14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Los Angeles
The sprawling city of Los Angeles, in Southern California, is one of the most famous cities in the United States. It's known internationally in the film and entertainment industry for Hollywood, a neighborhood that has drawn aspiring actors and actresses from across the country for almost a century. The warm climate and beaches are another of the city's big selling points, with nearby Venice Beach offering a laid back beaching experience like none other. LA also has a wealth of cultural attractions and important museums, including the J Paul Getty Museum. One of the most unique sites is the Le Brea Tar Pits, revealing fossils from 10,000 to 40,000 years ago. The diverse mix of things to see and do in LA makes it a perfect getaway for anyone, at any time of year.
Editor's Tips: Where to Stay in Los Angeles for Sightseeing
1 J Paul Getty Museum
The J Paul Getty Museum complex, designed by Richard Meier, is huge, measuring 0.75 square miles and set on 110 acres. Located in the Santa Monica Mountains, the unique design, the setting, and the beautiful grounds are worth the visit alone. The museum was created by the late oil magnate, J Paul Getty. The collections range from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary art. The center consists of several buildings and a Central Garden, as well as a restaurant and cafe.
Address: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles
2 Griffin Park and Observatory
Griffith Park, situated in the eastern part of the Santa Monica Mountains, and covering an area of 4,210 acres, is the largest state park in California. In the park is the Los Angeles Zoo, the Griffith Observatory and a planetarium, a Greek theater with 4,000 seats, a riding center created for the 1984 Olympic Games, golf courses and tennis courts, and much more. Walking trails or drives into the mountains provide splendid views.
The Griffith Observatory is located on a hilltop outside the Los Angeles city center and offers viewing opportunities both during the day and night. The Zeiss telescope is the highlight, allowing for viewing of the moon and planets. There are also three solar telescopes allowing for viewing of the sun. The park and observatory are named for the founder, Griffith J. Griffith, who donated the greater part of the parkland to the city in 1896.
3 Farmers Market
The Los Angeles Farmer's Market first started in 1934 as a very modest affair that sprung from the hardships created by the depression. At the height of the economic depression, eighteen farmers got together and set up stalls on a piece of open land near Wilshire Boulevard in order to sell their produce direct to the consumer. This experiment was so successful that the market kept on expanding. At that time it truly was a fruit and vegetable market. Over the years the market has expanded to accommodate more and more vendors. Today there are all kinds of fruit, vegetable, and other food stands, along with restaurants, and specialty shops. You can find everything from jewelry and candles to kitchenware and kids toys.
Address: 6333 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles
4 Music Center
At the top of Bunker Hill is the Music Center, Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles, one of the largest such facilities in the United States. There are four venues here; the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theatre, and the Mark Taper Forum. The most visually impressive building is, by far, the uniquely designed Walt Disney Concert Hall. Also on site are the Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre, Kirk Douglas Theatre, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
The Ahmanson Theatre is home to the Center Theater Group and hosts a variety of plays throughout the year. Its design makes it a good venue for both large and small productions. The recently renovated, state of the art Mark Taper Forum also hosts the Center Theater Group. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is where you will find performances by the Los Angeles Opera.
At the south end of the Music Center is the facilities' most recent addition, the spectacular Walt Disney Concert Hall. The concert hall is hard to miss with its unique exterior of stainless steel sails. The main auditorium is designed to resemble a ship's hull and offers incredible acoustics, with seating for over 2,200 people. There are also two outdoor amphitheaters.
5 Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
This is the place to go for contemporary art in Los Angeles. The Museum of Contemporary Art consists of three separate facilities and is dedicated to works from the 1940s onwards. Pieces from the permanent collection are on display and regularly changing exhibits feature new works and emerging media.
6 Los Angeles County Museum of Art
With a history that dates back to 1913, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has expanded considerably over the decades. Today the museum lays claim to being the "largest art museum in the western United States". The complex consists of seven separate buildings and has particularly strong collections of Asian, Latin American, and Islamic Art. The museum has seen ongoing renovations and expansions in recent years, in what is termed the "Transformation".
Address: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
A suburb of Los Angeles, Hollywood is filled with numerous famous sites and attractions. The name Hollywood has long been associated with the film industry, celebrities, and glamour. Visitors will want to cruise down Hollywood Boulevard, stroll down the Walk of Fame, and see the Chinese Theatre.
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8 Venice Beach
The world famous Venice Beach deserves its reputation as a place to see and be seen. An extensive stretch of golden sand is backed by a great walkway that is always thronged with people walking, cycling, rollerblading, or jogging. One of the most interesting places on Venice Beach is the appropriately named Muscle Beach, where people come to pump iron in the hot California sun. There is also a variety of eclectic shops that line the walkway selling all manner of unusual goods. This is definitely a unique spot, but for a more family friendly experience many people head up the coast a short ways to Santa Monica Beach.
9 Exposition Park
There are a number of ways to entertain one's self in Exposition Park. The park covers over 160 acres and includes the California Science Museum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the California African American Museum. In addition to the museum the park is also home to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Sports Arena, the Expo Center, and the popular Rose Garden, among other features. Most people come to Exposition Park with a specific purpose in mind, whether it is to visit one of the museums or attend an event at one of the venues. The Rose Garden is a pretty area to walk through with thousands of rose bushes, a fountain, and gazebos.
10 Long Beach
Bordering on Los Angeles to the south, Long Beach extends along San Pedro Bay. Long Beach has the famous liner "Queen Mary" lying at anchor and converted into a hotel and museum. The Queen Mary was an ocean liner used as a troopship during the Second World War.
Long Beach City Beach is located just off Ocean Boulevard to the east of Catalina Terminal.
11 Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits
In Hancock Park in Los Angeles are the La Brea Tar Pits.These were formed 40,000 years ago when oil seeped through the rock. These Tar Pits would entrap passing animals which would get stuck in the substance. The tar then preserved the fossils throughout the ages. The Page Museum shows reconstructed fossils of prehistoric animals found in the giant tar-craters of La Brea, as well as the process of fossil recovery. 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 from between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. There is also an outdoor area, in Hancock Park, with replicas of extinct animals.
Address: 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
12 Angels Flight
Known as the shortest railway in the world, Angels Flight Railway covers a distance of 298 feet as it transports people up and down Bunker Hill. The railway was first opened in 1901 when this neighborhood was one of posh Victorian homes and well to do residents. The funicular service was terminated and the railway dismantled in 1969 as the area was being redeveloped. However it reopened, in a slightly different location in the 1990s. It closed again in the 2000s but is once again functioning and open to the public for a nominal fee. If you are in the area you may want to ride it simply for the experience rather than the convenience.
Address: 351 South Hill Street
13 Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo, the Japanese enclave in Los Angeles, is a clear indication of a thoroughly prosperous ethnic group. Situated around 1st Street between Main and Alameda Streets, within walking distance of the City Hall, the Japanese Village Plaza quarter has developed. This area contains a culture center, dozens of Japanese shops and restaurants, and a large shopping center. Today, more than 100,000 Japanese live in Los Angeles and the surrounding county.The Little Tokyo Historic District, as it is known, still has some historic buildings from the 19th Century. The best way to see the area is simply to walk around. There are a number of walking tours that take in a Japanese Garden, markets, and museums.
14 El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument
El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument encompasses the area where Los Angeles was first founded in 1781. The history of this area is extensive, having been claimed at one time or another by Spain, Mexico, and the United States. The first settlers in what is today Los Angeles were of Native American, African and European descent. It was not until 1953 that an effort was made to restore the 27 historic buildings. Located here are various museums, galleries, numerous historical buildings, as well as restaurants, shops, and smaller souvenir vendors. There a range of events held on site and entertainment of all sorts takes place in the streets.
Where to Stay in Los Angeles for Sightseeing
- Santa Monica. Shops, fabulous restaurants, blonde beaches, and the famous Santa Monica Pier make this a natural magnet for tourists and locals alike. Easy access to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive are also a bonus for sightseers. The Viceroy and the eco-conscious boutique Shore Hotel are popular high-end accommodation options, and the stylish Shutters on the Beach exudes all the casual elegance of a family beach house. For those seeking a fantastic salt-laced location without breaking the bank, try the Ocean View Hotel.
- Beverly Hills. Famous for the designer shops along Rodeo Drive, this exclusive celebrity enclave offers some plush hotels in a quieter setting than Hollywood, but still with easy access to all the movie-themed attractions. Top high-end hotels include the famous Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, The Peninsula, the Beverly Wilshire, and the Montage. For those seeking the glamor without the price tag to match, the Beverly Terrace Hotel is a great option. Further north, the Hotel Bel Air pampers guests amid 12 acres of flower-flecked gardens.
- Hollywood: Star struck travelers headed for the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Bowl, and Universal Studios should stay here in the heart of movie land. Close to Beverly Hills, Hollywood oozes with celebrity glitz and glamor without gauging the wallet. The Redbury Hollywood, The Hollywood Roosevelt, and the Hollywood Celebrity Hotel are all highly-rated options in the area.
- Anaheim. Families headed to the theme parks with the kids in tow usually base themselves here in a whimsical Disney-themed hotel. Popular options include the Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, an easy stroll from the Disney theme parks. Staybridge Suites Anaheim is a more affordable option with convenient apartment-style accommodation.
- Downtown Los Angeles. Bristling with new restaurants and art galleries amid the skyscrapers, Downtown LA is finally finding its soul. Sports fans catching a game at the Staples Center, hipsters, foodies, and business travelers often base themselves here and score cheaper hotel rates than at the typical tourist hotspots. Popular high-end hotel choices include the Omni Los Angeles at California Plaza near the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites. The Doubletree by Hilton is a popular mid-range option.