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48 hours in Los Angeles - see the stars, the sign and the studios in just one weekend

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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.

Friday

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.

 

Saturday

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.

 

Sunday

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.

 

Location/contact details:

Day one

Los Angeles City Hall

200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

www.lacity.org

(213) 473-3231

 

Yang Chow Restaurant

819 North Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

www.yangchow.com

(213) 625-0811

 

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

 

STAPLES Center

STAPLES Center, 1111 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90015

 

Dodger Stadium

1000 Elysian Park Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012

www.dodgers.com

(323) 224-1507

 

Day two

Pacific Palisades Village

Monument Street, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

pacificpalisadesvillage.com

 

Will Rogers State Historic Park

1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

www.parks.ca.gov

(310) 454-8212

 

Third Street Promenade

1351 3rd Street Promenade #201, Santa Monica, CA 90401

www.downtownsm.com

(310) 393-8355

 

Patrick's Roadhouse

106 Entrada Drive, Santa Monica, CA 90402

www.patricksroadhouse.info

(310) 459-4544

 

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

www.getty.edu

(310) 440-7300

 

Tar & Roses

602 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA 90401

tarandroses.com

(310) 587-0700

 

Day three

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028

www.walkoffame.com

 

Chinese Theatre

6925 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028

www.tclchinesetheatres.com

(323) 461-3331

 

Starline Tours

6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028

www.starlinetours.com

(800) 959-3131

 

Hollywood Bowl Overlook

7036 Mulholland Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90068

www.lamountains.com

(310) 589-3200

 

The Hollywood Museum

1660 Highland Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90028

www.thehollywoodmuseum.com

(323) 464-7776

 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036

www.lacma.org

(323) 857-6000

 

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

www.petersen.org

(323) 930-2277

 

La Brea Tar Pits

5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036

www.tarpits.org

(323) 934-7243

 

The Roof Garden at The Peninsula

9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90212

www.peninsula.com

(310) 975-2855

 

Other trips

Griffith Observatory

2800 East Observatory Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027

www.griffithobservatory.org

(213) 473-0800

 

The Greek Theatre

2700 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027

www.greektheatrela.com

(323) 665-5857

 

Universal Studios Hollywood

100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608

www.universalstudioshollywood.com

(800) 864-8377

 

Langer's Delicatessen

704 South Alvarado Street, Los Angeles, CA 90057

www.langersdeli.com

(213) 483-8050

 

California Science Center

700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90037

www.californiasciencecenter.org

(323) 724-3623

 

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90007

www.nhm.org

(213) 763-3466

 

Hammer Museum

10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024

hammer.ucla.edu

(310) 443-7000