United Theatre is a marvel of Spanish Gothic style. Designed by architect C. Howard Crane, it was modelled on the Segovia Cathedral in Spain and is just as impressive. Formerly the United Artists Theatre, it used to be the flagship theatre for Charlie Chaplin’s film studio, United Artists; today, as well as showing films, it also hosts concerts, stand-up comedy and live reads.

Insider's tip: Eat an early supper beforehand at the hip Hoxton Downtown hotel just down the road. Head up to their buzzy rooftop restaurant Cabra for Peruvian bites, punchy cocktails and stellar views of Downtown LA.

Prices: ££-£££

The Ace Theatre, Los Angeles
The gothic Ace Theatre shows a programme of films, concerts and stand-up comedy

Elysian Park

Go all-American at a ball game with the LA Dodgers

The Dodger Stadium, home to the LA Dodgers baseball team, is the third oldest baseball stadium in America, after Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago, and one of the most picturesque, overlooking the San Gabriel Mountains on one side and Downtown LA’s skyscrapers on the other. Bring snacks– a typical ball game lasts for at least three hours.  

Insider's tip: If you’re going for a day game, be sure to take a hat and sun cream – most of the stadium is in the sun and it can get uncomfortably hot. Book under the roof of the top deck for the shadiest seats.

Prices: ££-£££

Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles
The Dodgers Stadium is the third oldest baseball stadium in America - David Sucsy/dszc


Ride the waves in Malibu

Book in for a surfing lesson with Aqua Surf School, who operate out of Surfrider Beach, one of the most famous surf spots in Malibu (it has particularly slow waves, making it the ideal place to learn). Their two-hour lessons cater to beginners and more advanced surfers and they’ll provide all the necessary equipment, including boards and wetsuits.

Insider's tip: Shake the sand out of your hair and head across the road to the Surfrider Hotel’s rooftop bar after your lesson. Grab a sofa by one of the fire pits, order a cocktail and watch the sun go down over the Pacific.

Prices: £££

Surfrider Beach, Malibu, Los Angeles
Surfrider Beach is one of the most famous surf spots in Malibu - Image Source

Rediscover Ancient Greece and Rome in Malibu

LA’s Getty Museum, founded by billionaire industrialist J. Paul Getty, is spread across two campuses: the sprawling, space age-looking Getty Center [sic] above the hills in Brentwood and the beautiful Getty Villa in Malibu, a recreation of a first-century Roman villa and home to displays of art from Ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. The villa’s gardens are particularly impressive, featuring sculptures, wall paintings and Mediterranean plants.

Insider’s tip: Come in the late afternoon, when the crowds are starting to thin out and the gardens will be bathed in a warm glow. By the time you’re ready to leave, you’ll have missed the majority of the rush hour traffic, too.

Prices: Free

Getty Museum, Malibu, Los Angeles
The Getty Villa is home to an interesting museum and beautiful gardens - LPETTET/LPETTET

How we choose

Every attraction and activity in this curated list has been tried and tested by our destination expert, to provide you with their insider perspective. We cover a range of budgets and styles, from world-class museums to family-friendly theme parks – to best suit every type of traveller. We update this list regularly to keep up with the latest openings and provide up to date recommendations.