11 of the best things to do in Los Angeles, from sunset hiking to street food

More insider guides for planning a trip to Los Angeles

Measuring 44 miles across at its widest, there’s no shortage of things to do in Los Angeles – the tricky part is finding the time to fit them all in. There are the perennial favourites, like the movie studio tours, surfing in Malibu or a trip to the ball game. Then there are the newer attractions, like the crop of contemporary art galleries that have opened up Downtown, revitalising the neighbourhood. There’s also shopping and stargazing and hiking to be done – follow the lead of the native Angelenos and rise with the sun to make the most of it.


Go stargazing in the Hollywood hills

You can drive up to the Griffith Observatory but it’s much nicer to arrive by foot, hiking up one of Griffith Park’s reasonably gentle paths and taking in the Hollywood sign and spectacular views over the city on the way. The Art Deco building is an impressive sight and it’s no less enchanting inside, with permanent exhibits exploring the cosmos and an excellent planetarium.

Insider’s tip: One Saturday a month the observatory hosts a public star party, free to members of the public. With various telescopes dotted around the front lawn and knowledgeable astronomers on hand for questions, it’s a chance to get a closer look at the night sky.

Contact: 00 1 213 473 0800; griffithobservatory.org
Opening times: Tues-Fri, 12pm-10pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-10pm
Prices: Free

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles

You can drive up to the Griffith Observatory but it’s much nicer to arrive by foot, hiking up one of the park’s reasonably gentle paths

Mark Edward Harris/Mark Edward Harris

• An insider guide to Los Angeles

Double your daily dose of culture

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection of over 135,000 objects. It’s popular with tourists and locals alike, who come for the innovative exhibitions and the Instagram-worthy outdoor sculptures, like Jeff Koons’ Balloon Monkey in the central courtyard or Chris Burden’s grid of restored vintage street lamps, Urban Light.

Insider’s tip: Come on a Sunday afternoon and catch a free classical concert after you’ve looked around the gallery. Starting at 6pm every Sunday, LACMA’s weekly one-hour concert sessions, Sundays Live, feature the best of national, international, Los Angeles and emerging artists.  

Contact: 00 1 323 857 6000; lacma.org
Opening times: Mon, Tues and Thurs, 11am-5pm; Fri, 11am-8pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-7pm
Prices: ££

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has a staggering collection of over 135,000 objects

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Universal City

Take part in some movie magic

A must-visit for thrill seekers and movie lovers, Universal Studios is home to several heart-thumping rides, including the King Kong 3D experience, Revenge of the Mummy and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Hop into one of their trolleys for the studio tour, which takes in the Bates Motel from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and an encounter with the shark from Jaws.

Insider’s tip:Pay a bit extra for the VIP experience, where you can actually get off the trolley and explore the backlot on foot. Visit the sound stages where some of the biggest blockbusters were filmed and tour the Property Department, home to thousands of set pieces and props.  

Contact: 00 1 800 864 8377; universalstudioshollywood.com
Opening times: Park hours vary throughout the year, visit the Park Hours Calendar for the most up-to-date hours
Prices: £££

Universal Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles

Universal Studios is home to several heart-thumping rides, including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

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Browse the shops on America’s coolest street

Often dubbed as the coolest block in America, Abbot Kinney Boulevard is home to some of the most eclectic shops in the city. Beloved by Venice’s hipsters, the independent boutiques are the perfect place to pick up a quirky gift to take home – pick up a Venice Beach-scented candle from Tumbleweed & Dandelion or some whimsical stationery from Burro. There are plenty of places to refuel, too, such as vegetarian spot The Butcher’s Daughter and celeb favourite Gjelina.

Insider’s tip: Come on the first Friday of the month for Abbot Kinney’s evening food truck extravaganza. From 5pm dozens of the city’s finest food trucks crowd onto the boulevard, serving up everything from Thai, Southern soul, Greek and Vietnamese food.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Los Angeles

Abbot Kinney Boulevard is home to some of the most eclectic shops in the city

lovelightimages/Love Light Images

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Two wheels are better than four

The Santa Monica to Venice bike path is one of the most famous in the world, and for good reason – there’s nothing quite like watching the sun set over the Pacific from this famous stretch of beach. Start at sleepy Will Rogers State Beach, just north of Santa Monica, and carry on past the gaudy Santa Monica Pier until you reach the Venice Beach Boardwalk, where you’ll be cycling along the grungy hawkers selling their tat, Muscle Beach regulars and the oceanfront skatepark. Perry’s Cafe and Beach Rentals, on Santa Monica’s beachfront, is a good place to rent bikes. 

Insider’s tip: If you’re up to it, carry on the Marvin Braude Bike Trail for four more miles to explore Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey, one of LA’s smaller, more understated beach communities.

Contact: NA
Opening times: NA
Prices: Free

Santa Monica beach

The Santa Monica to Venice bike path is an LA must-do



Fast food done right

Downtown’s Grand Central Market, located opposite the cute Angels Flight funicular, made popular in film La La Land, is a proper foodie haven, serving up everything from Sari Sari’s spicy Filipino rice bowls to Olio’s wood-fired pizzas and Lucky Bird’s famous citrus-brined fried chicken. Always heaving with people and buzzing with neon signs, it feels like a little piece of New York in DTLA.

Insider’s tip: If you’re there on a Thursday, check out the nearby Downtown Los Angeles Art Walk, which happens on the second Thursday of every month, which encompasses local galleries, artists’ studios and cultural institutions along Spring and Main Street.

Contact: grandcentralmarket.com
Opening times: Mon-Sun, 8am-10pm
Prices: £

Grand Central Market in Downtown is a foodie haven

Eddie Hernandez Photography/Eddie Hernandez Photography

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Take a trip to see some out-of-this-world art

The Broad, which opened in 2015, has swiftly cemented itself as one of the coolest art galleries in LA, with perpetual queues to visit its permanent collection. The gallery is home to some of the most exciting contemporary art in the city, such as Yayoi Kusama’s trippy Infinity Mirrored Room, an immersive installation with LED lights reflecting endlessly inside a mirrored room.

Insider’s tip: Tickets for the gallery can book out weeks in advance, but if you haven’t managed to nab any you can join the on-site standby line, which runs every day. The line even has its own a Twitter account (@TheBroadStandby), providing regular updates on the length of the queue.

Contact: 00 1 213 232 6200; thebroad.org
Opening times: Tues-Weds, 11am-5pm; Thurs-Fri, 11am-8pm; Sat, 10am-8pm; Sun, 10am-6pm
Prices: Free

The Broad, Los Angeles

The Broad has swiftly cemented itself as one of the coolest art galleries in LA, with perpetual queues to visit its permanent collection galleries

Step into a Gothic masterpiece

The Ace Theatre is a marvel of Spanish Gothic style. Designed by architect C. Howard Crane, it was modelled on the Segovia Cathedral in Spain and is just as impressive. Formerly the United Artists Theatre, it used to be the flagship theatre for Charlie Chaplin’s film studio, United Artists; today, as well as showing films, it also hosts concerts, stand-up comedy and live reads.    

Insider’s tip: Eat an early supper beforehand at the hip Ace Hotel next door. Slide into a booth at their Best Girl bistro and order a shrimp cocktail and hanger steak washed down with a Lucky Girl cocktail, made with pisco, lemon and ‘luck’.  

Contact: 00 1 213 235 9614; theatre.acehotel.com
Opening times: See website for show times
Prices: ££-£££

The Ace Theatre, Los Angeles

The Spanish Gothic style Ace Theatre shows films and hosts concerts, stand-up comedy and live reads

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Elysian Park

Go all-American at a ball game

The Dodger Stadium, home to the LA Dodgers baseball team, is the third oldest baseball stadium in America, after Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago, and one of the most picturesque, overlooking the San Gabriel Mountains on one side and Downtown LA’s skyscrapers on the other. Bring snacks– a typical ball game lasts for at least three hours.  

Insider’s tip: If you’re going for a day game, be sure to take a hat and sun cream – most of the stadium is in the sun and it can get uncomfortably hot. Book under the roof of the top deck for the shadiest seats.

Contact: 00 1 323 224 2611; mlb.com/dodgers
Opening times: See website for game schedule
Prices: ££-£££

Dodgers Stadium, Los Angeles

Watch a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium, which overlooks the San Gabriel Mountains on one side and Downtown LA’s skyscrapers on the other

David Sucsy/dszc


Ride the waves in Malibu

Book in for a surfing lesson with Aqua Surf School, who operate out of Surfrider Beach, one of the most famous surf spots in Malibu (it has particularly slow waves, making it the ideal place to learn). Their two-hour lessons cater to beginners and more advanced surfers and they’ll provide all the necessary equipment, including boards and wetsuits.

Insider’s tip: Shake the sand out of your hair and head across the road to the Surfrider Hotel’s rooftop bar after your lesson. Grab a sofa by one of the fire pits, order a cocktail and watch the sun go down over the Pacific.

Contact: 00 1 310 902 7737; aquasurf.com
Opening times: Daily, 6am-6pm
Prices: £££

Surfrider Beach, Malibu

Book in for a surfing lesson with Aqua Surf School, who operate out of Surfrider Beach, one of the most famous surf spots in Malibu

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Rediscover Ancient Greece and Rome in Malibu

LA’s Getty Museum, founded by billionaire industrialist J. Paul Getty, is spread across two campuses: the sprawling, space age-looking Getty Center [sic] above the hills in Brentwood and the beautiful Getty Villa in Malibu, a recreation of a first-century Roman villa and home to displays of art from Ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria. The villa’s gardens are particularly impressive, featuring sculptures, wall paintings and Mediterranean plants.

Insider’s tip: Come in the late afternoon, when the crowds are starting to thin out and the gardens will be bathed in a warm glow. By the time you’re ready to leave, you’ll have missed the majority of the rush hour traffic, too. 

Contact: 00 1 310 440 7300; getty.edu
Opening times: Getty Center: Tues-Fri and Sun, 10am-5.30pm; Sat, 10am-9pm. Getty Villa: Wed-Mon, 10am-5pm
Prices: Free

Getty Museum, Malibu, Los Angeles

The beautiful Getty Villa in Malibu (part of The Getty Museum) is a recreation of a First century Roman villa and home to displays of art from Ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria


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