The Ultimate Guide To Los Angeles
Los Angeles, The City of Angels!
Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the US, is internationally acclaimed for its film and entertainment industry, Hollywood!
Surrounded by mountains, desert, and the beautiful Pacific Coast, Los Angeles is blessed with natural beauty! Los Angeles is also endowed with great weather, with year-round mild and dry climate with plenty of sunshine, there’s never a bad time to visit Los Angeles!
The natural beauty and the perfect year-round weather led to the swift expansion of the film industry in Los Angeles!
Los Angeles attracted several filmmakers, aspiring artists, musicians, and media and soon became the entertainment capital of the world! Today, Los Angeles is home to several renowned film studios, including Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros.
The city of Los Angeles was soon transformed into a melting pot of different cultures, bustling with skyscrapers, several museums, and tourist attractions.
The natural beauty, the famous film studios, theme parks, and several museums, along with idyllic weather, make Los Angles a popular year-round destination!
I have lived in Los Angeles for six years, and you may feel I am biased, but trust me, there’s a lot to see in Los Angeles. However, the only thing I don’t like is the traffic in Los Angeles.
Here is my ultimate guide to Los Angeles, featuring major attractions and things to do in Los Angeles, along with a suggested itinerary and recommendations on Los Angeles hotels and Los Angeles restaurants.
Getting To Los Angeles
The best way to get to Los Angeles is by directly flying into Los Angeles International Airport, LAX!
You could also fly into any other major airports in Califonia and then rent a car and drive to Los Angeles. However, if flying or driving is not an option, you could still get to Los Angeles using train or bus services. Below I have outlined different transit options, best driving routes, train and bus services to get to Los Angeles.
Airports Near Los Angeles: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Los Angeles, CA, just 18 miles from the city. Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR), Burbank, CA, 15 miles from Los Angeles. Long Beach Airport (LGB), Long Beach, CA, 27 miles from Los Angeles. John Wayne Airport (SNA), Santa Ana, CA, 39 miles from Los Angeles and about 45 minutes drive. Ontario International Airport (ONT), Ontario, CA, 40 miles from LA and about 45 minutes drive.
If you’re visiting other major cities and attractions in or near California, like San Francisco, San Diego, or Las Vegas, you could fly into these cities and then drive to Los Angeles. San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Francisco, CA, about 370 miles from Los Angeles. Oakland International Airport (OAK), Oakland, CA, also about 370 miles from Los Angeles. San Diego International Airport (SAN), around 125 miles from Los Angeles. McCarran International Airport (LAS), Las Vegas, Nevada, 270 miles from Los Angeles.
No matter which airport you fly to, it’s always a good idea to rent a car when visiting California!
There’re many people who try to cover multiple cities and attractions when visiting California, and which I highly recommend! There is a lot to see in California besides Los Angeles and Hollywood.
People often like to visit San Diego, San Francisco, or Las Vegas when visiting Los Angeles. You can also add several other California attractions to your Los Angeles itinerary based on the time you plan to spend in California.
If you’re planning to drive to Los Angeles from San Francisco or San Diego, you must take the Pacific Coast Highway!
The beautiful Pacific Coast Highway overlooking the Pacific Coast starts from San Diego and goes all the way to San Francisco. Many prefer breaking the PCH drive into two parts (1) San Diego to Los Angeles and (2) Los Angeles to San Francisco. You can find more details about the PCH drive in The Ultimate Guide To Pacific Coast Highway.
Driving from San Francisco to Los Angles via PCH: The drive from San Francisco to Los Angles via Pacific Coast Highway is around 480 miles and takes anywhere from 8 – 12 hours, depending on the places you stop on the PCH.
On your drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles via Pacific Coast Highway, you can stop at several vista points, beach towns, and attractions, including Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur, Elephant Seal Vista Point, Hearst Castle, Solvang, and Santa Barbara.
Driving from San Diego to Los Angeles via PCH: The drive to Los Angeles from San Diego via PCH is about 150 miles but can take 5-6 hours, depending on how much time you spend at each stop. You can stop and explore several gorgeous beach tows in California, including La Jolla, Carlsbad, Encinitas, Dana Point Harbor, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and Long Beach.
I don’t like and recommend driving long distances, but the Pacific Coast Highway is an exception!
Driving from Las Vegas to Los Angeles: The drive from Las Vegas to Los Angeles is about 270 miles and takes about 4 and a half hours. On the way, you could stop at Red Rock Canyon, Seven Magic Mountains, and Mojave National Preserve. You could also take a detour and visit two great National Parks – Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, on your way to Los Angeles from Las Vegas.
If flying or driving is not an option, you could use Amtrak’s train and Greyhound’s bus services to get to Los Angeles.
Train Services to Los Angeles: Amtrak offers quite a few train services in California, and no matter where you’re coming from, you will most likely find a connecting train service to Los Angeles.
Here are a few popular train services offered by Amtrak connecting Califonia to other states – California Zephyr connecting Chicago, Denver, and San Francisco. Southwest Chief connecting Chicago, Kansas City, New Mexico, and Los Angeles. You can find the complete list of Amtrak train services in California on the Amtrak Website.
If you don’t find a direct train to Los Angeles from your current location, you can always take the train to the closest Amtrak station and then take a connecting train or bus to Los Angeles.
Bus Services to Los Angeles: Greyhound offers daily bus services connecting several US cities to Los Angeles. You can check the schedule and make your reservations online on the Greyhound website.
Things To Do In Los Angeles
Los Angeles, the La La Land, is a sprawling city with several attractions!
You will find several sightseeing opportunities and many indulging recreational activities in Los Angeles and nearby areas, including some great theme parks, museums, gorgeous beaches, and a few iconic Los Angeles landmarks.
I highly recommend purchasing a multi-attraction discounted pass from CityPASS and using Big Bus Tours that offer hop-on-hop-off bus tours of Los Angeles city, stopping at several prominent Los Angeles attractions. The hop-on-hop-off bus tour is a great way to explore the city without having to worry about traffic and parking.
Here’re my favorite and must-see attractions in Los Angeles!
Iconic Landmarks of Los Angeles
Griffith Observatory offers spectacular views of the cosmos & downtown Los Angeles!
Griffith Observatory, located on Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, is one of my favorite places in Los Angeles. Away from the city’s hustle-bustle and positioned atop a hill, Griffith Observatory is a great place to peek into the cosmos and see some breathtaking panoramic views of Downtown Los Angeles from a distance.
There are several exhibits in Griffith Observatory, including many telescopes, the Ahmanson Hall of the Sky, the Wilder Hall of the Eye, the Edge of Space, and much more.
The Zeiss telescope, accessible to all on clear nights, is a great way to experience the Moon and other planets up-close!
The Samuel Oschin Planetarium in Griffith Observatory has a state-of-the-art dome theater and offers several incredible shows. I have been to several other planetariums in the US, but the experience in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium is unparalleled! The planetarium provides several shows, and I highly recommend watching at least one show.
Griffith Park is also home to several hiking trails, scenic drives, Greek theater, Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round, and is a great place to view the iconic Hollywood sign.
I suggest spending an entire day at Griffith Observatory and even extending your visit till late in the evening to see the Zeiss telescope and beautifully lit downtown Los Angeles. There is paid parking available at Griffith Observatory, but it’s limited. Griffith Observatory Address: 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
The iconic Hollywood sign is located on Mount Lee, but it’s best viewed from a distance from Griffith Park!
The famous Hollywood sign, a cultural icon overlooking the Hollywood area, is located in Mount Lee. However, it’s forbidden to get too close to the Hollywood sign, and it’s best viewed and photographed from a distance.
I prefer and recommend viewing the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Observatory. There’s a viewing platform, guarded with rails, at the right side of the parking lot at Griffith Observatory.
If you’re up for a hike and want to get a closer view of the Hollywood sign, you can hike the Mt. Hollywood Hiking Trail starting at Griffith Observatory parking lot. It’s a moderate hike about 3 miles roundtrip and offers a clear view of the Hollywood sign.
Hollywood, a suburb in Los Angeles, is home to several iconic landmarks, historic venues, and several tourist attractions!
Most of the attractions in Hollywood are closely associated with the film industry. The Hollywood Boulevard, which runs between La Brea Ave. and Vine St., is the main attraction lined up with iconic landmarks, historic venues, museums, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
Hollywood & Highland Center: Hollywood & Highland Center is a massive multi-level entertainment complex, with a vast courtyard and famous elephant towers. It’s one of the most lively places on Hollywood Boulevard, bustling with retails shops, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Hollywood Walk of Fame: The world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame is a sidewalk embedded with stars bearing the names of Hollywood celebrities. There are more than 2500 stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and more stars are added every year, honoring actors, directors, musicians, and others from the film industry.
TCL Chinese Theatre: One of the iconic landmarks on Hollywood Boulevard, the TCL Chinese Theatre is a movie place that has been home to some of the most lavish movie premiers and events and has hosted several celebrities from Hollywood. The TCL Chinese Theatre is also known for its excellent IMAX experience. The interiors of the theater can be explored by either purchasing a movie ticket or via a VIP theater tour offered by The TCL Chinese Theatre.
Dolby Theatre: The Dolby Theater on Hollywood Boulevard is a huge auditorium hosting several live performances and is home to the prestigious Academy Awards. To explore the theater from inside, you would need to do the theater tour or watch a show playing in the Dolby Theatre.
El Capitan Theater: The El Capitan Theater is yet another theater on Hollywood Boulevard, operated by the Walt Disney Company, and is the venue for Walt Disney movie premieres.
Madame Tussauds Hollywood: Madame Tussauds in Hollywood Boulevard is a wax museum is a touristy attraction featuring several wax sculptures of Hollywood celebrities and replicas of a few movie sets.
Hollywood Wax Museum: The Hollywood Wax Museum is quite similar to the Madame Tussauds wax museum, home to several life-like wax replicas of Hollywood celebrities. However, the Hollywood Wax Museum is solely dedicated to Hollywood celebrities.
Museum of Illusions: Home to several illusions and interactive exhibits, the Museum of Illusions is a fun place on Hollywood Boulevard.
Hollywood Museum: The Hollywood Museum on Hollywood Boulevard boasts its massive collection of Hollywood memorabilia.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not!: See some strange and shocking ancient artifacts at Ripley’s Believe it or Not on Hollywood Boulevard.
Guinness Museum: This is another impressive museum on Hollywood Boulevard featuring world records, including a replica of the world’s tallest man, the world record for the longest long jump, and many more.
StarLine Hollywood Tours: The trip to Hollywood is not complete without visiting the Rodeo Drive and seeing some celebrity homes in Beverly Hills! StarLine Tours offers guided and well-narrated tours covering Beverly Hills, Sunset Strip, Rodeo Drive, and a few famous Hollywood landmarks.
There are a ton of things to do on Hollywood Boulevard, and it can take a couple of days to see everything!
Los Angeles Theme Parks
There’re some great theme parks in Los Angeles for thrill-seekers!
Universal Studios: Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles is one of the top-rated and most visited theme parks in the US and also a working film studio! Universal Studios Hollywood offers a unique combination of thrilling movie-themed rides, incredible shows, and an opportunity to see real movie sets and several movie studios.
Everything in Universal Studios is awe-inspiring, but you don’t want to miss the legendary Studio Tour, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Transformers, Revenge of the Mummy, The Simpsons Ride, WaterWorld, Universal’s Animal Actors, and the famous CityWalk. Universal Studios Hollywood Address: 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.
Disneyland: Disneyland, a park entirely designed by Walt Disney himself, is where the fairy tales come true! Located in Anaheim, a short drive from Los Angeles, Disneyland is home to two wonderful theme parks – Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park.
Disneyland Park is more family-friendly, with rides and attractions that have a wider audience – children to adults, and California Adventure Park has more thrill rides, mostly for adults. However, I recommend visiting both the parks and for sure the parade and the fireworks. Disneyland Address: 1313 Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802.
Knott’s Berry Farm: Knott’s Berry Farm is another family-friendly theme park in Los Angeles located very close to Disneyland. Knott’s Berry Farm is a fun place for all age groups with several kid-friendly rides, roller coasters, stage shows, and some great food! Knotts Berry Farm Address: 8039 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90620.
Six Flags Magic Mountain: If you’re an extreme thrill-seeker and love roller coasters, Six Flags Magic Mountain is for you! Six Flags Magic Mountain is home to some of the record-breaking rides, including Apocalypse, Batman The Ride, CraZanity, Lex Luthor – Drop of Doom, and many more. Six Flags Magic Mountain Address: 26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Valencia, CA 91355.
Gorgeous Beaches of Los Angeles
Los Angeles is home to some of the finest beaches in the US!
Los Angeles enjoys several miles of beautiful golden beaches, and with the perfect year-round weather, it’s a paradise for beach lovers and surfers! You can surf, swim, stroll, or simply soak up the sun at one of the many gorgeous beaches in Lost Angeles.
Santa Monica: Santa Monica beach, known for its iconic Ferris wheel on Santa Monica Pier, is a gorgeous beach with a fun-filled pier offering several carnival rides and restaurants. Santa Monica Beach Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401.
Venice Beach: Venice Beach is a beautiful city beach, with a vibrant boardwalk lined up with several shops, restaurants, and street performers. Here you will also find a Skatepark, very popular amongst skateboarders, and Muscle Beach, a popular place for bodybuilders to workout by the beach. Venice Beach Address: 1800 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291.
Long Beach: Long Beach is actually a lovely beach town located 25 miles from Los Angeles and is home to some stunning beaches, including Long Beach City Beach, Junipero Beach, Mothers Beach, and Bayshore Beach. However, there is a lot more to see in Long Beach beside the beaches, and you will need a couple of days to explore all of Long Beach. The other popular attractions in Long Beach include the Aquarium of the Pacific, The Queen Mary, and the charming Naples neighborhood. Long Beach also servers as a gateway to the Catalina Islands, with ferries departing from the Long Beach Catalina Island Ferry Terminal.
Los Angeles Museums
Los Angeles is home to many more museums besides those in Hollywood, which I have covered in the section above. If you are a history buff or love art, you should definitely visit a few museums in Los Angeles.
Here are my favorite Museums in Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Home to Los Angeles’s iconic Urban Light, Chris Burden’s masterpiece made of 202 street lamps gathered from all around Los Angeles, is a huge museum complex, and also known as LACMA. The vast collection of LACMA includes an array of arts, books, ceramics, manuscripts, sculptures from all over the globe. LACMA Address: 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036.
La Brea Tar Pits: The La Brea Tar Pits Museum in Los Angeles offers a unique opportunity to see live excavations of fossils from the Tar Pits formed several thousand years ago when oil seeped in the area entrapping animals. La Brea Tar Pits Address: 5801 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County: Home to several galleries and exhibits, NHM is a great place to learn about California’s history and nature. The Dinosaur Hall, Becoming Los Angeles, Age of Mammals are some of the must-sees in NHM. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Address: 900 W Exposition Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007.
The Broad: Named after its founders Eli and Edythe Broad, The Broad Museum has a massive collection of contemporary art. The Broad Address: 221 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
The Getty Center: Located atop the Santa Monica Mountains, the Getty Center is an impressive museum with an extensive collection of sculptures, decorative art, and photography. The Getty Center Address: 1200 Getty Center Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049.
California Science Center: The California Science Center in Los Angeles features several interactive exhibits, space shuttles, live plants, and animals. California Science Center Address: 700 Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037.
Lodging & Dining In Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a sprawling city with attractions spread all around the city. However, being a popular tourist destination, there are several boutique hotels, resorts, and other lodging options catering to all needs.
I recommend staying close to the attraction you plan to visit in Los Angeles.
Hotels Close to Hollywood: The Hollywood area in Los Angeles is an excellent choice with easy access to several attractions, including Griffith Park, several attractions in Hollywood Boulevard, and the Universal Studios Hollywood.
There’re several great hotels in Hollywood, including the luxurious boutique hotel The Hollywood Roosevelt, W Hollywood, and Hollywood Celebrity Hotel.
Hotels Close to Disneyland / Anaheim: If you’re visiting Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm in Los Angeles, I recommend staying in Anaheim. I love and highly recommend staying in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disneyland Hotel for a complete Disneyland experience!
There are a few other excellent hotels in Anaheim, including Hilton Anaheim, Anaheim Marriott, and Hampton Inn & Suites Anaheim Resort Convention Center.
Hotels Close to Los Angeles Beaches: If you’re looking to get away from the city’s hustle-bustle and stay close to a beach, you will find plenty of options in Los Angeles. Santa Monica – Hotel Casa del Mar and Shutters on the Beach. Long Beach – Hotel Maya and Hilton Long Beach.
While visiting the many attractions of Los Angeles, you most likely will be dining in the restaurants close to the attractions. So, I will highlight the best restaurants you can try when visiting a particular neighborhood or attraction in Los Angeles.
Griffith Park: The Cafe at the End of the Universe is a good option if you’re planning to dine inside Griffith Observatory. Located on the lower level, the cafe serves proper sitdown meals, quick bites, and has ample seating both indoors and outdoors.
If you’re planning to dine outside the Griffith Observatory, I would recommend the Mustard Seed Cafe, serving some great tacos, burgers, and sandwiches, and Little Dom’s serving some great pizzas, Spaghetti, and dessert.
Hollywood Boulevard: There are endless dining options in Hollywood Boulevard, ranging from popular chain restaurants to specialty dining. Here are my top picks – Hollywood Thai Restaurant for some great Thai food, Te’Kila for Mexican food, Mama Shelter, a rooftop restaurant with stunning views, and Hollywood Burger for a quick bite.
Universal Studios Hollywood: The dining options in the theme parks in Los Angeles can be overwhelming! You will find the entire list of restaurants on the Universal Studios Hollywood website, listing all the restaurants inside the park and the several restaurants on the CityWalk. These are my personal favorites – Mel’s Diner, Cocina Mexicana, and Three Broomsticks, all located on the upper lot.
Disneyland: There are numerous dining options in both the Disneyland parks, including cafes, icecream parlors, pizza places, burger joints, and fine dining experiences with your favorite Disney character. You will find the entire list of the restaurants on their website: Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park. I highly recommend using the Disneyland mobile app while visiting Disneyland to make restaurant reservations and order your food.
Santa Monica Beach: My favorite spot to dine when visiting Santa Monica Beach is at the Santa Monica Pier. You get to enjoy a great view and have excellent food at some great restaurants, including Bubba Gump Shrimp, Maria Sol Mexicana, Big Dean’s Ocean Front Cafe, and more. You can find the entire list of restaurants and cafes on the Santa Monica Pier website.
Venice Beach: The boardwalk at Venice Beach is flooded with restaurants and cafes. Charcoal Venice, High Rooftop Lounge, and The Sidewalk Cafe are some of my favorites. You will find the entire list of restaurants on the Venice Beach website.
Long Beach: There are a few excellent waterfront dining options in Long Beach, including Gilan Pizza & Grill, Louisiana Charlie’s, Tugboat Pete’s, and several others. You will find the entire list of oceanfront restaurants in Long Beach on the Shoreline Drive website.
Los Angeles Trip Itinerary
With so many things to see and do in Los Angeles, it becomes quite challenging to decide and plan all the activities and attractions for your trip to Los Angeles.
To help you plan your perfect trip to Los Angeles, I have compiled a sample five day Los Angeles trip itinerary!
I recommend spending at least five days in Los Angeles to cover the major attractions in Los Angeles. In the itinerary, I have covered all the major attractions in Los Angeles and have grouped them based on their locations, and have allocated sufficient time at each attraction.
Griffith Park: See the two iconic landmarks of Los Angeles – Griffith Observatory & Hollywood Sign. I highly recommend extending your stay in Griffith Observatory till late in the evening to see the Zeiss telescope and beautifully lit downtown Los Angeles.
Hollywood: Get your Hollywood fix by spending the entire day exploring the many attractions on Hollywood Boulevard:
- Hollywood & Highland Center
- Hollywood Walk of Fame
- TCL Chinese Theatre
- Dolby Theatre
- El Capitan Theater
- Hollywood Wax Museum
- Museum of Illusions
- Hollywood Museum
- Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
- Guinness Museum
- StarLine Hollywood Tours
Given the several museums and theaters on Hollywood Boulevard, you may want to select a couple that you find interesting or add an additional day to the itinerary to see everything on Hollywood Boulevard. Whatever you plan to do, you don’t want to miss the StarLine Hollywood Tours.
Universal Studios Hollywood: Spend the entire day at Universal Studios and the evening at CityWalk. I have allocated just one day at Universal Studios, assuming you get the fast pass to skip the lines at Universal Studios, else you will need a couple of days to explore all rides and shows at Universal Studios.
Los Angeles Beaches: Visit some of the gorgeous beaches in Los Angeles – Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Long Beach.
There is a lot to see in Long Beach, and if you have time, I would recommend spending an entire day exploring the attractions in Long Beach, including several beaches, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and The Queen Mary.
Disneyland: Spend the day in Disneyland exploring the Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park.
I have tried to cover all major attractions in Los Angels, and you might find the itinerary a bit rushed and overwhelming, but you can tailor it per your needs. If you have more time, I highly recommend allocating an extra day at both the theme parks – Universal Studios Hollywood & Disneyland.
Other California Attractions & Related Posts
I hope you enjoyed reading the post, The Ultimate Guide To Los Angeles, and I hope this will help you plan your perfect trip to Los Angeles.
Happy feeding your soul!
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