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The 20 Best Things to do in Los Angeles for First Time Visitors

Los Angeles

If you’re visiting LA for the first time, you’re in for a treat. The city is alive with culture, shopping opportunities, amazing nightspots, first-class restaurants and one of the most famous theme parks in the world. Regardless of your tastes or your budget, you’ll not be short of plenty of amazing things to see and do. Check out the best of what’s on offer with our rundown of the "20 Best Things to do in Los Angeles for First Time Visitors”.

20. Visit The Inventor Of The French Dip Sandwich

Who doesn’t love a French Dip sandwich? If you’re a fan, take a trip to Phillip the Original, the sandwich bar that, legend has it, invented the very first one. Take yours with a splash of fiery hot mustard and a glass of refreshing house wine for an affordable, lip-smacking light lunch.

19. Indulge Your Cultural Side At The Huntington Library

Culture vultures are in for a treat. The glorious trio of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens offers a well-stocked library for readers, a stunning art collection for art addicts and an equally spectacular garden for nature lovers. Aim to dedicate at least a few hours to explore all three- you’ll not regret it.

18. Star Spot On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame

We all know LA is teeming with celebs, but there are few places quite so star-studded as the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Featuring over 2600 stars immortalized in gold lettering and pink terrazzo, the Walk of Fame is THE place to remember the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of the entertainment world. Diehard movies goers shouldn’t miss the star-packed area around the Chinese Theatre in particular; if you can get past the throngs of tour hawkers and tickets agents cluttering the area, it’s the only place in the world you can quite literally step in the footsteps of the likes of John Wayne and Judy Garland.

17. Admire The Masterpieces At The Getty Center

If the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the place to admire the extremities of Hollywood legends, The Getty Center is the place to admire the masterpieces of the world’s most talented artists. Featuring pieces from such celebrated painters as Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Rubens, The Getty Centre is the type of place that will leave you breathless with the amount of abundant beauty on display… and not just from the art. The center’s hilltop location offers spectacular views across the surrounding landscape, while its splendid central garden is worth the visit alone.

16. Make Like Julia Roberts On Rodeo Drive

Remember that moment in Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts well and truly serves the snobby shop assistant of some high-class boutique? If you’ve ever wanted your own Pretty Woman moment, take a trip to Rodeo Drive. Granted, unless you’ve got Richard Gere in tail, you might end up leaving empty-handed, but the chance to walk a cobbled walkway worth over $200-million and visit the only shopping mall designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright is not one you want to miss.

15. Take A Walking Tour Of The Downton

To really get the most of your visit, a guided tour is, if not essential, then pretty darn handy. Pull-on your walking boots and join one of The Los Angeles Conservancy walking tours, a great way to experience Downtown LA’s best bits while learning more about its history and architecture in the process. Tours tend to book up quickly, so book well in advance if you can.

14. Check Out The Curiosities At The Museum Of Jurassic Technology

Want to learn more about a bat that can fly through walls? Who doesn’t? Fortunately, our fascination with oddities is well met at the fabulous Museum of Jurassic Technology, where visitors get to wander through exhibits packed with some of the most fabulously weird curiosities they’ll likely encounter in the lives. With its imaginative play on the line between fact and fiction, you’re never quite sure what’s real and what ‘s not… which is half the fun of this very unordinary little museum.

13. Enjoy The View At The Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory is not only a great place to scan the sky’s through the giant telescope, but it’s also the ideal place to explore your interest in the stars with its phenomenal Hall of the Sky and Hall of the Eye, two unique displays that let visitors explore the relationship between people and space. While you’re there, don’t miss a visit to Griffith Park, a fabulous landscape of canyons, caves and coyotes which provides the ideal place for a hike (and some of the best views in the city).

12. Save Your Dollars At The Broad

One of the latest additions to the LA museum scene is The Broad, a distinctive center that offers a truly unique experience. Its active program of rotating exhibits changes regularly enough to keep even repeat customers satisfied, but the true highlight has to be Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Rooms, an installation that features a mirror-lined chamber with flashing LED lights- it may only last 45 seconds, but the people waiting in line for hours at an end aren’t likely to be disappointed.

11. Take in a Spectacle at the Watts Tower

The history of the Watts Tower is intriguing enough in itself to justify a visit. Italian-born tile setter Simon Rodia began constructing the towers shortly after he moved onto the site in 1921. Using only the material he found on the streets of LA (along with a judicious amount of steel and cement to stop any interfering busybodies trying to interfere with his efforts), Rodia spent the next three decades sending his tower ever further skyward, decorating as he went with a patchwork of consumer objects like empty bottles of 7-Up or Canada Dry, jewelry, marble and around 25,000 seashells. Despite regular attempts by locals to destroy the towers, they still stand as one of LA’s most spectacular landmarks.

10. Take in a Concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

Serious music fans can breathe easy- despite its name. there’s no danger of running in to Micky and Minnie at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. There is, however, every chance of running into some seriously good music. As home to the internationally renowned LA Philharmonic, led by Gustavo Dudamel, and the LA Master Chorale, the concert hall is one of the very finest places in California, if not the world, to appreciate a full orchestra. The center offers a varied, expansive program of concerts and performances year-round. The shaded, semi-secret garden, meanwhile, offers the perfect place to escape the buzz of the city and enjoy lunch alfresco.

9. Immerse Yourself in History at the JANM

Want to learn more about the history of Japanese immigration in the States? If you do, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Japanese American National Museum. As one of the best museums in the city, it offers a rare and intriguing glimpse into Japanese migration. In 1882, employers were banned from drawing on Chinese labor; as a result, they turned to Japanese workers by their droves. After several decades of living and working in the States, the immigrants and their families suddenly found themselves at the mercy of one of the 2nd Worlds War’s most contentious home policies: the mandatory detainment of all Japanese- Americans in internment camps. The museum tells the story through a series of vivid exhibits and displays: if you don’t leave informed, moved, and entertained, you haven’t been paying attention.

8. Indulge Your Spending Habit The Grove

For lovers of retail therapy, no trip to LA is complete without a pitstop at The Grove. Located on the junction of 3rd Street and Fairfax Avenue, this open-air mall is the perfect place to while away the hours. With over 50 top brand stores, if you can’t find what you’re looking for here, it probably doesn’t exist. For something a little more rustic, take the short walk over to the Original Farmers Market. In recent years, it’s extended its offerings from fresh produce to… well, pretty much everything, including a vast range of stalls cooking up a storm of various international cuisines.

7. Visits the Largest Record Store in the State

Fans of vinyl won’t want to miss a visit to Amoeba, the largest independent record store in the state. If your collection is missing a vital piece, you’ll probably find it here… along with a whole lot more. If you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate in drawing on the knowledge of the friendly staff. Prices are more than reasonable but bring plenty of cash with you, even so– even if you only went in to browse, you’ll find it difficult to leave without a few bags of goodies on your arm.

6. Take a Cruise on Mulholland

As one of America’s most famous roads, Mulholland Drive is the perfect spot to take a cruise. The surrounding scenery is spectacular, while the road itself is full of déjà vu moments from the hundreds of films that have been shot along its length over the years. With the whole drive taking only an hour (even accounting for the numerous stops you’re likely to make along the way to admire the view), you don’t have to devote an entire afternoon to it, but to devote no time at all will be the waste of a golden opportunity.

5. Lighten Your Mood at A Comedy Club

If the constant hustle and bustle of LA is starting to test your patience, take the time to refresh your outlook with a visit to one of the cities numerous comedy clubs. As well as hosting a great range of up and coming talents, clubs like Dynasty Typewriter and the UCB Theatre are also a great place to spot some famous faces from the comedy circuit. Be warned- the comedy here is so cutting edge you may cut yourself if you’re not careful. If your tastes run to the more traditional, you may have a better time at the equally excellent clubs Laugh Factory, Improv, Comedy Store or Largo.

4. Party Till Dawn At Avalon

The cavernous Avalon represents the pinnacle of LA’s club scene. With a 24-hour license, a phenomenal range of guest DJ’s, the best sound system in the city, and the most amazing vibe you’ll find this side of Ibiza, it’s the perfect place to kick up your heels and party into the small hours.

3. Muse the Museums

For a dose of culture, you can’t beat a visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Housed in a seriously impressive 20-acre complex of buildings, the experience starts at the grand entrance, which includes Chris Burden’s installation, Urban Light, an intricate working of 202 cast-iron LA street lamps, restored to working order. From there, you can spend the day pursuing the collections at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (don’t miss the excellent Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns collections), the Ahmanson Building, and last but not least, the excellent Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion.

2. People Watch at Venice Beach

While Venice Beach gets more than its fair share of tourists, it’s still an incredibly popular hangout for LA’s, shall we say, more colorful characters. Spending a few hours simply watching the locals do their business may not seem like fun, but when those locals and that business involves oiled up bodybuilders flexing their muscles, emo kids showing off their skateboarding skills, pamphleteers getting enthusiastic about the end of the world, and dreadlocked hippies playing the bongos, it’s more than just a little entertaining.

1. Meet Mickey At Disneyland

Whether you’re 5 or 50, you’ll not regret a trip to Disneyland. Walt Disney’s original 1955 park is still bursting with charm after all these years and is the perfect place to spend the afternoon indulging your inner child with the likes of Mickey, Minnie, Pluto et al. Space Mountain is thrilling, Pirates of the Caribbean is atmospheric, and the Matterhorn is exhilarating. Regardless of the season or time of day, you’ll need to do battle with the crowds, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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