52 super cool things to do in Los Angeles

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The entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles has something for everyone, from majestic mountains and golden beaches to museums, shopping and everything in between. With moderate temperatures and sun year-round, any day is a perfect day for soaking up the culture of the City of Angels.

The bustling city of 3.8 million in Southern California boasts 75 miles of coastline stretching from Malibu to Long Beach. There is much to see and do in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County (which includes Beverly Hills, Burbank, Santa Monica, West Hollywood and other popular destinations), including a plethora of cheap and free options. So we’ve compiled a list of 52 super cool things to do in Los Angeles that won’t break the bank. Why not hop a flight and check them out for yourself?

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1. Say hello to Hollywood

Hollywood sign
Hooray for Hollywood! (Image: Gary Leonard)

What was once an outdoor ad campaign for a housing development called Hollywoodland has turned into an iconic sign for the city. While the Hollywood sign’s grounds are barred from public access there are some nearby hikes that allow for great photos. The Department of Recreation and Parks has collaborated with the Griffith Observatory to operate a shuttle on Saturdays and Sundays that takes visitors to an unobstructed, panoramic view of the iconic Hollywood sign, the mountains, the city below and then on to the observatory.

2. Cruise Mulholland Drive

One of the world’s most famous scenic drives, Mulholland Drive, winds from the Hollywood Hills across the spine of the Santa Monica Mountains and west towards the Pacific Ocean. There are several overlooks from which to take in the picture-perfect views of the city.

3. Sweet Rose Creamery

Satisfy your sweet tooth at Sweet Rose Creamery. With 12 or more home-made ice cream flavors daily, as well as fruit pops, sundaes, milkshakes, cakes and pies, you may find yourself coming back for seconds and thirds.

4. Explore Chinatown:

Chinatown, LA
Have dim sum in Chinatown. (Image: Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board)

Dating back to 1938, the first established Chinatown in America is brimming with cultural history woven into a bustling community. There are restaurants, shops, a farmers market and walking tours in Chinatown.

5. Step into Hollywood history at TCL Chinese Theatre

A fan at TCL Chinese Theatre (Image: Brittany Dietz)
A fan at TCL Chinese Theatre forecourt (Image: Brittany Dietz)

The TCL Chinese Theatre is an iconic structure easily identifiable by its architecture that includes two coral red columns topped with an iron mask, bronze roof, a 30-foot stone dragon and two heaven dogs brought from China that guard the entrance. The forecourt has been one of the most popular free attractions since the 1920s, when actress Norma Talmadge accidentally stepped in wet cement during the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s “King of Kings.” Now, movie-goers from around the world compare their hands and feet to those of stars past and present, and watch movies at the world’s most famous movie theater where VIP red carpet premieres are held throughout the year.

6. Walk Venice Beach’s Ocean Front Walk

Venice Beach
There’s no other boardwalk like this. (Image: Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board)

A motley crew awaits for people watchers at Venice Beach’s Ocean Front Walk. The east side of the boardwalk is lined with souvenirs shops and restaurants while the west side features street performers of every type: tarot card readers, chainsaw jugglers, roller skaters and more – all hoping for a tip, of course.

7. Watch TV live

Be a part of the studio audience for your favorite television shows and game shows. Try your luck auditioning to be on popular game shows; you might find yourself on television and going home with prizes. Tickets are free, but must be obtained in advance. The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board offers tips for how to get on a game show.

8. See the stars at Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory, LA
Reach for the stars at the Griffith Observatory. (Image: Matt Marriott)

To learn about stars that are truly out of this world, visit the Griffith Observatory. The exhibitions and displays in this renovated Griffith Park landmark are all free, as is an introductory video about the building and its contents. Note, however, that there is a fee for admission to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium. 

9. Indulge in hot dog heaven at Pink’s Hot Dogs

Pink's Hot Dogs
Celebs and locals promise Pink’s Hot Dogs are the best.hotdogs.ever (Image: Travis Conklin)

A Hollywood legend began when husband-and-wife Paul and Betty Pink took out a $50 loan to buy a hot dog cart to sell chili dogs on the corner of La Brea and Melrose in 1939. Some 75 years later, the hot dog stand, Pink’s Hot Dogs, is run by the same family and has a celebrity following who crave the 30 types of hot dogs on the menu.

10. Explore Exposition Park

California Science Center
Explore the world of science at the California Science Center. (Image: Travis Conklin)

There is a collection of museums in Exposition Park, including the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, California Science Center and California African American Museum. If that’s not enough, there’s a beautiful Rose Garden and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena.

11. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County boasts more than 35 million specimens covering 4.5 billion years of history including a massive dinosaur hall.

12. California Science Center

California Science Center offers free general admission to its permanent exhibit galleries seven days a week. The 400,000 square-foot facility houses four major exhibit areas including World of Life, Creative World, Ecosystems and Space Shuttle Endeavour. In addition, the California Science Center hosts international touring exhibits and has a seven story IMAX theater.

13. Caifornia African American Museum

For history and cultural exhibits, look no further than the California African American Museum, which houses three full-size exhibition galleries, a theater gallery, a 14,000 square-foot glass ceiling courtyard, a research library and more.

14. Rose Garden

Since 1928 the Rose Garden has been open to the public as a place of quiet and refuge.  You can visit 9:00 a.m. to sunset, but keep in mind that the garden closes each year from Jan. 1 – March 15 for annual maintenance.

15. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Area

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Sports Arena is home of the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics and the University of Southern California Trojans football team, and hosts numerous events throughout the year.

16. Enjoy L.A.’s murals

Marvelous murals abound on Los Angeles' streets. (Image: Matt Marriott)
Marvelous murals abound on Los Angeles’ streets. (Image: Matt Marriott)

Colorful murals adorn many building and neighborhoods in Los Angeles. These city treasures tell stories of the city’s cultural past, present and future of the hopes and dreams of the city. Visitors can find many of L.A.’s murals in metro stations, the L.A. Arts District in downtown and at the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.

17. See El Pueblo historical monument

Olvera Street
Visit a traditional Mexican marketplace. (Image: Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board)

Learn about L.A.’s birthplace at the site of its original settlement in 1781 at El Pueblo de Los Angeles. The spot includes an outdoor plaza, historic buildings and a traditional Mexican marketplace on Olvera Street.

18. Olvera Street

Shop, listen to mariachi music, watch folkloric dances and dine at authentic Mexican restaurants on Olvera Street. Tour the Avila Adobe, the oldest existing house in L.A., and visit other restored historic buildings including the Old Plaza Church and the Old Plaza Firehouse.

19. Explore Little Tokyo

Little Tokyo
Be immersed in Japanese culture at Little Tokyo. (Image: Matt Marriott)

Dating to the 1880s, Little Tokyo is the cultural and historical center for Japanese Americans in Los Angeles. The neighborhood is comprised of multi-generational family-run restaurants, shops, temples and historical structures.

20. Do the Downtown L.A. Art Walk

Murals are a mainstay of Los Angeles. (Image: Matt Marriott)
Murals are a mainstay of Los Angeles. (Image: Matt Marriott)

Check out the latest art at the Downtown L.A. Art Walk, which occurs the second Thursday of the month. Art lovers can stroll the neighborhood’s galleries and enjoy special programming and activities along Spring and Main Streets during the free, self-guided public art event.

21. Take selfies on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Walk of Fame
Walk with the stars. (Image: Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board)

Since the 1960s, more than 2,482 terrazzo and brass stars have been unveiled on Hollywood’s major sidewalks as part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Administered by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the public sidewalk that stretches along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street is a tribute to all who have worked to develop the city as a tourist attraction.

22. Celeb-watch at the Ceremonies on Hollywood Boulevard

The best way to see your favorite celebrities up close and personal is to check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame star-dedication ceremonies. One to two stars are added each month and their installations are free and open to the public.

23. Stroll the Venice Canals

Venice Canals LA
The “Venice of America” is a sight to behold. (Image: Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board)

Winding through quaint (and very expensive) houses, the canals feature arched bridges and beautiful landscaping that were created by Abbot Kinney nearly 100 years ago as the “Venice of America.” Start between Washington Avenue and Venice Boulevard and walk or bike the two-mile path. The journey takes about an hour to navigate.

24. Build Your beach body

Muscle Beach
Show off your muscles at Muscle Beach (Image: Gary Leonard)

The three-mile Venice Beach is world famous for its golden sands, glistening waves and the Ocean Front Walk, but you can’t leave here without checking out Muscle Beach, home to amateur and professional bodybuilders who work out outside, showing off their muscle and might.

25. Admire art at The Getty Center and The Getty Villa

The Getty Garden
Gotta Get to The Getty (Image: Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board)

Overlooking the California coastline and the L.A. skyline, The Getty Center surrounds guests with breathtaking views and a world-class art collection, including European paintings, sculptures, contemporary photographs and decorative arts.

26. The Getty Villa

The magnificent Malibu property, The Getty Villa, includes an educational center and museum dedicated to antiquities including art from the ancient Greek and Roman world.

27. Be seen on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills

In the heart of Beverly Hills you will find Rodeo Drive, which is home to three blocks of iconic luxury shopping, The Beverly Hills Hotel and the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel.

28. Indulge at Canter’s Delicatessen

Considered L.A.’s best deli since 1931, Canter’s is a family-owned Jewish deli that started as a small storefront and has now expanded to a bakery, deli and cocktail lounge.

29. Get interactive at The Paley Center for Media

The Paley Center for Media
Meet the media at The Paley Center for Media. (Image: The Paley Center for Media)

More than just a museum, The Paley Center for Media is an institution dedicated to educating the public and exploring the intersection between media and society. With locations in New York City and Los Angeles, The Paley Center for Media leads discussions about television, radio and emerging platforms, and the cultural, creative and social significance of these expressions.

30. Get onboard at the Travel Town Museum

Located in Griffith Park, the Travel Town Museum is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of railroading in the western United States, featuring displays of historic steam locomotives, passenger cars and trolleys.

31. Fashionista dream: The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising

The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising has a treasured collection of more than 15,000 costumes, accessories and textiles from the 19th century through the present day, including gorgeous film and theater costumes – a fashionista’s dream day.

32. Eat (Two) French Dip Sandwiches

One of Los Angeles’ most iconic foods is the French Dip sandwich, a hearty sandwich piled high with oven-roasted beef, pork, turkey or lamb served with or without cheese on a French roll and dipped in au jus (the juice of the roast). There are two restaurants who claim to have invented the messy sandwich: Philippe The Original, which sells on average 3,000 sandwiches daily, and Cole’s. Take a taste test at both!

33. All aboard the hamburger and hot dog express

John and Pat Wolfe opened a hot dog and hamburger stand inside an old Pacific Railroad passenger train car on the Sunset Strip in 1975 and the rest is history. Some 40 years later, celebrities and locals continue to rave about Carney’s hamburgers and hot dogs.

34. Stroll the Grove

The Grove
Indulge in alfresco shopping at The Grove. (Image: Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board)

The shopping arcades of The Grove are a fun place to stroll. Take a ride on The Grove Trolley, a free trolley that travels along First Street between The Grove and The Original Farmers Market.

35. Sample fresh produce at The Original Farmers Market

Fred Beck and Roger Dahlhjelm wanted to build a “village” where local farmers could sell their fresh produce and, in July 1934, a dozen farmers sold their wares from the backs of their trucks. The idea stuck and The Original Farmers Market has continued to flourish and expand at the corner of West 3rd and Fairfax.

36. Have a drink at No Vacancy at Hotel Juniper

Housed in the last Victorian residence in Hollywood, No Vacancy at Hotel Juniper is a tri-level bar that evokes 1930s nostalgia, replete with a vintage hotel lobby, antique bar on the patio, secluded outdoor garden, a secret entrance and a rotating list of 12 cocktails called The Dirty Dozen.

37. Go behind the scenes at Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood
See the action up close at Universal Studios Hollywood (Image: Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board)

See the magic of movie making at Universal Studios Hollywood. The theme park features its famous studio tour, King Kong 3-D adventure and a range of rides like the new Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

38. Lights, camera and studio action!

Warner Brothers Studio
See where the magic happens (Image: Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board)

Go behind the scenes on a two-hour-and-15 minute guided tour of Warner Bros Studios. The VIP tour includes a look around the 110-acre studio in Burbank, Calif. where shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “The Ellen Degeneres Show” are filmed.

39. Get artsy at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

LA County Museum of Art
See masterpieces at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Image: Travis Conklin)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the western U.S. with 120,000 objects from antiquity to the present from around the world. Asian art, Latin American art and Islamic art are some of the most impressive collections.

40. Admire modern art at MOCA

MOCA
Be inspired at MOCA. (Image: Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board)

The Museum of Contemporary Art hosts a fine collection of 6,800 pieces of American and European art created since 1940. It is the only museum in L.A. dedicated to contemporary art.

41. Dine-N-Dash

Harry Snyder opened the first In-N-Out Burger stand in 1948 in Baldwin Park, Calif., a city in Los Angeles County. It was California’s first drive-thru hamburger stand. The fast-food chain has a celebrity cult following and now serves its famous burgers, fries and shakes at 300 restaurants in five states. Yum!

42. Ride the Double Decker Bus

Bus, LA
Get on the bus! (Image: Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board)

The hop-on, hop-off Starline Double Decker Bus tours are an efficient way to see and learn your way around Los Angeles. The four narrated tours cover 100 miles including 70 stops in Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Ray and downtown Los Angeles.

43. Indulge in retail therapy

For one-stop mall shopping, check out the Beverly Center, which has a variety of luxury stores from Bloomingdale’s to Z Zegna.

44. Abbot Kinney Boulevard

Need discount designer duds? Check out the sales racks at Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a cluster of home-grown artist shops, vintage clothiers and jewelry stores.

45. Santa Monica Place

For fashion, food and fun visit Santa Monica Place, a collection of 80 shops and restaurants including jeweler Ben Bridge and celebrity fashion boutique kitson.

46. Citadel Outlets

Citadel Outlets is the only retail outlet center in L.A. that boasts 115 stores and 700,000 square feet of shopping, bringing to life the saying, “shop ’til you drop.”

47. Stroll the Santa Monica Pier

The century-old Santa Monica Pier is a legendary landmark renowned for its boardwalk fun that includes an amusement park, arcade, funky shops, beachfront restaurants and bars – all worth a visit and fun for the entire family.

48. Walk the gardens of The Huntington

Founded by businessman Henry E. Huntington, The Huntington, a research and education center, contains a library of rare books and manuscripts, art galleries with 18th and 19th century British and French art, and botanical gardens. It’s also a fantastic place to enjoy high tea.

49. Meander along Montana Street

kjgarbutt, Palm Trees via Flickr CC BY 2.0
Kjgarbutt, Palm Trees via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Nestled along the gently sloping Montana Street are 10 blocks of boutique shops, restaurants and coffee shops that culminate at the Santa Monica coast.

50. Clink glasses at the Chateau Marmont

Bar Marmont, at the famed Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, is a must for people watching. Enjoy a fine wine or a classic cocktail like The Ginger Rogers (gin, apple liqueur, fresh lemon and orange juices, muddled ginger root, and sugar) and fresh oysters while listening to live jazz and watching the stars go by.

51. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH as the locals call it, is a sun-drenched road that hugs the coastline. On one side are golden beaches populated with surfers and sun worshippers and on the other side are magnificent multi-million dollar homes.

52. Go to Gladstone’s on the Beach

Off the PCH, stop and enjoy incredible sunsets and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean from Gladstones, a beachfront restaurant famous for its seafood and cocktails.

There are surely more than 52 super cool things to do in LA. Share some of the ones we missed in the comments. And, if you haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for? Find flights to Los Angeles and start exploring this sunny West Coast paradise for yourself.

Main image: istockphoto/LPETTET

52 super cool things to do in Los Angeles was last modified: December 8th, 2016 by Lauren Mack
Author: Lauren Mack (266 posts)

Lauren Mack has traveled to 40 countries on five continents, including Cuba, New Zealand, Peru and Tanzania. For many years, she called China, and then Taiwan, home. Countries at the beginning of the alphabet, particularly Antarctica, Argentina and Australia are on her travel bucket list. Lauren is a multimedia travel and food journalist and explorer based in New York City.