Los Angeles, CA, USA
Though Little Tokyo‘s beginnings date back to the year 1885, this historic district is no stranger to new development. It’s the place to go for Japanese food, of course—there are plenty of delectable options, both old and new. Your can’t-miss stops are Sushi Gen, a neighborhood staple since 1980, and the luxurious Kagaya, which serves shabu-shabu like you’ve never tasted before. Little Tokyo is also home to one of the best jazz clubs in the city, Bluewhale, where patrons are encouraged to keep the talking to a minimum and simply enjoy the music. Plus, the area has a multitude of ultra-Zen Japanese gardens, such as the James Irvine Japanese Garden at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, as well as Buddhist temples like the Higashi Honganji.
1611 N El Centro Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028, USA
The 1970s decor, fridge-door entrance, and inventive drinks of Good Times at Davey Wayne’s have cemented it as L.A.’s coolest bar scene. Expect long lines on peak nights, but the wait is well worth it once you get inside and take a seat on a plaid-cushioned couch, booze-soaked snow cone in hand. The place was decorated to feel like a living room straight out of the groovy decade, with ceiling rugs, vinyl, and garage-sale finds accenting the entryway, plus an Airstream trailer and hammocks for relaxing on the patio. The DJ, too, keeps to theme by spinning old-school records by the Bee Gees, among plenty of others.
900 Exposition Blvd
The Natural History Museum houses some 35 million specimens and artifacts spanning 4.5 billion years in history. But it isn’t just what’s inside this structure that’s historic: The main building itself dates all the way back to 1913, when a Sunday school teacher—upset by the seemingly unstoppable influx of saloons, gambling locales, and other centers of vice—convinced the city to develop what’s now called Exposition Park. Fast-forward to the present, and the Natural History Museum is more than just a place to see weird animal bones and models of long-extinct Homo sapiens. The museum hosts plenty of public events throughout the year, including mini nature festivals, evening cocktail parties, and opportunities for community science. The neighboring California Science Center is a draw for the kiddos, and Exposition Park as a whole is occasionally leased out for large-scale music fests.
5110 San Fernando Road
The building that houses Moonlight Rollerway dates back to the ‘40s, when it produced airplane parts for World War II. In 1956, it was repurposed as Harry’s Roller Rink, and the current iteration maintains the original’s 2¼-inch-thick maple flooring—laid out without nails, secured by tongue and groove joints. The 1950s vibes are still alive and well, and the space has been a setting for many TV shows, movies, and music videos—you might recognize it from appearances in episodes of Glee and Modern Family. The owner, Dominic Cangelosi, started working at the roller rink in the late ‘60s before buying the place in 1985, and he still plays the organ for spinning patrons every Tuesday night.
111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
This bowed silver building stands out among the skyscrapers of Downtown L.A. (though it now has an equally interesting-looking neighbor in the Broad). Those stainless-steel curves have a purpose, though. Architect Frank Gehry designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall with top-notch sound quality in mind, and the result is an architectural landmark that doubles as one of the most acoustically advanced concert halls in the world. The venue is home to the always impressive L.A. Philharmonic, a 100-piece orchestra that puts on concerts ranging from classical to jazz, contemporary, and world music throughout the year.
Elysian Park Trail, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Just north of Downtown L.A., the green neighborhood and parkland of Elysian Park, the oldest municipal park in the city, is a spot seldom trafficked by tourists. In fact, its impressive hiking trails are usually crowd-free. In a city of 4 million, it’s not easy to find quiet, solitary space, but Elysian Park offers just that. The paths are moderate, and the elevation is enough to get some pretty prime views of Downtown to the south as well as Dodger Stadium, which the park hugs on three sides. But for most of the trek, it’ll be just you, the trail, and the thick surrounding trees and foliage—an unusual sight amid L.A.'s sprawling urban jungle.
101 Wilshire Boulevard
Santa Monica has plenty of posh spots, but the best-known might be the Bungalow, a beach-bar-style lounge right across the street from the ocean. There’s a high-ceilinged main bar inside, but the real action happens on the front patio and in the back garden, where patrons can take full advantage of the pleasant L.A. weather. Patio seating is coveted space, but if you can snag one of the funky couches and wooden tables—especially if it’s by a fire pit—you can comfortably spend the rest of the night chatting over cocktails under twinkling lanterns, a cool ocean breeze at your back. A second location in Huntington Beach has vintage interiors and ocean views right on the Pacific Coast Highway.
1000 Vin Scully Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Los Angeles isn’t known for its sports pride, but if there’s one team Angelenos will rep without question, it’s the Dodgers. Just take a trip to Dodger Stadium and you’ll feel the energy—then, you’ll understand why it’s an L.A. experience that’s not to be missed. Plus, Dodger Stadium isn’t most ballparks. It has its own zip code, seats more people than any other baseball stadium, and is one of the most Instagrammed places on the planet, for starters. There’s also a hidden Japanese garden tucked behind Parking Lot 6, the stadium’s signature grilled Dodger Dogs, and, of course, hundreds of die-hard fans that span the broad spectrum of L.A. residents.
448 S Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, USA
Located on the rooftop of Downtown L.A.'s Pershing Square Building, Perch is an idyllic, French-bistro-inspired bi-level bar and lounge with stunning views of the L.A. skyline. Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits by terrace tables combat chilly nights, and live jazz and DJs keep the ambience just right. Many of the dishes on the menu—such as the baked brie—are meant to be shared, though the restaurant does offer traditional single-person entrées. The bar selection also trends French, with Parisian cocktails, more than a dozen wines by the glass, and a selection of Armagnac and French cordials. The space is family-friendly until 9 p.m., when the restaurant becomes a strictly 21-and-over affair.
7776 Torreyson Drive
You can find unique structures by famed architect John Lautner (an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright) all over Los Angeles, but none are as mind-boggling at his Chemosphere. Lautner was drafted to design the Hollywood Hills house for Leonard Malin, an aerospace engineer whose mountainside property presented a steep architectural challenge. Lautner’s answer to that challenge was the hovering, spaceship-like home that still sits on stilts above Torreyson Drive today. Panoramic windows allow lucky guests stunning views of the San Fernando Valley, and the only way to reach the inside of the building is by funicular. The home is still privately owned, so you’ll need an invite to see that view. Luckily, the exterior is worth a visit on its own (but maybe leave the jokes of alien abduction at home).
1822 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026, USA
When it comes to music venues in Los Angeles, there isn’t anywhere more sacred to rock and punk fans than the Echo. Located in the now-hipster neighborhood of Echo Park, the concert venue has hosted plenty of legends, including Beck, Green Day, and LCD Soundsystem. Its sister venue, the Echoplex, located just below the Echo, has an equally impressive roster, with the Rolling Stones, Nine Inch Nails, and Thom Yorke having performed there in the past. These sister clubs have additionally provided a launchpad for the careers of Foster the People, the Airborne Toxic Event, and Warpaint, to name just a few. Despite being a place to catch shows by heavyweights in the rock sphere and to see soon-to-be-famous bands before they hit it big, the Echo and Echoplex are intimate spaces that let you get close to the stage and all the heart-pounding, drumstick-spinning, sweat-dripping action.
5919 Franklin Avenue
The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre was the brainchild of Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh, and others who starred in Comedy Central’s sketch comedy Upright Citizens Brigade in the late ‘90s. The comedians expanded the idea into a comedy showcase and comedian training center, first in New York and then in L.A. Now, UCB Theatre serves up comedy in the form of improv and stand-up every night of the week, all for a low price tag that is decidedly not Hollywood level—though the talent surely is. Aside from the Franklin Avenue location, UCB also has a comedy venue on Sunset Boulevard just a few blocks away. Both spots are found within walking distance of the Hollywood/Western Metro station, meaning public transportation is a viable option.
453 S Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, USA
When the Last Bookstore debuted in 2005, the name was meant to be ironic. Now, in a world of Kindles and iPads, digital books (or at least digital bookstores) are the norm, and brick-and-mortar establishments such as the Last Bookstore are a dying breed. That hasn’t stopped this Downtown L.A. icon from growing. The shop still buys, sells, and trades new and used books and vinyl records just as it did when its doors first opened over a decade ago, and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Come in to browse the store’s impressive collection, to hang out for an afternoon, or to catch author talks and more. The Last Bookstore puts on some killer events, and past speakers have included the cast of Portlandia, How to Kill a City author Peter Moskowitz, and Holocaust survivors. Oh, and they occasionally give away free concert tickets on their Instagram account, so it’s worth a follow even if you’re not a die-hard bookworm.
1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802, USA
When you hear “the Happiest Place on Earth,” chances are you think of only one spot. There’s a reason Disneyland has been able to keep that slogan for over six decades: This resort and theme park in sunny Southern California is delightful for all ages. Classic rides like Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion draw teens and nostalgic adults, while roaming characters, theme-park treats, and more-low-key rides leave kids starry-eyed. Disney California Adventure Park is right next door, and investing in a Park Hopper ticket will get you into both, so it’s well worth doing some prepark planning the night before to make sure you hit all your musts across the two.
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608, USA
Call it the magic of Hollywood: Since opening in 1964, this theme park has continued to reinvent itself, creating ever-more ambitious experiences inspired by blockbuster movies. For Harry Potter fans, a visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade is essential, while Peter Jackson’s King Kong 360 3-D, and the immersive Fast & Furious—Supercharged simulator ride will get the adrenaline going. To be truly swept up in the park, sign up for the VIP Experience. You’ll get a special escort to the front of the line for rides, along with breakfast, a private lunch prepared by the studio’s executive chef, valet parking, and backlot access, where you’ll see thousands of set pieces and props. (Production schedules can affect the availability of these tours.) The adjacent Universal CityWalk’s restaurants and massive movie theater make the destination worthy of even more time, especially if you visit around notable holidays, when themes take over in spectacular fashion, from “Grinchmas” to the Lunar New Year. Pro tip: Download the Universal Studios app, which you can set to send alerts when certain rides’ wait times reach five minutes.
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
Encyclopedic is one way to describe L.A.’s oldest art institution. Sprawling is another. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened in its current Miracle Mile location in 1965 and has not stopped growing, becoming the largest museum in the western United States. Its 135,000-piece collection spans 6,000 years of art. It also includes some of the museum world’s most photographed outdoor sculptures, such as Michael Heizer’s mind-boggling Levitated Mass and Chris Burden’s Urban Light. The museum hosts some 40 exhibits per year, plus a dynamic schedule of events, such as Tuesday film matinees and picnic-friendly Jazz at LACMA (held weekly on “summer” weekend nights—which in L.A. means April to November). While anyone can join free tours throughout the day, docents also lead customized experiences for a fee, which will take you through the galleries before or after hours to marvel at artists as wide-ranging as Henri Matisse, Ai Weiwei, Diego Rivera, and Catherine Opie. Kids are also catered to with a special gallery, Sunday activities, and a free membership, which includes entry for them plus an adult guest any day of the year. Pro tips: Plan to spend several hours at the museum, fueling up on wood-fired pizza midway through the day at Ray’s & Stark Bar. And if you’d like to experience the outdoor sculptures without the crowds, go early in the morning or on Wednesdays, when the museum is closed and gloriously quiet.
221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
When it opened in 2015, this museum drew headlines for its extensive contemporary art collection and Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed building, which resembles a futuristic honeycomb. Then a single exhibition catapulted it into fame: artist Yayoi Kusama’s installation of thousands of twinkling LED lights called Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. (The artist’s follow-up, Longing for Eternity, opened in 2017.) There’s plenty to be dazzled by in this museum founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. Hundreds of skylights illuminate the column-free third floor’s permanent galleries—featuring the Broads’ considerable collection of pieces by Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, Jasper Johns, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Insiders know to visit on weekdays for the most relaxed experience or around major holidays and occasions such as Halloween and International Women’s Day for engaging and sometimes provocative tours. Pro tip: Though general admission tickets are free, it’s wise to book tickets online ahead when they’re released on the first of each month for the following month, especially if you’re taking a date or going with a group (the same goes for Kusama’s rooms). At least two weeks out, request a before- or after-hours guided group tour of one hour, not including the Infinity Mirrored Room. And make sure to also book reservations at Otium, the trendsetting restaurant by Chef Timothy Hollingsworth located next to the Broad.
2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA
Sitting near Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, the Griffith Observatory has a vantage point that allows visitors great views of the HOLLYWOOD sign during the day, and even more fantastic views of the stars at night. The space has plenty of telescopes for stargazing, but it’s also a great informal setting for learning about the universe, thanks to a large exhibit space and a 290-seat planetarium that puts on rotating shows about topics ranging from the northern lights to water—and possibly alien life—on other planets. There is no entrance fee for the institution and just a small admission price for the planetarium itself.
2000 N Fuller Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046, USA
The trek to the HOLLYWOOD sign may be the most famous L.A. hike to outsiders, but if you’re looking for downtown views, celebrity sightings, and a typical L.A.-style glamour hike (not necessarily strenuous, but very fashionable), the 3.3-mile Runyon Canyon loop is your best bet. You’ll still get a great view of those giant letters, but you’ll also be able to spot the who’s who of the Hollywood Hills, with plenty of locals out on their routine pre-Sunday-brunch ritual. (And there are lots of grade-A brunch spots nearby, such as the Griddle Café, if you too are in search of a pancake-heavy menu.) The trails are dog-friendly, and dog-loving Angelenos take full advantage, so your pooch will have no shortage of company if you decide to bring him along.
6333 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
The Farmers Market, next to the Grove shopping center, is a historic L.A. landmark dating to 1934. What was once 12 farmers’ fresh produce trucks is now a maze of specialty shops, fruit stands, bakeries, butcheries, permanent eateries, and bars. The atmosphere is always lively, making this the perfect meeting point to grab a quick bite, to kill time before a movie, or to take a break from a brand-name retail spree at the Grove. Make sure to check the Grove’s calendar of events for live music, celebrity book signings, and the lighting of the famous 100-foot Christmas tree.
31740 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265, USA
Wind through the Santa Monica Mountains to Malibu Wines, a grassy garden retreat with gorgeous views for picnicking and sipping wine with friends. The space is accented by Instagrammable features like the metal WINE sculpture that emulates the iconic LOVE sculptures by artist Robert Indiana that are found in cities around the world. Entry is free; just order wine from the farmhouse-style tasting room and enjoy the live music and festive atmosphere on the weekends. (Weekdays are more mellow.) Table reservations, including one inside a vintage school bus, are recommended for groups—but if you’re more flexible, simply bring a blanket and some food, find a spot to spread out on the lawn, and explore the grounds.
1351 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA
Santa Monica is built for strolling, with groomed dirt paths along the coastal cliffs, a well-kept boardwalk and beaches, and a pedestrian promenade packed with stores and brand names. After hours on your feet, seek respite in one of the many restaurants or cafés—or for a real respite, a guided meditation class at one of the area’s studios.
Venice Fishing Pier, Venice, CA 90292, USA
The Pacific Ocean is a force that calls to some to jump in and join the dolphins that frequent its waters. Temperatures are warmest in August and September, but wet suits are available to rent year-round. Go surfing or take a stand-up paddleboard lesson to more fully appreciate the SoCal spirit and connection to the waves. For a more passive yet still exhilarating way to enjoy the coast, you can parasail above the waves or join a sailing charter from Marina Del Rey.
1340 Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is possibly the trendiest street in Los Angeles, where boho-chic beachgoers glide along the sidewalk like it’s a runway, with besties and beaux at their sides. Open up your wallet at boutiques like Scotch & Soda, with its quirky Dutch apparel; curators of international design, like the Scandinavian home decor of Huset; and collectors of local crafts like Burro, which boasts an eclectic array of accessories. You’ll need to take a break from treating yourself to treat yourself with some of the best vegan and organic food and drink in L.A.
1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049, USA
Crowning any one location as having the “best view in L.A.” would be controversial, but the Getty Center is certainly a contender. The anticipation that builds upon approach to the arts and cultural center—up a driveway to park, on a tram coming up a hill—doesn’t hurt. At the top of the hill, guests are rewarded with sweeping views of downtown and the Pacific Ocean, verdant gardens, and a series of modern buildings designed by the renowned architect Richard Meier. Spend the afternoon browsing the wide-ranging art collection, which spans the 17th century through the 21st, with headliners like Rembrandt, Renoir, Manet, and Van Gogh (his Irises is the most popular painting here). Then in the early evening, explore the Central Garden designed by artist Robert Irwin—taking in a pool filled with floating azaleas—before enjoying a multi-course dinner at The Restaurant. Time your visit right and you might experience music from a live band or wine tasting, too—part of the museum’s packed schedule of events. Pro tip: The crowds tend to die down around late afternoon. The museum is open until 9 p.m. on Saturday nights.
Venice Fishing Pier, Venice, CA 90292, USA
The boardwalk and bike path from Will Rogers State Beach in the Pacific Palisades to Torrance County Beach in Torrance is a stretch of activity some 20 miles long. Rent a bike, roller or in-line skates, or a Segway and cruise as much of the coastline as you please. The Venice Beach Boardwalk portion is packed with characters, shops, and vendors, and is perfect for picking up a souvenir. Marvel at the strip of contemporary beach houses, including the one designed by Frank Gehry, just north of the Venice Pier, and then stroll down the pier to watch surfers and enjoy the panoramic views.
800 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Union Station is as stunning as it is rich in history, and continues to be a vital hub for L.A. rail, metro, and bus transport. On the outside, the building resembles an art deco riff on the old California missions; inside, the inlaid travertine and terra-cotta floors show the sort of detail work so rare in modern depots. Local tip: Settle into one of the giant leather chairs in the cavernous waiting room and immerse yourself in the city’s seedy side with Chandler’s noir classic, The Big Sleep. (Without a ticket you can’t enter the waiting room, but you can at least enjoy the Navajo patterning on the station floors.)