3-day Itinerary in Los Angeles
Explore the best things to do in Paris in 3 days based on recommendations from local experts.
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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.
Runyon Canyon is free to visit every day from dawn to dusk; however, there is no staff to enforce these hours or to rush to your aid. If you are hiking alone, make sure someone knows you're out in the park and when you expect to return. In addition to the park's trails, you'll find a nature center, picnic tables, a children's play area and limited (but free) parking. To learn more about the park's flora and fauna, trails and history, visit the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy's website.10-15 minutes by car
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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 Front of Line passes, which cost $179, online. This brings up another pain point: the price. At $99 to $116 for one-day general admission for adults and $93 to $110 for little ones ages 3 to 9, a family excursion to Universal Studios doesn't come cheap.
Universal Studios Hollywood is located in Universal City, just northwest of Hollywood and the Hollywood Bowl. Driving is the easiest way to get there, and on-site parking is available for $10 to $40 per vehicle, depending on what time of day you visit and where you park. The Metro's Red Line also stops by the property at Universal City/Studio City station. The amusement park is open daily; hours most days are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., though the park sometimes opens at 9 a.m. and extends its hours until 10 p.m. Facilities found inside include restrooms, food and beverage concessions, gift shops and the WaterWorld stage. For more information on attractions, tickets and opening times, consult the Universal Studios Hollywood website.15-30 minutes by car
- 3#1View all Photos#1 in Los AngelesHiking, Museums, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
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.
If you're looking to spend some time outdoors (without fighting traffic to get to the beaches), Griffith Park is the place to be. This 4,210-acre stretch is the largest urban park in the country. It features more than 50 miles of hiking and biking trails and numerous waterfalls and lagoons. You will also find a variety of attractions here, including the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens, the Hollywood Sign, the Autry Museum of the American West and, of course, the observatory.
Past travelers enjoyed taking in the park's views, especially those provided during their hikes to the Hollywood Sign. Griffith Park is open to the public seven days a week from sunrise to 10 p.m. Admission is free, but individual attractions and facilities (such as sports courts and some of the park's museums) may charge entry fees. Limited complimentary parking is provided throughout the property. Visit Griffith Park's website to find out more.15-20 minutes by car
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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 $16 (kids tour tickets cost $8 and senior tickets are $13.50 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.
While you're here, take a stroll along the free-to-enjoy Hollywood Walk of Fame, where hundreds of movie stars have left their handprints and signatures along the sidewalk. The attraction is open to the public 24 hours a day, and most of its activity and notable names are located between the 6800 and 6900 block of Hollywood Boulevard (which, luckily, is directly in front of the theater).
As one of the most famous and recognized sites in all of Hollywood, the theater and the Hollywood Walk of Fame are really a must-see. But it seems like a lot of people have the same idea – recent visitors said the sidewalk gets packed with camera-wielding tourists photographing the ground. Plus, parking is limited along Hollywood Boulevard. Some, however, said the hustle and bustle was part of the quirky allure of the area. To learn more about the stars and their stars, visit the Hollywood Walk of Fame website.10-20 minutes by car
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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.
The Hollywood Bowl Museum's summer hours are from 10 a.m. to showtime Tuesday through Saturday and between 4 p.m. and showtime on Sundays; offseason hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Available facilities include 14 picnic grounds, a gift shop, two restaurants, restrooms and multiple food and beverage concessions. Parking here is notoriously limited and pricey (fees range from $18 to $50 per vehicle), so consider arriving early and buying your parking space in advance for a discounted rate. Bus services are also available from several park and ride spots throughout the city, or you can park for free at a nearby shuttle lot and take the $6 round-trip shuttle. Tickets, meanwhile, cost $1 to $100 each and are sold at the box office and through Ticketmaster's website.
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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.
The clubs, bars and restaurants along Sunset Boulevard maintain varied hours, but it is always free to visit and open 24 hours a day. For those without a car, the city's No. 2/302 travels along much of the thoroughfare.20-25 minute walk; 5 minutes by car
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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.
Rodeo Drive is free to visit 24 hours a day, but shops and nearby eateries maintain varying hours of operation. Parking prices vary by location, but several areas offer waived fees for one or two hours. A few bus routes – including the No. 4 and 20 buses – also make stops nearby. For more information and a store directory, check out Rodeo Drive's website.20-30 minutes by car
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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.
Located just north of Santa Monica near the UCLA campus, the Getty Center can be a bit tricky to get to. (Note: The only public entrance to the Getty Center is by Getty Center Drive from North Sepulveda Boulevard. Some GPS devices offer misguided directions.) Parking costs $15 per vehicle or $10 after 3 p.m. Upon arrival, you board a tram that ascends the hill to the museum grounds. Best of all, entry to the museum is free and no reservations are required. Available facilities include two coffee carts, two cafes, a restaurant, gift shops and a garden with more than 500 kinds of plants. The museum is open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Visit the Getty Center's website to learn more.20-30 minutes by car
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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.
In addition to the famous pier's Ferris wheel, visitors can zip around on a roller coaster, catch lively street performances, play carnival games and grab a bite to eat from one of the food vendors or at a sit-down restaurant. Several bemoaned the high price tag on some of the pier's food and attractions – ride tickets cost $5 to $10 each – but with free entry, your losses will probably be mitigated. The pier is open 24 hours a day, however, hours will vary for local businesses. Parking is plentiful and costs between $6 and $15, depending on the season and lot location. Travelers can also get to the area by taking the Big Blue Bus or riding the Metro's Expo Line to the Downtown Santa Monica station. For more information, check out the Santa Monica Pier's website.10-15 minute walk
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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 or 8:30 a.m. to 1 or 1:30 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.
Open 24 hours daily and free to visit, the promenade is located a few blocks from the Santa Monica Pier and sits near several bus stops and the Metro's Downtown Santa Monica station. There is plenty of parking but finding a spot can get competitive at peak hours. Restaurant and store hours vary by location. Check out Downtown Santa Monica's website for more information.15-20 minutes by car
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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.
Venice Beach, which is free to visit 24 hours a day, is situated approximately 18 miles southwest of central LA. Street parking and parking lots are available around the neighborhood, though finding a spot can be a hassle at certain times of the day; read all street signs carefully to avoid a ticket or towing. Bus Nos. 1, 33 and 733 also have stops nearby. Additional information can be found on the neighborhood's website.
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Sitting south of West Hollywood is one of LA's most beloved landmarks: The Original Farmers Market. Founded in 1934, this cream-colored facility reels in both residents and tourists with the promise of fresh produce and the aroma of ready-to-eat snacks. You can visit throughout the week, although hours vary depending on the day. Entry is free, but you'll want to have some cash on hand should any of the treats whet your appetite. Complimentary parking (when a ticket is validated at the market) is also provided for up to 90 minutes of parking at the market's two lots.
Though some previous visitors wished this market had more produce and meat stalls, most appreciated the tasty dishes sold by many of the prepared food vendors. But keep in mind that this market is often crowded and has limited tables, so expect to eat outside the market area or wait for a table to become available. Find out more by visiting the market's website.
For a more contemporary shopping experience, head to The Grove. This massive commercial and entertainment complex sits adjacent to The Original Farmers Market. Here, you'll find a long list of your favorite shopping haunts, as well as a variety of dining venues, a movie theater and plenty of special events.
Although free validated parking is offered in the property's garage for the first hour, traffic getting to and from the site is a common complaint from visitors. But once on-site, travelers can soak up The Grove's trendy atmosphere and find plenty to buy and eat. The Grove opens its doors every day at 10 a.m. and stays open until 8, 9 or 10 p.m., depending on the day. Visit the property's website to learn more.10-15 minute walk; 5 minutes by car
- 2#9View all Photos#9 in Los AngelesMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
Next door to the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum sits the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the linchpin of the Los Angeles museum district. Since its 1965 opening, LACMA has showcased thousands of pieces, from Islamic artifacts to European impressionist paintings to modern art. With constantly shifting exhibitions and unique architecture stretched across more than 20 acres of land, LACMA offers a rewarding experience for both serious art buffs and casual travelers.
You may have come for the Picassos or the Cézannes inside, but don't overlook the outdoor scenery. Recent travelers suggest visiting LACMA at night to admire Chris Burden's Urban Light installation, which is made up of 202 restored cast iron antique street lamps. Others warn that a visit here isn't cheap: Prices at the property's three eateries are high, general admission tickets cost $15 for adults (children 17 and younger get in for free), tickets that include access to special exhibits are $25 per person, and parking will set you back $14.
Situated on Wilshire Boulevard in west LA, LACMA is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Fridays; and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum's ticket office.5 minute walk
- 3#17View all Photos#17 in Los AngelesMuseums, Natural WondersTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, Natural WondersTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
If your kids go crazy for dinosaurs – and really, what kid doesn't? – then a visit to La Brea Tar Pits & Museum is sure to be the highlight of their trip. Although the pits look like the set of a cheesy PG movie, hot tar has been bubbling from the earth at this spot along Museum Row in the Miracle Mile for about 40,000 years. And from the gooiest part of LA, more than 1 million bones from 600-plus species have been discovered. The adjoining museum houses many of the artifacts found at the tar pits; consequently, it is home to one of the largest collections of Ice Age fossils in the world.
You can check out the tar pits completely free of charge, but museum ticket start at $12 for adults; reduced entry fees are available for children, students, members of the military and seniors. All tickets include tours of property facilities like the fossil lab, lake pit and observation pit. Complimentary admission is offered on the first Tuesday of every month (excluding July and August) and on every Tuesday in September, but ticket lines on these days are long, so consider reserving your pass online before you arrive. Even if you have to pay to visit, most visitors agree that the exhibits are well worth perusing.
La Brea Tar Pits & Museum sits next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. In addition to the museum's exhibits, all ticketholders have access to restrooms and a gift shop, plus on-site parking for $12 per vehicle. The No. 20 bus also stops by the property. Check out the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum website to learn more.15-20 minutes by car
- 4#15View all Photos#15 in Los AngelesSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND...Read More »
As morbid as it may seem, your best chance of spotting a celebrity in LA is at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Here, you'll find the final resting places of Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield, Cecil B. DeMille and other stars who once worked at the adjacent Paramount Pictures Studios. You can pick up a free map at the entrance to the cemetery (where you'll also have a great view of the famous Hollywood Sign).
Recent visitors described the cemetery's quiet grounds as "peaceful and serene," adding that the grounds are well-maintained. Many also appreciated the informative caretakers and the on-site flower shop's friendly staff.
On Saturday evenings in the summer, the cemetery hosts outdoor movie screenings; tickets can be reserved online on Cinespia's website for $16. Parking can be challenging to find in the area, but advance parking is available online for $12 to $15 per vehicle.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery entrance gate is on Santa Monica Boulevard in the heart of Hollywood and is open to visitors every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5 or 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. Check out the Hollywood Forever website to find out more.15-20 minutes by car
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This Frank Gehry-designed concert hall has helped revive downtown Los Angeles, which was once dominated by mundane office buildings and lackluster entertainment options. Now, nightlife and culture burgeon in the area, and the concert hall is at the forefront. The curvaceous, stainless steel exterior is worth a visit alone, but travelers will also want to catch one of the Los Angeles Philharmonic's performances at the hall. (For ticket and price information, visit the Los Angeles Philharmonic's website.)
But you don't have to invest in concert tickets to experience this performance venue: You can follow a docent-led tour or a self-guided audio tour of the exterior and interior (though the actual concert auditorium is off-limits). Hour-long guided and audio tours are both free; audio tours are offered Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 2 to 5 p.m., while guided tour hours vary by day and are generally available on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. For a full tour schedule, visit The Music Center's website.
While some past travelers found the tour dull, others left awestruck. If you're interested in architecture – or simply want to see another side of Los Angeles – a visit to the hall is highly recommended.
You'll find the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, a few blocks northeast of the 7th Street/Metro Center and Pershing Square Metro stations on the Red, Purple, Blue and Expo lines. There is parking available underneath the venue (which generally costs $9 per vehicle), and there are also additional parking garages nearby. The hall's box office is open Tuesday through Sunday between noon and 6 p.m., and facilities like restrooms, refreshment concessions and a gift shop can be found inside.10-15 minute walk
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Grand Central Market, or foodie heaven according to visitors, is located in downtown Los Angeles by the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The venue features high ceilings and an open layout, with food vendor stalls offering different cuisines that represent cultures from the Los Angeles area and beyond. The market has been in operation since 1917 and serves everything from craft beer, coffee and pressed juices to deli fare, egg sandwiches, falafel, tacos and chow mein.
Visitors love this market's lively atmosphere, where LA's diversity shines. However, this foodie paradise is popular, so expect lines, especially at popular vendors like Eggslut, Sticky Rice and Bombo. You'll also find that meals here are considerably cheaper than those served in other parts of the city.
Near Dodger Stadium, the market serves as a great place for pre- or post-baseball game snacks. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, Grand Central Market is accessible by bus and Metro. If you'd rather drive, you can pay to park in the garage on Hill Street. Visit the Grand Central Market website to find out more about vendors and special events.
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