Staycay Guide: Play Tourist In L.A. At These 29 Amazing Spots

[UPDATE: This story was originally published on August 24.]
We Angelenos are an adventurous, cosmopolitan bunch with a healthy case of wanderlust — which is why we always seem to have our sights set on exotic and faraway vacation spots. The flip side of all that? We’re apt to forget all the glittering goodness right here in our own backyard. Los Angeles is one of the world's greatest cities: It's home to arts, entertainment, and landmarks that can’t be found anywhere else — so why leave all the fun to the out-of-towners?
Anyone who’s played office hooky to show their visiting friends around will tell you how blissfully indulgent it feels to be a tourist in your own city. So, put on that fashionable fanny pack you bought a few years ago and grab a seat on the Starline, because this is your chance to take L.A. to the max. Click through to take a peek at our top picks — and please do give us more recs in the comments!
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Paradise Cove
Perhaps one of our most special beaches is the aptly named Paradise Cove (the only public stretch of sand that you can sip a cocktail on!). The hefty parking fee helps keep crowds to a minimum, so you can treat yourself to a perfect sunny day at this pristine Malibu inlet. Feeling the heat wave a little too hard? Throw down for a private cabana for you and your pals, where you can keep your Coronas cold 'til the sun sinks down way past the Western horizon.
28128 Pacific Coast Highway (near Paradise Cove Road); 310-457-2503.

Malibu Country Mart
Sometimes all that surf and sand makes us a little hungry for ... shopping. Okay, not a lot doesn't make us want to spend, but we're still thrilled to find ourselves coincidentally near the Country Mart after a few hours of sun-worshiping. With every boutique we could ever hope for (Planet Blue, Missoni, Intermix, and Maxfield, to name a few!), plus the best alfresco-dining options around — we have to force ourselves to head Southeast back to reality after a long day of this bliss.
3835 Cross Creek Road (at Pacific Coast Highway); 310-456-7300.

Santa Monica Pier Twilight Series
Think the beach is just for bumming around? That's not the case with the Twilight Series at the Santa Monica Pier! This musical tradition is in its 28th season and still going strong. Upcoming shows feature a diverse lineup of artists like Alex Cuba, Hot 8 Brass Band, and Best Coast. Get your tickets now!
200 Santa Monica Pier Suite A (off Ocean Avenue); 310-458-8901.

Venice Beach Boardwalk
Looking for some wild Cali-style urban-beach vibes? It doesn’t get more verité than this boardwalk. You’ll find body builders, break dancers, and hair braiders, and so much more, all just within a few short miles along the Pacific Coast. We recommend renting a bike to take it all in while casually cruising! And, keep your eyes peeled for local favorite Harry Perry, the turban-wearing electric guitarist on skates. Make sure to carry a few singles to tip him for a live performance!
1800 Ocean Front Walk (near 18th Avenue).

Catalina Express
There's something about hopping on a boat that makes you feel like you've truly escaped it all, and we recommend you jump on the Catalina Express! This high-speed fleet will have you sailing across the waves of the Pacific and arriving at the port of Avalon in the time it takes you to set up an out-of-office message. Once there, hit up the Catalina Island Conservancy for the lowdown on the island's best hikes. And once you've gotten in some good uphill climbs, cool off with a few scoops from one of the town's many delicious old-fashioned ice-cream and candy parlors, tout de suite!
320 Golden Shore (near West Shoreline Drive); 800-481-3470.

Photos: Via Catalina Express; Paradise Cove; The Santa Monica Pier
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The Ivy
Long before Lindsay Lohan even landed her Parent Trap role, Beverly Hills ladies who lunch nibbled on crab cakes and sipped Chardonnay alongside bold-faced names at this Robertson Boulevard institution. While most often mentioned as a paparazzi stake-out site, you’d be surprised how mellow and delicious a weekday lunch can be amongst its signature chintz and Americana — even more soothing with one of those signature margaritas! After you're properly decompressed (and perhaps tipsy), you can hit some of the most killer shopping up and down the entire street!
113 North Robertson Boulevard (near Beverly Boulevard); 310 274-8303.

Would a hot dog by any other name taste as good as Pink's? We think not! This stand has been an L.A. staple for over 70 years, and it's famous for serious savory reasons: soft buns, fresh franks, and chili served fast and friendly at honest prices. What's more, Pink's is one of those places where just about everyone passes through — you're just as likely to catch a glimpse of a celeb stuffing his face as running into your long-lost bestie from middle school. Hop in that line!
709 North La Brea Avenue (near Melrose Avenue); 323-931-4223.

Joan's on Third
Part gourmet marketplace, part bistro, and part boulangerie, we couldn't live without this delectable destination for all sensory delights. Whether you're looking for the perfect healthy lunch, or a last-minute bottle of wine and bar of dark chocolate to bring to a dinner party, Joan's has you covered.
8350 West Third Street (near South Kings Road); 323-655-2285.

Mr. Chow
Serving Beijing-style Chinese cuisine for over four decades, this ever-glamorous restaurant empire now boasts six restaurants worldwide with a seventh, in Las Vegas, opening soon. The Beverly Hills location made a splash when it opened in 1974, and has held top-billing on Tinseltown's list of chicest eateries ever since. Snag a rezzie and experience signature dishes like Mr. Chow Noodles and Ma Mignon that keep your favorite celebs coming back for more.
344 North Camden Drive (near Brighton Way); 310-278-9911.

Don't be surprised if you spot a starlet at this uber-swanky restaurant that boasts an impressive two-star approval from the folks at Michelin. Take a seat on the patio and make sure to order a glass of vino from the large wine menu, or one of Wolfgang Puck's well-known dishes (the scallops are always a good bet!). Bon appétit!
176 North Canon Drive (near Wilshire Boulevard); 310-385-0880.

Photos: Via The Ivy; Spago; Pink's
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Paramount Studio Tour
It's always been a thrill to drive on Melrose past the Paramount Pictures lot and spy the huge blue-sky backdrop looming behind its pearly gates. Why not get an up-close viewing? These days you don't have to name-drop a big agent to get past the guard. And if you ask us, just strolling the stage streets that our favorite stars once walked (Mae West, Alfred Hitchcock, and Audrey Hepburn all famously have) is enough to give us chills of nostalgia. Hop across the street to Lucy's El Adobe Cafe to wrap up a cinematic day with cheese enchiladas, chicken tostadas, and (ahem, did we already mention these elsewhere?) margaritas!
5555 Melrose Avenue (at Windsor Boulevard); 323-956-1777; Lucy's El Adobe, 5536 Melrose Ave (near North Plymouth Boulevard); 323-462-9421.

Starline Tours and the TMZ Tour
You've seen the big red double-deckers all over town, now get hip to the hype: These Brit-style buses will take you all over town to every major attraction and point of interest the city has to offer. The best part? You can take the tour for as little or as much as you want, and even go back the next day (a "hop on, hop off" $40 adult ticket is good for a full 24 hours!). Feeling the need to take your 'bloid addiction live? Starline has now partnered with TMZ to bring you the latest in celebrity secrets and hot spots, so snag a seat and let the hilarity ensue!
Forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, 6925 Hollywood Boulevard (near North Orange Drive); 800-959-3131.

Warner Brothers Studio Tour
The Warner Brothers water tower was cemented in our preadolescent brains as an entertainment-industry icon when we were just kids watching Saturday morning cartoons. Now, you can tour the lot where Bugs Bunny got his big break, and see the studios of small-screen hits like The Ellen Degeneres Show and Two and a Half Men. Who knows? You might even get to bust a move with Ellen before she steps in front of the cameras!
Warner Brothers Studio Tour, 3400 West Riverside Drive (near West Olive Avenue); 877-492-8687.

Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Museum
The doors of this wacky Hollywood spot closed late last year — but not for long — the Odditorium reopened just weeks later with an even wider, weirder assortment of spectacles on view. L.A. isn't just glitz, it's also about kitsch, and Ripley's is where to go to get it by the bucketful. Our favorites are the skull collection (made of every material imaginable), and the taxidermy two-headed goats (hey, weird things happen out on the frontier)!
6780 Hollywood Boulevard (near Highland Avenue); 323-466-6335.

Photos: Via TMZ Tours; Warner Brothers; Paramount Pictures
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The Getty Villa
Off the beaten path, but well worth the trek, lies the Getty Villa. Set on the cliffs overlooking Malibu, this museum is as artistic inside as it is out. Modeled after a first-century Roman country abode, it's the perfect architectural setting for an impressive array of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities.
17985 Pacific Coast Highway (near West Sunset Boulevard); 310-440-7300.

This seminal West Coast home for contemporary art has been injected with life — and a healthy dose of controversy — since downtown NYC denizen Jeffrey Deitch took office as Museum Director in 2010. Just last month, four of the museum's artist-trustees, Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Catherine Opie, and Barbara Kruger, vacated their posts on the board. And it happened as MOCA's summer program (including performances by the likes of IO Echo) moved forward amidst debates over whether the museum remains committed to serious exhibitions. Now's the time to go and assess the state of modern art for yourself, and make sure not to miss the appropriately explosive work of Cai Guo-Qiang in his show Sky Ladder.
250 South Grand Avenue (near East Temple Street); 213-626-6222.

Annenberg Space for Photography
As you may have noticed, Lala's continually upping the ante when it comes to cultural cache, and we all took a giant leap forward with the opening of the Annenberg Space for Photography in 2009. If three years later you still haven't found the time to go, get yourself there stat! The banners advertising Who Shot Rock & Roll are all over town, so don't try to front like you forgot. Trust us, you'll be glad you made it.
2000 Avenue of the Stars (at Constellation Boulevard); 213-403-3000.

Walt Disney Concert Hall
This Frank Gehry-designed metallic gem sends our civic pride through the roof. An undulating stainless-steel exterior gives way to an acoustically spectacular woodsy interior replete with a grand organ (also Gehry's design) that serves as the perfect backdrop for performances by the L.A. Philharmonic and a constantly growing list of the world's greatest artists. Take an architectural tour now, and come back in September for the Phil's fall season (and, you have until October 14th to see Rodarte's costumes for the Don Giovanni opera).
Walt Disney Hall, 111 South Grand Avenue (near West First Street); 323-850-2000.

Photos: Via Annenberg Space For Photography; The Getty Villa; Walt Disney Concert Hall
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The Los Angeles Dodgers
With Magic Johnson now at the helm, our baseball team has certainly had a high-profile season — in second place right behind the S.F. Giants in the National League! Getting seats (even in the nosebleeds) for the rest of this season is sure to be a blast. Don't miss our boys in blue face off against the Marlins, Rockies, and D-Backs at the end of this month. And don't forget, "It's root, root, root for the home team!" 1000 Elysian Park Avenue (near Academy Road); 323-224-1507.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Originally a working ranch when bought by Henry Huntington in 1903, Pasadena's Huntington Botanical Gardens now boast plants, flowers, and trees of every variety imaginable, and garden styles ranging from desert, rose, and subtropical. The big news for longtime Huntington-lovers and newbies alike is that the famed Japanese Garden has reopened after a year-long closure and multi-million dollar restoration (it's even more glorious than we remembered it!). Stroll over the moon bridge and ponder your reflection in the Koi ponds, and when hunger strikes, head over to the Rose Garden Tea Room for some refreshments — the Lemon Mousse Cups are the stuff of dreams.
1151 Oxford Road (near San Marino Avenue); 626-405-2100.

Sunset Ranch Hollywood
The bad news is that you can’t drive directly up to the Hollywood sign, but with a little help from your friends at Sunset Ranch, the best possible views are just a walk, trot, or gallop away — on horseback naturally! Sunset Ranch’s guided tours make it easy to get away from it all while copping the best views of our sprawling city. Bring your iPhone to snap some shots for some serious Insta-bragging!
3400 North Beachwood Drive (near Hollyridge Drive); 323-469-5450.

Exposition Park Rose Garden
Sit by the fountain in the Exposition Park Rose Garden and let the aroma of thousands of roses waft over you while savoring the fact that you essentially have it all to yourself! School groups and museum-goers regularly tromp through the grounds en route to the California Science Center or Coliseum without ever even stopping to smell the roses, leaving it relatively empty most of the year. We love grabbing a picnic at La Dijonaise in Culver City before hopping on the Metro Expo Line — it takes you straight up to the park entrance in a snap. Benches abound, so bring a nice wide-brimmed hat to keep you cool as you nosh. Then you'll be all set for a fabulously fragrant escape.
701 State Drive (near South Vermont Avenue); 213-765-5397.

Photos: Via Dodgers; Sunset Ranch; Exposition Garden
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Hotel Bel Air
This establishment, like the exclusive neighborhood that surrounds it, is characterized by discreet glamour and extreme luxury that only exists behind perfectly manicured hedges of a certain height. The crown jewel of Los Angeles hotels reopened last year after a complete renovation, including the addition of a new restaurant by Wolfgang Puck. Stake out a settee at the Bar & Lounge and savor an artisanal cocktail. Trust us, you’ll feel like a million bucks.
701 Stone Canyon Road (near Chalon Road); 310-472-1211.

Beverly Hills Hotel
We’ve been fantasizing about our own pink and green campsite suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel ever since watching Troop Beverly Hills as tots. Make the dream a reality and get there now for a small fraction of the room rates. On Friday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m., you can hit the hotel pool for the Summer Poolside Soirée Series, and enjoy a performance by the stellar synchronized swimmers the Aqualillies — admission's free! Or, if you’re looking for a little more “me” time, take advantage of its weekday special and scoop up a 60- or 90-minute spa treatment at the fabulous Spa by La Prairie and you can spend all day at the pool (the people-watching alone is worth the price!).
9641 Sunset Boulevard (near North Beverly Drive); 310-276-2251.

Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel
We all know about the wild nights at Teddy's (too bad it's currently closed for renovations), but did you know that the the Roosevelt hosted the first-ever Academy Awards? The '20s hotel drips with Old Hollywood history, and our favorite place to feel a sense of that Golden Age glamour is The Spare Room, the hotel's luxurious game parlor and cocktail lounge on the mezzanine floor. Book a bowling reservation, and bring your A-game!
7000 Hollywood Boulevard (at North Orange Drive); 323-466-7000.

The Georgian Hotel
Ocean Avenue is home to many choices when it comes to chic beach lodging, but our favorite has to be the opulent Deco-era Georgian Hotel. Literally steps from the sand, the Santa Monica Pier, and the Third Street Promenade, the Georgian knows where its bread is buttered. That's why it's offering a special rate just for California residents! Take a seat outside at the Veranda restaurant, feel that cool ocean breeze, and we guarantee your work-day stress will feel worlds away.
1415 Ocean Avenue (near Santa Monica Boulevard); 800-538-8147.

Photos: Via Bel Air Hotel; Beverly Hills Hotel; The Hollywood Roosevelt
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Go Disney like you've never seen it before! You've done the lines, you've hosted the little cousins, now do it for you: the VIP way, naturally! Choose from a selection of pre-designed tours like Disney's Happiest Haunts (our fave), or customize the experience just the way you want with Mickey's little helpers. Are you a Frontierland freak or a Tomorrowland time-traveler? No matter your style, there's a special tour waiting just for you.
Disneyland Drive (near Ball Road); 714-781-4636.

Six Flags Magic Mountain
We're coming clean: R29 L.A. officially has a thrill-seeking side, and there's nothing like a good roller coaster to remind you of what really matters in life (from four-hundred feet up, as you prepare for a stomach-in-your-throat drop). See what everyone's screaming about on the parks newest and most death-defying ride yet, Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom — certainly not for the faint of heart!
26101 Magic Mountain Parkway (near the I-5 North); 661-255-4100.

Universal Studios Hollywood & The Citywalk
Literally a one-stop shop for all of your entertainment needs, this mega-venue has rides, movies, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife all rolled into one. Our current fave special-effect song and dance is Transformers: The Ride-3D (apparently Perez Hilton loves it, too), and the Music Spotlight Series has us coming back all weekend long for dance party Saturdays and Latin-inspired Sundays. Don’t forget to mark your calendars for your favorite big-name acts coming soon to the Gibson (Mary J. Blige with D’Angelo on September 9th, yahoo!).
100 Universal City Plaza (near the 101 North), North Hollywood; 818-622-4455.

Photos: Via Disneyland; Universal Citywalk; Six Flags

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