Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States, and is a very popular vacation destination for people around the world. When most people visit Los Angeles, they stick to the touristy attractions in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica, but there’s so much more to the city than just the glitz and glamor. Los Angeles has an incredible food scene, and you’ll find plenty of unique boutiques away from the huge malls. For those who love nature, there’s plenty of pristine beaches as well as incredible hiking less than an hour’s drive away. This Unique Things To Do in Los Angeles itinerary will give you a taste of this city’s vibrant and diverse culture.
Day One: Stay in Silver Lake or Los Feliz
Instead of opting for one of the big, corporate hotels in downtown LA or out by LAX, look for a rental house or apartment in the trendy neighborhoods of Los Feliz or Silver Lake. These neighborhoods are next to each other, and both are known for their excellent selection of cafes, trendy restaurants, and independent boutiques. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to find a rental house in the hills, which will give you beautiful views of the surrounding area and the downtown skyline.
Some of the best places to find rentals in Los Angeles are Airbnb, Homeaway, or VRBO. Look for an option that is walking distance to the Vermont/Sunset Metro station, which will enable you to get many places in the city without a car. If you really prefer a hotel experience, check out the brand new Silver Lake Pool & Inn, which offers the trendy style of an LA hotel at a relatively affordable price.
Once you’ve checked into your accommodations, take a moment to explore the area. Walking down Vermont Avenue and Sunset Boulevard is a great way to find hidden gem restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that locals love. You can also head to nearby Griffith Park or Barnsdall Park to get a great view of the sunset and bask in LA’s gorgeous weather.
Day Two: Explore Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles has experienced a renaissance over the last decade, and there’s so much to do here that you won’t want to miss. For unique things to do in Los Angeles, start by exploring Grand Central Market, a vibrant food hall that has been in place since 1917. GCM is home to some of the city’s best culinary options, and it’s an easy way to sample several local dishes all in one place. From there, head to the Broad Museum or the Museum of Contemporary Art. Both museums feature contemporary and modern art from some of the most influential artists of our time. They’re also reasonably sized, so you can explore them in an hour or two.
Book lovers will want to check out The Last Bookstore, an iconic local destination for new and used books, records, and local art, as well as literary events. To complete the day, head to one of the area’s many rooftop bars and restaurants to take in an incredible view of the city. Some of the most popular options include Perch, The Ace Hotel, Broken Shaker, and 71Above. If you’re looking for a spot to take in a great view of the Los Angeles skyline and panoramic vistas of the entire city —take a trip to the Los Angeles City Hall Observation Deck, The Observation deck is located on the 27th floor of Los Angeles City Hall.
Day Three: Relax on the Pristine Beaches of Malibu
It wouldn’t be a trip to southern California without a day at the beach. If you’re looking for a truly stunning beach experience, head to Malibu, which is known for it’s relaxed atmosphere and clean beaches. El Matador State Beach is popular among locals for its stunning oceanfront views, but Point Dume State Beach and Malibu Surfrider Beach are also great options. Keep in mind that the drive to Malibu can be anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes, depending on traffic.
The Malibu area is also an excellent place to go hiking without the crowds you’ll find closer to the city. The Santa Monica Mountains are full of excellent hiking routes, many of which are quite challenging. Some popular choices are Zuma Canyon and Tuna Canyon. After you’re done hiking, be sure to stop along the PCH for some truly incredible seafood. Neptune’s Net and Malibu Seafood are both reliable seafood restaurants to check out.
For more information on Malibu see the One Week in Malibu – Best Things to Do in Malibu itinerary.
Day Four: Museum Hop in Mid-City Los Angeles
Los Angeles has some truly incredible museums, several of which are concentrated in the Mid-City area around Wilshire Boulevard. The biggest must-see is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, known for its iconic Urban Light sculpture outdoors. This museum is popular among tourists and locals alike for its huge and varied collection of art. Next door to LACMA is the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, where you can see dinosaur fossils that were found right in the center of Los Angeles. If you still have energy for another museum, head across the street to the stunning Petersen Automotive Museum, which has a huge collection of famous and antique cars.
For an excellent meal afterwards, head slightly north of the museums to the Fairfax district. You’ll find plenty of local favorites as well as upscale dining options centered around Fairfax Avenue and Melrose Avenue.
Day Five: Get Outside
On day five, let’s continue our unique things to do in Los Angeles. The Echo Park neighborhood is an eclectic and rapidly evolving area that you won’t want to miss while you’re in Los Angeles. While many tourists flock to Runyon Canyon for their hiking, consider taking a stroll through one of Elysian Park’s trails as well. You’ll get great views of the area without the crowds. The neighborhood’s namesake park is also a great place to spend some time outside. If you really want to bask in the sun, ride one of the swan-shaped paddle boats around the lake for an idyllic experience.
If you are looking for more hiking head to Runyon Canyon Park. Runyon Canyon Park is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Los Angeles and often shows up on publishers’ lists of best hikes in LA. This 130-acre dog park is located in Hollywood on the east end of the Santa Monica Mountains, providing hikers with a few overlapping loops and great views over Hollywood. If you want a quick hike try the 1.9-mile loop with 500 feet of elevation change. For more of a workout on the larger 2.65-mile loop with 700 feet of elevation. In for a big challenge? Stretch your legs on the 3.3-mile hike top the top of the park with 800 feet of elevation.
Finish off your day with some excellent eating and drinking along Sunset Boulevard. Echo Park has several excellent bars, and whether you like cocktails, beer, or wine, there’s going to be something for you to enjoy. There’s also a nice combination of trendy restaurants and laid-back food trucks where you can pick up some excellent food.
Day Six: Explore Hollywood
This is your day to check out all of the ‘touristy’ experiences in Hollywood and the surrounding area. Start the day off by taking the DASH bus from Los Feliz up to Griffith Observatory, one of the city’s best views and most iconic buildings. Then, take a short stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame to seek out your favorite celebrity stars. Finish the day by heading to Universal Studios to explore Harry Potter World and other attractions celebrating your favorite TV shows. However, instead of grabbing dinner there, head to the nearby North Hollywood Arts District, where you’ll find fun and laid-back bars and pubs along Lankershim Boulevard. All of these attractions are Metro-accessible, so you won’t have to worry about driving for the day.
Day Seven: Enjoy Surf Culture in Venice
It’s the last day of our Unique Things To Do in Los Angeles itinerary, and what better way to cap it off than by heading to iconic Venice Beach? Venice has a more local feel than nearby Santa Monica, but there’s still plenty to do there. Grab brunch and explore the shops on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, which is home to some of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. Next, stroll the stunning Venice Canals, and of course, lounge on Venice Beach and enjoy the sunshine and relaxed surf culture. Venice is full of street musicians and vendors that make for a very eclectic experience. Scooter and bike rentals are everywhere in this area, and they are a very easy way to get around and explore – just be sure to be mindful of traffic! Venice is also not far from LAX, so when it’s time to go home, you won’t have to sit in traffic for too long to get to the airport.
For more information on nearby Los Angeles attractions see our Best Things to Do in Pasadena itinerary.