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Top Things To Do in Los Angeles

Want a dose of Californian hospitality? It’s always the right time for a city break to Los Angeles

Published 02/01/2021 by Elina Fuhrman

Is there a city in the world that’s more perfect than Los Angeles? With its idyllic weather and chill pace, LA is not just a cosmopolitan city with beach vibes, palm-fringed streets and boardwalks, miles of hiking trails and countless waves to surf. It’s also a melting pot of creatives, cutting-edge techies and eclectic world cultures. If you’re at a loss for things to do in Los Angeles look no further than the innovative restaurants, galleries, contemporary museums and a hopping nightlife for an idea.

Sure, LA is famous for the Hollywood glitz and glamour, and its obsession with green juices, detoxes, yoga and spiritual tune-ups is the butt of many jokes, but there’s no denying that the City of Angels lives up to its moniker and casts a spell on everyone who comes here. It’s one of the reasons I moved here and remained, raising a family, including my actress daughter Isabelle Fuhrman. There’s just something about LA that speaks to my soul.

The most important thing to know about LA is that it’s not one city—it’s a sprawling urban metropolis that’s made up of several different cities within a city. Each of them—West Hollywood, Downtown, Beverly Hills, Silver Lake, Santa Monica, Venice, and even neighboring Malibu—have their own distinctive personalities and need time to explore. The greatest challenge is not what to do, but what version of LA you’d like to embrace during your visit. Here are our top things to do in Los Angeles.  

Los Angeles

Eat

Los Angeles is bursting with the most talked about restaurants in America that cater to every dietary restriction. They might be lacking Michelin stars but LA’s best dining experiences are what make California cuisine so unique—think veggie-centric, impeccably sourced, innovative, fresh and health-conscious. There’s something about being in a sunny metropolis that makes everyone want to look and feel their best.

Café Gratitude is a quintessential Cali experience you won’t be able to have anywhere else—it’s vegan food where every dish is a self-affirmation: “I Am Connected,” “I Am Powerful,” “I Am Pure,” “I Am Beautiful.” Gjelina serves everything including pizza, but is known for ushering a new sort of veggie-forward Cali-minded cuisine. It’s not easy to snag a reservation at this local favorite, so come when it opens and get a table on the patio out back.

Malibu Farm’s sweeping views of the ocean go well with white sangria and rose any day. The simple, delicious and consciously sourced dishes reflect California coast and the café’s bohemian vibe is as Cali as it gets. Alfred Coffee is LA’s most fashionable and most Instagrammable coffee house that gathers influencers, cool kids and celebs alike. Every cup of coffee at Alfred is a piece of a picture-perfect LA lifestyle.

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Top Things To Do in Los Angeles
With endless days of sunshine, it’s no wonder that everyone heads to the beach on their day off. Credit: Dane Deaner/Unsplash

The Hollywood Sign is one of those iconic hikes you can’t miss while in LA. The sign itself was erected in 1923 and is the epitome of LA. It’s a great morning hike through one of the largest urban parks in America, Griffith Park, and the Santa Monica Mountains, that rewards you with some of the most spectacular views of LA.

The famous Griffith Observatory, sitting high above the city, is where you want to end up after your walk. An Art Deco landmark that is more than just an architectural wonder, you will be surrounded by epic panoramic views, planetarium shows, revolving exhibits and beautiful murals. The observatory was built in 1935 and is known for some of the best views of LA: its mansions, skyscrapers, and rugged hills. You can spend an entire day here—the large urban park around the observatory boasts tennis courts, soccer fields, golf courses, and of course, hiking trails.

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a short ride from Griffith Observatory. It’s here that you can walk along a circuitous trail of Hollywood stars immortalized in concrete. Close to 3,000 stars—from Clark Cable to Daniel Craig— have their names embedded along 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and three more blocks of Vine Street. Grauman’s Chinese Theater, along the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame, is one of the best-preserved movie palaces from Hollywood’s Golden Era and still hosts movie premieres. More than 200 celebrities’ hands and footprints are outside the theater’s entrance alone. 

Don’t miss the new kid on the block: the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, unveiled at the end of September 2021. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the building was created to celebrate the history and cultural impact of cinema, and includes a varied and storied collection. Expect Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, The Yellow Dress Emma Stone wore in La La Land, among other costumes, sketches, props, posters and screenplays dating back to 1927.

Universal Studios is a great way to get the behind the scene look at how your favorite movies and TV shows are made. It’s the only working movie studio and theme park in the world. You can spend an entire day or two here, going on thrilling rides, visiting actual working studio lots, enjoying family-friendly attractions and live shows. Depending on what’s filming that day, you might even spot a celebrity or two.

Warner Bros Studios is not a theme park but rather a small group tour, for a more intimate look at how movies are made. It lacks the rides and fun of Universal but serious movie buffs will relish the opportunity to see how the magic happens.

Another must in Hollywood is the Hollywood Bowl. A large natural amphitheater, it’s the spot for some of the finest live jazz, classical, and pop performances during the summer. Known for its alfresco music under the stars, it turns 100 this year and has hosted some of the biggest musical acts: The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Yo-Yo Ma, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, Billie Holliday among others. You can splurge for the box seats or enjoy a picnic.

As you make your way to the west side of LA, spend a few hours at the Getty Center, right off highway 405. An impressive architectural and artistic campus, The Getty, as the locals call it, is perched in the hills above west LA and houses a collection of modernist buildings filled with art: paintings, sculptures, photography, and decorative arts. Lush gardens, trickling waterfalls and stunning city views are also the attraction in the architect Richard Meier-designed billion-dollar art museum. And the best part, it’s completely free except for parking.

After all the walking and hiking in Hollywood, spend some time with your toes in the sand at the beach in Santa Monica. LA’s hip little sister, Santa Monica is only 11 miles away, and it’s everything you imagine California to be: sunny, chill, alluring. Best way to soak up the SoCal-style beach vibes is via cycling across more than three miles of coastline; you can rent the bikes just about anywhere along the bike path (we suggest Perry’s Café, Beach Rentals or Sea Mist Rentals). Stop for a bite and enjoy the sunshine at the Annenberg Community Beach House, a 1920’s bungalow that was built for a Hollywood star and is now open to the public. Watch the sunset on the uncrowded beach that spans the entire area.

Santa Monica Pier after the sun sets takes you back in time and unleashes your inner kid. The amusement park along with the Ferris wheel and cotton candy feels more like a movie set than a real life boardwalk pier. But since you are in LA LA Land, just keep snapping selfies.

You will end up at Venice Beach if you keep walking along the path from Santa Monica. Venice Beach dances to its own beat, earning a reputation of one of the funkiest, edgiest, boho beach scenes in LA. It’s not the surf and sand that take center stage here. Instead, it’s the sidewalk scene with local artists, hula-hoop magicians, fortune tellers and bikini-clad-roller skaters competing with belly dancers, bodybuilders, chanting yogis and street vendors selling everything from incense to crystals.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice is a cool place for a stroll—browse the boho shops and sip iced oat milk lattes. Venice Canals are another gem if you can’t get enough of this area’s funky and anyone-is-cool vibe.

The Bungalow, a Hollywood institution at this point, is a great place to unwind with a cocktail in hand. An always happening quirky nightspot that feels more like a beachside villa than a bar, The Bungalow boasts a pool table, trendy crowd and vintage surfboards.

If you get tired of the beach, take the recently expanded Expo Line Metro from Santa Monica to downtown to explore the art scene. The Broad, the 120,000-square-foot contemporary museum boasting a collection of 2000 works including Warhol and Koons, is a huge draw. Admission is free but it’s best to reserve a ticket online to avoid long lines. The building itself is a jaw-dropping piece of art that demands as much if not more attention than the art it houses.

If you decide to spend more time downtown, or DTLA as Angelenos call it, wander around its Arts District, a burgeoning hub of budding establishments—stylish galleries, socially conscious boutiques, cute coffee shops and some of LA’s best restaurants and bars—housed in converted early 20th century warehouses and former factories.

Stay

West Hollywood Edition

West Hollywood Edition is California laid back sophistication at its best. The new kid on Sunset Boulevard and the first Ian Schrager Edition property on the West Coast, the West Hollywood was designed by British architect John Pawson and pays homage to SoCal with the indigenous species of California plants, neutral colors, floor-to-ceiling sliding screens and minimalist feel. The hotel’s rooftop bar is a must not just for cocktails, but for panoramic views spanning the Hollywood Hills, Downtown, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The intimate basement nightclub, Sunset, with guest DJs, channels the spirit of the Sunset Strip in the 1960s and ‘70s, and is all about craft cocktails and groovy music. It’s a cool hotel that strikes the right balance between luxury and youth that’s perfect for the Instagram-obsessed millennials.

Los Angeles

The Surfrider Malibu

The Surfrider Malibu is a barefoot luxury kind of place. It’s a former motel turned Malibu hotel that feels more like a beach home. It’s both super stylish and super simple, with airy, light-filled rooms, custom beds, Italian linens, ocean views, hammocks, waffle robes for lounging and a mini bar stocked with local California treats. You can spend your day at the beach, lounge at the guests-only roofdeck or borrow a surfboard and learn how to surf. If you get hungry by the beach, text in your food order and the hotel staff will bring it to you right on the sand.