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It’s hard to know where to start in L.A. After all, the glamorous, gritty West Coast city has so much to offer visitors, from Hollywood to nearby beaches (Santa Monica and Venice Beach are both in the city) and an eclectic arts scene that only continues to grow. The city is famously sprawling though, so getting around to see all the sights can be a bit of a challenge, considering its notorious traffic (particularly if it’s your first time in town).
Whether you’re in town for work or play, taking a tour that dives into one of the city’s many sides is a great way to maximize your time in town: Having a pro guide who can teach you about the city as you pass through it, and who knows the local haunts and quirks of L.A.’s history, can be a much more entertaining — not to mention less frustrating — way to see the city. But knowing where to start when choosing a tour can be difficult. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best tours that Los Angeles has to offer, so take a look below to see what you should book when you're in town.
Best Bicycle Tour: The Ultimate Los Angeles Bike Tour
Los Angeles might be known for its heavy reliance on cars to get around town, but cycling proves to be one of the best ways to take the city’s scattered, myriad sights in. This five-and-a-half-hour tour is made for small groups (no more than 10 riders) and covers 32 miles of the town, ranging from West Hollywood and Santa Monica to Bel-Air and Beverly Hills. You’ll start off on Route 66 in West Hollywood before heading to Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, which a lot of celebrities call home (you’ll even bike past some of their mansions and estate-like homes).
From there, it’s time for the laid-back vibes of Santa Monica and Venice Beach, where you’ll eat lunch near the ocean and explore the latter neighborhood’s famous canals. Once you’ve refueled, it’s time for Marina Del Rey and Culver City, where a host of movie studios — that continue to operate today — are located. You won’t be on bikes for the whole time — you’ll stretch your legs during lunch and a few walking tours along the way — but do keep in mind that some sections of the city can be pretty hilly.
Best Horseback Tour: Los Angeles Horseback-Riding Tour to the Hollywood Sign
You’ll get picked up from your Los Angeles or Anaheim hotel for this tour, making it a great option for those visiting either L.A. itself or Disneyland in the latter city. After your subsequent arrival at Griffith Park, located at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains and home to the eponymous, famous observatory, you’ll go through some quick safety tips before hopping on your horse. You and your faithful steed will trek along the park’s trails for two hours, riding up to the top of Mount Hollywood, catching glimpses of the observatory, and then stopping in to see views of the sprawling city from high while admiring the iconic Hollywood sign. It’s a great way to get a break from the hubbub of downtown while embarking on a unique, memorable experience. Horses are friendly, calm, and gentle, and the pace of the tour is slow (for maximizing viewing opportunities), making this tour a great choice for both totally new and highly advanced riders.
Best Private Tour: Privately Customized Tour of Los Angeles
There’s a lot to see in Los Angeles, and for those for whom making the most out of their time in L.A. is essential, a private tour can be a great way to guarantee that you learn about exactly what you’re interested in — and see as much as possible in the process. This six-hour tour begins with pickup at your hotel in L.A. with a bespoke itinerary customized to you (you can email the coordinator to tailor the tour to your preferences). Then, you’ll hit any or all of the city’s key areas: Downtown, Hollywood, Griffith Park and the Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills and its Sunset Strip, and the famous beaches of Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
Tour guides are extremely knowledgeable about hidden spots in the city as well as the history of the different neighborhoods: one, Jeff, has even worked in the film industry for years, so they can offer great insight into that aspect of L.A. There’s room enough on the tour for up to 15 guests, so if you’re in town for a family reunion or organizing a company trip, this is a great option for a group.
Best L.A. Noir Tour: Dearly Departed: The Tragic History Tour of Los Angeles
A city that’s as full of glitz and glamour as Los Angeles inevitably has a darker side to it, and that’s exactly what this noir-filled tour explores during its two-and-a-half-hour duration. You’ll start around lunchtime from a central meeting spot on the city’s famous Sunset Boulevard for a slightly campy (the guide is known as the “Director of Undertakings”), highly educational tour that takes visitors through the scandals, sensations, and behind-the-scenes crime of Hollywood — while keeping a delightfully dark sense of humor intact.
You’ll visit a cemetery where Natalie Wood, Farah Fawcett, Marilyn Monroe, and others are buried, gain context for some of the city’s most notable news bulletins, and see sights like hotels where celebrities like Janis Joplin and John Belushi stayed before they passed. Don’t worry — it’s not all sinister: Guides are fun and informative, so neither old nor young will leave this tour with a case of the chills.
Best Celebrity Tour: L.A. Sightseeing Tour With Hollywood Sign and Star Homes
Sometimes celebrity-focused tours in Hollywood can feel like you’re on a bit of a safari — and, well, celebrities are real people at heart, too. This tour combines the very best sight-setting in L.A. with a chance to drive by the homes of the rich and famous in a way that doesn’t feel quite as intrusive. You’ll start with a mid-afternoon pickup at your downtown or Hollywood hotel before exploring downtown’s top landmarks and attractions, like the Music Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the Disney Concert Hall, which was designed by Frank Gehry.
From there you’ll head to the iconic Griffith Park Observatory and the Hollywood sign before stopping off at Grumman’s Chinese Theater to see the handprints of stars past and present, Hollywood Boulevard, and the Dolby Theater, which hosts the Oscars. After driving through the trendy Sunset Strip, you’ll head west toward Beverly Hills to drive past the homes of movie stars and famous celebs before winding up in the heart of Rodeo Drive’s glamor.
Best Beach Tour: Electric Bicycle Tour of Santa Monica and Venice Beach
Head out on electric bikes for a beach tour that shows you the best of two famous L.A. beaches: Santa Monica and Venice Beach. The three-hour tour begins either mid-morning or mid-afternoon in Santa Monica (the tour includes both a helmet and bottled water). Climb on to your Pedego, a SoCal beach cruiser that’s been converted to electric bike and tricked out with six gears and a 500-watt motor—though visitors wanting a workout can flip back and forth between traditional pedaling and motorized transport with the flip of a switch.
You’ll start with a visit to Santa Monica beach before going to the Marion Davies Guesthouse and the Santa Monica Pier, where you’ll definitely want to pause for a photo or two. Next up, head to Venice to bike through its canals (yes, this Venice has them, too), learning about the neighborhood’s unique architecture and history. Along the way, your guide will also share tidbits about movie trivia and other fun facts about the local area.
Best Hour-Long Tour: Hollywood - Behind the Scenes Walking Tour
If you’re just in town for an afternoon or want to squeeze in a tour between business meetings, a quick, one-hour tour is the perfect way to explore L.A. And one of the best ways to get a glimpse at Hollywood behind the scenes is through this top-rated walking tour that, in the space of 60 minutes, introduces visitors to little-known sights and landmarks while giving them a heaping helping of Hollywood history.
Tours run every two hours from 10 a .m. to 4 p.m., beginning at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. From there, you’ll visit some of the neighborhood’s iconic theaters, like El Capitan Theater (the site of many Disney premieres), the Dolby Theater (where the Oscars are held), and Grauman's Chinese Theater (the site of that famous foot- and hand-printed sidewalk).
From there, you’ll stop in at Hollywood and Highland, the Walk of Fame, the site of the first Oscars ceremony, and a Prohibition-era speakeasy, learning about the histories of each via personal headsets with commentary narrated by your guide. Along the way, the iconic Hollywood sign remains in the distance.
Best Short-on-Time Tour: Old and New Downtown Los Angeles Tour
Locals, returning visitors, and first-timers alike all love this tour of downtown Los Angeles, which explores the city’s history — via its incredible architecture and iconic landmarks — from its rise during the early 20th century through present day. The two-hour walking tour takes visits through downtown, stopping in at the shortest railway in the world, Angels Flight; Pershing Square Park; the Jewelry District; the Los Angeles Times headquarters; Spring Street, known as the “Wall Street of the West”; and Bradbury Building, L.A.’s oldest-operating commercial building.
You’ll also peek at Grand Central Market. It’s a great tour for young and old couples and families, as the group pace is easy and downtown is flat, making it ideal for walking. Plus, the expert guides are all local, so they not only have the historical and cultural education for tours, but they also have first-hand knowledge of the city (go ahead, ask them for restaurant recommendations).
Best Catalina Island Tour: Catalina Food and Walking Tour
Catalina Island is one of the best places to get away from Los Angeles’ bustling downtown, and this small group tour does the most when it comes to serving up some serious history, cultural background, and delicious island food. Come hungry to the tour’s central starting point — there’s plenty of samples to be had during this three-hour tour — and then head down Front Street to take in the craftsmanship of its iconic Catalina tiles, which date back to the turn of the 20th century.
From there, you’ll try seafood, traditional recipes, and sweet treats at six different venues on the island before heading through Avalon and learning a bit about the area’s architectural history. Two iconic landmarks you’ll spot? The Inn on Mt. Ida, a unique establishment that the Wrigley Family once lived in, and the Casino Building, which is iconic of its own accord. Visitors learn about the culture of Avalon and Catalina as they walk, capping off their excursion with one of the island’s famous treats: a beer float.