Top Once in a Lifetime Things to Do in Los Angeles: Your Ultimate Checklist

The city of angels, Los Angeles, is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. From the glitz and glamour of Beverly Hills to the iconic Hollywood sign nestled in the Hollywood hills, Los Angeles is a city that promises unforgettable experiences. Imagine strolling along the famous Santa Monica Pier at sunset, diving into the magical world of movies at Universal Studios, or soaring above the city on a thrilling helicopter tour. The allure of the city is undeniable, and this guide is your ticket to the top “once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles.” Whether you’re a foodie, a history buff, or a film fanatic, there’s something for everyone in this bustling metropolis. Get ready to embark on a journey that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.

Table of Contents

  1. Ascend the Hollywood Hills for an Unforgettable View
  2. Revel in the Glamour of Beverly Hills
  3. Dive into the World of Movies at Universal Studios Hollywood
  4. Stroll Along the Famous Santa Monica Pier
  5. Venice Beach Boardwalk: A Cultural Mosaic
  6. Indulge in the Luxury of West Hollywood Nightlife
  7. Pay Tribute to Legends at Hollywood Forever Cemetery
  8. Soar Above the City: Helicopter Tours of LA
  9. Experience the Rose Parade & Rose Bowl Football Game
  10. Discover Downtown LA’s Hidden Gems
  11. Summary
  12. Frequently Asked Questions

Ascend the Hollywood Hills for an Unforgettable View

Breathtaking view of the iconic Hollywood Sign and panoramic views of Los Angeles

Imagine standing atop the Hollywood Hills, the iconic Hollywood sign standing tall against the clear blue sky. The view is breathtaking, stretching from the gleaming skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles to the sparkling Pacific Ocean. And while the Hollywood Walk and the famous sign are undoubtedly the main attractions, the hills have so much more to offer.

From the stunning views at Runyon Canyon to the chance to spot celebrities, a hike up the Hollywood Hills is a must-do activity. We will guide you through the planning process for your hike and set expectations for what you will encounter at the summit.

Planning Your Hike

Prior to your ascent of the Hollywood Hills, proper preparation is significant. The top-rated hiking trails to the Hollywood Sign are the Hollyridge Trail and the Burbank Peak Trail. These trails offer breathtaking views and an unforgettable hiking experience. The best time to hike to the Hollywood Sign is one hour before sunset, and the ideal seasons for hiking in the Hollywood Hills are summer and fall, preferably between 6-9 am to avoid the heat.

Comfort is key, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and workout clothes, instead of attire not suited for physical activity like jeans, sneakers, heels, or dresses.

At the Summit

Reaching the summit of the Hollywood Hills is a reward in itself. The perfect time to visit the summit for the most clear and panoramic city views is early in the morning before it becomes too hot, overcast, smoggy, or crowded. From the summit, visitors are treated to breathtaking panoramic views that stretch from the downtown skyline to the Pacific Ocean, with the iconic Hollywood Sign in between. The freedom to capture these breathtaking views without any specific restrictions for photography is another perk of reaching the summit.

So, with your camera in hand, get ready to capture some of the most stunning snapshots of the city.

Revel in the Glamour of Beverly Hills

Luxury shopping experience on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills

Leaving the Hollywood Hills behind, we transition to another illustrious part of Los Angeles – Beverly Hills. Known for its tree-lined streets and grand mansions, Beverly Hills is the epitome of luxury and sophistication. But it’s not just about the grandeur of its residential areas. The neighborhood is also home to the luxurious Rodeo Drive, one of the world’s most renowned shopping destinations. If you’re a fan of luxury brands, this is the place to be.

Beverly Hills also boasts frequent celebrity sightings. With some luck, you may spot a famous face or two during your exploration of the neighborhood.

Exclusive Shopping Experience

Shopping on Rodeo Drive is an experience like no other. The street is lined with luxury designer stores that attract millions of visitors from around the world. The designer stores on Rodeo Drive have generous operating hours, typically open from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm Monday to Saturday and 12:00 – 5:00 pm on Sundays.

And while you’re there, don’t forget to dress the part. Wearing your best stylish outfit will make you feel confident and ready to enjoy the luxurious shopping experience on Rodeo Drive. Prepare to immerse yourself in an exclusive shopping experience that will make you feel like a celebrity.

Celeb Spotting Adventures

And speaking of stars, Beverly Hills is known for its celebrity sightings. The Tour of Celebrity Homes in Beverly Hills is an exciting 2-hour luxury SUV experience that gives you the opportunity to see the extravagant homes of the rich and famous located in Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills, and Bel-Air, some of which are worth over $100 million.

The best time to potentially see celebrities is during lunchtime on the Sunset Strip. It’s like walking through the pages of a celebrity magazine, only this time, the stars are right in front of you.

Dive into the World of Movies at Universal Studios Hollywood

Immersive experience at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood

Transitioning from the elegance of Beverly Hills, we now turn to the cinematic magic at Universal Studios Hollywood. This iconic theme park and film studio offers a wide range of immersive attractions, shows, and a world-famous studio tour based on popular movies and TV shows.

The park comprises two distinct sections, each providing unique experiences that animate your favorite films and TV series. From The Wizarding World of Harry Potter to the Studio Tour, Universal Studios Hollywood has attractions to suit every preference.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Step into the magical world of Harry Potter and experience the magic firsthand. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter offers:

  • The thrilling Flight of the Hippogriff and The Forbidden Journey rides
  • The magical atmosphere of Hogsmeade
  • Captivating live performances such as the Triwizard Spirit Rally and the Frog Choir

It is a must-visit for any Harry Potter fan.

And if you’re looking to take a piece of the magic home with you, the shops in Hogsmeade offer an array of magical merchandise, from wizarding robes and school uniforms to quidditch gear and magical novelties like Dungbombs, Sugar Quills, and Nose-Biting Teacups.

Studio Tour Highlights

The Studio Tour is another major attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. It provides guests a rare chance to peek behind the curtain of their beloved movies and TV shows, featuring attractions such as Fast and The Furious Supercharged, King Kong 360 3D, and the striking 747 wreckage from Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.

The Universal Studios Tour offers a remarkable chance to personally witness the enchantment of movie-making, similar to the magic created by Walt Disney.

Stroll Along the Famous Santa Monica Pier

Vibrant atmosphere and carnival thrills at Santa Monica Pier

Leaving the enchanting world of Universal Studios behind, we shift our attention to the renowned Santa Monica Pier. This iconic landmark is a must-visit when in Los Angeles. From the bustling carnival to the serene sunsets, the Santa Monica Pier offers a unique blend of fun and tranquility. It’s not just a pier, it’s a destination with its own unique charm and character, combining elements of its storied past with contemporary attractions.

Whether you want to enjoy carnival thrills and games at Santa Monica Pier or simply soak in the sunset serenity at Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica offers an unforgettable experience.

Carnival Thrills and Games

The Santa Monica Pier is home to a vibrant carnival that is sure to delight visitors of all ages. From thrilling amusement park rides like Inkie’s Wave Jumper, Inkie’s Pirate Ship, and Inkie’s Air Lift, to fun carnival games like basketball hoops, ring toss, and balloon bust, the carnival offers a delightful experience for everyone.

And for those looking for a bit of local culture, the Pier is also home to a variety of street performers who add a unique charm to the place.

Sunset Serenity

As the day winds down, the Santa Monica Pier transforms into a serene oasis. The perfect time to visit for the most clear and panoramic views is early in the morning before it becomes too hot, overcast, smoggy, or crowded. From Palisades Park to the Ferris wheel at Pacific Park, there are plenty of spots to enjoy the sunset and capture beautiful photographs.

Regardless of whether you’re concluding your day or initiating your evening, seize the opportunity to relish the peaceful ambiance of the Santa Monica Pier.

Venice Beach Boardwalk: A Cultural Mosaic

Artistic expressions and street performers at Venice Beach Boardwalk

Transitioning from the tranquility of the Santa Monica Pier, we now turn to the dynamic cultural kaleidoscope of the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Known for its diverse array of artistic expressions and street performers, the Boardwalk is a true reflection of the vibrant culture of Los Angeles.

From the unique street art to the lively music scene, the Boardwalk offers a cultural experience like no other.

Artistic Expressions

The Venice Beach Boardwalk serves as a creative platform for artists of varied backgrounds. From handmade jewelry and vintage records to murals and sculptures, the Boardwalk is a testament to the city’s thriving art scene. One of the highlights of the Boardwalk is the Venice Beach Drum Circle, a weekly gathering of musicians and dancers that is a celebration of rhythm and community.

Regardless of whether you’re an art connoisseur or a mere spectator, the artistic displays on view will captivate you.

Muscle Beach Legacy

When you think of Venice Beach, one of the first things that probably comes to mind is Muscle Beach. Known for its outdoor gym and bodybuilding culture, Muscle Beach is a landmark in its own right. From its rich history to the celebrities who have trained there, Muscle Beach is a testament to the fitness culture of Los Angeles.

Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast or just a curious observer, Muscle Beach is a must-visit when you’re in Venice Beach.

Indulge in the Luxury of West Hollywood Nightlife

Leaving behind the lively culture of Venice Beach, we journey to West Hollywood to explore the city’s dynamic nightlife. Known for its luxurious rooftop bars and comedy clubs, West Hollywood is the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring the city. Whether you’re a fan of:

  • cocktails with a view
  • live music and dancing
  • comedy clubs
  • karaoke nights

West Hollywood has something for everyone, including the iconic Frank Grill Vintage Hollywood, a place where you can experience a taste of Hollywood history.

Rooftop Bars with a View

Nothing beats the view of Los Angeles from a rooftop bar in West Hollywood. From E.P. & L.P. and the Rooftop Bar at Petit Ermitage to the Pool and Bar at The London West Hollywood, there are plenty of options to choose from. Each bar offers a unique atmosphere and stunning views of the city.

So, for those seeking to savor a cocktail with a view, West Hollywood is the ideal destination.

Laugh Along with the Stars

If comedy is more your style, West Hollywood is home to some of the best comedy clubs in the city. From the legendary Comedy Store to the Laugh Factory, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch a live show. With a lineup of famous comedians like:

  • Whitney Cummings
  • Theo Von
  • Nikki Glaser
  • Jay Mohr

You’re in for a night of laughter and entertainment at the TCL Chinese Theatre.

Pay Tribute to Legends at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Moving on from the dynamic nightlife of West Hollywood, we transition to a serene location – the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. This historic cemetery is the final resting place of many Hollywood stars and offers a unique way to experience the city’s rich history.

But it’s not just a cemetery. The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is also a venue for cultural events, from outdoor movie screenings to concerts. Regardless of whether you’re a history aficionado or a film buff, a visit to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a necessity.

Star-Studded Resting Places

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is the final resting place of many Hollywood luminaries. Some notable individuals buried there include:

  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Rudolph Valentino
  • Douglas Fairbanks Sr.
  • Mel Blanc

The cemetery, located near Griffith Park, is a testament to the city’s rich film history. Each grave tells a story, and as you wander through the cemetery, you’ll be transported back in time to the golden age of Hollywood.

Cinematic Nights

But the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is not just a place to pay tribute to the stars of yesteryears. It’s also a venue for unique cultural events. One of these is Cinespia’s outdoor movie screenings, where you can watch classic films under the stars, amidst the memorials of past film stars.

It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that combines the past and the present in a truly unique setting.

Soar Above the City: Helicopter Tours of LA

Leaving the peaceful grounds of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery behind, we ascend to the skies for a bird’s eye view of Los Angeles. A helicopter tour of the city offers a unique perspective that you won’t get anywhere else. From the bustling downtown to the serene coastline, a helicopter tour gives you a panoramic view of the city’s diverse landscapes.

Whether you’re a photography enthusiast or simply looking for a unique adventure, a helicopter tour is a must-do when you’re in LA.

Choosing Your Flight

There are many helicopter tours to choose from, each offering unique experiences and views. From the L.A. harbor and the iconic Queen Mary to Catalina Island and Manhattan Beach, there’s a tour for every interest.

And with companies like Los Angeles Helicopter Tours and LA Helicopters, you’re in safe hands. Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for an unparalleled adventure.

Sky-High Photography Tips

A helicopter tour offers unique opportunities for photography. From the sprawling cityscape to the serene coastline, there’s no shortage of breathtaking scenes to capture. The perfect time for aerial photography is 30-60 minutes before sunset or after sunrise, when the light is just right.

And to ensure clear, steady shots, consider using a gyroscope mount or adding weight to your camera pole. With these tips in mind, you’re ready to capture stunning aerial photos of Los Angeles.

Experience the Rose Parade & Rose Bowl Football Game

Descending from the skies, we return to ground level for a quintessential Los Angeles experience – the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game. Held on January 1st at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the Rose Parade is a cherished tradition that features flower-covered floats, marching bands, and equestrians, culminating in the Rose Bowl football game, one of the major bowl games in college football.

Parade Prowess

The Rose Parade is a sight to behold. From the elaborate floats adorned with sustainable materials like plants, flowers, and non-perishable foods, to the vibrant marching bands and beautiful equestrian units, the parade is a celebration of the city’s creativity and community spirit. And the best part? You can enjoy the festivities from comfortable bleacher seating, offering a front-row view of the action.

Game Day Excitement

And then there’s the Rose Bowl football game. A major bowl game in college football, the Rose Bowl is the culmination of the day’s festivities. From the pre-game tailgate parties to the thrilling match-ups on the field, the Rose Bowl offers a unique experience that’s quintessentially American.

Whether you’re a football enthusiast or simply seeking a unique cultural encounter, the Rose Bowl football game is not to be missed.

Discover Downtown LA’s Hidden Gems

Following the exhilaration of the Rose Bowl, we decelerate and uncover the hidden treasures of Downtown LA. From its historic buildings to its bustling food markets, Downtown LA offers a unique blend of the old and the new. Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast or a foodie, Downtown LA has something for everyone.

Architectural Marvels

Downtown LA is rich in architectural wonders. From the historic Central Library and The Historic Biltmore Hotel to modern skyscrapers like the OUE Skyscape, the cityscape is a testament to the city’s rich architectural heritage. In addition to these marvels, the Los Angeles County Museum is another must-visit destination for art and culture enthusiasts.

For those desiring a more comprehensive understanding, guided architecture tours provide a detailed examination of the city’s architectural landmarks.

Foodie Haven

However, Downtown LA isn’t solely about architecture. It also serves as a sanctuary for food enthusiasts. The city’s food scene is as diverse as its architecture, with a variety of cuisines on offer. From the bustling Grand Central Market to the numerous eateries and food tours, there’s no shortage of culinary delights to explore.

Whether you’re a fan of classic American fare or exotic international cuisine, you’re sure to find something to tantalize your taste buds in Downtown LA.


From the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills to the cultural mosaic of Venice Beach Boardwalk, from the thrill of Universal Studios and the Rose Bowl football game to the serene beauty of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles is a city of contrasts, offering a plethora of experiences for every traveler. Whether you choose to hike the Hollywood Hills, shop in Beverly Hills, laugh along with the stars in West Hollywood or explore the hidden gems of Downtown LA, a visit to Los Angeles is a journey of discovery that promises to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I spend my perfect day in LA?

You can spend your perfect day in LA by starting at Venice Beach, visiting the Santa Monica Pier, exploring the Pacific Palisades, going to the Getty Center and taking a drive along Sunset Boulevard. Enjoy your day exploring LA!

How long would you spend in LA?

You should ideally spend 5-7 days in LA to explore the city’s vast landmarks without feeling rushed.

What are some of the top things to do in Los Angeles?

There are plenty of exciting activities to do in Los Angeles, such as hiking in the Hollywood Hills, shopping in Beverly Hills, and exploring Universal Studios. Enjoy the diverse cultural experience of Venice Beach and indulge in the luxury of West Hollywood nightlife. Happy exploring!

What are the best places to shop in Beverly Hills?

When in Beverly Hills, head to Rodeo Drive for a luxurious shopping experience, with a variety of designer stores to explore. Enjoy your shopping spree!

What is the best time to hike the Hollywood Hills?

The best time to hike the Hollywood Hills is one hour before sunset, or between 6-9 am to avoid the heat. Enjoy the beautiful views during these times!