Most of us know about Los Angeles and have their own version of the city in their minds. For some its the glamour and glitz of Hollywood, for some its sun, sand and surf; and for others its the luxury of Beverly Hills and Malibu. Having watched shows like 90210 and The Hills (don’t judge me!), I also had a romanticized version of L.A. in my head. I consider myself fortunate to have lived there and experience the Cali dream. This ‘city of angels’ being the entertainment capital of the world is also home to Southern California’s best coastlines with near-perfect weather all year round.
With this post, I am sharing the best tourist attractions in and around Los Angeles that are worth the hype.
The Hollywood Sign – Been there. Done that.
For first time visitors, seeing the coveted Hollywood sign is on top of the list. Although you can see it from most places in the city, the best and closest view is at Lake Hollywood Park (3204 Canyon Lake Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068). On my first visit to L.A., I remember asking for directions and climbing atop to get a view of the Sign and later when I moved to L.A., to my surprise; it popped from every corner.
Tip: Make sure you stop at the dog park and park your car right there as you cannot stop and park on the hill.
Mulholland Drive is a scenic route offering panoramic views of Downtown Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley and the Hollywood Sign. The best overlooks being the Hollywood Bowl Overlook (7036 Mulholland Drive) and the Nancy Hoover Pohl Overlook (8401 Mulholland Drive). It is also home to the most lavish and exclusive celebrity homes.
Griffith Observatory perched on Mt. Hollywood is a free admission public facility with an extensive array of space and science exhibits. The observatory is a popular attraction among locals and tourists for spectacular views of the city. This was also the site for scenes in Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean; a poster of which I currently own in my living space.
Hollywood Boulevard celebrates L.A.’s rich film and entertainment culture with the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the TCL Chinese Theatre, the Dolby Theatre, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, to name a few. You have to come here for the true Hollywood experience. Trust me you never know who you may run into. On one such day of luck, I saw Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey at the premiere of Interstellar.
Universal Studios Hollywood is a personal favorite. It is an experience you don’t want to miss. The Studio Tour is unique for this 45-minute ride on tram vehicles takes visitors to actual movie and television sets. I will not get into the debate of choosing Universal Studios Hollywood versus Universal Orlando. But no matter what location you pick, Universal Studios caters to all age groups (my parents and mother-in-law will agree).
While we are on the topic of theme parks, I would also add Disneyland and Downtown Disney (which is free) to this list, simply because not everyone can go to Orlando. The biggest difference is size as Disneyland (in Anaheim) has two theme parks while Disney World (in Orlando) has four theme parks but when you look at the overall entertainment value, both will get you your money’s worth. There is a child in all of us that is longing for the Disney Dream.
Santa Monica Pier is a classic boardwalk amusement park that will make you feel like a kid again (shouldn’t you already?). If anything the views are enough to make a visit.
Venice Canal Walkway and Venice Beach
Venice Canal Walkway is a great place to stroll and feels like an oasis in the city. These are man made canals fashioned after the Venice canals in Italy. The walkways are bound by residential houses on either sides, so be mindful of the resident’s privacy. The houses are absolutely gorgeous with unique architectural styles. You can’t help but get envious of the residents. Feel the So-Cal vibe at Venice Beach which is minutes away from the canals.
Since we are speaking of beaches we have to mention Malibu, which in the public eye is synonymous with wealth and beaches. This affluent beach city is along the Pacific Coast Highway and no wonder has the signature cliff views and sunsets.
Catalina Island is your one stop destination to live the island life not far from L.A. You can get to Catalina Island from four mainland ports in Southern California – San Pedro, Long Beach, Newport Beach or Dana Point, and the ride is about an hour long. There are a lot of water, land and air activities like kayaking, zip lining, biking, parasailing, snorkeling and much more. For those who simply want relaxation, the clear blue skies and the cool ocean breeze surely won’t disappoint.
Tip: Getting around the island is convenient and hassle free when you rent a golf cart.
In my opinion, L.A.’s location is ideal, as you can travel to so many places like San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. It is here that my quest for travel began in true sense. So when it came to leaving Los Angeles, it was bittersweet (as I was moving closer to family); and for a month I suffered from Oh I love and I miss California feeling. I am sure that people around me got tired of my endless glorification of California. But it is only fair that I end with the little things I miss about L.A. and California.
- Endless summer
- In-n-Out Burger
- Gorgeous sunsets
- Pacific Coast Highway (See blog post here-Road Trip Along the Pacific Coast Highway)
- All year beach access
- Palm trees
- Scenic drives around the corner
- Las Vegas (just 4.5 hours away)