By Jim Ferri
From classic to cutting edge, glitz to glamor, Los Angeles is a place with an energetic buzz.
Although officially it is the City of Los Angeles, it’s often known only by the letters LA. Whatever you call it, for many there’s no other place like it anywhere in the world.
It’s a city of screenwriters and surfers…palm trees and freeways…dream-chasers and dream-makers…a place of creativity and innovation on an unprecedented scale…a city of hopes and dreams, this City of Angels. And geographically it is so big you could nearly fit any one of seven major U.S. cities plus the island of Manhattan within its 503 square miles.
It continues to be the world’s entertainment capital, so much, in fact, that for many people around the world Los Angeles is Hollywood.
But it is much more. There are many things to do in Los Angeles since it’s also a city of art and culture. The city has nearly 3,000 arts organizations, 100 museums, hundreds of professional theater companies and 50+ major performing arts centers. Add to that world-renowned restaurants and shopping, and it’s little wonder travelers from around the world flock to it in record-breaking numbers.
Read on to see the things to do in LA that attract so many visitors as well as Los Angelenos themselves.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
One of LA’s most iconic and memorable sites is the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Right on the streets of Hollywood you can see tributes to many stars. Since the 1960s, more than 2,614 stars have been unveiled on Hollywood’s major sidewalks, with one or two added monthly. The honorees are identified by a stylized camera, radio microphone, TV set, record or dramatic mask to match their respective talent.
The first star to be laid in the new walk was for Stanley Kramer on March 28, 1960. You can see a list of stars on the walk of fame, and the location of their stars, here.
A Beloved LA Landmark: Santa Monica Pier
The famed Santa Monica Pier is a 100-year-old landmark that sits at the foot of Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica. The famous Pacific Park amusement park sits at the end of the Santa Monica Pier. Showcasing an iconic Ferris wheel and roller coaster, it’s the only West Coast amusement park located on a pier. Aside from the oceanfront recreation, Santa Monica offers some good shopping and dining at Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place. Both are located conveniently near the coast.
Hollywood & Highland Center
Hollywood & Highland Center is a 387,000-square-foot shopping mall and entertainment complex in the heart of Hollywood. It is home to TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s Chinese Theatre) and the Dolby Theatre, home to the Academy Awards. It is one of the most popular places in Los Angeles.
Here you’ll also find retailers, restaurants, nightclubs and entertainment venues including the Hard Rock Cafe, Cabo Wabo Cantina, the SWEET! Candy shop. It also offers one of the best deals in town: $3.00 validated parking.
One of the Most Popular Places in LA: Universal Studios Hollywood
You can take a tour through Universal Studios, one of the oldest and most famous Hollywood film studios still in use. It is also the world’s largest movie studio that is still in use today. It covers 13 city blocks on four acres. (The most significant set construction project in studio history was built with creative consultation from Steven Spielber. The studio tour is included with all admission tickets to the theme park Universal Studios Hollywood. It has a variety of shops, restaurants, and cinemas at CityWalk (see below). As they say, “it’s fun for the whole family.”
A Famous LA Landmark: Venice Beach Boardwalk
Venice Beach stretches about 1½ miles along the Pacific Ocean. The popular area of Venice Beach includes the beach and Ocean Front Walk. (The promenade that runs parallel to the beach that is often just called “the boardwalk”. There you’ll encounter hundreds of street vendors and performers. On the other hand, you’ll also find Muscle Beach; handball, paddle, and tennis courts, and Skate Dancing plaza. There are also numerous beach volleyball courts, a bike trail and assorted businesses on Ocean Front Walk.
In addition to the recreational fitness, family fun activities and shopping, Venice also has a fishing pier at the end of Washington Boulevard. You’ll also find countless shops selling every type of t-shirt imaginable.
A Popular LA Street: Rodeo Drive
From Anne Fontaine to Saint Laurent Paris, there are more than 100 retailers on Rodeo Drive (pronounced “roh-DAY-oh – the Spanish pronunciation). It’s one of the world’s great streets for designer label and haute-couture boutiques and shops. While the Drive is actually two-miles long, it is the three-block section north of Wilshire Boulevard that is the most famous area for its luxury-goods stores. Bring a credit card or two. Maybe three.
A Popular Los Angeles Activity: Visiting the Griffith Observatory
Originally built as a Depression-era public works project, today the Griffith Observatory is a nonprofit educational institution. It provides information on astronomy and related sciences to the public. The Griffith’s well-known telescopes have always been available to the public with no charge for admission.
An ambitious $93-million renovation project to renew the Observatory’s world-class standing and restore and enhance its ability to pursue its public astronomy mission was recently completed.
The Grove/The Original Farmers Market
Although the Original Farmers Market and The Grove are two separate entities, they are adjacent to one another, so it’s easy to visit both at the same time downtown. One of LA’s most iconic and memorable sites, the Grove is a world-renowned shopping, dining and entertainment destination. It encompasses such upscale stores as Anthropologie, Apple, Michael Kors, Coach, and Nordstrom. The Original Farmer’s Market features 100+ vendors offering produce, meats, flowers, specialty grocers and cuisine from around the world.
Universal CityWalk is the entertainment and retail district adjacent to the theme parks of Universal Parks & Resorts. It has become one of the most popular places in the city. Here you’ll find live music, movies, six clubs, and more than 30 restaurants. There’s also a 19-screen theater with state-of-the-art IMAX and more than 30 unique shops. It’s a favorite LA place to play.
The Getty Center is well known not only for its architecture, gardens, and views overlooking Los Angeles. Its collection of European paintings (including Vincent Van Gogh’s “Irises”), drawings, and sculpture, also make it a famous LA landmark. Additionally, it also has collections of illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and photographs. The J Paul Getty Museum is also renown for its evocative architecture and enchanting gardens with outdoor sculptures.