The list of must-visit tourist attractions in Los Angeles is as impressive as the staggering number of travelers that visit this California hot spot each year. With 45 million visitors annually, all vying to see the same attractions in the city, it can be difficult to know where to begin your list of things to see and do here. As a starting point, we’ve put together a list of the top tourist attractions in Los Angeles that deserve the hype…because no one wants to spend their vacation waiting in seemingly endless lines at places they were told they just had to visit. From stargazing and art observing to celebrity chasing and concert going, our list has an attraction that will satisfy even the pickiest of vacationers.
Top tourist attractions in Los Angeles
Situated 1,134 feet above sea level, the Griffith Observatory boasts picturesque views of its surrounding cityscape from nearly every angle. In addition to the skyline views, this is the best place to see the iconic Hollywood Sign nestled in the hills. Get a glimpse into outer space by looking through the observatory’s powerful telescopes or let your imagination run wild as you explore each of the incredible exhibits here. The Wilder Hall of the Eye is a popular exhibit that illustrates the nature and progress of humans’ observation and exploration of the sky. The free admission, awe-inspiring planetarium shows and state-of-the-art technology all contribute to the Griffith Observatory’s status as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles.
What to know before you arrive: Visitors don’t even need to enter the Griffith Observatory to start observing the exhibits. The building’s stunning exterior offers a variety of exhibits, including the Solar System Lawn Model, Sunset and Moonset Radial Lines, as well as features that fuel the imagination and draw the eye in different directions.
Griffith Park is sprawled out across 4,310 acres of land, making it roughly five times the size of New York City’s Central Park. It was gifted to Los Angeles by mining mogul Griffith J Griffith and has grown to include other popular Los Angeles tourist attractions, such as the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens, the historic Greek Theatre and the Griffith Observatory. There is a wealth of activities available for visitors that want to spend time outside at Griffith Park. Schedule a tee time at one of the four golf courses within the park for day on the links, or opt to explore as much of the 53-miles of hiking trails as possible. Griffith Park also has specially marked trails for horseback riding and a bicycle rental facility for those just looking for a quick tour of the park.
What to know before you arrive: Griffith Park is a wilderness area, so don’t veer too far away from the designated paths. Hikers should be prepared for chance encounters with wild quail, foxes, deer, coyotes and even a rattlesnake.
Located in Los Angeles’s Hollywood neighborhood, the Hollywood Bowl is a legendary outdoor venue that has been drawing visitors since 1922. It’s the largest natural outdoor amphitheater in the country, and it’s band shell shape makes it one of the more unique tourist attractions in Los Angeles. During the summer, the Hollywood Bowl is the seasonal home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic as well as the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. The concert schedule includes performances that range from classical and jazz to kid-friendly shows and lively festivals.
What to know before you arrive: You can bring your own food and drink or buy it there. Depending on the show, you can eat your meal at your seats or sit at one of the 14 picnic areas throughout the grounds. There are also a number of food options available for purchase that range from gourmet restaurants to casual fare.
You might be thinking that In-N-Out Burger is just a restaurant chain and that it shouldn’t be on a list of top tourist attractions in Los Angeles. But, it’s so much more than just a fast food joint. In-N-Out Burger has been serving up delectable hamburgers and cheeseburgers to loyal patrons since 1948. At In-N-Out Burger, every meal is cooked to order, and, with the use of only quality ingredients and its mouthwatering spread, you can’t go wrong with any of the menu items. One of the best things about this tourist attraction in Los Angeles is that you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your car to enjoy this iconic California hot spot.
What to know before you arrive: Look up the secret menu online before pulling up to the drive-thru to order. If you’re hungry, try the 4×4 – four beef patties, lettuce, tomato, spread, four slices of American cheese and onions on a freshly baked bun – or, if you’re a vegetarian, get the grilled cheese.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, or the Getty for short, is comprised of two Los Angeles campuses: the Getty Center and the Getty Villa. Both are home to an impressive collection of art and they are one of many free tourist attractions in Los Angeles.
Situated atop a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking the city, the Getty Center draws over one million visitors to its 24-acre campus annually. It consists of stunning architecture, beautiful gardens and breathtaking views of the city that everyone can enjoy. Explore its museum, which features a permanent collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. In particular, find pre-20th century paintings, incredible photographs, as well as many decorative arts arranged by era and artist’s nationality. Outdoors, the grounds are home to large, contemporary and modern outdoor sculptures, unique design elements, such as tree-lined walkways and perfectly-placed open spaces, and elaborate gardens for the public’s enjoyment.
The Getty Villa is located along the Malibu coast, and it is the original site of J. Paul Getty’s art collection. Today, this location serves as an educational center and a museum that houses an astounding collection of nearly 44,000 Greek, Roman and Etruscan relics and works of art.
What to know before you arrive: The collection of art is spread out across two separate campuses. The Getty Villa requires that tickets be reserved in advance, so no walk-ins are permitted. At the Getty Center, visitors must park at a garage at the bottom of the hill and then take a cable-pulled hovertrain funicular to the Getty Center. Arrive early in order to avoid lines; or, better yet, take public transportation to this Los Angeles attraction and avoid the $15 parking fee.
Known as one of the world’s most famous fossil localities, the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum showcases the best fossils, plants and animals that have been discovered there. The museum takes visitors back in time to the Ice Age with displays of fossilized skeletons of sabre-toothed cats, mammoths and more. The Fossil Lab gives a behind-the-scenes look at the process of cleaning and studying the cornucopia of fossils that continue to be unearthed. More than three million Ice Age specimens can be found inside the museum, while Hancock Park outside the museum has life-size replicas of extinct mammals that once grew and roamed in the Los Angeles area. The tar pits found at this tourist attraction in Los Angeles are still bubbling today and are still an active excavation site today.
What to know before you arrive: Don’t expect to find any dinosaur fossils here. Los Angeles was actually under water during the time of the dinosaurs, so you’ll find only Ice Age fossils.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA for short, displays a massive collection of approximately 130,000 objects dating from ancient times to the present. The museum’s focal point is its landmark installation, Urban Light, which was created by Chris Burden and runs along Wilshire Boulevard. The installation features 202 restored cast iron antique street lamps, many of which used to line the streets of Southern California. Inside, visitors will find incredible collections of Asian art, Islamic art, Latin American art and more. Admission costs only $15 for adults and children 17 and under can explore for free. Make a stop at this museum of international stature for an educational afternoon during your vacation.
What to know before you arrive: LACMA has a free mobile app that can be accessed using the museum’s free wifi. The app provides commentary about select works of art throughout the exhibits.
With Los Angeles’s year-round sunny weather, farmers markets are a way of life in this city and the Original Farmers Market is one of the best of its kind. It attracts crowds of locals and restaurant suppliers in addition to the out-of-towners. The Original Farmers Market has more than 100 gourmet grocers, food stalls, shops and restaurants, making it a fun place to lose track of time strolling around. From fresh produce and expertly butchered meats to perfectly brewed coffee and gourmet foods, there’s something to satisfy every taste and interest here. Snag a mouthwatering croissant or indulge your sweet tooth with a homemade ice cream cone as you explore the market. This historic plaza is both a well-known California landmark and one of the top tourist attractions in Los Angeles.
What to know before you arrive: The Original Farmers Market is adjacent to The Grove, so save yourself a trip and make sure to hit both of these popular tourist attractions in Los Angeles in one trip.
Santa Monica Pier is one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Los Angeles. With its red and yellow solar-powered Ferris wheel and famous roller-coaster, the Pier has withstood the test of time welcoming visitors for more than 100 years. Crowd-pleasing entertainment can be found at every turn and comes in the form of amusements at Pacific Park, talented street performers, a trapeze school, an aquarium, lots of shops and more. During the day, marvel at the historic carousel and take in the lively sights and sounds at the Santa Monica Pier. As the sun begins to set, grab some cotton candy and admire the gorgeous views of surrounding Malibu and the South Bay. The Santa Monica Pier is one of the unique tourist attractions in Los Angeles that exudes a vibrant energy drawing both tourists and locals alike.
What to know before you arrive: Make your way below the carousel to see the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Since it’s out of sight, it’s easy to miss this attraction, but the hands-on exhibits and marine education center are worth going out of your way for.
If you’re planning to visit Los Angeles some time between late-October and mid-April, make sure to catch a Lakers game at the Staples Center. Going to a game here basically guarantees you the celebrity sighting of your trip because A-listers are always in attendance at Lakers games. The arena itself is an impressive site to behold and is home to a total of four professional sports franchises: the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings and the WNBA’s Los Angeles Spark. When this downtown attraction isn’t welcoming sports teams and jersey-clad fans, the Staples Center plays host to concerts and other high-profile events.
What to know before you arrive: Make sure to plan ahead and purchase tickets in advance. Tickets can be hard to come by and prices often skyrocket closer to the date of the event.