Longing for LA - My Top 7 Things to Do in LA!
"We are all citizens of Los Angeles because we have seen so many movies."
L.A. County is composed of many cities and neighborhoods and so, if you wish to see a lot while visiting L.A., then you should be prepared to travel around quite a bit and become familiar with the bus routes. I found Uber very reasonably priced in L.A. so it's a good option because the buses can be time consuming and difficult to navigate. L.A. County is quite spread out so you may need to take multiple buses to get to where you want to go... and a lot of time can be wasted in doing this. Not all parts of L.A. are tourist friendly so you don't want to have to walk around a dodgy area while looking for a connecting bus!
If you wish to stay by the beach then you have many options in L.A.! Santa Monica is a great place to stay if you are a first time tourist as it's close to the beach and quite a lot of buses connect here (including the free Cityline Shuttles bus that will take you from Santa Monica to Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood). That being said, I loved Venice Beach area! It is quite eccentric, with a bohemian and creative vibe, and there are many nice dining areas located in Venice.
If you are on a budget but would like to travel to Las Vegas from L.A. then Flixbus is a great alternative to flying. After I missed my flight from Vegas to L.A. I was able to travel by bus for just €17!
When I arrived in L.A. the first stop that we made was for brunch and some fresh sea air by Manhattan Beach. This neighborhood has a very laid back beach vibe with some nice eateries and boutique shopping found here. It has several restaurants located close by the Pier. We dined at Rock'N'Fish where we were able to sit in their outside section and enjoy a glass of wine while relaxing in the nice weather. Manhattan Beach has more of a relaxed and community atmosphere than most other parts of L.A. that I visited. It has impressive apartments and houses lining the streets close by the beach and Fortune magazine even rated Manhattan Beach as one of the most expensive coastal towns in America!!
2. THE GETTY
The Getty Center (not to be confused with the Getty Villa) was one of the highlights of my trip to L.A.! The Getty Center is always ranked highly in the top things to do in L.A...and another bonus is that it is free to enter (though it is worth noting that parking can be expensive). The Getty is located on the outskirts of Downtown L.A. which was on the opposite side of the city to where I was staying 😭 The Center is quite a distance from most of the touristy areas and so you will likely need to travel by bus or taxi to visit it. At first I was checking out bus schedules to travel there, however, this would have been quite time consuming as I would have had to catch connecting buses. I decided to save time and opt for an Uber...and to my surprise the Uber only came to around $20 for nearly an hour's journey to the Center! After this, I ended up calling for an Uber several times throughout my trip and it was very well priced every time!
I'm a huge fan of art and this was one of the reasons why I initially wanted to visit The Getty Center. The Getty consistently receives great reviews and it features artwork from medieval times right to the present day. To my surprise, I spent less time admiring the artwork than what I spent outside enjoying the amazing views, colorful gardens, the grounds, and the beautiful architecture! There are several areas scattered around the grounds with great views and the balcony areas of the Center have stunning views over the city. There are also some nice dining areas where you have the option to sit outside and relax over a glass of wine and enjoy the gardens in the sun. The gardens are spectacular and full of color!! Unfortunately, I lost many of my photographs from my day at the Getty Center as my phone was stolen that night!!! Thankfully I had uploaded a couple of pictures to Instagram so I still have these. I spent a lot longer than I expected to here; if you are visiting with a group of people then you could easily spend most of your day here enjoying a glass of wine, browsing the bookshop, and rambling around the grounds and building.
3. HERMOSA BEACH
Hermosa Beach is another beach town area in L.A. and it is located not too far from Manhattan Beach. We went out here for a few drinks one evening and it was quite a busy spot and seemed to be a good location for a few drinks. We first went to Patrick Molloy's Sports pub, just by the Pier, and we then continued to Baja Sharkeez which was located next door. There were several more bars along here as the Pier is the main shopping, eating, and partying area of Hermosa. This was the scene of my crime though as my brand new phone was stolen in Baja Sharkeez!! 😭
4. DOWNTOWN AREA
Downtown L.A. has a bit of a reputation as being unsafe, however, I stuck to the following few tourist spots and all was good! You can sort of tell if you start to wander off route that some streets may not be so comfortable to walk along on your own. I wouldn't advise wandering down here in the dark though! There's not much to see in Downtown and The Broad Museum was the main reason why I was visiting here. The beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall is located just by The Broad Museum too. A lot of tourists could avoid Downtown L.A. all together (I did the last time I visited L.A.) as not many of the main tourist locations are found here. A lot of offices and high rise buildings are located in the Downtown area (the STAPLES Center is located here too).
We started our day off with some lunch in Takami Sushi & Robata. The vegetarian sushi was so good here! If you are eating Downtown then I would suggest a visit to Takami Sushi & Robata! It is located on the 21st floor and provides great views over the high rise buildings of Downtown L.A. There is a seating area outside but the large windows also provide a great view of the city from inside of the restaurant. I had an embarrassing moment here when I thought my wasabi was avocado and I ate a full spoon of it in one swallow!!!! 😅 Tears were rolling down my face though I tried to play it cool! We loved it here so much that we ended up returning the following day after an N.B.A. game and enjoyed a few drinks by the bar area; the staff were lovely too!
(a) Walt Disney Concert Hall
If you do find yourself in the Downtown area then a walk by the Walt Disney Concert Hall is recommended! It is a spectacular building and it has been used in popular culture (t.v. shows, films, etc.) quite a lot. It is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
Click here for more information on a self guided or, guided tour of the Concert Hall.
(b) Broad Museum
I'm a big fan of Yayoi Kusama and I had previously been to Kusama's 'Infinity Rooms' exhibition at the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea, New York City which I loved! I thus did not want to miss out on Kusama's 'Infinity Mirror Rooms' exhibition that was on in the Broad Museum while I was visiting. I was so focused on this exhibition that I had not really considered the rest of the artwork in the Broad Museum and I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I got there!
There was a great selection of modern and contemporary art throughout the Museum (such as works by Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Roy Lichtenstein) and I spent a lot longer than I had anticipated here. As expected, there was a waiting list to enter the Yayoi Kusama exhibition, however, there was a ticket self service system whereby you could collect your ticket and wait for a text to let you know when you could enter the exhibition. The ticket also provided a rough estimate as to how long the waiting time would be. This is a great idea as it meant that you could enjoy wandering around the rest of the Museum while you waited for your text. Unfortunately, as I had no phone it meant that I could not receive a text and so I had to try to guess the timing and ask the staff! We rely on technology so much nowadays! I enjoyed the exhibition space but felt that even just another few seconds longer would have been beneficial (the staff shut the door behind you and re-open the door a few seconds later when your time is up). You only had time to take a picture and that was basically it; there wasn't much time to stand still and immerse yourself in the artwork.
(c) Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market is a Downtown landmark since 1917 and it is another location that consistently receives great reviews. The market is located only a 10 minute walk from the Broad Museum and so I popped down here after my visit to the Museum. I only had a quick walk around the market, however, there were plenty of vendors to select from so it is worth going in here if you are Downtown and in need of some quick food!
Grand Central Market is not only an emporium of eateries; it also hosts many events such as jazz, comedy, and art and it is open seven days a week! A list of events is available on the event page of its website (click here).
(d) Bradbury Building
The Bradbury Building is an architectural landmark in L.A. and is on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It is located just a minute walk from Grand Central Market so it is also worth a quick visit if you are in the area. It is popular for its open elevators, large glass atrium, and beautiful cast-iron design.
Unfortunately, by the time I arrived here the building had shut for the evening! 😭 I still managed a good peep in through the glass door window and could see the impressive cast-iron design and stairway from outside of the building (as seen in the above photograph)! I would have loved to have been able to see the skylit atrium inside of the building as the pictures online show a beautiful interior. Walk-in visitors are only permitted up to the first landing of the building but government workers are at the door to provide further historical information on the building. I have read of tours available of the building, however, these are also limited to the first landing.
(e) N.B.A. Game
Growing up I loved basketball and I played on our school team for most of my school years so it was always a dream of mine to go to an N.B.A. game! I was so grateful when my friend told me that they had tickets organized for us to go to a game... plus even more exciting was the fact that it was a playoff game between L.A. Clippers and Warriors! It was on in the well known STAPLES Center where we were able to enjoy snacks, drink beer, and chant along with the crowd. There was a great atmosphere throughout the arena and the halftime show was so so good! The rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony featured as part of the halftime show and they were followed by a group performing some acrobatic basketball stunts. I loved everything about this day and the group that I spent it with too!!
After the game, we walked about 15 minutes to a fabulous rooftop bar; that of Broken Shaker at Freehand LA.
(f) Broken Shaker at Freehand LA (Rooftop Bar)
Broken Shaker at Freehand LA rooftop bar had a very nice chilled out vibe and it receives great reviews online too. Here, you can lounge by the pool enjoying a cocktail while a DJ plays a set on the rooftop. There's a nice view overlooking the skyscrapers of Downtown L.A. from here too.
We then returned to Takami Sushi & Robata (as mentioned in the Dining section of Downtown L.A.) for a few more drinks at the bar of the restaurant. We had great fun with the staff and, as mentioned, there are nice views overlooking the skyscrapers of L.A. from this 21st floor restaurant.
5. VENICE BEACH
Most people have likely heard of Venice Beach as it has featured on many films and t.v. shows. However, I mainly associated Venice solely with the beach area and I was not aware of how nice and quirky its neighborhood is too! It has quite a bohemian feel and I loved its boutique shopping!!
If you go to Venice beach then I strongly recommend brunch and a wander around the stores of the neighborhood. The Abbot Kinney Boulevard of Venice was even dubbed "the coolest block in America" by GQ! You will find a variety of design, books, jewelry, clothes, and gift stores here (to name a few!). It's a nice area for a relaxing afternoon of wandering and is located only a few minute's walk from the beach.
We went to The Butchers Daughter (it's vegetarian!) for brunch and sampled a selection of their juice shots too! So so good! I expected this to be a nice place to dine as I had previously visited The Butchers Daughter in N.Y.C. and loved it so I was excited to visit again with my friend as she is also vegetarian! The interior design is slightly industrial but bright and full of greenery with a very fresh feel to it. It has a white backdrop, partial brick walls, espresso bar, and a 25 foot long juice bar! The restaurant design has a very L.A. feel to it. Unfortunately, no professional camera pictures were allowed inside of the restaurant! We also bought a lovely chai latte from a street vendor along the boulevard and it totally converted me into starting to drink chai lattes!
Venice Beach is a very well known beach area in L.A. and Venice Muscle Beach (famous outdoor gym for bodybuilders) is another popular spot along here. The boardwalk and beach area are very colorful and busy with many street performers and a lot of street art found here. I enjoyed a walk along the beach and I ended up walking back to Santa Monica Pier from Venice beach (it takes about an hour to walk this). Click here to read more on what Venice beach area has to offer!
I was unaware at the time but located in Venice are the pretty Venice Canals. I was very disappointed to have missed out on these!
6. BIG BUS TOUR
There are several bus tours on offer in L.A. and I chose the Big Bus Tours. I opted for their Hollywood Loop (Red Route) as I had already spent a lot of time along the beach areas (they do a beach route too). It's a great way to travel around L.A. and see many different areas within a day or two. There's quite a lot to see at some of the stop-off points so a two day pass may be worthwhile if you want to spend time at several of these locations. The red route includes the following stop-off points:
1) Big Bus Visitor Center Hollywood
2) The Dolby Theater at Hollywood & Highland
3) Guitar Center “Rock Walk”
4) The Comedy Store
5) Whiskey A Go Go
6) Beverly Gardens Park
7) Beverly Hills / Rodeo Drive
8) Beverly Center
9) LACMA / La Brea Tarpits
10) Farmers Market / The Grove
11) Melrose Shopping
12) Paramount Studios
13) Hollywood and Vine
I regret that I didn't start the tour earlier in the day! I arrived at Hollywood Boulevard to catch the bus from here but spent far too long wandering around Hollywood Boulevard before catching the bus. I was not great at keeping tabs on the bus times either so I kept just missing one and then having to waste half an hour waiting for the next bus. The day, therefore, slipped by quite quickly - though I had probably planned to do far too much in one day anyways! Most of the stop-off points on the tour are quite a distance from each other so it's hard to navigate all of these areas on your own (unless you are willing to spend money on Uber's everywhere) so this tour is a great way to fit in different areas without having to worry about searching routes and bus timetables etc.
In the above gallery, you will see pictures of Paramount Studios (where you can take a studio tour) and the beautiful Petersen Museum (one of the world's largest automotive museums). I didn't make it to either of these but I would like to visit Petersen even just to admire the architecture of the Museum!
(a) Hollywood Boulevard / Walk of Fame
This is the first point listed as part of the bus tour and it was where I chose to start the tour from too. I spent too long here to be honest. There's a lot of hustle and bustle in this area but there's not much else to see except for the Walk of Fame. I found this section of Hollywood Boulevard (by the Chinese Theatre / along the Walk of Fame) to be like the Times Square of L.A.; full of crowds, a bit tacky, and a lot of street artists who constantly stop you and try to get money from you! There are several tour bus stops located along here and there were queues at each stop. The tour staff were trying to sell tickets and in the madness of it all I ended up wasting time standing waiting quite a while at the wrong bus stop! 🤭
The Walk of Fame, Dolby Theatre (where the Academy Awards were held), the TLC Chinese Theatre (in Hollywood & Highland Center), Roosevelt Hotel and Ripley's Believe it or Not are all located within a few minutes walk from each other here. There is a good view of the Hollywood sign from the Hollywood & Highland Center.
(b) Sunset Boulevard
The tour bus then continued along the famous Sunset Boulevard. It first stopped at the flagship Guitar Center store which has undergone an impressive refurbishment in recent years (it shut down the 6 lanes of traffic of Sunset Boulevard, erected a stage, and threw a concert for it's re-opening!). As a Jimi Hendrix fan, I especially loved the large mural artwork along the Guitar Center building. At the time, I was unaware of the Rock Walk at The Guitar Center which features handprints from over 100 legendary musicians. This is something that I want to go see on my next visit!
Just a few minute's walk from the Guitar Center you will find the popular Laugh Factory. The Laugh Factory has had numerous famous stand-up acts perform here and USA Today even named it "the #1 comedy club in the country". It is well known as the club where Michael Richards had his terrible racist outburst. Other performers have included the likes of Tim Allen, Jim Carrey, Dave Chappelle, Ellen DeGeneres, Bob Hope, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and Jerry Seinfeld to name a few!
The Comedy Store
The next stop along Sunset Boulevard was another famous comedy club; that of The Comedy Store. Founded in 1971, The Comedy Store was the first all stand-up comedy nightclub in the world. Many famous sitcom stars of that era had roots dating back to the Comedy Club, with the likes of Robin Williams, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Andy Kaufman, and Michael Keaton having performed here. The time following its opening was an important era in the history of comedy.
Whiskey a Go Go
We then proceeded to Whiskey a Go Go. Dating back to 1964, this live club has hosted some of the best in Rock'n'Roll acts with artists such as The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Led Zeppelin having performed here! It continues to host some great up and coming Rock musicians of today!
Just opposite to Whiskey a Go Go you will find the famous Viper Room. This is a legendary Rock Club of L.A. and when it opened in 1993 it was partially owned by Johnny Depp. It is well known as the location where River Phoenix, unfortunately, suffered a drug overdose and died.
(c) Beverly Hills / Rodeo Drive
Beverly Hills Park
I stopped off at the next bus stop which was at Beverly Hills Park. There are some temporary art installations located here but the main feature is the Beverly Hills Sign located by the pond (scroll through the above gallery to see a photograph of this sign) and this is where everyone was gathering for a picture. There is not much else to do here, however, it's only a few minutes walk to Rodeo Drive so it is definitely worth stopping off here first if you intend to visit Rodeo Drive.
One of the most famous streets in the world is that of Rodeo Drive. It is a very pretty and exclusive shopping area with some immaculately kept streets, however, unless you intend on shopping here then there is not much else to do. Saying that, it is still worth seeing this famous area and a quick walk up and down the streets of Rodeo Drive is worth doing. The Walk of Style was founded in 2003 and it features bronze plaques along the sidewalk for each person being honored. Its founding ceremony was attended by Giorgio Armani who was the first honoree. The famous Beverly Wilshire Hotel is located here too - this was the hotel where Pretty Woman was filmed!
(d) L.A.County Museum of Art (LACMA)
I skipped the next stop at Beverly Center (a shopping mall) and waited to get off at the following stop (LACMA). LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States and it holds works spanning from historical times right up to the present day. This Museum was on my list of places to visit while in L.A. mainly due to the pretty pictures of Urban Light sculpture (by Chris Burden) that kept popping up on my online searches and showing as one of the most popular places to visit in L.A.
However, it was a bit disappointing because it was still daylight when I visited the Museum and the pictures in the evening look so much better due to the Urban Lights being lit up in the evening time. Unfortunately, I had spent too long at some of my prior stops on the tour and so I didn't have enough time to enter the Museum for a look at the artwork. It is such a large Museum that you would likely need a lot of time to visit here. 😭
(e) Melrose Avenue
As time was starting to quickly slip by, I didn't stop at The Grove / The Farmers Market though I had hoped to do so (I really had planned for too much on the bus tour and I should have started it earlier in the day, or, bought a two day ticket!).
I was super excited to get off the bus at Melrose Avenue because I had read that it is a very cool and trendy area to visit. The Avenue stretches much longer than I had expected (like most streets in L.A.!). I was surprised by the diversity of upscale and quirky shops, the variety of dining options, and the great street art found along the Avenue. Again, I wish I had longer to enjoy my walk around here. Shopping includes everything from antiques and designer boutiques to New Wave and Punk retailers. There is also a Sunday outdoor flea market. Melrose Avenue is a very insta friendly area with plenty of photo ops featuring a cool backdrop of street art.
There are several cool cafes along here too; as an Instagram follower of Carrera Cafe I was determined to make it here though! I rushed for about half an hour walking from the Big Bus stop in order to visit it 😂...and it was worth it! The chocolate waffles were sooo good (see above gallery for pictures of these)! I knew that the pink wall of the Paul Smith store (which is located beside Carrera Cafe) was a popular place for pictures, however, I was pretty shocked at the number of people taking photos here! I had to rush back for the last bus and I had a bit of a panic fearing that I wouldn't remember the location of the bus stop as there were no bus signs along here for the Big Bus tour! It's always a good idea to take a picture, or screenshot of the location on Google maps before you wander too far!
7. SANTA MONICA
One of the most iconic pictures when you think of L.A. is that of Santa Monica Pier! Many films and t.v. shows have been shot in Santa Monica. Famous for its beaches, the original Muscle Beach is located just by here too.
Third Street Promenade is a few minute's walk from the Pier and here you will find pedestrian streets with street performers and plenty of shops to wander in and out of. The shops along Third Street mainly consist of high street stores. I preferred wandering the streets of Venice and Melrose Avenue where you will find a quirkier collection of boutique stores. It is still nice to wander along Third Street and check out the street performers though. Pacific Park is located along Santa Monica Pier and it may be worth a visit if you like theme parks. As previously mentioned, you can take the Ocean Front walk from here and it will take you all of the way from Santa Monica Pier over to Venice beach in about an hour. Walking along the beach from one location to the other may be a nicer walk though. 😊
STILL ON MY LIST
L.A. is so spread out that it's difficult to fit everything in on your to do list within a few days! There was so much more that I was hoping to fit in but yet I was happy with how much I covered in a short few days. The biggest disappointment for me was not making it to Griffith Park and Griffith Observatory. I was hoping to take either a hike from Griffith Park (where you will achieve one of the best views of the Hollywood sign) or take a hike at Runyon Canyon Park.
I previously took one of the Celebrity Hollywood Star tours though this is not something that I would be interested in doing again (it felt like it was just something that had to be done and ticked off while in L.A. on my first visit!). Other locations still on my to do list include Huntington Library Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, Getty Villa, L.A. Conservancy Walking Tour, and Arts District (click here for some more information on dining, etc. in the Arts District).
Studios & Theme Parks
On a prior trip to L.A., I visited Warner Brothers Studio which I absolutely loved! If not, I may have had Paramount Studios or Universal Studios (including CityWalk) on my to do list. Disneyland and Pacific Park are popular tourist spots too; they were not high on my list but I know quite a few of you may be interested in these!
Day/Overnight Trip from L.A.
If time had permitted (and I had a car!) then I would have loved to have taken some day/overnight trips to Santa Catalina Island, Malibu, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach or Santa Barbara. Also, Palm Springs is not too far from L.A. and Joshua Tree National Park is located close by here. San Diego is just over a two hour drive from L.A.; I made it to San Diego on my prior visit to L.A. and it's another lovely location.
Let me know if you have any further tips for my next trip to L.A.!
Thanks for reading,
** Click here for my photo blog of the trip!