Sightseeing in LA: 16 Can't Miss Stops

August 28, 2019

Known for its rich filmmaking heritage and celebrity spotting, Los Angeles dazzles millions of tourists from around the world each year.

With a multitude of attractions, it's challenging to narrow down the itinerary, especially with so many opportunities for sightseeing in LA. To help you experience the best trip with inexplicably gorgeous views, we've compiled the top destinations. Read below to add these sites to your list!

1. Hollywood Sign

An international symbol of Los Angeles and celebrity fame, the 45-feet tall Hollywood Sign perched on Mt. Lee attracts visitors from around the world. This preserved and protected sign was originally built in 1923 and read "Hollywoodland". In 1978, the sign was replaced due to decay and has continued to be restored to remain a Los Angeles landmark.

While you can hike to get somewhat closer to the sign, it's illegal to come near it, and it sits behind a restricted gate with further security. To get the best views and perfect photo opportunities, head to the Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Bowl Overlook, or the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue.

Close up of the Hollywood sign near Los Angeles, California, USA2. Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood Boulevard celebrates LA's vibrant entertainment and cultural history through its famous landmarks, museums, and other rich attractions. Who knows? You may even spot a local celebrity when visiting such spots as the Hollywood Wax Museum, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, or the Dolby Theater, or when shopping in upscale boutiques. This area's main highlights include:

Walk of Fame

Whether or not you see actual Hollywood stars in the flesh, you can easily spot the bronze stars along the Walk of Fame. Brought to life in 1960, more than 2,300 stars have been marked with the names of famous entertainment personalities throughout the years. In addition, you can see a small symbol near each name to determine why they have been honored a star. Each year, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce chooses a small selection of stars to add to the sidewalk, and some selections even have multiple stars. For a fun scavenger hunt, see who can find the most stars off a master list!

Close up of stars on Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California, USA

Find the star of your favorite star!

TCL Chinese Theatre

Showcasing over 90 years of iconic film history, Hollywood legends from Marilyn Monroe to John Wayne and Judy Garland have all visited and left their imprints at this historic theater's Forecourt of the Stars. First built in 1927, the Grauman's Chinese Theatre, or TCL Theatre, has served as the prime location of red carpet movie premieres and exceptional events.

With a gorgeous exterior and interior theater, don't pass up on movie tickets or VIP tour tickets to this piece of cinematic history. Further, TCL contain's the world's largest IMAX auditorium for a truly special viewing experience. Check out the TCL Chinese Theatre during your trip for first-rate sightseeing in LA.

3. Santa Monica Pier & Beach

When you think of Santa Monica, the scenic Pier and Ferris Wheel come to mind. Although it's not in Los Angeles, it's only about 45 minutes away, excluding traffic. Constructed in 1909, the Santa Monica Pier quickly grew into a premier destination and has seen several renovations and reconstruction periods over its lifetime.

Since 1996, the Pier's Pacific Park amusement park has drawn crowds to enjoy a day of thrill rides. Further, families can enjoy fishing, shopping, dining, paddle boarding, outdoor concerts, and much more. To cut down on driving, take the train from Downtown LA to Santa Monica for a day of fun at the beach and wooden Pier. Moreover, Santa Monica's Expo Line Downtown Station is less than a ten-minute walk to the Pier.

aerial view of santa monica pier with people, ferris wheel and other rides and view of shore and water and buildings and palm trees in background

photo credit: Heliberto Arias via Unsplash

4. Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard's famed 22-mile long road stretches from the lively Sunset Strip to picturesque Malibu. From The Roxy, where Rocky Horror Picture Show first premiered in 1974, to grunge night clubs like The Viper Room, you can make an evening just out of Sunset Strip. In addition, the historic hotel Chateau Marmont has housed celebrities from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Scarlett Johansson and presents a chic bar, Bar Marmont.
For a scenic route, hop in the car to pass Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Brentwood, and UCLA to gain some of the best views of Southern California during the day. Additionally, we encourage you to stop at the peaceful Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine to walkabout the temple and meditation garden grounds off of Sunset Boulevard.
close up of Beverly Hills sign with trees in the background in Los Angeles, California, USA

A trip through Beverly Hills is a must!

5. Los Angeles County Museum of Art

LACMA, as it's known, is the largest art museum in the western United States. Displaying classic global art collections as well as indoor and outdoor contemporary art installations that seem larger than life, LACMA is surely worth a visit.

Most notably, Chris Burden's 2008 large-scale installation "Urban Light" located at the Wilshire Boulevard entrance to the museum has been shown in film media and attracts countless visitors per year. The installation is constructed of restored street lamps from the 1920s and 1930s. Whether or not you choose to get tickets to the museum, you can definitely snap a picture with the Urban Light installation.

6. The Getty Center & Getty Villa

The Getty Center

Perched on a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains in the Brentwood neighborhood, The Getty Center merges beautiful modern architecture with lovely garden landscapes. In the distance, visitors can see the Pacific Ocean, Downtown Los Angeles, and the San Gabriel Mountains.

Spend time surveying the architecture on a 45-minute guided tour describing the curvilinear design elements and Italian travertine materials of the Getty Research Institute campus. Housing libraries, galleries, and offices, the building uniquely incorporates natural light, sunken gardens, glass walls, and terraces to create a peaceful space for staff and visitors.

Moreover, their vast permanent art collection spans continents and eras with special exhibitions and temporary exhibits in rotation as well.

View of pool and statue at The Getty Villa at the Pacific Palisades neighborhood in Los Angeles, California USA

photo credit: Getty via Facebook

The Getty Villa

J. Paul Getty began collecting ancient art in 1939, gradually adding to this collection of ancient Roman, Greek, and Etruscan art. In 1974, the Getty Villa opened in Pacific Palisades, in the Westside of LA. The villa is a mirror of the Villa Dei Papiri, an opulent Roman country house in Herculaneum, Italy that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

The floor plan and even some of the materials of the original villa were used to recreate its glory. Guests can explore its architecture with a 40-minute tour, as well as explore its Roman and Mediterranean-inspired gardens with a separate 40-minute tour. Additionally, guests can view Getty's collection of nearly 44,000 pieces of ancient Roman, Greek, and Etruscan artwork.

7. Beverly Hills

This neighborhood screams "lifestyles of the rich and famous", as this Los Angeles suburb is renowned for luxury shopping, dining, and spa treatment centers. As a result, Beverly Hills enables visitors to garner some of the best sightseeing in LA. From deluxe service at the 5-star Beverly Hills Hotel and shops down Rodeo Drive to visiting the famous Witch's House and the Greystone Mansion, you and your family will have plenty to see and do.

Front Exterior view of the Spadena Witch House - Los Angeles, California, USA

Hidden Gems in Los Angeles

8. Olvera Street

Olvera Street, established in 1930, presents a classic side to the vibrant city with brick-lined streets, painted stalls, and numerous vendors. First constructed to preserve the customs of early Mexican and indigenous settlers, this Mexican Marketplace provides authentic cuisine and handcrafted items. While here, listen to mariachi music as you patronize the busy vendor stalls, cafes, gift shops, and restaurants, or watch traditional folkloric dancers commemorate their heritage.

9. Chinatown

Chinatown, or New Chinatown, in Los Angeles, is a vibrant center for Chinese and Chinese-American history, culture, and commerce. Chinese immigrants first came to the area in 1852 and established a rich community despite the discrimination they faced. In 1938, New Chinatown opened. Since then, it has grown to include huge cultural events such as celebrating the Chinese New Year, Chinatown Summer Nights, the Moon Festival, and CicLAvia.

10. Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Founded in 1899, the Hollywood Forever Cemetery originally opened as the "Hollywood Cemetery", and now serves as the resting place for many Hollywood visionaries. With over fifty acres of serene green spaces, the cemetery provides refuge for families of deceased loved ones and curious visitors.

Moreover, Hollywood Forever's cultural programs and events throw concerts, outdoor film screenings, a Dia De Los Muertos celebration, and more (in separate areas such as the Fairbanks Lawn and the Masonic Lodge). As it is a resting place for the departed, please be respectful of the cemetery grounds.

Los Angeles neighborhoods lined with palm trees facing the Hollywood sign11. LA County Arboretum

The Arboretum contains 127-acres of awe-inspiring gardens landscapes with varied species of flora and birds, historic structures, learning programs, a beautiful lake, and more. The grounds have been used throughout Hollywood filmmaking since the 1930s in hits such as Tarzan Escapes, Lassie, Wonder Woman, and Love Boat.

Further, guests can see several 19th-century historic structures such as Elias Jackson Baldwin's Queen Anne's Cottage, the Baldwin Coach Barn, a Mexican adobe house, and the Santa Anita Depot. With so much to do, the Arboretum presents premium sightseeing in LA.

12. Runyon Canyon Park

This incredibly popular hiking spot offers excellent views and a fairly easy hike for visitors of all ages. Three miles roundtrip, the loop provides about an hour and a half of quality hiking in the center of Hollywood. Plus, you're welcome to bring your dogs, and there are some off-leash areas as well.

Note that parking can be difficult. Visitors can get to the park via south entrances on Fuller Avenue and Vista Street. The park's north entrance is located at Mulholland Drive and Runyon Canyon Road. We suggest carpooling, biking, taking the Metro bus 217, or the Red Line subway to avoid traffic and residential parking issues.

View from the Runyon Canyon Park Trail overlooking downtown Los Angeles, California USA

photo credit: Nuttakan Bamrungrot via Facebook

13. OUE Skyspace LA

OUE Skyspace LA gives one-of-a-kind panoramic views of Los Angeles' cityscape. Enjoy the city and popular sightseeing spots like the Hollywood Sign from 1,000 feet in the air from California's tallest open-air observation terraces. Further, the terraces provide immersive storytelling touchpoints to give insight into LA's history and culture.

Guests can also participate in creating their own graffiti art on three interactive screens. In addition, you can take pictures on a red carpet, and learn about LA's music scene. For additional thrills, ride the Skyslide! This 45-foot glass slide perched on the exterior of the US Bank Tower will give you the most unique perspective of the city. Wrap up your experience of sightseeing in LA by enjoying signature cocktails and bites from the bar.

14. Griffith Observatory

A cultural icon, the Griffith Observatory leads the charge in educating the public on the history and study of the field of astronomy. This free-admission, public facility attracts millions every year with its interactive, comprehensive exhibits. It is also the most-visited public observatory in the world. Built in 1935, the Observatory is located in Griffith Park above the Los Feliz neighborhood.

With multiple floor levels of exhibits, a planetarium (for a small fee), free public telescopes, and special events and programs such as star parties, you don't want to miss out on this historic destination. Also, as mentioned earlier, you can see the Hollywood Sign quite well from the Observatory's grounds. For quality sightseeing in LA, visit the observatory.

View of Griffith Observatory and downtown Los Angeles, California USA at sunset15. Catalina Island

Visitors heading to Catalina Island can take the 50-minute drive from LA to Long Beach before hopping on a one-hour ferry ride to get to scenic Catalina Island. The island offers beautiful coastal views, wildlife spotting, hiking and camping opportunities, sunny weather, and more.

In addition, you can go ziplining with family, head on a food tour, scuba dive through kelp forests, or boat around the island. Truly, you can stay for several days and still have more activities at your disposal. For an all-inclusive experience, we recommend Extreme Tours' Catalina Island Day in Paradise.

view of avalon harbor at santa catalina island near San Diego, California, USA16. Venice Canals

Conceptualized by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney in the early 20th-century, the Venice Canals were dug around Venice Beach to offer a taste of European culture. However, by 1924, most of the canals were filled in order to make room for more roads as the city expanded.

Even so, visitors can still walk along or chart the waters of the canals off of 25th Street. There are six canals about a quarter-mile long each. They are perfect for kayaking, paddling, or walking along the shores and pedestrian bridges.

Best Sightseeing in LA

Visitors can hardly beat the views sightseeing in LA has to offer. For optimal convenience, check out Tripster's deals on the best LA tours. Now that you know the first-rate spots to observe stunning views, which location will you head to first?

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Written By Talena


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