The 10 Best Historic Sites to Visit in L.A.
POSTED BY Jayme in Upland, CA
Take in some beautiful scenery while learning about the vibrant history of L.A with a visit to one of these historic sites.
Image via Facebook/The Gamble House
Los Angeles is a city rich in culture and history. From early settlements to architecture and the birth of Hollywood and the film industry, L.A. is home to some of the country’s most amazing historic sites. We have world-class museums and art collections right at our fingertips, but sometimes to really learn about this wonderful city we call home, we have to venture out and immerse ourselves in its storied past.
The locations we’ve included on our list of the 10 best historic sites to visit in L.A. cover a little bit of everything and will really give you an idea of just how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown. A visit to any one of them would make a great family weekend outing, or a memorable (and easy!) field trip for your kids and their nanny or babysitter. Many of the sites offer guided tours, and some even host activities and events centered around their history, turning a visit into an interactive learning opportunity. Combine fun and education with a visit to one of these notable locations in L.A., and discover the history behind what makes our city so magnificent!
The Bradbury Building
Address: 304 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013
Hours: Find tour times here.
Fees: Los Angeles Conservancy Historic Downtown Walking Tour, $15 general public, $10 Conservancy members & kids 17 & under
The Bradbury Building is one of downtown L.A.’s most iconic landmarks and the oldest commercial building in the area. Completed in 1893, the building was the brainchild of mining and real estate tycoon Lewis Bradbury, who commissioned architect Sumner Hunt to design the masterpiece. Bradbury eventually replaced Hunt with another architect, George H. Wyman, who remained in charge of the building’s construction and completion. There is some debate over who should be credited with the design of the Romanesque and Victorian structure, as it is unknown if Wyman changed any of the original plans. The ornate building, with marble staircases, wrought-iron railings, and open-cage elevators, is truly a spectacular sight to behold. The building lobby is open to the public and photography is allowed. The Bradbury Building is included on the Los Angeles Conservancy Historic Downtown Walking Tour.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles
Address: Avila Adobe, E10 Olvera St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Visitors Center)
Hours: Guided tours conducted Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m., 11 a.m., & noon.
Fees: Free with tour request form
El Pueblo de Los Angeles is a 44-acre park in downtown L.A. consisting of several historical buildings, museums, plazas, and the famous Mexican marketplace on Olvera Street. You can easily spend an entire day here and still not see everything it has to offer. Visit the first firehouse ever built in Los Angeles or walk through Avila Adobe, the oldest house in the city. El Pueblo is also home to the Chinese American Museum and La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, where you can learn about the history of Mexican-Americans in L.A. El Pueblo is open to the public, and several exciting cultural events are held throughout the year, like the Blessing of the Animals and the annual Cinco de Mayo celebration.
The Hollywood Sign
Address: Los Angeles, CA 90028
Hours: Trails are open daily sunrise to sunset, & hiking is free to the public.
Image via Facebook/Hollywood Sign
Whether you’re just visiting or call L.A. your home, everyone needs to take a trip up to see the Hollywood sign at least once in their lifetime. Easily the city’s most recognizable landmark, the “Hollywoodland” sign was erected in 1923 as a symbol of L.A.’s crowning as the entertainment capital of the world. It was originally built by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler as a massive billboard for his Hollywoodland real estate development and has undergone several refurbishments over the years. In 1949, the “land” was dropped from the sign as part of a rebuild, and it became the iconic “Hollywood” sign we know today. You can see the sign from many vantage points throughout the city, but to get up close and personal with it, put on your hiking boots and walk one of the trails that start in Griffith Park. There are trails suitable for families with children, as well as trails for novice and experienced hikers.
The Doheny Mansion
Address: 10 Chester Place, Los Angeles, CA 90007
Hours: Public tours held once a month, 10 a.m. & 10:45 a.m.
Fees: Tours are $20 per person.
Image via Facebook/Doheny Mansion
Built in 1899 by architects Theodore Eisen and Sumner Hunt (original designer of the Bradbury Building), the Doheny Mansion was home to oil baron Edward L. Doheny and his family for over 60 years. The opulent interior and lush grounds are reflective of the wealth and status of the Doheny family. Edward Doheny was the first to successfully drill for oil in the Los Angeles City Oil Field. The mansion is now under the stewardship of Mount Saint Mary’s University. It — along with all of the properties on historic Chester Place — makes up the university’s downtown campus. Guided tours take you around the grounds and inside the mansion and give you the chance to experience the lavishness of the property firsthand. The public tours of the mansion are held once a month and last about two and a half hours.
Capitol Records Tower
Address: 1750 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90028
Located at the legendary corner of Hollywood and Vine, the Capitol Records Tower is instantly recognizable by its circular design. Completed in 1956, the building is the world’s first circular office tower and is now home to Capitol Records, the first major record label on the West Coast. It’s not possible to go inside the building, as it’s a working corporate and studio space. The intersection it sits on is the center of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the exterior of the building is visible from the street for pictures. If you visit at night, you’ll see the beacon at the top of the spire of the building, which blinks out H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D in Morse code!
Heritage Square Museum
Address: 3800 Homer St., Los Angeles, CA 90031
Hours: Open Friday – Sunday & federal holiday Mondays, 11:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Fees: Adults, $10 | Seniors, $8 | Kids ages 6-12, $5 | Kids 6 & under, free
Image via Facebook/Heritage Square Museum
Take a trip back in time to the end of the 19th Century and get a glimpse of what life in L.A. was like before all the bright lights and freeways. The Heritage Square Museum is a little piece of preserved history, giving visitors an idea of what helped shape the city into what we know and love today. Heritage Square is billed as a “living museum,” where history comes to life to teach visitors about the culture, architecture, and daily life of early Angelenos. Several events are held throughout the year, including classic and silent movie nights and holiday celebrations. View their online calendar for current events before planning your visit. Guided tours depart hourly from noon to 3 p.m. and are included in the price of admission.
The Gamble House
Address: 4 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, CA 91103
Hours: Public tours held Thursday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. | Sunday, noon – 3 p.m.
Fees: Adults, $15 for adults | Seniors, $12.50 | Kids ages 12 & under, free
Image via Facebook/The Gamble House
The Gamble House is a piece of architectural history right here in our own backyard. Considered to be the best preserved example of work by American Arts and Crafts architects Henry and Charles Greene, Gamble House is a study of precision and beauty. Built in 1908 for a second-generation member of the Procter & Gamble Company, the home served as a private residence for several members of the Gamble family, until it was deeded to the city of Pasadena in 1966 in a joint agreement with the University of Southern California School of Architecture. Today, the grounds, structure, and furnishings stand as a testament to the artistry and history of architecture in Los Angeles. We highly recommend participating in a docent-led tour, as it’s the only way to gain entrance to the interior of the home. Gamble House hosts Brown Bag Tuesday every week, when they open the rear lawn and terrace and visitors bring their own lunches to dine al fresco from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mini tours for $8 are given during Brown Bag Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. and 12:45 p.m. Visitors are strongly encouraged to go here to purchase mini tour tickets ahead of their visit.
Battleship USS Iowa Museum
Address: 250 S. Harbor Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90731
Hours: Open daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Fees: Adults, $17.95 | Kids ages 6-11, $9.95 | Seniors, $14.95 | Retired or active-duty military, $14.95 |
Is there any better place for a history lesson than aboard an actual battleship? Nicknamed “The World’s Greatest Battleship” because of its impressive guns, heavy armor, speed, and modernization, the Iowa is also considered the Battleship of Presidents, since no other naval ship has hosted as many U.S. presidents. Since retiring from the Navy’s fleet, the ship has served as an interactive naval museum, honoring the memory and sacrifice of those who’ve served through education and preservation. Tours are free with admission and self-guided with the help of the ship’s interactive tour guide app, allowing you to explore at your leisure. Five different tours are available. You’ll learn about everything, including life aboard the USS Iowa, how the ship has changed over time, and what kind of weaponry the ship possesses.
Los Angeles State Historic Park
Address: 1245 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
Hours: Open daily, 8 a.m. – sunset
Image via Facebook/Los Angeles State Historic Park
California has no shortage of state parks, but some Angelenos may not know about this little piece of paradise smack dab in the middle of an old industrial district in downtown L.A. It was developed after community groups organized to protest impending industrial development and asked for much-needed open space in the city. Since its opening in 2009, the park has become a space for cultural celebration and community gathering. It’s one of the only state parks to be built for the people, by the people. Today, visitors can enjoy living sculptures, wildflower fields, and, soon, a native wetland habitat that connects to the Los Angeles River. Events are held weekly, like movie and food truck night and park concerts. Make sure to check the event calendar to see what’s upcoming when you plan your visit.
Address: 1765 E. 107th St., Los Angeles, CA 90002
Hours: Guided tours offered every half hour, Thursday – Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. | Sunday, 12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Fees: Adults, $7 | Seniors & Kids ages 13-17, $3 | Kids 12 & under, free
The Watts Towers are a collection of 17 major sculptures created by Sabato “Simon” Rodia in the city’s South Central neighborhood. They’re composed of steel and mortar and embellished with mosaic tiles, glass, shells, and rock. Rodia worked on his masterpiece for over 33 years, finally completing it in 1959. He called it “Nuestro Pueblo” — or “Our Town” — and since the towers’ completion, they’ve symbolized the need for artistic and cultural growth in urban areas. Today, the Watts Towers Arts Center serves the community with programs designed for cultural enrichment. Classes are offered in several multimedia arts, like tiling, painting, and photography. Entrance to the towers is available only during one of the guided tours, and it’s definitely worth taking a tour to see Rodia’s life’s work with your own eyes.
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