With nearly 4 millions people, Los Angeles is the second largest US city, its urban area is even more gigantic: Los Angeles is a tentacular city. Don’t try to visit L.A. in a day, the city is so big and going from a neighborhood to another one can take an hour. Personally I really like this city, as long as you know why you’re going there, who you’re going to visit, and that you know you to take the time to discover it. There are a lot of touristy places, but there is also a particular Californian way of life that makes L.A. a appealing and unique place.
This article was last updated in February 2018, and will be updated with new discoveries! If you have other good plans to share or questions to ask, post a comment!
Read my other articles if you’re planning a trip to Los Angeles:
Choose the neighborhood where to stay
Whether you choose Airbnb, home exchange or hotels, you will soon be faced with the question: where to stay in Los Angeles? This is an important choice to make, as the city is very extensive, and you can easily find yourself one or two hours away to get where you want. Think about:
- what you want to see in Los Angeles.
- how long do you have.
My experience :
The first time I was in Los Angeles, I stayed two nights in a hotel in Studio City, the Sportsmen’s Lodge *, the hotel is great for its price, with a pool, the street is not great, but it is well located to reach the whole northern part of Los Angeles.
I’ve also had the opportunity to spend a week in Los Angeles, and I chose to spend 6 nights at an Airbnb in Venice Beach. It was a vacation week centered on a seaside neighborhood, although I made a few trips to the museum, to Koreatown and Torrance. It was very chill.
For my third extended stay in Los Angeles, I split my time between Redondo Beach and Venice Beach. Hermosa is a bit far away, but the beachfront up to Manhattan Beach is nice. I also looked around Silver Lake *, for the hip side, but I preferred to stay near the ocean!
Arriving at L.A.X.
L.A.X. is a huge airport in Los Angeles, and that’s probably where you’ll rent a car. Forget the taxis and Uber or even public transport, better have your own vehicle to move around Los Angeles. Car rental companies are located outside the airport, and you will need to take a shuttle to get there. If you do not have a GPS on your phone, rent one: it will be absolutely necessary to navigate the city. I always recommend having a paper map, in case of GPS failure, it can save your vacation (and if you go on a road trip after, the map will never fail you, even when the cell network is nonexistent).
Beware of traffic jams at night: allow at least 20 more minutes to reach the airport.
To read: During your long flight to Los Angeles, I recommend as a travel guide the Green Guide of the Southwest USA by Michelin *: I worked on it, but not on Los Angeles, I know the author who did the chapter on the city and he’s passionate about L.A., his recommendations are great.
What to do in Los Angeles?
The house from Charmed tv show, 1329 Carroll Avenue.
Los Angeles is Hollywood,
the capital of American cinema!
- The Hollywood letters on the hill: it is forbidden to approach and touch them, but it is possible to see the Hollywood letters, installed since 1923, driving on North Gower Street. It is possible to park along this winding road and make some shots. More info on the hike that allows you to approach the letters, I did it in February 2018.
- A tour of some Stars’ houses (by bus, of course … they will not invite you in their home … though, maybe!): You can book your ticket visit the Warner studios + tour star houses *
- Hollywood Boulevard and the stars on the sidewalk: it’s very touristy, a little dirty, but for fans … why not.
- Go to Disneyland *, it’s the first Disney park, located in Aneheim
- A tour of Universal Studios * (I went there for a day, I loved it!) Or Warner Studios *, you can book your ticket from the blog by following the link
- Attend a TV show, it takes a little preparation, you can read this article from Gaëlle who lived a few years in Los Angeles
A lifeguard cabin on Venice Beach
it’s the beach and the Pacific Ocean!
- Head to Venice Beach! I wrote a long article about everything you can do on this legendary beach. I enjoyed cycling on the bike track along the beach, meet the athletes of Muscle Beach, see the skateboarders, street art murals… Being there for a week, I took the time to go to yoga, walk around the Venice canals, and enjoy Abbot Kiney Street with its many cafes, chic boutiques, restaurants and shops. Read my Venice Beach Guide
- There is beach everywhere in Los Angeles!
South: Even though the name is misleading, Manhattan is a L.A. beach, next to Hermosa and Redondo Beach. You can spend the whole day walking around, or even surfing for the more experienced. The Pacific waters are cool, so you have to be motivated to swim!
North: the very chicSanta Monica beach, further north, Malibu, and the millionaires’ houses on the seafront (which collapses little by little …)
Urban Light (2008) at the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
it’s also culture with exceptional museums!
Drop your cliches about Los Angeles as a city devoid of any culture: it’s here that dance, music and art are done today! Do you doubt it? Visit one of the city’s museums, one of the art venues to see outstanding performances. Below are the museums I visited, there are others, if you spend more than 3 days in Los Angeles, you will have something to do:
- LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art: a beautiful building with a lot of art in its backyard! There are all kinds of exhibits in this museum, take at least half a day to enjoy them as there are plenty of sub-museums integrated in this place.
- Getty Center, up a hill, accessible by train (north of the city): spectacular collections that cover just about every imaginable time periods, in a place with beautiful views of the city
- Broad: Right in the downtown, next to the beautiful Walt Disney Center, this is a free contemporary art museum. Book your tickets on the site in advance, or queue up on the same day (which I did).
Venice Beach, Los Angeles
- Night ride to the Griffith Observatory, to feel like a movie star, and see the entire city lit up at night
- Go walking in the downtown of Los Angeles, a neighborhood where it is actually very easy to walk! Enter the beautiful Grand Central Market, tour the Disney Center, an auditorium created by Frank Gehry in 2003 … it’s another side of Los Angeles; just off the downtown, past El Pueblo, the historic Los Angeles area, and most of all, enter the beautiful Art Deco train station, the Union Station.
- Go get Korean food in Koreantown (and do karaoke)
- Buy the Los Angeles Activity Pass *, $75 for 50 attractions
- For an exceptional outing, do a helicopter tour over Los Angeles
Valley of Fire, Nevada, close to Las Vegas
Go on a road trip from Los Angeles
Los Angeles is located in Southern California, and the city is a great start and/or finish for a road trip loop in the American Southwest. The possibilities are limitless. You can stay along the Pacific Coast, go south to San Diego or north to San Francisco. You can go west and head to national parks like Joshua Tree National Park, or go further to Arizona (where the Grand Canyon is) or even to Utah, where you’ll wander among the most spectacular sceneries of the Wild West.
* links with asterisks are affiliate links: it means that if you buy an activity or book your hotel from the blog, I get a commission. It does not cost you more. The recommendations are my own decisions, and I have not been paid to put these links.