The Best of Los Angeles in 3 Days Itinerary
We'll be the first to admit there's a lot to do in Los Angeles. From Hollywood showbiz and studio tours to amusement parks and beaches, can you possibly fit it all into 3 days?
The answer is yes, you can. And here's how. Take advantage of our Los Angeles 3-Day Itinerary along with your Go Los Angeles Card to visit the top attractions and get the full spectrum of L.A. entertainment in just 3 days - while saving loads of money on attraction prices and included extras!
Here's everything you need to know, from how to get there to the best spot for lunch in Santa Monica.
Getting To Los Angeles
Most visitors to Los Angeles will arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport, known to most as LAX. This enormous airport is surprisingly easy to navigate and the terminals are connected with free shuttle buses. LAX is very conveniently located just minutes from Santa Monica and the beaches and only a half hour (traffic permitting) from Hollywood and the Westside.
In the neighborhood surrounding LAX, you'll find every popular car rental agency in the area. Conveniently, each of these rental companies offers a complimentary shuttle to and from the airport. For more information about LAX, visit their comprehensive website.
Other, smaller airports are more favorable to some travelers. The Bob Hope Airport in Burbank is located even closer to Hollywood and Downtown L.A. If you want to avoid the L.A. city life, you may want to fly into the Long Beach Municipal Airport, south of LAX on Long Beach and close to northern Orange County. Finally, if your destination is Disneyland, you may want to book a flight to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana.
Arriving by car to Los Angeles can be a good option because Los Angeles is notoriously a car-centric city, and you'll almost positively be using your car to get around. As such, Los Angeles is very well-connected to the rest of the country by several major highways. From the north, you will likely take I-5 or U.S 101 (called the Hollywood Freeway). From the east, you'll be coming in on I-10, which continues through downtown and ends at the beach. From the South, you'll drive north on I-5, merging onto I-405 if the beach communities are your destination.
Amtrak services Los Angeles from roughly 500 U.S. cities. The L.A. train terminal is called Union Station and is located on the northern edge of Downtown. From the station, you can either take one of the many taxis that line up outside, board the Metro Red Line to Hollywood or Universal City, or hop on a Metrolink commuter train to San Fernando Valley.
For cross country travel, you'll likely have to switch trains in Chicago or New Orleans. For Pacific coast travel, the Amtrak Coast Starlight runs from Seattle to Los Angeles. Additionally, Amtrak runs a train only along the California coast, connecting San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
For more information check out this use-friendly guide to California Amtrak.
Getting Around Los Angeles
Unlike other popular vacation destinations, Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis with the best attractions spread out all over. Moreover, the public transportation system leaves a lot to be desired, so you really do need a car for a 3-day L.A. vacation.
Fortunately, car rentals are relatively quite cheap in Los Angeles, with most car-rental companies offering economy or compact-class cars for about $30 a day or $200 a week (including taxes and fees), including unlimited mileage. All the major car rental companies have offices at the airports and at the bigger hotels, but you'll likely get better rates (and you'll be less stressed!) if you rent a car ahead of time.
Los Angeles has a system of toll-free freeways that connect the area's scattered communities. The freeways definitely serve their purpose, but prepare for bumper to bumper rush-hour traffic from 7-9 AM and 3-7 PM. This being the case, it's best to spend each day in a specific area to minimize travel time. Still, allow for more time than you actually think it should take to get from one place to the next.
If you have a GPS, it'll be put to good use in Los Angeles. If not, you should invest in some maps or employ your smartphones and plan out detailed driving routes between destinations.
Los Angeles Neighborhoods
Before you begin your travels, learn the names and distinctions of some of the most popular areas in Los Angeles County.
- The Beach Communities
Los Angeles County's 60-mile beach front boasts a myriad of distinct beach communities, stretching from Malibu in the north to Palos Verdes in the south. No trip to LA is complete without some time spent in one of the beach communities, so take a look at three of the most popular ones listed below.
- Santa Monica
Santa Monica is perhaps the most celebrated beach community, featuring a bustling ocean pier, beautiful ocean-front hotels, an artsy vibe, and, of course, abundant shopping along the Third Street Promenade.
Malibu may be best known for its surplus of rich celebrity residents and their ocean-side mansions. The 27-mile coastline is considered the most beautiful rural landscape in the entire county of L.A. Plus, surfers love the big waves abundant at Malibu beaches.
- Venice Beach
Infamous for its Ocean Front Walk, Venice Beach is home to the most bizarre and eclectic characters in L.A. There's nothing like a little people-watching on Ocean Front Walk, where you'll find street musicians, fortunetellers and hundreds of skateboarders.
- The Westside and Beverly Hills
The area known as the Westside, located between the beach communities and Hollywood, contains some of the most well-known and prestigious neighborhoods in Los Angeles, like Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, and the ever-trendy West Hollywood.
Chances are you already know that Hollywood is best known as the hub of the film industry, as well as the glamorous gathering spot for the nation's hottest celebrities. Although most of Hollywood's former film and television studios have actually moved to more spacious quarters in surrounding areas, Hollywood is still synonymous with the big screen. In Hollywood, you'll find the celebrated Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theater among a plethora of other attractions, restaurants, clubs, and shops.
Surprisingly, Downtown isn't the center of attention that it is in most cities. However, new renovations, like L.A. Live, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels have helped to revamp the area. Additionally, Downtown is home to the ethnic enclaves Koreatown, Little Tokyo, and Chinatown.
- The San Fernando Valley
Nestled between the Santa Monica Mountains and the San Gabriel Mountains, the San Fernando Valley is home to Universal Studios Hollywood and the CityWalk shopping and entertainment complex. The "media capital" known as Burbank also lies in the San Fernando Valley region and is where you'll find Warner Bros. Studios and NBC Studios.
Los Angeles Accommodations
For the Economy Traveler:
Voted the #1 value hotel by TripAdvisor in 2011, Jerry's Motel isn't your ordinary budget hotel. With a convenient location outside Downtown Los Angeles, free parking, clean and comfortable rooms, and basic amenities, you really can't beat the prices at Jerry's. It's even been noted that the hotel is quite family friendly, so don't hesitate to bring the kids along.
Studio City Court Yard Hotel
Formerly a Days Inn, this San Fernando Valley hotel right on Ventura Blvd. has only improved since its metamorphosis into the Studio City Court Yard. Conveniently located near Universal City and CBS Studios, this hotel is great for family vacations at nearby attractions. Hollywood and Beverly Hills are just a short drive away, as well. You'll also enjoy free parking, the large heated pool, free wi-fi, an in-room refrigerator and coffeemaker, modern furnishings, and complimentary breakfast. Suites are available upon request.
Upscale but Affordable
Hollywood Orchid Suites
Located right Hollywood Blvd., the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Kodak Theatre, Hollywood Orchid Suites is a one-of-a-kind hotel. Its convenient location is supplemented with free parking (a rarity in this area!) in a very safe locked garage. Although not brand new, the guest rooms are spacious and clean and feature well-equipped kitchenettes. Most of the rooms are suites and are perfect for families. At Orchid Suites you'll enjoy a friendly and helpful staff, a continental breakfast, a swimming pool, and a superior Hollywood location.
Best Western Hollywood Hills Hotel
If you couldn't tell from its name, this hotel is located just minutes from the top Hollywood attractions and Hollywood Blvd. Some rooms even have a view of the Hollywood sign! The Best Western at Hollywood Hills features large newly-renovated guest rooms, modern and sophisticated furnishings, an outdoor heated pool, cable television with HBO, the hotel's famed 101 Coffee Shop and of course, a very convenient location within (20 minutes) walking distance of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Capital Records.
Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City
If you're planning to visit Universal Studios and are willing to spend just a bit more for top of the line lodging, the Hilton at Universal City is worth every penny. This 24-story building overlooks Universal City and Hollywood Hills, offering incredible panoramic views of both. The hotel is just 5-10 minutes from CityWalk, and the hotel offers a free shuttle. The rooms are huge and feature ample amenities, and the service is far above average. Other benefits include the award-winning buffet-style restaurant on site, a large swimming pool and whirlpool, fantastic room service, and a fitness center.
Omni Los Angeles at California Plaza
Consistently ranked one of the best in Los Angeles, this downtown hotel is situated in a relatively quiet location close to the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Disney Concert Hall. The Omni recently underwent a multi-million dollar "update" and offers great views of downtown, large and luxurious rooms, free town car service within a 2-mile radius, a beautiful piano lounge on site, an outdoor heated lap pool, spa services, and the highly acclaimed Noe Bar & Restaurant. The Omni Los Angeles is Downtown's only AAA four-diamond hotel.
Luxe Hotel Rodeo Drive
As the Luxe is the only hotel on Beverly Hills' famous Rodeo Drive, you know you'll be enjoying exclusive accommodations. This luxurious hotel is actually a small boutique, exquisitely designed by Vicente Wolf. You'll feel like a star in this private hotel featuring a full range of deluxe amenities and divine beds and linens. The Luxe is located among a plethora of high-end shops and fine dining establishments, so you'll find plenty to do in your immediate vicinity. Stay just one night at the Luxe Hotel on Rodeo Drive and you'll never want to leave!
Los Angeles 3-Day Itinerary
Day 1: Hollywood Glitz & Glamour
Attractions: The Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese Theater, The Hollywood Museum, Madame Tussauds Hollywood, Movie Stars Homes Tour by LA City Tours
Dining: Square One Dining, Musso & Frank Grill, House of Blues Los Angeles
8:30 AM: Beat the Crowds to Breakfast
Start your day off the best way possible, at Square One Dining on Fountain Avenue in Hollywood. Square One Dining, a favorite among locals and visitors alike, is celebrated for their organic and local menu, and most of all, for their "to die for" French toast.
Plus, you're just minutes from your next stop!
10:00 AM: Stroll the Famous Hollywood Walk of Fame
There's only one way to begin your Hollywood exploration: the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a 3.5 mile walk famous for the stars embedded in its path honoring more than 2,400 celebrities of the industry. The Walk of Fame passes many of Hollywood's most well-known theaters and attractions, including the ones you'll stop at next. You can walk from beginning to end or start somewhere in the middle; just remember you have a big day ahead of you!
A Note on Parking: There are several garages you can park in within just a quick walking distance of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The cheapest garage is at the Hollywood and Highland Center. You'll also be close to LA City Tours where you must reserve your seats for later in the day (3:45 PM).
11:00 AM: Put Your Fingers in the Imprints
Make a stop at Grauman's Chinese Theater, famous for the concrete slabs in its forecourt where you'll find signatures, footprints, and handprints of popular Hollywood personalities from the 1920's to the present.
11:30 PM: Visit the Hollywood Museum
Take a break from "star-searching" to visit the Hollywood Museum, the museum with the largest collection of movie props and costumes in town, including some of Marilyn Monroe's dresses, Indiana Jones' whip, and Rocky's boxing gloves.
1:00 PM: Break for Lunch at the Hard Rock Café
Located at the Hollywood and Highland Center, this classic rock n' roll restaurant is an attraction in itself. While you're waiting for your meal, make sure to check out the memorabilia on display at the Hard Rock Hollywood, like Jimi Hendrix's purple crushed velvet hat and Jim Morrison's leather pants.
2:30 PM: Spend Time with Your Favorite Celebs
Next up is Madame Tussauds Hollywood, where you'll get to take pictures with incredibly life-like wax versions of your favorite Hollywood stars. Just a few of the celebs you'll see are Nicole Kidman, Beyoncé, James Dean, Audrey Hepburn, Lady Gaga, and many more!
3:30 PM: See Where The Rich & Famous Live
Arrive at the LA City Tours location on Hollywood Blvd. a few minutes early for your 2-hour tour of the extravagant homes (and former homes) of 45 of your favorite celebrities. The tour includes the homes of Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Paris Hilton, Marilyn Monroe, and many more. You'll also get to see Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, the Hollywood sign, Sunset Strip, and Bel Air - the complete Hollywood experience!
6:30 PM: Enjoy an Authentic Los Angeles Dinner
As you step into The Musso & Frank Grill you'll step back in time at the oldest restaurant in Hollywood. Their classic menu is so esteemed, its remained unchanged for nearly 100 years.
After Dinner Entertainment Options
Enjoy the Big Screen at the Egyptian Theater
The Egyptian Theater, home of the first ever Hollywood movie premiere, now houses the American Cinematheque, a non-profit arts organization dedicated to preserving the experience of viewing movies on the big screen. With your Go Los Angeles Card, you can enjoy two for one admission to any of their nightly shows, which include Hollywood classics, new independent films, sneak previews, and more.
Catch a Show with LA Stage Alliance
Use your Go Los Angeles Card to purchase half-price tickets to dozens of musicals, concerts, plays, live performances and more through LA Stage Alliance. There's nothing like catching a show in the entertainment capital of the world!
Shop and Explore at the Hollywood & Highland Center
Any shopaholics out there? Head back to the Hollywood & Highland Center to explore its 65 stores! The Hollywood & Highland Center also features 12 bowling lanes, 2 night clubs, and 26 restaurants. With your Go Los Angeles Card you'll receive a Complimentary Savings Book to use at the Hollywood & Highland Center.
Day 2: Universal Studios and the San Fernando Valley
Attractions: Universal Studios Hollywood, CityWalk, Mulholland Drive, The Getty Center
Dining: Good Neighbors Restaurant, CityWalk, Pizzicotto
9:00 AM: A Hardy Breakfast Before You Hit Universal
Before you get into Universal City, stop at Good Neighbors Restaurant on Cahuenga Blvd. for delicious and reasonably-priced breakfast fare. Good Neighbors, known for its home-style breakfast, has been family-owned and operated in Studio City for 37 years.
10:00 AM: Get in on the Action at Universal Studios Hollywood
At Universal Studios Hollywood, you'll enjoy three quintessential LA experiences in one: the studio tour, the theme park, and the outdoor mega-marketplace known as CityWalk. Start with the 1-hour tram-ride tour through actual movie sets. Then hit the theme park for classic rides like "Jurassic Park: The Ride" and "The Simpsons Ride."
1:00 PM: Break for Lunch at CityWalk
By now, your stomach is probably rumbling again. Head to CityWalk, the movie-set street expansion (designed with consultation by Steven Spielberg!), for some casual dining. The restaurant options are numerous, including Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Tony Roma's, Camacho's Cantina, and more - a very diverse mix of cuisine styles.
2:00 PM: Continue Exploring CityWalk
After lunch, embark on a brief exploration of the eclectic mix of shops and entertainment at CityWalk.
2:30 PM: Take the Scenic Route of the San Fernando Valley
To your next destination, take the scenic route along the celebrated Mulholland Drive. Along the way you'll marvel over several scenic views of the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles and pass by the grand homes of L.A.'s elite.
3:30 PM: Gape at the Glorious Getty Center
Featuring beautiful architecture, tranquil gardens, breathtaking views, and an impressively extensive collection of Western art, the billion-dollar Getty Center is truly a sight to behold. Spend a couple of hours exploring the Getty Museum and its glorious backdrop. Note: The Getty Center is closed on Mondays
6:00 PM: Authentic Italian Dinner in Brentwood
According to locals, Pizzicotto on San Vicente Blvd. is the closest to the "real thing" you can get without boarding a plane. The northern Italian style food, friendly staff, and casual but classy atmosphere make this place a dinnertime favorite on the Westside.
After a long day on your feet, head back to your hotel and rest up for your third and final day in Los Angeles!
Day 3: Santa Monica and the Beaches
Attractions: Spokes N Stuff Rentals, Venice Beach Ocean Front Walk, Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Beach, Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier
Dining: Jinky's Café, Urth Caffé, Harbor Grill
8:30 AM: Beach Breakfast at Jinky's Café
First stop: Jinky's Café on Second Street in Santa Monica. This restaurant, a favorite among the locals (not to mention Brad and Angelina!) features an extensive menu and a friendly, beachy atmosphere.
9:45 AM: Begin Your Day By Renting a Bike
Head to Spokes N Stuff right on Ocean Front Walk, and rent a bike to best explore Venice Beach. The bike is yours for the day; just make sure you return it before sundown!
10:00 AM: Ocean Front Walk at Venice Beach
On your bike, cruise down the Ocean Front Walk for an unforgettable experience unlike any other. The bohemian and eclectic Venice Beach scene is ideal for people-watching and bike riding. The bike path along the beach is 8 miles long, so you may only want to bike a portion of it. Feel free to stop for any beach shops, entertaining performers, or snacks.
11:30 AM: Cool Off in the Pacific Ocean or Catch Some Rays
Well, you can't leave California without spending some time on the beach, and the beaches don't get better than they are in Santa Monica. For a calmer beach experience head back toward the Santa Monica Pier and find a spot on the Santa Monica Beach to claim for a couple hours.
2:00 PM: Lunch Time!
Return your bike and head back into town for lunch at the infinitely popular Urth Caffé. You can't visit Los Angeles without paying a visit to this organic coffee house, favored even among Santa Monica celebrities.
3:30 PM: Shopping on Third Street Promenade
Whether you're shopping or only window shopping, you can't leave Santa Monica without a trip to the pedestrian-friendly Third Street Promenade. You'll find everything from high-end shops (Brandy Melville and Burberry) to vintage boutiques to your everyday chain stores.
5:00 PM: Get Your Wristband for Pacific ParkHead back to the Santa Monica Pier and use your Go Los Angeles Card to get your Unlimited Ride Wristband. Make sure you stop in to get your wristband before 5:30!
Evening Fun & Food on the Pier
After you have your wristband, you can enjoy Pacific Park on the Pier for the rest of the night! Evening is the best time on the Santa Monica Pier, when the place is gleaming with spectacular lights. Breathe in the ocean air (and take in the ocean views) from the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel in California's only amusement park on a pier. Enjoy coasters, thrill rides, and games - and when you get hungry, hit the Harbor Grill (on the Pier) for traditional American fare.