In addition to the Los Angeles attraction list below, as you plan your vacation or getaway you also may want to review information about the beautiful Los Angeles area beaches, our Los Angeles County museum article and our LA water and amusement park list.
The first two sections below will introduce you to some of the things you may want to explore in Hollywood and the Downtown LA / City Center Area. Next up, we offer places to go, see and have fun in and around Malibu, Santa Monica and Venice. Thereafter, attractions in some of the cities near Los Angeles — Pasadena to the north and Long Beach to the south — are discussed.
If you’d like to skip immediately to any of those specific discussions, you can use these links:
Hollywood and Hollywood Hills Sightseeing
West Hollywood, Wilshire Boulevard and Beverly Hills Sightseeing
Downtown LA Sightseeing
Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu Sightseeing
Long Beach and San Pedro Sightseeing
El Capitan Theatre – This is Disney’s flagship movie theater, and it’s a great place to see a movie while you’re in town. (elcapitantheatre.com)
TCL Chinese Theatre – Most people know this as “Grauman’s Chinese Theatre,” and it was also called Mann’s Chinese Theatre for a time. First-run movies are shown at this renowned theater — it now boasts one of the largest IMAX screens in the U.S. — but most people visit the theater to experience the famed courtyard filled with Hollywood legends’ handprints and footprints. (tclchinesetheatres.com)
Hollywood Walk of Fame – Don’t miss the world’s most famous sidewalk (at Hollywood & Vine) embedded with more than 2,000 five-pointed stars featuring the names of human celebrities and fictional characters for their contributions to the entertainment industry. Maintained by the Hollywood Historic Trust, the walk’s first star was awarded on February 9, 1960, to Joanne Woodward. If there’s a particular Hollywood Walk of Fame Star you’re interested in seeing, this handy L.A. Times reference may save you some time finding it.
Hollywood Bowl – Officially opened in 1922 on the site of a natural amphitheater formerly known as the Daisy Dell, this is the summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and a popular musical performance venue. (hollywoodbowl.com)
Hollywood Sign – This icon has become one of the world’s most evocative symbols – a universal metaphor for ambition, success and glamour. (hollywoodsign.org)
Hollywood & Highland Babylon Court – You may recognize this Hollywood tourist attraction from telecasts of Academy Awards ceremonies held in the nearby Dolby Theatre (previously known as the Kodak Theatre). Modeled after the massive Great Wall of Babylon set from D.W. Griffith’s 1916 epic silent film Intolerance, the courtyard pays homage to the great director and gives visitors an idea of why he is known to this day for his extravagant sets. Interestingly, Griffith’s original 1916 set — built at 4500 Sunset Boulevard, at the junction with Hollywood Boulevard — was abandoned by the famous director when he ran out of money. The structure towered over the east Hollywood Silverlake neighborhood for years until it was eventually dismantled in 1919 by the city.
Celebrity Graves (various locations) – Some tourists want to visit the final resting place of a favorite star or entertainer, and some of the better known Los Angeles area cemeteries are Westwood Memorial Park, Forest Lawn Glendale, Hollywood Forever, Holy Cross Cemetery. There’s an excellent book, actually — Forever L.A.: A Field Guide to Los Angeles Area Cemeteries & Their Residents — available at Amazon (click the link for more info) to make this sort of exploration easier.
Griffith Observatory – Owned and operated by the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks, the Observatory is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, just above the Los Feliz neighborhood. An LA icon, this national leader in public astronomy is also a beloved civic gathering place and one of southern California’s most popular attractions. (griffithobservatory.org)
Griffith Park – An amazingly large portion of this 4,107-acre park remains virtually unchanged from the days when Native American villages occupied the Santa Monica Mountain lower slopes. Today’s the park offers numerous family attractions, an assortment of educational and cultural institutions and miles of hiking and horseback riding trails. (laparks.org/griffithpark)
Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden – In Griffith Park and home to more than 1,200 animal species, including the Red Ape Rain Forest and Dragons of Komodo. (lazoo.org)
Sunset Strip, West Hollywood – This most prominent feature of this 1.6-mile strip of Sunset Boulevard is hip clubs, bars and eateries — think The Viper Room, Whiskey-a-Go-Go, the Rainbow Bar and Pink Taco. An after-dark visit is definitely in order if you want to see the party side of Los Angeles.
Melrose Avenue and Robertson Boulevard, West Hollywood – If you’re into shopping, brunching and posting Instagram photos, you’ll want to research the boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants here. As you can see on this Google map screenshot — you can access the original map here for your investigation purposes — there’s no shortage of any of those things! Keep an eye out for celebrities, especially when you’re shopping along North Robertson from Beverly Blvd. to Third Street, basically the last few blocks on this map.
Museum of Dream Space – Located in the Beverly Center, this is more a photo-opp venue than a museum. The reviews tend to rate it overpriced and lame, so you might want to look for a deal on Goldstar or Groupon before you decide. (mods-museum.com/beverly/)
Original Farmer’s Market and The Grove – A beehive of cafes, stalls and shops, this open-air landmark has been a gathering place for Angelenos since the 1930s. The market is connected to The Grove in Los Angeles, a boutique outdoor shopping mall, by a free, six-minute tram ride. (farmersmarketla.com/)
La Brea Tar Pits – Learn about Los Angeles when animals like saber-toothed cats and mammoths roamed here 10,000-40,000 years ago. Rancho La Brea is one of the world’s most famous fossil localities and is recognized for having the largest and most diverse assemblage of extinct Ice Age plants and animals. It’s about to get a whole new look for the 21st century, too — the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County board announced in December 2019 that it had selected an architectural firm to lead the multi-year process to reimagine La Brea Tar Pits, its associated museum and Hancock Park. How exciting! (tarpits.org/)
Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills – This is the ultimate shopping street and a bona fide southern California tourist attraction! You can shop for five-digit jewelry or a $35 handbag or sip a drink and people-watch at one of the numerous nearby restaurant patios. At the southern end (at Wilshire Boulevard) is Via Rodeo, a curvy cobblestone street designed to emulate a European shopping area. (rodeodrive-bh.com/)
The Witch’s House, Beverly Hills – Designed by Harry Oliver — a silent film studio art director who also brought the Tam O’Shanter restaurant to Los Feliz — The Witch’s House was originally located in Culver City and over the years served as studio offices as well as a film set and dressing rooms.
Greystone Mansion, Beverly Hills – Designed by Gordon Kaufman and completed in 1928 as a gift from oil tycoon Edward Doheny to his son, the property is now a public park owned by the City of Beverly Hills. If you plan to visit, be advised that it’s a popular filming location and event space and consequently it’s sometimes closed to the public. (greystonemansion.org)
Union Station – A spectacular mix of Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival and Streamline Moderne styles, the main hall retains its original hand-painted ceiling and lavish tile and marble work. Many television shows and movies have incorporated the station as a backdrop, including the 1950 film, Union Station. (unionstationla.com)
Olvera Street – Opened on Easter Sunday 1930 and referred to as “the birthplace of Los Angeles” (the actual site of the 1781 Spanish settlers’ camp was southeast of here, closer to the Los Angeles River), 27 buildings of varying ages – including the second-oldest home in the city, the Avila Adobe, constructed in 1818 – help tell a story of the city’s history within the context of a lively, modern-day Mexican marketplace. It was a hit from the get-go, and in 1953 was designated a California State Historic Landmark. The area remains a popular DTLA attraction (it reportedly attracts 2M+ tourists each year), and docent-led tours are available. (olvera-street.com)
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels – Opened in 2002 and located at Temple & Grand across from the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the first Roman Catholic Church to be erected in the western U.S. in 30 years was designed by Spanish architect Professor Jose Rafael Moneo. It is designed in a dynamic, contemporary fashion with virtually no right angles, and a 50-foot concrete cross “lantern” adorns its entry. At night, the cathedral’s glass-protected alabaster windows are illuminated and can be seen from afar. (olacathedral.org)
The Music Center – Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, the Music Center is home to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and Walt Disney Concert Hall. Performances, tours and great dining await you at the Music Center. (musiccenter.org)
L.A. Live – Located across the street from the Staples Center and home to the Grammy Museum and the Microsoft Theatre, this unique destination offers four hotels and luxury residential condominiums. There are also several mid-to-high-scale restaurants, of course, in addition to a multi-screen cinema complex. (lalive.com)
Staples Center – Near the L.A. Live complex and home to two NBA teams (the LA Lakers and LA Clippers) as well as the city’s NHL team (LA Kings) and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, this is a happening place! Staples Center does not offer public tours. (staplescenter.com)
Grand Central Market – In operation since 1917, this indoor collection of produce vendors, butchers, and food stands reflect the region’s multicultural heritage. In August 2014, this historic California food hall was named one of Bon Appetit magazine’s “Hot 10” restaurants of the year — for the new life breathed into the concept by its unique (and utterly delicious) food court offerings — and it’s been hopping every since. (grandcentralmarket.com)
Downtown Los Angeles Walking Tour – Print the Los Angeles Conservancy’s “Would You Believe LA?” self-guided walking tour map and take to the streets to enjoy this area’s architecture gems — from the Beaux Arts magnificence of the Biltmore Hotel to the Art Deco sophistication of the Southern California Edison Building and the Victorian ebullience of the Bradbury Building and Angels Flight.
While the beach scene in these cities certainly thrives, each of them over the years has developed equally interesting culinary offerings — come for the sun and fun, and stay for the food! Shopping is fun, too, and here are a few other things you may want to keep in mind when you visit these communities. You may also be interested in renting a bike and enjoying the 22-mile paved Marvin Braude Bike Trail and adding Marina del Rey to your Santa Monica and Venice exploration.
Santa Monica Pier – Originally constructed in 1909 to hide a giant sewage pipe leading to the ocean (a practice that was thankfully abandoned in the 1920s), the Santa Monica Pier is now home to Pacific Park amusement park, with its roller coaster, Ferris wheel, classic carousel, aquarium and more. They’ve recently added a sort of scavenger tour app to the offerings, which might be fun if you’re visiting with a group. (santamonicapier.org)
Route 66 “End of the Trail” Marker – A popular photo-opp location that you’ll find on the Santa Monica Pier, just down from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant and across from the Playland Arcade.
Santa Monica Parks – Did you know Muscle Beach originated here, and not on Venice Beach? It’s true; it started as one of the city’s parks! We’re a big fan of Santa Monica’s park system, especially the 6.2-acre Tongva Park and Palisades Park which stretches 1.6 miles from the pier to Adelaide Drive and is the perfect place to tune in to the Santa Monica beach scene vibe without getting sandy!
Venice Oceanfront Boardwalk, Venice Beach – This stretch is rather like an outdoor circus, teeming with rollerblading jugglers, fire-eaters, the Muscle Beach body-builders and other talented, creative folks.
Adamson House, Malibu – This classic Malibu home was built in 1930 for Rhoda Rindge Adamson and her husband, Merritt Huntley Adamson, and is located on one of southern California’s most beautiful beaches. Be sure to take the tour (the docents offer a wealth of information about now-defunct Malibu Pottery’s magnificent tile work) and allow extra time to enjoy the grounds and the nearby beach. (adamsonhouse.org)
The Huntington Library and Botanical Garden – An oasis of art and culture set amidst 150 acres of breathtaking gardens. (huntington.org)
The Gamble House – Used as a winter residence by David and Mary Gamble (of Proctor & Gamble fame), this three-story house is considered an Arts and Crafts architectural masterpiece. (gamblehouse.org)
Santa Anita Park Horse Racing, Arcadia (about 15 minutes east of Pasadena) – Co-founded and built by movie mogul Hal Roach, Santa Anita Park was a popular haunt of early show business tycoons and movie stars, and Hollywood’s newest generation of movie, TV and music celebrities continue the tradition both as fans and horse owners. The park’s season runs during the fall, winter and spring, and free Seabiscuit Tram Tours are available on select Saturdays and Sundays during the season. (santaanita.com)
Queen Mary Ship and Seaport, Long Beach – Historic, permanently berthed ocean liner (bigger than the Titanic!) on which you can spend the night, eat a meal or take a tour. (queenmary.com)
Shoreline Village, Long Beach – Waterfront shopping and entertainment complex. (shorelinevillage.com)
Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach – One of the largest in the U.S., this aquarium focuses primarily on Pacific Ocean life forms and detours into Australian birds in its Lorikeet Forest section. (aquariumofpacific.org)
Ferry to Catalina Island, Long Beach and San Pedro – Both cities are served by the Catalina Express high-speed ferries to deliver you to Catalina Island, what some believe to be “the crown jewel” of California’s Channel Islands. (catalinaexpress.com)
Wayfarer’s Chapel, Rancho Palos Verdes – Rancho Palos Verdes is about a 30-minute drive southwest of Long Beach, but it should be worth it if you enjoy architecture. Designed by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, this glass church is set in a redwood grove. (wayfarerschapel.org)
If the above LA attraction list doesn’t have what you’re looking for, be sure to check out our other Southern California section to find information about other tourist attractions in nearby Orange County and San Diego.
Photo of Hollywood Walk of Fame by Ken Lund via flickr (Creative Commons); Photo of Griffith Observatory at Night by Ron Reiring via flickr (Creative Commons); Google Map Screenshot, Shopping on Melrose Ave. & North Richardson Blvd. © CaliforniaTouristGuide.com; Photo of Beverly Hills Rodeo Drive Sign by Sompoc S via flickr (Creative Commons); Photo of Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels by Christopher John SSF via flickr (Creative Commons); Photo of DTLA’s Grand Central Market by joey zannoti via flickr (Creative Commons); Photo of Santa Monica Pier Route 66 End of the Trail Marker by eGuide Travel via flickr (Creative Commons); Photo of Huntington Library by Raoul van Wijk via flickr (Creative Commons); and Photo of Queen Mary docked in Long Beach by Bernard Spragg. NZ via flickr (Creative Commons).