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Los Angeles is a massive city. A whole summer spent here would not be enough time to explore the entirety of its eccentricity, history, food, and fun. However, not all of us have the time (or money) to explore LA beyond just a weekend. So how does one see LA in a weekend in the most time-efficient and cost-efficient way? Well, make sure you have a lot of coffee!
Arrive in LA. Most people will arrive at Los Angeles International Airport, which is not immediately surrounded by many activities or fun things to do. Hotels near LAX will be the best quality for a low price, but there aren’t many things to do around there. Unfortunately public transportation from the airport isn't the best, so I suggest renting a car. If you don't have one, I'd suggest downloading Uber or Lyft and go from there.
Check into your Hotel in:
Downtown Los Angeles - these are reasonably priced, but nice hotels in DTLA, ranging from about $150-$200 a night generally. I'm partial to downtown, as my friends reside there, and I used to work at the LA Superior Court and Federal District Court downtown. However, I have to say that downtown is a good spot to stay when visiting LA, as it is walkable and there's great food options in the area.
The L.A. Hotel Downtown
Sheraton Grand Los Angeles
The Westin Bonaventure Hotel
Downtown - rooftop bars are quite popular downtown. Grab dinner at Bestia or Church and State in the Arts District. Grab a drink afterwards at Everson Royce. Then head to one of the popular rooftop bars for a final drink before bed at either The Ace Hotel, The Standard Hotel, or Perch. Or, skip the rooftops and head to The Edison, one of my personal favorite spots.
Santa Monica - For a simple dinner, head to Umami Burger - their truffle fries are delicious. If you want a nicer, sit-down burger, head to Father's Office. If not feeling burgers, The Misfit Restaurant has several options (and is good for a late night meal), or Tar & Roses has many good choices as well. For drinks and dancing, Ma'Kai has good music, despite being a sushi restaurant!
Wake up, its time for brunch! Head to Venice Beach. On Saturdays, traffic isn't as bad on the highways, so it shouldn't take too long to drive to Venice Beach. Once you arrive, grab brunch at either 26 Beach or French Market Cafe. Fill up on coffee.
Once breakfast/brunch is finished, head over to the Venice Canals.
After you see these beautiful canals, wishing you could live in one of these fancy homes, head over to Venice Beach, where you can alternatively eat breakfast instead at one of the street shops. Either sit on the beautiful and expansive beach, or look at all of the strange shops. Buy some weird souvenirs, or see a marijuana doctor. Look at the people working out at Muscle Beach or watch skateboarders do their thing.
Drive to the Getty. Venice to either of the Getty’s is about a 15-20 minute drive. The Getty VIlla features art and history of Greece and Rome. The Getty Center displays art and architecture from modern times to special exhibits. To go to the Getty Villa, you must reserve tickets in advance. They’re free, but parking is $15. It is limited access to the Getty Villa. You do not need to reserve tickets in advance to go to the Getty Center. I personally suggest the Getty Center over the Getty Villa, because it is larger and there is more to see and do. However, both are absolutely beautiful and a must do!
Go to Rodeo Drive. Rodeo Drive is known for its shopping. From the Getty, it should be about 15 minutes. If you want to window shop, or buy an extremely expensive souvenir, definitely stop by Rodeo. You will have an easier time finding parking near El Camino, in between Rodeo and Beverly. Beverly Drive also has several good eats, if you’re hungry by this point. Check out Urth Cafe on Beverly or if you feel like spending money and potentially just maybe seeing a celebrity, stop by Spago.
Head up to Hollywood. Hollywood should again be another 15 minutes (perfect, I know). I personally find Hollywood to be extremely crowded and boring, but I’ve been there several times. I suppose its worth walking down just to see. Hollywood is actually pretty big, but the big touristy spots, such as the Chinese Theater and Ripley’s Believe it or Not is on Hollywood Blvd, in between La Brea and Highland Ave. Parking can be found on a side street, but don’t try and find anywhere on Hollywood. It’s pretty crazy. P.S. The Disney’s Soda Fountain shop has amazing milkshakes.
Dinner and Drinks. After walking around Hollywood Blvd. for a little bit and being touristy, grab dinner at Roscoes Chicken and Waffles for some delicious chicken, Velvet Margarita for some Mexican food and fun drinks, or Bossa Nova for Brazilian food. If it's early enough, you should stop by No Vacancy, a speakeasy that can get pretty crowded later in the evening, but has burlesque shows that are fun to watch if you get in!
Griffith Observatory. The Griffith Observatory is a building with exhibits related to astronomy, which are actually quite interesting! But the views from the observatory are what brings in the people. Check out the city from above by taking Los Feliz, and turning on Fern Dell Drive. This is also a great place to see the Hollywood sign.
Grab some brunch within walking distance from your hotel at Bottega Louie, if early enough. They don't take reservations, but the food, service and macarons are excellent. If you want to stay more low key, head to LA Grand Central Market - where there's a variety of foods to try - including the famous EggSlut. If you choose to eat at the Grand Central Market, take a few moments to explore Angels Flight across the street. It's closed, but you can walk up the stairs for a nice view of downtown.
Head to LACMA. The LACMA stands for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It contains many great art exhibits, but what most people come here for are the lights outside of the museum itself.
Head to Santa Monica. If you still have some time left before your flight out, stop by Santa Monica 3rd Street Promenade and park your car in one of the parking structures, as you probably won't find parking on the street. From there, you can easily walk to the pier or lay by the beach before you have to take your flight home.
YES this can all be done in one day, because I have done it! But, I suggest splitting up days so you don’t need a vacation from your vacation. It may be difficult, depending on the times you are driving and the time of year you visit. After this visit, you’ll definitely want to explore more, and there is much more to see!