If you’re going on a cruise vacation out of the Port of Los Angeles or even the nearby Long Beach cruise terminal then you’ll need to know some of the best things to do in Los Angeles. ideal when staying overnight before or after your vacation at sea.
Let’s take a look at what there is to do in the iconic city to keep you busy:
1. Harbor Boat Tour
Before you board your cruise, spend a day taking a scenic boat tour of Los Angeles Harbor. Two different companies offer boat tours, and both are good choices. The Los Angeles harbor sees some of the world’s largest container ships, and viewing them from the water is the best way to get a real sense of their incredible size.
In fact, the cranes that they use to load and unload the ships are over 200 feet high, and they make for an impressive sight all on their own. It’s not just man made sights you’ll be seeing, though. Los Angeles Harbor is home to a large colony of California sea lions, who spend their days basking in the sun.
2. Cabrillo Aquarium
This aquarium tends to fly under the radar for tourists. It’s a fairly small aquarium, and there are other, larger and more well-known aquariums in California. What makes the Cabrillo unique is its focus on marine life that’s native to Southern California. It may be small, but it provides a unique experience that you won’t get anywhere else.
The Cabrillo is also known for it’s breeding programs, which recently have been successful breeding the critically endangered Giant Sea Bass. You’ll know that you’re supporting a good cause when you go to the Cabrillo.
3. Cabrillo Tide Pools
Not far from the aquarium, you’ll find Cabrillo beach. It’s full of tide pools, which contain all sorts of interesting creatures. Low tide is the best time to see this, as you’re more likely to find animals hiding in the tide pools. While these pools can hold all sorts of things, they’re really known for containing lots of sea anemones.
4. Point Fermin Lighthouse
The lighthouse at Point Fermin has stood over the harbor since 1874. While it’s not a functioning lighthouse anymore, it’s still a fascinating place to visit. It’s been turned into a museum of sorts that will educate you on California’s maritime history. Plus, you’ll get to see some stunning views of the Harbor.
5. San Pedro Fish Market
A perfect place to grab some truly fresh seafood in the Port, San Pedro Fish Market is right next to the cruise terminal in the Port of Los Angeles. Their seafood is all coming off the boats bringing their catch into the Port, so you know it’s fresh. Since it’s so close to the terminal, it’s a great place to get in a meal before you board your cruise.
6. Chowder Barge
For a more unique dining experience, look no further than the Chowder Barge. This is Los Angeles’ only floating restaurant, and as the name suggests, they make great clam chowder. They also offer a selection of other seafood dishes along with burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, and more. It’s not health food, but it tastes great and it’ll fill you up.
7. USS Iowa
Sitting literally next door to the cruise terminal, the USS Iowa is the most popular attraction in the area. This massive battleship dates back to World War 2, and is now a floating history museum. It’s not just great for history buffs, either. This is a great attraction for the whole family, and one of the coolest experiences in the area.
8. Los Angeles Maritime Museum
This museum is on the smaller side, and focuses largely on models of ships. It also has an old lighthouse lens and old diving helmets on display. It’s not going to fill your day, but it’s a fun, quick stop that only asks for a $5 donation to get in.
9. CRAFTED at the Port of Los Angeles
This marketplace is set up in a massive waterside warehouse. It’s a great place to pick up one-of-a-kind souvenirs from local artists and crafters. All the goods sold here are handcrafted, including the food, which is always great.
10. Fort MacArthur Museum
Fort MacArthur stood guard over the Port of Los Angeles for a good chunk of the twentieth century before it was decommissioned in 1974. Now, it’s an amazing museum. Exhibits cover a lot of the things you’d expect: the Pacific theater during World War 2, home-front happenings in LA during WWII, and such. It also goes into detail on the history of Los Angeles’ harbor defenses, and the role of LA as a military port.
11. Korean Bell of Friendship
The stone pavilion housing this decorated bronze bell offers some of the best views in the area. A gift to the US from South Korea, this bell overlooks the port from which US troops sailed into the Pacific. It was given to honor the US Bicentennial, as well as to honor the US soldiers who died in the Korean War.
12. Warner Grand Theater
Opened in 1931, this classic theater hosts live performances as well as showing classic, feature, and family films. Even if you’re just seeing the latest feature film, the buildings incredible architecture and history make this a unique experience that you won’t want to miss.
13. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Moving further away from the Port, Los Angeles has some of the best museums in the country, and this one is no exception. With exhibits covering everything from the dinosaurs to blue whales, it’s an incredible experience. They always have special events going on, so be sure to check their calendar and see what’s coming up.
14. California Science Center
Full of hands-on exhibits, this is a great place to take your kids. It’s also one of the best ways to get up close and personal with a Space Shuttle. The IMAX theater is especially good, but there are also rotating exhibits to keep things fresh and permanent exhibits covering everything from ecosystems to space flight.
15. Hollywood Sign
Head over to Griffith Park to take in the iconic Hollywood sign. It’s one of the most famous landmarks in the country, and if you’ve got the time you owe it to yourself to see it. If you want to have a really good time, sign up for a tour in a luxury van that will give you great views of the sign.
16. The Getty Center
A combination botanical garden, architectural masterpiece, and art museum, the Getty Center can and should consume most of a day with its own beauty and the stunning views of Los Angeles that it offers. It includes original Van Gogh and Rembrandt paintings, along with hedge mazes and a cactus garden. The Central garden covers 134,000 square feet and is, literally, always changing.
17. Griffith Observatory
Located in the largest urban park in the country, the Griffith Observatory offers incredible views of the stars. In addition to peering at the stars through its telescopes, you can enjoy the the show in the planetarium, or take in the 60 space-oriented exhibits. You can also head out to the terraces and enjoy the sight of the city at night.
18. Los Angeles County Museum of Art
This is the largest art museum in the Western United States. It consists of seven buildings spread over twenty acres, and it’s art collection is astounding. They have pieces from all corners of the earth, dating from ancient times all the way through the modern era. Art lovers can’t leave Los Angeles without seeing this.
19. Warner Bros Studio Tour
If you’re going to be in Los Angeles, you might as well tour the places where your favorite movies are made. Tours of the Warner Bros studio are surprisingly low-key events that really focus on the craft of film and television. It’s a 2-3 hour tour that will take you to the sound stage where some of the most beloved TV shows are shot. You’ll also see the Prop House, which is full of famous props and costumes from your favorite movies and TV shows.
20. La Brea Tar Pits
This location and the museum built on its focus on the giant beasts that used to roam North America during the Ice Age. The tar pits themselves are famous for the fossils they hold, as some of the best mammoth and saber-tooth cat specimens in the world have been found here. In fact, it’s still an active excavation site and you can watch the scientists at work.
The original modern theme park, Disneyland achieved legendary status decades ago. Rides like Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean are among the most famous in the world. It’s not just old rides, though. Disney is constantly updating and expanding the park with new areas like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge which opened in 2019.
22. Hollywood Walk of Fame
Located along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, the Walk of Fame currently has more than 2,600 names on it. Roughly 24 new starts are laid each year at a cost of $40,000 per star. Locals avoid this area because it’s so touristy, but if you are a tourist you really can’t pass it up.
23. Universal Studios Hollywood
The theme park here is based on Universal Studios movies and the rides are updated regularly so that they’re still current. They still have Harry Potter rides, but the old Jurassic Park rides have since been replaced with Jurassic World rides, for example. The studio tours are also fun. If you can come on a weekday, you’ll avoid the worst of the crowds.
24. Pacific Park
An amusement park located on the Santa Monica pier, Pacific Park has twelve rides and is free to enter. You do pay for the individual attractions, but it’s still a lot more affordable than most amusement parks. Plus, you won’t find any other park in Los Angeles with views as nice as this one.
25. Mulholland Drive
This winding, two-lane road along the edge of the mountains provides the best views of the city. It’s also a beautiful road in its own road, and it’s fun to navigate even though you have to go slowly because of the blind turns. You’ll also see some of the most expensive homes in the world along this road.
26. Greystone Mansion and Park
This mansion and it’s grounds have belonged to the City of Beverly Hills for decades now. You’ll recognize it from films such as the Big Lebowski, Spider Man, and There Will Be Blood. The mansion itself is closed to the public, but it’s lawns have been a public park since the 1960s.
27. Runyon Canyon Park
Runyon Canyon park is where Hollywood’s stars go for their weekend hikes, so there’s always a chance you’ll bump into someone famous out there. In fact, if you follow many celebrities on Instagram, you may already know the park pretty well. It’s 160 acre area is full of scenic hiking trails- perfect for getting in some exercise before spending a week on a ship.
28. Zuma Beach
Arguably the best beach in LA, Zuma Beach offers soft, white sand and pristine water with ideal surf conditions. If you’re there between January and April you’ll be able to watch the Gray While migration, too.
29. Petersen Automotive Museum
On the outside, this museum is one of the best looking buildings in town. The inside is even more impressive. 25 galleries contain beautiful vintage cars as well as the most famous cars from film and TV. You’ll find cars from Batman, Blade Runner, Back to the Future, and Mad Max.
30. Los Angeles City Hall
Standing tall since 1928, this landmark building is worth your time. Until 1964, it was the tallest building in Los Angeles. While it’s been surpassed repeatedly since then, you can still take an elevator to the very top floor and take in the skyline.
31. Autry Museum of the American West
Founded by actor Gene Autry, this museum is dedicated to the history and culture of the American West. Exhibits go all the way back to the prehistoric hunter-gatherers who lived here, and cover every time period between now and then.
32. Walt Disney Concert Hall
This stunning building may be more famous for it’s heat-ray effect when it was first built, but that’s been corrected and now it’s one of the most iconic buildings in Los Angeles. Take in a concert by the LA Philharmonic is you can, but it’s also worth just seeing the building.
33. OUE Skyspace
This observation deck at the top of the second-tallest building in LA gives unrivaled views of the skyline. For a real thrill, ride the 39-foot skyslide between the 70th and 69th floors. It’s made entirely of glass and hangs over the edge of the building.
34. Dodger Stadium
Dodger Stadium is the biggest baseball stadium west of the Mississippi, and is the largest baseball stadium in the world. You can take a ninety-minute tour of the stadium or just come and take in a baseball game here.
35. Grand Central Market
The largest and oldest public market in the city, Grand Central has recently become a trendy dining spot, with everything from handmade falafel to Nashville hot chicken. For a true taste of the LA food scene, you have to eat here.
36. Pacific Coast Highway
One of the most iconic and scenic roads in the world, the Pacific Coast Highway stretches for 660 miles. You can get on it in Santa Monica and take a drive to Malibu before heading back. That’s enough to get a taste of what it’s like to drive on this world-famous road.
37. Sunset Boulevard
This 22-mile road is famous for its concert venues and dining scene. It’s also the home of the Chateau Marmont Hotel, where F. Scott Fitzgerald and other famous writers turned out some of their best work. It’s also the site of John Belushi’s death- morbid, yes, but fans often ask to see that room. Of course, it’s also road where many of Hollywood’s biggest starts have their mansions.
38. Paramount Pictures Studio Tour
This two-hour studio tour will take you through the stages where films like The Breakfast Club and Sunset Boulevard were filmed. Tours happen every day, but the best time to go is between 11 and 3, because shooting might still be going on.
39. Arts District
As you might expect, LA has a thriving Arts District. East of downtown, this old neighborhood consists largely of old warehouses and is unusually walkable for LA. The art consists mostly of incredible graffiti, which the building owners encourage.
40. Santa Monica State Beach
You’ll likely recognize this beach from TV and movies, but it’s not just a tourist attraction. It’s a genuinely beautiful beach and a great place to spend a day soaking up the sun and waves. There are plenty of restaurants nearby, too.
41. Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Home to some of the biggest names in the history of Hollywood, this cemetery is free to enter. You do, of course, have to behave appropriately. It is a real cemetery, after all.
42. The Strand
This 22-mile bike trail is the best way to experience the best of Los Angeles’ beaches. It’s a smooth concrete path that’s also open to walkers, so you’ll need to go slow. That’s a good thing, though, as it lets you better appreciate the scenery. Bicycles and e-bikes are available to rent all along the path, and guided tours are available, too.
43. Attend a TV Show Taping
This is easier said than done, since all TV shows have limited audience seating. This is a good guide for getting tickets to some of the most popular shows that are taping in LA.
44. Walk with Wolves
Wolf Connection is a rescue and animal sanctuary that focuses on wolves. Getting to stroll through the hills with actual wolves by your side is an unforgettable experience that you don’t want to miss.
45. ArcLight Hollywood
This is, without a doubt, the ultimate movie-going experience. The surround sound, picture quality, and seat comfort are all second to none. If you’re going to see a movie in Los Angeles, you might as well make it the best movie theater experience of your life.
46. Third Street Promenade
The shopping district of Santa Monica, this car-free zone takes up three blocks and offers some of the best shopping you’ll find in Los Angeles. There’s a nice mix of stores offering something for everyone in every price range, and street musicians provide excellent entertainment while you shop.
47. Universal CityWalk
This neon-lit promenade at Universal Studios is packed with shopping, dining and entertainment. The 5 Towers outdoor concert venue is the centerpiece of it all, and it nearly always has live music going on.
48. Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
This stunning state park has views not only of Los Angeles the city, but of the entire LA basin. There are two different routes from the parking lot up to the summit, and you may want to use one to ascend and the other one to descend so that you get the full experience.
49. Grand Tour of LA
If you’re having trouble narrowing this list down, just sign up for this five-hour tour of the city. The tour begins downtown and includes a pick from your hotel if booked further in advance. See all the essential sights and enjoy a stop at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
50. Japanese American National Museum
Located in Little Tokyo, this is the largest museum in the country devoted to Japanese-American history. Centered around an exhibit that details the Japanese-American experience beginning in the 1880’s through the present, it’s a rich and enlightening experience.
Things to Do in Los Angeles FAQ
That really depends on what you like to do. The Grand Tour covers all the best tourist sites, but you won’t get much time at each one. Disneyland is one of the best things for families with children, and Grand Central market is the best dining experience.
Everywhere! Celebrity sightings happen all over. Studio tours during filming hours probably give your your best shot at seeing someone famous.
Uber, Lyft, Taxis, or Buses.
Yes, there is! Cruise visitors can enjoy the views of LA which is narrated in 9 different languages and covers popular sights such as Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Santa Monica.
The Port of Los Angeles is 26.2 miles or about a 40-minute drive from downtown.