Los Angeles Travel Guide

USA  #5 in Best Nightlife Scenes in the USA
Credit

Courtesy of Az Jackson/Getty Images

2-day Itinerary in Los Angeles

Explore the best things to do in Paris in 2 days based on recommendations from local experts.

Day 1

  • 1
    #10
    Runyon Canyon Park
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    #10 in Los Angeles
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Just two blocks from Hollywood Boulevard, Runyon Canyon Park is an often overlooked urban park that offers some great views. Atop the canyon, you can glimpse views of the San Fernando Valley and the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Hollywood Sign and Giffith Observatory. The park also boasts several hiking trails and is a popular spot for celebrities to exercise.

    Travelers say that the canyon is reminiscent of Old Hollywood with several old mansions and estates scattered throughout the park – keep your eyes peeled as you follow the trail. Because of the hot, dry climate, the hike can be rough (even for those in great physical condition), so bring plenty of water.

    10-15 minutes by car
  • 2
    #20
    Universal Studios Hollywood
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    #20 in Los Angeles
    Amusement Parks
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Amusement Parks
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the most popular attractions in the Los Angeles area, Universal Studios Hollywood features rides and amusements based on some of the most popular scenes and characters from film and television. You can take the famous tram tour through Wisteria Lane, the setting for the TV show "Desperate Housewives," and past the creepy Bates Motel from "Psycho." Kids can shake hands with cartoon favorites like SpongeBob SquarePants and The Simpsons. If thrills are your thing, there are plenty of hair-raising coasters and rides. On Transformers: The Ride-3D, riders join Optimus Prime in his battle against the Decepticons; meanwhile, youngsters will love the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem 3-D motion-simulator (complete with a minion dance party).

    Universal Studios welcomes hoards of tourists each day; to forgo the long waits, travelers suggest purchasing the Express pass (formerly Front of the Line passes), which cost $179 each, online. This brings up another pain point: the price. At $109 to $128 for one-day general admission for adults and $103 to $123 for little ones ages 3 to 9 (when purchased online), a family excursion to Universal Studios doesn't come cheap.

    15-30 minutes by car
  • 3
    #1
    Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park
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    #1 in Los Angeles
    Hiking, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Griffith Observatory sits on the south face of Mount Hollywood and overlooks the Los Angeles basin. Its location gives visitors impressive views of the surrounding area. But there's more than just a pretty photo-op here. The observatory hosts fascinating exhibitions and features a top-notch planetarium.

    Most recent visitors cited the beautiful setting as Griffith Observatory's main draw, though the free entry was certainly a bonus. However, you will have to pay between $3 and $7 to see the planetarium shows. Griffith Observatory is open from noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, with extended hours on weekends. Free but limited parking is available along the winding roads leading up to the property, or visitors can park in the small lot by the observatory for $4 per hour. A gift shop and cafe can be found on-site as well. For more information, check out Griffith Observatory's website.

    15-20 minutes by car
  • 4
    #4
    Hollywood Walk of Fame and TCL Chinese Theatre
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    #4 in Los Angeles
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of Hollywood's most iconic and memorable sites, the TCL Chinese Theatre (originally Grauman's Chinese Theatre) opened in 1927 and represents the excess of Hollywood's Golden Age. You can tour the theater for $18 (kids tour tickets cost $8 and senior tickets are $14 each); tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 9, 9:30, 9:45 or 10 p.m. every day except Monday. Because of this attraction's popularity, it's best to reserve your spot online in advance. This working theater also shows various newly released films throughout the year.

    Overall, previous travelers said the tour guides' passion for the subject was evident, making their experiences special. However, some wished the area offered a glitzier atmosphere. Parking can also be challenging to find in Hollywood. Additional information about the attraction's tours and movie showtimes can be found on the TCL Chinese Theatre website.

    10-20 minutes by car
  • 5
    #12
    Hollywood Bowl
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    #12 in Los Angeles
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you can catch a gig at the Hollywood Bowl, LA's beautiful outdoor amphitheater, don't pass it up. Since its inaugural season in 1922, this unique stage, set in the Hollywood Hills, has entertained thousands of fans and hosted some of the biggest names in music, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Elton John and Tina Turner.

    Many travelers praise the Hollywood Bowl, touting everything from the sound quality to the scenic overlook. Several also add that all of the seats offer great views and suggest arriving early with a bottle of wine and a picnic basket. Also, save time for the on-site Hollywood Bowl Museum and the Hall of Fame. The museum highlights Hollywood Bowl history with special exhibits showcasing artists who have put on shows at the venue, while the Hall of Fame celebrates performers who embody the meaning of being a "true superstar," according to its website. Inductees range from Stevie Wonder to Frank Sinatra to Gloria Estefan. Admission to both venues is free.

Day 2

  • 1
    #8
    Sunset Boulevard
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    #8 in Los Angeles
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the most iconic thoroughfares in the United States, Sunset Boulevard continues to live up to its legends. In the old days, it represented the classic and glamorous Hollywood lifestyle and became the setting of several famous films, including the obvious classic "Sunset Boulevard." Today, the palm-lined street (which connects downtown LA to Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the Pacific Coast Highway) retains its cinematic appeal, and the Sunset Strip portion has become a popular nightlife spot. The strip is also home to many classic music venues, including the Rainbow Bar & Grill and The Roxy Theatre.

    Recent visitors loved driving along this famous boulevard, adding that gorgeous sunsets can be enjoyed during late afternoon drives. But like other parts of LA, this thoroughfare gets congested once rush hour hits, so plan accordingly.

    20-25 minute walk; 5 minutes by car
  • 2
    #13
    Rodeo Drive
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    #13 in Los Angeles
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Immortalized by Julia Robert's "Pretty Woman" shopping spree, Rodeo Drive is an upscale shopping street in Beverly Hills that features designer stores and small private boutiques. The area is popular with wealthy shoppers, sunglass-wearing celebrities and tourists hoping to see fashion icons.

    Don't be afraid to browse. Most shop owners are used to sightseers walking the area with little intent to purchase anything. That said, many recent visitors cautioned that some stores require appointments for entry and are generally off limits to tourists. Others said the thoroughfare can be a bit boring if you don't plan on shopping, although past travelers with a passion for cars enjoyed looking for expensive vehicles parked along Rodeo Drive's curb.

    20-30 minutes by car
  • 3
    #2
    The Getty Center
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    #2 in Los Angeles
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Getty Center is one of the most impressive architectural achievements in the United States – and it also contains some of the finest works of art in the world. The circular concrete-and-steel structure was designed by renowned architect Richard Meier, and it houses an abundance of art from various ages and nations. Here you'll find Renaissance paintings, 20th-century American photography, Baroque sculptures, historic manuscripts and more, all housed inside a sprawling, modern campus amid the Santa Monica Mountains. The museum also offers spectacular views of Los Angeles on clear days.

    Recent travelers loved the museum for its value and beauty, highlighting the contrast between the art center's subtle refinement and the over-the-top glitz of Hollywood. Many visitors suggest taking a guided tour, noting that the tour highlights interesting parts of the museum they wouldn't have stumbled upon on their own. Free 45-minute guided tours are provided at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. for groups with 15 to 30 people, while complimentary headsets can be borrowed for self-guided audio tours.

    20-30 minutes by car
  • 4
    #3
    Santa Monica Pier and Beach
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    #3 in Los Angeles
    Beaches, Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Just west of downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica contains one of the most legendary beach scenes in the United States. Santa Monica also boasts an abundance of great restaurants and excellent nightlife spots. The 3 miles of shoreline are renowned as some of the best in the area thanks to the soft sands, ideal weather and bevy of attractions. "State Beach," as its known, averages about 340 days of sunshine a year and acted as the backdrop for the popular television series "Baywatch."

    Santa Monica is a very walkable part of town, and many recent visitors suggest you explore the area by bicycle. One of the most scenic rides is along the 26-mile bike path, which runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean and is the longest beach bike path in the world. Travelers also recommend riding the Ferris wheel at the pier and people-watching at the Third Street Promenade.

    10-15 minute walk
  • 5
    #6
    Third Street Promenade
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    #6 in Los Angeles
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Third Street Promenade, popular with shopaholics, has an eclectic vibe similar to its Santa Monica locale. This open-air shopping mall is filled with major chain stores like Urban Outfitters and H&M, as well as more unique boutiques like the Kenneth Karmiole, Bookseller Inc. rare books shop and the toys-focused Puzzle Zoo. You'll also find that outdoor dining options – many of which use local ingredients – are plentiful. And if you're in the mood to cook your own meal, you can find fresh produce at the farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday morning, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    Despite all the tempting spending options, the promenade's atmosphere is the main draw for many recent travelers. Unexpected extras like the sculptured shrubs and talented street performers are particularly popular with visitors. The pedestrian-friendly layout reminded some of shopping in Europe, though others were turned off by the large crowds and noisy atmosphere at night.

    15-20 minutes by car
  • 6
    #14
    Venice Beach
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    #14 in Los Angeles
    Beaches, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Developed in the early 20th century, Venice Beach is modeled – canals and all – after its namesake city in Italy. Admittedly, the experiment didn't live up to its Italian inspiration, but the neighborhood has become distinctly Californian, embodying the spirit of the wealthy, the alternative and the just plain bizarre. Rather than towering churches and intimate pizzerias, you'll find canalside mansions near funky boutiques and restaurants.

    Venice Beach's claim to fame is its boardwalk. Hosting a daily procession of eclectic characters and scantily clad beachgoers, the boardwalk never fails to impress out-of-towners. Past visitors loved checking out the area's unique scene (including the open-air Muscle Beach and the Hotel Erwin's High Rooftop Lounge), although some cautioned that the parts away from the pier were not appropriate for younger children. Also, remember that Venice Beach can get crowded on sunny days and is better suited for sunbathing, not swimming.

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