Ruggedly good looking, deeply creative, with a sunny disposition to boot…if LA were on Tinder, the app would crash.
Envy is an ugly thing, New York. While your denizens spend their time sniffling and throwing shade in the snow, Angelenos are busy riding waves, tying up their hiking boots and counting their copious blessings. Think about it: in how many megalopolises can you gallop across rugged mountains just nine miles from City Hall? Despite its heaving head count, LA is a city indelibly tied to mighty Mother Nature. Here, dense, vibrant neighborhoods back onto golden beaches, city streets lead up to flower-carpeted hillsides, and huge, deep-blue skies are an IMAX screen for lingering sunsets made to pierce your heart.
Dreams are serious business in La La Land. Home to Hollywood, this is a city where fantastical thoughts are encouraged; a place gleefully wrapped in endless layers of modern legend and mythology. Every year countless small-town dreamers pour onto its streets, itching to share their tales with LA and the world – on screen and stage, in lyrics, or on the whitewashed walls of galleries. The end result is an electrifying whirlpool of creativity: edgy art spaces, cult-status rock venues, acclaimed concert halls and thought-provoking stages, all fueling a city addicted to the weird, the wonderful and the downright scandalous.
LA's obsession with creative expression extends to its stucco and mortar. After all, this is where movie palaces look like Chinese temples and ancient Egyptian tombs, where concerts halls twist and curve like steely cartoon characters, and where soda bottling plants look like landlocked ocean liners. Indeed, LA celebrates architectural diversity with astounding gusto. From storybook Hollywood abodes and Silver Lake modernist prototypes, to downtown theaters channeling the Palace of Versailles, no other American city delivers such a thrilling mash-up of architectural styles, statements and role models…often on the very same palm-studded street.
Food & Drink
So which really has the better food scene: LA or SF? While the latter may claim more Michelin stars, LA packs one heck of a culinary punch. It's here that you'll find California's best tacos, the country's most authentic Korean and one of the nation's biggest concentrations of vegan restaurants. And when it comes to imbibing, SF best take a cable car home. From dirty martinis in a basement power station, to craft brews in a steampunk bowling alley, LA has a knack for turning humble drinking sessions into otherworldly adventures worthy of a toast or three.
Best beaches in Los Angeles
8 min read — Published February 19th, 2021
Lonely Planet EditorsWriter
Los Angeles is really just a surf town at heart. With beaches stretching from Malibu to Laguna, there are plenty of stretches of sand to see and be seen.
Discover some of the most unique and fulfilling experiences your next destination has to offer.
Tips & Travel trends to help you pick the perfect time to visit this destination.
Add visiting these must-see local hot spots and culture centers to your next travel itinerary.
Check out these fun-filled activities that the entire family can enjoy.
Plan a day trip full of local flavor and get back in time with these same-day options.
Ways to maximize the fun without spending a dime on your next great adventure.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Los Angeles.
With eyes on both the galaxy above and palm-flanked boulevards below, the Griffith Observatory hovers above LA like a hulking spacecraft. This is one of the city’s true icons, an art deco behemoth flaunted on both the small and silver screen. Yet the place is more than its architectural good looks and epic panoramas, with spectacular planetarium shows, intriguing exhibits and handsome murals. The 1935 observatory opens a window onto the universe from its perch on the southern slopes of Mt. Hollywood. Its planetarium claims the world's most advanced star projector, while its astronomical touch displays explore some mind-bending topics, from the evolution of the telescope and the ultraviolet and x-ray techniques used to map our solar system to the cosmo itself. Griffith Observatory Views On clear days, the views at the Griffith Observatory take in the entire LA Basin, surrounding mountains and Pacific Ocean. From the building's rooftop viewing platform, you can see the city skyline, the Hollywood Hills and even the city's most famous sign. Head out on a clear day just before dark, you'll have gorgeous sunset views of the gleaming city below and spectacular star gazing. But if you're only interested in the daytime views, head up on a weekday before noon (when the observatory opens) for easier parking. Samuel Oschin Planetarium Grab a seat in the Planetarium – the aluminum-domed ceiling becomes a massive screen where lasers are projected to offer a tour of the cosmos or show the search for water, and life, beyond Earth. This planetarium is one of the finest in the world. The state-of-the-art Zeiss star projector, digital projection system make for impressively realistic shows. Three are on offer; Centered in the Universe, which takes visitors back to the Big Bang, Water is Life that will have you searching for H2O in the solar system and Light of the Valkyries which explores the phenomenon of the Northern Lights. All three shows are offered daily, though times vary. Check the website for specific screening times if you're set on seeing a particular show. Note that children under five are only permitted to attend the first showing of the day. Zeiss Telescope Over 7 million people have gazed at the heavens through Griffith Observatory's original 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope. The telescope is designed so that light is collected and focused by a 12-inch diameter glass lens at the front of the 16-foot-long telescope tube. The main telescope tube carries a smaller 9-inch refracting telescope piggyback, which permits two different views of a single object. Housed in a recently updated copper dome, the 1935 telescope is in excellent condition. In addition to repairs to the dome, Griffith Observatory also added a new exhibit station in the Hall of the Eye exhibit hall that provides live video and audio feeds from the telescope in order to allow visitors unable to climb the stairs to have an observing experience. Most nights the telescope serves up to 600 visitors. It is free to the public every night the Observatory is open and the sky is clear. It can be especially busy and festive during major celestial events. An experienced guide will help you look through the eyepiece and there are additional telescopes wheeled onto the lawn most nights. Exhibitions Both the upper and lower levels house exhibits, delving into some mind-bending topics. If you ever wondered about the mechanics behind eclipses, moon phases, tides, seasons or the sun's fiery antics, this is a good place to get the lowdown. Learn about the evolution of the telescope and the ultraviolet x-rays used to map our solar system. While elsewhere see what happens when light is also broken into its technicolor spectrum courtesy of a sepectroscope. Downstairs, existentialist crises are likely at the interactive Gunther Depths of Space exhibit, whose 'Big Picture' focus includes a massive photo mural of the universe itself.... enough to shrink the biggest of earthly egos. Griffith Observatory central rotunda and Foucault's Pendulum Tickets to the planetarium are sold in the main lobby, itself a highlight of the observatory. Look up to enjoy Hugo Ballin's striking murals. The eight rectangular murals just below the dome depict the 'Advancement of Science,' from time, geology and biology, mathematics and physics, to astronomy, aeronautics, navigation, civil engineering, and metallurgy and electricity. Upstaging them all is the dome's own mural, its protagonists including an athletic Atlas holding up the world, the four winds, the 12 constellations of the zodiac, and the planets depicted as classical gods. Although the murals were meticulously restored more than 10 years ago, workers left a small patch of the dome untouched (hint: look above the main entrance). Suspended from the dome is Foucault's Pendulum, its 240lb bronze ball demonstrating the Earth's rotation. What to eat near Griffith Observatory There is a little cafe at the observatory, but a better option is to follow the signposted 0.6 mile hike down to Fern Dell Dr for freshly baked goods at outdoor, counter service cafe Trails. Almost everything from its tiny timber-cabin kitchen is made from scratch, from the popular egg-salad sandwich to the quiche and chunky apple pie. Order at the counter then devour at one of its picnic benches, under the shade of sycamores, Chinese elms and carob trees. How to get to Griffith Observatory You can drive of course, but parking can be challenging, especially on weekends. Consider catching the DASH Observatory shuttle bus from Vermont/Sunset metro station (Red Line) to Griffith Park Observatory. Alternatively, hike up from Los Feliz below which is a great option.
Dodge dinosaurs, hang with Homer Simpson and morph into a Minion on the sometimes hair-raising, always entertaining attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood. More than an amusement park, this is a multisensory immersion into the world of TV and movies on the grounds where filmmaking still takes place. Hop on a ride that drops you inside an iconic flick, explore movie magic at a Special Effects stage show and feast on the same food as your favorite characters. (Chocolate frog, anyone?) Universal Studios parks now exist in other parts of the world, but Hollywood is the original. History of Universal Studios Hollywood How did a working production facility become a major tourist destination? That answer dates back to 1915, when Carl Laemmle opened the studios at Universal City and, for a fee, invited the general public to watch as movies were made. Spectators gathered in stands above the actors’ dressing rooms and cheered for the stars while they worked. A rowdy crowd was no problem for production as this was the silent film era. Though once sound was introduced to movies in the late ’20s, the spectators had to go. The studios once again invited the public in 1964 with the opening of Universal Studios Hollywood theme park. Though visitors today aren’t allowed to hoot and holler during active filming, they are given a peek at real production sites on the Studio Tour. Tickets and practicalities Save time and money by purchasing tickets in advance through Universal’s online ticket store. This is also where California residents can buy discounted tickets. Annual and season passes are available online at a lower price, too. Want to make sure you hit every ride in one day? Invest in a Universal Express ticket, which includes one-time express access to each attraction. Want to hit rides more than once? A VIP Experience ticket will give you unlimited express access, plus an exclusive set tour, valet parking, snacks and a meal in the VIP dining room. Universal is open 365 days a year. (Yes, you can spend Christmas with King Kong.) Hours vary depending on the day and season, but opening is generally either 9 or 10am and closing is often 6 or 7pm. Check the park’s calendar before your visit. Maximize your day by arriving about 20 minutes before opening. That’s about how long it will take to walk from general parking to the front gate. General as well as preferred parking are available for a fee. Located in LA, Universal is about 25 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The park is divided into two areas: the Lower Lot and the Upper Lot. For a more detailed lay of the land, check out the map on Universal’s website. Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood’s ode to Harry Potter is a themed area of the park featuring two rides – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff – plus special entertainment, souvenir spots, snack stands and a restaurant. Top rides at Universal Studios Hollywood With 11 rides (and two play areas for little ones) the park is doable in a day, especially if you splurge on a Universal Express ticket. But if you're pressed for time, here are three top rides to keep on your radar: The World-Famous Studio Tour A must-do, this one-hour tour, video-hosted by Jimmy Fallon, gives you access to four acres of studio backlots. For the finale, you’ll cruise into the world of the Fast & Furious franchise for a high-speed chase. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, this ride mixes motion simulations and 3-D projection to make muggles feel like they’re truly at Hogwarts. Lines tend to be longest for this ride, but even the queue keeps guests engaged with castle scenery. Jurassic World - The Ride As your raft winds through Jurassic World and takes on the occasional dip and splash, you’ll come face to face with the aquatic Mosasaurus, plus see Indominus rex and T-Rex in action. Entertainment One of the biggest shows here is WaterWorld, which includes acrobatic Jet Ski maneuvers, firefights and cinematic explosions. At Universal’s Animal Actors demonstration, furry stars flaunt their talents, and the Special Effects Show spotlights more tricks of the trade. Food Like most theme parks, Universal has both snack stands and sit-down restaurants. But what makes dining here exciting is that much of it is inspired by beloved movies and TV shows. For example, lunch at Krusty Burger will transport you to Springfield and a snack at Minion Cafe might make you feel mischievous. Though piña coladas didn’t really factor into Steven Spielberg’s vision, nobody’s complaining that they’re served at Isla Nu-Bar, a tiki spot in Jurassic World. Best time to visit Midweek visits are best for shorter lines and cheaper tickets. While holidays bring larger crowds, they also include extras, like fireworks on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve. But the biggest seasonal draw is Halloween Horror Nights, which takes place on select dates in September and October. Haunted mazes, live entertainment and spooky character encounters are all part of the frightful festivities. Plus, this specially ticketed event is open late, sometimes till 2am. Hotels nearby There are two hotels within Universal City (the area that includes the theme park, studios and CityWalk): Sheraton Universal Hotel and Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City. Both have outdoor pools and free shuttles to the park (which is walkable, but travel-weary feet might appreciate a ride). Outside Universal City, hotels in North Hollywood (like The Garland) and Burbank (like Residence Inn Los Angeles Burbank/Downtown) are still conveniently close. Universal CityWalk Covering three blocks, Universal CityWalk is a pedestrian-only shopping and dining zone just outside the park. That means you’re free to visit, plus catch a movie at the 18-screen IMAX Universal Cinema, regardless of whether you have a ticket for the park.
Prepare for a sensory overload on Venice's Boardwalk, a one-of-a-kind experience. Buff bodybuilders brush elbows with street performers and sellers of sunglasses, string bikinis, Mexican ponchos and cannabis, while cyclists and in-line skaters whiz by on the bike path and skateboarders and graffiti artists get their own domains. History Venice, SoCal’s quintessential bohemian playground, is the legacy of Abbot Kinney (1850–1920). A tobacco mogul by trade and a dreamer at heart, Kinney in 1905 dug canals and turned fetid swampland into a cultural and recreational resort he dubbed the ‘Venice of America.' For nearly two decades, crowds thronged to this ‘Coney Island on the Pacific’ to be poled around by imported gondoliers, walk among Renaissance-style arcaded buildings and listen to Benny Goodman tooting his horn in clubs. But time was not kind to Kinney’s vision. Venice was incorporated into the city of LA in 1926, most of the canals were filled and paved over in 1929 and Venice plunged into a steep decline until its cheap rents and mellow vibe drew first the beatniks then hippies in the '50s and '60s. A decade later Venice and Santa Monica's Ocean Park neighborhood along Main St turned into ‘Dogtown’ as modern skateboarding hit the big time. These days, tech and entertainment dollars have fueled a hard-charging gentrification that is changing this once-low-key enclave with a strong sense of community. As rents have risen, many long-term businesses have been forced out and locals speak of an 'old Venice/new Venice' divide. The year 2017 saw a further influx of cash as locally headquartered Snap Inc (parent company of Snapchat) went public, creating multiple millionaires. Paradoxically, along with these new millionaires and long-time-resident surf rats, skate punks, string bikinis, yogis, psychics and street performers, you'll also find a prodigious and entrenched houseless population. Venice Beach's houseless community has long been part of the fabric of the neighborhood, despite routine attempts by the city to uproot them. Things to do on Venice Boardwalk Murals Venice Beach has long been associated with street art and for decades there was a struggle between outlaw artists and law enforcement. Art won out and the tagged-up towers and the free-standing concrete wall of the Venice Beach Art Walls, right on the beach, have been covered by graffiti artists from 1961 to the present. To really get into the art around Venice stroll past murals by famous Rip Cronk, including Venice Reconstituted, Jim Morrison and the Homage to Starry Night. Abbot Kinney Blvd, not far from the boardwalk, has wonderful art galleries. Probably the best art gallery in the area, and maybe the city is the LA Louvre. It's housed in a landmark building designed by Frederick Fisher. It's a modern and contemporary art gallery featuring rotating, museum-quality exhibitions that show for five to six weeks. Muscle Beach Gym rats with an exhibitionist streak can get a tan and a workout at this famous outdoor gym right on the Venice Boardwalk, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu once bulked up. Its fun to meander past and gawk, because the body builders totally want you to gawk. Venice Skatepark When Angelenos drained their swimming pools during a 1970s drought, board-toting teens from Venice and neighboring Santa Monica made their not-quite-welcome invasion and modern skateboarding culture was born. Well, as the bumper sticker says, 'skateboarding is not a crime,' at least not anymore, and if you needed further proof, this public, 17,000-sq-ft, ocean-view skate park is now a destination for both high flyers and gawking spectators. Look for great photo ops, especially as the sun sets. Brave the bowls if you dare. Saturday & Sunday drum circle On weekend evenings at the end of Brooks Ave. on the beach, hundreds of people gather with drums, shakers, congas – anything that keeps a beat and fills the air with rhythms. Dancers come in hoards to feed off the energy and move their bodies to the impromptu music. Its high vibe fun, completely unofficial and totally amazing. It usually starts around noon and lasts well past dark. When to go to the Venice Boardwalk Late nights and early mornings are the quietest times on the boardwalk, but quiet is not really why people come to Venice Beach. Busiest times are summer weekend afternoons, especially when the drum circle is beating its resounding beats. During the off season, local crowds tend to gather at the cafes around sunset. Where to eat and drink No place melds Old Venice and New Venice like the Rose. This airy institution dates from 1979 yet remains current, serving a diverse, all-day menu (sophisticated pastries to gourmet feasts) to laptop-toting writers, tech geeks and Venice locals. Where to stay Hotel Erwin near the canals and the boardwalk, this one-time motor inn has been dressed up, colored and otherwise funkified in retro style. Think eye-popping oranges, yellows and greens, framed photos of graffiti art and ergo sofas in the spacious rooms. Book online for the best deals. Whether or not you stay here, the High rooftop lounge is wonderful for a sundowner. Valet parking is $42. Getting to the Venice Boardwalk, parking and other practicalities Traffic is bumper to bumper in Venice on busy weekends, especially in summer near the beach. Instead, try parking inland, ride-sharing or do as the locals do and get around by bike. Rentals are available in Venice at Venice Boardwalk Bike Rental or in neighboring Santa Monica. The Expo Line train opened in 2016 in Santa Monica; the station is about 1.5 miles from the Venice border.
If you go to Los Angeles and don’t catch a glimpse of those nine letters looming large on a Hollywood hillside, did you really even visit Tinseltown? Just as the Empire State Building is to New York City and the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, the Hollywood sign has become a symbol of LA. But even more, this iconic advertisement, originally built to attract buyers to a 1920s real estate development, has become a global emblem of the entertainment industry. Adding to its allure, checking the sign off your list isn’t as straightforward as visiting other landmarks. The closer you get, the less you can see it as a whole. But the adventure of seeking out the sign – whether that means hiking the hills of Griffith Park or driving winding streets past multimillion-dollar homes, many owned by insiders of the very industry the sign represents – is half the fun. History The Hollywood sign is actually missing four letters from its original form. When it was built in 1923, it read “HOLLYWOODLAND,” the name of the new housing development it advertised. Each sans serif letter, cut from sheet metal and anchored to telephone poles, measured 50 feet tall. The project took 60 days to complete and cost $21,000 (equivalent to about $335,000 today). Only meant to be temporary, the sign wasn’t built to brave the elements. By the ’30s, the H fell off and for several years the sign read “OLLYWOODLAND.” Eventually, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, recognizing that the sign had taken on more meaning for the city, stepped in to save it. They fixed the missing H and removed “LAND.” In 1949, the sign finally read “HOLLYWOOD,” as it does today. The sign got another makeover in 1978, when a group spearheaded by Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and the rocker Alice Cooper gathered funds to rebuild it in a more weather-resistant form. The project stayed true to the original design as much as possible with one difference: the new letters measured 45 feet tall. Hefner would become pivotal to the sign’s protection again in 2010, when he and others (including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks) helped the city of Los Angeles purchase the land surrounding the letters. Best places to see the sign For easiest access, head to Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. The Hollywood & Highland shopping complex was designed with sign views in mind. Plus, you’ll be near other major attractions, including the Hollywood Walk of Fame and TCL Chinese Theatre. Griffith Observatory is another prime spot. On the west side of the observatory’s lawn, you can snap a picture with both a bust of James Dean and the sign in the frame. Public parking is available but limited and includes a fee Monday-Friday from noon to 10pm and on weekends from 10am to 10pm. Alternatively, the DASH Observatory/Los Feliz public bus service stops at the observatory every 20-25 minutes and costs just 50 cents. Deronda Gate gets you even closer. Though parking is permitted on Deronda Drive, it’s best to have a ride service drop you off (better for ogling the surrounding real estate, too). The entrance may look intimidating, but don’t worry – a timed lock opens the gate from sunrise to sunset. Right past the gate, you can capture dream selfies near Tyrolian Tank, or follow Mt Lee Drive for a hike to the back of the sign. This route meets up with the second hike mentioned below. Hikes to the sign Although you can’t actually touch the Hollywood sign’s letters (not only is it illegal, the sign is set behind a fence and monitored by camera 24/7), the closest you’ll get is by foot. The Mount Hollywood Trail, which is the most popular and least strenuous hike with views, will bring you up a neighboring peak for an eye level, though slightly side-angle, look at the sign. For a three-mile round-trip route, start at the Charlie Turner Trailhead, which leaves from the parking lot of Griffith Observatory. Bonus: the parking lot area has bathrooms and drinking fountains. If you’re set on summiting Mount Lee (home to the sign), head to the Brush Canyon Trail for a 6.4-mile (round-trip) hike that brings you to the backside of the letters. There are free public parking lots near the trailhead at 3200 Canyon Drive, Griffith Park. Are there any tours? Plenty of LA’s greatest hits tours (like those that include stops at the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Rodeo Drive) also include photo ops for the sign. If you’re down for a hike but don’t trust your sense of direction, Bikes and Hikes LA will take you on a guided group amble. Or, see the sign from horseback on a one- or two-hour tour through the Griffith Park hills with Sunset Ranch. Top spots near the sign At 2700 N. Beachwood Drive, you’ll find a storybook cottage that’s the original Hollywoodland Realty office. In the same area, two stone gates mark the entrance to the historic neighborhood, and Beachwood Cafe makes for a charming lunch spot. Changes to the sign In addition to losing its H and later “LAND,” the Hollywood sign has appeared altered a number times due to pranks. Most notably, strategically placed fabric made it “HOLLYWeeD” in 1976 and again in 2017. Is the sign lit up at night? Today, the Hollywood sign does not have lights, though back in the 1920s bulbs did illuminate the billboard in four flashing stages: “HOLLY,” “WOOD,” “LAND,” and finally “HOLLYWOODLAND.” Lights have returned for a few special occasions, but generally, any glow you see is just a reflection off the white letters.
Once the very end of the legendary Route 66 and still the object of a tourist love affair, this much-photographed pier dates back to 1908 and is the city’s most compelling landmark. It’s dominated by Pacific Park amusement park with arcades, carnival games, a Ferris wheel and roller coaster. Nearby is a vintage carousel and an aquarium. The pier is most photogenic when framed by California sunsets and when it comes alive with free concerts and outdoor movies in the summertime. The pier extends almost a quarter-mile over the Pacific, so you can stroll to the edge, hangout among the motley anglers and lose yourself in the rolling, blue-green sea. What to do on Santa Monica Pier Pacific Park Kids and kids at heart will get their kicks on Santa Monica Pier at this small, classic Americana amusement park, with a solar-powered Ferris wheel, tame roller coaster, family-friendly rides, midway games and food stands. The cost is a fraction of what you’d pay at Disneyland and Universal studios, and the views of the city and sea from the tops of the rides are unparalleled. This is family fun at its most wholesome. Santa Monica Pier Carousel A National Historic Landmark at the beginning of the pier, the classic carousel dating from 1922, features 44 hand-carved animals; 42 horses, one rabbit and one goat – that race around and around to the tune of Calliope under a classic Hippodrome. The cost is separate from admission to Pacific Park. Santa Monica Pier Aquarium Peer under the pier – just below the carousel – for this small aquarium. Kid-friendly touch tanks crawl with critters and crustaceans scooped from local waters, sponsored by the environmental group Heal the Bay. South of the Pier South of the pier is the Original Muscle Beach, where the Southern California exercise craze began in the mid-20th century. New equipment now draws a fresh generation of fitness fanatics. Close by, the search for the next Bobby Fischer is on at the International Chess Park. Anyone can join in. Following the South Bay Bicycle Trail, a paved bike and walking path, south for about 1.5 miles takes you straight to Venice Beach (or about 20 miles all the way to LA's South Bay beaches). Bikes or in-line skates are available to rent on the pier and at beachside kiosks. Where to stay near Santa Monica Pier For budget friendly, check out HI Los Angeles, this hostel with an enviable location is less than a mile from the pier. It has modern, clean and safe single-sex dorm beds as well as private rooms. Rates include breakfast and the hostel runs a host of activities as well. A more mid-range (for Santa Monica standards) option is the Georgian Hotel, just across from Palisades Park, this eye-catching, 1933 art deco landmark has a snug ocean-view veranda for breakfast and sunset lounging. The 84 rooms, in soothing sand and sky tones, are surprisingly modern, and we love the parlor-like bath tiles. Upper floors tend to be quieter and have better views. And for pure up-scale Santa Monica head straight to Shutters on the Beach. Bringing classic Cape Cod charm to the Pacific coast, the 198 rooms here have a beach-cottage feel with marble baths, wood floors and spectacular ocean views from tiny balconies with white-washed shutters. This is as up-scale as Santa Monica gets. Where to eat on Santa Monica Pier There are typical food stands that you’d find at any amusement park and a few tried and true tourist chains that dot the pier, but for our money we like to stop at the Blue Plate Oysterette. Just across from the ocean, this seafood shack offers a delectable raw bar, including a ceviche of the day as well as standout lobster rolls and fish tacos. For an early breakfast or a coffee break head just a few blocks to Dogtown Coffee. Housed in the old Zephyr surf-shop headquarters where skateboarding was invented in the 70's. It brews great coffee and makes a mean breakfast burrito. Parking near Santa Monica Pier Parking can get expensive, if you’re staying near the pier most of the hotels offer parking for a fee, but expect to pay around $18 for the day if you can find a spot. You may find free parking inland if you don’t mind walking a ways. Alternatively, if you aren’t staying in Santa Monica, you can take the metro. The Expo Line connects DTLA, West LA, Long Beach and all points in between.
One of the most delightful, inspirational spots in LA, the Huntington is rightly a highlight of any trip to California thanks to a world-class mix of art, literary history and over 120 acres of themed gardens (any one of which would be worth a visit on its own), all set amid stately grounds. There's so much to see and do that it's hard to know where to begin; allow three to four hours for even a basic visit.
From the instant it opened in September 2015, the Broad (rhymes with 'road') became a must-visit for contemporary-art fans. It houses the world-class collection of local philanthropist and billionaire real-estate honcho Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, with more than 2000 postwar pieces by dozens of heavy hitters, including Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Keith Haring and Kara Walker.
In its billion-dollar, in-the-clouds perch, high above the city grit and grime, the Getty Center presents triple delights: a stellar art collection (everything from medieval triptychs to baroque sculpture and impressionist brushstrokes), Richard Meier’s cutting-edge architecture, and the visual splendor of seasonally changing gardens. Admission is free, but parking is $20 ($15 after 3pm).
Top billing at the Science Center goes to the Space Shuttle Endeavour, one of only four space shuttles nationwide, but there's plenty else to see at this large, multistory, multimedia museum filled with buttons to push, lights to switch on and knobs to pull. A simulated earthquake and a giant techno-doll named Tess bring out the kid in everyone. Admission is free, but special exhibits, experiences and IMAX movies cost extra.
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