View of Santa Monica Beach from the pier

11 Things to do in Los Angeles for First Timers

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After two visits to Los Angeles I can safely say it’s one of those places I could definitely live. I love those tall skinny palm trees, the sunny weather, the incredible Mexican food and the cheerful, welcoming attitude of the LA residents. It may be sprawling and a bit more difficult to get around without a car, but Uber made my trip this time a breeze. There’s so much to do in LA, so on my second time round it was nice to explore the city in a more leisurely manner, enjoying good food and even watching Bruce Springsteen in concert.

If you’re looking for things to do that are touristy but not too touristy then I’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Los Angeles, combining cool places to visit along with awesome places to eat and drink.

1. Venice Beach

Venice Beach Los Angeles Things to Do

On a hot, sunny day it’s likely you’ll want to escape the heat of Hollywood and venture out to the coast. Venice Beach isn’t just a place to relax on the sand though – this is a quirky, edgy town with lots going on. I love just taking a walk down the boardwalk, stopping to watch the street performers, the skaters and the people working out at Muscle Beach. For food I always make a stop at Danny’s or Larry’s and for drinks you shouldn’t miss the High Rooftop Lounge, Venice’s only rooftop bar. If you’re visiting LA on a budget, there are lots of places to grab $3 tacos or ice cream right on the beachfront.

2. Hit up a Pool Party

SkyBar pool at the Mondrian Hotel Los Angeles

During summertime in LA, Hollywood gets hot, hot, HOT. If you don’t want to venture all the way out to the beach, then you’re other option is to jump into a hotel pool. Los Angeles has some gorgeous hotel pools that will allow entry for non guests providing you pay for a bed or food and drinks. Sometimes they run pool parties with world-renowned DJs, so you can buy tickets for the event online. Either way, it’s better to call up before hand and check, as sometimes they close their pools for private events. On my first ever trip to LA I went to the Sunday pool party at The Roosevelt and on my second visit my friends and I went to The Mondrian for their Wicked Delight Party featuring Moon Boots. A great way to keep track of parties in LA is by downloading an app called Discotech. You can also get the lowdown on all the hotel pools in Los Angeles on LAist.

3. Hike to the Hollywood Sign

Hollywood Sign Hike

There’s something beautifully calm and relaxing about the Hollywood Hills and if you fancy some exercise, the best thing to do is hike to the famous Hollywood Sign. Not only will you get to have your photo taken with LA’s most famous landmark, you’ll also get to admire the incredible city views from the trails along the way. There are several routes and difficulty levels, but here’s an easy Hollywood sign hike from The Hiking Guy.

4. Brunch at Salt’s Cure

Hash Brunch at Salt's Cure Los Angeles

While looking online for the top brunch places in Los Angeles, I came across this little gem on Highland Avenue. Every meal at Salt’s Cure contains ingredients grown and raised in California, all of which are carefully butchered and crafted in house. Since it was a Sunday there was a little bit of a wait for a table but it was made easier with a glass of free punch to start the day off right! We sat outside on the patio and ordered an array of dishes, including pate with apple and mustard seed and their famous oatmeal griddle cakes.

5. Walk a Rescue Dog

Bark n Bitches Fairfax, Los Angeles

When I landed in Los Angeles and my friend Micky picked me up at the airport, he informed me that the first order of the day was walking a very sweet dog called Lucky. Where on earth were we going to get a dog from? Bark n’ Bitches of course! Bark n’ Bitches is an upscale, humane doggie boutique in Fairfax that has adoptable rescue dogs roaming around the store. You can tell they LOVE dogs, since they take care of them with the best products from, so if you need a bit of puppy love during your trip, this is the place to visit. Best of all you can hand over your ID and take one of these loveable canine friends for a walk.

6. Pretend you’re in Pretty Woman on Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive - Things to do in Los Angeles

Remember when Julia Roberts was turned away by those nasty shop assistants, so she went back and said “Big Mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now!” Turn up the Roy Orbison tunes on Spotify and sing Pretty Woman as you strut your stuff down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, where that movie scene was shot. You might get a few odd looks but who cares? Rodeo Drive is the most expensive shopping street in LA but even if you can’t afford the price tags, it’s still worth a look. It’s so shiny, so immaculately clean and so utterly luxurious.

7. Take a stroll in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Los Angeles

Santa Monica has a more laid-back, family vibe than Venice Beach, with its iconic pier boasting a family amusement park and a solar paneled Ferris wheel. The area has lots of nice boutique clothing stores, coffee shops and restaurants, so it’s a great place to stay if you prefer a laid-back beach vibe. Don’t forget to stop for drinks on the veranda of The Georgian Hotel, which has a stunning, colourful facade. We stopped for lunch at The Misfit Restaurant + Bar in Downtown Santa Monica, which offers $5 bar fly lunches on weekdays till 4pm.

8. Have your photo taken on the Walk of Fame

Walk of Fame Los Angeles

A visit to the Walk of Fame is going to be the most touristy thing you do on your whole trip but it needs to be done! Walk along Hollywood Boulevard, have your taken with your favourite celebrity stars and try to avoid the sellers shoving CDs in your face. It’s loud and a little bit tacky but so much fun. From here you can take open-top bus tours to see the celebrity mansions, just make sure you haggle as many touts will give you discount deals. If you’re feeling thirsty, stop off at Te’kila for icy cool margaritas and tacos.

9. Drinks at Bar Marmont

Bar Marmont is the bar of the historic Chateau Marmont hotel on Sunset Boulevard. Serving cocktails and simplistic sharing plates, you can either make a reservation in the restaurant here or just stop by for a drink at the beginning of your night. It’s small, dark and rather crowded but has an air of old-school Hollywood glamour and the drinks are strong!

10. Adults Only

Adults Only Los Angeles - Speakeasy Bar, Quirky Things to do in Hollywood

When I think of a speakeasy I think of the small, underground cocktail bars scattered across London, however my experience in LA was somewhat different. When we ventured to Adults Only, a speakeasy in Hollywood, we arrived at a strip mall feeling very confused. Gazing around at a bunch of fast food joints, this didn’t look like the right place. But soon we noticed in a dark corner of the mall, a pink, neon sign saying “Adults Only”. Tucked away behind the facade of an old VHS porn shop adorned with televisions, Playboys and movie posters, the bar inside is actually very elegant, with reupholstered church pews, handcrafted furniture and high ceilings.

11. Shopping and Lunch on Sunset Boulevard

Eveleigh on Sunset - Restaurant with outdoor patio in Los Angeles

If you need to pick up some quick clothes from H&M or perhaps you want to browse some designer stores, then Sunset Plaza has several shops and al fresco dining spaces. We had lunch on the outdoor patio at Eveleigh – a cute restaurant serving a farm-to-table menu driven by rustic, old-world European and American country cooking.

Have you done any of the things on this list? What are your favourite things to do in Los Angeles? I’d love to hear your favorite places to eat and play!

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