Los Angeles

Venice Beach

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Tobacco magnate Abbot Kinney gets the credit for transforming a marshy stretch of shoreline south of Santa Monica into the “Venice of America.” In 1904, Kinney turned a series of drainage channels into scenic canals and constructed a Venetian-inspired arcade on the beach. While the canals remain one of the community’s top tourist attractions in Los Angeles, most visitors head for the beach’s world-famous boardwalk where eccentric street performers compete with shops, stalls and food stands for attention. The beach’s volleyball courts, skating plaza and body-building Muscle Beach area are crowd-pleasers as well.

Griffith Park & Observatory

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One of the largest municipal parks in the United States, Griffith Park offers a welcome escape from L.A. traffic. In addition to acres of hilly trails and green spaces, the park is home to a broad array of fun-filled attractions, from the Los Angeles Zoo to the outdoor Greek Theatre. It’s also the location of one of the city’s most iconic landmarks: the Griffith Observatory. Built in 1935, the beautiful Art Deco complex boasts dozens of engaging exhibits, an out-of-this-world planetarium and multiple telescopes available for public use. A visit to the observatory at dusk offers views of stars emerging in the sky above and the twinkling lights of the city below.

Getty Center

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The oil magnate Jean Paul Getty was considered one of the richest men in the world when he established the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1953. Today, the world’s wealthiest art institution funds several institutions, including the stunning billion-dollar Getty Center perched high atop L.A.’s Brentwood Hills. A sleek hover-train funicular whisks visitors up to the museum where an extraordinary collection of artwork from the Middle Ages to the present awaits, including masterpieces like van Gogh’s “Irises,” Monet’s “Wheatstack” and “The Abduction of Europa” by Rembrandt. Outside, sculpture-ornamented gardens offer panoramic views of the Los Angeles Basin.

Disneyland

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<palign=”justify”;>Located around an hour’s drive from Downtown Los Angeles in Orange County, Disneyland was the first of Walt Disney’s chain of theme parks. It’s been the star tourist attraction in the City of Anaheim since 1955. Adjacent to the original park is the relatively new California Adventure, which features rides and attractions inspired by the Golden State. “Park hopper” tickets give visitors access to both parks. The meticulously maintained amusement parks are laid out in themed areas ranging from Tomorrowland and Fantasyland to Hollywood Land and Cars Land. Costumed performers wander the parks, offering children once-in-a-lifetime encounters with their favorite Disney characters.

Universal Studios Hollywood

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Home to one of the oldest still-operating film studios, Universal Studios Hollywood is a sprawling complex in the San Fernando Valley best known for its family-friendly theme park. Many of the park’s rides and attractions are centered on blockbuster movies, offering an immersive experience for fans of films ranging from “King Kong” to “Waterworld.” Behind-the-scenes studio tours are available as well. The complex also includes Universal CityWalk, an outdoor shopping center where visitors can catch live performances, see a movie or watch celebrities.