I think it’s a fair statement to make that a decent amount of people who live in Los Angeles are not actually from LA.
Los Angeles is a city full of tourist attractions, most of which those who live in Los Angeles never bother with unless entertaining friends who are visiting. It’s similar to that of a New Yorker and their relationship with Times Square or if you asked someone who lives in San Francisco how often they find themselves walking across the Golden Gate Bridge. There are simply things in big cities that people from across the world fly out just to do, but someone who’s lived there for years has never experienced.
Before I moved out to LA, I had barely even visited it, mainly due to the fact that my parents aren’t the biggest fans of congested cities. So now that I live here I’ve made it a point to try out different things in the area to decide which of them actually live up to the hype
From my experiences, I’ve compiled a list of 15 different things to do in Los Angeles at three different price ranges, free, under $15, and those that are more of a splurge. These are things I think are actually worth trying regardless of if you’re just visiting LA, have recently moved here, or have lived here all your life.
The Getty Museum is one of the most recent of the things I’ve explored in LA. While you will have to pay for parking ($15, $10 if you arrive after 3pm) the museum itself is free. There is a tram to take you up the hill, and if the line is too long to get on, you also have the option of walking. Each building is air conditioned which is a necessity in LA. While I am in no way an art critic, I appreciated the variety of pieces on display not just with time period range, but also the different mediums, paintings, sculptures, even furniture. They also have a lovely succulent garden on display.
Griffith Observatory was actually one of the first touristy things I did after moving to LA. My roommate and I both had the day off and decided to be spontaneous and explore the inside before watching the sunset from the observatory. Since then this has become one of my favorite places to take friends and family when they come to visit. One of the things I love most about it is actually hiking up to the top (added bonus, parking is free at the bottom near the park). I actually took my parents who are avid hikers on the trail and not only did they enjoy it but it ended up being my dad’s, who is a born and raised Californian, first time inside the Observatory. It’s also worth noting that it is one of my favorite lookouts of Los Angeles with a picturesque view of the Hollywood sign.
Santa Monica Pier
Arguably the most touristy of my suggestions, Santa Monica Pier is just something fun to say you’ve done, especially if you find yourself in the area. They have different arcade games and attractions as well as your classic pier foods. The beach is also right there if you just want to lay down in the sand for a bit and it’s walking distance from 3rd Street Promenade, an iconic shopping street in the LA Area.
La Brea Tar Pits
The main reason I've chosen to include the La Brea Tar Pits is that it remains one of my friends favorite activities of the things we took her to see when she came to visit. It's a fun little history lesson that's nice to walk around. More recently actor Will Ferrell worked with the museum for a webseries called #HowDoYouMuseum, which encourages museum attendees to showcase on social media their museum experiences.
When my friends from back home or college find out I’ve been in the audience of awards shows, talk shows, or sitcom tapings they always lose their mind with excitement and awe. In reality it’s a pretty easy task to accomplish. There’s different sites you can use to get free tickets for such tapings such as 1iota and TVTickets. Some talk shows, such as Ellen, run the tickets themselves through their website. While you’ll have to plan these out a little further in advance, they’re a fun time with friends as well as a cool look into the behind the scenes of how different television productions are made.
These tapings are a fun way to see some of your favorite artists perform their hit songs, listening to actors you admire talking about their lives, or even cheering on your idol as they win an award. More recently Kelly Clarkson put on a free concert of her hit songs as part of a televised performance for The Voice. In that audience was super fan Reza Nosrati. Nosrati who has been a fan of Clarkson of Kelly since her days on American Idol spoke of his enthusiasm for the event saying "I had a blast dancing to all of my songs by Kelly, and since it was free I got to bring along a friend who had never seen her live before".
My advice for this is to make sure you wear comfortable footwear and prepared to do a lot of waiting around, probably without your phone on hand so definitely wear a watch if you’re someone like me who is always curious about what time it is.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
While in Pasadena, the Rose Bowl Flea Market is a fun experience where you might find yourself going home with something you never knew you needed. It’s a mix of modern day boutiques, thrift store finds, and garage sale style trinkets. I’ve gone home with anything from a Star Wars Vinyl Record to a Wooden Triangular Shelf. There is an entry fee of $9 if you arrive after 9am and parking is free.
Tip: While a decent amount of vendors use square readers, make sure to bring cash just in case. Also avoid attending during the summer to make the experience more enjoyable, trust me.
Underwood Family Farms
While this is a year round opportunity for berry picking, my experience is limited to the Fall for their Harvest Festival. I go each year to pick out pick out a pumpkin, get lost in a corn maze, eat some pie, and take some cute photos for the socials if I’m being completely honest. While you’ll find a lot of families in attendance, you’ll also find fellow millennials wanting to live out their childhoods again. Weekends tend to be a little more crowded, and pricey for that matter, so I'd suggest going on a weekday early in the month of October where tickets are closer to $6, plus the price of your pumpkin if you decide to bring one home.
Upright Citizens Brigade Improv Show
Founded by Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, the Upright Citizens Brigade is a great place to see improv shows regardless of if you’re an avid fan or have never seen one before. In Los Angeles there are two theatres named after the streets they’re located on (Franklin and Sunset). The Franklin Theatre is home to more of the classic shows such as Harold Night, a required viewing for anyone taking improv classes through UCB, while the Sunset building is also the location of classes, the cafe, and the inner sanctum which houses newer teams finding their groove. The thing I love about seeing shows at UCB is its fun, inexpensive, live entertainment. I often find myself wiping away tears having laughed so hard.
Another fun component is being able to see new comedic talent before they hit your television screen. A more recent actress to come out of UCB is Rachel Bloom, creator and star of the CW show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend". In speaking with the Daily Actor Bloom touched on her time with UCB, "The way that I learned comedy was not rigid, but this very specific technique taught by the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, which is the idea of, ‘What’s the game of your scene?’".
The shows range in price from $5-$12 (and many are free to current students) and while parking is a little tricky, there is valet available. I’d also recommend getting there 15-30 minutes before your show as people start lining up that early outside of the theatre.
More Information on the Upright Citizens Brigade
I’ll be honest, the thing that brought me to the Grammy Museum in the first place was the Taylor Swift Experience they had at the time. However, after I spent close to an hour of my time on the level dedicated to the interest of Swifties such as myself, I made my way to the other floors and thoroughly enjoyed my time. There are multiple floors to the museum each with a different focus including tributes to powerful artists for each generation as well as interactive activities.
One nice thing about Los Angeles is that there is not a shortage of Coffee Shops. While they’re are plenty I could recommend (Alfred’s, Philz) I chose to include Toms because it’s more of an experience than the others. The cafe actually offers different events throughout each month that range from shoe decorating, to arts and crafts, to even leisurely yoga. I especially love the atmosphere of Toms. With both comfy indoor and outdoor seating, it fits in perfectly with the Venice vibe.
Malibu Wine Safari
Malibu Wine Safari is the perfect birthday outing for any millennial. It allows you to not only try some amazing wines, but also you get to feed some adorable animals (Including Stanley from the Giraffe from the Hangover 3). The tour guides are delightful and really make the experience enjoyable for all involved as they drive you around in one of the many festive jeeps. Plus there are so many scenic photo opportunities that are bound to make all of your friends jealous on your socials.
One of the nice things about Universal Studios is the unique rides and attractions it offers compared to other amusement parks in the LA area. This is an especially smart place to take friends or family who are visiting LA as one of the rides is a studio tour so you get a behind the scenes look at the shows that film on the Universal Lot. I’d honestly say this is worth going to just to try some authentic Butterbeer if you’re a Harry Potter nerd like myself.
Crumbs & Whiskers
I am by no means a cat person, yet here I am including this on the list. Crumbs and Whiskers is a Cat Cafe in West Hollywood where you pay for about an hour long session to play with some cats and drink coffee. If that sounds completely ridiculous to you, it’s because it is, but one of the wonderful things about it is that the cafe actually acts as a foster home for all of the cats who live there, so if you fall in love with one of the feline friends you can actually adopt it and bring it home with you.
There is definitely not a shortage of concert venues in Los Angeles, but one of my favorites would definitely have to be the Hollywood Bowl. It’s outdoor seating is surrounded by trees and gives it a nice nature feel even though it’s right off of the 101. I would especially recommend going to see one of the Musicals they put on during the summer. They’ve been known to feature All-Star Casts of well known talent in the LA area that you’ve likely seen in your favorite shows and movies. The closer seats you can get, the better.
I would like to start this off with a personal apology to all of my friends from the Bay Area for including this on the list. I would also like to make it very clear that I am a Giants girl and am not writing this to show any support for the Dodgers, but I do love Baseball and watching it at a Baseball Field with your friends makes it all the more fun. While you can find tickets as low as $4 through apps like Gametime, where if you use the code GAMETIME57259 You can get $5 off your order, I would actually recommend splurging for the All You Can Eat Pavilion. I did this in college with a group of friends and we had such a blast. The food range is limited to just Dodger Dogs, Nachos, Peanuts, Popcorn, and Soda, but let’s be honest here, you’re not really going to a baseball game for the fancy food.
So there you have it! Those are 15 things I would recommend you try out if you ever find yourself in the Los Angeles area. Feel free to comment below some of your favorite things to do in LA that you think I missed.