Los Angeles attractions are a bit of an enigma: The city is chock-full of them, but many travelers don’t know how to find them, or which ones are best, or even that many of them exist.
The Top Can’t-Miss Los Angeles Attractions
To help, here’s a list of nine Los Angeles attractions that locals love best.
Don't Miss: Top Tours in Los Angeles
Let’s be real—many people who travel to Southern California come primarily for Disneyland, “The happiest place on Earth.” Walt Disney’s inaugural theme park is more than 60 years old now, but its magic and excitement always feel brand-new. In 2001, an army of Imagineers added a second park to the resort, California Adventure, extending the fun with 30-plus more rides and attractions.
At both of these Los Angeles attractions, Disney fans of all ages meet beloved characters, smile and scream aboard rides, cheer on parades, and get exhilarated by fireworks. Through it all, enchanting fantasy experiences make you feel like you’re right in your favorite Disney or Pixar movie. The theme parks—both prime Los Angeles tourist attractions—are surrounded by the lively Downtown Disney shopping district and many fantastic hotels.
Griffith Park opened in 1935 and remains America’s largest municipal park that includes true wilderness. It offers miles of trails and some of the most famous Los Angeles landmarks.
The Griffith Observatory, newly recognizable to non-Angelenos thanks to its starring role in La La Land, is perched 1,135 feet high on Mt. Hollywood’s north slope, so its views over the city are unparalleled. On clear days, you can see to Catalina Island. Inside, the Griffith Observatory is a fascinating astronomy museum with educational space-themed exhibits and the 9,000-pound Zeiss telescope, which lets visitors see comets and other galactic phenomena. Every hour, a 20-minute film recounts the observatory’s history.
Also in Griffith Park: the Los Angeles Zoo, train rides for kids, and hiking access up to the Hollywood sign.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
More than 2,600 entertainment industry icons have been honored with a star on these 15 Hollywood blocks. While you stroll the sidewalk to read their names, you’ll meet hilarious celebrity impersonators, shop dozens of souvenir shops, and perhaps stop to see a movie at the pagoda-shaped TCL (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theater—one of the most recognizable Los Angeles tourist attractions—or at Disney’s grand El Capitan Theatre.
Universal Studios is an incredibly fun amusement park themed around how movies are made, making it a favorite amid L.A. tourist attractions. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an attraction which debuted in 2016, immerses visitors in the beloved world that J.K Rowling created.
The thrilling tram tour is the park’s signature ride, and the park’s many other experiences immerse you into famous movies and TV shows. Just outside the park is the admission-free CityWalk, a neon-lit pedestrian enclave of shops, restaurants, live entertainment, movie theaters, and nightlife.
Santa Monica Pier
For more than 100 years, the Santa Monica Pier has been one of the most iconic Los Angeles landmarks. Its 90-foot-tall Ferris wheel lights up at night, while below it bustles an arcade, a roller coaster, a carousel, and several seafood stands and restaurants. If you’re not a fan of the thrill rides, you can walk along the pier for its impressive views over the Pacific.
Within easy walking distance is lively Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian street full of restaurants, street entertainers, movie theaters, and inviting stores.
The world’s most famous shopping lane is a worthwhile Los Angeles tourist attraction, especially if you’re into designer labels and luxurious goods—or even just window-shopping and fancy-people-watching. Beverly Hills offers free 40-minute tours of this tony district via its open-air trolley. Grab a bite at one of the trendy restaurants, and keep an eye out for celebrities—this area teems with them.
You haven’t seen any of the L.A. tourist attractions if you haven’t seen the beach. So make the drive out to Malibu and sink your toes into the soft sand on one of Malibu’s expansive beaches, including Zuma, Point Dume, and Paradise Cove. The views from the shore—leaping dolphins, craggy bluffs, incredible sunsets—are distinctly Californian and completely unforgettable.
When you’re ready to eat, drink, or shop, head to Malibu Country Mart, a stylish outdoor shopping center with a fantastic playground for children.
The Getty Center
One of the most iconic Los Angeles landmarks, the Getty’s dramatic travertine structure is a bona fide L.A. monument. It houses a world-class art collection, including works by medieval masters, as well as Monets, Van Goghs, Gauguins, and so on. Remarkably, admission to this 1.2-million-square-foot museum is free, and includes access to the gorgeous gardens, where you can enjoy incredible views over West Los Angeles.
Check the online event calendar for something special every day, including hands-on art experiences for kids, art demos, and garden concerts. A cafe and a smartly curated gift shop round out the experience.
The Sunset Strip
Sunset Boulevard is one of the hottest L.A. tourist attractions, especially for those who appreciate glamorous nightlife. After the sun goes down, the lights turn on and the pretty people come out, all vying to slip past the velvet rope. (For your best chance at getting in, dress impeccably and bring plenty of cash.)
These are some of the world’s most famous nightclubs, and most are devastatingly trendy, but West Hollywood does offer a scene for devoted rockers, too: the Whiskey A Go Go, the Viper Room, and the Roxy.
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Don't Miss: Top Tours in Los Angeles
– Original reporting by Avital Andrews