Los Angeles is a city with many sides to it. There are the beautiful Southern California beaches stretching along the Malibu coast, the mansions of Beverly Hills, and the bright lights of the Sunset Strip. Beyond the well-known sights, this city is a true melting pot of cultures, where there are restaurants from all corners of the globe and plenty of unique cultural sights that allow you to get different glimpses of the city. A good introduction can definitely be done in a long weekend. Here’s a list of highlights that should cover a Los Angeles itinerary for three days. If you have more than 3 days in LA, check out my 5 Days in Los Angeles itinerary.
Best Time To Visit Los Angeles
Los Angeles has some of the best weather in the country, where it doesn’t rain often and the winters are mild. That being said the best time to go is during early autumn when the summer crowds have gone home. Early summer weather can also be quite foggy (especially on the coast), so keep that in mine as well.
How To Get Around Los Angeles
LA is massive and it’s recommended that you rent a car, if you want to cover a lot of ground. Ride share companies are plentiful, and a great option if you want to go out at night and don’t want to worry about parking. Public transportation isn’t very reliable, but there is a Metro that has a limited route around the city and was recently expanded to Santa Monica.
3 Day Los Angeles Itinerary
Santa Monica Pier and Beach
It’s often quite crowded and touristy, but the view of the pier and the adjacent beach is a classic LA sight and not to be missed when you’re on the Westside. There are walking/biking paths along the beach where you can rent a bike or an electric scooter via an app and make your way all the way to Venice Beach for some prime people watching.
For a quiet spot that’s away from the boardwalk crowds, these residential neighborhood homes are a perfect place to go. Most of the houses are on the water and there are plenty of walking paths that you can wander around on. After you’ve worked up an appetite make sure to go to nearby Gjusta for solid sandwiches and baked goods, or skip straight to dessert and go to Salt and Straw for their popular artisanal ice cream.
Reserve at least a half-day for this iconic beach town. It feels like a whole different world, but is really just 45 minutes from LA (without traffic). The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades is worth a stop on the way. Point Dume beach is a personal favorite and can get crowded, so make sure to come early. Malibu Seafood is a great stop for lunch where you can have your fill of fresh seafood in the form of fish and chips and clam chowder.
Head inland to the cultural center of the city, and choose from many different sights to see. Japantown is a great historical neighborhood to wander around in and find delicious treats. City Hall has an excellent observation deck that’s free, where you can take in the city for miles and miles. The Walt Disney Concert Hall is also free and worth taking a self-guided tour of for its whimsical architecture. For food, head to Grand Central Market, where many good food options await, including Wexler’s Deli and Tacos Tumbras A Tomas.
Griffith Observatory and Park
Speaking of views, to really get an idea of how large the city is, make your way up to the Observatory, and take in the stunning city panorama below. Wander inside the observatory itself and learn about its impressive history and function. Don’t forget to take a picture with the Hollywood sign in the distance out on the Observatory deck.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
As one of the oldest cemeteries in the city, this is the final resting place for a lot of individuals who helped shaped the entertainment industry, including Judy Garland and quite a few silent film stars. It’s a scenic park that provides a nice escape from city life and is well kept. Pick up a map for a self-guided tour or join a guided tour. Frequent outdoor movie screenings and concerts on the grounds are also worth checking out.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
As one of the biggest art museums in the western U.S., you can easily spend half a day or more wandering through the various exhibits that range from ancient to contemporary art. There are also films and performances that take place at the museum as well, and it’s fun to go there at night when all the lamps in the front are lit. It’s located on Museum Row, and the La Brea Tar Pits nearby are worth checking out if you’re into ice age fossils.
If you want to get a taste of how the rich and famous live, head over to this ritzy street where wealth is on full display. Even if you cannot afford anything, it’s fun just to people watch those who can. For a bit of relief from the madness, stop by the Paley Center (free entry with donations accepted), is a great place to learn more about the TV and radio industry with informative rotating exhibits.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
It’s hugely overrated, but if you haven’t been before you should go just to see the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater. There’s not much to see beyond that, but there’s the nearby Sunset Boulevard that is worth driving down, where you can spot legendary Old Hollywood landmarks like the Chateau Marmont. Afterward, head to the east end of Sunset Boulevard to eat at Kismet, a Mediterranean restaurant in Los Feliz.
Universal Studios Hollywood
For a more satisfying Hollywood experience and one of the best things to do in LA with kids, head to Universal Studios where you can witness a bit of movie magic. Make sure to hop on the studio tour that brings you through well-known film and TV show sets. For thrill seekers, there are plenty of roller coasters that are modeled after big blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Transformers. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter land is worth it alone for the visit. If you want to forgo the lines, there’s a Front of Line pass for the park, that’s pricey but is worth it for all the time saved.
Echo Park Lake
Get a great view of downtown LA from this scenic park, and enjoy a stroll around the grounds or take a paddleboat out on the lake. It’s especially magical at dusk when the city lights are twinkling in the distance. Afterward you can head to dinner nearby at Silverlake to restaurants like Pine & Crane, Silverlake Ramen, or Night + Market Song.
Known as the Little Osaka of LA, this is a great spot to go for dinner with its array of excellent Asian eateries. Tsujita is the most popular spot here with its tsukemen ramen, but there is also Nong La Café, which serves up delicious Vietnamese comfort food. Make sure to save room for dessert in the form of frozen yogurt at Honeymee’s or cream puffs at Beard Papa’s.
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