Whether you’ve lived in Los Angeles a long time or are new in town there is no reason locals can’t take advantage of the best sites L.A. has to offer. Here are a few of our favorite things to do while playing local tourist!
Hollywood Blvd./Walk of Fame
Everyone needs to visit Hollywood Blvd. at least once or for locals, every time someone new is added! Walk along the street, put your hands in the handprints of old Hollywood celebrities, find the stars on the sidewalk for your favorite actors, and tour Mann’s Chinese Theater, which is still the home of a few movie premieres every year. If there are bleachers and the theater is closed off on the day you go, there’s a movie premiere soon, and you may see more stars than the ones in the sky. The modern complex literally a few steps away is only a few years old, filled with mall-type stores, a Hardrock Café, a bowling alley, and an enormous modern Dolby movie theater. This is now the home of the Oscars.
Also located along the boulevard are a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, and plenty of long-time shops selling pictures and memorabilia that are nearly as old as the Golden Age celebrities themselves.
Venice is a great excursion that will take up about half the day. Venice Beach is comprised of three separate areas: residential Venice, the Boardwalk, and the Skate Park. Venice is named for the small canals that dot the city.
By the shore, Venice is filled with many creative little shops with items that can’t be found elsewhere. Walking the Boardwalk is not only good exercise, it’s a chance to people-watch. Stereotypes come to life with plenty of blondes on roller skates, palm readers, and residents who are pretty sure it’s still 1969. Home to a small version of Muscle Beach, it’s a great place to observe bodybuilders also. Featured in dozens of movies, Venice is known for romantic strolls on the beach. Venice is a safe and fun daytime destination.
For the second half the day, drive up the Pacific Coast Highway three miles to Santa Monica. Santa Monica is essentially an upscale, modern version of Venice Beach. It is also comprised of three separate areas: residential Santa Monica, the 3rd Street Promenade, and the Pier. The 3rd Street Promenade features upscale mall-type stores like Anthropologie and Zara.
The Pier features small shops, games, and a few rides, such the old rollercoaster, still in operation. It’s still possible to fish off the Pier and take home a flounder for dinner. If a restaurant is more your taste, there are plenty to choose from. Shutters, halfway between Venice and Santa Monica, the Lobster Pot, and Ivy on the Shore, are spendy, but feature fresh seafood you can’t find anywhere else. For more reasonable dining, dozens of charming places are located just across the street from the Pier.
If you’re looking for a place to do some serious swimming, know this isn’t it. Visitors, particularly children, will wade in, but the Pacific Ocean is cold, even in the summer (unless you’re off to Hawaii). Surfers in wet suits abound however; if you hear them mention “the men in the gray suits are out today”, Great Whites are patrolling the coast.
Zuma, up the PCH to Malibu, is the location for serious swimmers and surfers. This beach is 1.8 acres of wide open space, though it’s pretty busy in the summer. Ocean-goers, their friends, umbrellas, and dogs start to fill up the sand every morning, so head out early. Bring a wetsuit and a jacket if you plan to stay for a bonfire in the evening. With nearly zero humidity, SoCal gets chilly when the sun goes down, even in mid-summer. Be sure to stay on State Park property and not wander onto residents’ beach property.
For when you want to be a kid again! Part amusement park, part backlot tour, Universal Studios, located in Burbank, the home of most studios, is a popular all-day attraction. Inside the park itself, wild rides like The Mummy and Jurassic Park keep the whole family entertained while the backlot tour features King Kong, a fake flood, Jaws, and tours of lots as old as the those featured in 1930’s Dracula films and as modern as the Desperate Housewives set.
Not strictly speaking in Los Angeles, Disneyland, an older and smaller version of Disney World, is located about 35 miles south in Anaheim and, like Universal, will require a rental car. While Disneyland features fun, modern rides like Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye, it’s also a trip back in history as many of the rides in Fantasyland operate exactly as they did in the ‘50s and look their age, but it’s all part of the experience. Make reservations for lunch at the Blue Bayou, a Cajun restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, featuring a meal in the dark while listening to visitors scream on the ride.
If rides aren’t your thing or you’d like something more adult, it’s possible to spend the entire day in Downtown Disney, which features shops, restaurants, and bars. Since you don’t have to pay park prices to get in, locals love it, so make reservations if you go on a weekend.
Don’t miss the Getty Center for fine art at your own pace. The location, designed to look like the south of France, provides a beautiful landscape that is an attraction all by itself. Ride a lift high to a hilltop in the Santa Monica mountains to find an art museum entirely crafted of 16,000 tons of white travertine marble imported from Bagni di Tivoli, Italy—inside and outside, the walkways, floors, walls, and ceilings, are entirely crafted the matte marble that takes on a beige tone and warm feel from the sun mid-afternoon. The natural light the reflection provides is an unbeatable canvas and the buildings are pieces of art themselves.
The museum is divided into different buildings, each housing art from a different era from Illuminated Manuscripts to Greek statues to European paintings. Monthly traveling exhibitions are popular with local art aficionados. A 5-star restaurant is on-site, but bring a picnic lunch and gaze down northwestern L.A. and Mount St. Mary’s University.
The Hollywood Bowl
Located between Hollywood Blvd. and the entrance to the 101, the Bowl is an outdoor auditorium vaguely reminiscent of a smaller Sydney’s Opera House; the curved stage projects onto literally hundreds of seats. The auditorium has been home to shows as rich and varied as a Stravinsky concert to musicals to Star Wars in Concert. Don’t miss a summertime show when you can purchase a box lunch/dinner and a bottle of champagne on-site for a high-end picnic before showtime.