Visiting Los Angeles for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do
Los Angeles is synonymous with Hollywood, celebrity, and perfect weather. And while you’re all but guaranteed to catch a glimpse of a star (no matter how bright) and bask in the sun, LA has so much more to offer than the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the beach. (Though the beach is pretty great.) You can admire incredible architecture, visit museums, try dishes from around the world, and escape to the coast. Here are some great ways to enjoy your first visit to the City of Angels.
See the stars
Is that J. Lo?
It’s undeniable, LA is home to the rich and famous, so whether you’re interested in the architecture of exquisite mansions, or hoping to see your favorite celebrity, a tour of the Hollywood Hills is your best bet. An open-air bus will allow you access to some of the hilliest parts of the city without walking (after all, nobody walks in LA). Tour the Hollywood Hills and check out the Walk of Fame while you’re in the neighborhood.
Grab a bite
Eat your way through LA.
When it comes to foodie cities, Los Angeles is right up there with New York. From indulging in tacos Downtown to drinking overpriced smoothies, there’s something for everyone in this city. Book a tour and head to some iconic spots featuring pastrami sandwiches, hot dogs, donuts, and plenty more, no reservations required (well, besides the tour itself).
Stroll the museums
Admire art, architecture, and prehistoric sites.
Whether you go to the Getty, the Broad, LACMA, or all three, a day spent at LA’s museums is well worth it. Head to the Getty if you prefer older collections and great views, the Broad to see modern art, and LACMA for something encompassing the two. Of course, Los Angeles doesn't just have art museums—head to the La Brea tar pits and learn about life during the Ice Age, a great option if you’re traveling with children.
Go behind the scenes
It’s movie magic.
Visit the sets at Warner Bros. Studios or hit up the legendary tour at Universal Studios. With a VIP ticket to the latter, you’ll have the opportunity to go on a backlot tour where they actually shoot movies and TV shows. It only takes about 30 minutes, and then you’re in a theme park with movie-themed rides, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and plenty of shopping.
Hit Rodeo Drive
For shopping and sightseeing.
If you didn’t bring an extra suitcase with you on a trip to LA, well … maybe you can buy one? It’s a great town for shopping, and any big-ticket spree should start on Rodeo Drive. With luxury stores for window shopping, and stars to be seen, this palm-laden avenue is perfect for a main-character moment.
Take a hike
Discover the landscape of LA.
Just because nobody walks in LA doesn’t mean locals don’t love to hike. After all, the city is encircled by mountains, which make for the perfect escape after eating or being stuck in traffic. Feel free to skip the hike behind the Hollywood sign, and go for one with a view of it. A hike up to the Griffith Observatory is an excellent option, complete with a Hollywood ending.
See the theme park of your dreams
Let your inner kid run wild.
No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to Disneyland® Park. Head up to the theme park and take in all the rides and adventures this magical place has to offer. There’s no way to squeeze everything into one day, but these tips and tours can give you an edge.
Explore the coast
Get out of town.
Just because you’re visiting LA doesn’t mean you have to stay there. After all, the city is a sprawling landscape, and it’s difficult to know where it begins and ends. For a taste of the coast, try an express trip to Catalina Island or a day trip up to Santa Barbara to sip local wines. The bottom line: you can’t go wrong in SoCal.
Related: How Santa Barbara Became a Wine Town (and Where to Go Tasting)