16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Los Angeles
The sprawling city of Los Angeles, in Southern California, has long been known internationally in the film and entertainment industry, particularly for Hollywood, a place that has drawn aspiring actors and actresses from across the country for almost a century. Today, LA is a culturally diverse city, with a growing culinary scene, incredible shopping, outstanding museums, and a reputation for being the creative center of America.
Sun seekers coming to enjoy the warm climate and beaches will find all kinds of things to do and interesting neighborhoods to explore. Recent upgrades to the public transportation network and the addition of a bike share program in downtown LA have made getting around and sightseeing easier than ever. For families, nearby Disneyland and Universal Studios are key destinations that often warrant repeat visits. Regardless of your interests, Los Angeles makes a perfect getaway.
See also: Where to Stay in Los Angeles
1 Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Theme Park has a variety of mind-blowing rides based on movie themes, but is also a working movie studio. You can take a guided tour of the studios and explore behind the scenes of some of Universal's most popular movie sets. The main attraction for most people is usually the rides, which range from simulators to roller coasters. Favorite movie and TV-themed rides and sets include The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, The Walking Dead, The Simpsons, and Transformers.
You can easily spend a day or two here, particularly if the park is busy and wait times are long. When you are tired of the rides, you can check out CityWalk, a three-block entertainment area, with shopping, dining, and theaters.
Address: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City
2 Griffith Park and Griffith Observatory
Griffith Park, in the eastern part of the Santa Monica Mountains, and covering an area of 4,210 acres, is the largest state park in California. The park is home to the Los Angeles Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, a planetarium, a Greek theater, a riding center created for the 1984 Olympic Games, golf courses, tennis courts, hiking trails, and other attractions. Walking trails and scenic drives through the mountains offer views over the city and beyond.
The Griffith Observatory is one of the city's most interesting experience-based attractions, and it's all free to the public. On the grounds are exhibits and telescopes. The main highlight is a look through the Zeiss telescope, used for viewing the moon and planets. You can use the telescopes free each evening the facility is open. Also on site are solar telescopes used for viewing the sun.
The park and observatory are named for Griffith J. Griffith, who donated the greater part of the parkland to the city in 1896 and willed funds to the city for the creation of the observatory.
3 Disneyland Resort
Just outside Los Angeles, Disneyland is California's premier family vacation destination. Disneyland Park, with rides and experiences in elaborately created theme sets, is what most people picture when they imagine Disneyland. The Disneyland California Adventure Park, created during one of the expansions, holds even more action and adventure, with seven lands based on movie themes.
Beyond the rides and Disney characters wandering the streets, the resort also offers a full complement of features and services for a complete vacation. Hotels, restaurants, shopping, and all kinds of entertainment options are available at Disneyland Resort.
A suburb of Los Angeles, Hollywood is a destination in itself, with its own unique history and iconic sites. The attractions in Hollywood are closely associated with the film industry and the glamour of the silver screen. The hillside Hollywood sign, Hollywood Boulevard, the Walk of Fame, and the Chinese Theatre can easily fill a day or two of sightseeing. If you're lucky, you might even spot a celebrity or two.
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5 The Getty Center
On a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Getty Center, designed by Richard Meier, is a huge complex measuring 0.75 square miles and set on 110 acres. The uniquely designed building and the beautiful grounds provide the perfect setting for this impressive museum. Collections include European paintings, drawings, sculpture, and decorative arts, as well as 19th- and 20th-century photography. The Getty Center is one of two locations of the J. Paul Getty Museum, created by the late oil magnate, J. Paul Getty.
Address: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles
6 Santa Monica
Santa Monica is a unique destination that is both chic and laid-back, with a population that ranges from surfers, skateboarders, and yoga devotees to techies and business people. The beautiful stretch of golden sand along the coast and the famous Santa Monica Pier, with its iconic Ferris wheel, are what most tourists come to enjoy, but you can find all kinds of experiences in this beachfront city next to LA. Shoppers will find a full range of options, from quirky and vintage stores to high-end boutiques. For a little activity, check out the 26-mile bike path along the waterfront or wander along the Third Street Promenade to see street performers and do some shopping and people watching.
Getting to Santa Monica is now much easier since the opening of the new Expo Metro line, connecting downtown LA to Santa Monica.
7 Natural History Museum
While the Natural History Museum has numerous galleries and an extensive permanent collection that covers a range of topics, it is best known for its collection of dinosaurs. The 14,000-square-foot Dinosaur Hall has an awesome display of dinosaur skeletons, including a series of Tyrannosaurus rex fossils, known as the growth series, featuring three full skeletons that range from baby to adult. Also on display are a Triceratops and a Stegosaurus.
The museum deals with the natural history of California and areas throughout the world. Becoming Los Angeles, which explores the past 500 years of history in Southern California, is another must-see exhibit. The Age of Mammals offers a look at evolution, climatic changes, and shifting continents. Mammals are further explored in exhibits that focus on specific continents. The Discovery Center offers hands-on experiences and is particularly interesting for younger visitors.
Address: 900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles
8 California Science Center
The California Science Center, open to the public free of charge, is home to the Space Shuttle Endeavour, as well as three other major exhibits. Endeavour, the main attraction, is currently on display at the Samuel Oschin Pavilion, while the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center is being built. You can see the space shuttle, as well as artifacts from the space mission, and learn all about it and the people involved in the program.
The other three exhibits at the Science Center cover topics related to the living world, technology, and ecosystems. The Ecosystems exhibit features an 188,000-gallon kelp tank, as well as live plants, animals, and fish. All three of these exhibits have a Discovery Room, with interactive displays designed for children up to age seven.
Address: 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles
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.
9 The Broad
One of Los Angeles' newest cultural attractions, The Broad opened in late 2015 and was immediately an overwhelming success. Tickets are free of charge but are generally booked out a month in advance, and lineups for standby tickets, which are first-come, first-served on the day of admission, can be hours long, particularly on weekends. The museum focuses on contemporary and postwar art, with some large and dramatic installations. More than 2,000 works of art are on display in this unique building, with a "veil-and-vault" concept. The museum was founded by Eli and Edythe Broad, who have been long time collectors of postwar and contemporary art.
Address: 221 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles
10 The Original Farmers Market
The Los Angeles Farmers Market first started in 1934 as a very modest affair that sprung from the hardships created by the Great Depression. At the height of the economic depression, eighteen farmers came 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 continued to expand. At that time, it truly was a fruit and vegetable market, but over the years the market has grown 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 toys.
Address: 6333 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles
11 Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art lays claim to being the largest art museum in the western United States, with almost 130,000 pieces spanning from antiquity through to modern times. Of particular note are the outstanding collections of Asian, Latin American, and Islamic Art. The huge complex consists of a number of separate buildings that have been acquired and renovated over the years.The most recent expansion, known as the Transformation, saw the opening of several new buildings on the western half of the campus, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
The LACMA, as it is also known, is next to the La Brea Tar Pits on museum row.
Address: 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
12 Venice Beach
Venice Beach deserves its reputation as a place to see and be seen, making it perfect for people walking, although the vibe here is a little unusual. This stretch of golden sand and the Venice Beach Boardwalk are always thronged with people walking, cycling, rollerblading, and jogging. Eclectic shops and street performers of all kinds line the walkway. The Skate Park, also just off the beach, is frequented by some of the area's best skateboarders, and nearby are a number of creative art installations. At the appropriately named Muscle Beach, people pump iron in the hot California sun. Food stalls selling everything from shaved ice to kettle corn and funnel cakes make you feel like you're walking through fair grounds. This is not a typical family beach, but it's well worth a visit.
13 Long Beach
Bordering Los Angeles to the south, about 20 miles from downtown LA, Long Beach extends along San Pedro Bay. This is another community in the Los Angeles area that you can easily spend a day exploring. Worth visiting here are the historic Queen Mary ocean liner, now converted into a hotel and museum, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and the Museum of Latin America. You can also catch the Catalina Express from Long Beach for a trip over to Catalina Island.
14 Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits
In Hancock Park, La Brea Tar Pits were formed 40,000 years ago, when oil seeped through the rock. The Tar Pits would entrap passing animals, which would get stuck in the substance. The tar then preserved the fossils throughout the ages, leaving behind an incredible glimpse into another age. 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. You can see bones being worked on and learn what takes place behind the scenes, before bones and skeletons are able to be displayed. The museum displays 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. An outdoor area in Hancock Park displays replicas of extinct animals.
Address: 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles
15 The Nethercutt Collection
If you're a fan of antique, vintage, and classic cars, this is the place to visit. The Nethercutt Collection displays an outstanding array of automobiles from the 1890s to the 1970s. The pristine condition of these vehicles and the variety of models is beyond impressive. The history of the cars and descriptions of their previous owners are displayed with the vehicles.
Address: 15151 Bledsoe Street, Sylmar
16 Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
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. The MOCA Grand, on Grand Avenue, is the museum's primary facility, with the main galleries as well as the largest museum store and a café. The MOCA Geffen is in Little Tokyo, in what was formerly a police car warehouse. The MOCA Pacific Design Center is in West Hollywood and features rotating exhibits.
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.