LA gives you that feeling that you can be anything you want to be. It’s the place for free spirits, artists, dreamers… in fact, even the poster above the bed in our hotel room reminded us of this as soon as we woke up each morning. ‘In Los Angeles, Everybody is a Star’.
So what is it that makes Los Angeles so special? It’s true that in terms of sites to see, a couple of days is all you need – but to feel LA, to experience the magic, the locals, the dreams, the culture, you will need much more than that. This, however, is not always possible; especially in a world where everyone is short on time and life is so fast-paced. But if you do find yourself in LA with a couple of days to explore, this itinerary is perfect to cover all there is to see during your 2 days in Los Angeles.
- The Best Time to Visit Los Angeles
- Getting Around in Los Angeles
- The Best Places to Stay for 2 Days in Los Angeles
- What To See in 2 Days in Los Angeles
- Central LA: Hollywood and Beverly Hills
- West LA: Santa Monica and Venice Beach
- Additional Suggestions
- Recommended Places to Eat in LA
The Best Time to Visit Los Angeles
As you probably already know, Los Angeles is located on the west coast of North America in sunny California – and they call it sunny California for a reason. Whatever time of year you decide to visit Los Angeles, chances are that the weather will be good – it’s not too hot in summer (mid-June through to end August) and not too cold in winter (December through to end February). You may get the occasional rainy day in winter, however this shouldn’t last more than a few hours and should not be a reason to avoid travelling there.
Aside from the weather though, there are two other factors that you may want to think about. The weather may be warmest in summer, but it also means that it’s peak season and the time where most tourists flock to the city. During peak season, you can expect airfare, car rental and accommodation costs to be higher, as well as more crowds in the top attractions.
My personal recommendation would be to travel to LA between the months of March and November, avoiding April (due to spring break madness) and summer (June through August), which basically means all of autumn (fall for my American readers) and almost all of spring. The weather is pleasant, crowds are manageable and prices are not as exorbitant as they are during the summer. Wins all round!
Getting Around in Los Angeles
Whether you drive in to LA or land at LAX, you’re going to need a car to get around. Transport infrastructure in LA is not as optimal as in other parts of the country (surprisingly!) and the city is actually HUGE. Most of the main attractions are not within walking distance of each other so if you drove in and already have a rental car – great. Do not drop it off expecting that you can then swap to public transport once you arrive.
Driving in Los Angeles
According to the DMV, if you have a valid driving license from your country of residence, you are free to rent and drive a car in LA. Just be sure to prepare yourself for bad traffic that doesn’t really let up no matter what time of day it is and for the occasional aggressive driver – apparently LA is known for this.
Parking in LA
If you are booked in at a hotel for your LA travels, you will likely be able to leave your car at the hotel overnight – check with your concierge whether there is a cost for this. When out and about during the day, you have two options. The first is on-street parking, just make sure you are confident in your parallel parking! This can either be free or metered but in all honesty, we were never lucky enough to find a parking spot on the street – let alone a free one.
The second and more probable option is car parks, and there are plenty of them through out the city. Car parks in LA typically charge an hourly rate with a cap, so where possible, try to make the most of using the same car park.
This may be the case in other parts of California, or even across the States in general, but one thing I was not used to seeing in car parks was valet parking – keep a look out for this. We drove into our first LA car park on Rodeo Drive, and were very much reprimanded for driving the car inside the car park ourselves and not leaving it to the valet. This is unusual in London, but we found it to be very much the norm in LA.
Depending on the location, some shopping malls or restaurants may offer complimentary parking for your visit. Just be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the signs.
Airport Transfers to and From LAX
Like anywhere in the world, the concierge at your hotel will be able to organise airport transfers to save you any inconvenience. You can also book yourself a shared airport transfer which will cost less than if your hotel was to organise a private airport transfer for you. The choice is entirely yours and will depend on both your budget, and whether you feel like making small talk with fellow travellers after a long-haul flight.
Taxis, Public Transport & Tour Buses
If you find yourself stuck for 2 days in Los Angeles without a car, don’t despair. There isn’t that much to say about public transport in LA, other than it leaves a lot to be desired, but if you are unable to rent a car for whatever reason, the best way to get around is using taxis. A word of warning – because a lot of other people have the same idea (especially if heading on a night out where alcohol is consumed), you’ll want to book your taxis ahead of time. Your hotel concierge can assist you with this. Alternatively, Uber and Lyft can also be used.
The other option is to book the LA Half Day City Tour. Whilst you will be part of a group – which may or may not be your thing – you’ll get to see the City of Angel’s most famous sites in 6 hours, all with a professional local tour guide. Hop-on and hop-off tours are also available!
The Best Places to Stay for 2 Days in Los Angeles
Given the sheer scale of the city and the fact that you’ll likely have a car, the location of your hotel will really depend on your own personal preferences and why why you find yourself in LA. Here are some suggestions, divided by area.
Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown LA is the central business district and home to around 85,000 residents. If you are travelling to LA for business, this is could be the area where many of your meetings are held. That said, it also works very well if you are bringing family on your business trip and spending an extra 2 days in LA as a treat. Equally, DTLA also works well if you are travelling for pleasure – there are some awesome hotels located here!
Moving away from the business district to the sheer LA luxe and old school glamour of West Hollywood. Home to Beverly Hills and the Sunset Strip, West Hollywood boasts some of the world’s most infamous hotels that have become the stuff of legends, as well as popular hangouts for celebrities.
One for the beach lovers. A beachfront city in West LA, bordering Southern California and a little further away from chaos and traffic, Santa Monica is the perfect location for those wanting to wake up to the sound of the waves and feel the sand between their toes as soon as they step outside.
What To See in 2 Days in Los Angeles
Given the size of the city and the limited time frame a 2 day itinerary allows, this guide is divided into sections based on locations, just like the hotel recommendations. It should make life a little easier for readers who are looking to optimise their time in LA, especially when everything is so spread out and time optimisation is crucial!
Central LA: Hollywood and Beverly Hills
The Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory
Start your first day in LA by waking up bright and early and heading to the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Observatory. May as well start with one of the most famous well-known landmarks in town! Fun fact: the infamous white Hollywood sign was initially put up as an advertisement by a real estate company in the 20s. As the city began to become more and more tied to the showbiz world, the sign remained as a symbol of the glitz and glamour of the entertainment business.
There are a number of vantage points that you can visit, so as to get the best pictures. Our pictures were taken at the Lake Hollywood Park lookout point, which was perfect and not overly crowded. Depending on where your hotel is, you will need a car or taxi to take you there, unless you fancy a morning jog up a few hills.
What you may not know is that you can’t actually get right up close to the Hollywood Sign as it is surrounded by private property and you don’t want to be in trouble with the authorities for trespassing – unless of course, you know the owner of the land you are on. Instead, you may want to visit Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, for a view of both the Hollywood Sign and the city of Los Angeles. Admission is free, and you can find more information about opening hours and activities on their official website.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame
A mere 3 miles and a 10-minute drive from Griffith Observatory is the beginning of the Hollywood Walk of Fame – a street of about 1.3 miles honouring Hollywood stars over the years. Aside from being long, the Walk of Fame is VERY crowded and you may find yourself getting somewhat agitated with the crowds or the numerous people trying to sell you a tour or other suspicious substances. Check out where the star you want to see is located and that could save you all the aggravation.
It was there on Hollywood Boulevard that I really felt the heartbreak of LA. There are so many people handing out their demo tapes or busking on the street, some of which were so talented. There was a particular moment where there were so many buskers that their music overlapped each other, drowning out the talent amidst the crowds of people who just kept walking by, sadly without even noticing them.
The stars are not the only things to see on Hollywood Boulevard, and the next couple of attractions can all be seen on your walk. Whilst we only saw them from outside, you may be interested in wandering inside for tours. If you think you might be, it’s worth purchasing a GO Los Angeles Card (all-inclusive pass – use this link for a discount!). Before purchasing, check out the list of attractions it covers and decide if this makes things a little more cost-effective!
TCL Chinese Theatre (rebranded from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre)
When strolling along the Walk of Fame, you’ll spot what may be confused as a red Chinese pagoda, were it not for its popularity. This building, however, is in fact TCL Chinese Theatre, which was recently re-branded from the more well-known name – Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. This theatre was built in 1927 and was the location for numerous movie premieres, including the George Lucas’s Star Wars from 1977.
More famously perhaps are the cement slabs known as the Forecourt of the Stars, located just in front of the theatre. These are no ordinary slabs, but home to the hand prints, footprints and autographs of celebrities over the decades. The most famous, perhaps, being those of iconic Marilyn Monroe. Proof to back this statement is the fact that her hand prints are darker than the rest, due to so many visitors placing their hands inside the print.
For our LA travels, just a glimpse of the theatre and the Forecourt were enough, especially given the amount of tourists. If, however, you would like to learn more about the TCL Chinese Theatre, daily tours are held and are included in the GO Los Angeles Card. Note: that if you do choose to take this tour, you won’t be able to use the GO Los Angeles Card at the Hollywood Museum so choose wisely!
The Dolby (Kodak Theatre)
Located adjacent to TLC Chinese Theatre is the Dolby Theatre – more widely known by its previous name, the Kodak Theatre. It is at this theatre that the most prestigious awards of the silver screen are held – the annual Academy Awards that we are all familiar with. A daily 30 minute tour of the Dolby Theatre is also available via the GO Los Angeles Card.
Other Nearby Attractions: The Hollywood Museum, Madame Tussauds and LACMA
There are many other attractions that you can visit whilst walking along the Walk of Fame and Hollywood Boulevard – many of which I personally did not visit. Madame Tussauds Hollywood is located just opposite TLC Chinese Theatre, as is the Hollywood Museum, where you can learn more about the history of Hollywood. If art is more your thing, walk down LaBrea Avenue for about an hour and you’ll eventually reach the Los Angeles Country Art Museum (LACMA), where LaBrea crosses with 6th street. If you are pressed for time, it’s worth driving or catching a cab here.
On the opposite LACMA entrance on Wilshire Boulevard (parallel to 6th Street), you’ll find a large-scale cluster of street lamps which have become quite popular for photography, especially when all lit up at night. My recommendation is to visit during the day if you want to go inside the museum (which closes at 5pm), or at night if you just want to see the street lamps illuminated. If you do visit during the day, you may also be interested in checking out La Brea Tar Pits and Museum – a prehistoric fossil excavation site. Unlike LACMA, entrance to Tar Pits is included in the GO Los Angeles Card.
Of course, a trip to LA would not be complete without stopping at Rodeo Drive, the city’s most exclusive shopping area, lined with high-end stores and swank cars. Celebrity sightings in the area are also common so keep a look out for familiar faces!
End your day on Sunset Boulevard and perhaps stop for a drink at the bar at Hollywood’s infamous Chateau Marmont. It was very much considered a haven for writers, artists and celebrities to let loose in private, and this naturally led to a plethora of scandalous tales. So many scandalous tales in fact that a book was written about it, and you many want to pick this up ahead of your long-haul flight!
Note that you MUST make a reservation for drinks at the bar, and preference is always given to hotel guests. If you are not staying at the hotel, just be sure to book well in advance to make sure you get a spot.
West LA: Santa Monica and Venice Beach
The Getty Center
It’s safe to say that yesterday was a busy day from all the running around, and possibly too many hours hitting those designer stores on Rodeo Drive. Day 2 of our Los Angeles itinerary is far more relaxed, and one that will appeal to the beach lovers! The day can start slightly later than perhaps the previous one, as the first attraction opens at 10am. Admission to the Getty Museum is free of charge, but there is a small cost for parking. It’s worth it just to see ‘Irises‘ , the famous van Gogh painting painted in the year before his death.
Santa Monica Pier and Beach
After visiting the Getty Center, it’s time to head to the beach, were you can stroll around and perhaps even grab some lunch. Start with the Santa Monica Pier, a bustling double-jointed wharf that is home to Pacific Park (a small amusement park) and a few eateries. You’ll spot a sign on the pier that marks the end of legendary American highway, Route 66, signifying that the highway only ends when the sea stood in the way. Your GO Los Angeles Card also allows you unlimited rides at Pacific Park.
Whilst you can find food on the pier, I suggest walking a short 10 minutes to Shutters on the Beach, where you can find a much more pleasant area to stop and have lunch by the sea. You may have already decided to book this as your hotel! Either way, just be sure to make a reservation so you won’t be disappointed. The coconut cake comes highly recommended!
Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Whilst you’re in the neighbourhood, it’s worth making the 10 minute drive over to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, named after the late 19th century millionaire entrepreneur and visionary. The street is packed full of restaurants, trend-setting fashion boutiques and local art galleries, and has an air of sophisticated yet laid-back Venice Beach vibes.
Venice Canal Historic District
From Abbot Kinney Boulevard, take a 10-minute walk over to the Venice Canal Historic District. There isn’t need to spend longer than 30 minutes here, but it’s worth stopping by just to see the man-made canals by developer Abbot Kinney (whose street you just came from!). He sought to recreate the feel of Venice Canals in Italy in Southern California. It is now over 100 years since they were first constructed and significantly smaller than it once was (due to some canals being turned into roads), but the Venice Canal Historic District remains the home of some high-end residential property.
Venice Beach Boardwalk
If you’ve timed it well, you can reach Venice Beach Boardwalk just before sunset. If you’re a little early, head behind the boardwalk to check out the well-known Venice Beach sign that you’re all probably familiar with. You’ll get to snap some fantastic pictures and really feel some quintessential LA vibes. After getting your fill of the Venice Beach sign, end your day by chilling on the beach and watching the sun as it sets.
You may have already noticed that there was no mention of theme parks. If travelling as a family with young children, there are many which you might want to visit. Just swap out some of the sites mentioned above for half a day at places such as Universal Studios, Legoland or Warner Bros. Studio Tours.
To treat myself whilst in Hollywood, I wanted to have a facial at one of LA’s well-known medical aesthetic clinics. With so many stars around and everyone trying to hold on to their youth, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I went to the Face Place and have to say it was absolutely amazing. Would definitely recommend a visit if you have the time. The Signature Facial was relatively well-priced at $140 for about an hour’s work and they did a fantastic job. Other recommended clinics include: ZO Skin Care Center by Zein Obagi, Vida Emmanuel Day Spa and Kate Sommerville.
Recommended Places to Eat in LA
Most of these restaurants were recommended to us by the staff at The French Laundry, a three-Michelin star restaurant located in Yountville, California.
Din Tai Fung
A world-renowned Taiwanese restaurant that specialises in soup dumplings and noodles, located in Beverly Hills.
Quarters Korean BBQ
An industrial-chic restaurant featuring Korean BBQ food along with a full bar, patio seating and cool vibe. You may have to wait some time for a table! Located in Koreatown.
Chef Michael Cimarusti’s celebrated upscale seafood restaurant, located in Hollywood.
A super-small, reservations only eatery with a global tasting menu, located in Hollywood.
An upscale French-inspired bistro in a chic setting with communal tables, located in La Brea.
If you’ve found this guide helpful for when you spent 2 days in Los Angeles, tell us in the comments!
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