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Things to Do in Los Angeles that Locals Love

Updated September 17, 2023

You'll find so many incredible things to do in Los Angeles. So many that it can be overwhelming to know where to begin! That's why we asked some Los Angeles locals about what to do in their city. From hiking to the Hollywood sign to eating fish tacos, here's what locals say are the top things to do in Los Angeles. 

Go beyond the guidebook by having a local plan your trip. Our trip planners are LA locals who will introduce you to a unique side of their hometown. Learn more.

Dive into the delicious seafood scene

Fish tacos | Shan Li Fang/Unsplash

Locals tell us that the seafood in Los Angeles is incredible. (With all those beaches it's no surprise!) You'll have a ton of choices, so benefit from personalized advice. Our trip planners can suggest their favorites. 

And they have tons of suggestions. Some of their favorite seafood joints include Fishing with Dynamite (for incredible raw scallops), the Mariscos Jalisco food truck (for their out-of-this-world shrimp tacos), Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada, Ricky’s Fish Tacos, and Connie & Ted’s (for fresh-shucked oysters).

Get sudsy at one of LA’s craft breweries

Beer | Giovanna Gomes/Unsplash

Locals tell us that LA has an excellent craft beer scene—and the breweries vary by neighborhood! 

Our trip planners say that Highland Park on the edge of Chinatown is a perennial fave, Arts District is one of DTLA’s most popular spots, and hops-happy El Segundo is only a short walk from the beach.

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Snack away at Grand Central Market

The people of Los Angeles have enjoyed snacks from Grand Central Market since 1917.

Locals tell us that this food-hall offers a wonderful variety of food—wonton soup! Pastries! Pupusas! BBQ! Beer!—which makes it an immediate crowd-pleaser. Eggslut is a perpetually-preferred stall, but you can use insider advice to know where to go first—our trip planners can suggest their favorite spots. 

People-watch at Venice Beach

Venice Beach | Travis Yewell/Unsplash

The bustle and buzz of the always-busy Venice Beach Boardwalk make it one of the most action-packed places in LA. Locals say the beach is fantastic, but the real draw here is the mix of outdoor beach shops, musicians jamming on the grass, and buskers performing for the crowd. Really, people-watching here is just out-of-this-world good.

Local Tip:

While you’re in the area, be sure to check out Venice’s famous beachside skateparks, the gorgeous Venice Canals, and the bodybuilders working out on Muscle Beach.

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Kick back in Koreatown

Locals say that Koreatown isn’t just amazing Korean restaurants (although it’s certainly that too): this part of town is flush with amazing bars and fun shops. Koreatown is also home to the iconic Wiltern theatre and some of the city’s best donuts. Donuts and a show? Uh… yes, please.

Get personalized advice about where to start the night—our trip planners say that the karaoke bars in Koreatown are a great way to spend any evening out. 

Local Tip:

Grab a French dip sandwich in Chinatown, a fifteen-minute drive away. Philippe the Original claims to have invented it!

Explore downtown LA (DTLA)

Downtown Los Angeles is in the midst of an exciting revival. With tons of new bars, restaurants, and shops (and proximity to neighborhoods like Echo Park, Silverlake, and Los Feliz), locals say that DTLA has become cool spot to explore. Don't travel blind! Our trip planners can suggest activities based on your travel style. 

Lately, locals have suggested taking in a free view at the Los Angeles City Hall observation deck, perusing the shelves at the quirky Last Bookstore, checking out the street art in DTLA’s Arts District, and chilling at Clifton’s, a forest-themed bar with an enormous tree in the center.

Local Tip:

Although Los Angeles is largely safe, downtown LA has a big homeless population and can be sketchy at night. This is especially true in areas of downtown like Skid Row.

"How did I ever not travel like this?! Ana’s local insight & planning was a game changer. It’s like having a digital concierge, travel agent, and local fixer all rolled into one!"
Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal
Sierra, recent ViaHero traveler to Portugal

Spend an afternoon in Pasadena

Ten miles from downtown Los Angeles, locals tell us that Pasadena is packed with stuff to do. They say that Old Pasadena is beautiful and full of great restaurants and shops, Eaton Canyon offers a gorgeous hike near a *waterfall*, and if you plan your trip to Los Angeles for January, you can see the famous Rose Parade.

(Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: those really are wild parrots in Pasadena’s trees.)

Local Tip:

On the second Sunday of the month, scoot over to the Rose Bowl stadium for an incredible flea market.

Catch some sun at the Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica | Gerson Repreza/Unsplash

With sprawling white sand and sparkling azure water, locals say that Santa Monica is one of the most beautiful beaches in Los Angeles. They tell us that the pier—full of old carnival rides and restaurants—can be a bit of a tourist trap, but it's iconic and fun to visit. 

Santa Monica is a cool place to stay in LA—but it can get expensive, with some hotels costing a couple of hundred dollars a night. You can find deals here! HI USA has hostels in Santa Monica that offer private rooms for around $135/night. 

Chill out in Culver City

Sometimes overlooked, locals tell us that Culver City is close to LAX and the ocean, which makes it a convenient place to stay. 

And there's lots to do here! Our trip planners suggest checking out the thriving gallery scene in Culver City’s Arts District, grabbing a late drink at the ornate (and soaked in Hollywood history) Culver Hotel, or hiking up to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook for an amazing view.

Culver City is also home to Sony Pictures Studio, which offers a great behind-the-scenes tour.

Local Tip:

You can take the LA metro from Culver City to downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles transportation gets a bad rap, but the metro line is an easy way to get between the neighborhoods if you don't want to rent a car. 

Enjoy the whales, wine, and wonderful hikes of Malibu

Malibu | Parker Amstutz/Unsplash

Malibu is known for two things: stunning beaches and spectacular celebrity mansions. And it’s true, the beaches are incredible.

Locals say to keep an eye out for whales while you’re enjoying “aloha hour” at seaside Duke’s restaurant!

And of course, they note that Malibu offers unbeatable surfing, scuba diving, and sunbathing opportunities. And incredible hiking. (see the waterfall at Escondido Falls). And lots of wonderful wine tours.

Local Tip:

Are you looking to hike in and around Los Angeles? You and your party may want to op for a bus or van rental! Bus.com connects travelers with vetted bus partners across North America. It comes highly recommended by event organizers and independent groups. You can opt to have a driver or to drive yourself. 

Explore Hollywood culture in Beverly Hills

It’s more than just a Weezer song—locals say that Beverly Hills is one of LA’s most iconic neighborhoods! The Revolver Gallery has the world’s largest gallery-owned collection of Andy Warhol’s work, making it a colorful and fun stop; the Paley Center for Media is a must-stop for TV nerds, and a photo with the iconic Beverly Hills sign at Beverly Hills Garden Park is a necessity.

Local Tip:

If you have a car, Mulholland Drive also offers a spectacular view of LA.

Take in the view at Griffith Park

Griffith Park |Tim Wildsmith/Unsplash

If you’ve seen La La Land, you know Griffith Park (but please don’t burst into “A Lovely Night”— you will scare the locals).

Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Locals say that the main attractions here are the sweeping view of downtown LA, the iconic Griffith Observatory, and the Hollywood Sign. Our trip planners recommend going up at night for an impressive look at the sparkling city and the lit-up H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D.

Local Tip:

The Sierra Club offers free evening hikes to Griffith Park.

Bask in nature at heavenly Huntington Gardens

The gorgeous Huntington Gardens, near Pasadena, defy Los Angeles’ reputation as urban sprawl. Not only does Huntington feature 16 themed garden areas over 120 acres, but locals say that the Huntington Library also contains a spectacular collection of art as well as rare historical documents and photos.

Hang out at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Locals say that the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is not as morbid as it sounds—although it is an actual cemetery where you can pay respects to deceased stars like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.

Actually, the cemetery is known for much more than its “residents”. The (very-much alive) events calendar is packed with activities like movie nights and concerts, as well as one of LA’s biggest Day of the Dead celebrations.

Stride around Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard contains some of L.A’s classic spots, and plenty to do! Locals say that its famous hotel, the Chateau Marmont is a veritable character in Hollywood history itself—it’s where John Belushi died and where Jim Morrison fell off a balcony, among other colorful anecdotes.

Don't get stuck in tourist traps here (there's a lot). Locals say that the nearby Whiskey A Go Go is a great place to catch a rock show, and if you don’t have In-N-Out in your home state/country/etc., Sunset Blvd is a fun place to grab a burger.

Go Prehistoric at the La Brea Tar Pits Museum

La Brea Tar Pits Museum | Rowan Lamb/Unsplash

In a town full of gorgeous movie stars, it’s devastating to be called a fossil—except at the La Brea Tar Pits, which contain some of the most well-preserved fossils in the world!

For thousands of years, prehistoric mammals like mammoths, saber-tooth cats, and direwolves (the real kind, not the Game of Thrones kind) were trapped and preserved in the pits of tar that bubble up from the ground. Bad news for them, but wonderful for the curious of today!

Delight in gardens and Van Gogh at the Getty Museum

The Getty Museum, north of Beverly Hills, is a definite crowd-pleaser. Love art? They’ve got your Van Goghs and Monets, but also so much more. Love gardens? The garden at the Getty is stunning, and there are great spots for a picnic. How about sweeping LA views? Yup, sunset at the Getty is one of the most gorgeous vistas in town.

Local Tip:

The Getty is free, making it a great stop for anyone looking to travel to Los Angeles on a budget.

See modern art at the Broad Museum

Only open since 2015, our trip planners tell us that the Broad Museum is quickly becoming a local favorite.

Unlike the Getty, the Broad is all about contemporary art. You’ll find artists here like Takashi Murakami, Jeff Koons, and the Instagram-darling Yayoi Kusama (you’ve definitely seen her “infinity rooms” on social media).

Admission is free, but some exhibits and events require paid tickets.

Fall in love with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Los Angeles County Museum of Art | Tyler Nix/Unsplash

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has an amazing collection—it’s the largest art museum in the western United States—and visitors can easily spend a few hours admiring its 140,000 pieces (which represent more than 6,000 years of art history). 

Locals say that one of LACMA’s main attractions is its “urban light” display. It’s a favorite backdrop for Instagrammers, engagement photographers, and, well, everyone else.

Local Tip:

Tickets to LACMA are free the second Tuesday of the month.

Catch a comedy show

Move aside, New York City! LA has an incredible comedy scene—comedians like Conan O'Brien, Lisa Kudro, and Donald Glover got their start here.

Locals say that some of the city’s most famous clubs include The Laugh Factory, The Comedy Store, The Groundlings, and Upright Citizens Brigade, but there are countless smaller venues to check out as well. If you're looking to get off the beaten path, see what locals say about more low-key clubs in town. 

Hike up to the Hollywood Sign

Hollywood sign | Ahmet Yalçınkaya/Unsplash

The Hollywood sign is perhaps the most iconic of LA landmarks. It’s cool to see from afar, but locals say seeing it up close is something else entirely. 

Our trip planners tell us you don’t have to be a pro hiker to trek up to the sign. There are different levels of Hollywood hikes to choose from, which makes it an accessible activity for most.

Local Tip:

Angeles National Forest, about forty minutes from DTLA is wonderful for hikers of any level.

Participate in a live recording of your favorite show

If you love television you’re in luck: Los Angeles is the TV town, and there are definitely ways to get into the audience of a live taping. The best part? Usually, these tickets are *free*. So whether you adore Ellen, dream of being on The Voice, or love laughing to Conan, you may be able to snag a seat in the studio audience.

Hear the LA Philharmonic at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Not only is the architecture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall phenomenally cool but it’s also designed to make the hall one of the most “acoustically sophisticated” in the world. Catch a show from the world-famous Los Angeles Philharmonic for some of the best classical music on the West Coast.  

Go for a run (or hike) in Runyon Canyon

Looking to burn off the calories from those fancy West Hollywood cocktails? Locals say that the resplendent Runyon Canyon offers one of the best hikes in Los Angeles.

About thirty minutes from downtown Los Angeles, Runyon is a favorite amongst LA dog owners since the area is leash-optional. 

Cheer on the LA Dodgers

LA Dodgers | Tim Mossholder/Unsplash

Root, root, root for the Dodgers! Or whoever’s playing them, we won’t judge. On a hot LA day, there’s nothing better than enjoying a cold beer and watching some baseball. Dodger Stadium offers the perfect way to kick back, relax, and indulge in America’s pastime—plus, locals say it's only a 15-minute Uber from downtown LA.

Local Tip:

Be sure to try one (or two) of Dodger Stadium’s iconic “Dodger dogs”. Whether or not the Dodgers win, you’ll achieve a tasty victory. And if you have a big group, you can buy tickets that include unlimited hot dogs.

Root on the Lakers (or the Kings, or the Clippers, or the Sparks) at Staples Center

There’s always something happening at Staples Center. If you love basketball, root for the Lakers (or the Clippers or the Sparks). If hockey is more your thing, catch a Kings’ game. None of the above? Then check out some of today’s biggest musicians, who perform frequently at Staples Center.

Local Tip:

Stay in downtown LA if you love sports—it’s less than a 10 minutes Uber from there to the Staples Center.

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