Since Los Angeles is one of the top tourist attractions in the entire United States, I wanted to write an article that covers once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles. For those that are visiting, for this article, I focused on a larger area so people would have a good understanding of what LA has to offer. Here’s the full list, and let me know what I left off in the comments.
My first recommendation for once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles is downtown LA. Downtown LA often gets a bad rap, and while it does have its share of problems, there are still a lot of great places to explore.
My favorites are The Broad Museum for its modern art, Skyspace for its glass slide and awesome views, and Grand Central Market for all of its fun restaurants. I wrote an entire article on downtown LA that you can see in the comments if you’re interested in learning more.
Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame
Recommendation number 2 is Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is something that pretty much every tourist wants to see when they visit Los Angeles.
I suggest making your way to Hollywood and Highland where you can park in the mall structure and explore the surrounding area. Here you’ll see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the TCL Chinese Theatre with its hand and footprints, and the mini-museums from Ripley’s Believe It or Not to the wax museum.
It’s definitely an overload for your senses walking around down there, and it’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours while you’re in Los Angeles.
Recommendation number 3 is Griffith Observatory. Griffith Observatory is probably my favorite place to visit in all of Los Angeles. The views from the observatory are amazing, with the Hollywood sign in one way and downtown LA the other.
Of course, the observatory is also fun to explore as it’s free to enter and has lots of great exhibits. I’ve been here dozens of times to watch the sunset, digitally walk around, and take in all the views.
I always love going back, and it’s a great place to spend at least a few hours. Do note that parking can be pretty difficult here, especially on the weekends.
Next up is the Hollywood sign. The Hollywood sign is probably the most iconic part of Los Angeles and something that everyone wants to see when they visit. There are many great places to view the sign from, like Lake Hollywood Park, but if you really want to experience it, consider hiking up to it.
The hike is steep if you take the WisdomTree trail, but it gives you some great views of LA and lets you get as close to the sign as you’re allowed. Well, you can’t really get that close to it; you can walk up the hill behind it and get some great views looking down on it with the city in the distance.
Either way, if you’re hiking to the Hollywood sign or just viewing it from afar, it’s a great spot for photos when you’re in Los Angeles, and I’m gonna have a full video on all of my favorite places to view the Hollywood sign in the future.
California Science Center
Next once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles is the California Science Center in Exposition Park. Exposition Park is most famous as the home of the Coliseum where many football games and concerts are held, but it also has the awesome California Science Center.
The center is free to enter and has many impressive exhibits on its three floors. However, the main reason to come is to see the space shuttle Endeavour, which made its way here in 2012 and has been a popular tourist attraction since. It’s amazing to see the Space Shuttle up close, and it’s worth a visit even if you don’t see anything else in the museum.
Next up is a visit to Olvera Street. Olvera Street is one of the most historic districts in Los Angeles and was founded in the late 1700s. It has some great restaurants and a fun central shopping area, but the main reason to come is for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival every October.
This festival has been happening for over 30 years, and it’s a celebration of life with murals, dancers, a procession, and face painting. Amy and I have been a few times, and we always enjoy visiting and experiencing it. So, if you’re here in late October, definitely check it out.
Recommendation number seven is Echo Park. Next up, the Echo Park area of Los Angeles is an up-and-coming area with great restaurants, shops, and a decent-sized lake right in the middle. It’s a fun spot to hang out on a warm day, and you can get out on the water by renting a swan boat if you want to pedal around.
Amy and I love doing that as it gives you some great views of the city, and it’s fun just to be able to pedal around on a lake near downtown Los Angeles.
This area also has the Time Travel Mart, which is one of my favorite stores, and great food like the pizza at Masa and their fantastic bread pudding. It’s one of those areas I keep coming back to explore more.
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My next recommendation is the Hollywood Bowl. The Hollywood Bowl is LA’s well-known amphitheater, which has hosted basically every famous artist since it opened in 1922. While going to a concert there is something you should really experience, you can also walk around the park and visit the bowl during the day as well.
This public park is unique to explore during the day, and it has some nice views of the Hollywood sign when you walk all the way to the top. Plus, there’s a small Museum, which is free to visit. It has some information about the architecture and many of the artists that have played the Hollywood Bowl.
My next recommendation for once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles is to see a Dodgers game. Like the Hollywood Bowl, seeing a Dodgers game is a must-do attraction in Los Angeles.
Just driving through the parking lot to the stadium gives you some iconic views of downtown Los Angeles, and the historic stadium has been there for over 60 years.
If you come during the offseason, you can pay to take a tour of the stadium, or you can just visit the store and walk out to the upper deck to look over the baseball field. It’s a lot of fun to see this historic stadium and take in a game, even for non-baseball fans.
Universal Studios Hollywood
My next recommendation is a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood. Universal Studios Hollywood is Los Angeles’ main amusement park. What’s so fun about it, though, is that it has a working backlot, which you can see on the backlot tour ride with your admission to the park.
I love going to this park, seeing the Waterworld show, eating a doughnut in Springfield, going on many of the fun rides and attractions, and visiting for their Christmas festivities. It’s one of those places I go to every year or so, and it’s a great way to have a fun day in Los Angeles, especially with a family of older children.
Paramount and the Warner Brothers Studios
Recommendation number 11 is to take one of the studio tours. Los Angeles is the birthplace of the movies, and one of the best ways to experience this history is to take one of the studio tours. There are four studios you can tour if you count the universal ride I mentioned before.
I’ve done the Paramount and the Warner Brothers one, but I haven’t done the Sony one yet. You can’t take video on any of them, but you can usually take photos. Each of the tours provides a better understanding of how movies are made by seeing all the different props and maybe even visiting a soundstage if you’re lucky.
It took me years to actually do one of these tours, but I enjoy them a lot more than I thought I would, and if you like movies, you should definitely check one of them out while you’re in Los Angeles.
Recommendation number 12 is Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. While I’m not much of a shopper, it’s still fun to go to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive since they’re both so iconic. The Beverly Hills sign is right next to a large fountain, and it’s one of the most popular spots for photos in Los Angeles.
A few blocks away is Sprinkles, which has a cupcake ATM that’s a favorite for many visitors, and another few blocks from there you’ll see Rodeo Drive, made famous by the movie Pretty Woman.
Rodeo Drive has a bunch of high-end shops where I can’t afford anything, but it’s still fun to window shop, and I especially enjoy visiting here when it’s decorated for Christmas as it’s really beautiful.
La Brea Tar Pits and LACMA
My next recommendation is a visit to La Brea Tar Pits and LACMA. The La Brea Tar Pits are a unique part of the history of this area and well worth a visit. The Tar Pits captured many historic mammoths and other creatures, preserving their bones for display in museums around the world.
You can still see the bubbling Tar Pits, and you can visit the museum, which has many intact fossils on display. Plus, it shares a block with LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is another premier Los Angeles Museum and home to Urban Lights, a favorite photo spot for many tourists.
While it can be expensive to park and see both of them, it’s definitely a fun way to spend a half-day in the city.
Recommendation number 14 is my last museum recommendation, and that’s a visit to both of the Getty locations. The two Getty museums are both some of the country’s best museums to visit.
The main one near UCLA has weeks worth of exhibits to explore with beautiful gardens, famous art from Monet and Van Gogh, and great views of Los Angeles. I’ve been here many times and haven’t even scratched the surface of all the art they have to see.
The second location in Malibu has many Greek and Roman sculptures with a stunning central pool and immaculate gardens. I love both of these museums, and if you’re a history or art buff, they’re well worth a visit while you’re in Los Angeles.
Next up is a visit to some of the city’s movie locations. Before heading out a little from the Central Los Angeles area, I wanted to spotlight a few movie locations that you can see, which are always popular for visitors to LA.
Of course, you will see many locations on the studio tours, but you can also visit Union Station, the Bradbury Building, Randy’s Donuts, and Angels Flight, just to name a few. And there are hundreds of other places where movies have been filmed all over the city. You can easily spend a day or two just driving around and visiting many of them.
Recommendation number 16 is a visit to Venice Beach. Venice Beach is a lively city right on the ocean west of Los Angeles. The city has a lot of things to see, ranging from street performers, a skate park, street art, the beach, and of course, the Venice Canals.
I’ve spent many days just walking around Venice Beach and taking it all in. The canals, especially, are one of my favorite spots to visit as you can walk up and down them and cross over the many bridges, getting great views of the area. It’s something you would never expect to see in Los Angeles.
Next up, one city over, visit Santa Monica. Right next to Venice Beach is another great place to explore, and that’s Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Pier. The Santa Monica Pier is the official endpoint for Route 66 and features a sign that’s often photographed.
It also has an amusement park on the pier with the Ferris wheel and a roller coaster. It’s a really popular tourist attraction and a great place to visit for a day at the beach or just to take some time exploring the pier.
I also love watching the sunset here, and it’s a great place for sunset photography with the Ferris wheel and the sun fading in the distance. Plus, you can visit the Third Street Promenade, which has a ton of popular shops and some great restaurants while you’re there.
My next recommendation for once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles is a visit to Malibu. Continuing just a little further west, I also wanted to recommend Malibu as it has some of the best views in the entire Los Angeles area.
Many people don’t get all the way out to Malibu on their visit to LA, but they really should as it’s beautiful. I recommend visiting Point Dume for coastal views, going to El Matador State Beach, stopping for seafood at one of the many restaurants, or hiking to Escondido Falls or Sandstone Peak.
You could easily spend a whole week just exploring the Malibu area, and let me know your favorite spot in Malibu in the comments.
Los Angeles food scene
For my second and last recommendation, I just wanted to call out the Los Angeles food scene. LA has some of the best restaurants in the United States, and hopefully, I can make a video just on the food one of these days.
While not an extensive list, a few of my favorite spots are Philippe’s for a French Dip, Daikokuya for ramen, Casados for tacos, Langer’s for a pastrami sandwich, Masa for pizza, and Randy’s for donuts, just to name a few.
Of course, there are tons of other places like Guisados, Howlin’ Ray’s, Animal, and I’d love to hear your favorite restaurant in the comments as well.
For my last recommendation, I suggest you make a visit to In-N-Out, specifically the In-N-Out near LAX. If you’re visiting California, then you probably haven’t been to In-N-Out, and you can’t leave without trying one of the state’s most famous fast-food joints.
The best one to visit is the one near LAX. Sure, it can be busy, but you can watch all the planes land as you eat your burger, and it’s a great way to spend 45 minutes. I recommend you get a burger animal-style and let me know what you think of it in the comments.
Thanks so much for exploring once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles with me. If you’re coming to visit, let me know what you’re most excited about seeing in the comments. If this is your first time seeing one of my articles, I have over 250 articles on California on my website. Thanks again for raeding, and we’ll see you on the next article.