Our 5 days in LA itinerary covers all the top things to do in Los Angeles and groups them geographically to save you time backtracking. Mix and match according to your interests and the time you have. Each day stands independently and provides a great LA experience on its own.
While everyone tells you that you need a car in LA, we did this itinerary without one. Read on and see how it went!
Deciding how long to spend in LA was difficult, at first I thought 2-3 days would be fine, see Hollywood, visit a studio and move on, but the more research I did, the more I decided we needed longer.
In the end, we had five full days, and we didn’t visit any of the amusement parks! If you dig a little LA has a whole lot to entertain you beyond Disneyland.
If you don’t spend the first day jetlagged staying close to your hotel, and you hit the ground running, you can do this in four days.
I could easily fill seven days in and around LA, and if you make it to the end of the page, we will give you a bunch of extra ideas if you decide to go that way.
Day one is Hollywood Day. Depending on how much of a movie fan you are this can be a full-on day of bus tours past celebrity homes and checking out the famous haunts of old Hollywood or like us you can wander Hollywood Boulevard and visit the main sites on the strip.
Key sites today: Hollywood Boulevard – Walk of Fame – Hollywood Museum – Grove Mall – Highland Centre
I think it makes an excellent first day for anyone jumping off a 15-hour flight at seven in the morning like many Aussies, including us did!
The first thing you notice is parts of Hollywood are pretty run down and, to be honest, a little disappointing, but we were jet-lagged and staying nearby, so it worked for us to see it while we were operating at half speed.
Today we will be covering all the cheesy, cliched stuff so get ready…
TCL Grauman’s Chinese Theatre – Still a fully functioning theatre, the main drawcard is the celebrity handprints on the forecourt. Over 200 in total, we snapped my father-in-law favourite, Fred Astaire but you will also find Marilyn Monroe, Samuel L Jackson and Brad Pitt. See the full list here.
Dolby Theatre (Kodak) – Home of the Oscars
Located in the Highland Centre, the Dolby Theatre is a good stop for those who love all things Oscars. Take the 1-hour tour to walk the red carpet, see a real Oscar, and learn more Oscar’s trivia than you can imagine.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame
Since 1958 they have been adding stars to the sidewalk along Hollywood Boulevard. There are over 2500 pink tiles with movie stars and even the odd fictional stars, including the Simpsons! There are also a few strange ones like Neil Armstrong, Mohamad Ali and even Donald Trump!
You will find the stars spread along on a 2km stretch between La Brea Avenue and Gower Street. The biggest concentration is in the section near the Highland Centre. Check the list of Hollywood Stars on the official list if you don’t want to wing it.
Looking for Hollywood memorabilia? This museum has the most extensive range in the world. Everything from Marilyn Munroes dresses to Harry Potter’s robe. Tickets are a very affordable $15, and with 10,000 items in the collection, you are sure to find something of interest.
If you think you will need a bit of a rest by now why not book an afternoon celebrity bus tour.
Hollywood and Highland Shopping Centre
Along with a bunch of shops, cafes and restaurants are some viewing platforms for photographing the Hollywood sign. It’s an excellent angle and saves the hassle of heading out specifically to get that shot.
Dinner – The Grove Shopping Centre and the Farmers Market
We arrived in November and were delighted to find Christmas decorations were already up and sparling. We headed to the Grove to check them out and ended up at the Cheesecake Factory for dinner.
Tip: serving sizes here are beyond generous – one plate will feed three regular appetites! If you want to visit the Farmers Market, arrive by mid-afternoon.
Finally Downtown LA Day, or DTLA as you may see it written. I had been looking forward to this because I had watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Part’s Unknown and he sold it so well.
Key sites today: Grand Central Market – Last Bookstore – The Grammy’s Museum or The Broad – LCMA – Griffith Observatory
We started the day by taking the red line metro from Hollywood/Highland Stop to Pershing Square.
There is a Farmer’s Market in Pershing Park on Wednesday.
Leave the station and head along South Olive Street to Angel’s Flight – The world’s shortest railway where $1 will get you 300m down the hill. Much more use for the return trip but we just grabbed a photo from the bottom and walked on.
From here it’s a six-minute walk to Grand Central Market where you will be spoiled for choice for your breakfast meal. Egg Slut is the most famous, but we ended up going for a bagel from Wexler’s Deli, which was delicious.
Once you have eaten head across the road and check out the Bradbury Building, it’s most famous for being one of the 1982 classic Blade Runner locations. Even if you are not a fan of the movie, the building is stunning.
Next up one of my favourite spots in LA, the Last Bookstore. The largest new and used store of its type. If you have spent any time on Instagram checking out LA, you would have seen some of the fantastic displays in this shop.
Decision time – Music or Modern Art?
The Last Bookstore is about halfway between each of these museums, and if you jump in some rideshares or move quickly, you might be able to both, but I would make a choice and visit one.
Grammy Museum If you don’t want to walk from the bookstore jump on one of the buses that run along South Olive Street (14,70,76,78,96)
It’s a short walk from the Grammy Museum to your suggested lunch stop at the Original Pantry. This diner claims to have been open with at least one customer in place every day since 1950!
If you prefer art to music, then consider booking a ticket to The Broad. This contemporary art museum is free, but bookings are required. Founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad and houses the owner’s personal collection of 2000 works of postwar and contemporary art. There are also regular visiting exhibitions and programs.
Time to make another choice – do you want to see more art or would your rather a hike from Griffith Observatory to the Hollywood Sign?
If you have a car, on the way to your last stop of the day, drive to Lake Hollywood Park where you will get a fantastic view without much of a crowd- no walking required.
Griffith Observatory and Planetarium.
Griffith Observatory is high in the Hollywood Hills on Mount Hollywood. Along with a fabulous planetarium featured in dozens of films and TV shows, this is the spot for the best view out over LA.
There is also a view of the Hollywood sign. The easiest way to get here is to rideshare, although you can take a shuttle from the nearest metro.
Try to aim your visit to Griffith Observatory for the late afternoon because this is one of the best places in LA to watch the sunset. The building itself also looks great at twilight.
Detour: Walk to the Hollywood Sign
If you head here earlier in the day, you might like to take a hike to the Hollywood Sign after you have explored the planetarium.
Called the Mt. Hollywood Trail, it’s a pretty easy walk that takes an average walker about 75 minutes, but you can stop when you have the view you need. Just be aware that there is no transport from the sign, so you need to walk back to the planetarium to get home.
Key sites today: Warner Bros Studio Tour –
Warner Bros Studio Tour
We decided on the 3 hour Warner Bros Studio Tour because it included most of our families favourite shows including Friends, The Gilmore Girls, Pretty Little Liars, and the exhibits in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Tip: Be sure to carry a photo id as you may need it when you check-in!
We booked for the first tour of the day at 9am. From Hollywood and Highland, you can take a bus which stops a couple of minutes away. As well as the backlot tour we got to tour the Pretty Little Liar’s sound stage which was very popular with our teens.
After the official tour is over, you have plenty of time to explore the Harry Potter, the Batmobile connection and Friends Central Perk set.
Want to have someone else handle the logistics? Check out these tours
So if you have been eating your body weight in fast food, you might need some exercise. We didn’t do this, but we think you should! Check out the advice on this hiking page.
If this is not your thing perhaps head out to the Getty Museum by rideshare
Key sites today: Citadel Outlet Centre – Union Station – Olivera St –
Day four was shopping day; we were travelling with two 18-year-olds who had been saving for months and could not wait to hit the shops. We were not so keen, but we enjoyed the day more than we expected.
Citadel Outlet Centre
The kids had decided on Citadel Outlet Centre. Our daughter had this on the very top of her list, 130 stores in an outdoor mall with a few restaurants.
At the time of our visit, they offered a free shuttle bus from Union Station, so we used this. I am not sure if the Citadel Express, which leaves from Union Station Gateway Plaza is free, but it is the quickest way to get there.
After 2 hours of shopping our credit cards could take no more and we grabbed lunch at a cheesy themed diner on-site. We had but now discovered that two dinner meals fed four of us and it was a pretty economical way to eat.
We headed back to Union Station, take some time to a look around the station because she is a beauty. Opened in 1939, the art deco features are lovely and mixed with several other architectural styles. The waiting room is the nicest I have seen in any train station on our travels.
Across the road from the station is El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument This is the place where back in September 1781, eleven families of pobladores arrived here to establish a pueblo which became today’s City of Los Angeles.
Olvera Street From here you can see Olvera Street, which is home to some of the cities oldest buildings and the Olvera St Market. Plenty of Mexican handcrafts and more tacos than you can eat. Allow about an hour to explore.
There is plenty more to explore here, and if you are lucky enough to be here on the weekend, as we were, there is often concerts and dancing in the park.
We were in hardcore shopping mode by now so headed to Santee Alley and The LA Fashion District. We got our tips from the LA Girl blog. I would only advise this if you are travelling with shopping loving teens. Everyone else should find a bar in Olvera Street and stay put enjoying the music and drinks!
If Mexican food is not your thing, you might want to head over to Chinatown which is nearby, jump in a rideshare!
Key sites today: Beverly Hills – Santa Monica – Venice Beach
So we started the day with a bus ride to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. Choosing this as a first stop was partly because it was en route to Santa Monica and a strategic move as I knew not much would be open early. The kids had said they had no intention of actually spending here, which helped them stick to that resolution.
The number 2 bus from Sunset and Orange took about 35 minutes to reach Rodeo Drive. After a spot of window shopping and a quick coffee, we were back on the 704 bus to Santa Monica. A pleasant 40-minute trip with plenty to look at along the way.
Abbott Kinney Blvd Venice Beach
We decided to start our beach day at Venice Beach and make our way back to Santa Monica. It was an hour walk, so we jumped in another rideshare from Santa Monica to Abbott Kinney Blvd a street full of shops and cafes. There was a bus, but we could not be bothered waiting for it.
If you are keen to see the Venice Canals head there before you make your way to the beach. You will find them in the back streets between Abbott Kinny and the ocean.
Muscle Beach & Venice Boardwalk
Muscle Beach has been attracting exercise lovers for decades, beginning with gymnasts back in the 1930s. This is a great place for people-watching, and you won’t notice the hour, or so the walk to Santa Monica Pier will take. You can also rent a bike so if you drive and park, that might be a good option.
Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park
So many Hollywood films feature this oceanfront amusement park that I got a sense of déjà vu walking along to the Ferris wheel.
Route 66, which starts right across the country in Chicago comes to an end here.
We did manage to drive a small section of Route 66 on our way to Vegas a few days later.
Before sunset, we spent some time exploring the shops on 3rd Street Promenade, a little too long and almost missed the show.
We had intended to check out the murals in the area and had marked
Lincoln Boulevard and the street art murals but we just ran out of time.
When we visit again, we will spend a couple of days here. I want to stay at Shutters on the Beach.
We visited in November, and it was hot, like 30 Celcius most days, and as we were heading to the east coast for a few weeks, we did not pack much in the way of summer clothes. Big mistake!
LA is hot for half the year and warm the rest of the year, making it a great spot for a winter holiday.
As public transport advocates, we decided to use Public Transport here despite everyone saying it was rubbish.
So how did it go? Not as bad as you might think. Taking the bus is undoubtedly something the middle-class don’t do here, but we had no issues and used the buses to get around.
We made it easier on ourselves by choosing a base that was well serviced by public transport and central to several of the sites.
I found this blog post helpful in planning our use of public transport.
We purchased a TAP card and used it quite a bit. It’s incredibly cheap. A single trip will cost you $1.75 and covers 2 hrs of unlimited transfers to Metro rail and bus in one direction. You can also buy one-day cards for $7 or weekly cards for $25.
We took the metro to Union Station to explore Olivera Street. The bus to Warner Brothers, Beverley Hills, and even Santa Monica. You can also take the train to Santa Monica now, which will save you a packet on parking!
Parking cost about $10–$15 so taking the bus is not always a bad idea
LA Hop on Hop Off Bus Service.
If you are a fan of HOHO services, the Los Angeles version offers three tours, Hollywood (15 stops), Downtown LA (14 stops) and Santa Monica (14 stops) and stops at LAX and Beverly Hills.
We took several rideshare trips in both Ubers and Lyfts. Sometimes it just made sense when there was no direct route between the places we were visiting. Sign up for Lyft when you arrive, they generally shower you with coupons. We all downloaded it and took turns paying so really saved a lot.
We did eventually rent a car for our last day before heading off to Las Vegas. Charles, my husband, is a Sydney city bus driver but at this time had never driven on the right-hand side of the road. He said while he felt stressed for the first half an hour or so, he soon got the hang of it. It was probably not the best idea to collect our car from Beverly Hills at 4.30pm! Overall though he felt the traffic did not seem any worse than peak hour in Sydney.
For a family visit, we needed a room for 4 and loved our two-bedroom apartment-style room at the Hollywood Celebrity Hotel.
If you are visiting without a car Hollywood, in particular, the area around Hollywood and Highland is a very good choice. Sure it’s touristy but it has excellent transport connections. Buses stop outside the Highland Centre and the metro station is right underneath. It’s the red line that goes to Universal Studios and Downtown LA.
Hollywood Celebrity Hotel We found the Hollywood Celebrity Hotel when we were on the hunt for hotel rooms that would work for 4 adults. They have a Deluxe King-Queen Suite with a king bed in a private room and a queen bed in a separate room. There is a bathroom in the middle and a full kitchen in the queen room. Our daughter loved the cute little makeup nook with Hollywood lights.
The hotel is right behind the Hollywood and Highland shopping centre and offered free continental breakfast, guest laundry room and very helpful staff.
If you want something a little fancier, then consider the Roosevelt Hotel.
Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is an important part of Hollywood history, and you can stay here, right in the place that Marilyn lived for the first two years of her career! The hotel was also used as a location in Beverly Hills Cop II, and Catch Me if you Can.
And finally for those who like a more contemporary feel check out Mama Shelter, LA. Mama Shelter has 70 Quirky rooms, a rooftop bar with amazing views over the city. Each room in this boutique hotel features a king-size bed and plenty of workspace with a huge desk. Probably best for couples rather than families.
Downtown LA is a great location for food and art lovers. If we had not been travelling with the kids, we would have chosen this as our base.
Hotel Figueroa was once a YMCA but wow has it changed! I really love this place’s look, the rooms feature modern Spanish design and the hotel bar, and restaurant are both great.
Ace Hotel Downtown is housed in the 1927 United Artists building in the Broadway Theater District. The rooms feel industrial, and reviews talk it up as a home for hipsters and aging hipsters. The rooftop pool is great, and the bones of this art deco beauty are fantastic.
If you want a beach holiday, Santa Monica is probably your best bet. A little more touristy than the other beach suburbs but best for transport.
Shutters on the Beach is the perfect place for a splurge holiday, honeymoon or special event. We loved this pretty white shuttered hotel sitting right on the beach. Be sure to get an ocean view room!
Have a question about something here? Want advice for planning your own visit? Head to our Facebook page and we will do our best to help.
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