25 Best Things To Do In LA For Your First Visit

July 2, 2019 No Comments

25 Best Things To Do In LA For Your First Visit

July 2, 2019 No Comments
rodeo drive

LA seems to be kind of a controversial city. Some visitors absolutely love it, while others can’t get out of there fast enough.

We fall firmly on the love side of the fence. I really don’t know exactly what it is. Maybe a combination of amazing weather, the hopeful spirit in the air and knowing that you’re in the same suburb as so many celebrities and famous people but there’s such a different feel in LA. It’s almost electric.

If you’re heading to LA for the first time, here are a few of the can’t miss things to do to give you the ultimate Los Angeles experience.

hollywood walk of fame

1. Take a walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame is absolutely iconic. It seems like having a star on the infamous Walk of Fame really cements your status in Hollywood, and is super important to anyone in the entertainment industry.

With more than 2,500 stars embedded along 15 blocks on the Hollywood Boulevard, it can take forever to find who you’re looking for! The stars are permanent public monuments to achievements in the entertainment industry, and include a mix of actors, musicians, directors, producers, musical and theatre groups, fictions characters and even places and brands.

Hollywood Walk of Fame || North Highlight Ave & Hollywood Boulevard

2. Grab a bite to eat in a traditional diner

We don’t really have diners in Australia, so visiting America we couldn’t love them any more. Not only are they still a little bit of a novelty since they’re so often featured on TV shows and movies, but they also have fantastic menus, with heaps and heaps of items, cheaper prices and lots of great options.

One of our favourite diners in LA was Mel’s Drive-In just off the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is one of the most famous diners in Hollywood. The food was delicious and the service was super efficient and speedy for such a busy diner!

Mel’s Drive-In Hollywood || 1660 North Highlight Avenue

california adventure park

3. Spend the day at Disneyland

Head out to Anaheim to spend the day at Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth. Disneyland is about an hour or two out of LA (depending on the traffic) and there’s so much to explore at the world’s most famous theme park that you could easily spend a few days here.

Whether you want to see the iconic castle, take a photo with Mickey or Minnie or check out some of the thrill rides, there’s so much fun to be had at Disneyland.

Disneyland || 1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim

READ MORE:
A Very Unofficial Guide To Disneyland

4. Be an audience member for a TV Show

LA is the home of TV shows, and what better way to get a real feel for LA than by being an audience member to one of your favourite shows. Most of the major studios are located around Studio City and Burbank, only a short drive through the valley from the main hub of LA, and heaps of these shows are looking for a live audience for every taping.

You can score tickets to lots of your favourite TV show tapings from TV Tickets, while lots of the major talk shows offer tickets directly through their own websites. Tickets generally come out about 30 days before the taping and most of the time are free! It’s first in best dressed to make sure you figure out exactly when tickets are becoming available.

the hollywood sign from lake hollywood park

5. See the Hollywood Sign

There are quite a few different places that you can see the Hollywood Sign from, as it stands tall above the city. If you’re feeling energetic you can actually hike to the sign, which offers beautiful views over the city. Otherwise some of the best views of the sign can be seen from Hollywood & Highland Shopping Centre or from Lake Hollywood Park.

Find the best deals for hotels in Hollywood

6. Spend the day at Universal Studios

One of the biggest and best theme parks and studio tours in the world, Universal Studios in Los Angeles will keep you entertained for hours on end. There is an endless number of things to explore around the park, with everything from epic worlds and thrill rides to a tour of the studio back lots where some of the biggest movies in the world are made.

While you’re there, make sure you check out the Simpson’s Springfield, which will throw you right into the middle of the most iconic cartoon destination in the world. And of course, check out Hogsmede and Diagon Alley in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, sure to make you feel like you’ve actually stepped into the movies.

Universal Studios Hollywood || 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City

READ MORE:
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

friends set

7. Visit the Friends set of Central Perk

Jump on board the VIP Tour of Warner Bros. Studios to visit the real set of Central Perk, saved straight from the Friends sound stage. The set of Central Perk has been completely preserved the way it was all throughout filming and you can visit and sit on the infamous couch yourself!

The studio is also setting up permanent exhibits of the sets from the Big Bang Theory, opening this week actually! It’s a great place to get behind the scenes and up close and personal with the filming sets of some of your all time favourite shows.

Warner Bros. Studios || 3400 Warner Blvd, Burbank

READ MORE:
The VIP Tour Of Warner Bros. Studios

8. Take a tour of the city and celebrity homes

On our second visit to LA we had a spare afternoon, so we decided to take a tour of the city and the celebrity homes in the hills. We didn’t have very high hopes for the tour, but it actually turned out to be much better than we expected. Many famous celebrities still live in homes in the Hollywood Hills, that aren’t in private gated communities, and it’s so interesting to see where they actually live.

Even if you don’t drive past many celebrity homes, or can’t really get a glimpse of the ones you do drive past, these tours still offer heaps of interesting trivia about LA, the history behind this iconic city and different spots around the city that has been featured in countless TV sows and movies.

Book your tour of the celebrity homes here

tomtom bar west hollywood

9. Visit some of the locations of your favourite TV Shows

This is one of my favourite things to do in LA! On our latest visit to the City of Angels, we decided to do a bit of a pub crawl of Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurants – TomTom, SUR and Pump, that are all featured on Vanderpump Rules, one of our favourite reality TV shows.

Not only was it incredible to be having drinks and and eating in these truly iconic restaurants that we love watching each week on TV, but we also got to spot lots of the stars from the show just hanging out, including Lisa Vanderpump, her husband Ken and their cute little dogs Giggy and Puffy.

I’m not going to lie, I may have turned into a crazy fan girl when I saw them in real life. I’m pretty sure I lost the ability to speak completely. How embarrassing!

10. Try some of the delicious combinations from California Donuts

Head to California Donuts to try some of the craziest and most delicious donut toppings you have ever seen. Some of the most popular donuts including toppings of fruit loops, M&Ms, strawberries and chocolate, Reese’s peanut butter cups, maple bacon and even a panda face!

California Donuts || 3540 West 3rd Street

santa monica beach

11. Relax on the beach at Santa Monica

Head down to Santa Monica beach for a little bit of fun in the sun! The beach is only about a half hour drive from LA, giving you the best of both worlds – the city and the ocean. Santa Monica is home to the infamous Pacific Park theme park at the end of the pier, which is also the end of the iconic Route 66.

A little further along the beach you can find Venice, home to the iconic Muscle Beach and tall tall singular palms. Rent a bicycle to spend the day riding along the beach and exploring the best that this area of LA has to offer.

Check out the best places to stay near Santa Monica Beach

12. Try a burger from In-N-Out

By far the freshest fast food burgers you’ve ever tried, there’s something incredibly unique and delicious about the burgers from In-N-Out. In fact, when we took my Dad there for the first time he said it was the best burger he had ever had in his whole life!

For a healthier option ask for their signature hamburger protein style, which gives you a burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf, rather than a traditional burger bun! They also have amazing chocolate shakes though – there’s no way of making them any healthier!

fountain at the grove

13. Check out The Grove and the Original Farmers Market

For one of the nicest outdoor shopping experiences in the city, head down to The Grove. Famous for celebrity spotting, as well as often holding book signings, live podcasts and celebrity meet ups, there is always something going on at The Grove.

Some of our favourites at The Grove are Barnes and Noble, where you can often find heaps of signed copies of books left over from celebrity book signings (that sell at the same price as a regular book I might add), and of course, the Cheesecake Factory – one of the greatest restaurant chains in USA!

The Grove || 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles

Shop up a storm at some of the pretty stores before heading across to the Original Farmers Market just across the street, where you can find more organic food options than you can even imagine. Offering fresh produce, as well as food options from all around the world, there is something for everyone here!

The Original Farmers Market || 6333 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles

14. Ride down the terrifying see-through slide

Ever wondered what it would be like to slide  down a completely see through slide, nearly a thousand feet above the city? Well wonder no more, because the US Bank Tower in Downtown LA have just the attraction for you!

The Skyslide is park of the OUE Skyspace attraction in LA  and it is simply a 45-foot, fully enclosed, all glass slide, offering you views of the city from all around you as you slide along the glass 70 storeys in the air!

If the slide sounds a little too terrifying for you, they also have a stunning Skyspace Bar and California’s tallest open air observation terrace, offering you beautiful 360° degree views across the city.

OUE Skyspace LA || 633 West 5th Street, LA || 70th Floor of the US Bank Tower

tcl chinese theatre

15. See the iconic hand and footprints at the TCL Chinese Theatre

The TCL Chinese Theatre, still commonly referred to as Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is a world famous site in Hollywood, iconic for having more movie premiere screenings than any other theatre in the world. It’s home to the historic Hollywood forecourt, featuring the hand and footprints of iconic celebrities that date back earlier than the 1920s.

Many major Hollywood movie premiers still happen at this iconic theatre and celebrity events are still often held here. See if you can find your favourite celebrity’s hand and footprints while you’re here. It’s one of the highest honours in Hollywood, even more prestigious than having a star on the Walk of Fame.

TCL Chinese Theatre || 6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood

16. See what live shows are on

There are always events, live shows and concerts going on in LA. Since it’s home to so many singers, actors and superstars, it feels like there are more events here than anywhere else in the world!

On our first visit to LA we were lucky enough to grab last minute tickets to the MTV Video Music Awards. Literally last minute, I think we saw an add on TV two days before the show and managed to grab final tickets on Ticketek.

Even if you don’t plan in advance and you’re trying to find tickets last minute you can still find some pretty awesome events!

rodeo drive

17. Go window shopping on Rodeo Drive

Beverley Hills might just be our favourite area around LA and what better way to explore than to spend a morning window shopping on Rodeo Drive. This famous street is not only where you can find all the big expensive designer stores, but often where you can find celebrities shopping for their obnoxiously expensive handbags and shoes.

Always keep your eyes peeled around Beverley Hills for famous people, they are often spotted here shopping or just having lunch. You’re likely to see more Mercedes G Wagons and heavily tinted windows in Beverley Hills than you ever have before, so see if you can spot someone famous driving around!

To really up your chances of spotting a celebrity, check into The Beverley Hills Hotel for the night or just hit up their restaurant for some poolside cocktails in the afternoon. A favourite spot amongst the rich and famous of LA, you’re quite likely to spot someone famous here, although it might cost you an arm and a leg to get inside!

The Beverly Hills Hotel || 9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills

READ MORE:
An Essential Guide To Los Angeles

18. Check out the LACMA Light Poles

Outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, also known as LACMA, there is a courtyard of more than 200 light poles that are just beautiful to visit at night. Wander around the light poles for some great Instagram opportunities, or just to see LA all lit up at night.

The lights are located at the Wilshire Boulevard entrance to LACMA and are open to see and visit 24 hours a day.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art  || 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles

breakfast in LA

19. Have dinner at the Cheesecake Factory

Okay, so you can do this all over America, but somewhere in your travels across the States make sure you have dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. With more than 210 different locations across the country, you’re sure to be close to one at some point. There are 21 different locations just around Los Angeles!

Without a doubt, The Cheesecake Factory has one of the biggest menus in the whole world, with more than 250 items, as well as 50 different signature cheesecakes and desserts. Their portion sizes are simply gigantic and they are very reasonably priced.

Probably our favourite place to head for a meal whenever we can in USA, we’ve loved too many dishes to recommend and we haven’t even made a dent at the menu. You’re always sure to leave in a food coma!

20. Catch a basketball games at the Staples Centre

Even from the other side of the world, we know that the Los Angeles Lakers are a pretty big deal when it comes to basketball, so why not try and catch a basketball game at the world famous Staples Centre.

The regular basketball season in the States generally runs from about the end of October until the beginning of April, with games played almost every night somewhere around the country. Tickets to the home and away season can usually be pretty reasonable, but expect super steep prices if you’re trying to catch a finals game.

STAPLES Centre || 1111 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles

paul frank pink wall

21. Check out some of the Instagram hot spots around the city

There are an endless number of painted walls around the city of LA that are just screaming for an Instagram photo to be taken against it! From the huge MADE IN LA wall, to angel wings, LOVE graffiti and of course the infamous pink walls of the Paul Frank store, it’s not hard to come across a great back drop for a selfie.

22. Explore Downtown LA

If you’re visiting for the first time it can be easy to get all caught up in Hollywood and staying around the main tourist areas, but take some time to get out and explore Downtown LA. There’s heaps to do and see around the main city of LA and it offers a very different perspective on one of the world’s strangest cities.

Lots of LA’s museums can also be found in Downtown LA, with the city being home to more than 100 different museums! You can find information and exhibits on just about everything you can imagine around the city, with many of them offering free admission.

Check out some of LA’s best city tours

pride in west hollywood

23. Spend a night out on the town in West Hollywood

Have some fun by spending a night out in West Hollywood bar hopping between all the different spots along Santa Monica Boulevard. West Hollywood is actually considered the heart of boy-town in LA, with lots of gay bars, rainbow flags and colourful bar fronts lining the streets!

We actually visited West Hollywood during Pride month in LA, which happens every June, so there was even more celebrating to be had. Nothing puts a smile on your face like a street that is completely covered in rainbows, and it makes for a great night out!

24. Check out the views from Griffith Observatory

For beautiful views over the city, head to Griffith Observatory. From here you get sweeping views of the whole city, from the city skyline to the celebrity homes in the hills. The observatory is also the home to a beautiful planetarium if you’re interested in learning more about the solar system!

Griffith Observatory || 2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles

made in la graffiti wall

25. Get some fresh air at Runyon Canyon

Get out of the city for a little bit and get some fresh air with a hike at Runyon Canyon. This popular hiking track will wind you high into the Hollywood Hills, overlooking the whole city. This is where you can hike to behind the Hollywood sign, and is another great spot for celebrity spotting, lots of them love to hike around this part of the hills. Make sure you wear appropriate active wear if you’re planning on hiking around here. Some of the trails are super steep and can be a little tough if you’re not used to incline hikes.

What’s your favourite thing to do in LA?

Explore more of our adventures across USA 

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25 best things to do in LA    25 best things to do in LA

Happy travels,



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Emma Shaw

Emma is a travel photographer and blogger, living in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Thom in between adventures. She started Explore Shaw to share her experiences, travel tips and destination advice, and to inspire others to travel the world and their own backyard whenever they can.

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Just two twenty-something married Aussies, visiting as many places as we can in between normal life, and hoping to inspire and offer advice for your travel planning.

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