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 over a century. Today, LA is a culturally diverse city with a reputation for being the creative center of America. Visitors will find a thriving culinary scene, incredible shopping, outstanding museums, and fun family attractions.
Sunseekers coming to enjoy the warm climate and beaches will find plenty of things to do and interesting neighborhoods to explore. Upgrades to the public transportation network in recent years and the addition of a Metro Bike Share 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.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Theme Park is known for its mind-blowing rides based on blockbuster movies, but it is also a working movie studio and an attraction everyone can enjoy. The highlight for most people is the ever-changing selection of 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. New in 2019 is Jurassic World – The Ride.
To save time standing in long lines consider purchasing a Skip the Line: Front of Line Pass at Universal Studios Hollywood. This handy ticket gives you one-time fast entry to each of the park’s rides, attractions, and shows, as well as behind-the-scenes access to select attractions.
When you are tired of the rides, you can check out CityWalk, a three-block entertainment area, with shopping, dining, and theaters. Another option is a guided tour of the studios to explore behind the scenes of some of Universal’s most popular movie sets. The VIP Experience allows you opportunities to see the sets and areas not open to the general public.
Address: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California
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. It’s 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.
Just outside Los Angeles, Disneyland is California’s premier family vacation destination, attracting visitors since the 1950s. 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.
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 unique 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. The Getty Villa, set in a recreated Roman country house, deals with art from the Stone Age to the end of the Roman Empire.
Address: 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles
Petersen Automotive Museum
Car lovers will not want to miss the incredible assortment of vehicles at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Spread over four floors are a mix of permanent and temporary exhibits featuring more than 300 cars and motorcycles, ranging from perfectly preserved items from 1886 right through to concepts for the 21st century.
The museum underwent major renovations and is now one of the most modern institutions of its kind. The exterior façade is an eye-catching architectural masterpiece. For an additional fee, you can sign up for either a 90- or 120-minute guided Vault tour, which provides additional insight on rare and unusual cars.
Address: 6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, California
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 a variety of experiences in this beachfront city next to LA.
Shoppers will find a 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.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
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 Discovery Center and Insect Zoo offers hands-on experiences and is particularly interesting for younger visitors.
Address: 900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles
California Science Center
The California Science Center, open to the public free of charge, is home to the Space Shuttle Endeavour, as well as other major exhibits. Mission 26: The Big Endeavour 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.
Other exhibits at the Science Center cover such topics as the living world, technology, and ecosystems. The Ecosystems exhibit features an impressive 188,000-gallon kelp tank, as well as live plants, animals, and fish. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the California Science Center also features special exhibits, for an ever-changing selection of things to see.
Address: 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles, California
The Broad opened in late 2015 and was immediately an overwhelming success and has remained popular. 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.
Tickets are free of charge for general admission, but these are often booked out in advance. Standby tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of admission, but this will usually require some wait time in a line, particularly on weekends. Admissions to some special exhibitions do carry a fee.
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, California