Los Angeles is a sprawling city filled with endless things to do. But with so many possibilities, it can be difficult to actually decide how to spend your time. To make things a bit easier, we’ve put together a guide to Los Angeles based solely on your individual interests and the top experiences for you.
Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a food-lover, or a music aficionado, we have just the list for you.
Check out 5 of the best day trips from Los Angeles while you’re at it!
IF YOU’RE A BEACH BUM…
With miles of coastline from Malibu to the South Bay, LA is packed with beautiful beaches. If you’re craving a bit of sunshine, try out one of these.
El Matador State Beach: This small, picturesque beach located in western Malibu is dominated by rocky outcrops. Perfect for nature-lovers, El Matador is only accessible via steep, gravelly paths — so remember to bring your walking shoes!
County Line Beach: As the northernmost beach bordering Ventura County, County Line offers crystal clear waters, dolphin sightings, consistent waves, and an escape from the crowds.
El Porto Beach: This stretch of sand is a favorite among surfers, who make the drive from all over SoCal. But aside from its consistent surf, El Porto also boasts bike paths and volleyball courts.
Rosie’s Dog Beach: This four-acre waterfront spot is the only legal off-leash dog beach in Los Angeles. So if you’re traveling with your pooch, go wild and have some furry fun in the sun.
Santa Monica State Beach: Though crowded, this beach runs the length of Santa Monica and promises a festive “summer holiday” environment. If you’re looking for warm sand, a view of the Santa Monica Mountains, and close proximity to food stands and carnival rides, this is the place for you.
Dockweiler State Beach: Located near Los Angeles International Airport, this South Bay beach is a great spot for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, skimboarding, picnicking, and stoking the occasional bonfire (it’s one of the few sites in LA that allows them).
IF YOU’RE CRAVING THE GREAT OUTDOORS…
Los Angeles isn’t just about city-living — hiking is actually one of the county’s most popular activities. At 4,000 square miles, LA County is larger than some U.S. states, and much of that area is filled with towering pines, seasonal wildflowers, and breathtaking views. If that sounds like your cup of tea, explore one of the following.
Temescal Gateway Park: Just a short drive from Santa Monica and Venice, yet still a part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, this looped trail leads you past a waterfall, through pine groves and canyons, and along ridges with views of the California coast. It takes about 90 minutes to complete, so you can enjoy a quick, but fulfilling, urban escape and get back to the rest of your itinerary.
Griffith Park: Adjacent to Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and Atwater Village, Griffith Park is one of America’s largest urban green spaces, at nearly seven square miles — that’s five times the size of NYC’s Central Park. With 53 miles of trails leading to landmarks such as the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, and the original “Batcave,” the area offers a wide range of hikes with views of Downtown LA, the LA Basin, and the Pacific Ocean.
Topanga Canyon State Park: The 11,529-acre Topanga Canyon is America’s largest state park located entirely within city limits. Topanga is a refuge for LA hikers, and with 36 miles of trails winding through savannas, chaparral, shady oaks, and skirt cliffs, the park offers a distracting getaway from the traffic-filled city streets. To top it off, the area is complete with views overlooking Malibu and the Pacific.
Runyon Canyon: This 130-acre city-run park sits directly above Hollywood and is a favorite among locals and visitors alike — you might even spot a celebrity hiding behind a baseball cap and sunglasses. But aside from people-watching opportunities and plenty of trails, Runyon offers a stunning view of the LA Basin. Plus, the main trailhead is only about 10 minutes from the Hollywood and Highland stop on the Metro Red Line subway by foot, so you don’t even need a car to get there.
Catalina Island: Although Catalina is a 26-mile ferry ride from Long Beach in southern LA County, it’s well worth the trip. The island has an area of 75 square miles, 88 percent of which is nature preserve — so its hiking scene is booming. With options for day hikes, overnight hikes, and even three-to-four-day, 37-mile hikes, Catalina has it all. Just remember to get a hiking permit through the Catalina Island Conservancy before you go, and keep an eye out for the island’s herd of bison — yes, bison — whose ancestors were brought there for a film in the 1920s.
IF YOU ONLY CAME FOR THE MEXICAN FOOD…
Los Angeles is a food mecca filled with rich ethnic diversity. And, frankly, you’d be a fool not to indulge in Southern California’s authentic Mexican food scene. So if you’re planning to fill your time in LA with tacos, burritos, enchiladas, churros, and horchata, here are a few establishments to add to your itinerary.
El Huarache Azteca: El Huarache Azteca has been drawing hungry crowds to its Mexico City-style huaraches for over two decades (for anyone who has never ordered huaraches, it’s a beautiful and delicious mess). Located in Highland Park, this establishment is also known for its quesadillas — particularly those filled with huitlacoche — and its barbacoa special on weekends.
Guelaguetza: There’s little debate that Koreatown’s Guelaguetza is the go-to when it comes to Oaxacan cuisine in LA. There are few better places to indulge in complex moles than this especially festive restaurant. As an added bonus, its breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are usually accompanied by live music, and it’s not unusual to see diners get up to join the festivities with a little dancing.
Salazar: Situated in Frogtown, Salazar is a place where grilled meats reign supreme and fresh tortillas make you forget just about everything. The main thing to remember here is: Consider the tacos an appetizer, and go from there. That said, don’t miss the drinks — they’re just as important as the food, especially since the bar serves up some of the city’s best palomas.
La Casita Mexicana: Jalisco natives opened this restaurant in South LA in 1999 and have since defeated Bobby Flay in a chile relleno throwdown. But La Casita is as award-winning as it is delicious and remains a destination for anyone looking to explore what Mexican cooking can be. Once you’re done stuffing your face, stop by the adjacent tiendita and pick up some traditional Mexican pantry items to take home.
Guerrilla Tacos: Though there are plenty of taco trucks in Los Angeles, Guerrilla Tacos is one of the only farm-to-truck taco joints in the city. Its small, seasonal menu features local ingredients that change regularly, which is part of the fun since you can try something new each time you go. Past creations have included everything from foie gras and oxtail tacos to Puerto Vallarta-style crab tacos, and sweet potato and feta tacos. Check Guerrilla’s Twitter feed for daily locations, hours, and menus.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR AN ICONIC ART SCENE…
Boasting more working artists than New York City, Los Angeles was crowned the artist capital of the world in 2015. And today, it has a gallery scene to match. If you’re planning to spend your time gallery-hopping, here are a few places to check out.
356 Mission: 356 Mission opened in January 2013 as a temporary space for art and community activities in Los Angeles. Since then, the space has held over 300 free events, including exhibitions, lectures, concerts, readings, performances, talks and conferences, film screenings, and performance art. Additionally, 356 hosts workshops for children and members of the community.
Venus Over Los Angeles: Gallerist Adam Lindemann opened up his New York gallery, Venus Over Manhattan, in 2012 but launched a second location in LA in 2015. While the New York gallery was founded to showcase influential historic and contemporary works, the Los Angeles warehouse space features larger-scale exhibitions and experimental projects.
Grice Bench: This under-the-radar exhibition space opened in the summer of 2014 but has since had its fair share of sold-out shows. Located in Downtown LA, Grice Bench features a variety of artists, mediums, and styles of work — and the space itself offers a strictly LA vibe.
Smart Objects: Born of artist and founder Chadwick Gibson’s personal project, Smart Objects has become one of the most original artist-run galleries since its first exhibition in 2012. Located in Echo Park, the space is largely dedicated to post-Internet art that explores humanity’s relationship with technology.
Kayne Griffin Corcoran: One of LA’s first blue-chip galleries, this exhibition space opened its doors with a show by Light and Space artist James Turrell in 2011. The gallery’s current location, a 10,000 square-foot space in a 1940s auto shop, was also designed by Turrell and includes a permanent skyspace by the artist.
IF YOU’RE A MOVIE BUFF…
There’s no better place to indulge your love of film than Hollywood. But movie-lovers know there’s much more to see and do than simply get swept up in the city’s spectacle of fame. With that in mind, here are a few attractions for anyone interested in cinematic history.
Warner Bros. Studios: If you’ve always wanted to peek behind the scenes of a movie or TV show, Warner Brothers will let you do just that. On one of their iconic tours, you can wander the sets, backlot streets, and craft shops from current and past productions. Also, be sure to visit the Warner Bros. Museum, which exhibits props and costumes from famous WB films and series.
TCL Chinese Theatre: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre is a movie palace on historic Hollywood Boulevard. Aside from screenings, tours, and events, the venue also houses the Forecourt of the Stars — hand and footprints of Hollywood’s greatest stars.
Egyptian Theatre: Hollywood’s first movie premiere took place at this lavish theater in 1922. After a restoration of its Ancient Egypt-inspired interior, it became home to the American Cinematheque, which screens documentaries, indie films, and classic film festivals. Catch a movie or explore the venue’s history on one of its monthly tours.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery: Many of Hollywood’s most famous departed have been laid to rest at this cemetery. Here, you can pay your respects at the gravesites of film greats, such as Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, and Rudolph Valentino. During the summer and fall, the cemetery also offers film screenings amid the tombstones.
Margaret Herrick Library: This library is a treasure trove of film history. Maintained by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the building houses everything from classic film scripts, historic movie posters, and wardrobe test shots of stars such as Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe.
IF YOU CAN’T STOP THE BEAT…
LA’s most eclectic music scene can be found in the neighborhoods of Silver Lake, Los Feliz, and Echo Park. Known for their artsy population, one-of-a-kind venues, and live music offerings, these neighborhoods are set apart by their diverse and youthful atmospheres. Go ahead — see for yourself.
The Echo/Echoplex: This music duplex is one of LA’s famed venues. Located in its namesake Echo Park, the Echo boasts an intimate indie vibe, while its sister club, the Echoplex, offers a livelier atmosphere. Any given night might showcase the next Kendrick Lamar or an impromptu jam session with Stevie Wonder. Fun fact: LA’s FYF music festival was birthed at the Echo, with only a $5 admission fee.
Little Joy: This proudly grungy dive bar is known for its punk-rock shows, DJ nights, and endless supply of PBR. And, in addition to their music offerings, Little Joy has a weekly stand-up comedy showcase every Monday night.
The Satellite: Located in a laid-back part of Silver Lake, the Satellite is a trendy hideout that showcases up-and-coming rock bands every night of the week. This no-fuss venue features cheap drinks, a cool crowd, and both local and established indie music.
The Airliner: For electronic music, instrumental hip hop, and “LA beats,” check out the Airliner. Located in Lincoln Heights, this venue is the city’s somewhat grimy go-to for all of the above. The bare-bones bar also offers multiple stages, so be sure to prepare your ears before entry.
Mono Records: If anyone is looking for a more low-key LA music experience, head to Mono Records on Glendale Blvd. and peruse the shop’s record collection. All of their vinyls are priced to move, so there are always new albums to find. Whether you’re looking for soul, funk, classic rock, jazz, punk, blues, or a sound that’s completely different, Mono should have a little something for everyone.