By Sherri Eisenberg | Published on August 24, 2022
Dreaming of Los Angeles day trips? Then you're in for a treat. With so many fun things to do in Los Angeles, you'll be surprised to find out how far apart some attractions are, and just how much traffic can impact what you can see in a day. Plan to give yourself enough time to really explore all this sprawling city has to offer. Follow this guide for LA day trip vacation ideas for before or after your cruise from California's most dazzling city.
1. Spot The Stars At The Griffith Observatory
Known as both the best city in the world for spotting your favorite stars on the silver screen as well as being home to one of the best places to learn about stars of the celestial nature. Griffith Observatory — which was highlighted in the films "Rebel Without a Cause" and "La La Land" — is an iconic domed building that's as much fun to explore inside as it is out. Indoors, you'll find a magnificent planetarium, and outside is where the free telescopes make for playfully memorable photo. And if you get lucky with your timing, you may be able to join in on a guided hike or an expert-led lecture on astronomy.
2. Celebrate The Arts In Style At The Getty Center
Between the Getty Center's Richard Meier architecture (think marble facades, bubbling fountains, and views from the top of a Brentwood hilltop) and the collection of important pieces both old and new, this is a must-see for Los Angeles day trips. Highlights include photographs by Mapplethorpe and paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Manet, Monet, Gauguin and Degas. Many of the exterior walls are made of glass to allow the warm California sunshine to drench the interiors, and paintings in many of the galleries are lit naturally. The space is designed to make the gardens feel a part of the interior, and you may just find yourself distracted by the natural beauty.
3. Dig In At The La Brea Tar Pits
If you grew up reading about the ice age relics — including spectacular mammoth and mastodon fossils — head to the La Brea Tar Pits. Watch the tar bubble, and see what's being dug up today by working paleontologists in this active excavation site. The pits are actually made up of more than 100 queries, and while no dinosaurs are located here, approximately 3 million other items of note have been unearthed, cataloged, and displayed in the museum and other collections.
4. Walk The Walk On The Venice Beach Boardwalk
Visiting the famously eclectic Venice Beach Boardwalk is one of the best things to do while on LA day trips. It is also one of the most excellent places for traveling to Santa Monica as well as sitting back and observing the locals. The boardwalk itself is more than 2 miles long, and whether you walk, bike, or skate, it's a great way to spend the day shopping and watching talented street performers. Since you likely don't have room in your suitcase for rollerblades, you can rent bikes and blades there to live out your LA dreams.
5. Island Hop As You Window Shop On Rodeo Drive
The beating heart of Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive is known for luxury European clothing brands like Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Chanel, and Dior. Of course, you'll also find designer shoes like Jimmy Choo, fine jewelry like Cartier and Harry Winston, and high-end lingerie like La Perla here. If visiting one chic store to the next like an island-hopping adventure is not your style, then at least take the opportunity to dress up in your best duds and walk around in this glamorous area for its attention-grabbing window displays and unique events. Making a day trip to Beverly Hills is the first step toward treating yourself like a movie star while traveling before your vacation.
6. Connect With The History Of Santa Monica
The Santa Monica Pier, which dates back to 1909, started as a fishing pier. Today, this National Historic Landmark is home to a beloved amusement park. Pacific Park's iconic Ferris wheel is a well-known symbol of the city and of California culture to visit in the Los Angeles area. You'll find carnival rides and games as well as treats such as burgers, pizza, tacos and hot dogs. If the Ferris wheel doesn't take you back in time, the scent of fried dough in the air certainly will.
7. Explore The Huntington Library And Gardens
A research library may not seem exciting, but there's so much to see here that makes it a worthy day trip from Los Angeles. The library is home to a vellum Gutenberg Bible and a collection of 15th-century books. The botanical gardens alone are worth a visit. From Chinese and Japanese gardens to lily ponds and desert botanicals, California's balmy climate means there is always something beautiful in bloom.
8. Find Something Fresh At The Santa Monica Farmer's Market
You likely aren't cooking on your trip, but there's no better way to get to know a destination than by visiting the local farmer's market. Fortunately, LA has one of the best. It takes place on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Beyond serving up a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables to the sounds of live music, you'll also see everyone from film stars to well-known chefs milling around. Just be sure to bring your own bag, and come with an empty stomach to enjoy the already-prepared food.
9. Experience The Wonder Of The Hollywood Bowl
Seeing a concert at the outdoor Hollywood Bowl amphitheater in the Hollywood Hills is a true LA experience — and worth planning in advance to see who is taking the stage while you're in town. Built in 1922, the theater is a great spot for a picnic and a bottle of wine accompanied, of course, by the music of your favorite artist. You can see any kind of show here, from classical to classic rock, jazz, pop, R&B, and mariachi, as well as popular comedians. You can also see movies accompanied by a full orchestra for a whimsical experience.
10. Believe Your Eyes At The Magic Castle
Access to this private club for magicians requires the invitation of a member. However, some people have luck by emailing the entertainer in advance, explaining that they're a magic fan and asking if there happens to be a few seats available for an upcoming show. Dress the part in formal wear, and be sure to ask the "haunted" piano to play you a tune. While this is one of the most memorable California day trips you can have, remember that the only guaranteed way to get in is as the guest of a member.