15 Best Things to Do in San Fernando Valley, CA
No visit to Los Angeles would be complete without a tour of the San Fernando Valley.
Often called "The Valley," this area flaunts a suburban lifestyle with a wide variety of offerings within its 260-square-mile domain.
Take a tour of the Valley, and you’ll have your fill of LA but also several popular neighborhoods in its northernmost area.
These stops for your Valley trip can include Burbank, Glendale, San Fernando, Hidden Hills, and Calabasas.
All told, your trip will revolve around movie studios, theme parks, shopping hubs, art galleries, posh restaurants, and much more.
Now let's look at the 15 best things to do in San Fernando Valley, California.
Pick Your Fancy at Universal CityWalk
Capture all the magic that is Hollywood with just one stop at the Universal CityWalk in Studio City.
Right past the Universal Studios globe landmark, you will be treated to an eclectic array of shops and restaurants.
For gift items and souvenirs, your immediate stop can be the Universal Studios Shop as well as nearby retail stores offering the latest fashion and accessories.
Stroll along Tony Curtis Avenue for a treat on an immersive show based on the Kevin Costner action flick Waterworld.
At Universal CityWalk, you can also watch movies screened in the high-tech sophistication of IMAX® with LASER.
Get the ultimate thrill, too, in the iFLY indoor skydiving machine for a healthy dose of adrenaline rush in a visit to the Universal CityWalk.
Tour the Warner Brothers Studio
Visit Burbank for a tour of the Warner Brothers Studio, one of the major pillars of Hollywood movie and TV productions.
The studio has debuted a new Storytelling Showcase celebrating its history that spans close to 100 years.
This presentation will take you to recreated sets where you can appreciate your favorite characters’ costumes and have a closer look at the props they used.
These delights of the studio tour will let you get to know more about productions like Fantastic Beasts, DC Universe, and Harry Potter.
If you’re a fan of the NBC sitcom series Friends, then you don’t want to miss out on seeing here its coffee shop set Central Perk, which has a real-life counterpart in New York City.
Visit the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Bring the whole family for a bonding experience at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens.
Opened in 1966, this zoo spreads over 133 acres, accommodating over 2,200 animals from more than 250 species.
This selection includes a family of five western lowland gorillas occupying its exclusive refuge at the zoo’s Campo Gorilla Reserve.
In addition to its extensive collection of fauna, the zoo has over 800 plant species in its garden.
You can also enjoy botanical exhibits in this zoo, the newest of which is the state-of-the-art presentation Rainforest of the Americas.
There is also a chance to join for free the zoo’s Family Nature Club for a morning session of outdoor games and nature exploration.
Enjoy the Outdoors at Lake Balboa Park
Relax in Lake Balboa Park, an oasis amidst the urban landscape of Van Nuys at the heart of the Valley.
Located at 6300 Balboa Blvd., this park of 80 acres has its trademark lake flanked by miles of meandering trail for walkers and joggers.
This Valley attraction, officially known as Anthony C. Beilenson Park, boasts a maritime-themed inclusive playground and an interactive drum play area.
You can go boating in the park’s lake as well as enjoy fishing.
Picnics are allowed in the park, which provides barbecue pits, picnic tables, and lakeside benches.
In this park, you will be in the company of ducks, geese, chipmunks, and rabbits while enjoying the flowery sight of cherry blossom trees if your visit is timed in spring.
Connect with America’s Past in the Autry Museum
Explore the extensive history of the American West through a tour of the two sites of the Autry Museum.
One of these sites is at Mt. Washington, 234 Museum Drive, with its collection dedicated mainly to native Americans while also hosting an ethnobotanical garden.
The other site of the Autry Museum of the American West is at Griffith Park, fronting the Los Angeles Zoo.
The artifacts here are much more extensive and grouped in three theme areas within a 4,000-square-foot gallery.
The thematic groups include Land and Landscape, Religion and Ritual, Migration and Movement, with revolving exhibits also featured in two mini-galleries.
Its Gamble Firearms Gallery is one crowd-drawer of the museum, as it curates Old West firearms into several interesting themes.
Stay Active at the Sepulveda Basin Sports Complex
You don’t have to miss your workouts while on a trip to the Valley, as fitness facilities can be accessed here for free at the Sepulveda Sports Complex.
Located at Burbank Blvd., Encino, this sports hub provides 44 outdoor workout installations.
It also features a lighted baseball field, a synthetic soccer field, tennis courts, and a skate park, which is also nearby.
This Sepulveda Basin area is likewise host to two public golf links, one of which is the par 72 Encino Golf Course frequented by Hollywood celebrities.
Another golfers’ haven offering affordable play here is the Balboa Golf Course that shares amenities with the Encino links.
Have a Photo Op at the Brady Bunch House
Take another trip down memory lane to the house that served as a mainstay backdrop for the hit TV series Brady Bunch.
This house, with real-life residents, is located at 11217 Dilling Street in Studio City.
Shots of the house’s façade were used for all the 115 episodes of Brady Bunch that began shooting in 1969.
Curiously, the house appeared like a two-story residence in the series, with the set designers installing a phony window for that effect.
The house has new shrubbery and a fence, but just the same, it still retains its famed TV image.
This is thanks to some of the show’s sequel projects like The Bradys, a CBS dramatic series.
Join the Beat at the NoHo Arts District
Take the subway to access the NoHo Arts District adjacent east of Valley Village Park in North Hollywood.
NoHo, as locals simply call this district, teems with plenty of performing arts spaces, like the restored circa 1926 El Portal Theatre.
This district is also home to the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences, where you can find sculptures of Emmy awardees like Bob Hope and Lucille Ball.
At NoHo, you can also drop by its sound studios and art galleries or get yourself inked at the district’s tattoo parlors on Magnolia and Lankershim boulevards.
Cap your excursion in NoHo with a choice from its hip cafes, tiki bars, gastropubs, and vintage stores.
Feel Racial Harmony at the Great Wall of Los Angeles
Visit the Great Wall of Los Angeles to absorb the inter-racial harmony this half-mile-long mural celebrates.
This showcase, one of the world’s longest murals, is located on Coldwater Canyon between Oxnard Street and Burbank Boulevard.
LA’s Great Wall landmark is a pictorial representation of California’s ethnic peoples from prehistoric times to the 1950s.
The Social and Public Art Resource Center initiated this project in 1974 and was completed five years later.
More than 400 youths and their families, artists, oral historians, scholars, ethnologists, and other community members joined hands on this project.
Shopping at Ventura Boulevard
Go on a shopping spree at Ventura Boulevard, the downtown of the San Fernando Valley.
This shopping and business hub is quite extensive, running through the southern flank of the Ventura Freeway.
Ventura Boulevard hosts a wide variety of retailers, but its standouts are the vintage shops and second-hand stores.
One of the top picks among these, the Sherman Oaks Antique Mall, parades an eclectic collection of clothing, jewelry, and décor.
For period fashion and costumes specifically, check out the show windows of Iguana Vintage Clothing and American Vintage.
Ventura Boulevard is also a place flexing mental prowess through its Psychic Eye Book Shop that offers psychic readings besides New Age products.
Visit the Mission San Fernando Rey de España
Join a tour of the historic Mission San Fernando Rey de España that traces back to the late 1700s.
The mission’s quaint complex has been meticulously restored as a tribute to the pioneering efforts of Spanish missionaries to convert Native Americans to the Christian faith.
This Valley attraction thus now provides a rare glimpse of the mission system ingrained in the early development of many California cities.
Today, the mission holds Catholic masses in its main building that impresses visitors with its 19 arches and an elaborate altar in its chapel.
The mission’s building displays walls painted with Native American designs and features a winery, storehouse, kitchen, and residential rooms.
Relive Old Ranch Living in Leonis Adobe
See how ranch living is like in California during the 1800s, with a visit to Leonis Adobe at the eastern terminus of Calabasas Road.
This historical re-creation now also hosts the circa 1870s Plummer House, erstwhile located in West Hollywood.
Leonis Adobe presents interactive pieces reliving the farming décor, food, and overall lifestyle of old California ranches.
The expected experience in such presentations includes corn grinding, churning butter, and making savory fresh tortillas.
This Valley attraction is also home to a small herd of Texas Longhorn cattle emblematic of the Old West.
Jazz It Up at the Baked Potato
Get a ticket for a relaxing evening of jazz music at the Baked Potato on Cahuenga Boulevard.
Baked Potato has been featuring talented jazz musicians since the 1970s, installing it as one of the best jazz clubs in Los Angeles.
This club features different sets of musicians for most of the week, providing various samplings of different jazz interpretations and styles.
The setting in Baked Potato is intimate, allowing its artists and patrons to bond in their love for jazz music.
The musicians’ repertoire in this club is matched by an exciting selection of food entrees on the club’s menu.
Your choices here revolve around delectable potato combos like marinated steak in tandem with pizzaiolo potato.
Meditate at Woodley Park’s Japanese Garden
Inject some serenity to your Valley trip with a visit to the Japanese Garden at Woodley Park.
This garden at Woodley Ave., Van Nuys, is a creation of UCLA professor and noted designer Dr. Koichi Kawana.
Reclaimed water from a nearby treatment facility is used in this 6.5-acre garden, which features a Zen meditation area.
The Journal of Japanese Gardening ranks this garden in the top 10 out of 300 Japanese public gardens.
The other amenities to enjoy at Woodley Park include a baseball diamond, picnic tables, a kids’ play area, cricket fields, and an archery range.
Experience Valley Buddhism at Wat Thai Temple
Discover another facet of cultural diversity in the Valley via a visit to the Wat Thai Buddhist Temple.
Located on Coldwater Canyon Avenue in North Hollywood, this is touted as the largest Buddhist temple in Los Angeles.
This ornate temple was built in the 1970s, following an extended LA visit of a Thai Buddhist monk that led to the founding of a Thai-American Buddhist Association.
Eventually, this association championed the construction of the Wat Thai Buddhist Temple, which is officially named Theravada Buddhist Center.
The temple is open to the Buddhist faithful and visitors from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Timing your temple visit on the weekend would be smart, as this Valley landmark for Buddhists hosts a Thai food fair in its courtyard in those days.
There’s so much to see and plenty of things to do on a trip to the San Fernando Valley area.
With this area spanning hundreds of square miles and covering many popular destinations, one day alone will not be enough to fully appreciate all the Valley’s charms.
Be prepared, therefore, to plan a multi-day itinerary in a visit to the Valley, or better still, save a return trip to this wondrous part of LA.