Day 1 in Los Angeles
Start your morning early with a visit to the Griffith Observatory located in Griffith Park. Get here as early as you possibly can because parking spots get taken very quickly! The further away you park, the steeper the walk you will have to get back up to the Observatory and lookout.
The Griffith Observatory is open only between the hours of 12pm and 10pm from Tuesday’s through Friday’s and between the hours of 10am - 10pm on Saturdays and Sundays. This means if you get here early you won't get to actually go inside. But that's okay because even though the exhibits are really cool to see (not to mention the interior design of the building), it is the iconic view of L.A. you really need to come here for!
The Observatory and lookout is perched on Mount Hollywood and provides spectacular views of Downtown Los Angeles and all the way out to the Pacific Ocean. From here you can also view the Hollywood Sign because let's face it... if you come to L.A. you can't leave without getting at least one snap of the sign... right?
Just to let you know, you can do this day one itinerary in reverse order if you prefer. This would mean visiting Griffith Observatory would be last on your list of places to visit and you would be here in the evening. If you end up going with this option you will be rewarded with seeing the city of angels all lit up below you which really is a beautiful sight!
If hiking up to the Hollywood Sign is on your bucket list you can reach the sign from a hiking trail located in Griffith Park. From here, the hike to the Hollywood sign is 8.8 miles round trip but there are much shorter trails you can do to get there starting from different trail heads. And if you're not confident doing it alone you can join a group led hike to the Hollywood Sign. As mentioned previously, you can do the day one itinerary in reverse order and if that is the case you should plan to get up to the Hollywood Sign in time to see sunset from the top of Mt Lee.
For a totally unique experience, you could organize a guided horse-back ride to the Hollywood Sign. The stable is located nearby or you can arrange for pick up from your hotel.
Next up on your L.A. tour is a visit to the world famous Walk of Fame in Hollywood. Most people that visit Hollywood, and especially the Walk of Fame are disappointed by how un-glamorous this area really is. No, there is no red carpet and you most certainly will not see any 'stars'. It is largely a tourist trap filled with touristy type knick-knack stores and costumed characters trying to talk you into a photo opportunity with them so they can make a couple of bucks.
The idealized Hollywood in your head is not what you will find here, and even though movie studio's and offices in the past use to operate out of this area, nearly all have moved further north to the Burbank area. That being said, if you take those high expectations out of your mind, Hollywood is a fun place to visit for an hour or two. Must see and visit here include the TCL Chinese Theatre, Dolby Theatre, El Capitan Theatre, Madam Tussauds Wax Museum and of course a stroll along the Walk of Fame.
And for those of you doing this day one itinerary in reverse, Hollywood Boulevard becomes even more entertaining at night with colorful local characters and entertaining buskers. The Chinese Theatre's light show is pretty cool to see after dark too.
* If you want to skip self driving to a few of the next stops on this L.A. itinerary, you might like to know there are quite a few tours operating from Hollywood Boulevard to destinations that include Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive such as the Hollywood Movie Stars Homes Tour.
In N Out Burger
When you have had enough of Hollywood Boulevard and seen everything there is to see there, we suggest stopping in at In-N-Out Burger for lunch before continuing with the rest of your sightseeing. In-N-Out Burger is only a few blocks away on Sunset Boulevard and on the way to your next destination.
No visit to California is complete until you have eaten at least once at this tasty establishment. Unlike most other fast food restaurants, In-N-Out use fresh ingredients and you really can taste the difference! Their french fries are hand cut and never frozen. In fact, they claim all their ingredients are never frozen including the beef.
They have a secret menu that all Californian's know about. For example, you can ask for the 'animal fries' (not displayed on the menu board) which is a serve of fries topped with grilled onions, melted cheese and thousand island sauce. I will warn you, this particular location is very popular and there can be really long lines. If you don't feel like waiting, you can have lunch at one of your next stops at either the Farmer’s Market or on Rodeo Drive.
LACMA Urban Light Installation
The iconic Urban Lights Installation made famous by films such as Ashton Kutcher's 'No Strings Attached' and 'Valentine's Day' can be found on Wilshire Boulevard. This outdoor sculpture can be visited for free during the day or at night when they are lit up. Created by artist Chris Burden, it is made up of 202 restored cast-iron street lamps all from the 1920's and 1930's.
The Grove & Farmers Market
The Grove is an outdoor mall with a beautifully designed outdoor space. There are over 100 stores so if you're a shopaholic you don't want to miss this stop! The Grove and The Original Farmer's Market are located adjacent to each other and the green double decker trolley runs between both providing free transport for visitors.
Over at the Farmer's Market you will find perfectly brewed coffee and a variety of gourmet food. It is a very popular destination with locals (and celebrities) so expect it to be busy on weekends. If you haven't stopped for lunch yet this is a good place to grab a bite.
Ever since the television show Beverly Hills 90210 aired, Rodeo Drive has been put on the map of must visit destinations for traveler's all around the world.
Rodeo Drive is synonymous with the rich and famous, and indeed it is probably one of the most wealthiest and famous shopping districts in the world. However don't be expecting to see those rich and famous celebrities cruising around. You will more than likely encounter a lot of tourists instead.
Also, don't assume there will be boutique stores and local designers here because it is mostly just big well-known brands like Armani, Gucci, Cartier, Tiffany... you get my drift.
Things to do here include ogling expensive jewelry and expensive cars. Yes, the best thing to see on Rodeo Drive (in my opinion) were the ridiculously expensive cars parked along the street. There were Mazzerati's, Bentleys, Ferrari's and Lamborgini's. Wow!
You don't need to spend too long here... just walk around window shopping and maybe grab a coffee? Or if you wanted to skip Rodeo Drive you could. You wouldn’t be missing much.
Beverly Hills is literally across the road from Rodeo Drive. If you're interested in looking at some pretty incredible architecture then take a drive through the residential streets of this well known neighborhood. Most of the movie stars and TV personalities homes line the streets of Roxbury Drive, Carolwood Drive, Bedford Drive, Crescent Drive and Benedict Canyon Drive.
If you're here during one of the holidays this suburb goes to extremes in decorating! We happened to visit close to Halloween and boy did the homeowners go to great lengths to impress!!
You will definitely need your own vehicle to see the houses around here. But, if you are exploring L.A. using public transport, there are tours that operate from Hollywood Boulevard that will take you on a short Beverly Hills & celebrity homes tour.
Want to get real fancy? Skip the celebrity homes tour and have afternoon tea or a sparkling wine at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Or if you haven't booked your accommodation yet, you could splash some cash and even stay at the Beverly Hills!
Time to head out to the coast! And just in time to watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean!! Venice Beach is a vibrant, colorful neighborhood in L.A. and truly is a one of a kind place. Famous for its quirky characters, bohemian lifestyle, talented artist's, skateboarders... and of course the beach.
There are plenty of market type stalls and other beach front stores to shop at, entertaining buskers, ice cream parlors, and quite a few cafes and bars. If you have time, you could wander over to chic Abbott Kinney Boulevard or take a stroll to see the Venice canals. The top thing to do in Venice Beach though is to either grab a bicycle and ride along the boardwalk or rent a surfboard and try your hand at surfing. Otherwise, just chill on the beach and take in that west coast sunset.
The Santa Monica Pier and amusement park is another famous Los Angeles landmark that has been entertaining locals and visitors for over 100 years. The pier originally opened in 1909 and marks the official end of Route 66.
The amusement park on the pier, Pacific Park, features 12 rides including the world's first solar-powered ferris wheel. The rides are a little pricey at $8.50 a ride though. If you plan on getting on all of the rides or if you have kids that might want to spend a few hours here, you will get better value if you purchase a pass to Pacific Park.
Our favorite ride was the ferris wheel because of the awesome 360 degree views of the beach and ocean. The amusement park isn't for thrill seekers but it is a fun place to spend a few hours nevertheless. The amusement park is open until late - usually around 11 or 12pm.
You can grab dinner on the pier and options include the usual amusement park style food (you know, food like fairy floss, hot dogs, fries, etc) and there are also a few restaurants at the end of the pier serving burgers and seafood too.
Day 2 in Los Angeles
Okay, so now that you have seen and been to most of L.A.'s top attractions and destinations, you have a whole day to spend doing an activity that you're most interested in… or you could even organize a day trip! Whether it be relaxing on the beach, continuing to explore nearby destinations, shopping, dining, or visiting a theme park, L.A. will not disappoint!
Here are some of the top activities and day trip idea’s for your Los Angeles trip:
Spend the day at the beach
If you're a beach kinda person then you could spend your second day in L.A. relaxing by the beach. It's probably not a bad idea after yesterday's jam packed schedule. Southern California beaches are gorgeous! There aren't too many places in the world where you can see gigantic mountains looming right beside the ocean. You are almost guaranteed perfect weather year round too!
We recommend visiting one of the many beaches in the Malibu area. Malibu is only about a 15-20 minute drive north of Santa Monica and the beaches are a lot less crowded the further north you go.
You can see this article on where to find these 7 beautiful and secluded beaches in Los Angeles between Santa Monica and Ventura.
Bring a book and work on your tan or go for a walk and see some of the multi-million dollar beach homes. You can even organize group or private surf lessons at Surfrider Beach.
If you're lucky, you might spot a sea otter or a seal. Maybe even whales if you come at the right time of the year. It's not unusual to see a celebrity in the area either.
Visit a theme park
Still looking for some more action? Is relaxing not really your style? Are you more of a thrill seeker? Well you are in luck! Because Los Angeles is home to quite a few theme parks... Take your pick from Six Flags, Knotts Berry Farm, Knotts Soak City, Universal Studio's or Disney Land.
Universal Studio's is great for film buffs but the rides are pretty tame. I have heard people complain about Universal not being quite what they had expected so please choose elsewhere if you are after scary rides.
Six Flags probably has the most terrifying roller-coaster options such as the X-Treme (a rollercoaster where you ride backwards) or Tatsu (which you ride face down during a set of drops, corkscrews, and zero G rolls).
Knotts Berry Farm is another fun option boasting nine roller coasters; some child friendly and others that are downright scary!
Knotts Soak City is a fun place to spend a summer day in Southern California. Come cool of at their 13 acre water adventure park. There are thrill dropping rides and family friendly slides too or you can just relax on the lazy river.
DisneyLand is a land of enchantment where children and the young at heart find that dreams really do come true. This magical place is on many people’s Los Angeles bucket list and is a great place to visit if you are traveling with younger kids.
Watch a live taping of a TV show
This was one of our favorite activities in Los Angeles! We organized tickets to see a live taping of 'The Odd Couple' starring Matthew Perry. It was really cool to see see how they film a live TV show.
The best part?! It's all free! If you think this is something you might be interested you can find out what shows are being taped during you visit to L.A.
It can take a really long time for them to finish filming an episode so be prepared to dedicate the whole day to this activity. You are not permitted to bring food or drinks in so have a big breakfast or lunch before hand. If the filming is taking longer than they expect, they hand out snacks in between taping like sandwiches and packets of chips.
Take a day trip
A lot of the time most traveler's stopping in Los Angeles are on their way to Las Vegas, New York or Mexico. If this is you and this is the only time you will be spending in Southern California, we suggest taking a day trip and exploring SoCal outside of L.A. There are many gorgeous places to see close by that are worth visiting but we have listed some of the top destinations that are within 1-2 hours away.
Catalina Island - Catalina Island is full of history, charm, and where some of Hollywood's biggest stars like Marilyn Monroe and Ronald Reagan vacationed. The island is gorgeous and somewhat reminiscent of a European destination. Catalina is perfect for snorkeling and other water sports, and has a lively restaurant and bar scene. You can catch the Catalina Express from Long Beach to get there.
Santa Barbara - Located in Central California, Santa Barbara has Spanish influenced architecture with red-tiled roofs, rolling golden hillsides and a laid back vibe. Take a winery tour, try some local seafood or shop at some of the upscale stores. It will take you about an hour and a half to drive up there from L.A. If you are not renting a vehicle though you can book a day trip to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles.
Channel Islands - The Channel Islands is designated as a national park and marine sanctuary. It is an example of a coastal Mediterranean ecosystem found in only 5 places on earth! Organize boat transport to the Channel Islands via Island Packers Cruisers (the only boat company allowed to take visitors out to the islands).
Palm Springs - The colorful town of Palm Springs is a quick two hour drive into the Southern California desert. Known for it's unique and bright architecture and stunning surrounding natural beauty, Palm Springs has a range of things to do whether you're into outdoor or cultural activities. If you would prefer a guided tour instead of a self-drive trip, see this Palm Springs Day Trip from L.A.
Start Planning Your Trip
Looking for accommodation?
Ace Hotel - This hotel is an architectural gem and is surrounded by other beautiful art deco buildings. Rooms are modern and the hotel features one of the best rooftop bars in DTLA and stunning views of the city skyline
The Mondrian - Luxury hotel located in the heart of West Hollywood and close to the Grove. This hotel features elegantly appointed rooms, rooftop swimming pool and three bars.
The Kinney - The Kinney Hotel is located only a few blocks away from trendy Abbott Kinney Boulevard and Venice Beach. Rooms are modern and the hotel features an outdoor pool and jacuzzi. This property is catered more towards younger travelers.
Shore Hotel - This hotel is conveniently located across the road from Santa Monica Beach. Rooms are chic and have ocean views. The hotel features a large outdoor pool, 24 fitness club and restaurant.