Los Angeles has something for everyone! From relaxing on the beach to hiking in the mountains to exploring the desert and soaking in the city vibes, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by everything there is to cross off the Los Angeles bucket list.
I spent the entire summer in LA and still only scratched the surface of the 101 things to do in LA! Since I couldn’t do it all myself, I had to reach out to my travel blogging community for their insider tips and favorite things to do in LA to help create a truly ultimate LA bucket list.
If you follow me on Instagram, you will have seen that this really wasn’t one of my favorite cities. However, I do still feel that it’s worth a visit as there are just so many things to do in Los Angeles.
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Map of Los Angeles bucket list destinations
The map above shows all of the locations listed within this Los Angeles bucket list guide. They are colour-coded loosely based on geographic proximity to help you better plan your time in LA.
Los Angeles Bucket List Places
As the 2nd largest city in the US by population and 12th largest by area, it’s safe to say that Los Angeles is enormous! Therefore, it’s no surprise that there are endless places to explore and things to do in LA.
But whether you’re spending all your time in LA or stopping off as part of a bigger trip, you don’t want to miss these epic LA bucket list items…
Hike to the Hollywood Sign
By Alice from She Dreams of Alpine
The Hollywood Sign is an iconic feature of the Los Angeles area and represents a lot of the glamour and lifestyle that LA is known for. If you’re going to be exploring Los Angeles then you have to put the hike to the Hollywood Sign on your bucket list.
There are several trails and connecting trails that lead to the top of the Hollywood sign, and as you hike up you’ll get varying views of the sign as you go. One of the easiest trails to the top is a 6-mile round trip hike with about 1,000 feet of total elevation gain that loops back and forth from the summit of Mount Lee all the way up to the sign.
Plan to spend 2-3 hours to hike to the Hollywood Sign and back, plus more if you’re new to hiking. This hike is considered moderate due to its length and elevation gain, but it’s well worth the adventure. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful views of Los Angeles at the top of the hike and it is guaranteed to be a highlight of your LA visit.
For those that aren’t up to hiking, or just want to experience it from a unique perspective, a scenic flight over the Hollywood Sign is also a great option!
By Sharon from Exploring Our World
Griffith Observatory is a world-class star-gazing arena that welcomes you to glimpse the skies through its huge telescope. Opened in 1935, the observatory features a Zeiss telescope that is open to the public every clear night. The earthly views are notable, too. Located on Mount Hollywood, the observatory allows you to take in the panoramic sights of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, the famous Hollywood sign, and the Pacific Ocean.
If you visit during the daytime, you can explore the museum in the observatory and delve into science. Exhibits are designed to spark imagination by asking you to think about your own relationship with the universe. You can learn about the sun, the moon, what happens during an eclipse, the Tesla coil, and far-flung galaxies. In the large theater, take in a movie about Griffith Observatory or a presentation about space. And all of this is free!
The observatory sees us all as skywatchers. And what we learn can affect how we see the world. A visit to Griffith Observatory will literally open your eyes to new ways of seeing life.
You can couple a visit to the Griffith Observatory with a hike to the Hollywood Sign. Taking a guided hiking tour to the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory is a great option to see some incredible views of the city and hear stories about some of the legends of Tinseltown.
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Hollywood Walk of Fame
By Alex from Get Out with Kids
The Walk of Fame in Hollywood draws an estimated 10 million visitors a year. What started as a marketing tactic by the Chamber of Commerce, has become one of LA’s most popular tourist attractions. And it most definitely should be on everyone’s Los Angeles bucket list!
There are five categories along the Walk of Fame: Motion Pictures, Television, Recording or Music, Radio and Theatre/Live Performance. Anyone can nominate someone from one of these categories, but the star must agree and pay a fee of $50,000 to have their star created, laid and maintained! And, a celebrity can have more than one star on the Walk of Fame! Bob Hope, Roy Rogers, Mickey Rooney, and Tony Martin each have stars in four categories. More than 30 people have stars in three categories, including Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Jack Benny.
There are 17 fictional celebrities with Walk of Fame stars: Mickey Mouse was the first to be inducted in 1978. Bugs Bunny, Snow White, Woody Woodpecker, Big Bird, The Simpsons, Rugrats, Kermit the Frog, Donald Duck, Godzilla, Winnie the Pooh, The Munchkins, Shrek, Tinker Bell, The Muppets, Minnie Mouse and Snoopy also have stars.
As well as finding your favourite star, you can also pose with dressed up characters who roam the Walk of Fame offering to be in your photo (for a price!). The Walk of Fame is a hugely popular, fun and interesting way to spend an hour or two in Hollywood, Los Angeles.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
By Hannah from Get Lost Blog.
There is a good reason Burbank is considered the ‘Media Capital of the World’. Located 12 miles northeast of downtown LA, many entertainment companies have made Burbank their chosen base, and it is where you will find the Warner Bros Studio, one of the busiest working studios in Hollywood.
Founded in 1923, public tours of the studio began in 1973 and have been in operation ever since. The popularity of the Warner Bros studio tours is due to its unscripted nature; rather than following a curated route, your tour guide has the freedom to show you areas of interest, including requests, only limited by any ongoing filming, making every tour unique.
The tour involves guided elements around the backlots to see some recognisable sites from TV shows such as Pretty Little Liars, The Big Bang Theory and Friends, and films such as Jurassic Park, Casablanca and Back to the Future. There are also self-guided elements where you can see the current exhibits featuring props, costumes and vehicles from both current box office hits and timeless classics.
There are different tour packages available, starting from $69pp* for a 2-hour studio tour, which is an ideal way to get a sneak peek behind the scenes of how Warner Bros brings your favorite film and TV to life. Combined with the self-guided elements, you’ll want to set aside at least half a day to fully appreciate everything the studio has to offer.
*Prices as of August 2021
By Cynthia from Two Day Travels.
What better way to see live music than under the stars in the middle of Hollywood? This outdoor amphitheater has graced the hills of Los Angeles since 1922 and remains one of the most beloved experiences of locals and tourists alike.
The Hollywood Bowl is the summer home for the LA Philharmonic and hosts numerous musical performances, stage plays and musicals, movie screenings, and the infamous Sound of Music Sing-Along every year. Some shows even include a fireworks display afterwards, most notably their Fourth of July Extravaganza.
The Bowl, as the locals affectionately call it, isn’t just about the show; it’s also the experience! Come early to check out the Hollywood Bowl Museum and Bowl Gift Shop. Bring your picnic basket or purchase food from the various eateries and wine bar there. From the box seats to the bench seats, get cozy with your neighbors and enjoy the camaraderie of those sitting around you. I can tell you from experience, when you exclaim to your friend that you forgot the corkscrew, someone nearby has some to share!
Getting There: It’s highly recommended to park at one of the various Park n Ride lots and ride the Bowl Shuttle. The teams driving the shuttles and directing traffic are very well practiced and keep things moving with remarkable speed and efficiency.
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Big Bus Tour LA
By Janine from Families Magazine.
If you are heading to LA and only have a short amount of time, then you must add the Big Bus ‘Hop On Hop Off’ to your Los Angeles bucket list. For a very reasonable price, you get to travel across LA to see all the highlights. The bus travels two routes and you can travel them both with a live guide, or you can listen to the pre-recorded itinerary if you prefer.
The live commentary along the way is great and travelling this way allows you to see so much more. It’s worth getting the 2-day ticket to allow you more time to explore – particularly if you plan on spending a day at the beach! Consider it a tour and transport all in one!
Downtown Los Angeles
By Noel from Travel Photo Discovery.
For those visiting Los Angeles, going downtown is really where it is at for local Angelenos or visitors. The downtown district of LA has become ultra-cool with hip bars, restaurants, clubs, entertainment venues and even outdoor fun in the many squares around the district.
You’ll also enjoy culture and history with the Broad Museum, Disney Hall, the Institute for Contemporary Art, Geffen Contemporary Art Center and many other art venues around the downtown district open for the public to explore design, art and new digital media.
Other popular attractions to visit downtown include the Union Station, City Hall, Chinatown, Japan town and even Olivera Street for Mexican fare and traditional shopping. These can easily fill up your calendar of things to see and do in Downtown LA if you want to do more traditional sightseeing and checking out the ethnic neighborhoods.
Once you’ve had a chance to visiting downtown and the main attractions around Los Angeles, check out these other fun day trips that you can do around Los Angeles here for planning your vacation around the city.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
By Sophie from We Dream of Travel
The Walt Disney Concert Hall, located in Downtown LA, is an iconic part of the LA cityscape and home to the LA philharmonic. This architectural masterpiece encompasses a 3.6-acre complex and contains state-of-the-art acoustics within.
The concert hall offers both self-guided and guided free daily tours, as well as private, paid group tours. These tours will take you through most of the interior and public gardens.
Even if you don’t have the time to go inside, the sweeping stainless steel exterior makes for an excellent place to take photographs or just enjoy the sail-like facade.
Angels Flight Railway
By Carly from Papers and Airplanes
To experience a quirky bit of Los Angeles history, take a ride on Angels Flight Railway.
Angels Flight Railway is a funicular that runs between Hills Street and Olive Street in downtown LA. At just shy of 300 feet long, it’s been nicknamed “The World’s Shortest Railway”. The railway originally opened in 1901 and after a few periods of inactivity, this local landmark is up and running again.
Angels Flight is an iconic LA sight. Its orange and black cars have been featured in dozens of television shows and movies, including the 2016 film La La Land. Today, locals and visitors alike use these historic rail cars to shuttle up and down Bunker Hill downtown. The lower station is conveniently located just across the street from the famous Grand Central Market, while the top is near the Museum of Contemporary Art. The railway is open seven days a week and fares are $1 each way, or only 50 cents per way with a Metro TAP card.
There’s so much to see and do in Los Angeles, so make sure you’ve got Angels Flight Railway on your Los Angeles list. It’s a fun, historical landmark that’s perfect for a quick visit in downtown LA.
Los Angeles City Hall
By Vanessa from Traveling Ness
There are many things to do in downtown LA, but one that is often overlooked is City Hall. The iconic Los Angeles City Hall was built in 1928 and up until 1964 was the tallest building in LA with 33 floors! The City Hall’s beautiful architecture is from the Art Deco period and a Los Angeles landmark not to be missed. Interestingly, City Hall has a free observation deck that provides stunning views of downtown LA. On a clear day, you can even see the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory and Dodger Stadium.
To access the observation deck on the 27th floor, enter the Main Street entrance, and go through security. After showing your ID, security will give you directions to the top. The observation deck isn’t open on the weekends, so make sure you fit this in during the week.
To get a glimpse of what Los Angeles looked like back in time, head to the 3rd floor to see the art gallery depicting Los Angeles throughout its history in the making. After visiting the art gallery, wander down to the 1st floor to see the 1984 Olympic Torch from when LA hosted and has since called City Hall home (near the Spring Street exit).
Hours: Monday thru Friday, 8 am to 5 pm
Location: 200 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles (entrance via Main Street)
By Daniel from Layer Culture
If you find yourself in Los Angeles looking for things to add to your bucket list, be sure to visit Little Tokyo. A vibrant Japanese-American district that is situated in the downtown area.
The Little Tokyo neighborhood only spans a few blocks which can make it hard to find. However, once you arrive you’ll be greeted with a square that is filled with a cute selection of Japanese bakeries, restaurants, and cafes. For anything coffee related, or if like me you prefer to drink coffee on the go-head for Demitasse Cafe, my favorite coffee shop in the area.
Another highlight was admiring some of the Japanese murals that are so colorfully painted along the neighborhood walls.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
By Sophie from We Dream of Travel
If you’re looking for one of the best Instagram spots in Los Angeles, then the urban light installation at LACMA should not be missed! Although it’s possible to see 24/7, for the best photos, I’d recommend getting here shortly before sunrise or after sunset to capture the lamposts with the lights on (and fewer people around at dawn!).
This artwork is comprised of 202 restored antique street lamps from the 1920s to 1930s, once spread throughout Southern California.
While the urban light installation is LACMAs most famed piece, it is also home to numerous other art exhibitions. It’s worth noting that LACMA is closed on Wednesdays and opening times vary on other days. Check the LACMA website for current opening hours.
The Original Farmers Market
By Lena of Salut from Paris
If you are visiting Los Angeles and are interested in food, the L.A. Farmers Market definitely should be very high on your Los Angeles bucket list.
The Farmers Market is a permanent installed indoor market with a long tradition. It historically leads back to 1880, but the market as it is now opened only in 1934. Today, more than 100 vendors are offering local and international cuisine. Next to sit-down-eateries you’ll find stalls of take-away food, ice cream parlours and patisseries. But it’s also a produce market for groceries and fresh products, meats and cheese, and wines.
It’s a great place to have lunch and if you hesitate on what to get, the empanadas are very delicious! The market is located right next to the outdoor shopping mall “The Grove” and is open 7 days a week but know that it can get very busy. On the weekend, in particular, you might need to search a bit for a parking place.
La Brea Tar Pits
By Suzi from Survey Suzi.
La Brea Tar Pits are a group of tar pits in the middle of Los Angeles that are about 50,000 years old. While seeing a bunch of old tar pits may not seem like something you would want on your Los Angeles bucket list, these tar pits are very interesting and a unique activity that you should definitely do while in LA!
The La Brea Tar Pits have trapped animals throughout their lifetime and there have been many discoveries in the pools of tar and surrounds. At this site, you can learn about the tar pits, what has been found and what that means. There are the tar pits themselves, a museum, cinema and you can see where they are excavating. It’s fascinating to see first-hand how they excavate the tar pits and find the fossils. You can view many of the animals found in the museum.
There is both an inside and an outside area so you can see the tar pits themselves. Although it is a bit smelly outside!
What I love most about this attraction is how different and fascinating it is – you don’t expect to see this type of thing in the middle of a huge city. It definitely deserves a place on your Los Angeles bucket list!
By Laura from Adrift Aesthetic
One of the most iconic spots that should be on everyone’s Los Angeles bucket list is the infamous Mulholland Drive. Winding along the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills, you can drive this scenic two-lane highway in an afternoon.
The views of the city along this stretch are unparalleled and are entirely free to access. No admission price here! You’ll pass stunning vistas of the L.A. skyline, the Hollywood Bowl, Universal City, and the Hollywood sign.
When the sun goes down, the glowing lights of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley make this a popular night-time drive as well. No matter when you visit, ensure you maneuver your car carefully. With sharp curves and tight turns, the street will test your driving wits. Often, you’ll be sharing the road with larger buses as eager tourists try to spot each lavish celebrity home along the way. With some of the most expensive real estate in the world, many of the top Hollywood A-Listers live off of Mulholland; just another reason why this is a fantastic stop while you’re in L.A.
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By Ania from The Travelling Twins
The Getty Museum is a must while you are visiting Los Angeles. If you live in LA, you must already know the Getty Center campus, either for its exhibitions, or maybe just to picnic on the lawns of the magnificent hilltop site with its great view of the city.
Permanent collections of the Getty Center feature the best of half a millennium of Western Art, including the famous picture of Irises by Vincent Van Gogh. The Getty is much more than an art gallery though, with its fabulous permanent exhibitions of furniture, sculptures and drawings. If like me you are more into photography, the Getty has an incomparable collection of international and American photographs.
Exhibitions are displayed in four pavilions East, South, West and North all located around Central Garden. Overall, there are five Gardens in Getty, including garden dedicated to Cactuses.
Getty Museum has excellent infrastructure – special family rooms, few restaurants, coffee shops, places for picnics. For families are organized special kids activities and for music lovers night free concerts every Friday.
The Getty Museum is open from 10am–5:30pm, Saturday till 9pm. On Monday the museum is closed. Entry to the museum is free.
By Rebecca from KwaFare.
Take a mini-vacay to a first-century Roman villa without leaving LA county. The Getty Villa on the Pacific Coast Highway is a must-see. Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Malibu hills and coastline, this is the perfect spot to spend the day.
Escape the heat under the sycamore and laurel trees of the Getty gardens or bask in the sun beside the reflecting pool. Take in the incredible history of the extensive collection of Greek and Roman art, or just chill and do lunch at the Mediterranean cafe. And the great thing about the Getty Villa, just like the Getty Center in Los Angeles, is that entrance is free. All you’ll pay to get in is the cost of parking, which is $20.
Even better, the Getty Villa is open from 10am to 5pm and only closed on Tuesday’s. Plus, you can make this little getaway even more Mediterranean with the Getty Villa’s “Tea by the Sea”. This is held Thursday’s and Saturday’s at 1pm and includes a culinary garden tour after tea.
This Italian escape from the frenetic pace of the city has to be on your Los Angeles bucket list. And for the cherry on top, when the Villa closes just hop across the street to watch a Malibu sunset. They’re some of the prettiest in the world.
Bike Path Santa Monica to Torrance
By Christina of Live a Wilder Life.
A visit to Los Angeles isn’t complete without a visit to one of our many iconic beaches. However, if you really want to experience the beauty of L.A.’ s coastline, then you must rent a bike and do the infamous “strand” that runs for 22 miles along the beaches of the Pacific Coast. It’s a great way to take in the laid back beach scene of L.A.
Most people rent bikes for two hours or for the day in trendy Santa Monica Beach and ride south to see the quirky artistic vibe of Venice Beach. There is a short detour that will take you off the beach and through the boat docks along the bird estuary of Marina Del Rey, but it’s clearly marked and there is a dedicated bike lane the whole time. The trail is easy and flat the whole way with a few small gradient changes, but overall a pretty easy path. Pack a bag with plenty of water, a towel, your bathing suit, and stop and go as your heart pleases on the trail. The path can get crowded on the weekends, so if you can it’s best to do the trail on a weekday.
Pro Tip: If you are wanting a less crowded, more off the beaten path journey, rent your bikes in Marina Del Rey and head south to ride through the quieter section taking you to Playa Del Rey and Manhattan Beach.
Santa Monica Pier
By Sophie from We Dream of Travel
No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to Santa Monica Pier. This historic pier dates back to 1909 and is the perfect place for a stroll. The pier offers the perfect location to enjoy the ocean views and people watch.
Perched atop the pier you’ll also find Pacific Park, a small amusement park with rollercoasters and a ferris wheel. Beneath the caoursel building is the Santa Monica aquarium.
Mosaic Tile House
By Stacey of Deafinitely Wanderlust.
Did the colorful mosaic catch your eyes? It did for me when I first found out about Mosaic Tile House! Whether you love art, Instagrammable spots or supporting a local artists’ business, you have to add this to your Los Angeles bucket list!
Believe it or not, it’s not a museum either. It’s actually home to a couple who live near Venice Beach. A lovely couple named, Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran, have been transforming a typical-looking house into a beautiful artistic masterpiece for the past two decades. There is a reason why I say “have been”. That is because it is still a work in progress, which they are working on together! I don’t want to spoil the fun and tell you the whole story because I’d like to let Cheri and Gonzalo tell you the story!
If you are in Los Angeles, contact them directly since they provide tours of their home through appointment only.
Venice Beach Boardwalk
By Scott from 4 Degrees of Destination
This is an absolute must when visiting Los Angeles. The Venice Beach boardwalk stretches for over a mile and a half. Lined with palm trees and the beautiful sands of the Pacific Ocean, it was a perfect spot for an afternoon stroll with the family.
If people-watching is your thing then there is plenty to keep you entertained. Street performances pop up everywhere from dancers to acrobats. Make sure you have a little cash for tipping.
For those looking to be active, there is a bike path where you can ride all the beach trails. Around Muscle Beach, there are basketball courts, paddle tennis courts (you can rent rackets and tennis balls from the Recreation and Parks Office) and handball courts. Nearby there is a pretty cool children’s playground too. Check out Muscle Beach gym, there are usually a few bodybuilders pumping iron. And if you are keen, for $10 (day pass) you can join them.
For those looking for a bit of retail therapy, there is a mixture of shops where you can buy a range of arts and crafts, souvenirs and t-shirts of every sort. Street vendors also offer a huge range of unique and original works.
A couple of places to grab a bite or drink are the rooftop bar at Hotel Erwin, opposite Muscle Beach and the Sidewalk cafe, our kids loved their pizzas.
By Kelsey of Sights Better Seen
Have you been dreaming of Venice but don’t have the pennies to pool together for a plane ticket? Well, my friend, you’re in luck – the City of Angels just so happens to have some beautiful canals of its own!
And not only are the canals stunning, but they’re actually located in the Venice neighborhood, and modeled after the original place in Italy! I’ve been to Los Angeles many times but had never heard of them until recently. And I’m not surprised – they’re a little hidden. You can find them behind Pacific Ave, nestled between South Venice Blvd and 28th Ave. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all that is LA, you can find some solace meandering along the Venice Canals. It’s easy to forget that you’re even still in the same city!
Since this is LA and parking is always the biggest gripe, I’d highly recommend visiting early in the morning or later in the day if you can. We easily found street parking as we rolled up around 6pm – your best bets are the paid parking lot at the intersection of Rose Ave and Ocean Front Walk ($5 on weekdays and $6.50 on weekends) or street parking on Ocean, Dell, or Washington Street.
May the parking gods be with you, and I hope you enjoy this little slice of Italy!
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San Gabriel Mountains
By Jenn and Ed from Coleman Concierge
If you get tired of the hustle and bustle of LA, escape to the San Gabriel Mountains. The range spans 970 square miles with the highest elevation point, Mount San Antonio, at 10,068 feet. Whether you’re looking an urban adventure at Oak Grove Park (home to the world’s first disc golf course) or bungee jumping at the Bridge to Nowhere, you can find it in the San Gabriels.
If you’re well trained and equipped (or know somebody who will take you) there are over 188 mapped canyoneering routes in the San Gabriels ranging from 3-hour jaunts on the front range to three-day journeys through the East Fork. If this sounds daunting, there’s plenty of non-technical hiking routes to get out and enjoy nature just outside of the hustle of the city.
Dhara of It’s Not About the Miles
There’s so much to explore at Huntington Gardens
Photos 2 and 3 by Anthony Nunez
If you are looking for fabulous California getaways, check out Pasadena, just northeast of downtown Los Angeles. With a lively downtown, museums and galleries, the Rose Bowl stadium (also home to the Rose Bowl flea market) and a plethora of restaurants, Pasadena offers lots to do. But undeniably, the best thing to do in Pasadena is a visit to the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens nearby.
Set over 120 gorgeous acres, the complex features more than a dozen themed gardens, a great collection of art including a few must-not-miss paintings, and rare manuscripts, including a Gutenberg Bible from the 15th century.
The Desert Garden at Huntington contains an enormous variety of cacti and other succulents. Depending on when you visit, you can see succulents in bloom at the garden. Some of the flower sprays on the mature specimens are gigantic.
The Rose Garden features a beautiful gazebo and bed after bed of spectacular roses in different colors. Visit in late April or early May (check by calling ahead) to catch the rose bloom at its peak. If you enjoy afternoon tea, the garden offers a spread of finger sandwiches and strawberries with clotted cream!
You can see a crescent moon bridge and beautiful maples in the Japanese Garden, and the Chinese Garden features lovely architectural elements and ponds.
If you enjoy gardens, the Huntington Gardens are a must-visit the next time you are in the Los Angeles area!
Korean Friendship Bell
By Corritta from It’s a Family Thing.
The Korean Friendship Bell is in San Pedro, 30 minutes from Los Angeles. The bell is a replica of the Bronze Bell of King Seongdeo, which was cast in 771 A.D. and can still be seen today on display in Gyeongju, South Korea. The decorative bell was donated in 1976 to the American people from the Republic of Korea. The Korean Friendship Bell was meant to honor the veterans of the Korean War and is a representation of the friendship between the two countries.
You are not only taken in by the beauty but the sheer size. The bell also provides a glimpse into the Korean culture. The Goddess of Liberty and a Korean spirit is engraved on the bell. The Korean spirit on the bell is a representation of different aspects of Korean culture such as the flag, national flower, dove, and branch of laurel.
The bell is overlooking the Pacific Ocean with views of the Los Angeles Harbor and the Catalina Channel. On a clear day, you can see for miles and can get lost on the hill as the wind blows. This is the perfect place for a picnic or to watch the sunset in the evening. This is truly a hidden gem within Los Angeles and can be the perfect place to get away from the big city and connect with nature and truly reflect on friendship.
Santa Catalina Island
By Sophie from We Dream of Travel
I’ve saved the best until last… Santa Catalina Island. Despite being 22 miles off of the California coast, Santa Catalina Island is still considered part of LA county and should definitely be added to your Los Angeles bucket list! With it’s swaying palms and white sand beaches, it’s the perfect place to leave the big city lights behind and settle into island life.
The ferry to Santa Catalina Island from mainland LA takes roughly an hour and will bring you into either Avalon or Two Harbors. Both towns are easily navigated on foot, or in Avalon, you can rent a golf cart to drive around in. Avalon is likely the better choice as it has the most options for accommodation. If you want to explore further, there’s a shuttle bus available and private charters between Avalon and Two Harbors.
For animal lovers, this is the place in LA for you! If you’re lucky you may spot the rare Santa Catalina Island fox or their resident bison on land. In the water, you’re likely to see dolphins, sea lions, seals and the California state-fish, the bright orange Garibaldi!
Whether you’re looking to spot wildlife on a safari adventure, explore some of the best dive sites, enjoy some water sports, relax on the beach or indulge in fresh seafood, Catalina Island has a little something for everyone.
Joshua Tree National Park
By Adam from We Dream of Travel
While Joshua Tree National Park isn’t in Los Angeles, I think it’s still deserving of being included on this bucket list as it’s an easy day trip or weekend getaway from LA. Located just 2.5 hours from LA, this incredible national park is a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can even combine it with some time in Palm Springs to really make the most of your time.
The park is famed for its magical desert landscape of Joshua Trees (from which the park gets its name), cholla cacti, and interesting rock formations. It’s this unique combination of strange-looking trees, teddy bear-like cacti, and boulders that make for such amazing Joshua Tree pictures.
It’s a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts with hikes, rock climbing, bouldering, mountain biking, and horseback riding being just a few of the activities on offer. The national park is also renowned for its dark skies and stargazing, so it’s well worth staying after dark!
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Packing list for Los Angeles
While your individual packing list will vary depending on what you decide to add to your Los Angeles bucket list, there are a few essentials that you will want to consider taking with you to Los Angeles:
- Camera: There are plenty of Instagrammable moments in LA and fun moments to capture. We use the Sony a7riii and have been in love with it ever since the first photo we took with it. However, for beginners you may wish to consider an entry level DSLR. This will allow you to start getting to grips with manual settings and decide whether photography is something you enjoy enough to invest in.
- Swimsuit: I’d recommend planning at least one beach day while in LA so pack a swimsuit!
- Reef-safe sunscreen: While you’re out exploring, make sure you’re protected from the sun. We use Stream 2 Sea sunscreen as it’s reefsafe and most of their bottles are made from sugarcane resin rather than plastic.
- Beach towel: A travel towel is perfect for beach days or to even use as a picnic blanket when out on hikes. They are small, dry quickly and don’t collect sand.
- Comfortable shoes: Whether you’re planing on hiking or just exploring in the city, you’ll want some comfortable shoes. I love my Brooks sneakers and find they’re ideal for both in the city and out hiking.
- Reusable water bottle: We don’t travel anywhere without a reusable water bottle. Remain hydrated without wasting single use plastic bottles!
- Los Angeles Sightseeing Pass: If you are planning on adding a lot of paid attractions to your LA bucket list, you may want to consider a Go Los Angeles Pass or Los Angeles Sightseeing Flex Pass. These start at $89 for a one day pass and grant access to a variety of different attractions. Each pass has slightly different terms and attractions on offer so check carefully to see which will suit you better.
Other Guides & Things to See Nearby
f you’re visiting Los Angeles as part of a bigger California or West Coast road trip, you may be interested in some of the following regional guides:
Mammoth Lakes and Nearby Destinations Guides
- Mammoth Lakes Hot Springs Comprehensive Guide
- June Lakes Loop Scenic Drive
- Travertine Hot Springs Guide
- Buckeye Hot Springs Guide
- Hilltop Hot Springs Guide
Yosemite National Park
- ULTIMATE Guide to Yosemite Firefall
- Yosemite Photography Guide: Tips For Photographing Yosemite Valley
- Yosemite Day Trip Guide
- Best Things to Do on a Northern California Road Trip
- The Ultimate Guide to Burney Falls in NorCal
- Shasta-Trinity National Forest Photography Guide
Southern Oregon Guides
- Southern Oregon Photography Locations
- Southern Oregon Coast Photography Guide
- Waterfalls of Southern Oregon
Final Thoughts on the Ultimate Los Angeles Bucket List!
There really is so much to see and do in Los Angeles. However, I hope you’ll find this bucket list guide helpful for planning your Los Angeles itinerary.
We always love to hear from you, so leave us a comment with your thoughts on this guide or if you think we’ve missed anything!
Thank you to all the wonderful bloggers who have contributed to this comprehensive LA guide.