This post covers the top things to do in Los Angeles for tourists and visitors. We include free, nighttime, and family-friendly activities and events.
Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN LA
The following section will feature 10 of the most popular things to do in Los Angeles.
Although some of these activities will be free, family-friendly, or fun after dark, we recommend checking the individual sections for these topics if you want even more great ideas.
Don’t forget that a lot of the best attractions in this city are included either for free or at a heavy discount on Los Angeles tourist passes.
1) Take a Movie Star Tour
As the home of Hollywood, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a lot of movie stars live in Los Angeles, and there are several tours that will show you some of the most notable celebrity homes.
In addition to bus tours that cover the homes of the rich and famous, we also have a self-guided tour for those looking to save some money or avoid the crowds while sightseeing.
For more details, make sure to check our post about taking a celebrity homes tour in Los Angeles.
2) Go to a Concert
Los Angeles is one of the biggest hubs of entertainment in the world, so it makes sense that a lot of notable musicians and bands perform in this city throughout the year.
Not only do these theaters host top performers, but some of the venues themselves are also architecturally beautiful.
If you’re looking for a great concert to see while you’re in LA, make sure to check the following popular venues:
- The Forum
- Roxy Theater
- Dolby Theater
- Hollywood Bowl
- Microsoft Theater
- The Greek Theater
- Walt Disney Concert Hall
- The Hollywood Palladium
Keep an eye on this list of concerts for even more fantastic musical performances to see in the city of angels.
3) Attend a Sporting Event
There are a lot of popular sports teams in Los Angeles, and you can expect various sporting events available to attend throughout the year.
Below are the major LA teams in basketball, baseball, football, hockey, and soccer.
Find out what other sporting events are on in LA here when you visit.
4) See a Musical or Play
In addition to all the great venues that host concerts in this city, there are also several theaters where you can see either a musical or play.
Most of the best Broadway shows make their way to Los Angeles, so you’ll never have to worry about the quality of these performances.
You can expect a variety of musicals from classics such as Phantom of the Opera to modern favorites like Hamilton.
If you’re interested in this activity, make sure to check the following theaters to see what’s playing when you’re in town:
- Pantages Theater
- La Mirada Theater
- Fred Kavli Theater
- Ahmanson Theater
- Fox Performing Arts Center
- Microsoft Theater
- Dolby Theater
- Hollywood Bowl
For even more great shows to see, check this list of musicals and plays in Los Angeles.
5) Take a Hollywood Studio Tour
Hollywood is home to many famous and historic movie studios, and most of them offer studio tours that you can take to get a look behind the scenes.
The following options are currently available in Los Angeles:
- Warner Bros.
- Sony Pictures
- Universal Studios
- Paramount Pictures
- Adventures by Disney: Disney Backstage
Many of these movie studio tours are included either for free or at a heavy discount with a Los Angeles tourist pass or combo package.
6) Go to a Museum
There are a lot of interesting museums to visit in Los Angeles. While some focus on various types of art, others are all about science and/or history.
Most locations offer free admission either every day or on specific days of the month. Even museums that require admission are sometimes included on discount tourist passes!
For more details about this activity, make sure to read our section below which describes all of the major museums in Los Angeles.
7) Take a Sightseeing Tour
In addition to celebrity home and studio tours, there are several different sightseeing adventures available in Los Angeles.
One of the most popular options is a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, as it provides transportation to several notable sites and allows you to jump off to take a closer look at each stop.
Once you’re done looking around, you can hop back on and continue with the guided journey!
There are also a variety of walking tours available, including our very own pay-what-you-wish Downtown Los Angeles tour.
While this may be one of the least expensive options, there are also fully guided treks that focus on different subjects and areas of the city.
Thanks to the vibrant mix of cultures in the city of angels, there are also a lot of great places to eat.
If you want to learn more about all the best restaurants, consider taking a Los Angeles food tour.
8) Explore the City
There are a lot of great places to see and activities to enjoy in Los Angeles. Without a doubt, Hollywood is one of those "must-see" places.
Whether you want to see the walk of fame or see a movie in a famous theater, chances are that film buffs will have a great time in this part of LA.
Or why not head Downtown to visit a museum, see a historic theater, look for notable filming locations or take our pay-what-you-wish walking tour.
If you’re interested in seeing the ocean, consider heading to either Venice Beach or Santa Monica Pier for a plethora of fun activities that the whole family can enjoy.
Malibu is another great beach location to visit, and they have a lot of great places to shop and eat. This is a better option for anyone who wants to get away from the crowds.
9) Go to a Theme Park
Los Angeles is home to a lot of great amusement parks, including some of the most popular examples in the entire country.
Disneyland is perhaps the most noteworthy theme park, and any fan of Disney owes it to themselves to visit at least once in their lives.
Universal Studios also has a nice park with plenty of great rides related to their films and properties that they own.
Six Flags Magic Mountain offers a lot of fantastic rides, including many that are based upon popular Warner Bros. characters like Batman and the Looney Tunes.
If you’re more interested in the Peanuts characters, head to Knott’s Berry Farm to see them in action. This location also offers both a traditional amusement park and a water park to enjoy!
Many of these locations are included at a discount with Los Angeles tourist passes and combo packages, making it easier to save money on this family-friendly activity.
10) Look Into Getting a Tourist Pass
There are a lot of fun things to do and attractions to visit in Los Angeles, but ticket prices can really pile up fast if you intend to see them all.
If you want to save money on multiple activities, one of the best options available is a Los Angeles tourist attraction discount pass.
Most of these services allow you to pay one flat price for admission to dozens of popular sites and tours.
While some are all-inclusive and require you to pay per day, others allow you to pick a specific number of attractions.
Here are some of the activities you can enjoy with an LA tourist pass:
- Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
- Universal Studios Hollywood
- Warner Bros. Studio Tour
- Madame Tussauds Hollywood
- Sony Pictures Studio Tour
- Knott’s Berry Farm
- Six Flags Magic Mountain
- Celebrity Homes Tour
- OUE Skyspace LA
- Whale Watching Cruise
- TCL Chinese Theatre Tour
- Los Angeles Zoo
- And more!
In addition to saving money on a variety of fun things to do, you’ll also get skip-the-line privileges at some of the most popular destinations in Los Angeles.
Using a tourist pass can save you up to 50% off normal ticket prices, so it’s definitely worth considering.
For more details, make sure to read our full post covering Los Angeles tourist passes.
While these didn’t make the cut of our top 10 list, they are pretty popular activities that you may want to consider.
Depending on what you choose to do while you’re in the area, both of these activities could easily be free.
Make sure to read our free things to do section for more great ideas that won’t cost a dime.
Go to the Beach
As we mentioned in our top 10 section, there are a lot of great beaches in Los Angeles with plenty of fun activities to consider.
While you could just bring towels and a blanket to hang out at the beach, you can also rent a surfboard and try your hand at surfing.
If you’d rather not get in the water, you can always float above it on a paragliding adventure over the beaches.
Alternatively, if you go to Santa Monica Pier, you can also check out Pacific Park and spend some time at one of the lesser-known theme parks in LA.
Whatever you plan on doing while you’re at the beach, you absolutely must stay for the sunset – Los Angeles beaches have some of the most beautiful sunsets in the whole world!
See a Live Television Show
Get yourself prepared to be part of an excited studio audience! In LA, there are numerous TV shows recorded daily and an abundance of show recordings that can be viewed for free.
Each type of show (game, talk, and late-night) has a different way of ticketing for audience viewers and some involve a wait-list, so plan ahead!
Check out this guide on how to secure a ticket to a recording for more information. Alex Trebek, Jimmy Kimmel, and Ellen Degeneres are waiting for you!
Take a Food Tour
Los Angeles is a melting pot of multiple cultures who have crafted some of the most creative and delicious food in the world. There are so many great things to eat that you might not know where to start!
Thankfully, Secret Food Tours offers an outing in Downtown Los Angeles which includes multiple tastings such as an enchilada, beef slider, churronuts (churro donuts) and more.
While on this outing you'll visit 6 different stops and learn about the history of several unique types of cuisine from an expert.
Purchase tickets or learn more.
Most museums in LA can be enjoyed for free at least one or more days of the month. Plan ahead and mark your calendar to make sure you’re able to visit on one of the free days!
The museums below offer free admission every day unless otherwise noted.
Art Museums in Los Angeles
The Broad (free ticket reservation required; tickets available on the first day of every month for the following month’s visit)
In the heart of downtown, the Broad is one of the most popular museums in LA.
Opened in 2015, it holds more than 2,000 works of art in its collection and features contemporary and post-war art from the likes of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Ed Ruscha.
Additional tickets are required for special events.
Spend a day among some of the greatest artists in history with a visit to the J. Paul Getty Center.
The museum’s collection houses international works of art including European paintings, sculptures, drawings, decorative art, and photography from medieval times to present.
Additionally, the Getty Center is known for its architecture and the grounds are worth exploring as well.
The Getty Center is always free and is open Tuesday-Friday & Sunday 10 am-5:30 pm and Saturday 10 am - 9 pm.
Ample parking is available in the garage for $15 and $10 after 3 pm.
Located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of LA, the Getty Villa is the second location of the J. Paul Getty Museum.
The galleries here house over 44,000 pieces in its collection from 6500 BC to 400 AD and centers on the cultures and art of ancient Rome, Greece, and Etruria.
The very first art museum established in the city of LA, the Fisher Museum spans five centuries of art.
The permanent collection includes over 1800 pieces of both European and American paintings, drawings, and sculptures.
Annenberg Space for Photography
Highlighting the art of photography in both digital and film, the Annenberg Space for Photography features a few rotating exhibits a year.
The venue is the first cultural destination in the LA area to solely focus on photography. The space also hosts lectures, events, and programs for the public.
Craft and Folk Art Museum (free admission on Sundays)
Located on historic Museum Row, the Craft and Folk Art Museum features leading exhibits in craft, art, and design from present-day artists.
A venue to both see and make art, the museum also offers an abundance of hands-on artists workshops.
Calling all fashionistas! This museum as part of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising hosts rotating exhibits throughout the year focusing on fashion as a creative art form.
The museum is only open when an exhibit is being showcased. Check the website for more information.
Highlighting works of art from Africa, Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas, the Fowler Museum explores cultures through art both past and present.
Additionally, the museum holds Francis E. Fowler Jr.’s personal collection of silver containing 251 pieces from Europe, Great Britain, and America during the 16th-19th Centuries.
Focusing on the history and significance of music, the Grammy Museum in downtown LA (part of the L.A. Live complex) is something for all music lovers.
Opened in 2008, the museum features a number of interactive exhibits, memorable Grammy outfits, and some of the past Grammy footage, among many other ways to explore the evolution of music.
Tickets range from $10.95-$12.95 (children under 5 are free).
Known for its edgy, contemporary art collection, the Hammer Museum has multiple rotating temporary exhibits.
Its permanent collection of the pieces owned by Armand Hammer includes an abundance of European and American paintings and drawings.
LA County Museum of Art (free admission second Tuesday of every month)
Located on Museum Row on Wilshire Boulevard and adjacent to the La Brea Tar Pits, LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States.
It holds over 150,000 pieces in its collection, dating from ancient times to present.
TIP: The popular exhibit featuring dozens of street lamps, Urban Light, is always free to visit and is outside of the museum.
Adjacent to the birthplace of Los Angeles, La Plaza de Cultura Y Artes focuses on the experience of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in LA and the Southern California region.
It offers gardens and multiple exhibits as well as a number of public programs.
Museum of Latin American Art (free admission on Sundays)
The only museum in the US to focus on contemporary and modern Latin American Art, the MOLAA sits in the heart of Long Beach.
Its collection includes a sculpture garden, paintings, photographs, drawings, and mixed media.
Museum of Contemporary Art (free admission on Thursdays from 5 pm-8 pm)
The main branch of the MOCA, the Grand Avenue location, features a vast amount of post-war and contemporary pieces from European and American artists like Andy Warhol, Ellsworth Kelley, and Joan Miro.
The MOCA Geffen, known as the Geffen Contemporary, is located in an old police warehouse in the Little Tokyo neighborhood of downtown and offers 40,000 square feet of exhibition space.
Science & Nature Museums in LA
A place where people of all ages can explore the wonder of science through inventive programs, film, interactive exhibits.
Highlights include the space shuttle Endeavor and Sputnik 1, and the Gemini 11 capsule.
Tickets are required for special exhibits (including viewing the Endeavor)
La Brea Tar Pits (free admission first Tuesday of every month except July and August; free ticket reservation encouraged)
A place to go WAY back in time! Located on historic Museum Row, the Tar Pits are one of the world’s most interesting fossil locales.
The museum displays Ice Age fossils from 10,000 - 40,000-year-old asphalt deposits that are still being excavated today.
Among dozens of Ice Age fossils inside the museum sits the glass-encased fossil lab where scientists prepare newly discovered fossils including a recently unearthed Columbian mammoth named “Zed.”
TIP: The largest tar pit in the front of the museum is always free to view and take photos of. Get your tickets to this recommended attraction here!
Natural History Museum of LA County (free admission first Tuesday of every month except July and August)
The largest natural history museum in the western United States, the NHMLA is home to more than 35 million artifacts covering over four billion years of history.
Popular exhibits include the dinosaur hall, gems and minerals, African mammals and insect zoo. You can get discounted tickets here.
A gallery that is home to over 2,500 samples from 1,500 meteors, the Meteorite Gallery a UCLA is the largest in the western United States.
The collection includes the main masses from roughly 40 meteorites as well as the type specimens from more than 300 meteorites, some collected in California.
History & Cultural Museums
Autry National Center of the American West (free admission second Tuesday of every month)
Located in Griffith Park across from the LA Zoo, the Autry National Center offers many ongoing exhibits focused on all of the peoples of the American West.
Included in these are Western Frontiers: Stories of Fact and Fiction, Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery, and The Colt Revolver in the American West.
Visitors can also enjoy rotating temporary exhibits, films, and other programs.
Built in 1818, Avila Adobe is the oldest standing residence in Los Angeles and is located on Olvera Street. It is free to tour and open daily. Check the website for information on free guided tours of the adobe.
California African American Museum
Full of rich history, art, and culture CAAM was the first museum of its kind to be fully supported by a state.
It focuses on the important role African Americans have had on America’s West specifically through culture, the economy, and politics.
Chinese American Museum (suggested $3.00 donation)
Housed in the oldest surviving Chinese Building in Southern California, CAM focuses on the diversity of Chinese communities in the LA region.
Current exhibits include Journeys and Origins: The Birth and Rise of Chinese American Communities in Los Angeles.
Visitors to the museum can also visit Sun Wing Wo General Store and Herb Shop–a recreation of a general store housed in the same building from 1891 to 1948.
The small museum at the famous Hollywood Bowl Amphitheatre in Hollywood has a variety of different memorabilia from the amphitheater and a few rotating temporary exhibits.
The Hollywood Bowl also offers a self-guided “Bowl Walk” that features ten photographic displays throughout the grounds.
Japanese American Museum (free admission on Thursdays after 5 pm)
A Smithsonian Affiliate, the Japanese American Museum follows the heritage and culture of this diverse community.
The ongoing historical exhibit chronicles over 130 years of Japanese American history spanning the time from early pioneers through WWII Japanese internment camps to the present.
Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust
The oldest Holocaust museum in the United States, LAMOTH was founded in 1961 by Holocaust survivors.
The museum houses the west coast’s largest collection of primary material including documents and relics of the Holocaust period from 1933-1945.
The Museum is also known for its building architecture. The museum is open daily.
Skirball Cultural Center (free admission on Thursdays)
A Jewish cultural center, Skirball welcomes people from all backgrounds and communities.
The center features multiple temporary exhibits and permanent collections that cover over 4,000 years of Jewish history and heritage.
An additional exhibit, Noah’s Ark, is an interactive children’s place that includes a recreation of the Ark and whimsical animals. Noah’s Ark requires reserved tickets. Check the website for more information.
A railway museum opened in 1952, Travel Town sits in Griffith Park and features numerous historic train cars.
The museum's primary focus is on railroad transportation in the western United States from the 1880s to 1930s.
FREE THINGS TO DO IN LA
Sure, Los Angeles might be one of the priciest cities in the country but fear not! There are loads of things to do for free (or almost free) while you’re visiting!
Some might take a little more research and planning than others but if you play your cards right, you’ll save a lot of cash by visiting all of the free attractions the city has to offer.
Read our comprehensive post on free things to do in LA for more free activities.
Here are some of the best activities you can enjoy in LA without paying a dime:
- Take a self-guided tour of Downtown Los Angeles.
- Find your favorite stars on the Walk of Fame.
- Walk down the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
- Take a stroll down historic Olvera Street.
- Enjoy the views from Griffith Observatory.
- Take a Hike to see the Hollywood Sign.
- Check out the free museums in LA.
- Visit the La Brea Tar Pits.
- Go on a DTLA art walk.
- Walk the Sunset Strip.
Read our comprehensive post on free things to do in LA for more free activities.
THINGS TO DO IN LA AT NIGHT
LA is one of those cities that never sleeps! While some museums and attractions might close up when the sun sets, a lot of places and activities are available much later.
For suggestions on other nighttime activities, see our post on things to do at night in LA.
As we mentioned in the top 10 section, you may also want to consider ideas such as going to a concert, a sporting event, or a musical.
You might also want to consider visiting an amusement park, as most are open after dark!
Here are just a few more things to enjoy in LA at night.
- Take a night bus tour.
- Enjoy a dinner cruise.
- Go to a live comedy show.
- See the sites from OUE Skyspace.
- Spend the night on the haunted Queen Mary.
- See the stars at Griffith Observatory.
- Stroll down the Santa Monica Pier.
- Take the family to Two Bit Circus.
- Enjoy a bonfire at the beach.
- Check out Universal Citywalk.
For suggestions on other nighttime activities, see our post on things to do at night in LA.
Kids fit right in with most activities and attractions in LA! Some of our favorite things to do in LA like going to a theme park and visiting the Santa Monica Pier are open to people of all ages.
Check our top 10 section above for even more great things to do with your family such as sporting events, musicals, theme parks and much more.
Here are a few more things that the whole family can enjoy!
Visit Disneyland & California Adventure
Make your happiest dreams come true at the original theme park of Walt Disney opened in July of 1955.
Located in Orange County, Disneyland is truly a place of magic where families can explore Main Street, USA, Tomorrowland, Frontierland, and Critter County among other lands and seek thrills on favorite rides like Splash Mountain, the Matterhorn, and Space Mountain.
Rub shoulders with your favorite Disney characters and fairy princesses and stick around for the parade and evening fireworks! Adjacent to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure is where the tales of Pixar, Disney, and others come to life.
Rides and attractions include California Screamin’, The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Underwater Adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!
An experience of a lifetime, both parks are open daily. You can get 1-day admission to Disneyland with transportation included with these tickets.
Spot "Celebrities" at Madame Tussauds
Treat the whole family to a star-studded experience – sort of. Get discounted tickets the famous Madame Tussauds wax museum in Hollywood to get up close and personal with the wax versions of your favorite celebrities.
Figures at the Hollywood location include pop stars like Taylor Swift, Madonna, and Michael Jackson as well as Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe and Paul Newman.
Don’t forget the Marvel Superheroes and sports stars as well! Madame Tussauds is open seven days a week; hours vary.
Get Wild at the LA Zoo
Discover the amazing wildlife at the LA Zoo which is home to more than 1,100 mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles! Further, the zoo’s botanical collection includes over 7,400 individual plants located throughout the establishment.
Wildlife areas include Elephants of Asia, the Red Ape Rainforest, Campo Gorilla Reserve, and the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo. During your visit, make sure to stick around for various demonstrations and shows!
The zoo is open daily (except December 25) from 10am-5pm.
Seek Thrills at Knott’s Berry Farm
People from all over the world have been visiting Knott’s Berry Farm for nearly 100 years!
What began as a family farm grew to a popular highway pit-stop for and old ghost town attraction and Mrs. Knott’s famous chicken dinners and boysenberry pie.
Today, families can enjoy one of California’s best amusements parks and additional water park in addition to those fried chicken dinners that are still made daily!
Get your tickets to visit Knott’s Berry Farm.
Head to the Park
Take some time to let the kids run free and stretch their legs at one of the many fantastic children’s parks Los Angeles has to offer!
If you’re near Griffith Park, head to Shane’s Inspiration, located in the park and the first 100% inclusive park for any child with disabilities in LA.
At the beach in Santa Monica, there’s South Beach Park equipped with an ocean theme (check out the huge boat!) and an excellent view of the beach.
Downtown, Grand Park has splash fountains for little ones when it’s hot outside and a children’s playground complete with a tube slide and treehouse.
And if you’re looking to see and be seen in Beverly Hills head to Coldwater Canyon Park that features a shaded arbor, a cool stream for kids to play in, beautiful equipment, and picnic tables.
Take a Studio Tour
If you or anyone in your family are a TV or movie buff, a studio tour could be right up your alley!
Studio tours, like those offered at Sony and Warner Brothers, are an excellent way to enjoy the behind-the-scenes classic Hollywood magic.
Sony was once the location for Hollywood blockbusters like The Wizard of Oz and Men in Black while Warner Brothers is the home to exhibits and attractions based on Harry Potter and Batman.
Both tours include soundstages, prop departments, and backlots.
Alternatively, you can take the Universal Studios tour. This is more of a ride than an actual tour, but it still provides a great behind-the-scenes experience for visitors who love film.
For more details about these and other services, make sure to read our post about which Studio Tour is best.
Go to Universal Studios
Half theme park, half film studio, Universal Studios is filled to the brim with entertainment the whole family can enjoy.
Get your thrills at King Kong 360, Fast & Furious Supercharged, and The Walking Dead attraction among others.
In addition to these activities, families can delight in the magical Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an entire section of the park that is devoted to everything in the Harry Potter universe.
This is separate from the Harry Potter-related attractions you’ll find at Warner Bros. Studios, so fans of the franchise may want to consider visiting both locations.
Additionally, enjoy Universal’s world-famous studio backlot tour where visitors can experience behind-the-scenes movie-making magic!
If you’re in a rush, you can get skip-the-line tickets to Universal Studios.
Discover Oddities at Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
Take your family on an adventure through one of the strangest and most interesting museums in Los Angeles.
Ripley’s has a variety of curiosities on display spread across 13 galleries.
Located in Hollywood, you can expect to see a lot of attractions based on movie stars – including an extensive collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia.
This location also has Ripley’s Smash Dash, a fun game where you push a wall of buttons in a certain order. Families can have a fun time challenging each other to see who can perform the task!
The museum is open late (until midnight), so you can enjoy it with your kids or visit after the sun goes down.
If you’re looking to save money on tickets to Ripley’s Believe it or Not, it’s worth noting that this attraction is included with at least one Los Angeles tourist pass.
THINGS TO DO IN LA EACH MONTH
- January (weather)
- February (weather)
- March (weather)
- April (weather)
- May (weather)
- June (weather)
- July (weather)
- August (weather)
- September (weather)
- October (weather)
- November (weather)
- December (weather)
Take a Day Trip!
If all else fails or you've already seen and done everything in Los Angeles, you might want to consider a day trip to a nearby city such as San Diego or Las Vegas.
There are a lot of fun and interesting activities to enjoy at each destination. Travelers with a Go City Los Angeles Pass may notice that it includes admission to the San Diego Zoo. This is just one of many excellent things to do in San Diego.
Alternatively, you could also roll the dice in Las Vegas, maybe even catch a magic show or see one of the many other entertainers who live there.