There are so many things to do in Los Angeles and so many are iconic – the pictures and places you see whenever LA anyone talks about LA. Here are my personal recommendations for those visiting Los Angeles.
1. Santa Monica Pier. If you come to LA, you have to stop by the beach, and Santa Monica is easily accessible. Check out the classic ferris wheel, visit the original muscle beach, go under the pier or rent a bike and take a ride down the coast.
2. Getty Center. Not far from Santa Monica on the Westside is the Getty Center. It’s a bit of a journey, you have to get there, park ($15) and take a tram, but the grounds and the architecture are amazing, and there’s great views of downtown and the beach.
3. El Matador Beach, Malibu. My favorite beach by far is El Matador in Malibu. It’s often crowded with tourists, photo shoots, and wedding / engagement shoots, but it has more character than most Los Angeles Beaches. Nearby, Leo Carillo and Paradise Cove are also favorites.
4. Griffith Park Observatory. Sadly, parking is now outrageous, so many park in a lower lot and walk up. The Observatory itself is wonderful, and so are the views across LA.
5. Walt Disney Concert Hall. You only need to see a picture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall to realize that Frank Gehry’s building is a true masterpiece. It is bright, welcoming and in addition to it’s wonderful concerts and acoustics, there’s a garden and silver-walled walkways above that are a photographer’s favorite.
6. Grand Central Market. Well, we all have to eat, and Grand Central market is centrally located with lots of tantalizing food stalls.
7. Urban Lights, LACMA. This is a favorite for tourists and locals alike. Best in the evening when the lights are on, but know there’s always lots of people around.
8. Arts District, Downtown Los Angeles. Once filled with warehouses and lofts, the Arts District is now officially gentrified. Apartments and yuppies fill the area, with many walking their dogs on weekends. Still, there’s lots of murals, graffiti and restaurants to check out.
9. Downtown LA Bridges and the LA River. Very soon, the 6th Street Bridge will be re-done, and already it promises to be an iconic landmark. Just driving across the bridges – 1st, 4th, 7th and soon 6th and seeing the downtown LA skyline is wonderful, especially at sunset. You can also walk across, and while doing so, get a great view of the LA River, where Grease was shot, and the rail lines winding through downtown LA.
10. Vasquez Rocks. About 30-40 minutes north of LA, it’s a wonderful little stop, famous for an episode of the original Star Trek. It’s also very popular for photo shoots, and lots of families visit on weekends.
11. Runyon Canyon Hike. In the heart of West Hollywood, this is a favorite hike for locals. There are two entrances, one from the north and one from the south, and unfortunately, parking is always a challenge. Still, it’s a local favorite and provides a great view of LA.
12. Hollywood Sign Hike. This is another favorite, but of course, parking is always a bit of a challenge. Still, the sign is classic and the views wonderful.
13. Venice Beach. Venice Beach is right next to Santa Monica, so you could easily do both in a single visit. You’ll quickly notice the difference between the two, and see why Venice is so well known for it’s offbeat vibe.
14. Elysian Park, Angel’s Point, Helipad. Not a well known tourist destination, but well known to locals. At Angel’s Point, and at the spot marked the helipad, there are great views of Los Angeles. Families come here for barbecues and sports.
15. Chinatown, Phillippe’s, Olvera Street, Union Station. Just north of downtown, you can park and walk through Chinatown, get the famous French dip at Phillippe’s, or some tacos on Olvera Street, and then wander through the vintage Union Station.