29 cool things to do in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has a lot going for it. The weather is pretty much perfect year round (hello, 70s and sunny), art and culture are booming and 75 miles of coastline makes beachgoing a breeze. It isn’t hard to see why it’s the #3 Most Popular Destination on our annual Travel Hacker Guide for the 2nd year running.

According to our data, September and January are the most affordable times to go (with median airfare around $215) and the best flight prices can be found just one month ahead of travel, meaning a last-minute fall or winter getaway could be a perfect way to see the City of Angels for less. If you’re hoping to keep the savings going once you’re on the ground, we got you. Here are 29 super cool (and affordable) things to see and do in Los Angeles.

1. Take a drive down Mulholland

Mulholland Drive is one of the most scenic drives in the world for a reason — and that reason is clear to anyone who’s cruised down this iconic street. It winds through the Hollywood Hills and across the Santa Monica Mountains towards the Pacific Ocean. Stop for photo ops and to take in the views at one of the overlooks on the route.

2. Grab a bite at Pink’s Hot Dogs

This iconic Hollywood hot dog spot started as a street cart on the corner of La Brea and Melrose 80 or so years ago. Today, it’s still run by the same family. Did we mention there are 30 kinds of hot dogs on the menu?

3. Celeb-spot at TCL Chinese Theatre

This free attraction is easily recognizable as classic old Hollywood (and free to visit). What started as an accident involving an actress stepping in wet cement at a film premiere has become a must-see for any first-time visitor to the city. Stop for photo ops and compare the size of your hands and feet with those of stars past and present.

4. Take the Downtown LA Art Walk

If you want to peep some of the city’s art, but you also want to enjoy that Cali sunshine, we have just the thing. The Downtown LA Art Walk is a free public art event that happens on the second Thursday of the month along Spring and Main Streets.

5. Wander through Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market has been around since 1917 and has tons to offer hungry visitors. From pizza to BBQ, there’s plenty of choice at reasonable prices, and the market also hosts free events including music and game nights.

6. Work out (or people watch) on Venice Beach

The 3-mile length of Venice Beach is famous for its laid-back surf culture and Ocean Front Walk lined with souvenir shops and street performers with skills that range from reading tarot cards to juggling chainsaws. But don’t leave without checking out Muscle Beach, where you’ll find amateur and professional bodybuilders doing what they do best.

7. Jam to live music at the Hollywood Bowl

This iconic outdoor venue has been serving up live music under the stars since the 1920s. From big-name acts to lesser known shows, there are events at a variety of price points. Tickets for some events can be found for less than $20.

 8. Try a French Dip sandwich

One of Los Angeles’ most iconic foods is the French Dip sandwich — think oven-roasted beef, pork, turkey or lamb on a French roll with a side of au jus for dipping. There are 2 LA restaurants who claim to have invented the classic sandwich: Philippe The Original and Cole’s. Best to try both.

9. Road trip to an old Western film set

Just around 40 miles from downtown LA in the Santa Monica Mountains you’ll find Paramount Ranch, home to “Western Town,” a film set used in movies and TV shows from classic Westerns to more recent TV hits. It’s hard to believe this gem is still hidden, but it’s free to explore, and a must for film fans with access to a car during their trip.

10. Learn a thing or two at the Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County covers more than 4.5 billion years of history. (The HUGE dinosaur hall is a must). Admission is free the first Tuesday of each month (except for July and August).

11. Stroll Olvera Street

Window shop, listen to mariachi music and snack on authentic Mexican flavors on Olvera Street. There you’ll also find the oldest existing house in LA, the Avila Adobe (take the tour if you have time).

12. Explore Chinatown

Did you know it’s the first established Chinatown in America? Take a walking tour, explore the Central Plaza, or stop in the art galleries found on Chung King Road.

13. Pay your respects at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Founded in 1899 and the final resting place for icons like Johnny Ramone, Cecil B. DeMille and Jayne Mansfield, Hollywood Forever is one of the oldest cemeteries in Los Angeles and located right on Santa Monica Boulevard. Hollywood Forever also hosts events, including popular outdoor movie nights that are a must for movie buffs.

14. Take in the city’s street art 

Colorful street art can be found in many neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Keep your eyes open as you explore — especially around metro stations. You can also visit the LA Arts District in downtown or the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles.

15. Visit the California Science Center

The California Science Center offers up free admission to its 4 major exhibit areas — World of Life, Creative World, Ecosystems and Space Shuttle Endeavour. But, if you want to splurge, you’ll also find a 7-story IMAX theatre on the premises.

16. Explore the California African American Museum

For history and cultural exhibits, look no further than the California African American Museum, which houses 3 exhibition galleries. Admission is free.

17. Snap photos on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

If you’re new to LA, a visit to the Walk of Fame is a must. The public sidewalk dotted with brass stars stretches along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street and it’s the perfect place to get a photo with your favorite celeb (even if it’s only their star). Although, 1 to 2 stars are added each month and their installations are free and open to the public — so you never know who you may see.

18. See the other kind of stars at Griffith Observatory

The views from this Griffith Park landmark and its exhibits are free to enjoy, but there’s an admission fee for the Planetarium.

19. See art (and city views) at The Getty Center

The Getty Center overlooks the coastline and the LA skyline, but aside from these views, you can also peep a world-class art collection, including European paintings, contemporary photographs and decorative arts. Admission is free.

20. See Victorian architecture in Angelino Heights

The Angelino Heights neighborhood — the 1300 block of Carroll Avenue — gives visitors a look at the lasting influence the Victorian era had on the area’s architecture. If any of the homes look familiar, it may be because you’ve seen them on film and television — including the Halliwell home from the original “Charmed” series. Take a tour for $15, or just wander the neighborhood at your own pace for free.

21. Dine around the clock at Canter’s Delicatessen

Considered one of LA’s best delis, Canter’s is a family-owned Jewish deli is open 24 hours and also boasts a bakery, deli and cocktail lounge. Try the pastrami on rye or the matzo ball soup — you won’t be disappointed.

22. Have a drink at No Vacancy at Hotel Juniper

No Vacancy at Hotel Juniper is a three-level bar brimming with 1930s nostalgia — think touches like the vintage hotel lobby, secret entrance, antique patio bar, outdoor garden and a rotating list of 12 cocktails called The Dirty Dozen.

23. Tour (and taste) at Angel City Brewery

Located in the city’s Arts District, tour Angel City Brewery and sip local craft beer. The brewery also hosts events from art to music to yoga.

24. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway — or PCH as locals call it — is a winding scenic road along the coastline. Stop at El Matador State Beach in Malibu for some of the prettiest beach views. When you’ve worked up an appetite, grab lunch at Gladstone’s Malibu, a beachfront restaurant where you can’t go wrong with seafood and the panoramic ocean views are unmatched.

25. Try a double-double and fries — animal style

In-N-Out Burger is a popular fast-food chain that began as Cali’s first drive-thru hamburger stand in the 40s. Now it’s a favorite of locals, visitors and celebrities alike. Pro tip: order your burger and/or fries ‘animal style’ for a secret menu twist.

26. Wander the Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is known for its boardwalk, which includes an amusement park, arcade, kitschy shops, beachfront restaurants and bars.

27. Hike Runyon Canyon Park

Only 2 blocks from Hollywood Boulevard, this park offers views of the Pacific Ocean and the Hollywood Sign. Choose one of the park’s hiking trails, or pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the outdoors.

28. Go back in time at the La Brea Tar Pits

Ice Age fossils right in Los Angeles? While this may sound like the pitch for a Hollywood movie, at the La Brea Tar Pits it’s real life. The museum features fossils of mammoths and dire wolves, and you can also watch live as scientists in a glass-enclosed lab work with actual fossils.

29. Go Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard

A classic backdrop for Hollywood films, spend an evening sipping classic cocktails on the Sunset Strip. While you’re there, catch live music at hot spots like The Roxy, Whisky A Go Go and The Viper Room.

Ready to see Los Angeles for yourself? Start confidently planning your trip on KAYAK.com.

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