This city has something to offer everyone.
No matter how hard I try, I can never quite pinpoint what makes Los Angeles such an alluring and tantalizing city. Unlike any other city on the world’s stage, Los Angeles just seems to exude a dreamlike charm that effortlessly escapes normal description. More than anything, Los Angeles – and the countless cities that make up this county – espouses qualities I truly love in a city, namely a multicultural populace full of locals and expats from various cultures and backgrounds, and various activities and events that the prospect of boredom simply never materializes here; there’s ALWAYS someone interesting to talk to and something to do, which I love.
Whether you’re in the mood to marvel at millennia-old artwork from Roman antiquity, gaze in wonder at the billions of galaxies that comprise our night sky, or simply enjoy the view of a pleasant sunset on one of the world’s most beautiful and famed beaches, this city has something to offer everyone.
In fact, with so many things to see and do in this city, I couldn’t simply confine everything to one list alone. So, no particular order, here’s part one of my top six things to do in Los Angeles!
Hours: Open 24 hours
Call: (310) 458-8900
Every time I visit Los Angeles, Santa Monica Pier is always on my list of must-do’s. Situated along Santa Monica Beach, the pier shines as the prime attraction of the city. The pier tends to be abuzz with tourists pretty much year-round, but that honestly shouldn’t deter you from wanting to visit it. It’s the perfect photo op for a midday stroll or beautiful sunsets (tip: at the very end of the pier are wooden stands where you can set up a camera with tripod and watch the sunset in comfort).
Walking across the wood-planked pier, you’ll find a few restaurants and bars, and plenty of local solo musicians and bands to keep you entertained. Another wonderful attraction along the pier is Pacific Park, a great family-oriented area complete with an aquarium, fairground games, arcade games, a variety of delicious food and cotton candy stands, and, of course, a massive Ferris wheel and roller coaster! Santa Monica Pier is known for hosting outdoor films and music events, not to mention drawing worldwide tourists, families, fitness warriors, beach bums, and lots of local fisherman (tip: visit in late afternoon for a good chance to spot sea lions!).
2. The Grove
Hours: Mon-Thu 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri-Sat 10 a.m-10 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Call: (323) 900-8080
For shopping enthusiasts, The Grove is a can’t-miss shopping experience! Located in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, this open-air shopping center features beautiful architecture, gorgeous fountain, up-scale restaurants, local boutiques, movie theatre, and a beautiful lake with a lovely lookout bridge for the perfect photo op! (Tip: When you’re on the bridge make sure to take photos with your smartphone and not a DSLR! For some reason, I was stopped from taking photos on the bridge because security believed I was performing a professional photo shoot, which requires a permit, when I stopped to take photos with my Sony A7II. Photos are fine, but stick to your iPhone, if you can.).
There are only about 50 retail stores featured in The Grove, but it’s a very appealing lineup of well-known stores, including an Apple store, Crate & Barrel, Barneys New York Co-Op, Nordstrom and many others. It’s quite touristy, but for good reason as it’s a lovely (albeit, short) stroll, and don’t forget to take a ride on the beautiful double-decker trolley train as well. There’s a parking garage located right next to shopping center, which I would recommend (parking next to the adjacent Original’s Farmer’s Market can be a pain).
Hours: Mon-Fri 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Call: (323) 933-9211
After all that shopping, you’ll definitely want a bite to eat, so a stop by the Original Farmer’s Market is a must. Located literally right next to The Grove, this open-air market first opened in 1934 on the corner of 3rd and Fairfax as a way for local farmers to sell produce. Today, it serves everything from fresh produce and fruits, to delicious and various cuisine options for every person. There are many comfort food options from around the world available here, including a taste of real Texas barbecue at Bryan’s Pit BBQ; a plate of delicious Louisiana gumbo at The Gumbo Pot; authentic Mexican cuisine at Lotería Grill; plus, perfectly prepared Parisian crêpes at French Crepe Company, and much more.
If you love dessert (who doesn’t, right?), then treat yourself to your favorite flavor of ice cream at Bennett’s Ice Cream. And wine connoisseurs will definitely want to stop by Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market, which boasts an impressive array of imported wines from around the world, plus tasty sauces and spices, specialty foods and some of the best chocolate delights you can imagine. It’s a truly beautiful shop if you simply want to browse or looking for a gift for a loved one.
Hours: Tue-Fri 12 p.m.-10 p.m.; Sat-Sun 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
Call: (213) 473-0800
Without hesitation, I would say Griffith Observatory is my favorite on this list. Aside for my personal love of astronomy, arguably the best views of Los Angeles (both during the day and at night) can only be found here. Opened in 1935 and named after famed Angeleno and philanthropist Griffith J. Griffith, the observatory has remained a popular fixture on the tourist scene and attraction for more than 80 years. For photographers, this is the place to be to catch gorgeous sunsets from spectacular vantage points nearly 1,200 feet above the city below (though smog may dampen your viewing pleasure given LA’s famous May Gray and June Gloom forecast).
Beside the tremendous views, the biggest draw to Griffith is, you guessed it, the observatory! According to their official website, more people have peered through its 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope than any other in the world. Make sure to visit the 290-seat Samuel Oschin Planetarium inside, which I cannot recommend enough! Don’t miss the numerous exhibits on display, including pieces of meteorites and other space debris that impacted the Earth long ago, plus the famed mural created by Hugo Ballin and bronze statue of Albert Einstein. You can catch a short film at the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater
Children under five years old are free, while adults are $7 per person to enter the observatory itself; the surrounding area is free. Keep in mind there’s parking at top, but very limited (best to arrive early in the morning or park below and hike up the trail).
Hours: Open 24 HoursCall: (323) 913-4688
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Morning hike way up high in Griffith Park. Few things can make me feel as good as as a solid hike can. I always wanted to be a runner. I dreamed I'd do marathons one day. There's some magic to me in traveling a long distance and knowing that nothing but my feet got me there. But my bone condition highly hinders what I'm capable of because my feet are so incredibly fucked up. Therefore every time I complete a hike, I feel completely invincible. Only 6 months ago I was fresh out of my 3rd double foot surgery and today I hiked 5 miles. That shit makes me feel so strong and capable which are things I don't always feel. Chronic pain and the depression cycle that comes along with it really affect me. So mornings like this are everything and they feel like magic. ✨#recovery #upthehealthypunx #hiking #vegan #xvx #griffithpark #hollywood
After an awe-inspiring experience at Griffith Observatory, I’d be remiss not to mention the beautiful surrounding area otherwise known as Griffith Park. This sprawling 4,210-acre green space is the largest in Los Angeles and has remained pretty much the same and unchanged since Native Americans first settled here. Other than the observatory, there’s a merry-go-round, three sets of full-sized tennis courts, horseback riding trails and the Los Angeles Zoo can all be found here.
But the hiking trails is what you’ll really want to experience and the park offers so many different routes that you can hike from the streets below to the observatory above and back again down a different route. As great as the views from the observatory can be, you can gain a vantage point even higher if you hike up the trails that ascend even above the observatory’s level.
Hours: Wed-Mon 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Call: (310) 440-7300
Simply put, The Getty Villa is one of the most gorgeous, important, and one of my favorite attractions in all of Los Angeles. Located on a beautiful stretch of coastline between Malibu and Santa Monica, and along California’s famed Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) or Highway 1, The Getty Villa was commissioned at the behest of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty in 1954 and formally opened to the public in 1974. He opened an art gallery near his home in Pacific Palisades, and soon thereafter opened a second gallery, which is the site we now know as The Getty Villa.
Inspired by Italian architecture and modeled after a first-century Roman country home in Herculaneum, Italy called Villa dei Papri, the Getty Villa serves as an educational center and museum dedicated to the preservation and study of ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan artwork and culture. Housing more than 44,000 pieces of paintings, statues, murals and more, these precious works of antiquity date as far back as 6,500 BCE to 400 CE.
As one half of the J. Paul Getty Museum – The Getty Center is located some 30 minutes away in Brentwood, which is also another must-see site in Los Angeles – the Getty Villa boasts absolutely beautiful replicas of Greek and Roman architecture, outdoor bronze sculptures, mesmerizing fountains and staring ponds, and lovely outdoor gardens that are simply divine to dwell in and pass your day.
Keep in mind that security is extremely tight here and at every turn you’re guaranteed to find at least one well-dressed security guard keeping close watch on you. (Tip: Whatever you do, do not give even the slightest appearance that you’re conducting a “photo shoot.” Smartphones and DSLRs are perfectly fine and allowed to snap photos of the area and artwork as long as its for your own personal non-commercial use, but anything more than that and you’ll need to acquire a permit via the museum.)
Entry into Getty Villa is free, and you’ll only need to pay for parking ($15 per car, or $10 per car if you arrive after 3 p.m.). Depending on the day and time you visit, they do allow guests to show up without a reservation. However, it’s much better and very easy to reserve your parking pass online, in order to guarantee entry into the Villa.
Photos: Jerry Alonzo Leon
Where’s your top must-do in LA? Share with us in the comments.