This past July we traveled to California for a wedding and I got to see LA for the first time! I spent days, weeks and probably even months compiling a list of must see places that any first timer shouldn’t miss.
Hailing from Chicago I wasn’t overly impressed with downtown LA but there were a few gems that were nice to pop into. Overall we didn’t spend more than an hour or two exploring. Our favorites were The Last Bookstore, Walt Disney Music Hall and Angels Flight.
There were so many little nooks and alcoves that are great photo ops for any serious book lover!
Walt Disney Music Hall has such great architecture.
Angels Flight is a vintage train line that is interesting to behold.
2. Rodeo Drive
Everyone has heard of Rodeo Dr and while we didn’t do any shopping it’s still a beautiful part of LA. You can really imagine just how glamorous Beverly Hills can be.
Be sure to take a sassy picture outside of Boulmiche which is the boutique from Pretty Woman.
Shop assistant: Hello, can I help you?
Vivian: I was in here yesterday, you wouldn’t wait on me.
Shop assistant: Oh.
Vivian: You people work on commission, right?
Shop assistant: Yeah.
Vivian: Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.
3. Beverly Hills
I’m talking the actual hills. If you have a car then jump in and get driving. This was one of my favorite parts of LA because it was closer to the expectation I had in my head before going. The views are gorgeous and we started at Rodeo Dr and just kept driving up into the mountains.
4. Pacific Coast Highway
Drive down the coast for some beautiful scenery and mile after mile of beach towns. We road tripped down to San Diego during our stay so we got plenty of the Highway 101 experience.
5. Hollywood Walk of Fame/Chinese Theater
This is one of those touristy stops that is quintessential Hollywood. Lots of people, lots of costumed superheros and lots of photo ops. It’s kind of a hot mess of chaos but it’s a must.
The Chinese Theater – where many LA premieres take place.
Chewy and Spidey discussing Mary-Kate and Ashley …probably.
Standing in Hermione’s shoes.
6. Studio Tour
This was one of my favorite things we did while in Cali. So many shows and movies are shot in Hollywood that it’s incredibly satisfying to go behind the scenes at really any of the big studios. We chose the WB Studio Tour mostly because of Harry Potter, Gilmore Girls and Friends but there were SO MANY other things to see as well. This is a small sampling of pictures… believe me.
Full House Replica.
Sorted into Gryffindor… obvi.
We love The Flash! So much DC comic stuff.
THE FRIENDS COUCH. THE ACTUAL ONE FROM SET.
Cool camera tricks from The Hobbit.
FINALLY accepting my award. Real Oscars are actually really heavy.
7. Griffith Park Observatory
This is an amazing spot to see the Hollywood Sign and the skyline. Beautiful views and an architecturally beautiful observatory! It’s really really busy and parking can be a pain so I’d try to go at non peak times. We parked pretty far down the hill and hiked up at sunset.
I wasn’t lying about the parking. Pretty drive though!
The Hollywood Sign in the distance.
I’m so glad we went at sunset!
8. Mulholland Drive Outlook
We drove here right after Griffith Observatory to see the city at night but we also ended up here the morning we flew out so we could see it all in the sunshine.
9. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
Another spot for beautiful views all around. There is a small lot at the top so that you can drive up to the top but most people hike.
If you love super sour gummies as much as me then you’ve got to go here for some authentic Swedish candy. So many options! So sour! So Wonderful!
11. Santa Monica
The Santa Monica pier, beach and shops are enough of a reason to head to the coast. It’s an experience in and of itself.
12. Venice Beach
This is where I had my only celebrity siting of our LA trip (Lori Petty) so Venice Beach shall always hold a special place in my heart. It’s full of street food, kitschy vendors and is definitely a tourist trap but there are locals about and the ocean is a beautiful backdrop.
Check out my LA pinterest board to see how I compiled this list of must see attractions!
One thing we’re missing in this post is FOOD but that’s because I’ve already written a post all about that MOST important travel experience here. Click over to that post to find out all that LA has to offer for your hangry self.