So now as summertime comes to an end, you start to hear from your friends and family back home. Everyone is looking for a warm vacation spot and it just so happens you live in Los Angeles, perfect for an end of summer getaway. Sound familiar? If so, then you’re most likely extremely excited for everyone to come visit. The only problem is where do you take your out of town guests to show them everything LA has to offer? Well if you’re like me and tend to try to avoid the touristy areas even with guests, then this list should be quite helpful. Here are 15 places to take visitors in the LA area. I’ve noted the specific area of LA where the suggested idea resides in, in order to make planning your itinerary easier.
This list is quite eclectic on purpose in order to give suggestions to groups of all sizes, ages, and locations. You’ll see some restaurants, bars, museums, hiking trails, etc. This way there’s something for everyone! Enjoy!
15. Runyon Canyon
Both a great excuse to skip the gym and a great way to people watch, this hiking trail is essentially a right of passage for all LA tourists, and locals for that matter. Recently closed down for renovations it has already sparked a great amount of interest by those LA locals who desire a social setting and a work out at the same time. The best part about Runyon Canyon might be the ability to get tan while you exercise, but if you have family or friends visiting they’ll enjoy the potential celebrity sight seeing and the amazing views just as much. When asked where they went while in LA, many people will be excited to hear the mention of Runyon Canyon so it will become a highlight of their trip for sure! Don’t believe me? Just try asking anyone you know that visited LA in the past few years. If they don’t know what Runyon Canyon is, then they don’t hiking. That’s the only possible option.
I know, I know, nobody goes to Los Angeles to see a museum, right? But don’t be fooled by the lackluster description of your typical “art museum” because LACMA is so much more. As someone who is from a city that actually earns praise for its art museum, I have to say even I am impressed. LACMA combines modern day society with art in a way that you have to see to believe. On top of the interesting exhibits they offer, there’s also a very popular “Urban Light” by Chris Burden (seen above) you may recognize from some of your favorite TV shows and movies. So not only is LACMA a great place to view art, it’s also a great photo op. Win-win for any LA visitor! *SIDENOTE* LACMA is actually located on Museum Row so if modern art isn’t your favorite, venture over to the car museum, or the number of other exhibits in the surrounding areas instead!
13. Bottega Louie
This French inspired restaurant is a little slice of Europe in Downtown LA. Best known for their amazing macaroons, this restaurant is far from your typical LA hotspot. But don’t be fooled, try to get a table on a Friday night without a reservation and you’ll soon realize that Bottega Louie has quite the reputation for great service, and great food, and everybody in town knows it. Enjoy views of this up and coming area of LA while splurging on a nice pasta dish or simply enjoy a pizza that is out of this world. The front of this restaurant also serves as a storefront for taking home the many treats that Bottega has to offer, including those macaroons I mentioned above. You can’t beat the ambiance that this place has to offer, so go check it out yourself and show your guests that LA is more than just your typical big city.
12. Hyde On Sunset
Hyde on Sunset is located on the world-renowned Sunset Strip, as its name suggests. Closely nestled into the corner of Sunset Blvd and Crescent Heights, this lounge fits into it’s surroundings but don’t be fooled, it’s much more than just your typical lounge/restaurant. Hyde is both the place to see and be seen, as well as a nice lounge to grab a drink and relax. With excellent food and drink options, Hyde is a great place to grab a drink or dinner but just a warning: it is your exclusive nightclub after 9pm. So tell your guests to dress to impress if you’re feeling a night on the town! Enjoy some great cocktails and maybe you’ll even see a famous face or two. Be ready to pay those West Hollywood prices but your guests will get the experience that they came to LA to enjoy! It’s all about the experience, right? It’s time to test it out.
11. Venice Beach
Let’s be honest, your friends and family love you but they came all the way out to California in part for you, and in part for the beach. But this isn’t news to you, the minute your guests stepped off the plane they probably asked you where the beach was, right?Don’t disappoint! While there are numerous beaches near LA, I’d suggest venturing to Venice beach specifically. As an LA local, I’m sure you are well aware of Venice Beach and the eclectic group of shops and people that exist there. It’s the perfect place to entertain guests for a day at the beach and a great place to wander around. Everyone will enjoy watching all the interesting people rollerblade by while they work on their tans and enjoy some treats along the beach. Let’s be honest, there are some great people watching opportunities in LA so it’s worth checking it out. Give your friends the beach they desire with a little extra entertainment as a bonus.
10. Pacific Palisades Village
This area slightly north of Santa Monica isn’t known as a tourist attraction by any means. It’s your typical quiet, peaceful, neighborhood surrounded by magnificent houses and shops. However, I was fortunate enough to have had an internship in the area and discovered that it was quite a nice area to spend your afternoon. Jump into Café Vida for a wrap or amazing salad while being surrounded by neighbors and friends of all ages. Their green chai lattes are known around town. Plus how “LA” does that sound? They’ll love it. Then head to check out the boutiques around the main square. These boutiques are unique to the area, and while most can be quite expensive, others do have sales just waiting to be discovered. From these shops it’s a quick car ride to the beach or you can venture up the coast and hit Calabasas and eventually Malibu. The options are endless! You might like staying in a 5 mile radius of your house but that’s not why your family and friends are here! Do them a favor and check out The Palisades, you’ll be happy that you did.
9. SugarFish by Sushi Nozawa
Not sure whether or not you’re feeling flashy, but still in the mood for some great food? Look no further. Get the great quality but on a low key level. This popular chain of sushi restaurants has a very unique goal and motto: keep it simple. Run and operated by the Sushi Nozawa group, all of the SugarFish locations focus on bringing back the basics of Japanese culture through the simplicity and purity of great tasting ingredients. Located in Studio City, Santa Monica, Greater LA, and more areas of LA, the Sushi Nozawa group aims to make getting quality sushi even easier. Bring your friends and family for a meal they won’t forget, and show them one of the best parts of living in LA: the great mix of culture and cuisine that’s available too all. If they don’t go home and tell their friends about their amazing time at SugarFish then I’d be shocked, honestly.
8. TCL Chinese Theater
As a local in Los Angeles you may or may not have already experienced a movie premiere or just a day at the movies at the TCL Chinese Theater. However, let me tell you, if you haven’t made the effort to do so, then you’re missing out. Now that you have visitors in town, it is the perfect time to check out this famous structure used very often for high profile events such as movie premieres and film festivals. I, myself, have been to a film festival/movie premiere and it was quite the experience. The hallways are lined with iconic photographs of classic movie stars that make just your typical movie going experience that much more special! You will not be disappointed, and if any of your friends or family members are movie aficionados they will thank you for the amazing experience for months to come! You don’t have to deal with an event if you don’t feel the need to do so either. Just take a VIP tour or just go check out the latest movies in comfort.
7. Hollywood Sign Hikes
Your friends and family came out to visit you to see LA, right? So show them the LA that they expect to see on this hike to the Hollywood Sign. There are actually a few different hikes towards the sign dependent on your level of skill/experience hiking and how long you hope to spend walking to the sign. The top three hikes to the sign can be found just by clicking here. All three hikes boast amazing views, and the great outdoors. It is always a good idea to just remember shade is limited so bring water and maybe some sunscreen. What’s not to enjoy on your trek to the iconic Hollywood Sign?! Also keep an eye out for horses on the trial, since horseback trails are available, as well. Another photo opportunity but also just a smart idea to keep an eye out for a big animal on the trail, too!
6. Hermit Falls
So this destination isn’t exactly in Los Angeles but it’s worth the 40 minute drive out to the east of Pasadena. Your friends will be amazed by the views of this 1.2-mile hike out to the Hermit Falls cliff jumping location. Once you make it down the hike, your adrenaline junky friends will enjoy the 50 ft cliff jump into the water below. Feeling extra risky? Go for the 65 ft jump instead. Test the water to make sure it is deep enough to jump though because depending on weather conditions the water levels do change. Just be smart! Also be prepared for the hike back up to the parking area—it’s at a pretty solid incline so don’t drink all of your water on the way there! Depending on the day of the week, you might be able to catch some live music and beer near the parking lot so take a look around the grounds!
5. Last Book Store
This bookstore is exactly what you need it to be. With it’s satirical slogan of “What are you waiting for? We won’t be here forever.” you know that the place is perfect for a silly outing. Vacation is nothing if not a great time to be silly! Find used and new books, as well records for all ages and audiences! Furthermore, The Last Bookstore books events fairly regularly so amuse your friends by bringing them to a documentary screening or author presentation! Just something to different to enjoy with some friends or family! Just be careful as far as parking, since they don’t validate. Keep an eye on street parking or expect to pay 5-10 dollars at a surface lot nearby. It’s worth the small hassle, though. It is LA, so you know how parking works around here–you’re just lucky to avoid a ticket, am I right? Maybe that’s just me…
Welcome your friends and family to LA properly with a chance to check out this amazing food and merchandise market in Downtown. Yes, I said Downtown Los Angeles. It’s not how you imagine it, and if you aren’t visiting Downtown LA on a semi regular basis then you’re really missing out! With a smaller crowd and up and coming restaurants, Downtown is on the rise. In fact, after you visit the Smorgasburg, I highly recommend stopping by Caseys…but I digress. More specifically found at the Alameda Produce Market, open 10am to 5pm on Sundays, it provides a much-needed escape from the flashy, extravagant LA that we all know and love. You and your guests will find art, music, clothing, and more at this open spaced market known for bringing together all types of people for the sake of culture and art. Give it a chance on a Sunday and you’ll be surprised how much you have to learn still about Los Angeles. Especially as fall approaches, it’s a more reasonable time to spend a few hours outside!
Known for it’s amazing food and high profile clientele, Nobu won’t disappoint you or your friends and family! You’ve most likely heard of Nobu while living here, it’s almost inevitable. With multiple locations, this unique sushi experience is just what your group needs after a long day checking out all LA has in store. I recommend the Malibu location if you’re going to do it, then do it right! Not your typical Japanese food experience, be prepared to spend some money but enjoy yourself while you do it! If you’re really in the mood for the “real” Nobu experience then consider dropping 100 dollars for the Nobu Signature Menu. But if you’re not thinking it’s that big of an occasion then stick with the simpler menu items for less! Getting a reservation isn’t easy, so be sure to call with a lot of advanced notice. It’ll be a meal that you won’t forget.
2. Santa Monica Promenade
While I already recommended you visit Venice, the 3rd street promenade found in the heart of downtown Santa Monica is a great stop on your way back to your hotel if you haven’t already shopped all day! Venice is great for little trinkets and junk food from food carts but the promenade is different. Close to the beach but not quite on the oceanfront, the promenade is like an outdoor shopping mall times 100. You’ll find your usual Banana Republic, Victoria Secrets, Armani Exchange-type places but you’ll also find little boutiques and independent shops sprinkled throughout the outdoor shopping center. Need a nice homemade face mask or soap? Look no further than the Promenade for your particular organic and handmade needs. Stop to have a glass of wine at a cafe or sit down to an Italian meal as your shopping comes to an end, the options are endless! Plus you’re only a few blocks from the Santa Monica Pier so if you’re in the mood you can catch a nice sunset at the edge of the beach.
1. Tuna Canyon Park
Last but not least we have the Tuna Canyon Park hiking trail. This trail is located a bit Northwest of the other suggested activities so you’ll want to plan to check this hike out on a day where you have a little bit of extra time. Believe me, it’ll be worth it though. These hiking trails aren’t nearly as well known or well labeled as the more popular spots (such as #15 Runyon Canyon) but don’t be fooled by the lack of buzz: the views will take your breath away. Located in Topanga Canyon right on the edge of Malibu, the entrance to this hike is very low key. In fact, I had a hard time finding it the first time I went to hike. The best indication that you’ve found the right place is a few cars parked on the side of the road and a metal post that indicates the beginning of a trail. But that’s about it as far as signs are concerned. Keep in mind service isn’t great once you get near the location of this hike so just prepare to take a look around since you may have to take a few wrong turns before finding this hike. Once you get onto the trail you will come around a curve and be greeted with a spectacular view of multiple trails all surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and hills as far as your eyes can see. The immediate trail to your left isn’t very long, just about a mile I’d guess, but it’s worth a quick detour for the view. Then head back the opposite direction and find your next adventure.