5 Things to Do in Los Angeles

Whether you go for the glitz and glamour vibe of Hollywood, the laid-back beach scene, or the varied attractions of LA, a visit to this southern California destination is a good choice if you want a mix of everything. Instead of highlighting 5 things to do, we’ll highlight five ways to visit to get that perfect mix. First stop, a glamping accommodation at Thousand Trails Soledad Canyon, which is less than 60 miles from LA proper and full of beautiful views. Choose a glamping cabin or cottage at this great resort set in the high desert and get set for an LA Adventure, par excellence.

  1. Hollywood: Highlights include the Hollywood Walk of Fame which encompasses 15 city blocks and displays over 2700 stars honoring some of the greatest of all time, including newcomers Michael B. Jordan and Courteney Cox. Start your self-guided walking tour at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and check out the celebrity handprints and footprints in front of the theater. The Hollywood Theater, located in the historic Max Factor Building has the most extensive collection of Hollywood memorabilia in the world! From costumes to cars to props and personal artifacts, it’s all here. For movie-themed fun, visit Universal Studios Hollywood and take a tour to get a glimpse of what it’s like behind the scenes. And, of course, the not-to-miss is the newly opened Academy Museum of Motion Pictures dedicated to the history, science, and cultural impact of the film industry.

  2. LA Highlights: LA proper has a tremendous amount of offerings when it comes to attractions – from museums to the famed Griffith Observatory to the Angels Flight® Railway. Open seven days a week, the Original Farmers Market has been selling fresh produce since 1934 but that’s not all visitors can find here. There are all kinds of food offerings from baked goods to meat, seafood, and poultry. How about a walk on the prehistoric side? Visit the La Brea Tar Pits, a sticky, tarry urban paleontological site that has fossilized bones of Ice Age animals preserved in the tar as well as prehistoric plants. Right next door is the LA County Museum of Art, worth a visit even if you just stop by to see the outdoor public art installation, Urban Light. Want to ride a funicular? Check out the Angels Flight® Railway – a 118-year-old funicular, or cable railway, that treats passengers to a ride up, or down, one of the city’s steepest streets. For some of the best views of the city and the famed Hollywood sign, visit Griffith Park Observatory which has, in addition to the planetarium, daily shows and exhibits.

  3. Beach Life: There are several “beach” towns to be found here which makes perfect sense since the Pacific Ocean is the backdrop to fun in the sun. Consider visiting as many as you can including Malibu, Venice, Santa Monica, and Laguna Beach; each offer their own vibe. From a Malibu perspective, there are several beaches to enjoy: Zuma Beach which is great for walking in the surf; North Beach at Leo Carrillo State Park is dog-friendly and if you walk the beach toward the park’s South Beach you can see some interesting caves and tide pools; for stargazing of the Hollywood kind and checking out the cool beach homes, visit either Broach Beach or Malibu Colony Beach; and for surfing or just watching the surfers, head to Malibu Surfrider Beach. Venice Beach has a boardwalk where artists sell their works as well as shops and eateries to enjoy while Santa Monica Beach has three miles of beach plus the iconic Santa Monica Pier with shops and restaurants, plus a Ferris wheel and roller coaster!
Marina Del Rey, California
Marina Del Rey, California
  1. Outdoor Life: Thanks to the sunny California weather, there’s a lot of fun stuff to do outdoors. You can stand-up paddleboard with the sea lions at Marina Del Rey; bike along Venice Beach; hike with scenic views (consider the Charlie Turner Trail in Griffith Park or Runyon Canyon, which is popular with the stars who love to hike); enjoy a private boat tour or rent your own canoe or kayak for a leisurely water ride along the canals of Venice; or stroll through the many public gardens which include Descanso Gardens featuring more than 600 varieties of camelias or the Storrier Stearns Japanese Gardens which features a Japanese tea house set among the traditional Japanese gardens.

  2. The Wild Side: Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the final resting place of stars from all ages, including Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone of The Ramones and Rudolph Valentino, America’s first movie heartthrob and mobster Bugsy Siegel. Guided tours are available for $25. Fans of storybook architecture will enjoy a ride past the Spadina House in Beverly Hills or the cluster of “Snow White Cottages” in Los Feliz to view these very unique homes. There’s also the giant Chicken Boy statue on Figueroa Street and the giant donut atop Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood for some great Instagram shots. For something different, take in one of the shows at The Bob Baker Marionette Theater, which is one of the longest running puppetry theaters in the U.S. All the marionettes are hand crafted and there are a variety of shows on the schedule.

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A Sunny Southern Cali Kind of Stay

A cozy cabin at Pio Pico, near San Diego.
A cozy cabin at Pio Pico, near San Diego.

Make your winter months as sunny as possible and head to southern California to explore the area. Daytime temperatures tend to hover around 68 degrees and the sun is out more than it’s not! There are places to make a home base while you visit the known and lesser known attractions in the Golden State.

Los Angeles: First, book a stay in a cozy cabin at Soledad Canyon and then get ready to check out the area that draws more than 48 million visitors each year.

Of course, many people flock to LA to see the stars of the human variety rather than the celestial kind. You may want to combine a hike in Runyon Canyon with your star-search efforts as this a is favorite spot for the exercise-minded celebrity. Another spot to see stars in their everyday life is The Grove, an LA shopping mecca and the adjacent Original Farmers Market. Whether you see the stars or not, these are all worthy expeditions while in Tinseltown.

Cabin interior at Soledad Canyon, near Los Angeles.
Cabin interior at Soledad Canyon, near Los Angeles.

Other LA attractions include the Griffith Observatory for celestial stargazing, the Santa Monica Pier, and Huntingon Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. And, if you want to feel like it’s winter in all the sunshine, visit Pershing Square’s Holiday Ice Rink, located in the Financial District of the city. The Square will also host a Winter Holiday Festival on December 7, complete with LA’s version of snow!

San Diego: Start by making a reservation to stay in a cabin or cottage at Pio Pico, which is a perfect location thanks to its proximity to San Diego proper. San Diego has beaches, the Pacific Ocean, museums, galleries, a world-class zoo, lots of history, and a boatload of outdoor fun to be had.

The San Diego Zoo consistently ranks as one of the top zoos in the world. With more than 3,500 rare and endangered animals, including gorillas, polar bears, and koala bears, this is definitely not your basic zoo. Visitors can enjoy a guided bus tour through the zoo or see it from above on the zoo’s Skyfari Aerial Tram.

Make a stop at the zoo as part of your San Diego Hop-on Hop-off Trolley tour which also makes stops at Old Town State Historic Park, which is considered the Jamestown of the Pacific; the city’s historic Gaslamp Quarter and Balboa Park.

Santa Barbara: Choose from a cozy cabin, teepee, or covered wagon at Rancho Oso and then head out to explore this charming California town known for its architecture and history.

A safari tent at Rancho Oso, near Santa Barbara.
A safari tent at Rancho Oso, near Santa Barbara.

One of the neat things about Santa Barbara is its proximity to the Channel Islands National Park, an archipelago of five islands. A great way to explore the Park and the islands is through the Santa Barbara Adventure Company (www.sbadventureco.com). There are all kinds of adventures waiting on the Channel Islands including snorkeling, sea cave exploration, hiking and whale watching.

A great way to get to see the beautiful architecture of the city is to take one of the weekend walking tours, offered Saturday and Sunday, through the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara (afsb.org) Tours begin at 10 a.m. and last approximately two hours.

And again, if you want to experience a bit more of a winter feeling in this sunny climate, don’t miss the “snow” events at the town’s Paseo Nuevo outdoor shopping center where “snow” fills the evening skies through December 31. There is also holiday entertainment including carolers, choirs, and Santa himself!