California is one of my favorite places on earth. I love the slower paced life and beach vibes. I love the food and the nonstop fun.
I used to live in beautiful Los Angeles, a rare city where most of the tourist attractions are actually worth a visit. On the other hand, there are many hidden gems that I was still discovering after two years. I feel like I saw and experienced a lot whilst living there but also constantly feel the draw back to the city of angels because I know there is still so much to discover.
I’ve compiled a list of my top recommendations. Things that I look back on with fond memories and hope to share with people I love again someday. Let me know in the comments what your favorite things to do in LA are!
Disneyland & Universal Studios
Now, I’m a sucker for these parks because I just so happened to work at both. I was a Photopass Photographer at Disneyland and a Sales Associate at Universal. I have undying love and wonderful memories working and playing at both parks. Disneyland is, of course, world famous and if you visit southern California and don’t do at least a day trip to Disney then you may as well relocate to the moon. Don’t be a fool. I’ve never met a soul who regretted a Disney day. You could easily spend at least three days exploring both Disneyland and California Adventure, but if you’ve only got a day then buy a park hopper and cram in as much fun as you can. Both parks are equally amazing and worth every last penny.
Universal Studios, on the other hand, can easily be done in one day. Less than a day, honestly. The California park is no where near as epic as the Orlando one, but still has classic rides like Jurassic Park and the Studio Tour. The Wizarding World will also be opening there soon. If you came to LA to experience the movies, what better way than go to a theme park on an actual working film set? Maybe you’ll get lucky and you’ll see a TV show filming or at least get some history and background on some of the most famous movies in history.
Griffith Observatory & City Hall & Runyon Canyon
Los Angeles is a huge, sprawling city and it’s very important to get a good view while you’re here. Yeah, the skyline might not be huge, but seeing LA stretched out before you is very, very cool. The number one place to see this epic view is from the Griffith Observatory. Try to aim your time being there so you can catch the sunset then see the city light up before you. It is a sight to behold and I dare you not to fall in love right there.
For the true LA experience, hike Runyon Canyon in Hollywood. I lived a few blocks from it and literally did this hike hundreds of times. As you get higher and higher the views of Los Angeles get more and more impressive. And who knows, you may just see a celebrity.
*Side note, the smell of dog poo does dissipate the higher you get
Lastly, if you want a good view of Downtown LA, go up to the free observatory deck in the City Hall building. You can’t miss this it, it’s white and looks like it’s straight out of the 20s. The deck offers a 360 degree view of the city and doesn’t get crazy busy because it’s not a very well known activity.
Eat some mexican food & In and Out
If LA is known for anything it’s the amazing Mexican food. Apparently, LA has better Mexican food than Mexico. Who knows if that’s true, but I can tell you it’s for sure delicious. Dig into some fish tacos or a carne asada tostada and you will never reach for pizza as a first choice again. I miss it just thinking about it.
Also, if you don’t eat In and Out Burger while in LA you really haven’t been to Los Angeles. It is a right of passage and glorious beyond all things. My recommendation: Burger, Animal Fries, and Neapolitan milkshake. Do your research on the secret menu before you go so you don’t miss out on anything.
Laguna Beach & Santa Monica & Malibu
Los Angeles is known for a lot, and beaches are also very famous. Go to Laguna Beach for unmistakable beauty, Santa Monica for that cool Cali vibe or Malibu for the peace and quiet. Obviously there are so many other beautiful beaches including Venice, Long Beach, and Huntington Beach, so it’s basically a win no matter where you choose.
Only in LA
Attend a show filming & The Hollywood Bowl
Ok, so you came all the way out to the entertainment capitol of the world: let’s get you entertained! Now there are literally hundreds of options from bus tours to Madame Tussauds, so it all depends on what floats your boat. Apart from the Warner Brothers studio tour, which I never actually did but heard cool things about, I have my two favorite things that made me feel like I was part of the scene. First off, go to a TV show taping. It’s easy to get tickets through the studio website or audience websites like 1iota.com. I even got to go be in the bleachers for the Oscars through that site! Jimmy Kimmel, Conan, Ellen and more are fun and really expose you to how shows are created.
The Hollywood Bowl is also a surreal place to go see a concert. It’s a giant, open air amphitheater where the biggest names come to perform. I saw the annual John Williams concert with Julie Andrews narrating. What an experience! The LA weather is beautiful and it’s great to listen to glorious tunes as the sun sets and the Hollywood sign fades into the darkness.