Los Angeles is known as the entertainment capital of the world, and for good reason. The movies, television shows and music produced in the City of Angels are enjoyed all over the globe. While the city’s show-business history and the chance to rub elbows with a celebrity draws many visitors to L.A., the area’s beaches, theme parks and year-round sunny weather are also big attractions.
A world-class collection of museums, arenas and theaters means that art lovers, history buffs and sports fans will find plenty to love about the tourist attractions in Los Angeles as well.
See also: Where to Stay in Los Angeles
Outdoor enthusiasts won’t be disappointed either. This something-for-everyone destination boasts a wealth of natural attractions and outdoor activities. From impromptu volleyball games on the beach and camping getaways in the nearby mountains to whale watching and sailing on the blue Pacific, there’s always something fun and exciting to do in sunny Southern California.
In this post, we'll cover:
24. California Science Center
Located in Exposition Park, the state-of-the-art California Science Center is packed with interesting and educational exhibits. While some sections focus on animals from various ecosystems, others instead look at energy, transportation and even outer space.
Since being founded in 1951, the massive museum has expanded enormously and now contains amazing aircraft and space shuttles. While the Endeavour is undoubtedly the standout sight, its World of Life and Creative World galleries are equally impressive to peruse. It also regularly hosts temporary exhibits and has an IMAX theater where you can watch educational films.
23. Paramount Pictures Studio Tour
The last remaining film studio of the ‘Big Five’ still left in Hollywood, Paramount Pictures is a treat to tour around with its recognizable stages, costumes and memorabilia. After having entered through its famous double-arched gate, you’ll get to visit and explore iconic sets from TV shows and blockbuster movies.
Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, you’ll whizz around the sprawling studio on golf carts, stopping off here and there to see sets from Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s or even watch a shot being filmed. Offering a fascinating look into the world of Hollywood and how TV shows and movies are made, the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour is definitely well worth going on when in town.
22. Hollywood Bowl
One of the most renowned and revered live music venues in the States, the Hollywood Bowl is nestled amidst the rolling Hollywood Hills. Carved into the hillside with the world-famous Hollywood Sign appearing far off in the distance, it hosts countless concerts each year with operas, orchestras and musicals also taking place on its hallowed stage.
Built in 1922, the huge outdoor amphitheater is certainly a special place to enjoy a show with big names like Cher, Queen and The Beatles all having played beneath its distinctive set of concentric arches. Thanks to its superb sound quality, sight lines and spellbinding setting, the Hollywood Bowl is one of the most memorable places you could ever catch a performance.
21. Zuma Beach
If it’s sun, sea and sand you’re after then you’ll definitely want to head to picture-perfect Zuma Beach. Located in Malibu about an hour’s drive west of L.A., its sun-kissed sands curve gently along the ocean, overlooked by the majestic Santa Monica Mountains.
Very popular with locals and tourists alike, it offers all kinds of fun outdoor activities with excellent fishing and beach volleyball, as well as sunbathing, swimming and surfing. Aside from enjoying its clean waters, visitors can stroll peacefully along its broad sands with the beautiful beach having appeared in numerous films, TV shows and adverts over the years.
20. Madame Tussauds Hollywood
Madame Tussauds Hollywood is home to a huge collection of wax figures of famous celebrities from all different eras. One of the city’s top tourist attractions, it lies along Hollywood Boulevard and has rooms full of movie stars and pop icons, plus exciting VR experiences.
Only opened in 2009, it now contains over a hundred remarkably life-like wax models with replicas of Barack Obama and Leonardo DiCaprio appearing next to Taylor Swift, Snoop Dogg and Spider-Man, among others. After having snapped photos with all of your favorite celebs, you can head to its theater and watch a thrilling 4D Marvel Universe film.
19. Runyon Canyon Park
While its stunning scenery offers a welcome respite from the hum of downtown, Runyon Canyon Park actually lies just a couple of blocks off bustling Hollywood Boulevard. Due to its setting amidst the Hollywood Hills, celebrity sightings are common with epic old mansions and estates also dotted about its scenic confines.
Besides hiking about its hills, visitors can stop by Rock Mandala – an arresting public art piece – or head to Inspiration Point or Clouds Rest for phenomenal panoramas over Los Angeles. Although its hot, dry climate can make hiking tough, the park is well worth visiting for its wild look and feel. Snakes, lizards, deer and coyotes can sometimes be spotted, too.
18. Walt Disney Concert Hall
Another of the city’s unique and impressive music venues is the striking Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale. Due to its incredible architecture, acoustics and acts, do check out its packed schedule of events when in town.
Designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, its shiny stainless steel structure and flowing facade stand out delightfully against the drab buildings of downtown. Just as appealing is the concert hall’s elegant auditorium that features a lovely layout with its ‘vineyard-style’ seating guaranteeing guests great views of the stage and even better acoustics.
17. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
As it boasts an astonishing collection of artworks, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art really is a must-visit for art aficionados. The largest museum in the western United States, its sprawling site covers a huge part of LA’s Miracle Mile neighborhood, with photos and paintings, carvings, ceramics and sculptures on show.
Since being founded in 1961, its captivating collection has swelled to over 150,000 items with some sections focusing on ancient Greek and Egyptian artifacts, and others on Islamic art, Renaissance paintings and contemporary Latin American pieces. While perusing its endless galleries, visitors can expect to see masterpieces by Degas, Magritte and Rembrandt, among countless others.
16. The Broad
While the Los Angeles County Museum of Art covers millennia of art history, The Broad instead focuses on contemporary and postwar artworks. Another recent addition to Downtown Los Angeles, it opened in 2015 with its eye-catching ‘honeycomb-like’ exterior making for a striking sight.
Aside from taking in its attractive architecture, there are thousands of interesting artworks and installations to enjoy. Amongst its fabulous photos, paintings and sculptures, you’ll spy brilliant works by Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons and others. Temporary exhibits showcasing new and upcoming artists are regularly displayed on its lobby floor.
15. Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood
Offering a close-up look at the glitzy world of Hollywood, the renowned Warner Bros. Studio can be found just to the north of LA in neighboring Burbank. On tours around the humongous site, you can see iconic sets from TV shows and films with incredible props, costumes and memorabilia also on show.
One of the oldest film studios in the world, it contains enormous outdoor sets that depict locations, like New York and a mid-western town, with soundstages for The Big Bang Theory and Pretty Little Liars too. Besides stopping off at recognizable places, such as the ‘Central Perk’ from Friends, guests can see Batmobiles, ride broomsticks from Harry Potter and tour interactive exhibits on the DC Universe.
14. Battleship USS Iowa Museum
Now protected as part of a museum, the hulking great Battleship USS Iowa Museum is permanently moored in San Pedro Bay. While wandering about its decks, bridges and cabins, visitors can learn all there is to know about life at sea and also delve into the massive ship’s fascinating past.
Built in 1943, the Iowa served during the Second World War, Korean War and Cold War and was impressively awarded eleven battle stars over the course of her career. Finally decommissioned in 1990, it has an interesting Combat Engagement Center to explore, as well as engine rooms, boiler rooms and officers’ wards.
Besides being known as the ‘Mighty I’ and ‘Big Stick’, it also earned the nickname the ‘Battleship of Presidents’ as over the course of the decades it not only hosted Roosevelt and Reagan but George H.W. Bush, too.
13. Petersen Automotive Museum
Also located in LA’s Miracle Mile neighborhood you can find the fantastic Petersen Automotive Museum which contains an amazing and extensive collection of cars and motorcycles. Its sparkling showrooms and countless classic cars take you on a whirlwind journey through the history and evolution of the automobile industry.
One of the largest museums of its kind in the world, it now occupies a magnificent modern building that sports a stainless steel exterior that glints in the sun. In total, the museum now has over 300 cars and motorcycles in its collection. Lavish limos and Rolls-Royces appear alongside fast Porsches, Ferraris and sleek, shiny cars that appeared in famous films or were owned by well-known celebrities.
12. The Grove & Original Farmers Market
The Grove & Original Farmers Market is one of LA’s most loved landmarks. It lies in West Hollywood and has hundreds of superb shops, stands and stalls to peruse that sell everything under the sun.
Since 1934, the Original Farmers Market has been very popular with locals and tourists alike due to its endless array of coffee stands, ethnic eateries and stalls selling fresh food, artisanal products and souvenirs. Right next to it is The Grove; a huge retail and entertainment complex that has chain stores, restaurants and a massive movie theatre for guests to enjoy.
With so many eateries and establishments to stop by, it really is one of the best places to shop, dine and go out in the city.
11. Sunset Strip
The undoubted star of LA’s nightlife scene, however, is the Sunset Strip renowned for its restaurants, music venues and nightclubs. The most famous stretch of Sunset Boulevard – one of the city’s main thoroughfares – is bordered by boutiques and blingy billboards with pretty palm trees towering overhead.
Over the decades, the happening area has been the favorite hangout of mob bosses and Marilyn Monroe to massive rock stars and glam metal bands. Due to its iconic look and fabled venues, Sunset Strip has also featured in numerous films, TV shows and even video games over the years.
In addition to simply taking in its lively yet laid back ambience and seeing all the sights, you can also check out famous venues, such as the Comedy Store and Whisky a Go Go.
10. Hollywood Sign
Originally erected to advertise real estate in the Hollywood Hills, the Hollywood sign has come to represent the glamour and excitement of the movie industry. Virtually every visitor to Los Angeles wants to snap a picture of the iconic Hollywood sign, but getting a close-up shot isn’t easy.
Nowadays, the 45-foot (14-meter) high letters perched on Mount Lee are blocked off by barriers and protected by a security system. While the sign is visible from all over Tinseltown, the best places to park and take pictures are at the Griffith Observatory, Lake Hollywood Park and the Hollywood and Highland Center shopping mall.
9. La Brea Tar Pits and Museum
A pool of black tar in the middle of a green city park is an unexpected sight in Los Angeles, but the famous La Brea Tar Pits have provided a treasure trove of archeological finds for the nearby George C. Page Museum. Excavations of the prehistoric site have resulted in one of the largest collections of Ice Age fossils in the world.
The oldest of the approximately 100 tons of bones hauled out of the pits date back 38,000 years. Complete skeletons of animals like saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and mastodons are on display in the museum. In the Paleontology Laboratory, visitors can watch scientists working on the latest finds.
8. Rodeo Drive
Tucked away in a 16-square-bloock area known as the Golden Triangle in the exclusive neighborhood of Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive is L.A.’s most famous shopping street. While few come to buy the high-priced designer clothing and accessories sold in the luxury shops, Rodeo Drive is nevertheless a tourist hot spot.
Window-shopping is irresistible on this avenue of haute couture, and there’s always the chance of spotting a celebrity shopping for the latest styles. The mini-mall at Two Rodeo Drive always attracts attention. With its “faux-European” architecture and cobblestone street, it looks more like a theme park than a mall.
7. Santa Monica Pier
The world-famous Santa Monica Pier is actually two piers in one. With its bait shop and pier-end restaurant, the longer section built in 1909 is characteristic of most Southern California piers. It’s the shorter adjacent pier constructed in 1916 that most attracts visitors.
The elevated plaza linking the two piers is home to an old-fashioned amusement park with a vintage roller coaster, a wooden carousel and one of L.A.’s most recognizable landmarks, a solar-powered Ferris Wheel that sparkles with an ever-changing LED light show every night. There’s a small aquarium, a trapeze school and an array of tasty eateries at the pier too.
6. Hollywood Walk of Fame
The idea of memorializing celebrities with stars embedded into sidewalks was conceived in the 1950s as a way to keep the glamour of Hollywood alive. More than 2,500 stars have been added since the first permanent installation at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Gower Street in 1960. Operated by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the program has been a huge success.
Each year, around ten million visitors stroll along the mile-long stretch of sidewalk in search of their favorite actor, singer, musician, director or television personality. Closely associated and right in front of part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, is the famous Chinese Theatre, which has seen some of Hollywood’s most glamorous movies stars and premieres.
5. Universal Studios Hollywood
Home to one of the oldest still-operating film studios, Universal Studios Hollywood is a sprawling complex in the San Fernando Valley best known for its family-friendly theme park. Many of the park’s rides and attractions are centered on blockbuster movies, offering an immersive experience for fans of films ranging from “King Kong” to “Waterworld.”
Behind-the-scenes studio tours are available as well. The complex also includes Universal CityWalk, an outdoor shopping center where visitors can catch live performances, see a movie or watch celebrities.
Located around an hour’s drive from Downtown Los Angeles in Orange County, Disneyland was the first of Walt Disney’s chain of theme parks. It’s been the star tourist attraction in the city of Anaheim since 1955. Adjacent to the original park is the relatively new California Adventure, which features rides and attractions inspired by the Golden State.
“Park hopper” tickets give visitors access to both parks. The meticulously maintained amusement parks are laid out in themed areas ranging from Tomorrowland and Fantasyland to Hollywood Land and Cars Land. Costumed performers wander the parks, offering children once-in-a-lifetime encounters with their favorite Disney characters.
3. Getty Center
The oil magnate Jean Paul Getty was considered one of the richest men in the world when he established the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1953. Today, the world’s wealthiest art institution funds several institutions, including the stunning billion-dollar Getty Center perched high atop L.A.’s Brentwood Hills.
A sleek hover-train funicular whisks visitors up to the museum where an extraordinary collection of artwork from the Middle Ages to the present awaits, including masterpieces like van Gogh’s “Irises,” Monet’s “Wheatstack” and “The Abduction of Europa” by Rembrandt. Outside, sculpture-ornamented gardens offer panoramic views of the Los Angeles Basin.
2. Griffith Park & Observatory
One of the largest municipal parks in the United States, Griffith Park offers a welcome escape from L.A. traffic. In addition to acres of hilly trails and green spaces, the park is home to a broad array of fun-filled attractions, from the Los Angeles Zoo to the outdoor Greek Theatre.
It’s also the location of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks: the Griffith Observatory. Built in 1935, the beautiful Art Deco complex boasts dozens of engaging exhibits, an out-of-this-world planetarium and multiple telescopes available for public use. A visit to the observatory at dusk offers views of stars emerging in the sky above and the twinkling lights of the city below.
1. Venice Beach
Tobacco magnate Abbot Kinney gets the credit for transforming a marshy stretch of shoreline south of Santa Monica into the “Venice of America.” In 1904, Kinney turned a series of drainage channels into scenic canals and constructed a Venetian-inspired arcade on the beach.
While the canals remain one of the community’s top tourist attractions in Los Angeles, most visitors head for the beach’s world-famous boardwalk where eccentric street performers compete with shops, stalls and food stands for attention. The beach’s volleyball courts, skating plaza and body-building Muscle Beach area are crowd-pleasers as well.