Santa Monica Pier & Promenade
In Santa Monica, Route 66 ends and the ocean begins. The “city within a city” is a top weekend destination for ESL students studying in Los Angeles. Spend the day soaking up the California sun, swimming in the Pacific Ocean, or riding the roller coaster at the Santa Monica Pier. On Thursday nights in the summer, live music comes to the pier with theTwilight Concerts (santamonicapier.org/twilightconcerts/). Third Street Promenade (downtownsm.com) is just blocks away from the beach and is a lively shopping area with street performers and sidewalk cafes.
Santa Monica Beach continues southwards into Venice Beach Boardwalk. Venice is home to many of LA’s eccentrics; from the bodybuilders at Muscle Beach to street performers, poets, philosophers and wannabe rappers trying to sell you CDs. Strolling along the Boardwalk is a great way to spend an afternoon.
Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame
See the handprints of your favorite movie stars in front of the Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. This famous theatre has been hosting movie premieres since 1927, and has been the location where Star Wars, Batman, Harry Potter and numerous other hit films were first seen. The Hollywood Walk of Fame covers 15 blocks in the heart of Hollywood: take your picture next to the star of your favorite singer or actor!
You can often find "audience hunters" in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater distributing same-day tickets for television shows in need of an audience.
Theme Parks: Disneyland, Six Flags, Universal Studios
Los Angeles is the home to several major theme parks. Disneyland is located in Anaheim, and features rides and attractions for all ages. If you prefer scary roller-coasters, you should be sure to visit Six Flags, which boasts some of the tallest and fastest roller coasters in the USA. Meanwhile, Universal Studios Hollywood features movie-themed rides such as Transformers, The Simpsons, and Jurassic Park. But you can enjoy more than just scary rides at Universal Studios…
If you are interested in finding out how movies are made, or seeing the sets, a studio tour is the perfect way to do that. A tour of the Universal Studios lot can be included in a visit to the theme park. Meanwhile, the WB VIP Studio Tour (warnerbros.com), Paramount Studio Tour (paramountstudiotour.com) and Sony Pictures Studio Tour (sonypicturesstudiostours.com) also offer the opportunity to get “behind the scenes” access and see how the magic is made.
Los Angeles Galleries & Museums
The Getty Center in the Pacific Palisades opened in 1997 and houses an impressive collection of pre-20th-century European art; and 19th- and 20th-century American and European photographs. The building itself is an icon, with superb views out across the Santa Monica mountains. Admission is free (but parking costs $15).
1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049 getty.edu
J. Paul Getty's ornate Spanish ranch house has been converted into the Getty Villa in Malibu: the billionaire’s stylish home is now a labyrinth of antiquities and pre-Renaissance pieces. More than 1,200 pieces on view in permanent exhibitions make this one of the top museums in the US. Admission is free.
17985 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272 getty.edu
Located in the Miracle Mile District in mid-town, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is the largest art museum in the western United States. Collections range from Modern and Contemporary Art to Greek, Roman and Etruscan works.
5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036 lacma.org
Sitting on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood, overlooking old Los Angeles, The Griffith Observatory is a beautiful Art Deco building that dates back to 1935. Inside, you can see a spectacular planetarium show, a Camera Obscura and even a Tesla Coil. On clear nights the observatory opens its Zeiss telescope for public viewing. Entry is free.
Griffith Park itself is a popular attraction, perfect for a day of hiking or biking.
2800 E Observatory Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027 griffithobs.org
The Japanese American National Museum tells the fascinating story of Japanese immigration to the United States, through all its ups and downs.
100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 janm.org
The Walt Disney Concert Hall isn’t a museum but it is one of the most distinctive buildings in the city, and home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012 laphil.com