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 summer 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 summer in full swing, picks include kayaking in the Naples Canal, touring Malibu’s spectacular first beach house, feasting on seafood at the waterfront, and viewing an exhibit on powerful black art at the Broad.
Looking for more ways to explore the City of Angels?
- From Malibu to coastal Orange County, here are 13 great beaches.
- Spend a weekend exploring the desert or the mountains.
- In the summer, Los Angeles hosts a handful of not-to-be-missed outdoor concerts, movies, and night markets.
- 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 map of 26 family-friendly places and activities in LA.
- Head to a Chavez Ravine to see the Dodgers play.
- If you’re a bookworm, here’s a map guide to the haunts of legendary authors like Joan Didion and William Faulkner.
1. Leo Carrillo State Beach
One of the least touristy beaches in Los Angeles, this state park stretches for two and a half miles and offers tide pools, soft sand, coves, 7 miles of trails, and pretty vistas. But it’s best known for being dog-friendly: Leashed pups are allowed in designated areas (north of lifeguard tower No. 3). Unlike some other Malibu beaches, this one is also pretty easy to access. There’s free street parking and designated parking for a fee ($12 per day).
2. Adamson House Museum
Malibu, CA 90265
An heiress and a wannabe cowboy built this seaside mansion covered in spectacular tilework in the days when the Malibu coast was all theirs. Today, the Adamson House, Malibu’s first beach house, still stands and holds its original furnishings. It’s open for guided tours 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday (adults: $7; six to 16 years: $2; five years and under: free).
3. Eames House
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
One of the most important homes in Los Angeles the personal residence of prolific designers Charles and Ray Eames is widely considered the “epitome of Midcentury California design.” That’s saying a lot in a city overflowing with experimental, groundbreaking, and stunning architecture.
On a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and partially shrouded by a row of eucalyptus trees, the Eames 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 “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.
4. Santa Monica Beach bike path
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Rent a bike from a rental shop or bike-share hub (sorry, no scooters) along the strand in Santa Monica and pedal south to the Venice Boardwalk or north to Malibu, soaking in the sights and gawking at weird people along the way.
In Venice, you’ll spot pot shops, sick skateboarding, drum circles, and some pretty solid breakdancing. In Santa Monica, you’ll cruise past Shutters on the Beach and the world famous pier (but don’t bother stopping unless you enjoy chain restaurants and tacky souvenirs). Things get normal from there, and you really can’t beat the vistas. You can also ride south from Venice to Redondo but will have to navigate around the Marina before the path picks up again.
5. Serpentine Pavilion at La Brea Tar Pits
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Designed by Madrid-based architecture firm Selgascano, this temporary, eye-catching installation will be offering free public programs like film screenings and talks through November 24. It’s on the grassy lawn in the park next to the tar pits, thanks to a collaboration between the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County and Second Home, a coworking company that’s opening a new location in Hollywood in September.
6. 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).
7. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
Culver City, CA 90232
Do this one before the temperatures climb and the sun gets too intense. The “hike” to the overlook is short and steep: either march up 282 stairs or wind around a more gradual, switchbacking dirt path. Both routes end in the same place, and when you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with expansive Los Angeles Basin views, including an Instagram-worthy shot of the Downtown skyline.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Hollywood Bowl
Los Angeles, CA 90068
Concerts have been held at the bowl-shaped site—chosen for its excellent acoustics—since 1921; the balloon-shaped seating and concert shell date from 1926 (though they’ve been updated since).
11. 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 popping into its well-curated, second-hand clothing shops and its quirky boutiques and coffee shops.
12. 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 became 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.
13. Mama Shelter
Los Angeles, CA 90028
If it’s summer, you should probably hang out on a breezy rooftop. It doesn’t get more chill and unpretentious than Mama Shelter. The colorful outdoor bar in the heart of Hollywood has colorful, cozy chairs for lounging, foosball tables, and, of course, views.
14. 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. 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.
Admission is free, but tickets must be reserved in advance.
15. 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.
16. Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Los Angeles, CA 90038
The film selections are top-notch, but seeing a movie at Cinespia at Hollywood Forever Cemetery is more about the hip, laid-back scene and the experience of picnicking in one of the city’s oldest graveyards. Pack a dinner, a blanket, and a bottle of wine—yes, booze is allowed—and arrive early to stand in line for a good spot on the sprawling grass lawn, which is where you’ll watch a flick projected on the side of a mausoleum. Buy tickets ($21) early, because they sell out fast.
17. 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.
18. 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. Its summer exhibits include: “Breaking Patterns,” evocative collages, photographs, textiles, and paintings by Oakland artist Adia Millett; “Plumb Line,” a collection of works inspired by or related to Charles White’s work; and “The Liberator,” an homage to a black-run newspaper in 20th century Los Angeles.
Admission is free, and the museum is closed Monday. Before or after your visit, stroll through the elegant Exposition Park Rose Garden.
19. San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant
San Pedro, CA 90731
Even after the Ports O’Call Village is remade into a Fisherman’s Wharf-like destination with fake vintage warehouses and new retailers, the San Pedro Fish Market will still be kickin’ selling trays full of fish cooked to order, however you’d like it.
It’s the more affordable, no-frills alternative to a fancy, waterfront seafood restaurant. Here, guests eat their ridiculously hearty portions while seated on picnic tables overlooking the port, then wash it all down with a (plastic) pitcher of beer.
If you’re thirsty but not into Bud Light, there’s a craft brewery about a mile away—not a bad walk on a cloudy day. And after all that seafood, a brisk walk might do some good.
20. The Museum of Contemporary Art
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Check out the first Los Angeles commission by 2019 Pritzker Prize winner Arata Isozaki. With the award earlier this year, the under-celebrated building was thrust back into the spotlight. 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 Miró. (Tip: The museum offers a buy-one-get-one-free deal on admission when you ride Metro.)
21. 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.
22. 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. Right now, 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. Ticketscan 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.
23. 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.
24. 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 (including a chicken coop—with Instagram-famous chickens). 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 bowl of ramen.
25. Kayak the Naples Canal
Long Beach, CA 90803
There are plenty of fun reasons to visit Long Beach. There’s a beachfront bike path, water taxi, award-winning craft beer at Beachwood BBQ, a huge monthly flea market, and walkable shopping districts, such as Retro Row and Belmont Shore. There’s also the canals. Excavated from a tidal estuary in the early 1900s by a real estate developer “who fancied the region as a sort of Italy-on-the Pacific,” the canals today are lined with multimillion dollar homes. They’re a scenic spot for some lazy kayaking. Rental rates are $12 per hour.
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 to an original 1516 copy of the Thomas More book Utopia.