Los Angeles is a city that’s always buzzing with energy and excitement, and its diverse mix of cultures, influences and landscapes gives it a character all its own. Of course, the entertainment industry is king there, so a lot of the best sightseeing revolves around that. But there’s much more to the city than movies and TV. Here are 10 things you have to see or do (or eat) while in L.A.
1. Hollywood Sign
It’s classic, it’s picturesque, and it makes you feel like you’re among the stars just looking at it. You can see the sign up in the Hollywood Hills from many vantage points in the city, but head to Griffith Park for a closer view. Fun fact: The sign originally said HOLLYWOODLAND, which was the name of a real estate development up in the hills.
2. Griffith Observatory
Perched up on the side of the Hollywood Hills, the Griffith Observatory definitely earns its status among the most popular attractions in L.A. For starters, the panoramic view of the city from the observation deck is incredible. Inside the observatory itself, the expansive exhibits give visitors an enlightening perspective on the cosmos and our place in it.
3. Authentic Mexican food
Los Angeles has a huge Mexican-American population, and the influence of the rich Mexican culture forms a major part of the city’s personality. Of course, that means great authentic Mexican food! There are countless unknown gems all over L.A. where you can get a plate of tacos, a burrito, or some lesser-known traditional dish. When hunger calls in L.A., you can’t go wrong with Mexican.
4. Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame
One of the most iconic attractions in L.A. is that long stretch of Hollywood Boulevard famously decorated with stars in the sidewalk. It’s always fun to find your favorites among the entertainment legends from throughout the decades. There are still some blank ones too, for all the dreamers out there.
5. Venice Beach Boardwalk
The Venice Boardwalk is an experience you just have to see for yourself. With the beautiful Pacific Ocean and large sandy beach as a backdrop, this popular pedestrian area is filled with souvenir shops, craft vendors, artists, street musicians, skateboarders, tourists, cyclists and more. And don’t forget Muscle Beach, the famous outdoor gym where weightlifters get pumped up in front of the passing crowds.
6. Santa Monica Pier
Just up the beach from Venice, the Santa Monica Pier can be seen for miles thanks to its large Ferris Wheel and carnival rides stretching out above the waves. Ride the rides, play the games, and maybe win a giant stuffed animal if you have the skills. There’s also a small aquarium, where you can learn about the local sea life and see some exotic creatures.
7. Warner Brothers VIP Studio Tour
This is your chance to really go behind the scenes and see how they make some of your favorite movies and TV shows. On the interactive Warner Brothers VIP Tour, you get to see real sets, costumes, props, scripts, and who knows—maybe, just maybe, you’ll see a star on their way to work.
8. Universal Studios
You’ve done one studio tour, why do another? Well because Universal isn’t just a studio, it’s a full-fledged theme park. Not only can you go on the famous bus tour of the studio lot (watch out for Jaws!), you also get your thrills on park rides like The Simpsons Ride, King Kong 360 3-D, and Transformers: The Ride 3-D.
9. Getty Center
For art lovers, you can’t beat the Getty Center, which exhibits some of the world’s best paintings, sculptures and photography. Even for those who don’t love art, the Getty is a must-see spot. It’s set high up on a mountainside (you get there by riding a tram that rises dramatically above the freeway), and the ocean views are amazing from the museum’s gardens and outlook points.
10. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum
Admittedly the chances of seeing a big-time movie star while you’re in L.A. are slim, but you’re guaranteed to see some of your favorites at Madame Tussaud’s. And unlike the actual celebrities, these incredibly life-like wax figures will let you take a selfie with them! Marilyn Monroe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, Lady Gaga, Kobe Bryant—the list goes on and on.
These are just 10 highlights in a city with a limitless number of things to see, do and experience. EF Explore America’s student trips to Los Angeles are a great way to get the full experience in one of America’s most unique cities!