Los Angeles is a city like no other in the world. The energy of this vibrant global metropolis pulses in every neighborhood - world-class performances, spectacular events and stunning natural landscapes are waiting for you day and night. From the Historic Core in Downtown L.A. to a legendary surf spot in Malibu, read on for Los Angeles experiences that you will never forget.
1. Watch the Street Performers at the Venice Boardwalk
The world famous Venice Ocean Front Walk (aka “the Boardwalk”) is one of the best places in L.A. for people watching, from colorful local characters to visitors from around the globe. There’s something for everyone on the concrete boardwalk - on one side there are specialty shops, restaurants and uniquely designed residences; and on the other a myriad of street performers, artists, fortune tellers and much more. For inside info on how to explore this feast for the senses, read our Local’s Guide to the Venice Ocean Front Walk.
For a truly eclectic shopping experience, head to nearby Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Dubbed "the coolest block in America" by GQ, Abbot Kinney is home to one-of-kind local goods as well as internationally recognized brands. Shoppers in the know come to Abbot Kinney for First Fridays, when the boulevard becomes a street festival filled with live music, food trucks and more.
2. Enjoy the LA Phil at Walt Disney Concert Hall
Walt Disney Concert Hall became a Los Angeles icon the moment it opened its doors to the public on Oct. 22, 2003. Located on Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A., the concert hall seats over 2,200 people and is home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, with acoustics by Yasuhisa Toyota, Walt Disney Concert Hall has received worldwide critical acclaim and praise from concertgoers for its stunning architecture and extraordinary sound.
3. Step Into History at The Theatre at Ace Hotel
Located on Broadway and 9th Street, the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles was built as the United Artists Building in 1927. The 13-story building was designed by architect C. Howard Crane in a Spanish Gothic style, modeled after the Segovia Cathedral in Spain. The United Artists Theatre was the flagship movie theatre for United Artists, the film studio founded by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith. The stunning 1,600-seat movie palace occupies three floors of the building. Now known as The Theatre at Ace Hotel, the former UA Theatre is once again showing movies, and also hosts concerts, dance performances, stand-up comedy, live reads and special screenings.
Spanning six blocks from 3rd to 9th Streets along South Broadway in Downtown L.A., the Broadway Theatre District includes 12 movie theatres built between 1910 and 1931. At its height, the neon-drenched district had the highest concentration of cinemas in the world, with seating for more than 15,000 patrons. Discover the historic Broadway Theatre District, the only large concentration of movie palaces left in the United States.
4. Go Into Orbit With the Space Shuttle Endeavour
Opened at Exposition Park in February 1998, the California Science Center spans more than 400,000 square feet and four major exhibit areas: World of Life, Creative World, Ecosystems and the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The Science Center also hosts international touring exhibits like The Science Behind Pixar and has an education-focused IMAX Theater with a seven-story screen.
On Oct. 30, 2012, the California Science Center became the permanent home of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which landed at Los Angeles International Airport in September 2012. After an extraordinary journey through the streets of L.A., the Endeavour went on public display in the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Endeavour Display Pavilion. Read on for ten must sees at the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
5. Stay Late at the Natural History Museum
First Fridays at the Natural History Museum (NHM) introduces audiences to the museum itself and a new kind of museum experience. Contemporary science, culture and individual experience converge during these after-hours events. First Fridays events feature discussions and tours; live performances by musicians, bands and DJs; and the entire museum is open to explore, often with pop-up performances and surprises in its historic halls and exhibitions.
The theme for the current season of First Fridays is Serving Up Science: The Dish On Food. Top researchers, prestigious food writers, and farm and garden experts will discuss food evolution and the science behind it. "If we are what we eat, then we are everything" – find out how our meals tell stories of lifestyle, culture and surprising science.
6. Catch a Game at Dodger Stadium
Los Angeles is the City of Champions, home to some of the greatest sports venues in the world. L.A. venues have hosted generations of legendary athletes and historic games, including two Olympiads, three Super Bowls, the World Series, NBA and WNBA championships, the Stanley Cup, the FIFA World Cup, NCAA championships, and much more. Read on and discover Dodger Stadium and the other world-class stadiums and arenas of L.A.
7. Dine Around the World at Grand Central Market
A Downtown L.A. staple since 1917, the bustling Grand Central Market (GCM) has recently welcomed a new generation of food and drink vendors. In August 2014, Bon Appétit named GCM one of the 10 best new restaurants in America. GCM institutions like China Cafe, Roast To Go and Tacos Tumbras A Tomas are still going strong. Learn about 11 of the best new food and drink options at Grand Central Market.
8. Check the HOLLYWOOD BOWL Off Your Bucket List
There are few experiences more quintessentially Los Angeles than spending a summer evening under the stars, catching a concert at the Hollywood Bowl. One of the most famous outdoor venues in the world, the Bowl has hosted everyone from The Beatles and Bob Dylan to Prince, Lady Gaga and Radiohead. Until you've see a show at the Hollywood Bowl, you haven't really experience L.A. Find out more about this Los Angeles icon.
9. Sing Your Heart Out at BREAK ROOM 86
Part of the Houston Hospitality collection of nightlife spots, Break Room 86 is an '80s-themed karaoke venue hidden in the back of The Line Hotel in Koreatown. With cocktail names that will remind you of your favorite teen idol and a soundtrack like your favorite mix tape, it's always a fun time. Sing on stage with a live band, or book a private room for you and your friends, whether you're there for the karaoke or the Atari.
Whether it's karaoke, cigars, a glowing dance floor, or simply a hard-to-find entrance, bars across Los Angeles have surprises waiting for you. Read on for the best hidden bars in L.A. - because there's nothing better than sharing a secret.
10. Dance the Night Away at Exchange LA
Named for the building’s historic housing of the Los Angeles stock exchange on Spring Street, Exchange LA is a beautiful Art Deco edifice that’s been retrofitted for the modern nightclub experience. In addition to house and techno DJs, Exchange is also one of the few big clubs in L.A. that regularly books trance DJs. With four floors and 25,000 square feet, you have plenty of space to enjoy sets from artists such as Maya Jane Coles, Simon Patterson and Giuseppe Ottaviani. Los Angeles has become an essential stop on the global DJ circuit. Read on for some of L.A.’s best clubs for electronic music.
11. Discover New Artists at the Downtown L.A. Art Walk
With exciting and unique offerings around every corner, the Downtown L.A. Art Walk takes place on the second Thursday of each month, year-round, rain or shine. Many of the Downtown Art Walk activities happen in and around the galleries on Spring and Main Streets, between 2nd and 9th Streets. During Art Walk, numerous art-related events and openings, activities, and special programming take place all over Downtown L.A. As the evening progresses, the energy builds as thousands of visitors descend on the area to meet up with friends and savor the local experience. Participating gallery hours range from noon to 10 p.m. Check individual gallery listings for details.
12. Pack a Picnic for Eat|See|Hear
Taking place on Saturday nights at rotating venues from Downtown L.A. to Santa Monica, Eat|See|Hear boasts the largest outdoor screen on the West Coast and state-of-the-art audio. Every screening features a curated line-up of food trucks and an opening performance by an up-and-coming band.
For movie fans, the summer outdoor movie season in Los Angeles is the best of all worlds: classic films and modern hits, shown on a big screen under the stars, with plenty of great food and drink. Gather your friends and enjoy hours of entertainment with our guide to L.A.’s outdoor movies.
13. Get in the Groove at Jazz at LACMA
The award-winning Department of Music Programs annually presents over one hundred concerts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), featuring leading international and local ensembles in programs of classical, jazz, Latin and new music. Jazz at LACMA is one of the museum’s most popular offerings, having previously featured legends such as Wayne Shorter, John Clayton, Kenny Burrell, Les McCann, Billy Childs, Arturo Sandoval, Cannonball-Coltrane Project and Ernie Watts. More than 42,000 visitors attend the program annually from April through November. Jazz at LACMA takes place at 6 p.m. every Friday at the central BP Pavilion, near Chris Burden's iconic Urban Light. Admission is free, there are no reservations for seating. For upcoming performances, visit the Jazz at LACMA page.
Jazz has been an integral part of the Los Angeles experience for decades, from historic Central Avenue to La La Land. Read on for the best jazz clubs and ongoing music nights in Los Angeles.
14. Explore the Legendary Sunset Strip
Sunset Boulevard is one of the most famous streets in Los Angeles, and perhaps its most famous section is the legendary Sunset Strip, which stretches 1.5 miles from West Hollywood on the east to Beverly Hills on the west. Check into the landmark Chateau Marmont or modern properties like the Andaz West Hollywood, the Mondrian and London West Hollywood. Landmark music venues like the Whisky a Go Go, The Roxy and Viper Room are still going strong, while modern eateries like Eveleigh, the Church Key and BOA Steakhouse attract visitors and locals alike. Nightlife options include Bar Marmont, Skybar and the Comedy Store.
Music fans can go beyond famous venues like STAPLES Center and The Forum and discover hidden gems that are tied to L.A.'s impressive musical history. From rap to country and mariachi, Los Angeles will surprise you with its hidden connections to the past, present and future of music.
15. Paddle Out to Surfrider Beach
Los Angeles is synonymous with the Endless Summer, and surfing locations don’t get more iconic than Malibu Lagoon State Beach, better known as Surfrider Beach. One of the most popular surfing spots in L.A. County, Surfrider Beach is located off Pacific Coast Highway near the historic Malibu Pier. The 110-acre site was dedicated as a state park in 1951, and later designated as the first World Surfing Reserve in October 2010. The famous right-break had a big impact on 1960s Southern California surfing culture. Surfrider has three primary surfing areas - on the south swells most common in late August and September, surfers can ride all the way to the pier.
16. Listen to Music Under the Stars at TWILIGHT CONCERTS (July - September)
Twilight Concerts is one of L.A.’s favorite summer traditions, taking place on the landmark Santa Monica Pier Thursday nights from 7-10 p.m. Every year from July to September, the popular free music series offers a wide-ranging lineup that showcases a different music genre every week, such as indie rock, '80s New Wave, reggae, Latin and disco.
Launched in May 2016, the Metro Expo Line extension drops you off just steps from the pier at its western terminus. From Downtown L.A. to Santa Monica, read our guide and discover the attractions, restaurants and hotels along the Expo Line.
17. Drop Into L.A.'s Best Skateparks
Skateboarding is as iconic as surfing in Southern California. Its roots go all the way back to the 1950s when surfers tried to find a way to “landsurf” while the waves were flat. This gave birth to modern day skateboarding. The sport continued to grow and evolve along with the Golden State, and Los Angeles in particular, at its center. Read on for five of the best skateparks in L.A.
18. Drive Like a Pro at the PORSCHE EXPERIENCE CENTER
Located in Carson, the Porsche Experience Center (PEC) is a 53-acre venue with a four-mile driver development track, state-of-the-art driving simulators, a retail store with exclusive PEC branded merchandise, and fine dining at Restaurant 917. Drivers can pilot the latest Porsche models through eight different driving modules. Inside the 50,000 square-foot building, which is also the new home of Porsche Motorsport North America, guests can get an insider’s look at historic Porsche race cars and the workshop team.
19. Try Not to Scream at Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags Magic Mountain is a mecca for thrill seekers, home to a world record 19 roller coasters and more than 100 rides, games and attractions. The heart-stopping rides include X2, the trailblazing fifth dimension roller coaster; Tatsu, the world's tallest and fastest flying coaster; and Full Throttle, featuring a record breaking 160-foot loop and the world's first (and currently only) top-hat element on a loop.
20. Place Your Bets at Santa Anita Park
With the San Gabriel Mountains as the stunning backdrop, Santa Anita Park is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful and iconic racetracks in the country. Opened on Dec. 25, 1934, Santa Anita Park recently underwent $35 million in renovations to areas such as the Club House Box Seat Area, Chandelier Room, Turf Terrace, Eddie Logan Suite and private suites atop the Grandstand Club House Box Seat Area. Besides horse racing, Santa Anita hosts a wide range of events, including food and beer festivals, wine tastings and holiday events.
The Breeders' Cup World Championships returned to Santa Anita Park in November 2016, marking the ninth time that Santa Anita hosted the Breeders’ Cup. Since its inception in 1984, the Breeders' Cup has become one of the world’s top events in Thoroughbred racing, and draws the best equine athletes from around the world for two of the most exciting days in the sport.