Heading To Los Angeles for the First Time?
You’re in for days of sunshine and style. I’ve crafted the perfect Los Angeles itinerary so that you’ll have an amazing trip, and you’ll be counting the days until you can come back!
Before You Visit LA…
Make sure you have a pair of these. They’re an LA necessity, and you’ll fit right in with the locals!
Where to Stay in LA
I recommend staying in Santa Monica when visiting LA. It’s a really walkable part of town, and you’ll be close to the beach! So if you want some downtime, Santa Monica is a great place to call home for a few days.
The Best Hotels in Santa Monica
For hotels in Santa Monica, I highly recommend the Le Meridien Delfina. The pool is fabulous, and it’s really well-located close to restaurants, shopping, AND the beach. You’ll be able to walk to tons of places (yes, sometimes people DO walk in LA!), and you can also rent one of the hotel’s bikes. Oh, and you’ll rack up Starpoints, too!
Another great alternative is The Huntley. It’s a great choice if you like more boutique-y style hotels, and The Huntley has a really chic vibe. It’s also located SUPER close to the beach, and the views are UNREAL.
Los Angeles Itinerary Day 1: Venice Beach, Santa Monica and Malibu
Kick off your Los Angeles itinerary with some of the highlights of LA’s west side. It was my home turf for a few years so I know it well! Admittedly, it’s also my favorite part of the city, hands-down. It’s walkable (cab-able), but you could also consider renting some wheels to get around.
Breakfast and Shopping in Venice Beach
Start your day in Venice Beach with breakfast at Gjelina, well-located on Venice’s Abbot Kinney Blvd. Afterwards, wander up Abbot Kinney for some of the best shopping in LA! Don’t miss Burro, a concept store to rival all concept stores. If you’re looking to bring home any cute, unique goodies from your time in LA – this is the place!
Another sweet spot is Ilan Dei Venice, epicenter of all things outdoor chic – and total eye candy to wander through.
Venice Beach Canals
Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, wander over to the Canal District of Venice to check out the canals that meander through this part of town. It’s true! Venice, CA, has canals just like the city of Venice in Italy. In fact, Venice, CA was inspired by the Venice of old, and intended to become a cultural hub of LA.
You might recognize the bridges over the canals from the movie Valentine’s Day. Remember?
Finally, head west to Venice Beach and stroll or ride north along the boardwalk. This is some of the best people-watching in LA! Not to mention once of the city’s most popular beaches. Don’t miss the skate park, as well as Muscle Beach – a Venice classic where people pump iron right on the sand (you know you want to).
Santa Monica Pier and Promenade
Head further north up the coast to Santa Monica, LA’s crown jewel on the coast. No visit to Santa Monica would be complete without a walk out on Santa Monica Pier, and a ride on the ferris wheel. Afterwards, take a stroll through the 3rd Street Promenade, a three-block-long pedestrian mall.
Shopping on Montana Avenue
Once you’ve gotten the lay of the land in Santa Monica, you can stroll up to Montana Avenue, on the north side of the neighborhood. From 2nd street going east, Montana Avenue has adorable boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants galore.
A great spot to stop for lunch is Father’s Office, home of the best burger in LA, and one of the best I’ve had in my life – EVER. Father’s Office is only open for lunch on the weekends, so if it’s a weekday, I would also recommend R+D Kitchen. Keep your eye out for celebrities – I’ve had many a sighting at one of the Starbucks on Montana!
Santa Monica Stairs
In fact, if you’re in the mood for celeb-spotting, drive by the Santa Monica Stairs, just north of San Vicente. The stairs are built along a steep canyon, and we a well-known (yet still somehow “secret”) workout spot for locals – and celebrities always seem to be there, too!
Wrap up the Day in Malibu
Now that you’ve covered some of Santa Monica’s highlights, head further up the coast to check out Malibu. You’ll need a car to get there from Santa Monica. Malibu is best-known for its beaches, and with good reason.
You can spend the remainder of the day either living the beach life on the sand, exploring the Santa Monica Mountains, or checking out Malibu’s highlights – including the Getty Villa and the Malibu Country Mart.
A classic Malibu spot to end your evening is Duke’s Malibu – perfect for tropical cocktails and ocean views!
Los Angeles Itinerary Day 2: Beverly Hills and Hollywood
Start off Day 2 of the perfect Los Angeles itinerary with a walk down the famous Rodeo Drive, home to designer boutiques galore. At the very southern end of Rodeo is the Beverly Wilshire, made famous by the movie Pretty Woman. It’s a gorgeous hotel, and worth a stop to admire the glitz.
Explore West Hollywood
From Beverly Hills, you can cruise down the one and only Sunset strip to trendy West Hollywood. If you didn’t get enough shopping on day 1, there’s plenty more to be had here! Take your pick from the boutiques of Melrose Avenue upscale The Grove mall. There’s also tons more shopping (and celeb-spotting) on the streets surrounding the intersection of 3rd and Robertson.
Tourist Highlights of LA
If you want to check out the tourist gems in LA, continue east over to Hollywood proper. You can check out the famous Chinese Theatre, home to many a movie premiere. Continue on down Hollywood Boulevard to the intersection of Hollywood & Highland, which is a great spot for a photo of the Hollywood sign in the distant hills.
Further along down on Sunset is the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Who’s your favorite star?
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
If the tourist magnets aren’t your thing, check out the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) instead. The museum is home to a GIGANTIC collection of art – in fact, it’s the largest art museum on the west coast. You can buy your tickets online ahead of time. The LACMA is also home to Urban Light, that quirky and charming group of lampposts that you’ve seen all over instagram!
See LA from Above
Every Los Angeles itinerary should include a view of the city from up above. Head over to Griffith Park and visit the Griffith Observatory, perched on top of Mount Hollywood. It’s also a great spot for another view of the Hollywood sign!
If you’d rather spend your last afternoon getting a workout, an alternative is to hike Runyon Canyon. The views from the top of the trails are just as stunning, and you’re bound to bump into a celebrity getting Fido some exercise! I can almost guarantee it.
If you Have More time in LA…
There’s so much to do in LA that it’s hard to fit it all in! But if you’re lucky enough to have more than two days to spend in LA, there’s plenty more to see.
One must-see in LA that you could include in Day 1 is a visit to The Getty Museum. The architecture of the building itself is worth seeing, and the treasures inside are the icing on the cake! Or maybe the cake itself? Anyway, it’s incredible!
If you’re outdoorsy, check out the beachy towns in LA’s South Bay: Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. Tons of beachy bars and of course, oceanside relaxation! Another option is to check out a Dodgers game if they’re in town.
If you’re into exploring cute neighborhoods, check out Silverlake and Echo Park for hipster boutiques and restaurants. Or, if you’re traveling with kids, you could hit up one of LA’s theme parks, including Universal Studios (Don’t miss Citywalk!) and of course Orange County’s Disneyland. But you’ve probably already heard of that.
There you have it – the perfect Los Angeles Itinerary!
If you’re traveling to California, make sure to check out my suggestions for the perfect San Francisco itinerary, and the perfect San Diego itinerary! If you like off-the-beaten path travel spots, check out my roundup of the best hidden gems in California!
And did you know that Vegas is only a few hours from LA by car? Check out this post on all the must dos if it’s your first time in Vegas.
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