What are the best things to see and do in Los Angeles?

Answers from Our Experts (17)

Kim Atkinson

Stretching 14 miles from the sunny beach of Santa Monica to the skyscrapers of its downtown neighborhood, Los Angeles is one long city. Even if you've never traveled to this West Coast locale, you are bound to recognize some of its neighborhoods from the silver screen. From the famous Venice boardwalk and Santa Monica Pier to the lesser-known downtown L.A. skyline, the City of Angels is not only the second largest city in the country, it's also one of the most fun.

1. Without its marvelous string of gold sand beaches, L.A. wouldn't be much different from any other major city. But whether you want to swim in the ocean, relax on the sand, bike along the oceanfront or stroll the Venice Boardwalk, the beach is an essential part of any visit to Los Angeles.

2. The super-touristy Hollywood Walk of Fame runs along Hollywood Boulevard. Celebrities must be nominated and agree to pay a $25,000 sponsorship fee to get a star, which might explain why Mabel Taliaferro has one, but Robert Redford doesn't. Still, just about everybody walks with his head down until he reaches Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Since it opened in 1927, the theater has become one of the city's most iconic landmarks, and it is an essential stop on any tour of Los Angeles.

3. The Getty Villa is the perfect museum for Los Angeles — it's one part beautiful beach babe and one part cultural icon. Perched on a prime bluff in Malibu overlooking the ocean, the former estate of oil magnate J. Paul Getty has one of the world's finest collections of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities.

4. When it was completed in 2003, Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall immediately became L.A.'s most recognizable piece of architecture. It has been compared to the petals of a flower or billowing metal sails. There's no charge for wandering around the building's labyrinthine exterior, with its secret passageways and pocket amphitheaters beyond each serpentine turn.

5. L.A.'s farmer's markets are some of the finest in the country. The city's Mediterranean climate means something is always in season: apples and persimmons in fall, avocados and citrus fruits in winter, peaches and plums in summer, and strawberries year-round. A good pick is the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, arguably the best market in the country that rightfully draws foodies and chefs from all over the area.

James G. Little

These are the five best things we think you should see and do in Los Angeles:

1. A performance at The Hollywood Bowl. Enjoy an outdoor musical event at the historic Hollywood Bowl. Everything from classical music with the L.A. Philharmonic to current chart-topping rock and pop groups can be seen while enjoying a custom picnic meal.

2. Iris at the Kodak Theater. Cirque du Soleil’s permanent installation in the Kodak Theater draws viewers into the world of cinema with an amazing blend of music, acrobatics and stunning visual presentations.

3. Hike to the Hollywood Sign. An Icon of Los Angeles and Hollywood since 1923, the Hollywood Sign exemplifies the dreams of millions who have come to Hollywood in the hopes of becoming a star. Visitors can park close by and take a short hike to see the sign close up and feel the history in person.

4. Helicopter Tour. Get away from the traffic and the crowds and take to the sky to see Los Angeles from a bird’s eye view. Sweeping views of the Coastline, Hollywood, and Downtown offer a memorable experience not to be missed.

5. A performance at The Walt Disney Concert Hall. The winter home of the L.A. Philharmonic since it opened in 2003 is the $130-million-dollar, Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. The acoustics in this intimate location offer a unique opportunity to experience the music up close and personal with some of the best sound quality in the world.

There is no shortage of things to do in Los Angeles. We suggest the following:

1. Take a sightseeing tour of LA. Gitterati tours will show you the best Beverly Hills and Los Angeles has to offer. You can select from a myriad of different tours. Visit glitteratitours.com.

2. Visit a museum. There are a slew of fantastic museums in the Los Angeles area. We suggest the Getty Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Griffith Observatory and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

3. Go shopping on famous Rodeo Drive. The luxury shops here are endless, and include Missoni, Frette, Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Bijan, Hugo Boss, Chanel, David Yurman, Bottega Veneta and so many more.

Sandy Murphy

It’s hard to pick just five of the best things to experience in Los Angeles, but if we had to choose, we recommend taking advantage of all the star-studded activities this glamourous town has to offer.

1. Go for a shopping (or window-shopping) spree on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

2. Take a tour of some of the most iconic celebrity homes.

3. Go star-gazing in Hollywood, and check out the Hollywood and Highland Center, home to the Oscars ceremony each year. The area also boasts several shops, as well as the new Cirque du Soleil show. Take a stroll on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, famous for its celebrity handprints embedded in the sidewalks along the 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard. Rub shoulders with the wax versions of your favorite stars at Madame Tussauds Hollywood. See the iconic “Hollywood” sign from Griffith Park, the largest urban park in America, where you can hike, picnic, golf and ride horses. The park’s observatory is home to one of the country’s best planetariums.

4. Attend a studio taping of one of your favorite shows, such as American Idol, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

5. Take a tour of one of the many studios in L.A. such as NBC, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.

We recommend touring Universal Studios and Warner Bros, and visiting Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Don’t forget to take in the area museums.

My picks for best things to do in Los Angeles are:

1. Hike through Griffith Park.
2. Visit the farmers markets.
3. Go to any of the amazing museums.
4. Eat authentic food from nearly every culture.
5. Relax.

We live in Venice because my husband loves Venice and loves to surf. We live right on the beach. I struggle to appreciate it actually — it has a really cool culture here, but I’m a safety freak mom so I have to kind of struggle to appreciate it.

I have some stores and some restaurants that I love there. There’s a little boutique called Undrest by the Sea that is really cool. They have swimsuits that are their own brand; they are knit and are really neat. They have specialty lingerie. They’ve got wonderful clothes — sweaters and things. I do love that little shop. I do like Abbot Kinney, too — it’s a really cool street.

My son likes to go to the skate park in Venice and watch the skaters. It’s actually pretty spectacular.

One of the things I like to do in L.A. is to go to all the vintage modern furniture stores, although I don’t really have room for any more furniture. I like to go to Reform and Fat Chance and all the shops on La Cienega just because I think it’s fun.

If somebody comes to L.A. as a visitor, I like to take them to the Griffith Observatory because I feel like everybody knows Rebel Without a Cause. You get the view of the city from up there.

I love going to MOCA [The Museum of Contemporary Art]. When we go down there, we always go to Little Tokyo and have a great little meal. I like going downtown as well. It has such a different feel from West Hollywood or Beverly Hills. The food there is so good, too. And I like going to a sports game at the Staples Center — that’s always kind of fun.

I love going to Venice Beach. I love going rollerblading then shopping on Abbot Kinney. I love the restaurant Gjelina.

I think that Griffith Park is kind of an underutilized gem here. It’s not as grand as Central Park, but it’s amazing. I don’t think enough people know about it and really know how much it has to offer. The Observatory is basically in Griffith Park, which is really fun. That’s a great little park-day excursion, whether it’s at the museum or just to drive through beautiful Griffith Park. The view up there is probably the best in Los Angeles — or at least one of them. A trip up the coast to Malibu to eat somewhere is a must.

I love being on the West Side. We have some of the best restaurants in the entire country. I consider them an extension of my home, so if I’m not cooking for someone, I like to bring them into one of these restaurants. So I feel really lucky on that part.

There’s so much near me but we’ll get in the car — my dog enables a lot of this, as do a lot of my friends with dogs or with kids — and go up north to beaches. All the way up from here through to San Francisco, there are amazing dog beaches. Sadly, right where I live in Venice and Santa Monica, we’re not allowed to take the dog on the beach so we have to drive a little bit for that. There’s Long Beach and Huntington Beach, but I have a medium-sized or smallish dog; he’s 40 pounds. We call Carmel “Lab Beach,” where it’s all of the labs running. I’m actually really grateful to my dog in that space because he gets me outside, too, and also has me tone it down, where I might be thinking, “Okay, I’ve got to go run on this beach” or “We’re going to do the dunes” or whatever.

Venice and Santa Monica, what they really offer me is that a lot of times my absolute favorite thing to do is just walk out my door because I end up running into so many people or you meet someone interesting. I never know how my day is going to unfold here. We might turn around and hit a yoga class with someone, or as I said, decide with the dogs to go somewhere or meet a couple of my friends out with their kids and see the world through kids’ eyes for a couple of hours. It’s really lovely in that way.

Lately, I’ve been hiking, which is something that I never really did until I moved here. I used to live by the beach, and I love surfing. I still like the fact that I can do the nerdy Hollywood thing, too. But I feel like the funny thing about L.A. is it’s such a spread-out city. You can really escape the city and feel like you’ve gotten really far away from it without really going that far. Going up in the mountains and going hiking, and finding new spots for that is probably one of the best things we’ve got going for us right now.

The best things to do in Los Angeles are:

1. Going up to hike by the observatory.
2. Driving on Mulholland.
3. Experiencing an authentic ethnic meal is great, whether in Koreatown, Little Tokyo, Little India, Little Saigon or Monterey Park.
4. Riding a bike down near the L.A. River.
5. Having a Manhattan at Musso and Frank on Hollywood Boulevard.

In L.A. there’s so much to do. I recommend getting a local to take you to his favorite places to hike or his favorite beach. It’s nice to have a local show you these things, because you can’t walk around L.A. and discover them yourselves like you can in New York. Take advantage of the few areas of pedestrian shopping.

The city is popping in February and March, when it’s awards season. That’s when it really comes alive. But July and August are nice for the beach. And fall has a good vibe, too. It all depends on what reason you are visiting.

Getting to the beach in Venice or Santa Monica early morning is a must, just to see the sun come up. The way the sun hits the mountains toward Malibu is pretty spectacular. I live in Venice so I’m definitely a beach guy. The whole area in Venice is really up-and-coming with some smart boutiques and really great restaurants that I think are really very much driven by that California market type of food. The beauty of L.A., in general, is you can go to the ocean, you can go to the mountains, you can go to the desert. You can hit a number of different areas that are pretty inspiring. Taking an incredible hike in Malibu where you can see the entire city at the same time is pretty remarkable.

It’s a great city, and it really depends on what time of year you come. If you come in late summer, August, September or October, you have the beaches. But I love LACMA [Los Angeles County Museum of Art], our museum here and MOCA [The Museum of Contemporary Art]. I love the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. And naturally for a visitor who doesn’t live here, it’s lots of fun to visit Hollywood Boulevard to see the Kodak Theatre and to see the Chinese Theater.

Christina Xenos

Los Angeles is a city with limitless possibilities on what you can see and to between the beach and downtown.

One of my personal favorite things to do in L.A. is visiting the Griffith Observatory. After closing for four years and undergoing a $93 million renovation, it reopened in the fall of 2006, and features a 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope, planetarium shows, some of the best panoramic views of the L.A. basin, and more. The observatory is situated in the middle of Griffith Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country, so you can pair your visit with a hike. The park has a 53-mile network of trails, some allowing you to get stellar views of the Hollywood Sign, the Hollyridge trail will take you above and behind it. If you'd rather explore Griffith Park on horseback, you can saddle up with a variety of horseback riding tours at Sunset Ranch.

Other hiking trails in Los Angeles include Runyon Canyon where Hollywood and West Hollywood types hike up the steep incline and socialize—dogs in tow. Farther toward L.A.'s west side, trails at Topanga Canyon State Park and Temescal Canyon Park offer stellar views of the Pacific Ocean and west side of Los Angeles.

You'll find sunshine and 70-degrees at the minimum nearly year-round in Los Angeles, and that will make you want to hit the beach. Although sometimes its too cold and breezy to swim, you can always stop by the Santa Monica Pier which is also home to the iconic Ferris wheel and carnival atmosphere of Pacific Park, or head north to Malibu's Zuma Beach where you can watch the surfers and kite borders, or jump in the waves for yourself.

Museums in L.A. are about as eclectic as the culture. Soak up diverse art offerings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Getty Center, Getty Villa and MOCA. Check out classic cars at the Petersen Automotive Museum. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County recently opened a new dinosaur hall with 300 real fossils, and 20 complete dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures, including the T. rex growth series—the only trio of different aged T. rex specimens in the world. Tour the the retired Space Shuttle Endeavour insdie the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion at California Science Center.

You also can't plan a trip to L.A. without taking time out to shop. Hit your favorite luxury boutiques on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. You'll find a mix of luxury and casual shopping at centers like the Beverly Center, The Gove, Santa Monica Place and the Third Street Promenade. For more luxury boutiques, hit Robertson Blvd., West 3rd Street shopping district, Sunset Plaza, Melrose Ave. and Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice.

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