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things to do in los angeles
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The 10 Best Things to Do in Los Angeles

SmarterTravel

Tucked between desert, mountains, and sea, Los Angeles is a popular travel destination for its endless summer weather, celluloid-famous beaches, and possible celebrity sightings. The sprawling city offers all those things and more. Beyond what you see in the movies, you can immerse yourself in spectacular nature, experience a cultural enclave, or celebrate the best of the art world. Here are the 10 best things to do in Los Angeles. 

Kaila Yu has lived in Los Angeles for over 30 years. Her perfect Los Angeles day includes a morning freedive in Redondo Beach, crab at the pier, a massage at Burke Williams in WeHo, and dinner at Hanu K BBQ.

Ride Swans at Echo Park Lake

Swan boats on Echo Lake in Echo Lake Park in Los Angeles, California
Marcus Jones | Adobe Stock

Not actual swans, but at Echo Park Lake, you can ride foot-propelled swan boats while munching on a burger and fries from the SLC Boathouse Bistro. The lake sits inside the family-friendly, 16-acre park with panoramic views of the sprawling downtown Los Angeles skyline. Get a respite from the busy city while enjoying the floating lotus flowers (in full bloom in July), viewing the art deco-style Lady of the Lake statue, or walking the 1-mile loop that surrounds the lake. 

Wine-Tasting in Malibu

Bird's eye view of multiple people clinking glasses of red wine
Gregory Lee | Adobe Stock

You may recognize Malibu’s Saddlerock Ranch from The Bachelor, Knight Rider, or Fun With Dick and Jane, to name a few. Beyond the glamour, it’s also the historic site of the Cave of the Four Horsemen, featuring Chumash Native American cave paintings that date back to 1769. Take a wine tour with Malibu Wine Hikes via an easy 2.5-mile hike by foot, or opt to explore in a 4×4 or VW bus—all options offer great photo ops. During the tasting, you’ll get samples of local wines, view natural rock formations, and visit the alpacas and donkeys at the ranch. 

Get a Dose of Laughter at The Comedy Store

Microphone on a stage in front of a brick wall with a wooden stool out of focus in the background
fergregory | Adobe Stock

Sunset Boulevard has been the breeding ground for iconic comics and musicians, and The Comedy Store is no exception. Opened in 1972, it’s the launching pad for comic legends including Jim Carey, Arsenio Hall, Dave Chappelle, Ali Wong, and more. An open secret is that famous comics will sometimes pop in for an impromptu set or to check out a friend’s act on stage. The venue has three rooms: The Original Room, The Main Room, and The Belly Room. For headliners and marquee acts, make sure to scope out the schedule for Original Room. If you want to make it a double feature, you can also stroll over to the arguable equally famous The Laugh Factory—just half a mile away.

Explore Little Tokyo

Lanterns and the roof of a building in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California
Kit Leong | Adobe Stock

Founded in 1884, Little Tokyo is a vibrant Japanese cultural hub located east of downtown Los Angeles. Explore the roughly five-block area and find manga shops, streetwear fashion, handmade mochi, historic sushi spots, and slurp-worthy ramen.

Make sure to grab a bite before you leave. There are endless choices, but local favorites include Marugame Monzo for its fat handmade udon or Sushi Gen for the famed $23 sashimi lunch.

After you’ve eaten your fill, head to the Japanese American National Museum to learn some history—this museum is the largest of its kind in the United States.

Boat the Venice Canals 

You wouldn’t expect to be transported to Venice, Italy while visiting Los Angeles but the Venice Canals feature an undeniably European design aesthetic with expensive colorful homes overlooking the waterways. Located in Venice Beach, it features six man-made canals surrounding residential areas—listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stroll picturesque bridges, feed the ducks, view fluttering monarch butterflies, or float down the canals in a non-motorized boat.

The neighborhood is also a designated wildlife preserve, making it a hotspot for birders. Sign up for a guided boat tour to learn about local history or take a self-guided canoe trek.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Hollywood Forever cemetery on a sunny day
Hollywood Forever

Located on Santa Monica Boulevard is a unique and celebrated cemetery that’s a destination for locals and tourists alike. Founded in 1899, it’s the permanent home to Hollywood icons such as Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, mobster Bugsy Siegel, and many more. Find weekly events such as yoga, meditation sessions, live performances, walking tours, and fireworks.

During the summer, watch a movie on Fairbanks Lawn with films—classic and new—emblazoned onto the mausoleum. Its annual Dia de Los Muertos festivities—if you can catch them in October—are the largest outside of Mexico. There is no cost to enter Hollywood Forever Cemetery if you want to explore the grounds independently.

Tour the Inglewood Stadium 

Four people running out onto the field o SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Los Angeles, California
SoFi Stadium

Opened in 2020, the newest stadium in Los Angeles is home to Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. The $5.5 billion SoFi Stadium is the most expensive ever built and includes 25 acres of parks, greenery, and paths. Pretend you’re a footballer running onto the field through the 60-foot tunnel on the stadium tour. With the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to visit locker rooms and check out the VIP suite.

Afterward, walk across the street for baked-from-scratch Southern treats such as peach cobbler or cupcakes at the local bakery Sweet Red Peach.

Watch a Performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Wal Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California
LA Phil

Not only are the soaring silver walls of the Walt Disney Concert Hall a popular place for Instagrammers looking to capture its unique architecture, but it’s also home to the internationally-renowned Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, the hall is a famous LA landmark for its curving, stainless steel, asymmetrical walls—not designed just for aesthetics; the interior wood panels create optimal acoustics. Check the concert schedule or escort yourself on a self-guided audio tour daily between 10 am-3 pm.

See the Stars at the Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California at sunset
Eric Hood | Adobe Stock

Some of the best views of Los Angeles are free at the Griffith Observatory, located on Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. For an additional charge, catch a 60-90 minute planetarium show with a live speaker in the 290-seat theatre and learn about space, planets, nature, and more. Next, explore the stunning exhibits featuring the intersection of astronomy and human observation. 

Afterward, head outside to the sprawling 4,210-acre Griffith Park to find hiking, biking, and horseback trails. There are also three golf courses, an Instagrammable Merry-Go-Round, the Live Steamers Railroad Museum, and the Griffith Park pool. You can explore it all yourself or take a guided hike to the famous Hollywood sign. 

Shopping on Rodeo Drive

Low angle view of a sunny day on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, California
Gabriele Maltinti | Adobe Stock

Even if you can’t afford to shop in Beverly Hills, it’s worth a visit to window-shop and people-watch. All the luxury favorites are there, including Chanel, Tiffany & Co, and Gucci. Movie buffs can explore the Beverly Wilshire hotel, one of Pretty Woman’s filming locations. You can splurge on the “Pretty Woman” For a Day Experience, including a wardrobe stylist, exclusive tour of Rodeo Drive, romantic dinner, couples massage, and bath butler. Don’t forget to pop up the street to Two Rodeo Drive and shoot a selfie to commemorate your visit. 

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