Expectations must be managed when planning your one day in LA. However, just because you can’t see everything or experience it all doesn’t mean you can’t do it well! Well, that’s the attitude I took with me when I recently spent 24-hours in Los Angeles, California. After all, the best thing to do when going anywhere for a limited amount of time is to consider your priorities…
What makes a great trip for you? Is it the food? Is it seeing iconic locations? Is it learning about the history of a place? I concluded I wanted a decidedly L.A. experience without venturing into the tourist-packed Hollywood attractions. That meant eating well, seeing a few sites and walking the way to the beach. So, without further ado, here’s how to spend the perfect 24 hours in Los Angeles, your ultimate guide and itinerary:
Take an Early Morning Hike
Start the day the right way with a hike in the early morning to see the city of angels from above. Find a full map of hiking trails here. On a clear sunny morning, the hike up to Griffith Observatory offers a healthy walk uphill to a breathtaking and dynamic view of Los Angeles.
From the Observatory, you can also see the iconic Hollywood sign. On a clear air day, this view is one of the best that the city has to offer. For those who enjoy hiking as part of a guided tour, this Hollywood Hills Hike is 2.5 hours and includes local stories, as well as plenty of panoramic LA views.
See the Stars at Griffith Observatory
The Griffith Observatory itself is a wonderful attraction. The Observatory is free to explore, with exhibits and exhibitions about our solar system. You can view the original telescope, and if time permits, purchase tickets to see a planetary show. Check the Griffith Observatory website for current events.
Brunch Like the Best of Them
It isn’t a secret that Brunch in California (or the United States for that matter) is a thing. In Los Angeles, there are ample eateries to satisfy the brunch “urge.” I recommend the trendy neighbourhood of West Hollywood.
West Hollywood seems to be in the middle of everything and is the perfect spot to regroup and decided where to head next. On West 3rd Street you will find hip delis, organic salad spots, coffee shops and satisfying taco stops.
Explore Venice Beach
Continue to make your west, all the way to the beach. What is a visit to Southern California without a stop at the beach? Venice is one of those quintessential L.A. neighbourhoods. Its proximity to the beach and funky vibe make it the perfect neighbourhood to soak up the southern California sun while still experiencing the cool L.A. “scene.”
Venice has a lot to offer, beach sports, a boardwalk promenade, picture-perfect canals, and ample shopping and eating. Time flew by as I explored every nook of the neighbourhood, as I’m sure it will do for you too…
Making the most of Venice includes:
Walking on the beach
Although the sun hid behind the clouds for much of the afternoon, it was still so wonderful to get close to the water and feel the sand between my toes. You can watch beach volleyball, join the sunbathers or just stroll and enjoy the palm trees and sunshine.
Stopping in Small World Books
A stroll along the Venice Boardwalk reveals many t-shirt stores, ice cream shops and tourist souvenirs. However, look beyond the trinket stores and you can also find the iconic Small World bookstore. Tucked behind a café, Small World Books has been in business since 1976 and provides an excellent selection of titles.
The famous LA bookshop (located at 1407 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291, USA) is best known for their extensive poetry section and carries many genres. Small World Books is the perfect place to pick up a read for your afternoon beach sunbathing.
Shopping Like a Local
Abbot Kinney Boulevard, right off the boardwalk provides the classic L.A. shopping experience. With a mix of national retailers and locally owned boutiques, the boulevard is a great place to pick up a new outfit, or two!
Wandering the canals
It wouldn’t be Venice without all of the sparkling canals! Venice has several canals with beautiful footpaths and bridges. Wandering the canals brought back fond memories of my trip to the other Venice (Italy). Dotted with classic LA bungalows, the canals offer a glimpse of charmed LA life.
Hunting for Murals in Venice Beach during one day in LA
Venice beach is filled with murals and if you pay attention you can find amazing artwork almost every block. This was perhaps my favourite part of walking around Venice. I loved turning the corner and seeing a wall of colour. Some of the murals set out to educate, some to enlighten, and others happened to just be really amazing art.
Discover this tiny treasure and secret spot of Venice Beach
When in Venice, take the time to make sure to look out for the peephole box at 1326 Abbot Kinney Blvd. to get a glimpse of Main Street in 1910! Easily one of the best-kept secret spots in Venice Beach, this public artwork by Mr Abbot Kinney is sure to transport you back in time.
Enjoy dinner in Santa Monica
End your day the right way and head up the coast for dinner in Santa Monica. Enjoy classic American cuisine with a decidedly L.A. flare. You’ll find many organic and seasonal based restaurants that pack in health and flavour. After dinner, take a stroll on the Santa Monica Pier and live out your own version of La La Land.
A word on getting around Los Angeles
Los Angeles does not have the public transportation systems of New York, Boston or even San Francisco. I relied mostly on shared ride services and the good graces of friends with cars to get around. I would recommend renting a car or downloading an app. The traffic in L.A. is no joke so make sure to factor in transportation time!
Otherwise, for those seeking unforgettable LA experiences, there are various ways to get around the city via guided tour at every budget. For example, this Santa Monica and Venice 3-Hour Electric Bike Tour will give you a glimpse of the best beaches in both areas during a short LA city tour. For a more luxurious time, this Private Full-Day Tour by SUV will allow you to discover the history of Los Angeles at your own pace.
…And a hidden gem for art aficionados
One of my favourite moments in L.A. was also the most unexpected. An unplanned stop at the University of California Los Angeles led to the discovery of a beautiful and peaceful outdoor sculpture garden. We sat on the lawn among the trees and enjoyed a moment of rest in an otherwise busy 24 hours in Los Angeles.
Where to stay during this 24 hours in Los Angeles itinerary
Thanks to its popularity year ’round, the best places to stay in LA are forever popular and always book up well ahead of time. As such, we recommend that you book your Los Angeles hotel or hostel well ahead of time. Check here for the best LA accommodation.
Finally, those this guide is most certainly about getting to enjoy LA like a local, if you’re planning on enjoying some of the city’s paid attractions and monuments, then you may well want to consider a Go Los Angeles Card. Valid for between 1 and 7 days depending on which time frame you use, this pass allows free entrance into 35 of LA’s top tours and attractions. Check out more details here.