Top 7 Once in a Lifetime Things to Do in Los Angeles

The City of Angels, home to movie stars, and the land of endless opportunity – AKA Los Angeles! There are so many incredible things to do in LA for all ages and tastes. Some people might be most excited for the shopping, others the incredible food scene.

However, there are a handful of other must-dos that every visitor to LA should experience at least once in their lifetime. Here are the top 7 once in a lifetime things to do in Los Angeles!

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Once in a Lifetime Things to Do in Los Angeles

From cruising down the Hollywood Hills to spending a day at the beach, read on for the top things to do in LA!

1. Hike to the Hollywood Sign

once in a lifetime things to do in los angeles

When visiting LA, it’s a must to take photos in front of the Hollywood Sign. There are many trails with views of the sign (head to Griffith Observatory for easy views!), but there is only one consistent trail that takes you to the back of the Hollywood Sign.

The closest you can get to the sign is up above it from behind, and it’s not clear online which trail takes you there.

The Hollywood Sign via Innsdale Trail and Mount Lee Drive is the best trail to take for both views of the sign and to get the closest you can to it.

While the trail itself is not too strenuous, make sure to leave early enough in the day to escape the hot California sun.

Parking is also fairly easy to come by, with street parking accessible in the neighborhood near the trailhead. 

Check out this Hollywood Sign Walking Tour!

2. See What Life Is Like on a Movie Set

once in a lifetime things to do in los angeles

Have you ever dreamed of life as a movie star? If so, you’re in luck! In Los Angeles, you can have the once in a lifetime experience of being on a real Hollywood movie set. 

There are a handful of great studio tours, but the best is the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. Not only does it showcase the props and sets from some of many visitors’ favorite shows (Friends, The Big Bang Theory, DC, and Harry Potter) but it’s still a working set too, which means you might spot some stars and filming action! 

Or, if you spend time at the Universal Studios Hollywood amusement park, make sure to take the Studio Tour Ride.

The ride travels through sets with props and re-created scenes of classic films (such as Jaws) as well as through a working film studio, with various film sets.

The Warner Bros Studio Tour is one of the best tours I’ve been on! You get to see the sets, the costumes, and the merchandise. My favorites were the FRIENDS Central Perk Café and HP sets!

3. Even Better, Be a Part of a Live Audience 

once in a lifetime things to do in los angeles

If simply touring the studio is not enough for you, it’s actually quite easy (and typically free!) to be a part of a live studio audience for a show that’s being filmed. You can be a part of talk shows, reality shows, game shows, sitcoms, and children’s shows. 

To reserve a ticket to the taping of your favorite show, you might have to do a bit of research on which online audience services company represents the show.

Otherwise, you can check general sites such as On Camera Audiences (specializes in providing audiences for talent shows such as “Dancing with the Stars” and “America’s Got Talent” or 1iota (offers tickets to shows such as “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “The Late Late Show with James Corden”).

4. Enjoy a Malibu Hills Wine Hike

once in a lifetime things to do in los angeles

Drinking wine while hiking through the Malibu hills will certainly be a once in a lifetime opportunity! The Malibu Wine Hikes tours take you through their expansive property where you will be treated to gorgeous views of the Santa Monica Mountains and stop for a mid-hike beverage.

You can also take wine tasting tours by 4×4 or in an adorable yellow VW bus that allows you ocean views as well.

On your tour, you may see llamas, miniature donkeys, miniature horses, alpacas, and cows on the property. Plus, there is a lovely outdoor bar and dance area just off the property to enjoy when you are finished. 

Enjoy views of the Malibu Hills on this wine hike!

5. Take a Helicopter Ride Over Los Angeles 

once in a lifetime things to do in los angeles

A helicopter ride over Los Angeles is a truly incredible thing to do on your visit to southern California. Not only do you get to see the city from a completely different perspective, but you also get to enjoy the perks of a private ride.

With no crowds or lines, you can relax and take in the city sights at your own pace. And of course, the views are simply incredible! 

From high above, you can see everything from the Hollywood Sign to the Pacific Ocean. Some helicopter tours start further south over the beach towns of the South Bay and Long Beach before heading up into Los Angeles.

Or you can start in LA and see more of the northern parts of the area up into Malibu. Whatever you decide, you will certainly have an experience you won’t forget! 

We recommend this LA Helicopter Tour!

6. Experience True Southern California Beach Culture 

Los Angeles is a sprawling city with plenty of sights and unique things to do, but you will of course have to spend some time at the beaches!

To soak in the quirky characters and vibrant life of LA, head to Venice Beach. This beach is lined with artists, street performers, strange shops, and activities such as biking and roller-skating down the strand.

Or wander through the canals in the city for gorgeous photo opportunities. Or take a surfing lesson there!

Just north of Venice you will find Santa Monica with its bustling pier. Take a ride in the gigantic Ferris Wheel to hover over the ocean and see the sights of LA from above!

Take this Santa Monica to Hollywood Tour!

At night, head to the infamous bar called The Bungalow where many young celebrities and film industry professionals frequent. 

To the south of LA is an area with multiple quaint beach cities known as the “South Bay.” A true hidden gem that not many people explore while visiting the city, there are many great things to do in South Bay Los Angeles.

Watch the incredible surfing in El Porto, enjoy the bustling nightlife on the Hermosa Beach Pier, or take a surf lesson or SUP rental in the Redondo Beach Harbor. 

For a truly unique southern California experience, catch one of the many incredible events that happen in Hermosa Beach. The 4th of July, St. Patrick’s Day, or Fiesta Hermosa are all fantastic times to spend along the pier enjoying the sun and vibrant party.

once in a lifetime things to do in los angeles

Or catch the International Surf Festival in August where all three beach cities in the South Bay come together to host competitions and celebrations of LA beach culture. 

7. Party on a Rooftop Bar Overlooking the City of Los Angeles

once in a lifetime things to do in los angeles

After spending a long day exploring the incredible city of Los Angeles and all it has to offer, what better way to relax and enjoy the nightlife than at one of the popular rooftop bars? Enjoy the city lights from a spot such as the Perch, Wayfarer Downtown LA, or E.P & L.P. 

Any of the rooftop bars in downtown Los Angeles or West Hollywood will serve incredible drinks and cocktail foods along with stunning views of the city. Dance the night away at one of the rooftop bars to complete your once in a lifetime trip! 

Best Once In A Lifetime Tours In Los Angeles

Best Time to Visit Los Angeles

once in a lifetime things to do in los angeles

There is truly no bad time to visit Los Angeles. The city is blessed with beautiful weather year-round, though summer can get pretty hot at times and winter can get cool at night. The hottest months tend to be July to September and the coldest are January to March. 

Spring and fall are generally considered the best times to visit, as the temperatures are moderate and there are fewer crowds.

You might have a chance of rain in the spring, though it doesn’t rain very often. It’s worth the slim chance of rain to escape some of the intense tourist crowds that are drawn to LA in the summer. 

Where To Stay In Los Angeles

When it comes to finding the perfect place to stay in Los Angeles, there is no shortage of options. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious hotel or a cozy Airbnb, there’s something for everyone. Here are the best options:

Budget-Friendly Option: Hotel Mariposa

Mid-Priced Option: The Charlie West Hollywood

Lux Option: Shutters On The Beach

If you’re looking to be in the heart of the action, West Hollywood is the place to be. With its world-famous attractions and vibrant nightlife, there’s always something to do in Hollywood

Best place to stay in West Hollywood: The Charlie!

However, if you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, Santa Monica or even Malibu are great options.

With its beautiful beaches and laid-back vibe, Santa Monica is the perfect place to unwind. No matter what your preferences are, there’s sure to be a perfect place for you to stay in Los Angeles.

Best place to stay in Santa Monica: Shutters On The Beach!

How to Get Around in Los Angeles

once in a lifetime things to do in los angeles

Driving is the best form of transportation in Los Angeles. Renting a car is best if you aren’t driving into the city. That said – there are plenty of alternatives for getting from point A to B. 

Public transportation exists, but it’s not very expansive or reliable to get you to your exact destination. It’s possible to walk shorter distances, especially along the beach.

Or, Lyft and Uber are readily available, though expect high prices because the city is sprawling and just about everything is far away, plus there’s always heavy traffic.

Frequently Asked Questions: Once in a Lifetime Things to Do in Los Angeles 

Maybe you’ve got a couple of questions about spending time in LA. Here are the most frequently asked questions, answered for you!

How can I spend my perfect day in LA?

The perfect day in LA is spending the first half of the day at Warner Bros Studio Tour and the later half of the day on a helicopter ride above Los Angeles

What to do when you’re broke in LA? 

Not to worry, there are so many free things to do in LA! The best free things to do are the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Griffith Park, and the Getty Museum. You can also go to the beachside and hang out at Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach Boardwalk. 

What food is LA known for? 

You can get the most unique, diverse, and vibrant food in Los Angeles. Thinking of an item? I’m sure you can get it here! You’ll find some of the best seafood restaurants in LA

What to wear in LA?

When you’re visiting LA, you will see people in various types of outfits: from formal suits to beachy wear. Wondering what to wear? Here are the top Southern California outfits and trends to check out before packing for Los Angeles. Pack for your trip using this packing list.

Final Thoughts: Once in a Lifetime Things to Do in Los Angeles

If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, Los Angeles is the place to be. From world-famous tourist destinations to hidden gems off the beaten path, there’s something for everyone in the sunny city of LA.

Make sure to pick at least one of these once in a lifetime activities to truly take your experience in Los Angeles to the next level!

This post was written by guest writer, Janelle Axton.

Bio: After traveling to over 25 countries, Janelle created Make the Trip Matter – a travel blog dedicated to helping budget travelers and remote professionals travel more, live abroad, and discover a more meaningful experience from their travels. You can follow Janelle on Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest.


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