Living in Southern California, we are fortunate to have amazing travel locations in our own backyard, especially LA! Los Angeles offers plenty of things that make for a truly once in a lifetime experience.
From iconic landmarks to world-class museums, thrilling theme parks to breathtaking scenic drives, the City of Angels has something for everyone.
Our Top 10 Picks of Once in A Lifetime Things to Do in Los Angeles
Today, we’re talking about the top 10 once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles, giving you loads of trip inspiration to help you plan that itinerary on your next vacay.
Whether you’re coming in through Union Station or just landed at LAX, we’ve got all the best stops and spots mapped out for your convenience.
1. Hike to the Hollywood Sign
It’s basically a rule that you’re not allowed to visit LA without hiking to the Hollywood Sign. It may even be enforceable by law.
Jokes aside, the Hollywood Sign is a world-famous symbol of the entertainment industry, perched high upon the slopes of Griffith Park where you’ll find some of the best views of the city and surrounding landscape.
Hiking to the sign lets you get up close and personal with this historic landmark and provides a unique perspective of Los Angeles that you won’t find elsewhere.
2. Visit the Santa Monica Pier
Located along the coastline of downtown Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Pier offers a fun and lively atmosphere with stunning ocean views that children and adults will both enjoy.
You just have to check out Pacific Park amusement park, which includes a massive Ferris wheel, a historic carousel, numerous rides, and loads of arcade games. Plus, the wooden boardwalk provides the perfect place to catch a classic West Coast sunset over the Pacific.
It’s the perfect spot for families, couples, or friends to enjoy a day chock full of fun and entertainment.
3. Take a Studio Tour
What’s the first thing you think of when someone mentions Los Angeles or Hollywood?
Movies and TV, of course!
LA is the entertainment capital of the world thanks to the many major studios where the biggest movies and TV shows are filmed. That’s why you just have to take a studio tour and get a behind-the-scenes look.
Some of the most popular studio tours include:
- Warner Bros. Studio
- Universal Studios Hollywood
- Paramount Pictures Studio
- Sony Pictures Studio
- Walt Disney Studios
Whether you’re a movie buff, a fan of TV shows, or simply curious about the magic of Hollywood, taking a studio tour in LA is a must-do activity that offers an unforgettable experience.
4. Explore the Getty Villa
The Getty Villa is relatively unknown if you’re not from the area, but this renowned museum is a must-visit while you’re in Los Angeles.
Located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood, this cultural treasure showcases an enormous ensemble of ancient art and artifacts, including sculptures, vases, frescoes, jewelry, and other artifacts, from ancient civilizations such as Greece, Rome, Etruria, and Persia.
And there’s certainly no dearth of exhibits to experience, as the Villa is home to nearly 50,000 unique items. Wowza!
Even if you’re not the art-loving type, the setting itself is strikingly beautiful. What’s immediately apparent is the Villa’s unique design, pulling architectural elements straight out of ancient Greece and Rome to craft a unique, otherworld atmosphere amidst the lush gardens and serene views of the Pacific.
Whether you’re a history buff or just have an appreciation for beautiful places and things, the Getty Villa is sure to tick more than a few boxes.
5. Walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Sure, it’s a little touristy, but checking out the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a must.
You’ll get some great pictures and also get an excuse to educate your kids about your favorite celebrities they’ve never heard of, all while traipsing across more than 15 city blocks and looking at nearly 2,600 brass stars.
You’ll also pass the TCL Chinese Theatre along the way, known for having iconic handprints and footprints of celebrities in the concrete as well as shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
Similar to New York’s Time Square, you’ll find lots of locals in costumes, portraying characters and charging tourists for a quick pic.
It’s a well-trafficked area, so it’s not dangerous by any means. We’d recommend being mindful of your valuables, however, as pickpockets prey on tourists who don’t keep their wits about them!
6. Experience the Magic of Disneyland
To be fair, Disneyland is absolutely not in Los Angeles, but actually almost 30 miles southeast in nearby Anaheim. Nonetheless, you’re definitely close enough to skip on over there, and it’s an absolute must if you’ve never been. Especially if you’ve got tots in tow!
The magic of Disney is 100% real and needs to be experienced firsthand to truly comprehend what’s made them one of the biggest and most successful tourist enterprises to date.
Disneyland is divided into eight distinct themed lands– Main Street, U.S.A, Adventureland, New Orleans Square, Critter Country, Frontierland, Fantasyland,Tomorrowland, and Mickey’s Toontown.
The park is filled with rides that will delight children and adults alike, and features seemingly endless parades, stage shows, character meet-and-greets.
You’ll go for the daytime stuff, but you’ll stay for the spectacular nighttime entertainment including fireworks and light shows that Disney spares no expense in making it a top-notch, must-catch affair.
Is Disneyland actually in LA? No, but we’re including it here because its magic is one-of-a-kind, unforgettable, and will provide you and your family memories that are sure to last a lifetime.
7. Catch a Show at Hollywood Bowl
With an open-air setting and the Hollywood Sign in the background, you can’t beat the experience of catching a show at the renowned Hollywood Bowl, an outdoor amphitheater that Rolling Stone magazine named as one of the best in the world.
The most striking feature of the Hollywood Bowl is its art deco inspired shell shape, which creates an incredible soundscape. Combined with the surrounding Hollywood Hills, which add natural amplification, and you have what many artists and musicians consider to be some of the best natural acoustics anywhere around.
The Hollywood Bowl accommodates over 17,000 spectators, which means a show here creates an absolutely electric atmosphere that will resonate in your heart and soul and form lasting memories that you’ll fondly recount over the years.
You do not want to miss a show at Hollywood Bowl while you’re in the city. It’s guaranteed to be one of the most epic, once in a lifetime experiences you’ll ever enjoy.
8. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway
Known for its winding roads that hug the coastline, you can’t beat the backdrops provided while driving the Pacific Coast Highway. Stretching from Leggettall the way to Dana Point, you’ll get unparalleled ocean views, dramatic cliffs, beautiful beaches, and charming coastal towns, making it one of the most scenic drives in the world.
You’ll also pass through many coastal destinations including Big Sur, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Malibu, and Santa Barbara, giving you a good day trip outside of LA if you’re ready to change the pace for a spell.
From the breathtaking views to the charming coastal towns, there’s a lot that makes driving the Pacific Coast Highway a bucket-list worthy activity you’ll want to definitely take advantage of while staying in Los Angeles.
9. Go Shopping on Rodeo Drive
Do you have a credit card with a high limit or a wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket?
If you’re one part fashionista and a certified shopaholic, cruising down Rodeo Drive is a must. This luxurious shopping destination in Beverly Hills is known far and wide for its high-end fashion boutiques, designer brands, and extravagant window displays. It is the place to, as Aziz and Retta put it on Parks and Rec, “treat yo self.”
What kind of shopping will you find there? We’re talking fashion, jewelry, accessories, beauty products, home goods– the list goes on!
Some of the world’s most prestigious fashion brands have their flagship stores on Rodeo Drive, including Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior, and many more. You’ll also find locations of Tiffany & Co, Cartier, and Harry Winston, giving you a chance to nab some extra exquisite jewelry and timepieces to commemorate the trip.
Even if you’re not in the mood to go on a shopping spree, the neighborhood is worth a visit if for nothing more than to check out the opulent hotels, gourmet restaurants, and tasteful art galleries.
Whether you’re looking to splurge or just stroll, Rodeo Drive provides many once in a lifetime experiences to make your Los Angeles vacation extra memorable.
10. Visit Venice Beach
Venice Beach is a world-famous coastal neighborhood located on the westside of Los Angeles, known for its vibrant, eclectic atmosphere, beach culture, artsy vibes, and entertainment.
You could swing by Venice Beach for a dip or, instead, take a stroll along Ocean Front Walk, a bustling promenade that stretches nearly three miles and features vendors, performers, and colorful murals. There are plenty of cool spots and crazy characters to encounter along this stretch, so expect the unexpected!
Are you and your kids trying to channel your inner Tony Hawk? Venice Beach is also home to the Venice Skatepark, complete with pools, ramps, rails, and everything else you’d need to shred the gnar or whatever it is kids say nowadays.
You’ve probably seen Venice Beach, knowingly or unknowingly, in many movies and TV shows. If you’re stopping by LA, there’s no reason you shouldn’t swing by and experience it for yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions about Once in A Lifetime Things to Do in Los Angeles
Where is the best place to stay in Los Angeles?
It all depends on your preferences, interests, and budget. Here are some of the most popular neighborhoods to stay in, as well as what you can expect while staying there:
Hollywood gives you easy access to local tourist attractions like the Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Walk of Fame, TCL Chinese Theater, and Hollywood Bowl. Accommodations range front luxury hotels to affordable options as well.
Downtown LA is a business hub, providing access to trendy hotels, rooftop bars, and cultural attractions like The Broad museum and Walt Disney Concert Hall. It’s a good choice for those who yearn for that big city feel.
Santa Monica is perfect if you want a beachside getaway. You’re practically right on the water and within walking distance of the famous Santa Monica pier.
Beverly Hills offers upscale hotels, elegant dining options, and a refined atmosphere if you want to feel completely pampered and live as the stars do while in town.
West Hollywood is very hip, known for vibrant nightlife, chic boutiques, and LGBTQ+ friendly atmosphere. If you want to stay in a thriving arts and entertainment scene at a boutique hotel or a hipster hostel, West Hollywood is the spot.
All things considered, there are a ton of great places to stay when in Los Angeles, and chances are you’ll be out and about most of the time anyway.
Where are the best places to eat in Los Angeles?
ke many major coastal cities, Los Angeles is a melting pot of cultures, offering cuisines from all across the globe. Here are some the types you can expect to find in the various neighborhoods of Los Angeles:
Downtown LA features foodie hotspots like Grand Central Market, LA Live, and Little Tokyo.
Koreatown offers some of the best BBQ, hot pots, and street food you’ll find anywhere.
West Hollywood is all about farm-to-table restaurants, trendy cafes, and craft cocktails.
Venice Beach keeps it casual with beachfront eateries serving up some of the tastiest seafood, Mexican, and fusion options available anywhere.
Little Ethiopia is a destination for adventurous foodies looking to taste dishes like injera and doro wat.
San Gabriel Valley serves a smorgasbord of authentic Chinese cuisines including Sichuan, Hunan, and Cantonese classics.
Downtown Culver City is known for chic gastropubs and upscale eateries.
There are many great places to try while in LA, but don’t forget to grab In-N-Out Burger too!
It’s certainly not fine dining, but this chain remains essentially a West Coast exclusive operation, making it imperative to try while you’re in town.
Oh, and you won’t see it on the menu, but make those fries Animal Style. Trust me; they’ll know what you’re talking about and they’re simply divine!
What are the best things to do with children in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles is super family-friendly, offering plenty of activities and attractions for children of all ages.
The best things to do with children in Los Angeles include Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the California Science Center, the Kidspace Children’s Museum, the Santa Monica Pier, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and the La Brea Tar Pits.
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