Destination diary: 20 unmissable things to do in LA this October
From the timeless icons to quirky, offbeat hangouts, here’s our hotlist of the best that Los Angeles has to offer this month
In a city with almost year-round sunshine, there’s never a bad time to visit LA. That said, October is a particularly good month to head to the West Coast favourite – when it’s still warm enough to spend your days on the beach but is blissfully free from the summer crowds. As autumn approaches, there’s no shortage of things to keep you occupied, from the start of the basketball season and the last shows of the year at the iconic Hollywood Bowl to a profusion of Halloween-themed events across the city. Here’s our must-do hit list for October in LA.
1. Eat your way around Dine LA Restaurant Week
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the popular foodie festival, which runs from 6-20 October. More than 200 LA restaurants will be taking part, offering prix-fixe menus so you can try some of the city’s finest dishes at bargain prices.
2. Take in a show
While LA’s theatre scene may not be as famous as New York’s, the Broadway District Downtown is a great place to catch a show. Hadestown, which won eight Tony Awards, is coming to the Ahmanson Theatre from 3-15 October – catch it while you can.
3. Get your foodie fix at LA’s hottest food market
Held every Sunday at the hip ROW DTLA, Smorgasburg is the largest weekly open-air food market in America and is known for gathering some of the city’s finest street food vendors. Come to try everything from vegan tacos to artisanal donuts.
4. Hit the beach
There’s nowhere quite like Venice Beach. A short walk along the promenade and you’ll find hippy hawkers, cool street art and more than a few recognisable spots from the recent Barbie movie. Be sure to leave time to browse the indie boutiques on nearby Abbott Kinney Boulevard.
5. Rock out at the Hollywood Bowl
With its iconic arched silhouette and spellbinding atmosphere, an open-air concert at the Hollywood Bowl is an LA rite of passage. Catch some of the last gigs before they shut up shop for the winter – The 1975, Sting and Brandi Carlile are all playing in October.
6. Celebrate the Day of the Dead
Thanks to its strong Mexican community, Día de los Muertos is almost as popular as Halloween in the City of Angels. The liveliest fiesta, a riot of technicolour costumes and vibrant processions, is centred on the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on 28 October.
7. Get spooked at Universal Studios
Throughout October, the famed theme park holds its legendary Halloween Horror Nights, billed as California’s scariest event. This year you can expect haunted houses based on Stranger Things and The Last of Us, plus plenty of spine-tinglingly good thrills.
8. Get in the Halloween spirit
LA is home to the world’s largest Halloween street party, the infamous Halloween Carnaval. More than half a million people head to West Hollywood on 31 October for a mammoth celebration of all things spooky – expect spectacular costumes and some excellent peoplewatching.
9. Hike up to the Hollywood sign
The landmark turns 100 in 2023, so there’s never been a better time to get your hiking boots on and pay it a visit. While you’re there, make sure you stop off at the nearby Griffith Observatory for a spot of stargazing.
10. Discover emerging artists at the Hammer Museum
This biennial exhibition at the Hammer opens on 1 October and shines a light on some of the most exciting artists working in LA today. Now in its sixth edition, it’s a great place to uncover new and under-recognised local talent.
11. Get on your bike
Santa Monica (opening image) is one of LA’s loveliest neighbourhoods, and the best way to admire it is on two wheels. Hire a bike and spend the day exploring the 22-mile South Bay Bicycle Trail, a picturesque coastal path that winds all the way down to Torrance Beach.
12. Catch a game at the SoFi Stadium
The NFL season is in full swing in October, making it the perfect time to cheer on the LA Rams or the LA Chargers at the dazzling new SoFi Stadium, which has just been named the second-best venue in the league.
13. Cheer on the LA Lakers
October marks the start of basketball season, meaning there are plenty of chances to see LeBron James in action at the Crypto.com Arena. Tickets sold out? The stadium is also home to the LA Sparks women’s team and the LA Clippers.
14. Learn to ride the waves
Soak up that SoCal surfer lifestyle with a lesson or two in Malibu. October is the perfect time to hit the waves while the weather is still warm but the summer crowds have melted away. Malibu Surfing School offers some of the best around.
15. Brush up on some Hollywood history
The striking Renzo Piano-designed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is the largest in the world dedicated solely to the art of making movies. Pay a visit to the new John Waters: Pope of Trash exhibition and accept your own Oscar in its cheesy-but-fun immersive experience.
16. Rattle some bones at the Natural History Museum
After a three-year hiatus, LA’s much-loved Boney Island event is returning to the NHM until 31 October. Transforming the Nature Gardens into an interactive light-up installation featuring skeleton performers, shadow puppets and fossils, it’s hauntingly good fun for the whole family.
17. See where movie magic is made
Don’t leave LA without visiting at least one of the big film studios – the Warner Brothers studio tour is top of our list, where you can explore backlots from Back to the Future and Gilmore Girls and step into the real-life set from Friends.
18. Rediscover Ancient Greece and Rome in Malibu
As well as sea and surf, Malibu is home to one of LA’s loveliest museums, the Getty Villa. Founded by billionaire industrialist J Paul Getty, it’s a faithful recreation of a first-century Roman villa, complete with treasures from Ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria.
19. Hunt for vintage treasures at the Rose Bowl Flea Market
Held on the second Sunday of every month, this vast flea market is a must for fashion lovers. Come to browse the rabbit warren of stalls, where you can unearth everything from vintage threads and second-hand furniture to quirky collectibles.
20. Reconnect with nature at the Huntington Library and Gardens
This spot in Pasadena is the ideal place to escape LA’s hectic sprawl. Spread across 130 acres, there are 16 themed gardens to explore, from 100-year-old cacti in the Desert Garden to tropical orchids in the Jungle Garden.
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