Come for Hollywood or the beaches and stay for L.A.’s striking views, street art, galleries, food, and the best people-watching America has to offer.
Most Iconic Place
The Hollywood Sign is a great hike. There are several trails, starting in the three-mile range. There’s also no parking at the sign, but you can take a car service there or a horse ride. A great alternative is to head up to the Griffith Park Observatory in adjacent Los Feliz and take a picture of the sign from there.
The Getty Center in Brentwood is one of the campuses of the Getty Museum. Admission is free but you pay for parking. There’s a good restaurant on site, with spectacular views and a summer concert series. Check out the photography collection and Vincent van Gogh’s “Irises.”
Huntington Gardens is actually 12 distinct gardens over 120 acres—the Garden of Flowering Fragrance (Chinese), the Japanese Garden, the Conservatory and Children’s Garden, the Desert Garden, and more, which host 15,000 varieties of plants. There’s also a gorgeous library, which maintains over seven million manuscripts and almost half a million rare books.
Joshua Tree National Park is an easy drive from Los Angeles and a nice place to get away from it all. Two deserts, the Mohave and Colorado, meet there, so be sure to plan accordingly for that climate and the strong sun—there’s not a lot of shade. However, the park makes up for it with lots of hiking (191 miles of trails), camping, rock climbing, photography spots, and amazing stargazing.
One of the world’s most famous fossil destinations is right in the middle of Los Angeles—the La Brea Tar Pits. Thousands of Ice Age saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, and mammoths were preserved here over millennia. In 2006, excavations unearthed the discovery of remains that filled 23 large wooden boxes and 327 buckets—including a virtually intact Columbian mammoth they call Zed.
Best Day Trip
Catalina Island is worth the one-hour ferry ride. Rent a golf cart (cash only) and tour Avalon, the more developed of the two cities. Then zip-line or hike and wind down afterward with some food and drink at the beach.
Off the Beaten Path
Head downtown and take a ride on Angels Flight, the world’s shortest railroad—298 feet! For a more exciting ride, walk to the U.S. Bank Tower and go down the Skyslide, a clear glass slide—on the outside of the building—from the 70th floor 45 feet down to the 69th floor.
The beach enclave of Venice has it all. Hip and quirky boutiques line Abbot Kinney Boulevard, and its cafés and restaurants showcase the latest food trends. On the boardwalk, check out the street performers and Muscle Beach bodybuilders or watch the action at the skate park. If something quieter is more your scene, wander over to the canals and stroll on their lovely bridges and winding paths.
Esotouric provides eclectic bus tours of L.A.’s noir and literary sites, including the last days of the Black Dahlia and the haunts of Charles Bukowski and Raymond Chandler. The tours go into neighborhoods even some native Angelenos have never been to and delve into the city’s substantive underbelly.
Go to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to see the graves of Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino, Mickey Rooney, and others; stay for Cinespia’s outdoor movie screenings in the summer. The property’s Masonic Lodge hosts concerts year-round in the intimate venue.