Once in a Lifetime Things to do in Los Angeles

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October 22, 2023

Once in a Lifetime Things to do in Los Angeles

Los Angeles, often dubbed the "City of Dreams," is a sprawling city with diverse opportunities for unforgettable experiences. In this guide, we'll go over our selection of once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles.

From exploring iconic Hollywood landmarks to uncovering hidden gems, we'll take you on a journey through the city's most extraordinary attractions and activities that promise to improve your LA adventure. Whether you're a visitor or a local seeking extraordinary moments, Los Angeles has much more to offer than meets the eye.

1) Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park

Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park

Taking first place for our list of once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles is Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park. Sat on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory offers breathtaking views of Los Angeles. The location not only provides visitors with stunning photo opportunities but also houses captivating exhibitions and boasts a world-class planetarium.

While many recent visitors were drawn to the observatory's picturesque setting, the added perk of free entry makes this a must visit location. For those interested in planetarium shows, a fee of $6 to $10 is required. Griffith Observatory welcomes guests from noon to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. On-site, you'll discover a gift shop and a cafe. For additional details on parking, public transportation, and planning your visit, be sure to visit Griffith Observatory's official website.

For an outdoor escape, without the hassle of beach traffic, look no further than Griffith Park. Covering 4,200 acres, this vast park offers more than 50 miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, as well as soccer fields and other amenities. The park is also home to various attractions, including the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens, the iconic Hollywood sign, the Autry Museum of the American West, and, of course, the Griffith Observatory. If you prefer guided exploration, numerous companies provide guided hikes.

Past travelers admire the panoramic views during their hikes to the Hollywood sign and other vantage points within the park. Griffith Park is open to the public every day from 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., with free admission. However, individual attractions and facilities, such as sports courts and select park museums, may charge separate entrance fees. Complimentary parking is available in limited quantities across the property.

2) The Getty Center

The Getty Center

The Getty Center stands as a remarkable architectural marvel in the United States, boasting an extensive collection of world-class art. Designed by the renowned architect Richard Meier, this circular concrete and steel structure houses a diverse array of artwork spanning various ages and origins. Inside you'll discover a treasure trove of masterpieces, from Renaissance paintings and 20th-century American photography to Baroque sculptures and historical manuscripts. On clear days, the museum also treats visitors to breathtaking views of Los Angeles.

Recent travelers were impressed by the museum's extensive art collection, its splendid grounds, and the panoramic views. Some even enjoyed the tram ride that transports visitors to the museum. Many recommend embarking on a guided tour, noting the exceptional knowledge of the volunteer guides. Various tour options are available, including tours of the Getty Center's architecture and gardens, Collection Highlights tours, and era-specific art tours. Tour schedules may vary, so it's advisable to consult the Getty Center's website for a complete calendar. Additionally, visitors can opt for self-guided tours by downloading the GettyGuide app.

Situated just north of Santa Monica near the UCLA campus, accessing the Getty Center may be a challenge as the only public entrance is via Getty Center Drive from North Sepulveda Boulevard. Parking at the Getty Center costs $20 per vehicle, reduced to $15 after 3 p.m. For evening events and Saturdays after 6 p.m., the parking fee is $10. Upon arrival, a tram transports you up the hill to the museum grounds. The best part is that admission to the museum is free, but it's essential to make timed reservations, which can be arranged through their website.

The Getty Center is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays through Sundays, with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Saturdays. Various amenities are available on-site, including two coffee carts, two cafes, a restaurant, gift shops, and a garden featuring over 500 plants. Visitors are also welcome to bring their own picnic (excluding alcohol).

3) Hollywood Walk of Fame and TCL Chinese Theatre

Hollywood Walk of Fame and TCL Chinese Theatre

The TCL Chinese Theatre, originally known as Grauman's Chinese Theatre, stands as one of Hollywood's most iconic and enduring landmarks, having opened its doors in 1927. It is the perfect example of Hollywood's Golden Age. For a fee of $16, you can go on a 30-minute guided walking tour of this historic theater. Tours are available daily at various times, but due to its popularity, it's advisable to secure your spot in advance through online reservations. Additionally, the TCL Chinese Theatre continues to function as a working cinema, showcasing a selection of newly released films throughout the year.

Previous visitors found the tour guides to be informative and engaging, enhancing their experience. However, some expressed reservations about the tour's cost. Finding parking in the Hollywood area can be a challenge. To get out of parking hassles, you might consider joining a bus tour, many of which are featured on our list of the best California tours. You can find more details about the theater's tours and movie showtimes on the TCL Chinese Theatre's official website .

Before or after your visit to the theater, take a walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is free to explore. Here, you'll discover the handprints and signatures of countless movie stars imprinted along the sidewalk. This attraction is accessible to the public 24/7, with a concentration of activity and renowned names situated between the 6800 and 6900 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard, conveniently located right in front of the theater. However, the stars' plaques extend across the 6000 to 7000 blocks.

As one of Hollywood's most celebrated and recognizable destinations, the TCL Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood Walk of Fame are essential stops on any Hollywood visit. Keep in mind that these sites are immensely popular, so be prepared for crowds. Some recent visitors also mentioned concerns about the area's cleanliness, and parking can be limited along Hollywood Boulevard. It's worth noting that this area can attract a significant homeless population. To dive deeper into the stories behind the stars and their respective stars, you can explore the Hollywood Walk of Fame's website for more information.

4) Santa Monica Pier and Beach

Santa Monica Pier and Beach

Situated to the west of downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica boasts one of the most iconic beach scenes in the United States. It's also renowned for its numerous outstanding restaurants and vibrant nightlife. With over 3 miles of shoreline, Santa Monica is celebrated for its soft sandy beaches, ideal weather, and numerous attractions. Known as "State Beach," this location enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine each year and has famously served as the backdrop for the beloved TV series, "Baywatch."

Santa Monica is a walkable area, and recent travelers frequently recommend exploring it by bicycle, with some of the best California tours offering guided cycling excursions along the beach. One of the most scenic bike rides can be experienced along the 22-mile paved path known as The Strand. This route runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean and takes cyclists through Marina del Rey, Playa del Rey, Venice, Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo beaches.

Don't miss the opportunity to savor a classic and delicious funnel cake – a delectable deep-fried waffle topped with powdered sugar and a variety of delightful choices such as strawberries, chocolate syrup, caramel syrup, whipped cream, and ice cream. These treats are generously sized, making them perfect for sharing.

Many beachgoers insist that a visit to the Santa Monica Pier is a must, offering enjoyable experiences. Travelers suggest taking a ride on the Ferris wheel, partaking in thrilling roller coaster adventures, enjoying lively street performances, playing carnival games, and indulging in delectable treats from food vendors or at sit-down restaurants. Some have expressed concerns about the higher prices of food and attractions on the pier, where ride tickets can cost between $5 and $12 each. Nevertheless, the free admission to the pier helps balance out those expenses. For those looking for unlimited fun, there are wristbands available for unlimited rides, priced from $20 to $40. The pier welcomes visitors year-round, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., with varying hours for local shops and restaurants. Ample parking is available, with rates ranging from $7 to $18, depending on the season and lot location. Travelers can also reach the area by taking the Metro E Line. To find out more, consult the Santa Monica Pier's website.

5) Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach

Malibu is renowned for its rich reputation and exclusivity, yet it's important to note that all of the town's beaches are open to the public – welcoming everyone with open arms. If you're on the hunt for a prime Los Angeles beach destination for sunbathing and swimming, Zuma Beach is an excellent choice. Stretching over 1.8 miles, this beach boasts cleaner shores compared to those at Santa Monica or Venice Beach.

Zuma Beach in Malibu is widely regarded as one of the Los Angeles area's finest coastal gems. Both locals and tourists sing its praises for the fantastic waves, abundant parking facilities, and convenient access to beachside refreshments. Additionally, you'll find numerous lifeguard stations and restroom facilities for added convenience. From April to October, beach wheelchairs and a beach mat are also available.

Located about 35 miles west of Los Angeles, it's important to be mindful of potential traffic along the Pacific Coast Highway, which could extend your travel time. Zuma Beach welcomes visitors daily from sunrise to sunset and offers free admission. The parking closest to Zuma Beach is metered, with a rate of 50 cents for 15 minutes and a maximum charge of 90 minutes. For those seeking dining options, the Trancas Country Market, brimming with restaurants, is situated within walking distance at the north end of the beach. Notably, attractions like the Getty Villa and the Adamson House are located less than 15 miles to the east.

6) Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard stands as one of the United States' most iconic and enduring roadways. In its earlier days, it embodied the classic and glamorous Hollywood lifestyle, serving as the backdrop for several legendary films, most notably the classic "Sunset Boulevard." Today, this palm-lined boulevard, linking downtown LA to Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and the Pacific Coast Highway, preserves its cinematic scene. The Sunset Strip has evolved into a thriving nightlife hub. It also hosts a multitude of renowned music venues, including the Rainbow Bar & Grill and The Roxy Theatre.

Recent visitors have raved about the experience of driving along this renowned boulevard, emphasizing the stunning sunsets that grace late afternoon drives. However, much like other parts of Los Angeles, this road is often plagued by traffic.

The clubs, bars, and restaurants along Sunset Boulevard maintain varying hours, but the boulevard itself is always accessible and welcomes visitors 24 hours a day, free of charge. For those without a vehicle, the city's No. 2 and 302 buses traverse a substantial portion of this iconic thoroughfare.

7) The Original Farmers Market and The Grove

The Original Farmers Market and The Grove

Located just south of West Hollywood, you'll discover one of Los Angeles' most cherished landmarks: The Original Farmers Market. Established in 1934, this cream-colored establishment lures in locals and visitors alike with the promise of fresh produce and the amazing scents of ready-to-eat treats. The market is open throughout the week, though operating hours vary depending on the day. Admission is free, but it's a good idea to have some cash on hand in case any of the foods tempt your taste buds. You can use up to 90 minutes of free parking at the market's two lots, provided your ticket is validated at the market. (Additional charges apply for parking beyond the allotted 90 minutes and for non-validated tickets.) For a bit of guidance in navigating the market's culinary offerings, you can also go on a guided foodie tour, featured among the best California tours.

While some previous visitors expressed a desire for more produce and meat stalls, most praised the delectable dishes served by various prepared food vendors, hailing it as a must-visit destination. Keep in mind, however, that this market tends to get crowded, and seating is limited. You might need to enjoy your meal outside the market area or wait for an available table. The market is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.

If you're traveling with children, don't miss the opportunity for them to enjoy a ride on the free trolley that traverses The Grove and connects to The Original Farmers Market. The trolley operates daily from 1 to 8:45 p.m.

For a more contemporary shopping experience, venture over to The Grove, an expansive commercial and entertainment complex located adjacent to The Original Farmers Market. Here, you'll encounter a wide range of your favorite retail brands, along with a diverse selection of dining establishments, a cinema, and numerous special events. Although the property offers complimentary validated parking for the first hour in the garage, some visitors have reported traffic congestion getting to and from the site. Valet parking is available, starting at $12 for the initial hour. While you shop and dine, you can even have your car cleaned, with prices starting at $25. The Grove is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

8) Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Adjacent to the La Brea Tar Pits, you'll find the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, serving as the cornerstone of the Los Angeles museum district. Since its opening in 1965, LACMA has been a repository for a vast array of artistic treasures, encompassing Islamic artifacts, European impressionist paintings, and modern art. With ever-evolving exhibitions and distinctive architecture, LACMA promises a gratifying experience for both dedicated art enthusiasts and leisurely travelers.

The museum is currently in the process of constructing a new facility for its permanent collection, known as the David Geffen Galleries, which is scheduled to open its doors in 2024. For the time being, you can explore the museum's collections in the BCAM and the Resnick Pavilion. Notably, the amazing exhibits, such as Urban Light and Levitated Mass, remain accessible to visitors. On-site, you'll discover dining options, including a restaurant and a grab-and-go eatery. Many guests have commended the diverse indoor and outdoor art displays and have been particularly impressed by the museum's extensive collection of modern and contemporary art.

Located on Wilshire Boulevard in the western part of Los Angeles, LACMA welcomes visitors from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, extending its hours until 8 p.m. on Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The museum is closed every Wednesday. General admission tickets are priced at $25 for adults, $10 for ages 3 to 17 (children 2 and under are admitted for free), and parking is available at a rate of $21. Tickets can be acquired online or at the museum's ticket office.

9) The Broad

The Broad

Philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad established The Broad museum in 2015, introducing a striking addition to downtown Los Angeles. The visually captivating honeycomb-designed structure, a collaborative creation by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Gensler, serves as the home to an extensive collection of contemporary art spanning from the 1950s to the present day. The collection encompasses works by notable artists such as Jean Michel Basquiat, Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, Kara Walker, and Andy Warhol. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum regularly features temporary exhibitions showcasing emerging artists, drawing praise from recent visitors who were enamored with both the artwork and the architectural marvel.

Admission to the museum is free, though some special exhibitions may have an associated fee. To get access, visitors must secure timed entry tickets in advance, which can be obtained through the museum's official website. The museum operates during the following hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parking is available at a rate of $17 for the first 3 hours with museum validation, with an additional $5 for every 15 minutes thereafter, and a daily maximum fee of $27. On weeknights after 5 p.m. and throughout the day on weekends, the parking rate is $17. The nearest Metro line stop is the Civic Center/Grand Park Station. For more details, visit the museum's official website.

Two of the most buzzworthy attractions making waves on social media are the "Infinity Mirror Rooms" by Yayoi Kusama. To experience these exhibits, booking timed entry tickets online is a must, but the good news is they come at no extra cost and include general admission to the museum.

10) Runyon Canyon Park

Runyon Canyon Park

Situated just a couple of blocks away from the bustling Hollywood Boulevard, Runyon Canyon Park often escapes the spotlight but offers fantastic urban views. This park boasts a variety of hiking trails and is a favored exercise location for many celebrities. As you venture through the trails, you'll be surrounded by numerous palm trees. Once you reach the canyon's summit, a breathtaking panoramic view of the San Fernando Valley awaits you.

Hikers strongly advise carrying an ample supply of water and opting for later hours in the day to avoid the heat on the trails. While some recent visitors expressed disappointment regarding the absence of facilities, others couldn't stop raving about the stunning views.

Runyon Canyon welcomes visitors at no charge, from sunrise to sunset. It's important to note that there's no official staff to enforce these hours or provide immediate assistance. If you're hiking alone, it's advisable to inform someone of your presence in the park and your anticipated return time. The park offers three access points: Fuller Gate, Vista Gate, and Mulholland Gate. Regrettably, restrooms are not available, although a few water fountains can be found throughout the park. For additional information about the park, you can consult the website of the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.

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