Calling here has its challenges: The cruise ship terminal is actually in Long Beach, 25 miles from downtown LA (and even farther from several major attractions), and the freeway traffic gets intense during the morning and evening rush hours. But, with some smart planning, a wide array of activities awaits. Sun and people watching at the beach? Check. Theme park thrills and old Hollywood glamour? Yep. Art appreciation, retail therapy, and classical concerts? Yes, yes, and yes. If your cruise is embarking or disembarking here, add a couple extra days to your trip to really see the sights, including our favorite things to do in Los Angeles.
1. Enjoy movie magic at Universal Studios Hollywood.
The Studio Tour is 13 city blocks of back lots that run the gamut from Norman Bates’ hotel from the Hitchcock thriller “Psycho” to the manicured homes of Wisteria Lane on “Desperate Housewives." Located in Universal City, this theme park also has fun attractions for all ages ranging from interactive experiences to scream-out-loud thrills, such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and the King Kong 360 3-D experience.
2. Explore Santa Monica and Venice.
In these laid-back beach communities, you can go biking or rollerblading on an oceanfront pathway, visit an amusement park perched on a century-old wooden pier, or check out some of the zaniest people watching in the country. And the sunsets? Phenomenal.
3. Appreciate art at LACMA and The Broad.
Art lovers should be sure to see both of these museums. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art — the largest art museum in the western United States — features more than 130,000 pieces that range from from ancient antiquities to modern installations. The Broad, on the other hand, is a new contemporary art museum that features works from Jeff Koons, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, and other modern, pop, and avant-garde artists.
4. Channel the ghosts of old Hollywood.
Fans of classic Hollywood movies and the last century’s most celebrated stars can indulge their nostalgia on a guided tour that points out their Beverly Hills homes and favorite haunts. There are plenty of options to choose from: Some are on foot and others by minibus, but they all include the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the hand prints in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (now known as the TCL Chinese Theatre).
5. Rediscover Disneyland.
An Anaheim landmark since 1955, the original theme park conjured by Walt Disney still charms after all these years. More intimate than its Florida sibling, this 85-acre park offers plenty of mid-century classics (including It’s a Small World, Autopia, and the Matterhorn Bobsleds) as well as more recently built thrills (such as Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Hyperspace Mountain, and the Indiana Jones Adventure). Worried about crowds? Buy tickets online and use Disney FastPass to save time.
6. Get inspired at the Getty Center.
Ethereal gardens and unexpected works of art await at this stunning Richard Meier-designed museum, which was constructed of travertine marble and sits on a gorgeous hilltop. Temporary exhibits range from Chinese cave paintings and mid-19th-century French photographs, and the permanent collection includes canvases by Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, and Rembrandt.
7. Listen to symphonies in an architectural landmark.
You can take in classical performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic — along with contemporary and jazz sessions — from September to June (including weekend matinees) in the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.