Whether you’ve already grounded your feet in the golden state or just fantasizing for a trip that might’ve been years in the making already, one of the greatest things about a visit to Los Angeles is that you’re in complete control of your trip, and you’re only limited by what you know and your own imagination. Los Angeles is probably one of the best tourist cities in the world when it comes to the sheer volume of hidden gems and secret locations that you have to hear about from a friend to visit, but there are a few major points that you can’t afford to miss as well. In this article we are going to cover the cream of the crop, the very best 5 locations to visit in Los Angeles when visiting as a tourist or chaperoning a friend from out of town. Enjoy this brief insider’s guide, but remember that this is just a starting point: the city of Los Angeles is vast, so get as much done as you can!
The Hollywood & Highland Center
This 387,000 square-foot outdoor mega-mall right on the center of the Hollywood Walk of Fame houses the Chinese Theatre and sits right next to the Dolby Theatre. One of these theatres is known as the most famous in the world and was built during the golden dawn of glorious Hollywood, and the other is the current home to the esteemed Oscar Awards since 2002.
Entering the complex from Hollywood Blvd. is a sight to behold. An enormous stone monolith with Egyption characters scribed along the sides houses three massive bridges arching out straight in front of you as you walk up the stairs into the mall, the top of which, in all its glory, making the perfect selfie spot with an unbelievably perfect line-up for the Hollywood sign. You can easily travel up an escalator/elevator to any of the 3 levels, and the parking extends about 9 floors below the bottom level. This place is massive, and you’ve got just about everything you can think of housed inside.
Ice cream on the second floor. Johnny Rockets burgers on the third. Drinks & Video Games at Dave & Busters at the top. You can wander around this place forever and have a great time, but what you really want to make sure to do is catch a movie at the Chinese Theatre. You can purchase tickets just like any other movie theater, the easiest way to do it is go back out to the street and enter from the sidewalk – you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the handprints of the stars on the floor. Remember, if you walk out of the mall onto Hollywood Blvd. you’ll be right in the center of the Walk of Fame, which has a lot to do on its own, so don’t feel confined to just the mall.
Maria Sol @ The Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Beach is a beautiful area of Los Angeles that many take for granted. This is the go-to beach if you are visiting Los Angeles, by far the best tourist stop. For the purpose of this article we’re going to get really specific and zero-in on the restaurant right at the tip of the pier itself, Maria Sol. Yes, Maria Sol has just what you might imagine it to have: tequila! The cocktails are great, but the food is also amazing and what really has to be understood is that the view is simply serene.
You’ll be looking out towards the Malibu Coastline that arches north and further west, creating a larger-than-life landscape painting of the sprawling Malibu hills for you to ponder as you empty the bottom of your margarita glass and do away with one final shrimp. Eventually, you can wander back onto the Boardwalk and feel the sea breeze while enjoying the neon lightshow from the Ferris Wheel. Yes, Santa Monica is a wonderful place, and there is no question that the Pier is where you want to go if Santa Monica is where you’re going.
It’s for this reason that our office sits just a block away from the pier, so after your tour has ended you can go grab dinner on the waterfront and enjoy the rest of your afternoon after getting a chance to see it all, but don’t let our shameless self-advertising distract you – keep going for more must-see locations in Los Angeles & Hollywood.
A Guest Poster has Appeared!
For this next section of the article I’ll be passing the keyboard over to CEO-extraordinaire, Adam Duford, for his take on Venice Beach! You might remember Adam from his virtual tours of Venice Beach that you can still find on our Instagram account. Enjoy!
Venice Beach: The Special Town by the Sea
Thanks, Paul! I personally think Venice Beach is not only one of the coolest places to hang out present-day, but it also just might have one of the most unique histories that you’ll find attached to a beach town. To make a long story short, Venice Beach was at one time envisioned as the Venice, Italy of America. Canals were built, and the city was to be traversed by gondola just as they did in Italy. Some of the Venice Canals still stand today, and there are murals and quite a few other historic monuments to check out in reverie to Abbott Kinney and his amazing vision of Venice Beach. You can still see his influence in every bit of Venice Beach, to the beautiful venetian architecture throughout or the numerous murals stretched high and far across Venice’s small skyscape.
Aside from taking in all that sweet, sweet history, Venice Beach remains just as vibrant and unique as it ever was with its perfect mix of street art, vendors, and performers. A visit to Los Angeles would not be complete with at least one take-home trinket from one of the Venice Beach vendors. Think of it as Etsy on the sand, in person. You can find some truly amazing stuff, or you can probably have your portrait painted on the spot if you’ve got an hour to kill and some money to burn. Head to the Venice Ale House or the Brig afterwards for a drink with the Venice locals, or trek out and find a spot in the sand for some tanning. You’re going to need to do some walking around when you visit Venice, but everything is pretty centrally located. Don’t forget to check out the Venice Skate park and adjacent graffiti walls. You’ve got a decent surf scene in Venice as well, so there’s something for everybody.
The Hollywood Sign Lookout Point
If you spend any time in Hollywood at all you are going to see the Hollywood Sign. It isn’t hidden, it’s right there in the open. However, seeing it and heading up to one of the official lookout points to get your official photo and take in the city below are two very different things. One of the must-visit areas are the lookout points – you won’t spend more than ten minutes here, but it’s worth winding up the side of the mountain for if you find yourself on this end of the country. If you really want to see the sign in style, get your hiking shoes on! Check out the video below for the best possible explanation of hiking to the Hollywood Sign. We’ve done it many times ourselves, but this is a great Youtube video so hats off to them and hope you find this useful!
Los Angeles Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles
At 630 W. 5th Street in Downtown Los Angeles sits the beautiful Richard J. Riordan Central Library. Established as Los Angeles’ 46th historical & cultural monument, this library is actually made up of two separate buildings. The Goodhue building that was built in the 1920s, and the Tom Bradley Wing that was added on in the 90s due to overcrowding. There are also the Maguire gardens outside, the Mark Taper auditorium and its adjoining courtyards, as well as a number of public art projects throughout the Tom Bradley Wing and other areas of the grounds at any given time.
If you like books, this huge library is nice for obvious reasons. If you’re from out of town and don’t necessarily plan on checking out any books right at the moment, or the thought of the Library makes you feel like a 4th grader again, you can focus in on the architectural beauty. The entire building is an example of Art Deco architecture (you might remember this from some of our Virtual tours on Instagram!) This library is filled with beautiful rotundas with one-of-a-kind chandeliers and full-sized murals commissioned for this grand building. So, in conclusion, be an adult. Go check out the Library while you’re here – there’s a lot of other neat architecture in downtown as well so don’t forget the Walt Disney Concert Hall as well!
That's the End of this Post, but There's More to see!
Hope you all enjoyed this post! Return to our blog for more content, or check out one of these recommended posts below! If you’re looking to take a sightseeing tour and have the pros show you around, just visit our Tours page and take a look at some of the options we have to offer!
A Brief History of Santa Monica