Both of us were born and raised in Ventura County (about 1 hour from LA) and spent the majority of the last decade living in LA. Invariably, when friends come to visit LA, we tell them to get to the beaches, get out of LA, and enjoy what really makes LA great: the suburbs. We will share our favorite things to do in Los Angeles and greater Los Angeles, but first, let’s cover some things not to do in LA.
Sure, many things that we do as locals in LA are popular amongst tourists, but for the most part, we prefer to just chill and enjoy nature, good food, and the company of family and friends.
People think thave everyone in LA hikes the Hollywood sign, when in fact we hike Sandstone Peak, Escondido Falls, and Angeles National Forrest. The best hikes in southern California are all outside of Los Angeles, but not by much. You can reach some of our favorite hikes in the world in 30 minutes.
Santa Monica and Venice beach are great and we love both, but they aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing beaches in LA. They’re crowded and a bit dirty. Instead, head to Malibu, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, or venture even further south to Orange County. Some of the best beaches in southern California are in Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. El Matador State Beach is our favorite beach in LA.
Don’t just go to the beach in LA, go surfing in LA. Unless it’s 80 degrees or hotter, you’ll for sure want a wetsuit or at least a spring suit. The water in the Pacific Ocean is COLD. Some days it feels warm to those of us who grew up there, but even on those days, tourists find it chilly. You can rent boards at many of the major beaches, FYI.
Go to a Dodgers game, Lakers game, Rams game, and Kings game but skip the Chargers and Clippers games. People in LA can be pretty fairweather fans, but fortunately, right now the Dodgers are the best team in baseball, the Rams are one of the best teams in the NFL, and the Lakers just acquired Anthony Davis, Danny Green and others to support Lebron – I’d say the 6-year playoff drought is over!
Regardless of the type of music you like, there is probably a musical event every night of the week. You can visit the Hollywood Bowl and see the LA Philharmonic, go to Shrine and watch Kaskade, or go to a small jazz bar and see some fun bands that no one knows about. Coachella is also “technically” an LA event for what it’s worth.
LA has some of the best farmer’s markets we have seen anywhere in the world. The original Farmer’s Market was founded in LA in 1934 and over the last century hundreds have popped up around the city and greater Los Angeles County.
Once you’ve gotten your fix of food and produce at the Farmer’s Market, head to the Melrose Flea Market and shop around for clothes, jewelry, art, and other crafts.
Probably the worst thing about living in Perth, Australia is that there is no Mexican food. LA, on the other hand, has the best Mexican food in the world outside of Mexico and perhaps San Diego. This is a hot topic of debate amongst southern Californians; does San Diego or LA have better Mexican food? Either way, both have better Mexican food than Perth and LA has some of the best Mexican food in the world.
Get out of LA, head to Malibu, and eat a breakfast burrito at Country Kitchen or Lily’s…or maybe both! These are our 2 favorite spots in LA for breakfast burritos and they’re both right across from the beach, so you can take your burrito to the beach and turn yourself into a beached whale.
We tell people al the time, what makes “LA” great is not LA. It’s Santa Monica. It’s Malibu. It’s the South Bay. It’s Calabasas. It’s Ventura County. It’s Orange County. Other than sporting events and concerts, we very rarely spend time in LA. The best things to do in LA are mostly out of LA.
This is taking the “visit the surrounding suburbs” suggestion to the next level. Much of what we love to do in LA involves sitting in the car for an hour or 2 to explore the surrounding national parks. It’s not that hard to plan a day trip to Joshua Tree or charter a boat to go to Channel Islands National Park. While you’re visiting Joshua Tree, you can also make a pit stop in Palm Springs and treat yourself to some golf and a massage.
So many people travel through LA JUST to take a road trip to Las Vegas. Vegas is the weekend getaway for Los Angelinos looking for debauchery and bankruptcy. Kidding aside, it is such a fun place to travel if you’re single or if you and your partner love dance music and clubs, gambling, or performances like Cirque Du Soleil. We prefer massages and good food when we are in Vegas!
Foreign visitors get excited about Whole Foods when they come to LA. Whole Foods makes Vons look like Food for Less, but Erewhon makes Whole Foods look like Vons. Erewhon is the most expensive health food store in LA, so you’ll find them in Calabasas, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice, etc. It’s a one-stop-shop grocery store + hot bar + smoothie bar + bakery + everything you need to satiate your healthy hunger needs. We lived near one in Calabasas and it was the demise of our bank account but our bodies thanked us daily.
Activities in LA fit into a bit of a Venn diagram: things tourists love to do, things locals actually do, and common ground where locals love doing things that tourists also love.