The MEGA Guide to Everything to Do in LA
There is a wealth of information on this website about things to do in LA, whether you are in the city for a day, a week or longer. There are so many things to do - literally hundreds of possibilities - that most locals haven't even come close to doing them all. This guide will help you craft a unique vacation that matches your own interests, whether you prefer to visit the glitziest sites or the most intellectual. When you see some of the quirky, specialized, lesser-known options, you may find that the most visited Los Angeles attractions are less of a priority for you.
If you're on a tight budget, check out the top FREE things to do in LA. If you're more adventurous, you can dig deeper here and discover some unique opportunities to craft an itinerary for your specific interests.
When planning a trip to Los Angeles, it helps to decide what you want to do before deciding where you want to stay, so this should really be the starting point of your Los Angeles trip planning. This guide is organized in easy-to-navigate categories by type of activity, by theme and by location, as well as annual festivals and events. Some attractions or activities may appear in more than one category.
Each category links to additional resources to explore in depth so you don't get bogged down with too much information on one page, and so I can show you more pictures of all the cool LA attractions. I recommend linking out to a new window or tab and keeping this article open as you navigate through so you don't lose your place as you go exploring.
Here's an INDEX of the categories of different kinds of things you'll find here in the MEGA Guide to What to Do in LA:
- Take a Sightseeing Tour of LA, including bus, trolley, air, boat, walking, biking, and specialty tours.
- Explore Famous LA Landmarks and photo opportunities.
- Visit an LA Theme Park from toddler-friendly Disneyland and Knott's to the more extreme Magic Mountain.
- Visit a Los Angeles Museum from art to science and history, as well as local themes and some quirky LA originals.
- See a Show in LA from the classics to cutting edge.
- Experience LA Nightlife in the city's clubs, bars, and lounges.
- Shopping in LA, from bargain-hunting to luxury shopping in LA and Orange County
- Attend A Sporting Event in LA to see any of LA's diverse pro sports teams.
- Spend a Day at the Beach, from finding the right beach to the many relaxing or active things you can do at the beach.
- Adventures on the Water from kayaks to cruises.
- Outdoor Adventures on Land from hiking to horseback riding.
- LA Activities by Theme - Kids, Romance, Car Buffs, and more
- Things to Do in LA by Location - Plan your trip geographically.
- Los Angeles Events worth planning a trip.
Take a Tour of Los Angeles
It's nice to take a general tour early in your visit to get an overview of things to go back and visit in more detail. So if you have time, you might want to schedule a full city tour as soon as you arrive. If you have more time, there or more targeted tours including some quirky tours that can introduce you to something out of the ordinary, like a food tour or a ghost tour. Los Angeles has just about any kind of tour you can imagine, from all-day city tours to movie or music-themed tours to ghost, food and crime scene tours. You can tour LA on foot, by bike, horse, limo, trolley, bus, boat, helicopter or plane. There are too many options to fit them all on one page, so I've broken them into categories.
Explore Famous Los Angeles Landmarks
Given LA's starring role in so many movies and TV shows, the city is chock full of famous landmarks that draw visitors from around the world for their personal photo opportunity. These are places that are worth seeing from the outside, even if you never go inside.
Take the Photo Tour of LA's Most Famous Landmarks to see which ones will be the perfect backdrop for your next Facebook photo. From the signature Hollywood Sign that can be seen for miles around to the floating Queen Mary, you'll find LA icons worth adding to your personal "been there, done that" collection.
Some of those landmarks are also among LA's Most Interesting Architectural Sights.
Here are some more in-depth resources on some top Los Angeles landmarks.
- Hollywood Sign
- Walt Disney Concert Hall
- Hollywood Boulevard
- TCL (Grauman's) Chinese Theatre
- Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Santa Monica Pier
- Griffith Observatory
- The Getty Center
- The Hollywood Bowl
- The La Brea Tar Pits
- Hollyhock House
- Tall Ships in Los Angeles
- The Queen Mary
- Hollywood & Highland
- Pantages Theatre
- L.A. Live
- Watts Towers
- The GRAMMY Walk of Fame
Ethnic Landmarks in LA
Visit a Los Angeles Theme Park
Southern California is blessed with an abundance of Theme Parks. Disneyland has a following all its own among families with kids and adults who never want to outgrow the magic. Universal Studios is the quintessential Hollywood-themed park; Magic Mountain is a rite of passage for thrill-seekers; and Knott's Berry Farm is the most bang for your buck. See the full list of LA Theme Parks including water parks and smaller amusement parks and learn about the pros and cons of each.
Visit a Los Angeles Museum
If you're just in LA briefly for the first time, you probably want to start with the Top Los Angeles Museums, including famous names like the Getty Center and the LA County Museum of Art. But if you're looking for something more unique or a museum dedicated to a specific interest, explore my LA Museums Guide, which helps you easily navigate to exactly the kind of museum you're looking for, whether it's the perfect aviation museum, a historic ship museum or a specific ethnic museum. You can also explore museums by museum district.
If you already know the name of the museum you're looking for you'll most likely find it in my A to Z Alphabetized List of over 230 LA Museums.
Performing Arts in LA
As the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles is packed with theatres, concert venues, live music clubs, and comedy clubs as well as the opportunity to be part of a live studio audience for a TV show taping, so you're really missing out if you don't plan to see a show while you're visiting LA. In most cases, the entertainment itself is the attraction, but venues like the Pantages Theatre, the Hollywood Bowl or El Capitan Theatre are worth a visit whatever is playing.
I've broken down LA entertainment categories with the best resources about venues and getting tickets for different kinds of shows in my guide to Shows in LA.
Experience Los Angeles Nightlife
Seeing a show is one way of experiencing LA nightlife. You can also check out the city's top bars and nightclubs, some of which may be right in your hotel. If you're not sure where to go, you can sign up for an organized pub or club crawl in several LA neighborhoods including Hollywood and Sana Monica.
LA Nightlife Options
LA Nightlife Tips
Go Shopping in Los Angeles
Whether you're coming from small-town Alaska, and just looking for anywhere besides Wal-Mart to shop, a fashion-forward hipster looking for bargains in the Fashion District, a connoisseur of the finest haute couture or you're the royal family of Bahrain looking to furnish a palace, Los Angeles can supply your shopping needs.
Shopping Districts in Long Beach
Attend a Sporting Event in LA
Los Angeles area has two major league baseball teams, 2 men's and 1 women's basketball teams, 2 hockey teams, men's and women's soccer and finally 2 professional football teams back in town. LA also has major events in beach volleyball, surfing, biking, running, extreme sports competitions and motorsports. If you're a sports fan, you can almost always find a sporting event going on in LA, or plan your trip around the games that interest you.
Major Annual Sporting Events:
- The Tournament of Roses January 1
- Huntington Beach Marathon in February
- The LA Marathon in March
- Long Beach Grand Prix in April
- Santa Anita Derby horse racing in April
- Tour of California bike race in May
- Pasadena Marathon in June
- X Games LA in June/July
- The US Open of Surfing in August
- Long Beach Marathon in October
Spending the Day at the Beach
Los Angeles County has over 80 miles of beaches from Malibu to Long Beach. I've personally gone out to explore them for you to describe what each beach is like and what amenities are available. Most beaches are managed by the county, but some are city and state beaches. I've laid them out from north to south with pictures, descriptions and amenities in my guide to LA Beaches. Long Beach has too many beaches of its own to fit in the LA beach guide, so there's a separate list of Long Beach Beaches. Beyond Long Beach are many more miles of Orange County Beaches.
The most popular thing to do at the beach is lie on the beach or play in the water, but it's often chilly at Southern California beaches. Other things you can do at the beach include walking, biking or skating on the beach path, renting a surrey, playing volleyball, having a beach barbecue, taking a Segway tour and more. If you want to choose your activity first, and then see which beaches offer that as an option, start with my guide to Things to Do at the Beach including which beaches are best for each activity.
LA Outdoors - Get Out on the Water
With a mild climate year round near the beach you don't need any equipment at all to jump in the icy Pacific or your heated hotel pool and go for a swim. However, in winter, a wet suit is really recommended in the ocean.
Other ways to get out on the water in LA include surfing, boogie-boarding, stand-up paddle-boarding, wind-surfing, kite-surfing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, sailing, hydro-biking, kayaking, canoeing, yachting and sport-fishing, and whale watching to name just a few.
Boat Rentals of America rents sailboats, wave runners, power boats, electric boats, pedal boats, kayaks and stand-up paddle boards in Newport Beach, Marina del Rey, Oceanside, Long Beach. Not all types of boats are available at every location.
Marina del Rey
LA Outdoors - Inland Adventures
Despite the urban sprawl, Los Angeles is blessed with an abundance of opportunities to explore the outdoors from the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, Santa Ana and Santa Monica Mountains, including the 4300 acres of urban wilderness in Griffith Park,to 80 mile of beaches and the city, regional and state parks scattered in between. Whether you want to try something more adventurous like horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking or paragliding, or you just want to lie on the beach or go for a hike or a picnic in the park, there are plenty of options for enjoying the natural land environment in and around LA. We even have 8 Places Near Los Angeles to Ski and Snowboard.
What to Do in LA by Theme
The previous pages broke down a variety of things to do in Los Angeles by the type of activity. This page links to activity and attraction guides organized by theme, so if you're looking for a romantic getaway or kid-friendly fun, you can see a targeted list of suitable activities. I'm adding new theme guides all the time, so check back if I haven't covered your favorite subject yet.
The Top Things to Do in LA with Kids breaks down child-appropriate activities with recommendations for boys and girls of different ages and with different interests. There are additional options on the Top Things to Do in Orange County with Kids. If they're a little older, check out the Top Things to Do in LA with Teens.
My guide to the Most Romantic Things to Do in LA and the Most Romantic Things to Do in Orange County, as well as the Top LA Wedding Locations..
LA Car Culture - Attractions for Car Buffs includes where to see, rent and drive really cool cars as well as some tips for driving in Los Angeles.
Star Struck in LA: Attractions for TV and Movie Fans includes entertainment-themed attractions as well as the best way to see your favorite celebrities and to feel like one yourself.
Intellectual Los Angeles helps you get off the beaten path to discover LA's more thoughtful side with events and attractions for the intellectually curious.
LA for Sports Fans is a breakdown of our professional teams and venues with links to where to get tickets, including discount tickets, for games.
Los Angeles on a Budget includes tons of resources for saving money on hotels, meals and attractions while visiting Los Angeles, including the Top Free Things to Do in LA.
If you're more of a non-conformist, check out these Alternative Things to Do in LA.
I'm working on a series of resources on landmarks and attractions highlighting specific ethnicities or cultural groups. It's a big task. For now you can explore Latino LA, Native American Los Angeles, Discover Jewish Los Angeles or check out the list of Ethnic Festivals in Los Angeles.
The Top Ways to Beat the LA Heat include both indoor and outdoor ways to cool off during a heatwave, which may occur any time of year. The indoor air-conditioned half of the list is also good for rainy winter days.
Even though precipitation is infrequent in Los Angeles, especially from May to October, you might have a need for some Things to Do on a Rainy Day in LA.
What to Do in LA by Location
Generally if you're going to be in LA more than a day or two and you plan to do activities that are some distance apart, I recommend changing hotels so you can wake up near your first activity of the day. Otherwise you can spend two hours in rush hour traffic trying to get from Universal Studios to Disneyland. So to help you figure out where you want to stay and what activities you can do from each hotel base, I've created lists of popular attractions for the most popular areas to stay around LA.
Things to Do in Downtown LA - Many people visit Los Angeles without ever setting foot downtown, but in addition to being the Civic Center, Downtown LA is also a performing arts and entertainment hub and contains a variety of ethnic and historic riches to be explored. Downtown has experienced a renaissance in the last decade that has brought art galleries, restaurants and thriving night spots to the neighborhood.
Things to Do in Hollywood - If you came to LA in the 80s or 90s, you probably didn't think much of Hollywood, but extensive redevelopment has returned Tinseltown to a preeminent destination for LA visitors, from restored favorites to new attractions and hot nightlife, there is a lot going on in Hollywood these days.
Things to Do in West Hollywood - Right next to Hollywood, the City of West Hollywood has its own multiple personalities from the rocker lifestyle of the Sunset Strip to the gay nightlife of Santa Monica Boulevard. West Hollywood and Hollywood are close enough and small enough that you can stay and play interchangeably between the two.
Things To Do in Beverly Hills - Southwest of West Hollywood, Beverly Hills offers luxury accommodations and exclusive Rodeo Drive shopping among its attractions.
Things to Do in Santa Monica - The beach, the pier, the shopping, the eating...there's plenty to keep you busy for a day or several at LA's most popular beach destination.
Things to Do in Venice Beach - Like Hollywood/West Hollywood, Venice and Santa Monica run together so you don't have to switch hotels to spend time at both. Venice is heavier in hippies, hostels and $5 sunglasses along its famous boardwalk, while Santa Monica caters more to the designer granola set.
Things to Do in San Pedro - If you're not cruising into or out of the Port of Los Angeles, it might not occur to you to visit the LA neighborhood of San Pedro, which is where the Port is located, but if you have the time, there's really a lot going on in this waterfront town with a fishing village vibe.
Things to Do in Long Beach - Just half an hour from LAX or Downtown LA, Long Beach is the 6th largest city in California with a population around half a million people. It's also home to some famous LA area attractions like the RMS Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific, as well as a vibrant dining and nightlife scene.
Things to Do in Pasadena - in the opposite direction, just northeast of Downtown LA, the city of Pasadena, home of the Tournament of Roses each January, has an abundance of riches for a town its size.
Things to Do in and around Anaheim - If you're going to Disneyland, it's best to stay near Disneyland so you can get to the park early. While you're in that area, there are tons of other family-friendly attractions you can visit within a half hour drive.
Things to Do in Orange County - Beyond the Anaheim area, there are many more things to see and do in Orange County.
Things to Do on Catalina Island - Just an hour ferry ride ride from Long Beach or San Pedro you can enjoy the pleasures of Catalina Island.
More Resources on Getting Around LA
What to Do in LA - Events
You can certainly fill up all your time in Los Angeles visiting our hundreds of attractions, but attending a local ethnic festival, music festival or food and wine event can give your trip more flavor and create fun memories. Here are some resources for planning a trip to coincide with major annual events in Los Angeles or to find out what might be happening during the trip you already have planned.
Los Angeles Annual Events Calendar - a list of major annual events in the LA area organized by month.
Holiday Events in LA - Whether you will be in town for Halloween, Christmas, Mother's Day or Memorial Day we have a round-up of events for every American holiday and some others that are celebrated in LA.
Los Angeles Annual Music Festivals - From reggae to jazz to electronic to classical to bluegrass, there's a music festival in the LA area for every taste. There's a lot of overlap between music, food, wine and ethnic festivals, but for this list, music is the star.
Los Angeles Annual Food & Wine Festivals - Angelenos love to eat and drink as can be seen from the plethora of events focusing on food, wine, beer and spirits. Most of them showcase the best of local talent, but a few bring in major players from around the US and around the globe.
Los Angeles Annual Ethnic Festivals - Greater Los Angeles has the most diverse population on the planet, and we celebrate that diversity with one or more festivals for just about every culture. Of course, there's always music and food at these events too. This list covers most of the major ethnic festivals around LA from the multiple Irish Fairs, to the star-studded Feast of San Gennaro Italian Festival, to the biggest Cinco de Mayo party in the world and a week-long tribute to all things Japanese-American.
Car Shows in LA - It might seem strange to have enough car shows to make a list, but with LA's car culture, we have everything from weekly car clubs drawing 100 classics, to major auto shows displaying the latest and greatest developments in the industry.
Summer Concert Series - Summer and outdoor music go hand in hand with monthly, weekly and sometimes daily concerts at plazas, parks, band shells, piers and the famous Hollywood Bowl.
Summer Theatre Festivals in LA - Shakespeare in the parks and by the sea dominates the outdoor summer theatre festivals with few exceptions.
Children and Family Festivals - Children are welcome at a variety of festivals around LA, but this bunch of events are designed especially with kids in mind.
LA Annual Film Festival Calendar - It's not just movie screenings that make film festivals fun; it's all the buzz of film craft events, receptions and star sightings that go along with them. With LA's focus on the movies and ethnic diversity, we have a film festival for just about every topic and culture.
Extended Fairs and Festivals
- The Laguna Arts Festivals are three outdoor art expos that run all summer in Laguna Beach
- The Renaissance Pleasure Faire runs six weekends every spring.
- Orange County Fair runs for four weeks in July and August
- LA County Fair runs for four weeks in September
- The Long Beach International Sea Festival is a collection of events from boat races to beach festivals that goes on all summer