Fitness

10 places I love to go in Los Angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

food, 10 places i love to go in los angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

  • With beaches, hiking, museums, and more, Los Angeles can easily fill up anyone’s travel itinerary.
  • Start planning with a local’s favorite things to do in LA, from scenic hikes to beachside brunch.
  • Visit Insider’s hub for travel guides, tips, and recommendations.

Of course, it’s folly to assume that living in Los Angeles means spending all day at the Santa Monica Pier or trying to get right up close to the Hollywood Sign. But though I’ve lived here for decades, those are still things I indeed love to do.

Never mind that I’m a local: The beach, pier, and Ferris wheel are all favorite pastimes with my family. And hiking in the Hollywood Hills makes for a cherished solo afternoon whenever I can get the time.

Other favorite activities in town include picnicking at the Hollywood Bowl or Hollywood Forever Cemetery, wandering the museums along Miracle Mile, and shopping for vintage finds on Melrose. Here’s what else I recommend for visitors and locals alike.

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food, 10 places i love to go in los angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

Go hiking at Runyon Canyon for a quintessential see-and-be-seen cardio workout.

Los Angeles is packed with excellent hiking trails, some of which are shady, wooded, and off the beaten trail. Runyon is not that. It’s the ultimate LA cardio experience, offering a serious stair workout and spectacular views of the city from the beach to downtown and beyond. And yes, the people watching here is a major draw —  expect to see lots of well-matched, cut-out athleisure gear and to overhear at least one conversation about a script. It’s fun, it’s free, and it’s a truly efficient cardio-blast workout right in the heart of town. I’ve hiked this trail dozens, if not hundreds, of times — and it doesn’t get old.

Want a similar workout but less of an intense Hollywood scene? Hike the stairs to the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook instead.

food, 10 places i love to go in los angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

Enjoy the sun and sea at Paradise Cove.

For a morning or afternoon on the beach, I recommend Paradise Cove, a laid-back stretch of sand not far from Malibu, but with fewer crowds. Start with making a reservation for brunch at Paradise Cove Beach Cafe to score huge portions of breakfast favorites like omelettes and pancakes. The cafe will also give you validated parking so you can hang out at the beach after your meal.

Play in the sand and sea near the restaurant, but don’t leave before taking a stroll north along the beach for the lovely views and neat rock formations. You can also reserve umbrellas and chaises here. I recommend going on a weekday for thinner crowds and cheaper parking.

food, 10 places i love to go in los angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

Hike to architectural ruins and a waterfall at Malibu’s Solstice Canyon.

Malibu is well known for its world-class beaches, but it’s also a top destination for hiking trails, my favorite of which is Solstice Canyon. I recommend starting early and taking the Solstice Canyon loop trail, a mostly shady three-mile loop with 669-feet elevation gain, which takes about 90 minutes to hike. On the trail, you’ll be rewarded with a waterfall as well as architectural ruins of a mid-century ranch house designed by architect Paul Williams.

food, 10 places i love to go in los angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

Picnic at a Hollywood Bowl event.

When the Hollywood Bowl closed in 2020 during COVID, it was the first dark season for the venue in 98 years — and it felt like a loss among so many others. That’s because coming to the bowl for a picnic and a show is a seasonal rite for locals — and a must-do for visitors. Choose from the upcoming events and artists, bring your picnic — booze is A-OK! — or purchase food and drink on site — more convenient, if less charming — and watch the sunset over Hollywood to the sounds of your favorite genre.

food, 10 places i love to go in los angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

Take in movie magic at the new Academy Museum.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened its much-anticipated museum to great fanfare in 2021; and since it’s an easy walk from my house, I became a member right off the bat. Under its gleaming gold facade — which is a restored architectural landmark — find treasures of movie history from Dorothy’s ruby slippers to the fiberglass shark from “Jaws.” There are also rotating exhibitions at the museum, such as Regeneration, a comprehensive exhibit on the history of Black cinema. Make sure to check out the knockout city views from the rooftop under the museum’s spaceship-looking spherical theater when you visit.

This museum is also located on the Miracle Mile stretch adjacent to an array of other world-class museums. So if you’re looking for more art or history, walk to nearby LACMA for modern art, the Petersen for vintage cars, and the La Brea Tar Pits for family-friendly natural history.

food, 10 places i love to go in los angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

Shop for vintage finds on Melrose Avenue and at the Fairfax High School flea market.

I was a senior at Beverly Hills High School when “Clueless” came out, and the movie made it clear that “going to Melrose” was the place to be for shopping with the cool kids. Decades later, it still is. Come for vintage finds at shops like Wicked, Crossroads, and Buffalo Exchange. Thrift shoppers will also want to check out the flea market at Fairfax High, known as the Melrose Trading Post, on Sundays.

food, 10 places i love to go in los angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

Get lost amid the peacocks and sprawling gardens at the Los Angeles County Arboretum.

The 127-acre Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is worth the trek to Arcadia. Roam the peaceful grounds, filled with diverse gardens and pools and an intricate 19th-century Victorian cottage on a lake. And get ready to snap a pic when you notice a dazzling peacock cross your path. I love the serenity of this urban retreat: It’s a beautiful, COVID-friendly place that helped me keep my family entertained and positive amid natural social distancing during pandemic lockdowns.

food, 10 places i love to go in los angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

Catch an outdoor movie at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Does spending a night in a cemetery sound creepy? It’s really not — when it’s a Cinespia outdoor-movie night at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Bring a boozy picnic for a lively alfresco evening on the property’s sprawling lawn. Expect food trucks and a photo booth setup inspired by the movie playing. My husband and I once made it a memorable date night for a showing of one of our all-time favorite movies — “Friday” — and still have the porch-inspired pics on the fridge.

food, 10 places i love to go in los angeles as a local, from scenic hikes to outdoor movies and relaxed beaches

Prep for a party — and stay for the street food — at the Piñata District.

If you’re coming to town for a special event — like a milestone birthday or bachelorette party — don’t go to a big-box store for party supplies. Instead, make memories as you prep for your event with a visit to the Piñata District. This lively three-block downtown enclave between 3nd and 5th streets, and between San Pedro and Los Angeles streets is the place to go for piñatas as well as all kinds of decorations and sweets.

Hit Raquel’s Candy N’ Confections for piñatas, Mexican candies to go inside, paper products, and decorations. Shopping for my kids’ birthday party here every summer is a highlight of my year. Make a morning of it and stay for the street tacos. The best time to come for the action is on weekend days between about 10 a.m. and mid-afternoon.

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