I haven’t been to Los Angeles in a good fifteen years so when we added LA to our west coast adventure, I was thrilled to head back. Palm trees, perfect weather, an ocean breeze, and hiking – what more could you want? We only had three days there so we had to squeeze in as much as possible. Any of these recommendations are great for kids too if you’re traveling as a family.
Once we arrived we headed to the OUE Sky Deck and it was so much more than I expected. OUE features unparalleled 360° views from California’s tallest open-air observation terraces where you can see iconic landmarks such as the Hollywood Sign and Capitol Records. You also get a bird’s eye view of Dodger Stadium and can see as far out as the Santa Monica Pier. On your journey to the top, you walk through an interactive space filled with Los Angles history, fun facts, and displays of artist’s work. My favorite space was standing in front of a screen with a red carpet and paparazzi jump out to take your picture to give you the true Hollywood experience. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the Skyslide! This slide sends you sailing down to the floor below on a small carpet in a glass encapsulation. It’s a separate charge but totally worth it. If you’re headed to LA, make sure to add this to your list.
Another must. Griffith Observatory is Southern California’s gateway to the cosmos! Visitors can look through telescopes, explore exhibits, see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign. We went during the day, but I bet it is even more magnificent at night. There is parking up at the top, however, it fills very quickly. I recommend getting there early if you want to get those prime spots. Otherwise, there are parking spots all up the mountain. Once you get to the top, I recommend strolling throughout the museum and going to the top of the observatory. You can also have a picnic on the front lawn. Before you leave don’t forget to take a picture featuring the Hollywood sign behind you. You have great views of the sign from many areas of the property, but the best is on the north side by the outdoor restrooms.
Speaking of the Hollywood Sign, there are so many great areas to get the perfect photo. You can head up to Runyon Canyon for a hike and get a great view there, you might even spot some celebs. Another spot to get a great picture of the Hollywood Sign is from the 3rd floor of the Highland Shopping Center on Hollywood BLVD. If you want an Instagram worthy shot then head over to 5th Street and S. Windsor BLVD. On a clear day, the Hollywood Sign will be your perfect backdrop. There was smog when I was there so my picture didn’t turn out clear, but still a beautiful shot! If you enlarge it you can barely see the sign.
There were two places I wanted to go but unfortunately, we didn’t have the time. The Museum of Illusions and The Museum of Selfies came highly recommended. You can’t NOT have fun at a pop-up museum!
Another spot on my list to visit was the largest museum in the west. The LACMA has an installation called Urban Light and it’s a sight to see. Composed of 202 historic streetlamps dating from the 1920s and 1930s originally spread throughout Southern California, the large-scale sculpture, the Gordon Family Foundation’s gift to Transformation: The LACMA Campaign, has become ubiquitous as the face of LACMA, a point of pride for many Angelenos, and a destination for visitors from around the world.
Even if you can’t catch a show here at least drive by to check out the architecture and snap some pics. It’s breathtaking.
Both very touristy spots but worth it if you haven’t been before. It’s similar to Time Square where there’s a ton of people, it smells, and it’s complete chaos with street vendors and people trying to sell you stuff. My advice is to find the stars you want to see on the walk of fame, check those out, and skip the rest. Walking through the TCL Chinese Theatre is fun, historic and worth it if you move through it fast during a downtime.
We were with the kids so we didn’t get to experience too many nice restaurants but we did get a chance to go to Yamashiro. Not only do you get incredible scenic views here but the food is incredible! We had a few celebrity sightings, too. I read it is a popular place for celebs. I don’t really care about celeb sightings, but it was cool to see Russell Brand and Nick Cannon there. We also had an incredible brunch at Blue Jam.
If you want to head to the beach or see another beautiful area north of LA, head to Santa Monica and Malibu. We stayed in Santa Monica one night to stroll the Promenade Shops and have a beach day. The Santa Monica Pier is fun to see but it gets insanely busy with some interesting people, so I would plant too much time there. The Beach was clean and not that crowded. Across from the beach, there were a ton of awesome restaurants to visit. I advise making reservations anywhere you go. A little further North is Malibu and equally as beautiful and less busy.
I hope this Los Angeles travel guide helps with your future travels. Feel free to share your top spots below!