26 places to visit in LA, from incredible architecture to the best new art exhibits
Welcome to Curbed LA’s city guide, a map of 26 essential things to do in Los Angeles. Suited for locals and visitors alike and curated by Curbed editors, this map is a guide for an ideal spring weekend in Los Angeles. It’s also inspiration for entertaining out-of-town friends and family—without visiting a single tourist trap
The pocket guide is updated seasonally, spotlighting cultural institutions, the outdoors, and beautiful spaces. With spring break in full swing, picks include a local spot for viewing the super bloom, an outdoor bar at an Art Deco landmark on the Sunset Strip, and an exhibit on powerful black art at the Broad.
Looking for more ways to explore the City of Angels?
- If you’re looking specifically for famous architecture, we’ve mapped the 20 most iconic buildings in LA.
- Take a hike for a good view of the world-famous Hollywood Sign,
- Got kids in tow? Here’s a list of 26 family-friendly places and activities in LA.
- For the most classic and essential restaurants in Los Angeles, we defer to Eater LA.
- If you’re a bookworm, here’s a map guide to the haunts of legendary authors like Joan Didion and William Faulkner.
- After a winter with lots of rain, LA’s hillsides and mountains are covered in pretty wildflower blooms. Here are seven trails with spectacular endings.
1. Circle X Ranch National Park Services
Malibu, CA 90265
One beautiful way to see this year’s super bloom without venturing outside of LA is to explore the Santa Monica Mountains. National Park Service rangers report that Circle X Ranch is one of the places where they’ve spotted wildflowers—like poppies, chocolate lilies, and shooting stars—unfurling as the weather warms. For an easy hike, venture onto the Grotto Trail or, for more elevation gain, trek up to Sandstone Peak. Be a good steward and don’t destroy the habitat: Stay on the trail, and don’t pick the flowers.
2. Eames House
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
One of the most important homes in Los Angeles—a city overflowing with experimental, groundbreaking, and stunning architecture—the personal residence of prolific designers Charles and Ray Eames is widely considered the “epitome of Midcentury California design.”
On a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and partially shrouded by a row of eucalyptus trees, the house was designed by the couple over a two-year period in the late 1940s, and its steel frame was erected by five men in just 16 hours. Using prefabricated, mass-produced materials to build a house was a total innovation at the time, and the Eames’ “home became internationally known as a warm and ‘human’ solution to standardized prefabricated domestic building.”
The house is open for visits (exterior only) six days a week for $10. Reservations are required 48 hours in advance.
3. The Getty
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Funded by oilman J. Paul Getty’s trust, the Getty is one of the most breathtaking places in Los Angeles. The light-colored marble buildings bob and weave up and down, among pools, fountains, and a circular garden designed by Robert Irwin, all on top of a ridge high above the 405 freeway with 360-degree views. Plus you get to take a funicular up there. The collection isn’t particularly beloved, but it includes everything from photography to early books to furniture. And it’s all free except for the parking ($15).
4. Greystone Mansion
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
The Greystone Mansion looks like it belongs in a Jane Austen novel, but its history—involving oil, money, murder, and movies—is decidedly LA. Built in the Roaring ’20s by oil tycoon Edward Laurence Doheny as a remarkably generous wedding gift for his son (who was shot dead inside one of the guest rooms five months after moving in), the 55-room manor was spared no expense and has served as a lavish backdrop in several films, most famously in The Big Lebowski and There Will be Blood.
The manicured grounds are open to the public year-round, though the home itself is reserved for weddings and private events.
5. The Museum of Jurassic Technology
Culver City, CA 90232
The Museum of Jurassic Technology is a museum about museums, one of its founders won a MacArthur genius grant, and there’s a lovely tea room and garden on the top floor. That is all you need to or should know about it before you go—except that no one ever regrets going.
6. Sunset Tower Hotel
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Designed by Leland Bryant, the architect responsible for some of the most elegant old buildings in Los Angeles, the Sunset Tower Hotel is an historic Art Deco gem with a graceful bar that’s open to the public. If the weather is nice, sit outside on the terrace, where you’ll enjoy views of the city and get a taste of Old Hollywood.
7. Château Marmont
West Hollywood, CA 90046
If you’re doing Los Angeles, you should probably do one thing on the iconic Sunset Strip, and we recommend that thing be the Chateau Marmont. Built in the 1920s as the city’s first earthquake-proof apartment building, it became a hotel and the place for stars to misbehave in the 1930s, and it has been that way ever since.
The rooms and bungalows are shockingly expensive, but make a reservation for lunch, enjoy the restaurant patio, then sneak a look around the pool and grounds, shrouded in foliage and perched tastefully above the Strip.
8. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
Los Angeles, CA 90036
LACMA is one of LA’s most prominent museums. Its vast permanent collection holds famous works of art, including Henri Matisse’s “La Gerbe,” Ed Ruscha’s “Standard,” and Diego Rivera’s portrait of Frida Kahlo. On display through June 9 is a “formidable survey” of work by midcentury draftsman, printmaker, and painter Charles White, who made powerful portraits of historical figures and everyday black life.
Admission is $20 for LA residents and $25 for visitors who live outside the county, but you can view two of the museum’s most popular installations—“Urban Light” and “Levitated Mass”—for free. Both are located outside the museum’s doors. LACMA’s sprawling campus connects to the La Brea Tar Pits, and there’s a hardy network of walking paths between the two, making it a lovely place to stroll.
LACMA is closed Wednesdays. Admission is free for LA residents after 3 p.m.
9. Magnolia Park
Burbank, CA 91505
Some of the best (and more affordable) vintage stores in Los Angeles can be found in Burbank’s Magnolia Park, one of those special local commercial districts that makes the LA area feel like a small town. Spend an afternoon strolling tree-lined Magnolia Boulevard and bopping into its well-curated, second-hand clothing shops and its quirky boutiques and coffee shops.
10. Leimert Park Village
Leimert Park—voted Curbed LA’s 2016 neighborhood of the year—was developed in the 1920s from a design by the Olmsted brothers, and for many years was a whites-only neighborhood. Once that kind of housing discrimination became illegal, wealthy African-Americans began to move in, and, by the 1970s, Leimert had become the epicenter of black arts culture in Los Angeles, eventually breeding the LA Rebellion film movement and the famous World Stage open mic nights.
Leimert Park Village is a walkable and diverse cluster of small, local businesses, many of them artsy in nature.
11. Maurice and Paul Marciano Art Foundation
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Maurice and Paul Marciano, the founders of Guess Jeans, opened this museum in a former Scottish Rite Masonic Temple designed by Millard Sheets in 1961. Their permanent collection is filled with contemporary art that doesn’t deviate too far from what you’ll see at The Broad and MOCA.
What’s special about the Marciano Art Foundation is the building itself. Long closed to the public, it was rehabbed as part of its conversion into a museum, but many original architectural details remain intact. The Marcianos have devoted an entire room on the mezzanine to Freemasonry artifacts once used in occult ceremonies, from velvet-and-fringe aprons to satin banners.
And, on display through March 3, is a solo exhibition by celebrated Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei.
Admission is free, but tickets must be reserved in advance.
12. Beachwood Canyon Secret Stairs
Los Angeles, CA 90068
Beachwood Canyon is a magical, quaint neighborhood filled with gorgeous homes of a variety of styles dating back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. One of the city’s first planned housing tracts, it has counted many silver-screen stars among its residents.
Tour Beachwood by way of its “secret stairs,” a network of staircases dating back to the streetcar era of Los Angeles. As the neighborhood is quite hilly, the Beachwood Canyon stairs are fairly challenging, adding a healthy component to sightseeing. There’s a whole book on walking tours of LA’s staircases, and the website for the book includes a PDF map and directions on how to get to and traverse the ones in Beachwood. It recommends starting at Beachwood Cafe.
Parking is scarce on the winding streets (some of which are permit-only parking), so why not take Metro’s 180/181 bus lines or the Beachwood DASH bus up to the start of the walk? All of those buses pick up near the Hollywood/Vine subway stop and W Hotel on the Walk of Fame.
13. Hike Fern Dell to the Griffith Observatory
Los Angeles, CA
The Griffith Observatory is one of those tourist draws that even locals adore. The best way to visit is to hike; you’ll enjoy pretty scenery and spectacular views along the way. The sights include the Hollywood and Downtown skylines, the world-famous Hollywood Sign, and, on clear days, even the ocean.
Start your trek on Fern Dell Drive, meander though Fern Dell Nature Center, fuel up at the oh-so charming The Trails Cafe (get the granola), then venture up either side of the canyon on well-maintained dirt trails that will lead you up to the magnificent observatory. If you have time, catch a show at the planetarium. A detailed overview of the hike is here.
14. Hollyhock House
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House—his first house in Los Angeles—is opened to the public following a big restoration. The house represents not just a beautiful Wright creation but also a “germination of what I think you can easily say became California Modernism.” The goal was to take the house back to as close an approximation as possible of how it looked in 1921, when it was completed; the house features the plaster, elaborate ceiling moldings, and accordion glass doors that it was intended to have.
Furnished with a mix of original furniture and detailed reproductions, the house is still a work in progress, but it has made incredible strides in its restoration. The house is open for self-guided tours Thursday through Sunday each week; standard admission is $7. After your tour, stick around for a picnic in Barnsdall Art Park.
15. California African American Museum
Los Angeles, CA 90037
Exposition Park is home to multiple museums, but if you can only visit one, make it the California African American Museum. Its mission is to showcase under-represented artists of color, with an emphasis on art connected to California. Among its spring exhibits is “Breaking Patterns,” evocative collages, photographs, textiles, and paintings by Oakland artist Adia Millett, as well as “Plumb Line,” a collection of works inspired by or related to Charles White’s work.
Admission is free, and it’s closed Monday. Before or after your visit, stroll through the elegant Exposition Park Rose Garden.
16. The Museum of Contemporary Art
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Check out the first Los Angeles commission by 2019 Prtizker Prize winner Arata Isozaki. With the award, the under-celebrated building was thrust back into the spotlight this month. Clad in red sandstone and opened in 1987, it features geometric forms, including glass pyramids that were designed to serve as skylights. Be sure to venture inside; the permanent collection on Grand Avenue includes works by Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and Joan Miro. (Tip: The museum offers a buy-one-get-one-free deal on admission when you ride Metro.)
17. Angels Flight
Los Angeles, CA 90013
If you want an old-timey LA experience, it doesn’t get any better than Angels Flight—a tiny railway that climbs up and down Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles. The two tangerine-colored train cars, named Sinai and Olivet, are more than 100 years old. The short ride costs $1 each way, or, if you have a TAP card, just 50 cents.
18. The Broad
Los Angeles, CA 90012
In short time, The Broad Museum atop Bunker Hill in Downtown has made itself an indispensable part of Los Angeles’s cultural landscape. This spring, it’s hosting one of LA’s must-see exhibits: “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” a showcase of powerful black art at the height of the civil rights movement.
Within the confines of the honeycomb-covered building by Diller Scofido + Renfro, guests to The Broad will also find contemporary art galore from the likes of Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger, John Baldessari, Kara Walker, Jeff Koons, and Jasper Johns. The infinitely Instagramable piece by Yayoi Kusama entitled “Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” is back, but it requires separate reservations to enter. Guests can make that reservation once they’re inside the museum.
The Broad is open daily except Monday, and entrance is free. Admission to “Soul of a Nation” costs $18, and requires advance reservations. Tickets can also be reserved in advance online for regular admission. Another option, however, is an on-site standby line for those who like to live spontaneously.
19. Grand Central Market
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Bustling Grand Central Market has changed quite a bit in the last few years. Trendy new vendors have come in, and the face of the market and the crowd that it caters to has altered. For better or for worse, this latest iteration of the market encapsulates an ongoing process all over Downtown, as buildings once neglected and underestimated continue to be polished up and reframed as the hot new thing. Still, after all these years, the open-air market is a wonderful place to stop for a pupusa, a bowl of vegan ramen, or a burrito-sized taco.
20. Watts Towers of Simon Rodia State Historic Park
Los Angeles, CA 90002
The Watts Towers are one of the most famous works of folk art in the U.S., made up of 17 steel and mortar sculptures built between 1921 and 1955 by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia. The towers rise as high as 99.5 feet and are entirely covered in “a diverse mosaic of broken glass, sea shells, generic pottery and tile, a rare piece of 19th-century, hand painted Canton ware and many pieces of 20th-century American ceramics.”
When he was done, Rodia said, “I had it in mind to do something big and I did it,” then he deeded the property to a neighbor and moved away. After his house burned down, a group of neighbors banded together to save the towers, eventually founding the Watts Towers Arts Center; the site is now run by the city and is on the National Register of Historic Places. You can take a guided tour, or just go yourself to see what Simon Rodia created.
21. Imperial Western Beer Company
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Imperial Western Beer Company is a glorious collision of LA food and architecture. The restaurant and brewery have taken over Union Station’s long dormant Harvey House, a once-popular way station for WWII soldiers shipping out to their posts. The set-up is a blast for larger groups; there are booths, open space for mingling, and shuffle board and pool tables. There’s also an adjoining, dimly lit cocktail bar for more intimate gatherings. The menu features “elevated” bar snacks, including raw oysters, fried mushrooms, shrimp rolls, and french fries, all served inside one of LA’s most eye-catching and elaborate Art Deco spaces.
22. Hauser & Wirth
Los Angeles, CA 90013
If you’re headed to the Arts District to eat and drink, carve out some time for… art. The Los Angeles outpost of Hauser & Wirth is the most obvious choice, and it’s free. The sprawling campus occupies an old flour mill and features beautiful galleries, along with a courtyard and landscaping by Los Angeles landscape architect Mia Lehrer. Located on East Third Street, it’s walking distance to Angel City Brewing and Downtown LA’s Little Tokyo neighborhood, where you should absolutely stop for a warm bowl of ramen.
23. Heritage Square Museum
Los Angeles, CA 90031
Heritage Square is an elegant reminder that Los Angeles once boasted a slew of elegant Victorian homes. The museum is made up of eight historic structures—homes and mansions, a depot, barn, and drugstore—that have been preserved to showcase the “everyday lives of Southern Californians” at the turn of the century. The museum is open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, with guided tours (included in the $10 admission) departing hourly from noon to 3 p.m.
Long Beach, CA 90802
There are plenty of fun reasons to visit Long Beach. There’s a beachfront bike path, water taxi, canals, award-winning craft beer at Beachwood BBQ, a sprawling, monthly flea market, and walkable shopping districts, such as Retro Row and Belmont Shore. There’s also the Museum of Latin American Art. Housed in an old silent film studio, the museum showcases modern and contemporary Latin American and Latino art.
On view through September 1 is an exhibit that “celebrates the collaborative spirit of printmaking,” with historic and more current works by some 100 artists from the U.S., Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
25. The Gamble House
Pasadena, CA 91103
The Gamble House is considered one of the “ultimate bungalows” designed by the Greene brothers and an important contributor to the architectural evolution of Los Angeles and the nation. Hour-long, docent-led tours of the house run from Thursdays through Sundays. More in-depth, 2.5-hour tours are offered once a month. Pricing for both is available here.
26. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
San Marino, CA 91108
The Huntington is a splurge, but the $25 admission is more than worth it. One of the most beautiful properties in Los Angeles, the sprawling estate holds more than a dozen themed gardens, including a jaw-dropping Japanese Garden, fragrant rose garden, and colorful desert garden. The admission also includes access to the the grand library and other exhibition spaces that display a wide-ranging mix of artifacts, literature, and paintings, from a Donald Judd prototype to Henry David Thoreau’s manuscript of Walden.