You cannot do LA in a day. It’s too vast, there are too many sites and too much traffic. I recommend your first visit to Los Angeles be 5 days, then you can split up your hotel stays between two areas, West Hollywood for the first half, then Venice or Santa Monica for the remaining days. If the idea of moving hotels makes your skin crawl… stay in SM/Venice and do day trips to WeHo, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood… and MAYBE Downtown if there’s something particular you want to see or do.
My #1 Tip for Visiting LA:
Which brings me to my most important piece of advice for visiting Los Angeles: Look up the calendar of events for your dates. There might be someone epic playing at the Hollywood Bowl or a movie on the lawn at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, or maybe there’s a unique art exhibit – or a basic betch instagram pop up downtown, or a vegan street fair in Silverlake or the Dodgers are playing the Red Sox, or a soundbath on the beach in Malibu or your favorite comedian at the laugh factory.. or maybe you just need to know that the Golden Globes is happening the week you’re planning to visit so you should expect traffic to be extra horrific and hotels to be extra expensive.
I strongly suggest picking one ‘local happening’ to anchor your trip. I really can’t recommend a concert at the Bowl or the Greek theater more – it’s quintessential LA – but there are a zillion unique events happening every day throughout Los Angeles, there has to be one that speaks to you.
Itinerary: Day 1 West Hollywood
Book a rental car and drive to weho hotel to check in. Resist the urge to get a red convertible mustang. My favorites that are affordable: Petite Ermitage, the new Kimpton, Palihouse, Chamberlain. If you’re looking for the most iconic stay ever, then I suggest, of course, Chateau Marmont.
Just to reiterate, you need a car. Once you’re checked in, head to the Grove to grab an ice coffee or a cocktail for some people watching. AND/OR go to Medmen, the Apple store of marijuana, and buy some weed because you can.
- Cecconis (trendy & classy, $$$)
- Catch (trendy AF & stunning atmosphere, $$$$),
- Little Door (oozing romance, Mediterranean food, $$$),
- Gracias Madre (Vegan Mexican food, stunning atmosphere, superb drinks $$$),
- Kura (hidden gem, my fav Sushi spot, $$),
- NightMarket (Thai hole in the wall-ish, $$)
- Pizzana (You want the world’s best pizza, get the Cacio e pepe, $$)
- Dan Tanas (hole in the wall-ish Italian w/celeb sitings, not my fav food, but it’s cool and you can get the best garlic bread in the city $$)
- Tocaya (Casual organic Mexican food, great patio for people watching on Sunset Blvd, $)
After dinner maybe hit up Tom Tom in boys town to experience the full effect of West Hollywood’s vibrant gay community, Laurel Hardware for a fun bar scene, Delilah if you’re looking for a sceney lounge, or Tower Bar for a classy nightcap.
Day 2 Explore Weho + Hollywood
Get coffee and a croissant @ Alfreds coffee on Melrose, hike runyon canyon (1 hr loop hike – great views & so trendy), and get an Earth Bar smoothie on the way back to the hotel. Uber to Hollywood blvd to see the stars and the Chinese Theater. Get a poolside cocktail at the iconic Roosevelt Hotel to pay homage to Marilyn Monroe, who stayed there for extended periods of time. Hollywood is pretty lackluster (trashy), but hop on one of the open air tour buses for the afternoon to see all of the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills celeb homes. SO cheesy, but SO FUN. You don’t need to make a reservation, there are a million companies offering tours all the way up and down Hollywood blvd. Since you’ll be doing all of this for awhile, I suggest ubering to Hollywood blvd instead of driving and paying for parking.
For Dinner: either stay in Weho for one of restaurants I mentioned above and go to a comedy act, improv show, or play afterwards or….
- venture into Silverlake/Echo Park if you want to check out the hipster food & bar scene. End your night with a slice of vegan fried ice cream pie from Magpies (best dessert in the world)
- Check out Koreatown for a korean bbq experience. I recommend Chosun Galbee ($$$), end up at BreakRoom 86 for karaoke
- head to Beverly Hills to eat at my favorite Italian restaurant in the world, Madeo ($$$$). After Madeo have cocktails at ther bar in the Montage hotel, there’s always a live pianist
- if you prefer a steakhouse, Mastros ($$$$) in Beverly Hills is the way to go, ask to sit on the 2nd or 3rd floor
- if you just want some elevated Mexican food + shopping, go to Javiers ($$$) and then stroll through the Century City outdoor mall post din
Day 3 Beverly Hills & Santa Monica:
Check out of hotel and drive to Beverly Hills. Have fancy & overpriced breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel by the pool or in the Polo Lounge (if you eat at the Polo Lounge get the lobster Benedict oh em gee). Post breakfast, park at one of the lots on Little Santa Monica and walk down rodeo drive window shopping. Make your way down to the Beverly Hills Cheese store and pick up some cheeses and accompaniments from Norbert for your afternoon beach picnic. Drive to South Beverly Dr and have a Spanish latte from Earth Cafe before continuing your drive to your Westside hotel. I personally like Hotel Irwin in Venice or Shutters in Santa Monica. Spend the rest of your day exploring 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Peer. And having your picnic cheese lunch in the park overlooking the ocean or right on the beach.
- Felix (Italian, amazing atmosphere, $$$)
- Gjelina (arguably most popular restaurant on the westside, Italian-ish, $$$)
- Plant Food & Wine (vegan, of course, $$$)
- Rose Cafe (Casual, lovely atmosphere, $$)
Day 4 Malibu-bu
Pack a bag with a change of clothes for dinner and drive up the coast for a beach day in Malibu. Have brunch at the Farm overlooking the water. My fav beach is Zuma, but you can stop anywhere along the freeway that you see a spot to go stick your toes in the sand. There will be plenty of places to rent surf or paddleboards if you’re feeling adventurous. Post beach, stop by Neptunes Net for some fish tacos. Then head to Malibu Wines for some wine tasting and to pet the giraffes (make an appt ahead of time) or to Malibu Cafe for adult games and cocktails.
- Taverna Tonys is our fav Greek spot ever. Excellent food, fun vibe ($$)
- Nobu (if you feel like a scene with a view, $$$$)
- Cafe Habana (casual Mexican and margs $$)
Day 5 Venice
Check out one of the million yoga studios in Venice or SM, and have a juice on Abbot Kinney at Kreation Juicery. Rent bikes at the beach and cruise the bike path along the ocean. Stop for a lunchtime rosé at the Waterfront bar before checking out of your hotel. If you’re planning on driving somewhere else from here, I suggest stopping at Erewhon Grocery store and loading up on the most creative healthy foods ever.
Heading to Santa Barbara next? Read on