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Thanks to Lexus for sponsoring this post.

As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

When G and I lived in Southern California before, it was in Orange County. And, while we loved it there (in fact, heading back to those beaches is our retirement plan!), I have to admit that right now we are soaking up the fact that downtown LA is less than 15 miles from our place. We have so many amazing experiences at our fingertips here, and I couldn't be more thrilled to have them be a quick drive instead of the all-day trek it was when we lived in Newport Beach.

Just a few weeks ago, we were able to explore & share several of our favorites with family thanks to the Lexus RX 350L. We love the cargo space, third row for when you need to fit just one more person, and the amenities make is such a comfortable ride (even when you're sitting in traffic on the 405!).

In case you're planning a visit to LA (or are a local looking for something new), here are our current top ten favorite places to visit near Los Angeles.

1) Step into a world of mystery and enchantment at The Magic Castle

(7001 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, CA) *Hotel stay required

This has been one of my favorite places to visit for over a decade now. It's playful. It's decadent. It's mystifying and magical and all around amazing. You get transported to a different world where anything can (and often does!) happen. Since the Castle is a members only club, you need a little magic of your own to get in. Thankfully, a stay at the neighboring Magic Castle Hotel does the trick. Plan early, because they do book up, and be sure to follow the dress code (it's strictly enforced!).

If you're looking for some guidance on the activities once inside, my two favorite things are see a show in the Close-Up Gallery (how on earth can they leave me wondering what just happened when I'm less than 6 inches from them?!) and sip a cocktail while listening to Irma the Ghost play the piano - she can play anything you request (as long as you slip a little something-something into the birdcage).

2) Stroll through classic art and take in stunning views at The Getty Center

This is G's favorite museum, with good reason! It not only houses an impressive art collection, but the architecture is sublime, the gardens are lovely for a stroll, and the views of downtown LA and the surrounding valley are breathtaking.

3) Visit a stunning replica of a working Roman home at The Getty Villa

(17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272) *Closed Tuesdays. Tickets free but required.

Of the two Getty museums, this is my favorite. I love wandering through the Greek & Roman art, up and down the water features, and through all the gardens. The ceiling paintings, floor mosaics, and marble statues everywhere transport you to a different time. My advice? Bring layers because it gets cool that close to the water, and take a tour! The depth of history there is amazing.

4) Go wine tasting at Malibu Wines

(31740 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265) *Reservations recommended.

This hidden gem is one of my favorite relaxing spaces in LA. You get the chance to drive a classic road (Mulholland!) and at the end sip & savor some delicious wine in a relaxing, beautiful garden venue.

5) Explore one of the best modern art collections at The LACMA

(5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036) *Closed Wednesday. Tickets Required.

My favorite style of art is surrealism. Something in my soul resonates so strongly with things that are what they should be... but yet, aren't. The LACMA boasts some of the best surrealist, modern, and contemporary pieces I've ever experienced, and the expertly curated rotating galleries keep me coming back time and time again. A few favorites that are part of their permanent collection include Three Quintains (Alexander Calder), one of the Untitled works of Joan Miro, and "This is not a pipe" by Rene Magritte.

6) Soak up a night of culture & music at the LA Opera

(Dorothy Chandler Pavilion 135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012)

I've loved opera since attending my first performance at the age of 11 - I still remember my little white lace gloves! - and the LA Opera has some of the best performers and musicians around. An added bonus? The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is beautiful and well worth spending some time exploring.

7) Movie night at Grauman's Chinese Theatre

(6925 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028)

I know. You could see a movie at home. But, if you are a die-hard movie lover and want to see some of the iconic things Hollywood has to offer, this is such a fun stop. Be warned - it is a tourist trap. So watch your purse, expect parking to be busy/confusing, and brace for the crowds. If you can do all that, you're in for a treat. The Grauman has been around since 1927, and has some of the most amazing design you'll see. You can also take a stroll down the ever popular Walk of Fame and stand on some of your favorite stars...well, stars.

8) Eat at an authentic Chinese noodle house overlooking a tranquil lake

(The Huntington Library 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108) *Closed Tuesday. Tickets required

G and I have memberships here (it's that good!). We love to visit and walk through all the different gardens, the library, and the art collections. But our favorite thing is definitely eating lunch at the noodle house on the lake. The food is sublime (we love the beef noodles and chicken dumplings), and the environment is so peaceful (even with a toddler).

9) Listen to the LA Philharmonic perform at the Walt Disney Concert Hall

(111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012)

There's something about an orchestra and settling into an evening of walking through a musical program that I just adore. I've been to performances around the world, and still think the LA Philharmonic is among the top three. And, just like with the opera, the Walt Disney Concert Hall itself is a site to behold.

10) Take a big bus tour!

I know. I know. It's the most ridiculously touristy thing you can do. But hear me out: G and I have found more neighborhoods and spaces we enjoy this way than any other. We do it each time we move to or visit a new city. It really allows you to get a taste of everything there is to see and do, and decide where you want to head back & spend more time. Even better if it's hop on, hop off.

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