Los Angeles is a town where you never can keep up with your bucket list. Once you finally score a reservation to the trendiest new restaurant, another one pops open. As soon as you finish exploring one neighborhood, another one goes through a complete transformation with new shops and cafes you’re now dying to visit. We’ve only been out of LA for a year, but already our list is piled high with new additions.
Since some things can be just a passing fad, we kept it classic or focused on places that had a solid track record. (Mr Holmes Bakehouse, the jury’s still out on you.)
We organized our favorite things by neighborhood, because, you know, LA traffic is the worst.
||Search for street art in DTLA
||More and more murals are popping up what seems like daily. There’s awesome pieces all over LA. See what you can find!
||Walt Disney Concert Hall
||Attend a concert or visit for a free tour of this Frank Gehry building.
||Contemporary art museum that opened in 2015. Book your free ticket ahead if possible, and arrive early if you want to reserve your timed spot for Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room.
||Sporting Event at Staples Center
||Kelly says “Go Clippers” while Aaron is a loyal Lakers fan. But sometimes we compromise and go to a Kings game.
||Take me out to the ball game. And don’t forget a Dodger Dog!
||Grand Central Market
||This place is a microcosm of extreme gentrification. On my first visit back in 2009, I was greeted by all parts of the pig in the butcher’s display case, cheap taco stands and sawdust on the floor. Most of these vendors have been priced out, and now it’s a mecca for hipsters willing to spend $7 for an organic, free-range Egg McMuffin at Eggslut. But I still like it 🙂
||One of the oldest buildings in DTLA, the wrought iron staircases will blow you away.
||Known as one of the “Last of the Great Railway Stations,” I love the old school feel of the waiting room.
||I don’t even like hot dogs or sausages, but I love this place. And the fries are amazing.
||Food, ambiance, everything is great.
||Eat ramen, sushi or mochi, or check out the free public gardens at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.
||If you can’t make it to this Japanese ice cream shop for the mochi balls, you’re in luck, because you can also pick them up at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s.
||The Last Bookstore
||You can find anything and everything among the cool book displays at this large, multilevel bookstore.
||Take a free docent tours of this early example of Art Deco.
||Walking tour with the LA Conservancy
||Even after going downtown everyday for years, I saw so much that I never noticed before. The Historic Downtown tour is a good place to start, and I loved the Art Deco tour.
||Original LA Flower Market
||I love walking into a huge place full of flowers. Wholesale is early in the morning, but it’s open to the public after 6am or 8am, depending on the day.
||The Fashion District
||Cheap clothes and lots of fabric. Also, so many Mexican hot dog vendors.
||Rooftop bar in DTLA
||Skybar Mondrian, The Standard, or Perch Los Angeles are our picks dinner or drinks with a view.
||Fun, interactive museum about the history and winners of the Grammy Awards.
||Philippe the Original
||Maybe the best french dip…ever?!
||One of the most reviewed place on Yelp ever. I’ve loved everything I’ve had, and the dessert display cases are to die for.
||Super fresh sushi and sashimi. My Japanese friends tell me it’s on par with the sushi back at home.
||McConnells Ice Cream
||Unique ice cream flavors (like Eureka Lemon & Marionberries) in Grand Central Market. Made at the original location in Santa Barbara.
||See the Space Shuttle Endeavour, walk through the Rose Garden or visit the Natural History Museum.
||LA’s first street, now a Mexican market.
||Vista Hermosa Park
||Walking trails and grassy fields, all with a great view of DTLA.
||1300 block of Carroll Avenue
||Beautiful Victorian homes featured on TV shows like Charmed and the “Thriller!” music video.
||Hike to the Hollywood Sign
||Hike with a classic view of the sign and DTLA.
||Check out a planetarium show, stargaze through a telescope, or enjoy the view of DTLA.
||Shakespeare in the Park at to the Old Griffith Zoo
||Awesome way to combine the outdoors and culture on a warm summer night.
||Hike in Griffith Park
||With over 53 miles of hiking trails, there are so many options to choose from right in the middle of LA.
||The Greek Theatre
||One of LA’s best outdoor live music venues, right in the heart of Griffith park. Built in the 1930s, this venue hosts a wide variety of performers.
||We’ve discovered new artists and seen some of our up-and-coming favorites in this intimate venue. We even spotted Sara Bareilles in the crowd.
||This venue makes any concert memorable. Pack a picnic and enjoy the setting in the hills.
||Cruise along Mulholland Drive
||Our preference, do it on a Vespa.
||The Magic Castle
||An invite-only club for magic enthusiasts.
||Catch a touring Broadway show in this historic theater.
||Capitol Records Tower
||Iconic circular tower in Hollywood.
||The Stahl House
||Iconic example from the Case Study Houses program, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and stellar views of LA.
||With a caveat, start at Wattles Garden Park and you’ll have a nice trail to yourself before you hit the heavily trafficked highway that is Runyon Canyon. After that, forget about communing with nature as it’s packed with dogs and people wearing heavy perfume. But hey, it feels like the epitome of LA.
||Classic old record store in Hollywood.
||The Fonda Theatre
||Classic Hollywood theater built in 1926. Come here for big names or those about to hit it big.
Photo: A. Breaux / creative commons
||Beach with long wide sand and great surf up in Malibu.
||El Matador Beach
||Our favorite beach in Malibu, El Matador is a small beach with cool rock formations. It felt like LA’s best kept secret until everyone else found out about it.
||Leo Carrillo State Beach
||Popular beach great for surfing, with tide pools, sea caves, and reefs.
||Villa with Roman-inspired architecture and gardens, showcasing Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities. Admission is free, but must be booked in advance. Parking is $15, or $10 after 3 pm.
||No-frills seafood market and cafe on the PCH with outdoor seating and ocean views.
||Escondido Falls Hike
||Hike to a three-tiered waterfall in Malibu. Some areas are steep, wet and slippery, where you’ll need the ropes on the trail to pull yourself up.
||Malibu Creek State Park/M*A*S*H Site/Swimming spots
||Hike to the M*A*S*H filming site and find swimming holes along the way. $12 for parking, or for free on the side of the road.
||Hike to Parker Mesa Overlook
||Start from the Los Liones trailhead for a 7-mile roundtrip hike with amazing views.
||You’ll probably want to ask a real surfer where the best spots are, but places like Zuma beach in Malibu and El Porto near Manhattan Beach are a safe bet for good waves.
||Cycling the Strand from Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach
||We loved cycling around on our beach cruisers at our favorite beach. If you need to rent a bike, most of the spots are in Hermosa Beach.
||Manhattan Beach Post
||This farm-to-table restaurants with communal seating features small plates like Maine Diver Scallops and BBQ Moroccan Lamb Belly. Whatever you do, get the Bacon Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits.
||Manhattan Beach Creamery
||Colorful ice cream shop with artisan ice cream.
||This is my pick for the best donuts in LA. They also have lots of fun decorated cookies.
||Shop at The Grove
||When we moved apartments after our first year in LA, our main criteria was that we had to stay within a 2 mile radius of The Grove. I kid, sorta ;). We’ve spent way too much money at this amazing outdoor shopping mall, and love all of the free events, like summer concerts and Christmas tree lighting ceremonies.
||The Farmers Market on Fairfax and Third
||Right next to The Grove, the Farmers Market has been on this corner since 1934.
||Korean BBQ in K-town
||Our favorite Soowon Galbi, or Genwa for a massive spread of banchan.
||Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza
||Italian restaurant and pizzeria from chefs Nancy Silverton & Mario Batali. Aaron claims their meatballs are almost as good as his Italian Nana’s. Almost 😉
||Pink’s Hot Dogs
||As they proudly claim on their banners outside the stand, Pink’s has been a Hollywood legend since 1939. Try to go at an off-peak time to avoid the long line.
||Classic California donut shop. Hole-in-the-wall right around the corner from our first LA apartment, open 24/7 so there’s always fresh donuts on hand. They even have their own version of the cronut, called the skronut.
||Small plates French restaurant that may have the best french fries in LA according to LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold. We concur.
||Old-fashioned Jewish deli. Get the classic #19.
||Art museum in Miracle Mile with the well-known Urban Light installation along Wilshire Boulevard.
||La Brea Tar Pits
||Tar pits with natural asphalt still seeping up from the ground. The animal skeletons discovered form the pits, like a Columbian mammoth, are on display at the George C. Page Museum.
||Take a stroll through Hancock Park
||Hancock Park feels like old, classy Los Angeles. Built in the 1920s, mansions tower above as you stroll the palm tree-lined streets.
||Peterson Automotive Museum
||Automotive museum in Miracle Mile that recently got a huge facelift, with a metal sculpture covering the building’s exterior.
||Art deco concert venue on Wilshire and Western that was originally used as a movie theatre when it opened in 1931.
||El Rey Theatre
||Art deco concern venue in Miracle Mile.
||Melrose Trading Post
||Sunday open-air flea market.
||Rose Bowl Flea Market
||Huge flea market held in the Rose Bowl on the second Sunday every month. Entrance is $9.
||Houses an extensive art collection, and surrounded by 120-acres of botanical landscaped gardens, including a Japanese Garden, Desert Garden, and Chinese Garden.
||Galco’s Soda Pop Stop
||We couldn’t have completed our quest to find the best Root Beer without trying the over 30 brands stocked at Galco’s.
||Hot Pot in San Gabriel Valley
||The best places are a bit (okay, maybe a lot) out of the way, but totally worth it.
||Santa Monica Pier
||Large pier with landmark entrance and ferris wheel. This place gets pretty packed, but it’s a great place to go whether you want the beach, shopping on Third Street Promenade, or just to mill about.
||Santa Monica’s Farmers Market
||This large farmer’s market focuses on fresh fruits and veggies, where local restaurants come to buy produce.
||The Getty Center is one of the most visited museums in the US, with modern architecture, gardens, and awesome views overlooking Los Angeles. On display are pre-20th-century European paintings, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts; and 19th- and 20th-century American, Asian, and European photographs. Parking is $15, or $10 after 3pm.
||Round of golf at Rancho Park course
||At $9 on weekends and $8 on weekdays, we could afford to play the 9-hole 3-par course over and over again. There’s also a full 18-hole course, a putting green and a driving range.
||Bay Cities Italian Deli & Bakery
||I’m always craving the godmother, the best deli sandwich ever.
||Annenberg Space for Photography
||Rotating exhibits featuring art photography.
||Stand up paddle boarding
||Try Marina del Rey for a smooth ride, or one of the surf spots to ride the waves.
||Even after countless cones in Italy, this is still on of our favorite gelato spots. The flavors are constantly rotating, and they’re inventive without being just weird. My favorites are any of the flavors with marscapone.
||Epic toast with the best house-made jams.
||Boho chic shopping and hipster coffee shops along Sunset Boulevard.
||Music Box Loop – Stair Hike
||Rainbow painted stairs start this climb.
||Find respite from the craziness of Venice Beach in the Venice Canals, just a few blocks away. These manmade canals were built in the early 1900s as part of Abbot Kinney’s grand plan to make the Venice of America.
||We were so stoked when we snagged a reservation here a few years ago. The place is cool and the food is great.
||Abbot Kinney Boulevard
||Abbot Kinney Boulevard is the heart of Venice, lined with the hottest restaurants, shops and art galleries.
||Night + Market Song
||Aaron lived in Thailand for two years, and this place is the closest as far as feel and food to the original. Careful, when they say hot, they mean hot!
||The Griddle Cafe
||Fun twists on breakfast classics, like red velvet pancakes. And the portions are huge!
||Opening in the 1950s, this club helped launch the music career of greats like Elton John.
||It’s free to walk the beautifully landscaped English gardens of this large estate that is occasionally used for filming.
||Shop along Melrose
||Some of the best shopping in LA. Score an amazing vintage or designer find at Decades, or visit one of the most popular LA brands, Fred Segal.
||An LA institution with a giant donut on top.
||17 metal sculptures built by Sabato (“Simon”) Rodia between 1921 and 1954.
||Street tacos at a Taco Truck
||Our favorite is El Chato that parks on the corner of Olympic and La Brea around 9pm.
||We thought it was pretty epic when we saw Jay Leno’s last show…and then he came back. You can get tickets to gameshows, talk shows, and even sitcoms.
||Tour a studio
||Warner Brothers, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and Universal Studios all offer studio tours.
What else is on your LA bucket list?