The “City of Angels” is known around the world for Hollywood and the movie business. If you’re visiting Los Angeles for Hollywood-related things, there’s plenty to keep you occupied, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame and celeb-spotting on Rodeo Drive. However, L.A. has so much else to offer too, like beautiful beaches, inspiring hikes, and fantastic museums.
I visit Los Angeles regularly for work and to visit family, and I’ve gotten to know the place pretty well. Here are my recommendations for where to go and what to do.
Best Times to Go to Los Angeles
The best times to go to La La Land are in the fall (Sept through Nov) and spring (March through May), when the weather is mild and the air quality is better. Fall and spring are also less popular times for tourists in Los Angeles, which means it will be less crowded and less expensive. If you’re looking at how to save money on hotels, this may be a good time to visit the city.
Bad Times to Go to Los Angeles
Generally, winter and summer travel are the worst times to go to Los Angeles. It’s still California, so it doesn’t get too cold, but it can be dreary and rainy from January to March. The winter of 2022 and 2023 brought especially heavy (but much needed) rains. May through September can be both hot and crowded with tourists in Los Angeles.
Average Cost of a Los Angeles Vacation
In general, a vacation to Los Angeles can be pretty expensive, especially if you’re coming from a more affordable part of the country. Food and drinks, attraction tickets, rideshares, and gas can also be pricey.
Hotel prices can also be more expensive, but you do have a lot of options for where to stay. Fun and convenient neighborhoods to stay in while visiting Los Angeles includeVenice Beach, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and more. Of course, hotel prices will vary by location, the time of year you visit, how fancy the hotel is, and other factors. For a weekend in October, for example, hotels in Santa Monica will cost $200–$300 a night, while hotels in West Hollywood will cost $200–$350 a night. The same hotels in July can cost an extra $50–$100 a night.
If you’re budgeting for a trip, you should think about where to keep travel funds. Although “book now pay later” travel options may be tempting, it’s more financially responsible to save money ahead of time so that you don’t pay extra in interest.
Just in case you have to cancel your trip, you might want to look into travel insurance. Certain credit cards may provide travel insurance in certain situations. You should understand how credit card travel insurance works when deciding whether to purchase private travel insurance or use your credit card protections.
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10 Fun Must-Dos in Los Angeles
Los Angeles covers a huge, sprawling area, with a great diversity of things to do. We chose a mix of beaches, museums, famous streets, and unique sites. Many of the places on our list are free to walk around and explore, but some are ticketed and cost money. Many destinations involve the outdoors, making it a great city if you’re traveling with pets. Our list includes things that you can do with a family, by yourself, with a partner, and with a group of friends.
Some parts of Los Angeles are walkable, but most are not, and public transportation options in the city are limited. To see a variety of sites, you will likely want to rent a car in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the traffic can be very bad, so allow for extra time when getting places.
The following are our recommendations for the top 10 fun things to do while visiting Los Angeles.
1. Santa Monica Pier and Beach
Santa Monica is located west of downtown Los Angeles. The area has a great beach with more than three miles of shoreline. Santa Monica Pier has actually been around since 1909, and now has many restaurants, bars, shops, carnival games and a Ferris Wheel. Santa Monica Pier and beach are free to explore. Like many attractions in Los Angeles, you’ll probably recognize it as a filming location in television shows and movies. SantaMonicaPier.org
2. Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory is located on Mount Hollywood and overlooks the Los Angeles area, from Downtown to the Pacific Ocean. Classic movie fans may recognize the building and its many terraces from the 1955 film “Rebel Without a Cause.” The observatory offers science-themed exhibitions that appeal to all ages (check out the Tesla Coil) and a planetarium. Griffith Park, where the observatory is located, also features hilly hiking trails and the famous Hollywood sign. The observatory and grounds are free to enter, but planetarium shows cost $6–$10. Open Tue–Sun until 10pm. GriffithObservatory.org
3. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is located in the Miracle Mile neighborhood, across the street from the Petersen Automotive Museum, also on our list. Look for famous works by Magritte (“This Is Not a Pipe”), Cezanne, and Lichtenstein. Outside LACMA are several large-scale exhibits that are free to see and make for fun photo ops: Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” is made of 202 cast-iron restored L.A. street lamps, while Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” allows visitors to pass under an enormous suspended boulder. Open Thu–Tue (except Thanksgiving and Christmas). Adults $25, children 3–17 $10. LACMA.org
4. The Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle is a compact, upscale shopping district in Beverly Hills lined with palm trees. Here you’ll find the famous Rodeo Drive, home to brands such as Cartier, Armani, Prada, Gucci, Valentino, and Dior. If you enjoy celebrities or fancy cars, both can be found here. Other fun shopping streets include Melrose Place in Hollywood, Robertson Blvd in West Hollywood, and Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.
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5. Petersen Automotive Museum
The Petersen Automotive Museum houses one of the largest automotive collections in the world, the legacy of a massive automotive magazine publishing empire. Located in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, it’s across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, also on our list. The museum features a racing simulator and a mix of classic, military, and modern cars, including a 1989 Batmobile and a 1981 Delorean from “Back to the Future.” Even if you don’t go in, you can marvel at the red building’s distinctive architecture, which appears to be clad in silver metal ribbons. Daily 10am–5pm. Adults $19.95, children $10.95. Petersen.org
6. Venice Beach and Boardwalk
In addition to a beautiful beach, Venice Beach has a famous boardwalk with eclectic shops, restaurants and fascinating people to watch. Within Venice Beach also sits Muscle Beach, “Home of Bodybuilding.” You can find an outdoor gym, ropes, rings and other fitness and gymnastics equipment at Muscle Beach Venice. Venice Beach is free to explore.
7. TCL Chinese Theatre
The TCL Chinese Theatre (originally called Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) opened in 1927 and is still a working theater. Many iconic movies, such as the original “Star Wars,” were first shown to the public here. You can take a walking tour of the theater and see newly released movies. Located in Hollywood, the building is not far from the Hollywood Walk of Fame (also on our list). Tours $16. TCLChineseTheatres.com
8. Hollywood Walk of Fame
More than 2,700 stars are embedded in the sidewalks along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood. — and an average of two stars are added to the Hollywood Walk of Fame each month. Be prepared for crowds gathered around ever-popular celebs such as Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Sandra Bullock, and Bruce Lee. Star maps can be found on the Hollywood Walk of Fame website. WalkofFame.com
9. La Brea Tar Pits
This unusual museum is also an active paleontological research site. For tens of thousands of years, natural asphalt has bubbled up from deep underground, forming ponds in what is now the Hancock Park neighborhood of L.A. The tar pits are still there, along with the fossils of countless ice-age animals who became stuck in what they thought was a watering hole. The museum showcases some of these finds, from mammoths and giant ground sloths to saber-toothed cats and dire wolves. Incredible educational exhibits will entertain adults and kids of all ages. Advance tickets recommended. Adults $15, children $7, teens $12. NHMLAC.org
10. California Science Center
The California Science Center is an interactive family-friendly museum covering human inventions, innovations, and ecosystems. Its most famous exhibit is the Space Shuttle “Endeavor,” which was famously towed to the Science Center through the streets of L.A. in 2012. The center is free to visit, but special exhibits and IMAX screenings cost extra. Open daily 10am–5pm. CaliforniaScienceCenter.org
There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Los Angeles, from Rodeo Drive and the Hollywood Walk of Fame to ice-age tar pits and Griffith Observatory. The weather in Los Angeles is generally good year-round, but it can get crowded during peak season in the summer. Prices are on par for big cities, so expect to pay more for meals, drinks, and gas.
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What are some free things to do in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles can be expensive, but there are plenty of free things to do in the city. There are many free beaches where you can relax or walk around. Many famous sites are also free, like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, the California Science Center, and the Griffith Observatory.
What are things to do in Los Angeles with kids?
Los Angeles has a lot to offer for families, and many kid-friendly activities are free. Limiting your activities to ones that are free is one way how families afford to travel. Spend a day at Venice Beach or Santa Monica Pier. Other family-friendly attractions in Los Angeles include the California Science Center, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the planetarium at the Griffith Observatory.
What are some things to do in Los Angeles at night?
There’s so much to do in Los Angeles at night. There are many restaurants, bars, concert venues, sporting games, and other events going on in Los Angeles. You can also explore many of the sites in our list at night, like the Santa Monica Pier or the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Photo credit: iStock/Jorge Villalba
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