This world-famous destination that is on the top of many people’s bucket lists is full of fun and exciting things to see and do, including some of the most iconic landmarks in the world such as the Hollywood Sign and Walk of Fame.
But being the largest city in the state and more than double the size of San Francisco, a stop-off in LA can quickly feel rushed. I recommend taking a long weekend in Los Angeles to visit the must-see sights at a relatively leisurely pace. Plus, because the neighborhoods are far from each other, having three days of time makes planning your trip easier.
One Day in Los Angeles: Hollywood & Beverly Hills
Start your Los Angeles weekend itinerary in the most famous and desirable areas of the city, Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. You’ll see iconic show-business venues, huge mansions, stunning city views, and maybe even a few celebrities.
Walk of Fame
One of the first things people do when they visit Los Angeles is check out the iconic Walk of Fame. For many, stepping on the embedded stars feels surreal after seeing them so many times in movies and TV shows. But, whether you find it an incredible experience or a bit disappointing, the Walk of Fame is still an attraction you want to tick off.
Head here first thing in the morning when most of Hollywood is still sleeping off their hangovers. At this time, you can take photos without other people’s feet ruining your shots. Over 2,700 actors, pop stars, and show business legends have their names engraved on the Walk of Fame, with the unique sidewalk attraction spanning 18 blocks. Following the stars is a great way to start your trip to LA.
Hollywood Boulevard & Sunset Strip
A large section of the Walk of Fame covers Hollywood Boulevard, but there are many other sights to see along this road aside from the sidewalk. Once you’ve finished hunting for stars, be sure to catch a glimpse of some of the oldest movie theaters in the state. Look out for Dolby, El Capitan, TCL Chinese Theater, and The Egyptian Theater.
Next, stroll down to Sunset Strip, the area of Hollywood that is bustling 24/7. There are many sights to see here, especially various famous entertainment venues. Some of the most notable ones are The Hollywood Palladium, The Roxy Theater, and The Comedy Store. Then, stop for brunch at one of the many cafes and sit outside as you people-watch on this bustling boulevard.
Beverly Hills & Rodeo Drive
From the Sunset Strip, head west to one of the best things to do in LA, see the homes of the rich and famous, aka Beverly Hills. You can travel here on a guided tour with narrations of celebrity homes.
After admiring the lavish mansions, stroll to the upmarket shopping street Rodeo Drive, made famous by the Hollywood movie Pretty Woman. Enjoy some window shopping (perhaps gasp at the price tags) and even go and try on some lavish garments.
Now is the time to finally see the legendary Hollywood sign sitting atop Hollywood Hills, overlooking the city. Some visitors are happy to glimpse the enormous billboard from afar, while others want to get as close to it as possible. While it’s forbidden to stand right next to the sign and touch it, you can get behind it and reasonably close in front of it.
Even if you’re not too bothered about taking photos with the sign, it’s still worth going up to Mount Lee just for the incredible vista of the city below. You can reach the viewpoint by walking or driving up Mount Lee Drive and see what LA looks like from behind the famous sign. If you’re not up for it on your own, opt for a guided group hike with commentary.
Another incredible viewpoint in LA is at Griffith Park observatory. The best time of day to be here is at sunset, so if you have time, hike or drive to this famous landmark. You’ll experience a breathtaking panoramic of LA from the observatory, spotting Hollywood, Downtown LA, and the Santa Monica Mountain Range. Then, as night falls, you’ll see the spectacular sight of the city illuminating before your eyes.
Two Days in Los Angeles: Santa Monica & Venice
For day two, switch up the scenery and ambiance by heading to the beach towns of Santa Monica and Venice. Here, you can enjoy a slower-paced day relaxing at the beach, strolling along the boardwalk, and enjoying the amusements at the pier.
Third Street Promenade
Start your day with a stroll around Downtown Santa Monica. The pedestrian mall esplanade of Third Street Promenade is full of cafes, restaurants, and shops. Grab some warm pastries from Merci Clement or sit on the sidewalk tables at Espresso Cielo. Or, for eco-conscious travelers, enjoy the array of health food stores here like True Food Kitchen, Sweet Green, and Lemonade.
Santa Monica State Beach
After breakfast, head to Santa Monica’s 3.5-mile (5.6 km) long beach, where you’ll find plenty of things to do. Depending on the weather, you can take a swim, sunbathe, or join a volleyball game. Be sure to check out the original Muscle Beach too. This outdoor gym dates back to the 1930s and is always full of bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts.
Here, you can also take a walk down the pier. Along with being a hub for amusement and rides, it’s also a historic landmark. The 1909 pier was the first concrete pier on the West Coast of the USA.
Venice Beach Boardwalk
From Santa Monica Beach, it’s only natural to follow the boardwalk southeast into Venice. You’ll know when you’ve entered this boho neighborhood as you’ll be greeted with a row of hippy shops and street performers. The boardwalk is a fabulous place to do a spot of people watching, so grab a slice of pizza from one of the food stands and enjoy the atmosphere.
If you’re a skateboarder, you’ll love the skate park, but if not, you’ll still see some impressive tricks as many professionals frequent this park. Another thing to do at Venice Beach is to try your hand at surfing. During a 2-hour Group Surfing Lesson, you’ll learn the basics of this water sport on one of the most famous beaches in Los Angeles.
Venice Canals & Pacific Avenue
Next, head inland slightly to explore the quirky streets of Venice and check out the colorful murals. Then, if you continue along Pacific Avenue, you’ll soon arrive at the Venice Canals. These man-made canals may not be as impressive as the real thing in Italy but it makes for a pleasant afternoon stroll, nonetheless.
You can then continue to Marina Del Rey to admire the lavish yachts. When your stomach rumbles, head for dinner and drinks at boho-chic eatery The Rose.
Three Days in Los Angeles: Downtown LA or Universal Studios
With so many incredible attractions yet to be seen, you certainly won’t feel at a loss about what to do in Los Angeles on day three. Check out the vibrant Downtown LA and its sub-districts in the morning, the rest of the day at one of LA’s top amusement parks.
Grand Central Market
Fill your belly ahead of a busy day at the historic Grand Central Market. Here, you can pick from over 40 food vendors and taste some of the finest local produce. You’ll find every type of cuisine at this indoor food court.
Clark Street Bread is a top choice for breakfast, serving freshly-made croissants and smashed avocado on sourdough. Or, if you’re a fan of eggs in the morning, you’ll love Eggslut, which makes a mouthwatering gourmet breakfast bun.
Arts District & Chinatown
Next up, check out some of the small galleries in the Arts District and the boundary-pushing exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Then do a spot of shopping in the fashion district or wander the streets of Chinatown.
Runyon Canyon Park & Descanso Gardens
If you prefer a relaxing afternoon in nature rather than other more tourist attractions, Runyon Canyon Park and Descanso Gardens are two excellent nature spots worth visiting.
You’ll find one of the most popular hikes in Los Angeles at Runyon Canyon Park. Choose from the short 1.8-mile (2.9 km) walk to the viewpoint, or hike around the entire 160-acre park by following the 3.5-mile (5.6 km) loop. As Runyon Canyon Park is set high in Hollywood hills, both trails give spectacular views of the city and have an incredibly peaceful ambiance.
From here, drive out to the city outskirts to Descanso Gardens, a beautiful 150-acre botanical garden with shady forested areas, landscaped lawns, and tranquil streams and ponds. This botanical garden is unique as it has a wide variety of fruit trees, creating an explosion of color. You’ll find orange, peach, pear, pomegranate, crabapple, passion fruits, and many more in this tranquil spot.
Universal Studios & Warner Bros Studio Tour
A different option is to spend the day at LA’s huge movie-themed amusement park, where you can feel like a child again. Some of the top attractions include Jurassic World Ride, Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey, and The Simpsons ride.
Then, head to Warner Bros next door for the famous studio tour. Tickets include a 1-hour guided excursion where you’ll get to see the real-life sets of your favorite movies and TV shows, from Batman to Friends. You’ll then have two hours to explore independently, reenact scenes, and play around at the interactive soundstage.
Los Angeles FAQs
Three days is an ideal amount of time to spend in LA. On days one and two, you can tick off most of the famous sights, then on day three, you can explore some of the lesser-known yet equally fabulous attractions. Alternatively, if you don’t like rushing around while on vacation, three days will allow you to slow down the pace yet still see plenty of cool things.
LA’s main attractions are spread out across the city, and the easiest way to travel between them is by car. If you’re flying into LA, you can rent a car in the city from one of the major rental companies. However, be warned that traffic in the city is terrible between 7-9 AM and 3-7 PM, so avoid traveling in LA during rush hour.
If driving is not an option, don’t worry. The metro system is easy to use and services many of the city’s top attractions. There are also local buses and the tourist hop-on-hop-off bus you can use. In addition, some neighborhoods like Venice and Santa Monica are very walkable, so you only need transport when going from one part of the city to another.
It makes sense to stay in one of the areas you visit on day one or two of your Los Angeles itinerary. Hollywood is one of the best places to stay in Los Angeles for first-time visitors as its nearby many of the top attractions.
By staying in Hollywood, you’ll also be surrounded by excellent restaurants and bars and enjoy frequent views of the Hollywood sign. You’ll also be close to the morning attractions on day one of your itinerary. Here are three recommendations for where to stay in Hollywood.
Loews Hollywood Hotel: If you want to enjoy some celebrity treatment in Hollywood, this is the place to stay. Here, you’ll enjoy a rooftop pool, sun terrace, and gourmet breakfast buffet each morning, and you can even opt for a room with a vista of the Hollywood sign.
Magic Castle Hotel: Magic Castle is a top choice for families. They offer apartments sleeping up to six people, and the hotel is just a block or two from Hollywood’s main attractions.
Dunes Inn: This low-cost motel is an excellent option for those renting a car as they offer free parking. You’ll also be just a few minutes from the Walk of Fame and Dolby Theater.