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Things To Do

21 Things You Absolutely Have to Do During Your First Year Living in Los Angeles

July 19, 2015 by Brian Champlin

Updated June 12, 2017


Where do I start?

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That’s a question I hear quite often from recent transplants who have just moved to Los Angele and are now looking for a pathway to getting to know the city of angels.

With that in mind, I tried to put together a collection of things to do that would be accessible, relatively inexpensive, and also provide a variety of perspectives and experiences through which to gain knowledge of the area.

While it’s impossible to do everything in L.A., you can at the very least tackle to-dos that let you see just how diverse our city is. It is, after all, the wondrous variety of possibilities, all in ultra-close proximity, that makes living here so unique.

One thing I can say confidently: If you experience all 21 of these activities within your first 365 days living in Los Angeles, you may never want to leave.

Now get to it!

Griffith Observatory at Night

A night view of the Observatory. Credit: Ron Reiring via flickr

1. Visit the Griffith Observatory

Truly, one of the crown jewels of the city of Los Angeles. At the observatory you can look through telescopes, explore exhibits, see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and check out spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign. There’s even free WiFi! While the planetarium shows have ticketed costs, general admission (and parking) is free and they also host many free events every month, such as the public star parties or All Space Considered. Just keep in mind it does get crowded here, especially on the weekends, and they also revamped their public parking to include fees.

2. Eat an In-N-Out Burger

If you just moved here you owe it to yourself to try SoCal’s most iconic hamburger brand. And if you’re feeling like going all out, make sure you order a few items off the secret menu 😉

3. See a Show at the Hollywood Bowl

Pack a picnic, invite a date and go to (in my opinion) THE signature outdoor concert venue of Los Angeles, originally built in the 1920’s and home to the L.A. Philharmonic for over 90 years. Check the 2017 summer schedule to see if there’s a concert that may tickle your fancy. [BONUS: Keep in mind The Hollywood Bowl is also an awesome public park you can visit for free during the day. See video below for more on that!]

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4. Go to the Getty(s)

Not only do the Getty Center and the Getty Villa in Malibu house some of the most amazing art collections you can find in L.A. (or anywhere in the world), but they’re also spectacular examples of L.A.’s architectural excellence, and in the case of the Getty Center, offer an amazing viewpoint to look eastward on the expanse of our city.

Best part?

Admission to the Getty Center is free (but keep in mind parking is $15). For the Villa, admission is also free but an advance timed-entry ticket is required (parking is also $15).

Getty Center View

View of L.A. from the Getty Center. Credit: Justin Vidamo via flickr

5. Walk Along Venice Boardwalk

A stroll on the Venice Boardwalk will offer a lens into array of colorful characters, eccentrics, and unique attractions, not to mention sometimes it’s just nice to take a stroll near the beach and enjoy the ocean air. Here’s one blogger’s account of her first visit ever to the boardwalk.

6. Hike to the Hollywood Sign

I’m always surprised how often I talk to long-time residents (like 10+ years) who have never made their way up to Mt. Lee to see the sign up close. You can get there via Bronson Canyon like we did, or take one of several other routes. However you arrive, trekking up to above the sign is something every Angeleno should do at least once. If the sign doesn’t interest you, we’ve also documented 9 other great hikes around L.A. with NO trail fees and NO parking costs. Enjoy!

7. Experience The Downtown Art Walk

Every second Thursday of the month see downtown Los Angeles come alive in a vibrant blend of art, community, culture and food known as the DTLA Art Walk.

8. Get to Know L.A.’s Backstory at the Natural History Museum

One of the permanent exhibitions at the Natural History Museum is called ‘Becoming Los Angeles’ and it documents a 500-year story about how our little region of SoCal has evolved from a tiny pueblo to an expansive metropolis. If you want to really understand how L.A. became L.A., this is a great place to start. Oh, and you can go check out Dinosaur bones afterwards!

9. Check out KCRW Summer Night’s

KCRW’s free signature outdoor event series that’s awesome for all-ages. Here’s the complete 2017 schedule of concerts (check back in the speing for the 2016 lineup).

10. Taste the Best of the SGV at a 626 Night Market

The premier asian-food themed night market in the United States (or at least the biggest), the 626 Night Market is a must-try, especially if you don’t regularly hang out in the San Gabriel Valley (gives you a great excuse to head over there!).

11. Hunt for L.A.’s Best Food Trucks

Jump on the food truck craze, whether as a dinner destination or a late-night jaunt. While your food trucking options are many in the city of angels, Christina narrowed it down to 10 of her favorites to give you a nice starting point. And if you love international flavors, check out this fantastic list.

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Kogi Taco Truck

Up close and personal with a Kogi taco. Credit: Eric Shin

12. Have a Beach Day

At least once in your first year in L.A. you just need to plan an all-out beach day. Maybe you plan a meal around it, or maybe you head up the coast to check out some of Malibu’s finest sandy spots, but whatever you do don’t be that guy (or girl) who has lived in Los Angeles for more than a year and never been to the beach!

13. Cruise Grand Central Market

Even if you don’t partake in the food at Grand Central Market  (and you should!), just wandering around and admiring the vibrancy and variety will be an enjoyable experience. But if you really need an excuse to head over, check out their game night (every Thursday) where you can not only grab great food at the nearby vendors but also partake in ping-pong, cornhole toss, Jenga, Uno, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, and more.

14. Go to a Rooftop Bar

What better way to chew the scenery of Los Angeles than with a delicious cocktail and a spectacular view? Here are the 10 best rooftop bars in L.A. (assuming you’re of age).

15. See an Outdoor Movie Screening

What better way to take advantage of the incredible L.A. weather than to enjoy an outdoor movie screening with thousands of your fellow angelenos. That said, there are many options.

Here are a few series you might want to consider…

16. Go to an L.A. Farmers Market

What better excuse to explore L.A. (and eat a bit healthier) than to check out some our city’s finest farmer’s markets? We put together a quick list of 7 of our favorites to get you started, along with links and resources to other markets all over the city you can peruse. Want more? Here’s a handy day-by-day list of Farmers Markets in L.A.

17. Take a Metro Art Tour

Did you know that Metro offers free, regularly scheduled docent led group tours of the artwork in the Metro Rail system? It’s a great way to get to know our city’s public transit system, which ought to come in handy if you just moved here.

Metro Art Tours

Credit: Metro Art Los Angeles on Facebook

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18. Picnic at Barnsdall Park

The Barnsdall Art Park is an 11 acre park featuring gorgeous views of the observatory and Los Angeles as a whole, along with being home to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House. It’s also just a really nice spot to pack a picnic lunch, a blanket and chill on a sunny afternoon. And if you’re a fan of the vino, check out the Friday Night Wine Tastings that take place at Barnsdall over the summer.

19. Hang out at a First Friday Event

Whether it’s going to an art walk, sampling delicious food trucks or checking out a free night at a museum, first Friday events (including in Venice Beach and Bixby Knolls in Long Beach) are a great way to connect to your local community and get out to do a little exploring.

20. Visit the Rooftop Garden at the Disney Concert Hall

Did you know there is a hidden rooftop garden at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles? The garden is surrounded by the curves and and exterior of the hall and decked out with lush landscape centered around an intricate mosaic blue rose fountain dedicated to the late Lillian Disney (Walt Disney’s wife).

21. Leave a Note at The Wisdom Tree

One special tree at the summit of Burbank Peak survived a devastating 2007 wildfire up in the hills and today some hikers visit the spot to leave diary-style notes in ammo boxes that reside below the tree while others just meditate for awhile or simply enjoy the amazing view. Write your own note, and document how you felt about your first year in the city of angels.

What did you do your first year living in Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below!

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