48 hours in Los Angeles - see the stars, the sign and the studios in just one weekend
Los Angeles is enormous. It isn’t really a city so much as several cities stuck together. This means that without careful planning, you can spend most of your time driving from place to place. Follow this itinerary to avoid that, and see the best parts of the city in a weekend.
5 p.m. – Most people vacationing in Los Angeles will have a rental car, because of the size of the city and the lack of public transport, but there are ways of getting to your hotel without a private vehicle. Los Angeles’ main international airport, LAX, is as vast and sprawling as the city itself, but it is about an hour away from downtown. You can catch the LAX FlyAway bus to several inner city hubs, or catch a cab, which will cost about $70 to take you downtown, but can cost a lot more depending on traffic.
7 p.m. – Once you’re checked in at your hotel, spend the evening in downtown LA. Start at LA City Hall, where you can take the elevator to the 26th floor and get a fantastic view over the city from the balcony, free of charge. This is also an ideal spot to go to get a good photo of the Hollywood sign.
8 p.m. – For dinner, take the short walk to Chinatown, where you’ll find no shortage of excellent Chinese restaurants – Yang Chow is particularly good. After dinner head out to a show: the stunning Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall is nearby for those who want to hear music; while the Staples Center and Dodger Stadium host concerts as well as sporting events all year round.
9 a.m. – Saturday is the perfect day for a trip to Santa Monica. Start with a quick bagel in the Palisades Village, before heading up to Will Rogers State Park. The short hike up to “Inspiration Point” isn’t too challenging and the view from the peak is beautiful.
1 p.m. – No trip to LA would be complete without a bit of shopping, and there’s nowhere nicer to do that on a sunny day than Third Street Promenade, a shopping strip described as an “outdoor mall”. When your bags are full, zip down the California Incline to Patrick’s Roadhouse for lunch. The superb food makes this beachside spot a favorite of Santa Monica locals like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Try the “Governator Special” – if you think you can handle it.
5 p.m. – Now make your way to Santa Monica Pier for a quick visit to the big wheel and to rent some bikes from Sea Mist Rentals tucked away under the pier. Cruising down the cycle path is the best way to see the sights of Santa Monica Beach and you can head all the way down to Venice Beach. Once in Venice, check out the famous bodybuilders at Muscle Beach and the nearby skatepark. Here you can even cross Pacific Avenue and ride through the peaceful Venice Canals Walkway.
7 p.m. – Cycle back to the pier to drop your bikes off, then get a cab up to the Getty Museum. This wonderful building is beautiful in itself, and is filled with some of the best art collections in the city. The gardens are gorgeous, and the balconies looking down over the city are the perfect place to watch the sunset.
9 p.m. – Santa Monica has no finer place to eat than Tar & Roses, whose oxtail dumplings are famous for miles around. It has a great selection of wines and beers too, and is close enough to the beach for a late night stroll too.
9 a.m. – Sunday will be devoted to LA’s most famous district: Hollywood. Start off on Hollywood Boulevard to see the Walk of Fame and TCL Chinese Theatre, formerly known as Grauman’s. The really dedicated can even join a Hollywood Starline Tour, which starts nearby.
11 a.m. – The Hollywood Museum is full of fascinating insights into the history of Hollywood and the West Coast film industry from its early days to now. An extensive and well-laid out collection makes this unmissable for movie buffs or Marilyn Monroe fans: there’s an entire floor dedicated to her!
1 p.m. – Grab a sandwich at a local store and then wind your way up Mullholland Drive to the Hollywood Bowl Overlook, where you can eat your lunch with a fabulous view.
3 p.m. – Head back through Hollywood to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). This LA institution puts on consistently excellent exhibitions of both classical and modern art. If none of that appeals to you, try the Petersen Automotive Museum across the road, or go and see the mammoth skeleton at the La Brea Tar Pits next door.
5 p.m. – There’s just time to get a trip to Beverly Hills in before you go. Head to the Roof Garden bar on top of the Peninsula Hotel and enjoy being treated like a movie star while you sip a farewell mimosa in the heart of 90210.
If you have more time…
The Griffith Observatory is one of LA’s most famous landmarks and has fantastic views of the city. It’s right next to the historic Greek Theatre, which puts on concerts all year round. The Universal Studios Tour is another perennial favorite in LA, but requires a full day to do it justice.
Food-wise, few people make a visit to California without dropping into a branch of In-N-Out Burger, a Golden State special which shows other restaurants how fast food should be done. Langer’s Deli is the place to go for the best sandwich in the city, and its pastrami has a reputation nation-wide. Don’t get there too late though: it closes at 4.
Those looking for a more intellectually stimulating trip shouldn’t miss the California Science Center or the nearby National History Museum LA County. Both have huge and engaging collections and exhibitions in their respective fields. The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena has a fantastic art collection and is well worth the short drive.
Just across the road from the Science Center and the Natural History Museum is the campus of the University of Southern California, which is a nice place to spend an afternoon exploring. LA’s other major college, the University of Los Angeles, also has a charming campus, in beautiful Bel Air.
For something a little different, the Hammer Museum is a small but charming space that shows a weird and wonderful variety of exhibitions in an attractive modern building, complete with interactive outdoor exhibitions.
For those looking for a break from the big city, Malibu’s bars and beaches are just up the road from Santa Monica. Beautiful Santa Barbara is a little further up the coast, but the jaw-dropping drive along Pacific Coast Highway makes the trip totally worthwhile.
Los Angeles City Hall
200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Yang Chow Restaurant
819 North Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
STAPLES Center, 1111 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90015
1000 Elysian Park Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Pacific Palisades Village
Monument Street, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Will Rogers State Historic Park
1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Third Street Promenade
1351 3rd Street Promenade #201, Santa Monica, CA 90401
106 Entrada Drive, Santa Monica, CA 90402
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Venice Canals Walkway
Venice, CA 90292
The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90049
Tar & Roses
602 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028
6925 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028
6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028
Hollywood Bowl Overlook
7036 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068
The Hollywood Museum
1660 Highland Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90028
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90007
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Petersen Automotive Museum
6060 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036
La Brea Tar Pits
5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036
The Roof Garden at The Peninsula
9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90212
2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027
The Greek Theatre
2700 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027
Universal Studios Hollywood
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608
704 South Alvarado Street, Los Angeles, CA 90057
California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90037
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90007
10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024
New York, New York
San Francisco, California
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