Only 2 days in Los Angeles? No worries: this Los Angeles itinerary will guide you through the best things to do in Los Angeles for first timers and what to see in Los Angeles in 2 days.
LA is like a cluster of cities, and it’s hard to say where is the center of LA. I wouldn’t know what to reply if you asked me! That is why if you have only 2 days in LA, it might be a little overwhelming to plan your trip. That’s why I put together this 2-day LA itinerary to hopefully make things easier for you.
Day 1: The Essentials: Hollywood, Beverly Hills & Griffith Observatory
Take a Walk Down Hollywood Boulevard
On your first morning, let the sun rise on Hollywood, the land of dreams on celluloid. You can start off your discovery by taking a walk down Hollywood Boulevard, one of the biggest and everlasting cultural icons Los Angeles possesses, no matter how much time passes since the Hollywood golden era. With landmark spots, museums, and other bits of rich heritage, here are a few suggestions on how to spend your first morning.
Before I continue, let me give you an honest tip: do not drive to Hollywood. Parking is hard to find, pricey, and the area is worth exploring on foot. And if you’re not staying in the area, you can easily reach the heart of Hollywood by bus (Metro busses run on Hollywood Blvd and the adjacent Sunset Blvd) or by metro (the Metro Red line stops 3 times between La Brea and Western). You’ll thank me later!
Hollywood Walk of Fame
If you came to LA to be among the stars, here’s your first chance to walk among them. Going down the road on Hollywood Boulevard, the sidewalk is filled with stars dedicated to over 2,500 of the greatest performers the world has ever known, from Michael Jackson to Paula Abdul, Louis Armstrong, Clint Eastwood, and many others (the crossing at La Brea and Hollywood Blvd is a good starting point for this exploration; you’ll recognize it thanks to the white, circular arcade at the south-east corner of the intersection).
After a few blocks of star gazing, stop at the shopping center in front of Orange Ave. If you walk a couple of flights of stairs and look north, you’ll see the Hollywood sign blinking in the distance on the Hollywood mountains.
The Dolby Theater
The Dolby Theater (formerly known as “The Kodak Theater” and located at 6881 Hollywood Blvd) has been the home of the world-famous annual Academy Awards ceremony since it was opened up in November 2001. While it also serves as a host to other concerts and performances during the year, guided tours of the theater are available every morning. Check out the inside of the theater, sit where your favorite stars have sat, and soak up in the glamour of it all.
TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX
The TCL Chinese Theatre, just left of the Dolby Theater and very visible from the street thanks to its over-the-top decorations, is one of the world’s most famous cinema houses. Besides screening some of the best movies, the cinema provides a great Hollywood experience. You can pose for pictures with models of all your favorite stars from Darth Vader to Beatrix Kiddo from Kill Bill, and you can also place your hands and feet in the same places your faves did at the theatre forecourt.
Visit a Quirky Museum
If you are looking for a more structured display of Hollywood’s fine artifacts, then visit a museum. Check out the Guinness World Record Museum where all the documented feats of the world are brought to life. Visit the life-sized wax models of your favorite stars at the Hollywood Wax Museum. Alternatively, discover many of the obscure oddities displayed at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.
While you’re in Hollywood, you should also give some thinking to treating yourself for a classy lunch. One great option is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, Musso & Frank Grill, opened since 1919 at 6667 Hollywood Blvd. Order a dry martini and a stake for a very astounding meal in the land of classic cinema.
Ride Down Rodeo Drive
With the morning over and your nice walk of Hollywood completed, get in a car and explore Beverly Hills as you take a ride down Rodeo Drive, about 15 minutes away from Hollywood with no traffic. Rodeo Drive has more than 100 stores, restaurants, and hotels lining its path, enclosed in three blocks in the Beverly Hills exclusive shopping district – The Golden Triangle (between Rexford Dr, Santa Monica Blvd, and Wilshire Blvd). Park for free and window shop at any of the ultra-high-end stores where the mega-rich visit.
If you didn’t have lunch yet, find something to eat and drink at any of the outdoor cafes or restaurants. My to-go place here is Guisados (120 S Linden Dr), for the best tacos in LA. Not into Mexican food? Sugarfish by Sushi Nozawa (212 N Canon Dr) is always a wonderful treat for high-class sushi, even if it’s at another price level than Guisados, as well as the minimalist nook Walter’s Cafe (153 S Beverly Dr), for good easy food at a good easy price.
Wherever you eat, consider a handcrafted, delicious cupcake at Sprinkles Beverly Hills Cupcakes (9635 Santa Monica Blvd) on your way out.
➤ Not very interested in this afternoon plan? You can go on a self-guided walking tour in Downtown LA instead. Downtown LA didn’t use to have a great reputation, but it’s now really great to spend a few hours.
Tour Celebrity Homes in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air
After your food and shopping stops on Rodeo Drive, get back in your car and take a ride around Beverly Hills and the nearby neighborhood of Bel Air. You can drive around and take a tour of the magnificent homes where some of America’s biggest stars have lived (and where some still currently live).
If you’re an architecture buff, do check out Spadena House (516 Walden Dr) and O’Neill House (507 N Rodeo Dr), two very unique buildings that deserve a peek. Take also a look at The Playboy Mansion (10236 Charing Cross Rd), where the legendary Hugh Hefner lived for many decades, or at the Spelling Mansion, also known as The Manor (594 S Mapleton Dr), home of the great producer Aaron Spelling.
Last but not least, I always like a stop at the Graystone Mansion (905 Loma Vista Dr), where you can do a self-guided tour of this omnipresent film location. No matter the house you’ll be looking at, for the best tour from Rodeo Drive, I recommend driving west on Wilshire, then take a right on Beverly. Glen. This way, you can take a right on Sunset Blvd and explore from there.
If you’re not up for a drive, there are also guided bus tours and Starline tours that could take you through more than 30 celebrity homes, giving the history of these landmark homes as you go along.
Drive to 3000 Canyon Lake Drive
With your celebrity mansion tour complete, you may think you have seen Hollywood. But have you really seen Hollywood if you have no proof? That proof awaits you at 3000 Canyon Lake Drive, where you can take the best photos of yourself with the renowned Hollywood sign. It is not difficult to find, too. From your Bel Air and Beverly Hills photo driving tour, take Mulholland Drive all the way to the Cahuenga Pass under the 170 Highway. Otherwise, if you’re ready for an early dinner and don’t want to wait for the Hollywood sign sight, drive north to Studio City and stop at the In-N-Out Burger there (3640 Cahuenga Blvd). Not familiar with In-N-Out Burger? Welcome to the best fast food on the west coast, serving freshly made cheeseburgers and a set of secret dishes, such as the animal-style fries.
A Night at The Griffith Observatory
You’ve spent the morning walking through the Boulevard and the afternoon driving through the streets of Beverly Hills. A great way to spend the evening of your first day in Los Angeles would be to head down to the Griffith Observatory, where you can enjoy some of the best views in town. The Griffith Observatory is a must visit for two reasons; firstly, it has the best close up view of the Hollywood sign. Second, there are lots of awesome attractions in the Observatory and admission is mostly free! Look at distant stars through telescopes, explore various exhibits, and see shows like “The Once and Future Griffith Observatory” in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater. All of this is free of charge, although you’ll need to be early as there may be a line on most days.
If you’re not ready yet to call it a day, exit the Griffith Observatory park on Los Feliz Blvd and drive west until you reach Franklin Ave. Here, between Western Ave and the 101 Highway, you’ll find something very special to end your first day in LA: a walkable area with lots of things to do! For comedy sketches and improv, check out the Upright Citizen Brigade theater (5919 Franklin Ave). If you’re into book and music shopping, you must visit Counterpoint Records & Books next door to the theater and open until 11pm on a weekend. Finally, for a late dinner and a mandatory sweet snack, you’ll find the vibrant French restaurant La Poubelle Bistro (5907 Franklin Ave), and Van Leewen Ice Cream (also open until 11pm!) two steps away.
Day 2: Beach Towns & Studios
Day One of your visit was spent seeing the essential attractions of glamorous LA of stars and VIPs. Spend Day Two playing, shopping, and visiting the beach towns and studios for some enjoyment on the go.
If you’re for a more athletic exploration, I recommend renting a bike in the morning and completing your Santa Monica and Venice tours on 2 wheels. The city offers bike rentals at 117 Broadway (Santa Monica Public Bike Rentals) as in Venice you’ll find several spots that can fix you a great bike for half a day. You’ll have a tan to die for!
Visit Santa Monica Pier and Beach
Santa Monica Pier was opened in 1909 and has since grown to become a must-experience location for anyone who visits Los Angeles for its sun and warm weather. Head down to the spot where some of your favorite films – like Iron Man, The L Word & Species – were shot and get ready to have some fun.
At the Pier, you’ll find the Pacific Park, with a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and more than a dozen other rides. It also has midway games like Cat Rack & Whack-a-Mole, which adults and kids alike can have a great time trying to beat. Just south of the pier, you may find the Historical Carousel (where you can enjoy a ride or schedule a private party), the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, and the Pier Shop (where you can get gifts and souvenirs to mark your visit). To beat the heat and still enjoy your stay, buy a refreshing lemonade at the Hot Dog on a Stick classic red stand.
When you are ready to move from the pier to the sand, Santa Monica Beach welcomes you with three and a half miles of soft, well-maintained sand and clear, beautiful water. Take out your sunscreen and spend your morning sunbathing on the beach, or paddle into the water for a swim. You can also head down to the North Beach Playground for free access to slides, climbing equipment, and swings.
Santa Monica Third Street Promenade
If the Pier and the beach aren’t really your thing, Santa Monica still has a lot in store for you. The Third Street Promenade, literally a couple of blocks from the Pier, is an upscale, pedestrian-only complex in Santa Monica where you can shop for everything, from designer fashion brands to fresh fruit from a farmer’s market. There are also restaurants with deliciously cooked meals, and entertainment centers from indoor spots to street performers. If it’s still too early for a real lunch but are craving something good, I suggest sipping a well brewed coffee at Demitasse (1149 3rd St), where they brew their own beans and have a very eco-friendly approach to coffee making!
Just like Santa Monica, Venice is a bustling beach town that calls to millions of visitors every single year. And like its Italian counterpart, the town holds beautiful canals that you can walk through in the warmth of a late morning or sail through on a little boat.
Venice Beach is also great for a good stroll on the sand and for a surf or swim. It is also known to many people as the world-famous Muscle Beach, fully fitted with an outdoor gym that is free to use and open to all who want to work out or simply watch other people perform daring and difficult feats of physical fitness. If you want to work out with some of the fittest people in the world, Venice Beach is the place to go.
After your workout, you will probably be very hungry. Check out Abbot Kinney Boulevard for a gastronomic lunch treat with options from superb Mexican and Asian food, to gourmet burgers that give diners a taste of the American spirit. Among the favorite spots for a great lunch are La tostaderia (1121 Abbot Kinney Blvd), a small counter-serve spot for some bomb ceviche and fish tacos, and Yours Truly Venice (1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd), if you are looking for globally-inspired California cuisine.
Afternoon: Visit One of the Parks
After a delicious lunch, you will likely be ready to spend your last afternoon in LA exploring some more. It’s time to get to your car and check out an amusement park like Universal Studios and Warner Bros, or the museum complex (practically an amusement park!!), the Getty Center.
Universal Studios Theme Park
After building a great studio (which went on to produce some of the biggest films ever), Universal Studios opened their doors to public tours in 1915. It features movie themed rides and roller coasters, including many well-known movies like King-Kong, Jurassic Park, Transformers, and Despicable Me.
Warner Bros Studio Tour
For movie lovers that don’t want to go on roller coasters, the Warner Bros Studio Tour allows you to fully experience the magic that goes into some of your favorite movies and shows from Casablanca to the Ellen Degeneres Show, and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them. Through your tour, you will get to see many of the props and exterior sets used to create these shows, as well as archives with exhibitions dedicated to some of the biggest franchises like the DC Universe and the world of Harry Potter.
The Getty Center
The Getty Center is the home of the Getty Museum, which is an art museum that features some of the most prominent pieces of art that the world has to offer. Admission is free (just be prepared for the $15 parking fee!), and you can spend hours just walking through the exhibits and soaking in the artistic atmosphere.
A Night in Hollywood
To bring this awesome two-day adventure to a close, end your day on Sunset Boulevard. While you may recognize the name from the 1950 film, the Sunset Strip is also a great place to enjoy nightlife and have a good time. For dinner consider The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker (8653 Sunset Blvd) for a seasonal trendy meal of European influence, which you’ll enjoy sitting in cool yellow-leathered booths. For a more traditional experience featuring a staple of LA dining (“an American classic since 1947!”), you can also dine at Mel’s Drive In (8585 Sunset Blvd).
After dinner, grab a well-shaken cocktail at the Mmhmm Cocktail Bar or have some well-aged whiskey at Rock and Reilly’s Irish Pub to cap off your night. Still awake and in search of adventures? This stretch of Sunset Blvd—the Sunset Strip—never sleeps and between Phyllis St and Holloway Dr you could bar hop or spend hours in the same clubs.
Options include David Arquette’s vaudeville-inspired Bootsy Bellows (9229 Sunset Blvd), they gritty The Viper Room (8852 Sunset Blvd), which Johnny Depp partially owned, and Sunset, a subterranean heaven for creatures of the night found inside the Edition hotel (1090 N Doheny Dr).
Wherever you go, no matter the time of day or night, just be prepared to be always amazed by Los Angeles and its many scenes, palm trees, and glamorous actors.