Things to Do in Los Angeles
One of LA's most distinguishing icons, the famous Hollywood Sign proudly stands on Mt. Lee (Mount Lee) in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking Los Angeles and the California movie industry it has come to symbolize. This LA landmark first appeared on its hillside perch in 1923 as an advertising gimmick for a real-estate development called Hollywoodland. Each letter stands 50 feet (15 meters) tall and is made of sheet metal painted white.
Only in Los Angeles are stars so common that they can even be found on the sidewalk. Studded with more than 2,600 brass stars across 18 city blocks, the Hollywood Walk of Fame features names of celebrities in mini monuments. See if you can spot the stars of your favorite motion pictures, TV shows, live theater, and more.
The legendary 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) stretch of Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood known as the Sunset Strip extends east–west from Beverly Hills to Hollywood, laid end to end with celebrity-studded music venues dating back to the heyday of rock and roll, comedy clubs, boutiques, restaurants, hotels, and cocktail bars with stellar views of the surrounding city.
Peek into old Hollywood on a visit to the historic TCL Chinese Theatre. This quintessential California landmark, featured in movies since 1927, is still a favorite location for star-studded red-carpet premieres. A recent upgrade to the theater’s seats and IMAX 3D equipment enhances the experience while keeping the theater’s original charm.
Known for its free-spirited vibe, Venice Beach is a happening, upscale outlier of Los Angeles, fronted by the iconic Venice Boardwalk, officially known as the Ocean Front Walk. Encounters with pickup basketball teams, fortune tellers, and roller skating sunseekers are pretty much guaranteed—especially on hot Southern California summer days. Beyond the sand, visit the skate park, the famous Muscle Beach outdoor gym, and Abbot Kinney Boulevard, featuring trendy restaurants, stylish boutiques, galleries, and cafés.
One of the most famous shopping districts in the world, Rodeo Drive attracts a well-heeled crowd of label lovers who exercise their credit cards at designer shops like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Tiffany, and Gucci. Between the elegant storefronts, luxury cars, and swaying palm trees, it’s a Hollywood movie scene come to life.
Set along California’s Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica has two claims to fame: the Santa Monica Beach and pier. At Santa Monica Beach, miles of sand host playgrounds, parks, picnic areas, staffed lifeguard stations, and the original Muscle Beach. Nearly 8 million visitors frequent the area each year, most of whom follow the boardwalk to the Santa Monica Pier, whose neon-lit arch and ferris wheel are instantly recognizable from film and TV.
Griffith Park is one of the largest city parks in North America, covering a vast 4,310 acres (1,744 hectares). An oasis in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, this green space caters to visitors of all ages and interests with attractions such as the Los Angeles City Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, and the iconic Hollywood sign.
One of the world's oldest continuously operating movie studios, Universal® Studios Hollywood presents an entertaining mix of thrill rides and live action shows, plus a tram ride. The large California theme park cleverly integrates the shows and rides with behind-the-scenes presentations on movie-making.
Formerly known as the Kodak Theatre, the 180,000-square-foot, 3,400-seat Dolby Theatre now showcases Dolby Laboratories' state-of-the-art sound technologies. Situated in the popular Hollywood & Highland mall complex, the elegant Dolby Theatre hosts the famed Academy Awards.
Periodically, the Dolby also plays host to charity benefits, movie premieres, special events and other televised award shows. The theater's soaring stage, one of the largest in the United States, has featured the national premiere of Pixar's Brave, the American Idol finals, the Daytime Emmys, the American Ballet Theatre and even President Barack Obama, while out on the campaign trail.
More Things to Do in Los Angeles
One of Los Angeles’ pre-eminent shopping and entertainment complexes, Hollywood & Highland boasts two heritage movie theaters—the TCL Chinese Theatre and the Dolby Theatre—and dozens of shops and restaurants. It’s also located steps away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and hosts the annual Academy Awards,
Maritime history runs deep in the waterside community of San Pedro, home to the heavily trafficked Port of Los Angeles. Seafaring is a central attraction theme, from an old battleship and lighthouse to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. With its uptick in shops and restaurants, the area is gaining popularity as a hip waterfront destination.
Santa Catalina—widely known as just Catalina—is a beautiful Southern California island just off the coast of Los Angeles. With rocky terrain, blue waters, and Mediterranean flair, it’s an idyllic escape from the City of Angels, and hard to believe that it’s only a 1-hour ferry ride away. Catalina’s only small town, Avalon, is home to boutique shopping, oceanfront dining, and harbor views. There are plenty of chances to get in or on the island’s stunning waters as well—if you can drag yourself of off the beach.
Whether it’s hiking or horseback riding, biking or busing, there are plenty of ways to explore the well-heeled neighborhood of Hollywood Hills. Its famous bright white Hollywood sign has become an iconic California image and its panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley have made it worth venturing outside the city for tourists hoping to capture the perfect sunset picture.
Travelers can climb to the top of Mt. Hollywood or wander through scenic Griffith Park. John Anson Ford Theater, the Hollywood Bowl, the Hollywood Reservoir and Forest Lawn Memorial Park are also popular sites on a visit to this famed high-rent neighborhood, but visitors would do just as well to drive around the quiet streets taking in some of the most classic (and impressive) residential architecture in California.
Open since 1934, the Los Angeles Farmers Market, aka the Original Farmers Market, draws both locals and visitors to its 100-plus food stalls, grocers, eateries, and other vendors that sell everything from fruit, meat, and baked goods to skincare, candles, flowers, and housewares. You can easily spend a couple of hours here eating, browsing, and people-watching.
The Capitol Records Building has been one of the most recognizable features of the Hollywood skyline since its construction in 1956. Distinguished by its cylindrical shape, the 13-story skyscraper hosts the Capitol Studios, where the likes of Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, and Nat King Cole have all recorded music.
One of the most-visited Madame Tussauds stands on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. The wax figures depicted at Madame Tussauds Hollywood include entertainment icons, film directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, and movie characters like E.T. and the X Men, as well as pop stars, infamous criminals, and athletes.
Many a saber-toothed tiger, dire wolf, mammoth, and ground sloth had the misfortune of “discovering” the La Brea Tar Pits some 40,000 years ago. Excavation on the ice age fossil site—formerly the city’s natural history museum—began in 1915 and continues to this day right in the heart of Los Angeles.
From the Hills to the Sign, the Los Angeles neighborhood of Hollywood has become synonymous with the entertainment industry—and, often, its glamorous appeal. People come from all over the world with hopes of a favorite-celebrity sighting in Tinseltown, or simply to revel in the area’s history and legacy. On the legendary star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame, you can actually match your handprints and footprints to those of Hollywood stars, embedded in cement. Famous theaters include the grand Grauman’s Chinese Theatre—now the TCL Chinese Theatre—and the Egyptian and El Capitan, both of which are flamboyant icons from Hollywood’s glitzy past.
One of Los Angeles’ most storied intersections, Hollywood and Vine has long been associated with silver-screen glitz and glamour. Once home to major movie studios as well as cinematic legends like Charlie Chaplin and Marlene Dietrich, the intersection now features on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and is host to other historical landmarks.
Los Angeles is full of shopping and entertainment diversions, but one of the most famous areas is Melrose Avenue. Even before the popular 1990s showMelrose Place was set in the area, at least part of the avenue was already a shopping and hangout destination for the burgeoning new wave crowd. The neighborhood remains an excellent spot for shopping, with more than 300 boutiques lining the street, as well as trendy restaurants and bars.
Unlike in the TV show, the actual Melrose Place doesn't have apartment buildings – it has yet more shops. In addition to the places to shop and eat, Melrose Avenue is also home to some of LA's best-known street art. Artists whose work you can see along the corridor include Annie Preece, Sebastien Walker, Ivan Preciado, and Jules Muck.
Tucked into the plaza of a Century City office complex, this 10,000-square-foot streamlined building is the only museum in Los Angeles dedicated to both digital and traditional print photography. Run by the Annenberg Foundation, a longtime patron of American arts and culture, both admission and docent-led tours at the Space are free to the public.
Open since 2008, exhibits have included images from rock ’n’ roll history, dissertations on beauty culture, stories of war, and career retrospectives of famous photographers. Works are displayed on high-resolution, state-of-the-art glass screens, and table-mounted “surface” screen allow visitors to interact with photos, zoom in and out on their details.
A drive on at least one portion of this iconic road should be a part of any first-time visit to Los Angeles. Built largely in 1924 as the scenic highway it remains today, Mulholland (as it’s locally known) offers unparalleled views of the L.A. Basin, San Fernando Valley, the Hollywood Sign and more.
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