Things To Do
Angelenos do not lack for entertainment. The L.A. arts and culture scene is one of the best in the country. The range of museums is large enough to sate any art lover’s appetite, and the theater offerings are spectacular and often less expensive than shows in New York.
In addition, there are the uniquely L.A. activities that every non-native Angeleno tries at least once, for anthropological study and for thrills, like celebrity spotting tours. Most residents also spend a good amount of time exercising. A little known truth is that L.A. is abundant in beautiful nature reserves, which are put to good use by hikers of all abilities.
Museums and Galleries: The Getty Center is the best overall experience. Atop a hill right off the 405 freeway between Westwood and Sherman Oaks, The Getty is itself a work of architectural art and a pleasant place to the spend the day. The collection consists of mostly European art with a focus on antiquity. If possible, go when the impressively designed garden is in bloom. Make it a date and have dinner at The Restaurant, which boasts a lovely view and delicious food.
Although much smaller, the Getty Villa is also an unforgettable experience. Designed in the style of a traditional Roman villa, its collection showcases ancient Greek and Roman art, and its outdoor sculpture garden is a sanctuary.
Both “Gettys” offer a number of events from educational courses and lectures as well as music and cultural events, such as outdoor performances of Greek tragedy. Neither museum charges for admission; both charge for parking.
In addition to its permanent collection, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) often has interesting exhibits on art related to the entertainment industry with exhibits on the work of filmmakers, such as Tim Burton and Stanley Kubrick. The museum also hosts outdoor concerts.
If rare books and botanical gardens are your thing, check out the Huntington Library, home to a Gutenberg Bible and a charming tearoom.
Los Angeles also boasts many more museums including, The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), The Skirball Cultural Center, The Hammer Museum, The Natural History Museum, and The La Brea Tar Pits.
Theaters: Theaters in L.A. each tend to specialize in certain types of shows. The variety is large enough that you are bound to find a favorite that caters to your taste.
The Pantages Theater shows large, recurring productions like The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera as well as hit Broadway musicals.
The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion offers ballet performances and opera.
In addition to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the L.A. Philharmonic, housed in the famous Walt Disney Concert Hall, gives year-round performances. Disney Hall is worth a visit even if you are not a classical music fan. The Frank Gehry building is a landmark of the city.
The Hollywood Bowl also puts on concerts of all varieties. Major bands play at the Bowl, while pop sensations tend to perform at Staples Center.
Broadway hits, including musicals and acclaimed dramas, come to the Ahmanson and the Mark Taper.
UCLA puts on some excellent theater as well; the Royal Shakespeare Company brings celebrity-starring productions to UCLA.
Some of the best theater, however, is at smaller, neighborhood playhouses like The Geffen Playhouse in Westwood and the Broad Stage in Santa Monica.
Cirque du Soleil also has an L.A.-specific, cinema-inspired show called Iris that plays regularly, and their better, touring shows set up tent by the Santa Monica pier or at the Staples Center regularly.
Sports in Los Angeles: In addition to a concert arena, the Staples Center is the home court for the Lakers. If you prefer baseball or a leisurely day outdoors, head over to Dodger Stadium to see a game.
Los Angeles for Tourists: For the full tourist experience, try a Starline tour, which will take you to Universal Studios’ back lot or to the houses of the stars. Because L.A. is so spread out, most tours are by bus. In addition to an education in celebrity homes, these tours will give you a feel for the layout of L.A. If you want to put your hands in the prints of Marilyn Monroe or watch a film premiere, check out Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. For a day of rides and set tours, head over to Universal Studios. Warner Bros. also gives studio tours, but if spying stars is your intention, your best bet is to sit down for a nice meal at The Ivy or Katsuya.
Outdoor Activities in LA: You may also run into a well-known face on a hiking trail. The nature reserves are a large part of the L.A. lifestyle and most everyone uses them for an hour or two of exercise and peace of mind. Topanga Canyon is arguably the most beautiful, with trails winding through oak forests to ocean views. Temescal Canyon is lovely as well with its sea breeze. Runyon Canyon leads to a great view of the city but is the most crowded and parking can be problematic. Use of the trails is free, although parking in the lot is not. You can also hike Griffith Park and visit the observatory, famous for its view and for its appearance in Rebel Without a Cause. Check out the commemorative bust of James Dean.
In addition to its trails, Topanga Canyon has some cultural offerings like the Topanga Days festival at the beginning of summer. Topanga residents tend towards the hippy side so you’ll find plenty of folk music, henna tattoos, and handsome handmade clothes. For Shakespeare in the woods, visit the Will Greer Theatricum Botanicum.
For a meditative experience or a walk through stunning grounds, visit the Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades. The temple is sometimes open for visitation, but the garden is the real draw, with its stunning greens and peaceful lake. Look closely and you’ll spot shrines to everyone from the Buddha to the Virgin Mary tucked in the bushes.
The Beaches near the Santa Monica Pier and Venice have a reputation for being on the dirty side. The coastline in Pacific Palisades is nice, but Malibu draws the crowds. During the summer, all the beaches are packed, especially Zuma, but you can find some less populated ones in Malibu like Nicholas Canyon.