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Los Angeles, or LA, is the second most populous city in the United States, home to more than 17 million people. The city is set with a beautiful natural backdrop, surrounded by mountain ranges, valleys, forests and parks, and beautiful beaches along the Pacific Coast.

Los Angeles lures in more than 42 million visitors a year, with many flocking to the City of Angels in hopes of getting a taste for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, best-in-class shopping, entertainment, art and culture. Visitors often underestimate the sheer size of Los Angeles and its neighborhoods and nearby cities, and end up overwhelmed by the number of activities, sights, and attractions LA has to offer.

Need some convincing that LA is the place worth your visit? GQ calls it the coolest city on the planet and here is why: 10 Reasons Why…L.A. Is the Coolest City on the Planet

Top Things to Do in Los Angeles

With a plethora of activities and entertainment options available in LA, the choice is often hard to make. Almost all first-time visitors to LA claim to have Hollywood, Disneyland/Universal Studios, and Venice Beach on their itineraries. But Time magazine reminds visitors that spending your day at Universal Studios, taking a picture of the Hollywood sign and strolling down Hollywood Boulevard should not actually count as seeing Los Angeles. There are lots of other great things to do and see in this vast city, here are 10 things they suggest you should add to your LA sightseeing itinerary.

Los Angeles Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Neil Kremer via Flickr CC

Los Angeles Blvd, Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Neil Kremer via Flickr CC

Of course, all of LA’s neighborhoods come with their own list of must-sees. Downtown is particularly renowned for unique architecture, the Grand Central Market, Chinatown, Disney Concert Hall and the Los Angeles Music Center. San Fernando Valley offers great hikes and walks in the surrounding mountains and parks and is also home to Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Citywalk. Hollywood’s biggest attractions are Sunset Boulevard, an area with great clubs and nightlife; Hollywood Boulevard, known for entertainment history; and Melrose Avenue, famous for shopping, nightlife, and diversity. But don’t bank on seeing any celebrities roaming the streets of Hollywood. For your best celebrity sighting chances plan to spend lots of time hanging out in high-end restaurants and clubs in Beverly Hills, Sunset Plaza or Malibu.

Disney Concert Hall, Downtown Los Angeles. Photo via Flickr CC Neil Kremer

Disney Concert Hall, Downtown Los Angeles. Photo via Flickr CC Neil Kremer

Culture vultures will love exploring the great variety of museums in LA. Start with the Natural History Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Griffith Observatory. For more ideas check out Time Out magazine’s selection of the best museums in L.A.

Beach bums and those looking for an easy and relaxing vacation will love exploring LA’s beautiful beaches. Spend your days people watching on Venice Beach, playing a game of beach volleyball on Santa Monica Beach, or soaking in the hipster vibe on Hermosa Beach. Discover Los Angeles shares their guide to Eight Great Beaches in LA.

Venice Beach Late Afternoon Sun, Los Angeles, CA. Photo via Flickr CC majunznk

Venice Beach Late Afternoon Sun, Los Angeles, CA. Photo via Flickr CC majunznk

Looking for more idea? Read Top Things to do in Los Angeles – by Lonely Planet and 20 Ultimate Must-Dos in Los Angeles –  by Fodor’s Travel for inspiration and help with planning your LA itinerary.

Where to Stay in Los Angeles

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of accommodation options in LA. There is bound to be something available in every neighbourhood of the city. But choose wisely: you don’t want to be staying in Downtown LA if you are traveling with kids and plan on spending a lot of your time at Disneyland in Anaheim. Similarly, a quiet hotel on Venice Beach might not be well suited for those wanting to get the most of LA’s nighttime activities and entertainment. Decide on what activities you want to do during your stay in LA and choose your accommodations based on proximity.

Downtown LA lights. Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Neon Tommy via Flickr CC

Downtown LA lights. Los Angeles, CA. Photo by Neon Tommy via Flickr CC

Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Venice Beach/Santa Monica Beach are all great areas to stay in, but their price tickets and surroundings vary greatly. Beverly Hills is home to some of the nicest hotels in and around LA, but the price will undoubtedly reflect that. Staying near the 101 in Hollywood will also be pricey, but allow you to be right in the heart of the action. Hotels in Venice Beach or Santa Monica might be a bit cheaper but are also further away from some nightlife and shopping.

Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica, CA Photo by Peter C via Flickr CC

Santa Monica Beach, Santa Monica, CA Photo by Peter C via Flickr CC

If you are after budget accommodation options, check out cheap hotels in LA on Hipmunk, or you can opt for something more upscale and different by following Vogue’s suggestions of Seven Spots to Stay in L.A. That Aren’t Famous (Yet). And if you are after something really quirky and odd, check out these 10 Pretty Weird Places To Stay On Airbnb In Los Angeles.

P.S. Get $32 AUD credit if you sign up for Airbnb using this link

Where to Eat in Los Angeles

Thanks to the diversity of its residents, you can find just about any kind of cuisine in LA.

Places like Melisse in Santa Monica, Providence in Hollywood, and Bestia in Downtown LA consistently rank in the top 10 high-end restaurants in LA. But you don’t have to break the bank to eat well in Los Angeles. There are lots of cafes, delis and pizzerias in various neighborhoods all over the city that offer great food and great service for a fraction of the price.

Providence Restaurant, Los Angeles.

Providence Restaurant, Los Angeles. Photo via Providence Facebook

To help you narrow down the options, Zagat put together a handy list of 50 Best Restaurants in L.A., searchable by ratings, price, and neighborhood. Epicurious offers another great resource with Los Angeles’s Best Restaurants article that breaks down restaurant options into categories like, high-end, budget, hot-spot, and forever hip.

Then, of course, there is always Urbanspoon and Tripadvisor mobile apps that offer on-the-go restaurant search options no matter what city you are in.

How Much Time Do You Need in Los Angeles?

There are hundreds of things to do in Los Angeles, so staying for at least three to four days will allow you to dip your toes into the top sights and attractions within LA. Make sure you add a day for each adventure park you plan on visiting, as both Disneyland and Universal Studios will take at least a day each to explore.

Disneyland, Anaheim, CA. Photo by Tom Bricker via Flickr CC

Disneyland, Anaheim, CA. Photo by Tom Bricker via Flickr CC

If you can spare the time, a week-long visit or more would be best, allowing you to explore LA beyond the major sights and attractions.

*Cover photo by Mulling it Over via Flickr Creative Commons

Have you ever visited Los Angeles?
What others tips would you give to others planning a trip to LA?