I recently went to Los Angeles (LA) for the third time, though each visit has felt somewhat like the first, mostly because so much time passes in between my visits.
My first visit was when I tagged along with my mom on one of her work trips many, many years ago. We stayed near Santa Monica and did touristy things like visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame, stroll around Santa Monica, window shop on Rodeo Drive and eavesdrop on the many conversations about some facet of the entertainment world.
Then, many years later, I returned to LA by myself to visit a good friend of mine who had recently made the East to West Coast move. While there, I met up with a few other friends living in LA at the time, and this visit showed me even more of the sprawling metropolis.
With each visit, I increasingly enjoy LA and need to make more frequent trips in the future
Fast forward to earlier this month when I made my third visit to LA, again by myself, and again to see some friends who now live in the city. This latest trip consisted of a little bit of the old (seeing some places I’d visited before) and the new (visiting places I had never been). I also realized that with each visit, I increasingly enjoy LA and need to make more frequent trips in the future.
All of this to say, I am by no means an LA expert. Three trips does not mean I know all there is to do there, but I would like to think I have a good sense of some things a first-timer should do. Emphasis on ‘I think.’ Yes, most of them are touristy but aren’t you going there as a tourist? That’s what I thought. Here are a few first-timer recommendations:
1. Stroll the Santa Monica Pier - It’s definitely touristy, kind of tawdry and there are a few questionable (along with a few genuinely talented) performers, but it’s all part of the experience and well worth seeing at least once.
2. Watch the skateboarders and/or fitness fanatics at Venice Beach - These young’uns are so good at skateboarding, it’s fascinating to watch. Or if you just want to watch muscular people, there’s that option.
3. (Window) shop on Rodeo Drive - Rodeo Drive in itself is an experience that one should, well, experience. It is, in my opinion, one of the most prime people watching/eavesdropping spots.
4. Admire the art at LACMA - Art lovers and those who aren't sure if they're art lovers, head to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and spend an hour or two. You won’t regret it.
5. Get cultural at the Getty - I deliberately left off the ‘Center’ and ‘Villa’ because I feel like one could do either or both! I’ve only done Getty Center but next time I’ll swing by Getty Villa.
6. Take in the views from Griffith Observatory - There are so many great viewpoints in LA, one of the most well-known being Griffith Observatory. It’s well worth it to go and take in LA and its smoggy beauty. You can even see the Hollywood sign!
7. Wander the Venice Canals - A friend of mine recommended this place, and I’m so glad she did. It’s a series of connected canals with walkways and bridges that allow you to wander around and check out the homes lining the canals. I found where I wanted to live about 10 times in 20 minutes.
8. Stroll the Grove and the Original Farmers Market - Though the Grove doesn’t necessarily have the most unique shops, it does have a good collection of well-known stores and brands to choose from, plus the atmosphere is fun and it’s located right next to the Original Farmers Market, where you can stuff yourself with an array of food.
9. Eat really, really well - Speaking of food, there are some incredible restaurants in LA. This is a place where you can easily dine well. I’ve probably eaten at 0.05% of the restaurants, but I do have some places I loved (I’m looking at you, Animal, Gjusta and Paramount Coffee Project). So, bring your appetite!
10. Walk down Abbot Kinney Boulevard - Located near Venice Beach, Abbot Kinney Boulevard is like a high-end hipster collection of boutiques and restaurants that’s worth seeing at least once. You may not buy anything or eat anywhere but you’ve soaked up the atmosphere and felt slightly more hip as a result.
11. Take a studio tour - During my second visit to LA, I made my friend do a Warner Bros. Studio tour with me (to be fair, I think she also wanted to do it). It was just one of those things you can’t do in too many places, and we had a great time!
12. Enjoy the beauty of the ‘Bu - Also during my second trip to LA, a friend who lives there took me to one of my favorite spots in LA – the ‘Bu! No idea if anyone actually calls it that, but I do. Malibu is quite simply a beautiful place to see. If you can, head to Malibu and have a sunset picnic on the beach and then frolic up and down with a dog like I did. It's amazing.
I’m sure I probably missed 20 other things first-timers should do in LA, but there you go!
Have you ever been to LA? What do you think a first-time visitor should do?