Los Angeles is a city that's constantly on the go, from Angelenos' love affair with the automobile to L.A.'s endless entertainment options. Even the city's cutting edge architecture seems to be in perpetual motion. For travelers and locals alike, it's important to take a break from the fast pace of this global metropolis. From secluded gardens and coastal sunsets to relaxing spas and serene dining experiences, discover the best places to chill out in Los Angeles.
1. Tropicana Pool - Hollywood Roosevelt
You’re surrounded by Hollywood history the moment you step into the Spanish Colonial style lobby of the Hollywood Roosevelt (7000 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles 90028). The first Academy Awards were presented at a private dinner in the hotel’s Blossom Ballroom, while Clark Gable and Carole Lombard carried on their infamous affair in the hotel penthouse. Marilyn Monroe lived at the hotel for two years as her modeling career began to take off - she was staying in one of the vintage 1950s Cabanas at the time of her first professional magazine shoot, which took place at the Roosevelt's pool.
The Tropicana Pool is an urban oasis at the heart of the hotel, featuring the celebrated David Hockney-painted pool, surrounded by lush foliage and exclusive Cabana rooms. This seductive retreat welcomes a trendy crowd day and night, when intimate conversations are whispered around glowing fire rings.
With L.A.'s perpetual sunshine and mild year-round climate, hotel swimming pools are attractive destinations no matter when you visit.
2. Kyoto Gardens - DoubleTree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown
Located in Little Tokyo, the DoubleTree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown (120 S Los Angeles St, Los Angeles 90012) features a lush sanctuary on its rooftop, the idyllic Kyoto Gardens. Spanning a half-acre of manicured greenery, cascading waterfalls and tranquil ponds, the garden is a meticulous recreation of an ancient Japanese Garden in Tokyo. Originally established for the 16th Century samurai lord Kiyomasa Kato, the Japanese Garden in Tokyo became an oasis for residents of the city.
One of L.A.'s most popular event and wedding venues, Kyoto Gardens also features the outdoor Upper and Lower Terraces, as well as the Thousand Cranes room, which boasts stunning views of the garden and skyline. Kyoto Gardens has appeared in numerous commercials, movies and TV series, including The Runaways, Rampart, Her, Law and Order Los Angeles, The Biggest Loser, NCIS Los Angeles, Prime Suspect, Hostage, David Tutera’s My Fair Wedding and Battle of the Sexes.
3. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
The majestic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (555 W Temple St, Los Angeles 90012) rises 11 stories above Temple Street, a short walk from Grand Park and the Music Center. Designed by Pritzker Prize winner Rafael Moneo, the state-of-the-art building is renowned for its Modernist look. The cathedral opened to the public in 2002, the first Roman Catholic Church to be built in the western United States in 30 years. Natural light floods the cathedral interior, thanks to 33,500 square feet of alabaster windows, the largest single use in the world. The Mausoleum features Baroque Revival-style stained glass windows, while the Meditation Garden offers a serene place to rest.
For centuries, Los Angeles has welcomed a myriad of religions - some of L.A.'s most historic and important buildings are houses of worship. Read on for landmark religious buildings and sacred spaces in Los Angeles.
4. Suiho En - Garden of Water and Fragrance
Meaning “Garden of Water and Fragrance” in Japanese, Suiho En (6100 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys 91406) is a 6.5-acre authentic Japanese garden fashioned after “stroll gardens” constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries for Japanese Feudal lords. This San Fernando Valley hidden gem was created by Dr. Koichi Kawana to provide beauty, relaxation, inspiration and a better understanding of Japanese culture using reclaimed water. Dr. Kawana designed more than a dozen major Japanese gardens in the U.S., including the botanical gardens at LACMA.
5. Grand Park
Grand Park (200 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90012) is an urban oasis that stretches from Grand Avenue at the Music Center to Spring Street at City Hall. Since its opening in 2012, Grand Park has become a popular gathering spot for community events, cultural experiences, festivals and holiday celebrations. The 12-acre park has four distinct areas, featuring the restored Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain, an intimate performance lawn, a community terrace, and a grand event lawn. Visitors can bring their own picnic or purchase food and beverages on site. Selected events will invite food trucks and other food vendors. The park is open to the public daily from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Thanks to its sun-splashed weather, Los Angeles is one of the best cities in the country to have a picnic at any time of the year. From cultural attractions and state parks to the zoo and even a cemetery, here are some of the best places in L.A. to gather your friends, spread out a blanket and have a picnic.
6. Rendezvous Court - Millennium Biltmore
The arrival of the opulent Millennium Biltmore Hotel (506 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90071) in 1923 was a "statement to the rest of the world that Los Angeles had arrived as an American metropolis." The Biltmore's impact was undeniable and its grandeur would become an integral part of the history of our city. You can explore the property, which boasts more on-screen film and TV appearances than any other L.A. hotel, and easily imagine you're closing a deal with Don Draper on Mad Men or battling Slimer in the original Ghostbusters.
One of the Biltmore's most famous spaces is the original lobby, now called the Rendezvous Court. The soaring, tranquil alcove is three stories high and reminiscent of a Spanish cathedral. Imagine all the people who walked through this grand room and swept up its double staircase to reach the rest of the hotel. This kind of welcome helps you understand why the Biltmore was known as the "Host of the Coast." Find out more about this iconic hotel in Downtown L.A.
7. Central Library
The Richard J. Riordan Central Library (630 W 5th St, Los Angeles 90071) is the third largest public library in the United States in terms of book and periodical holdings. Renamed in 2001 for former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, the Central Library is located in Downtown L.A. in the historic 1926 Goodhue Building, which is a designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Central Library’s Rare Books Department has over 16,000 volumes, dating from the 15th century, with a majority from the 18th and 19th centuries. Core collections include California History, Mexicana, Pacific Voyages, Costumes and more. The Central Library also houses and archives the extensive Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection of over 3 million historic photographs. Many images can be viewed by the public via the online photo collection. The Central Library also hosts [ALOUD], a popular series of free panels that brings together today’s brightest cultural, scientific, and political luminaries with the curious minds of Los Angeles.
What better way to get a view of the sparkling city lights than from a spot nestled on the 15th floor above South Hill Street? Perch (448 S Hill St, Los Angeles 90013) is a restaurant, bar and lounge that offers its guests fire pits, indoor and outdoor seating, and tasty French fare. If you’re thirsty for a Parisian-inspired cocktail or want to cool off with a craft beer, this is the place for you. Wrap yourself around the balcony and enjoy unobstructed views of the City of Angels. You can thank us later.
Whether you’re staring out at a sunset over the Pacific or gazing at the Los Angeles skyline, nothing beats a cool, refreshing drink with a view.
9. Sunset Ranch Hollywood
For a unique tour of Griffith Park, get in the saddle with Sunset Ranch Hollywood (3400 N Beachwood Dr, Los Angeles 90068), the only horse ranch located in greater Los Angeles. Sunset Ranch offers a variety of services and activities, including guided trail rides, boarding and lessons. A one-hour trail ride into Griffith Park includes a great view of the Hollywood Sign. A two-hour ride to the top of Griffith Park features spectacular 360-degree views of Los Angeles. A variety of other ride options are available, including Lunch Ride, Sunset Dinner Ride, BBQ Ride and Kids’ Party.
10. Museum of Jurassic Technology
Located on a stretch of Venice Boulevard that’s better known for strip malls and Indian food, the Museum of Jurassic Technology (9341 Venice Blvd, Culver City 90232) is home to hundreds of fantastical and fascinating artifacts - some real, some invented. The museum is a true cabinet of curiosities, from portraits of canine cosmonauts to bats that can fly through walls, sculptures on the head of a needle and much more. On the second floor, tea and cookies are served in the Tula Tea Room, which is next to the rooftop garden where you might spot founder David Wilson playing an obscure medieval instrument.
Los Angeles has plenty of world-class museums filled with priceless works. Then there are the more humble institutions, the ones catering to more obscure and specialized tastes. From bunnies to martial arts and velvet paintings, here are 10 quirky L.A. museums worth seeking out.
11. Biking the Strand
One of L.A.’s most defining features is its beautiful beaches. Long stretches of warm sand can be found up and down coastal Los Angeles, where the western edge of the United States meets the Pacific Ocean. One of the most enjoyable ways to explore L.A.’s beaches is along the 22-mile Marvin Braude Bike Trail (aka The Strand). The paved bike path begins at Will Rogers State Beach near Pacific Palisades and travels south to Torrance Beach.
Los Angeles has perhaps the highest number of yoga practitioners per capita outside of India, and the city proudly offers enough variations on the ancient philosophy to appeal to just about any demographic. Sure, one can study with rock star instructors inside the mothership studios of Iyengar, Bikram, Hatha and Kundalini styles here. But for those searching for a truly unique experience, read on for our guide to alterna-yoga in Los Angeles.
13. Find Your Moment of Zen
Looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles? Whether you want a quick massage or a full-day relaxation experience, the city has many incredible spas to meet a variety of pampering needs at a range of price points.
14. Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens
Located in the historic West Adams District, the Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens (3500 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles 90018) is a nonprofit spiritual center that opened in 2002. PALG was founded by and is the headquarters of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, a non-denominational, ecumenical church. Visitors are invited to "unwind the mind" by walking the stone labyrinth, modeled after the famous Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France. The Asian-themed meditation garden features 16 water fountains, a koi pond and several intimate seating areas for reflection and meditation. Docents are available to give tours of the historic Guasti Villa, built in 1910-14 by Secundo Guasti, an Italian immigrant whose namesake Southern California winery was at one time the largest in the world. The mansion was later the home of legendary director and choreographer, Busby Berkeley.
15. Art Classes at Getty Center & Getty Villa
Why just admire the art at a museum when you can learn to create your own masterpieces? There's no better way to take an art class than being surrounded by a world-class art collection. The Getty Center in Brentwood and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades are a couple of cool places in Los Angeles that offer an incredible array of classes and workshops that cover drawing, pen and ink wash, sculpting, gilding, and jewelry making. Whatever your level of experience or medium of choice, there’s a class for you. They even offer free courses - "Drawing from the Masters" at the Getty Center on the first and third Sunday of the month; and the monthly "Drawing from Antiquity" at the Getty Villa. Art classes are also offered at museums around L.A., such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Craft Contemporary and the Natural History Museum.
16. Solstice Canyon
Solstice Canyon (3455 Solstice Canyon Rd, Malibu 90265) is an easy hike along a shaded trail that is partially paved before it gives way to a fire road. A babbling brook is the soundtrack as the trail leads you to Tropical Terrace and the foundations of a house designed by renowned architect Paul Williams, who also designed homes for Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball, as well as the Theme Building at LAX. A seasonal waterfall cascades into a pool in the rocks behind the former home. Do some exploring and you’ll find a statue of the Virgin Mary in a nearby grotto.
There are hundreds of miles of hiking trails in L.A. Get started with these ten easy hikes that span the coast, Baldwin Hills, Hollywood Hills, down south to Ranchos Palos Verdes and up to the San Gabriel Mountains.
17. El Matador State Beach
Head to El Matador State Beach (32350 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu 90265) for dazzling views of the California coastline. Located between Leo Carillo State Beach and Point Dume State Beach in Malibu, this stretch of sand is renowned for its sea caves and unique rock formations. As the sun starts to set, revel in the multi-hued cotton candy clouds.
L.A.-based photographer Melissa Turner shares her favorite spots to capture Los Angeles in all of its Golden Hour glory. From world-famous Griffith Observatory to San Pedro's hidden gem, White Point Beach, discover the top 10 places to photograph a sunset in Los Angeles.
18. The Best Places in L.A. for Animal Lovers
Located in Acton, the Shambala Preserve (6867 Soledad Canyon Rd, Acton 93510) is the high desert home for over 30 exotic felines “who have suffered from gross mistreatment or neglect” in their previous lives. The big cat sanctuary was founded by actress Tippi Hedren, who serves as president of the non-profit Roar Foundation and resides at Shambala. The property is only open to the public one weekend a month for Safari Tours, a three-hour planned program that includes a one-hour guided walking tour. Sunset Safaris and deluxe Malaika Marquee overnight tent stays are also available.
Studies have shown that pets can lower human blood pressure and reduce our levels of stress. Whether you have an animal companion at home or not, there are plenty of places in L.A. to love on our animal friends big and small. Read on for a list of great places for animal lovers to hang out.
19. Sushi Row
For a serene L.A. dining experience, don't miss Sushi Row, a stretch of Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley that gets its name from the area's many raw fish specialists. Often overlooked when it comes to L.A. sushi are the restaurants along Ventura Boulevard outside of Studio City. While the majority of them are heavy on the rolls and cater to a more Westernized crowd, there are good places to eat during happy hour or if you want to embark on an epic food crawl. Read on for the best sushi restaurants on Sushi Row and beyond.
20. Inn of the Seventh Ray
Once a haven for hippies in the '70s, Inn of the Seventh Ray (128 Old Topanga Canyon Rd, Topanga 90290) hasn’t lost touch with its roots, ever an icon of the health-conscious Topanga Canyon lifestyle. On a bright, sunny day or a warm evening, there isn't a bad table on the fairytale patio, which also hosts many weekend weddings. On a chilly night, the seats in front of the fireplace are the most desirable. Long known as a sanctuary for vegetarians, the restaurant continues its commitment to organic, sustainable and local fare, but equal care is given to meats, which are raised in natural settings, free of antibiotics. A vegetarian risotto special is redolent of black truffles, vegan soups are made daily based on the chef’s whim, and Prime hanger steak comes with a huitlacoche potato.
21. Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
One of the best places in Los Angeles to relax is tucked away in the Pacific Palisades a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean. The Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine (17190 Sunset Blvd, Pacific Palisades 90272) is a lush, ten-acre site with gardens, a spring-fed lake, and a variety of flora and fauna. Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1950, the Lake Shrine welcomes thousands of visitors each year to enjoy its scenic beauty and serenity. The Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial is a "wall-less temple" that features a thousand-year-old stone sarcophagus from China, which holds a portion of Gandhi's ashes in a brass and silver coffer. Elvis Presley frequently visited the Lake Shrine and became close with Sri Daya Mata, the worldwide leader of the Self-Realization Fellowship for over 55 years.
Less well-known than the Lake Shrine, the Self-Realization Fellowship International Headquarters is located northeast of Downtown L.A. at the top of Mount Washington. Originally opened in 1909 as the Mount Washington Hotel, the three-story "Mother Center" is the administrative center of the SRF headquarters. The public is invited to wander the grounds, which include gardens, meditation areas, and babbling brooks.
22. Korean Bell of Friendship
The Korean Bell of Friendship is a massive, intricately-decorated bronze bell that's housed in a stone pavilion at Angel’s Gate Park (3601 Gaffey St., San Pedro 90731). Situated on a knoll that overlooks the sea gate from which U.S. troops sailed into the Pacific, the bell site offers breathtaking views of the Los Angeles harbor, the Catalina Channel and the sea terraces of San Pedro hill. The bell was presented to the people of Los Angeles in 1976 by the people of the Republic of Korea to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial, honor veterans of the Korean War, and to symbolize friendship between the two nations.
Cast in Korea and shipped to the U.S., the bell weighs 17 tons, is 12 feet high and 7.5 feet wide. Since 2010, the bell is struck five times a year: on New Year's Eve, Korean American Day (January 13), July 4th, Korean Liberation Day (August 15), and every September in celebration of Constitution Week. The bell has no clapper, but is struck from the outside with a wooden log. The Korean Bell of Friendship was declared Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 187 in 1978.
23. Point Fermin Lighthouse
Built in 1874, the Point Fermin Lighthouse (807 W. Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro 90731) was the first navigational light into the San Pedro Bay. Paul J. Pelz, a draftsman for the U.S. Lighthouse Board, designed the Stick Style Victorian lighthouse. The Stick Style is an early Victorian architectural style and is simpler in design and decoration than the later high Victorian period. In 1972, the Point Fermin Lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse was restored, retrofitted, and rehabilitated for public access in 2002, and opened to the public in 2003 under the management of the Department of Recreation and Parks for the City of Los Angeles. Movie fans will recognize the Point Fermin Lighthouse from the wedding scene in (500) Days of Summer.
24. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
With its spectacular natural setting adjacent to Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park and the Port of Los Angeles, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (3720 Stephen M White Dr, San Pedro 90731) is uniquely suited to its leadership role in marine science education, aquaculture research, and community recreation. The historic Frank Gehry-designed aquarium displays the largest collection of Southern California marine life in the world.
While L.A.’s main claim to fame may not be camping, just outside the bustling city there are some excellent camping getaways. It’s worth remembering that Los Angeles is bordered on three sides by mountains, and one side by the ocean, which means there's easy access to nature and camping within a short distance. Read on for eight of the best campsites located within two hours of Downtown L.A.