K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
Read full bio
Los Angeles offers a wide array of things to do and see. From picturesque beaches filled with beautiful people to celebrity spotting on sightseeing tours, museums, amusement parks, film and television studios, the City of Angels is sure to make for an unforgettable vacation.
If you want to get an up close and personal look at how the rich and famous live, take a tour through the hills. You’ll find an endless number of magnificent mansions, from the Spelling Manor in Holmby Hills, constructed for Aaron Spelling in 1988 to become the largest home in L.A. County, to Ryan Seacrest’s Beverly Hills compound with its 15,000 square feet of living space, three guest houses, a swimming pool and koi ponds.
Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in the entire country, and it’s home to the Los Angeles Zoo, a Greek theater, an equestrian center, spectacular views and the Griffith Observatory. You could easily spend several hours at the observatory alone, with some of its highlights including the Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, displays exploring the connections between people and space. One of the best budget-friendly attractions in Los Angeles, the observatory stands on a hilltop overlooking the city and also offers visitors the chance to observe the view through telescopes free of charge. The building itself is also a star attraction, it was featured in the film “Rebel Without a Cause.”
Venice Beach is a must-experience. This world-renowned beach is known as a place to see and be seen, as well as a mecca for many eccentric characters, making it one of the best spots for people watching in the area. Its wide stretch of golden sand is backed by a walkway that’s always filled with joggers, walkers, rollerbladers and cyclists. You can watch the muscle builders pump iron under the hot rays of the sun at an area called Muscle Beach, or browse the interesting shops that line the walkway selling all types of goods. On the west side of the path, there are hundreds of street vendors and performers, including everything from mimes to musicians to jugglers, break dancers and those who dare to walk on broken glass.
If you want to catch a glimpse of Hollywood life, you won’t want to miss seeing the sights in Tinseltown. This L.A. suburb has long been associated with the film and television industry, celebrities as well as plenty of glitz and glamour. Snap a picture of the Hollywood Walk of Fame with its 2,400 figures from throughout the entertainment world. It’s also a popular locale for big movie premieres. During major Hollywood screenings, the public is free to stand outside the theatre and watch the arrival of the stars. Most of the celebrities will stop and say a few words to the crowd before going in to see the film.
If you’ve ever dreamed of shopping like Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman,” you’ll want to go to Rodeo Drive. Just a few blocks long, the famous part of Rodeo Drive looks like a film set and runs between Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards. Though few can afford the high-end array of goods, window shopping is the next best thing. You’ll find plenty of tourists browsing among the more serious spenders along the $200-million European cobbled walkway Two Rodeo. It’s a great place for some memorable photo-ops, as well as where you’re likely to find the most expensive luxury cars parked at the curb along with celebrities on a shopping spree.
The Grove is a great place to actually do some shopping – and, many celebs like to shop here too. The open-air mall features 50+ stores, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Anthropologie, Apple and Barney’s New York. Visitors also enjoy the old-fashioned trolley rides and magnificent dancing fountains that are part of the reason it’s become a “must-see” in L.A. The Original Farmers’ Market, established in 1934, sits adjacent to The Grove, offering everything from fresh produce to international culinary delights. One of the best views of the city is from atop the parking structure – be sure to bring your camera.
The La Brea Tar Pits, one of the world’s most famous ice age fossil excavation sites, were formed 40,000 years ago when oil seeped through the rock. The pits would entrap passing animals which would get stuck in the substance. The tar has served as a natural preservative for the fossils throughout the ages. Here, visitors can see bones being worked on and what takes place before bones and skeletons are ever displayed. On display at the museum are fully reconstructed fossils of a variety of mammals including mammoths, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, and others all dating back some 10,000 to 40,000 years.
Bar Marmont, located at the Chateau Marmont, is an attraction in itself as the quintessential Hollywood bar. This famous L.A. hangout is another great place for people-watching with numerous artists, actors and musicians spotted here. Grab a drink and order something off of the fantastic gastropub menu. Even if you don’t spot anyone you were hoping to see, the classic 20s ambiance and décor will make it well worth your while.
If you want to splurge on a nice dinner while you’re here and also enjoy the chance to see some of your favorite stars dining, Craig’s in West Hollywood is a great place to do just that. The menu features American cuisine including pizza, vegan dishes, seafood and steaks, with prices you won’t need to mortgage your home for. Celebrities spotted here recently include Courteney Cox, Dylan McDermott, Sandra Bullock, Sarah Silverman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman, just to name a few.
The Santa Monica Pier opened more than 100 years ago and is a popular family-friendly destination. Its home to the Pacific Park amusement park, Heal the Bay Aquarium, and a 1922 Carousel that was featured in the 1973 classic, “The Sting.” Don’t miss taking a ride on the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel, where you can enjoy a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the shoreline. From the pier, you can walk to nearby beaches and enjoy the perennially sunny weather and palm trees, or fulfill your shopping desires at Third Street Promenade, just a few blocks away.
Los Angeles is also home to many cultural attractions like the Japanese American National Museum, known as one of its best. The museum tells the compelling, yet heartbreaking story of Japanese immigration to the U.S., which began in 1882 when employers were barred from importing Chinese labor, so thousands of Japanese flocked to the country instead. Unfortunately, they ended up at internment camps instead with the advent of World War II and did not become American citizens until 1952. This museum tells their fascinating story through documentary and art exhibitions along with moving display of artifacts from their internment camps.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the Western United States and one of the most popular museums in the city. The multi-building complex houses an impressive permanent collection from all corners of the globe, featuring everything from American, Islamic and Asian to European art, including a superb Latin American collection showcasing pre-Columbian masterpieces along with works by modern and contemporary artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. If you happen to be here on the second Tuesday of the month, admission is free.
The Sunset Strip in West Hollywood offers a wealth of quintessential Hollywood photo-ops. It’s one of Los Angeles’ most famed stretches of road where you’ll pass music venues like the House of Blues and the historic Whisky A Go-Go, a place where legendary bands and musicians like The Doors, Buffalo Springfield and Frank Zappa got their start. The Strip has taken on an eccentric character of its own, with mammoth-sized handmade billboards one of its trademarks. The colorful advertisements were originally designed to catch the eye of Hollywood producers, but now they mostly serve to boost the egos of the stars they promote.
The J. Paul Getty Museum is one of the city’s newest landmarks. The Villa houses an extensive collection of Greek and Roman art and is modeled after a seaside Roman villa. The Center houses an extensive collection of Western art from medieval times to the present, with its campus featuring numerous garden spaces, fountains and pools as well as outdoor sculptures. You could easily spend an entire day here, and it doesn’t cost a thing.
The Rose Bowl Flea Market, located at the Rose Bowl Stadium on the east side of Los Angeles in Pasadena, is one of the most famous flea markets in the world, and the biggest on the west coast. It’s a great place to find the perfect souvenir that you’ll actually enjoy for many years to come, without spending an arm and a leg. The bad news is that it’s only open on the second Sunday of the month, so you’ll have to time your vacation right in order to experience it. With over 2,500 vendors, scavengers will find an extensive selection of antiques, collectibles, furniture, arts and crafts items – and even a celebrity or two.
Over the course of a typical day in Los Angeles, dozens of shows, including everything from sitcoms to talk shows like “The Late Late Show with James Corden” to reality competitions like “American Idol” may be taping in front of a group of people that get a first live look at the show, particularly between peak production season generally from August through March. There are usually a number of TV pilots being shot too, giving the audience potential bragging rights if the show happens to become a hit. Best of all, you don’t have to pay a thing.
While Disneyland is technically outside of Los Angeles, located in Anaheim about 25 miles south, this famed theme park draws millions of tourists to the area and is really a must to experience at least once. After nearly 60 years in existence, there is still nothing like it. From the brilliance of the Imagineered rides to a cappella quartets and stunning fireworks displays, not to mention the excitement that glimpsing of one of its characters brings to the young and the young-at-heart, it’s a diversion you won’t want to miss. There’s also plenty of family-friendly hotels nearby.