Los Angeles is widely recognized as the global center for the entertainment industry. Hollywood is famous around the world for its movies, TV shows, and music. L.A.’s beaches, theme parks, and year-round sunny weather draw many tourists, but the city’s show-business history and the chance to rub elbows with a celebrity are also major draws.
Art enthusiasts, history buffs, and sports fans will all have a great time exploring Los Angeles‘ many museums, arenas, and theaters.
Even those who prefer the great outdoors won’t be let down. There is something for everyone in this abundance of outdoor activities and scenic sights. There’s always something exciting to do in sunny Southern California, from sailing on the blue Pacific to whale watching to spontaneous volleyball games on the beach.
Abbot Kinney, a tobacco magnate, is credited with transforming a wetland area of coastline south of Santa Monica into the “Venice of America.” The beachside arcade was inspired by Venetian design, and in 1904 Kinney transformed a network of drainage canals into an attractive waterway.
Even though the canals are still a popular destination for tourists in the area, Venice Beach’s world-famous boardwalk is where most people choose to spend their time. Volleyball courts, a skating plaza, and a designated area for bodybuilding called Muscle Beach also draw large crowds to the beach.
Griffith Park & Observatory
Griffith Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the United States, is a wonderful place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles. The park features countless acres of hilly trails and green spaces, as well as a wide variety of exciting attractions, such as the Los Angeles Zoo and the outdoor Greek Theatre.
It’s also where you’ll find the Griffith Observatory, one of Los Angeles’ most recognizable landmarks. The gorgeous Art Deco building dates back to 1935 and houses numerous fascinating displays, including a planetarium and public telescopes. When you visit the observatory at night, you can see the city lights below you as stars begin to emerge above.
When he founded the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1953, the oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty was regarded as one of the richest people in the world. Currently, the Getty Center, a stunning $1 billion structure perched atop the Brentwood Hills in Los Angeles, is one of many institutions that receive funding from the world’s richest art institution.
Visitors are whisked up to the museum by a stylish hover-train funicular, where they will find an extraordinary collection of artwork from the Middle Ages to the present, including works by Rembrandt’s “The Abduction of Europa,” Monet’s “Wheatstack,” and van Gogh’s “Irises.” Gardens with sculpture decorations outside provide sweeping views of the Los Angeles Basin.
Disneyland was the first of Walt Disney’s chain of theme parks, and it is situated in Orange County, about an hour’s drive from Downtown Los Angeles. Since 1955, it has been the top tourist destination in Anaheim. The relatively new California Adventure, which has rides and attractions inspired by the Golden State, is located next to the original park.
Visitors who purchase “park hopper” tickets have access to both parks. The meticulously maintained theme parks are divided into Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Hollywood Land, and Cars Land, among other themed locales. Children can experience once-in-a-lifetime encounters with their favorite Disney characters thanks to costumed performers who wander the parks.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood is a massive complex in the San Fernando Valley that is best known for its family-friendly theme park but is also home to one of the oldest still-operating film studios in the world. Fans of films ranging from “King Kong” to “Waterworld” will enjoy the park’s many rides and attractions based on these and other popular films.
There are also opportunities to see the studio’s inner workings. The outdoor shopping and entertainment complex known as Universal CityWalk is also part of the Universal Studios Hollywood complex.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
In the 1950s, the concept of memorializing famous people with stars engraved into sidewalks emerged as a means of preserving Hollywood’s glitz. Since the first permanent installation at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Gower Street in 1960, more than 2,500 stars have been added. The program, which is run by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, has achieved great success.
The mile-long sidewalk attracts about ten million visitors annually who wander along it in search of their favorite actor, singer, musician, director, or television personality. The renowned Chinese Theatre is closely related to and situated in front of a section of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It has hosted some of Hollywood’s most glamorous movie premieres and stars.
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier, known around the world, is actually comprised of two separate piers. The longer part of the pier, constructed in 1909, is typical of those in Southern California; it features a bait shop and a restaurant at the pier’s end. The shorter pier next to it, built in 1916, is the main draw for tourists.
There is a classic amusement park on the elevated plaza that connects the two piers. It features a wooden carousel, a solar-powered Ferris wheel, and a roller coaster from the 1930s. You can also find a variety of great restaurants, a trapeze school, and a small aquarium at the pier.
Rodeo Drive, the most famous shopping street in Los Angeles, is located in the Golden Triangle, a 16-block area in the posh neighborhood of Beverly Hills. Rodeo Drive is a popular tourist destination, but few visitors actually spend money at the high-end boutiques there.
This street of high fashion is a great place to people-watch, as you might run into a famous face while you’re out window shopping. Tourists flock to Two Rodeo Drive, a small shopping center. More like a theme park than a shopping center, thanks to its “faux-European” architecture and cobblestone street.
La Brea Tar Pits & Page Museum
Although the sight of a black pool of tar in the middle of a green city park may be shocking to Los Angelenos, the famous La Brea Tar Pits have yielded a wealth of archaeological artifacts that have been housed in the nearby George C. Page Museum. One of the world’s most impressive assemblages of Ice Age fossils was uncovered during excavations of the ancient site.
About 100 tons of bones were dragged out of the ground, the oldest of which dated back 38,000 years. Saber-toothed cats, dire wolves, and mastodon skeletons are just a few of the extinct species whose full skeletons can be seen in the museum. Visitors can observe researchers at work on the most recent discoveries in the Paleontology Laboratory.
The Hollywood sign, which was built to promote property in the Hollywood Hills, has come to symbolize the glitz and glamour of the film industry as a whole. Getting a close-up shot of the Hollywood sign is challenging, but nearly every tourist to Los Angeles wants to do so.
These days, barriers and a security system shield the 14-meter (45-foot) tall letters that stand atop Mount Lee. The best places to park and take pictures of the sign are the Griffith Observatory, Lake Hollywood Park, and the Hollywood and Highland Center.