Los Angeles is the melting pot of the west coast and the center of California’s arts and music scene. Your trip to California should undoubtedly include an exploration of this culture.
When you visit LA, you will see signs denoting ethnic neighborhoods celebrating its cultures. There are the largest Korean, Thai, Mexican, Iranian, and El Salvadorian communities outside their countries of origin. Over half of Los Angeles’ population is Latino.
Los Angeles is the birthplace and the brightest star of the motion picture industry. It also boasts the most museums per person than anywhere else in the year.
CheapOair has a new YouTube video series called “Things to Do In…” which highlights unique and authentic experiences available at their destinations. In celebration of this service, they have sponsored me to share my own list of cultural things to do in Los Angeles. Since I grew up just a short distance away and still visit at least once a year, I have spent a lot of time exploring Los Angeles. I love sharing these experiences that have been part of my life with my teenage sons, and I’m glad to share them with you.
After you are done reading, be sure to check out CheapOair‘s Things to Do in Los Angeles on YouTube, starring “The CheapOair Travel Guy” Beau Rials. There you can follow CheapOair’s social channels and be the first to see their new videos. Then you will also have the opportunity to be the first to know about their upcoming contests!
Table of Contents
Here’s my list of the cultural activities I love to do in LA…
1) Visit Olvera Street
125 Paseo de la Plaza, Los Angeles
The best place to experience Mexican culture in LA is Olvera Street, an authentic recreation of a paseo. It is the closest I have felt in the US to one of my favorite spots in Cancun, Mexico, Parque las Palapas, which is an off-the-beaten tourist path. On Olvera Street, you will not only shop for Mexican goods and eat delicious foods, but also tour the oldest residence in Los Angeles, Avila Adobe.
2) Visit a Mission
15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd, Mission Hills
The first Europeans to settle in California were Spaniards, who built a mission system on California’s coast. Visiting a mission is the perfect way to learn about the history of early California. Established in 1797, Mission San Fernando Rey de España now functions as a museum. To learn more about California’s mission history, read about my time in San Juan Capistrano.
3) Visit Korea Town (K-Town)
Around the cross streets of Willshire Boulevard and Normandie Avenue, Los Angeles
This three-square-mile area in Los Angeles contains a lot of shopping opportunities, coffee shops, dessert shops, and my favorite Korean foods. Be sure to try some kimchee, pot bibimbap, and Korean BBQ.
4) Experience Old Roman Culture at The Getty Museums
Getty Center 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles
Getty Villa 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades
Six-thousand years of antiquities and arts can be seen at the Getty Museums, and admission is always free (although the Villa requires a time-stamped ticket.) The Villa’s collections draw more from Greece and Roman antiquities, but the view of Los Angeles from the Getty Center is so fantastic, it can be hard to choose one. If you have enough time, visit both.
5) Museum of Tolerance
9786 West Pico Blvd, Los Angeles
An important part of exploring other cultures is gaining empathy. While you are in Los Angeles, be sure to spend some time in the Museum of Tolerance. Although it concentrates on the Holocaust, it also touches on racism and inequality around the world.
6) Canter’s Jewish Deli
419 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles
Arguably the most famous Jewish deli in Los Angeles, stop in to get your fix of corn beef Ruebens, Matzo ball soup, and most other Jewish foods you are dreaming about. Canter’s is the same deli that originated in Boyle Heights, the largest Jewish neighborhood in the US outside of Brooklyn, New York.
7) Explore Los Angeles’ Film Culture
If Los Angeles has a culture of its own, it revolves around the film industry. There are many classic studios to tour, including Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Adventures by Disney: Disney Backstage, Warner Bros., and Universal Studios. Warner Bros. is the oldest movie studio in Los Angeles. Universal’s tour is included in their amusement park entrance fee.
8) Visit the Birthplace of the Pentecostal Movement
Azusa Street, Los Angeles
Did you know that the Pentecostal revival movement started in Los Angeles? It was begun by the son of former slaves, William J. Seymour, in 1905 on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. The Azusa Street Revival was also significant in that many different races were working together to spread this movent. This revival then spread across the southern United States, and the Pentecostal Church sprung from it.
9) Swing by Capitol Records
1750 Vine St, Los Angeles
Music is closely related to film, so it makes sense that Los Angeles also has played an influential role in American music. Charlie Chaplin had his studio here to make music for his movies. Los Angeles has born music acts such as NWA, Ritchie Valens, The Beach Boys, Weezer, Los Lobos, Metallica, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Doors, and many more.
The Capitol Records Building is a landmark shaped like a stack of records. Capitol is the first important West Coast record label.
If you have time, you can also visit the Grammy Music Museum at 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles.
10) Explore Los Angeles’ Street Art Scene
Melrose Avenue between Fairfax and LaBrea, Los Angeles
Everywhere you look on this trendy shopping and restaurant-filled street, you will see street art–on garages, sidewalks, in alleys, and even atop roofs. Street art is a common way for locals to express their beliefs boldly and can be quite beautiful.
With that, we end our exploration of the best cultural things to do in Los Angeles.
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Once you book your flights, remember to check out all their Things to Do in Los Angeles series to help you plan your best trip to this vibrant California town.
16 thoughts on “10 Cultural Things to Do in Los Angeles”
There are many places I love in California, but L.A. has never been one of them. If someone reads and plans a trip based on an average travel blog post, something like “Top 10 things to do in L.A.”, I don’t think they’ll come away liking the place. So your approach is quite different, and I think that’s a much better way to see the area. The Hispanic angle is particularly interesting, and I’ve love to read a blog post doing a deep dive into that aspect.
There is so much in this large city, most people can find something that appeals to them. Olvera Street is part of a park system which has five ethnic museums in it all within a few blocks of each other.
Nice to see this other side of LA! I would love to visit the museum of tolerance, sounds like something everyone needs to see as a remind of a past we should not soon forget. Capital records would also be on my list of things to see.
There is also a great Italian-American and Chinese- American museum.
There are so many things to do in LA. I am not surprised to find that there is a lot of Mexican culture in LA. Canter’s Jewish Deli would be a stop for us for sure. Maybe before we spend some time enjoying a movie or movie studio tour. But the street art scene would be worth some time. We were recently in Long Beach and were amazed at how much there was.
I haven’t done Olvera Street yet. But my favorite things on your list (besides the film stuff since I love that) is K-Town (fantastic food) and street art on Melrose. I love LA and miss living there!
Maybe we will both end up back there one day. I am surprised you hadn’t made it to Olvera Street. The first time I went was on a school trip.
Love been to LA a ton & never Paseo! Will def go next!
You know I love LA and I go there a bit to visit my close friend. I wouldn’t mind adding Olvera Street to my next trip there as I enjoy Mexican culture and also Korea Town for a Korean BBQ. Btw I did not know that you could visit Capitol Records which is pretty cool.
Great list! My favorite is Canter’s. The best deli in town!
I love exploring different cultures and Olvera Street sounds like my kind of place. I’ll be sure to check it out next time I’m in LA
Don’t miss the tacos!
I just love places with different communities, they always have the best atmosphere and the greatest cultural mixture.
Los Angeles is still on my bucket list, so this will come handy. Would love to visit the Getty Museums, not only for the Greek and Roman monuments but also for that view of LA you’ve mentioned. 🙂
It is really worth checking them both out. The one in Malibu is set up like an Italian villa.
All 10 of these locations look amazing! I haven’t been to Los Angeles and always forget that it’s very diverse. I think Korea Town and the Getty Museum would be at the top of my lists. And of course get a peek at Capitol Records.
Thanks for such an interesting angle on LA. I’ve only been once and want to go back to see the items on your list, especially the deli, the street art and the museum of tolerance.