The Perfect 3, 4 or 5 Days in Los Angeles Itinerary

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by Maggie Turansky


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Planning the perfect Los Angeles itinerary can be quite a difficult task. For such a large and iconic city — the second-largest in the entirety of the USA — LA lacks a lot of traditional tourist sites and can be incredibly difficult to navigate. Despite this, there is so much to do in the city that you can very easily fill 3, 4 or 5 days in Los Angeles and still feel as if you’ve barely scratched the surface.

Known for the film industry and its beautiful beaches, Los Angeles is also a dynamic and multi-cultural city with a lot of character. It can be hard to get to know a city like LA in just a few days, however, you can definitely get a good feel for this city over the course of this itinerary.

How Many Days in Los Angeles?

When determining how many days to spend in Los Angeles a better question may be to ask yourself how much time you have. LA has an infinite amount of activities and things to do so visitors could easily spend weeks and not get bored.

However, if you’re not the kind of person with unlimited time, planning to spend 3 days in LA is a good minimum if you want to get a good feel for the city and its top neighbourhoods and sites. Seeing Los Angeles in 3 days may feel kind of rushed, but you’ll still be able to cover a lot of ground and experience quite a lot.

If you have 4 days in LA, then this is a great amount of time to explore the city even deeper and spend a bit more time seeing some other neighbourhoods. And if you’re fortunate enough to have 5 days, you can use that final day to go on a day trip!

There are lots of places within easy reach of LA and it’s a great opportunity to explore more of Southern California.

In general, you’re going to want to allow for more than a weekend in Los Angeles and it’s safe to plan for at least 3 days in Los Angeles to really to the city justice.

Los Angeles Skyline
Los Angeles Skyline

Getting To & Around Los Angeles

Los Angeles is home to LAX – its own international airport that connects the city to innumerable destinations throughout USA and worldwide.

However, that is not the only airport that serves the city and if you’re flying from within the US, there’s a chance that you could arrive into Burbank or Long Beach airport, as well.

LA is even relatively accessible from John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana or Ontario Airport in San Bernardino County, however, it isn’t the closest option and you have to be willing to drive about an hour (or more, depending on the traffic) to reach the actual city of Los Angeles. You can also take a pre-booked transfer from the airport.

If you’re not flying, it is possible to arrive into LA via train – there are trains that connect Los Angeles to other cities in California. For instance, the train from San Diego takes about three hours and offers beautiful views of the Southern California coast. Trains arrive into Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. You can view train schedules here.

Los Angeles is also a perfect stop on any California coastal road trip and a good jumping-off point if you’re driving north to San Francisco or south to San Diego.

Getting around LA can be a bit of a headache no matter how you plan to do it. An incredibly car-centric city, planning to rely on public transportation while visiting LA isn’t the best idea. There is a public transport system in the city, however, it isn’t that broad or reliable and can be tricky to navigate.

Los Angeles is very spread out and not super walkable, so if you don’t plan on driving yourself, then your best bet is going to be to rely on ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft to get around the city.

The itinerary below does concentrate on different neighbourhoods each day, however, it is still going to be easiest to get around LA if you have a car. Driving in Los Angeles can seem a bit daunting — especially considering that Angelenos have a reputation for being aggressive drivers — but it is the most convenient and easiest way to get around the city.

Keep in mind that LA also gets terrible traffic and it’s hard to really convey just how gridlocked the city can be until you’ve experienced it yourself.

So even though something looks close on a map, you may spend a lot of time getting to your destination because of the traffic conditions. The nature of visiting Los Angeles is that you will likely be spending a fair amount of time in the car in transit.

If you want to rent a car while in Los Angeles, consider browsing Rentalcars.com in order to find deals across a number of major rental companies.

Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles

3, 4 or 5-Day Los Angeles Itinerary

Whether you have 3, 4 or 5 days to explore LA, this itinerary builds upon each day. This itinerary will take you through some of the most iconic sites and neighbourhoods in the City of Angels.

If you plan on visiting many of the paid attractions listed below, consider purchasing a Los Angeles Go City Pass to save money on entrance fees!

Day 1 – Hollywood

Being our time in LA by exploring Hollywood – the heart of the film industry. You can spend your morning taking in some views before heading down to enjoy the sites on Hollywood Boulevard and, if you’re interested, take a studio tour!

Griffith Park & the Hollywood Sign

There are few attractions in Los Angeles (and really in the entirety of US cities) as iconic as the famed Hollywood Sign on Mount Lee. Originally erected in 1923 to advertise a new housing development, it has become a focal point of the area ever since.

If you want to get some of the best views of the Hollywood sign, it’s a great idea to head to the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park.

From here, you can get a good view of Mount Lee and a panorama of Los Angeles below. And, if you’re looking to get even more active, there are also countless hiking trails within Griffith Park where you can get even better views and end up closer to the sign. You can also take a guided hike.

I recommend getting here early – especially if you plan to hike as it can get pretty hot in LA depending on the season you’re visiting.

If you want to hike to the Hollywood Sign itself instead of simply viewing it from Griffith Observatory, then there are a few trails you can choose from that range in difficulty — the Mount Hollywood Trail, the Brush Canyon Trail and the Cahuenga Peak Trail. There are also guided walking tours that take you to the top.

Make sure to set aside a couple of hours to dedicate to these hikes if that’s what you choose. In general, going out for a hike is one of the best things to do in LA.

Griffith Observatory
Griffith Observatory

Hollywood Boulevard & Walk of Fame

From Griffith Observatory, it’s only about a 10-minute drive to Hollywood Boulevard, home to countless iconic sites such as the Walk of Fame and the TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman’s Chinese Theatre).

Hollywood Boulevard is incredibly touristy and is pretty much always packed with visitors, but is an essential stop on any first-timer’s trip to LA.

Make sure to take the time to walk along the Walk of Fame and scope out the stars of your favourite artists and celebrities. You can also take in all of the handprints in front of the Chinese Theatre.

There are plenty of other sites to take in here, as well, and it’s the perfect place for film fans and Hollywood history buffs.

Explore Hollywood or Take a Studio Tour

After hanging out on Hollywood Boulevard and seeing the sights there, you have a couple of options on what to do next.

You could opt to venture a bit further from the Walk of Fame and explore more of Hollywood on your own. Famous Sunset Boulevard is only one block south and you can also even mosy your way to Melrose Avenue.

Another very popular thing to do while in Hollywood is to go on a Studio Tour. If you want to both take in some cinema history and to see what film sets are like, there are a number of different studios in Hollywood that offer tours.

Some of the most famous include Warner Brothers, Paramount and even Universal Studios (the latter may be better to dedicate an entire day and include the theme park).

Famous Hollywood Sign
Famous Hollywood Sign

Day 2 – Venice & Santa Monica

If your first day in Los Angeles was dedicated to all of the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, plan to spend your second day taking in two of the city’s most popular beach areas – Venice and Santa Monica.

Venice Canals

Begin your day in the Venice neighbourhood in west Lost Angeles – so-called because the canals were designed to resemble the Italian city of the same name.

Venice was originally conceived as a development for a beach resort and several miles of canals were built in order to drain the marshes that originally inhabited the area.

Over the years, Venice has come to have a reputation of being a bohemian beach town with its own independent spirit, however, in more recent times it has become quite a coveted and expensive area of the city.

Before heading over to the iconic Venice Beach, make sure to take some time wandering around the Venice Canals. It’s a really beautiful area and a unique spot in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles.

Vibrant Venice Beach in Los Angeles
Vibrant Venice Beach in Los Angeles

Venice Beach

Mosy away from the canals and you will find the true draw of this neighbourhood – Venice Beach. This gorgeous stretch of soft, golden sand is one of the city’s top beaches but it is also well known for its iconic boardwalk.

Stretching for miles along the beach, the Venice Boardwalk is an expansive promenade that makes for some of the best people-watching you can find in the great Los Angeles area.

There is a lot to take in and explore in this area such as taking a food tour, however, you could also use this time to simply lounge on a beautiful Southern California beach.

Santa Monica

After enjoying Venice, it’s time to drive just a bit north to LA’s other incredibly famous beach neighbourhood – Santa Monica.

This upmarket area is well-known for the iconic Santa Monica Pier, a classic beach boardwalk amusement park that is filled with old-school carnival games, rides and a classic wooden roller coaster.

For those who don’t want to play at the pier, you can also opt to lounge on lovely Santa Monica Beach or take a surfing lesson. This is a beautiful soft sand beach that is perfect for sunbathing.

Away from the Pacific, the neighbourhood of Santa Monica itself is a great place to explore with plenty of great cafes, restaurants, bars and shops to browse.

Iconic Santa Monica Pier
Iconic Santa Monica Pier

Day 3 – Downtown LA

By this point, you’ve spent time in both Hollywood and exploring some of LA’s best beaches.

Now, on your third day, it’s time to head downtown and explore the urban centre of Los Angeles. If you love food, then you’re sure to love this day in LA. You can take a walking tour or a food tour of this area to learn more from a guide.

Arts District

Located on the edge of Downtown Los Angeles, the Arts District is a neighbourhood well worth exploring if you want to take in a bit of culture while visiting this Southern California city.

In a metropolis often derided in the US for lacking in culture, this is a neighbourhood that very much celebrates the incredible artistic nature of this city.

Whether you’re interested in taking in some incredible street art or murals or want to visit some museums, spend a few hours exploring the Arts District of LA. Not surprisingly, there are a number of galleries where you can explore some incredible art done by local artists, but there is more here than just that.

The Arts District is also home to some incredible restaurants, coffee shops and lots of craft breweries for those who fancy an artisan microbrew while on the trip to LA.

Grand Park in downtown LA
Grand Park in downtown LA

Little Tokyo

Located right on the cusp of the Arts District lies Little Tokyo, the historic heart of the Japanese-American community in LA. Home to what is actually the largest Japanese-American community in the entirety of the USA, this is a fascinating, historic neighbourhood to explore in Los Angeles and really outlines just how multicultural this incredible city is.

Those who want to learn more about this area and about Japanese Americans in general, then consider visiting the Japanese American National Museum.

And, if you’re looking for a more food-centric experience, then you’re certain to find some incredible food in this neighbourhood, as well. You may want to save some of your appetite for our next stop, however.

Grand Central Market

No time spent in Downtown Los Angeles is complete without visiting the Grand Central Market. First opened in 1917, this market hall is a foodie’s paradise.

Home to both fresh produce vendors and a range of different food stalls, you can get everything here from ramen to Berlin-style currywurst to barbecue to tostadas to wood-fired pizza and so much more.

Though this entire day really celebrates just how vibrant and multicultural LA is, you can really see it very tangibly for yourself just by browsing all of the stalls in the market.

Koreatown

End your day at the other side of Downtown LA in the Koreatown neighbourhood. Known locally as simply “K-Town,” this is the heart of the Korean-American population in the city and is actually one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the entirety of the USA.

K-Town has it all and if you’re a fan of Korean cuisine, you’re sure to find something great to eat here. It can also be a great idea to learn a little bit about the history of this ethnically diverse neighbourhood, especially considering it was the epicentre of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and it very much shaped the neighbourhood today.

There is a lot to offer in this neighbourhood and it is the perfect place to end your third day in LA.

Day 4 – Beverly Hills, Westwood & the Getty Center

If your visions of Los Angeles have to do with high-end homes and designer shopping, then you’re sure to love day four of this itinerary. And, if you’re looking to learn a bit, this day also includes a visit at one of the area’s top museums.

Rodeo Drive

Begin your day at Beverly Hills’ most iconic shopping street – Rodeo Drive. Whether you’re simply looking at doing some window shopping or are keen to splash the cash at the area’s countless designer shops, there is no doubt that this is a perfect place for an opulent LA experience.

You’ll notice a distinct change in atmosphere here compared to the other neighbourhoods you’ve explored and even if you’re not interested in the lives of the rich and famous of Beverly Hills, it can be worth having a stroll down Rodeo Drive just to experience the sheer diversity of LA neighbourhoods.

Rodeo Drive
Rodeo Drive

Explore Westwood

Not far from Beverly Hills and Bel Air lies the hip and cool Westwood neighbourhood. This is a young and vibrant area that is a fun place to explore. It has an especially youthful vibe as it is home to the UCLA campus.

There are lots of great cafes, restaurants, bars and shops to explore in this neighbourhood and, again, it can give you a bit of a different perspective on the city. And if you want to really see what this area is like, consider hopping in the car and driving through the winding streets of nearby Bel Air, where you can see some of the most opulent, giant houses in the city.

The Getty

After spending the morning around Beverly Hills, it’s only a short hop over to the Getty — one of the top museums in Los Angeles. If you’re a fine arts fan, you will delight in visiting the countless exhibits in this beautiful museum.

The museum itself is worth visiting just for the incredible architecture and the great views you can get from there. The Getty is quite sizeable, so plan to spend a fair amount of time here really taking in all of the different exhibits of American and European art.

The Getty Center
The Getty Center

Day 5 – Day Trip or Universal Studios

If you’re spending 5 days in LA, then you can spend your final day on a day trip or, if you’re interested, enjoying all of the highlights at Universal Studios. There are countless options open for you depending on what exactly you’re after.

Universal Studios

If you want to head to a theme park but don’t want to leave LA proper, then make sure to head to Universal Studios. Here, you not only can go on a classic studio tour but you can also enjoy the sprawling theme park and have a blast on all of the rides and areas based on your favourite movies!

You need a whole day (at least) to devote to Universal Studios, so this is an excellent way to spend your final day exploring LA.

Santa Barbara

If you’re up for a bit of a drive, then consider heading to Santa Barbara, which is located about 2 hours from the centre of Los Angeles.

This lovely town is a perfect day trip destination an it has a lot to offer visitors. You can wander along the beach, explore the Funk Zone (the cool, downtown area) or enjoy the Urban Wine Trails.

Santa Barbara is the limit of where Southern California can merge into the Central Coast and it has a much more laid-back and relaxed culture when compared to Los Angeles. It is an excellent day trip option for LA.

The lovely Santa Barbara waterfront
The lovely Santa Barbara waterfront

Malibu

If you want to head out to the beach once more, then you really cannot go wrong with driving out to Malibu. Located just north of Los Angeles proper, Malibu is home to several incredible beaches that are not quite as built up and a bit wilder than the beaches you will find within LA itself.

Malibu is also home to the Getty Villa, an offshoot of the Getty Museum in Beverly Hills. Here, you can view a wonderful collection of antiquities that were in the possession of oil tycoon J Paul Getty.

Orange County

If you’re keen to head south, then consider visiting Orange County. Now famous for the popular 2000s-era TV show The OC, Orange County is home to countless lovely beach towns and interesting places to visit. Huntington Beach is the closest to Los Angeles and is a perfect place to observe surfers catching the waves (or to try your hand at it yourself).

Other options in Orange County include swish Newport Beach – which is a great option for kids as you could also visit the classic theme park on Balboa Island.

And just a bit further south and about 1.5 hours from LA itself is Laguna Beach. This is a relaxed beach town with a ton of beautiful beaches to explore and wonderful shops and restaurants.

Catalina Island

Finally, if you’re looking for a unique day trip from LA, then consider heading to Catalina Island. Located off the coast of Southern California, Catalina is a lovely destination and it’s accessible via high-speed ferry from Long Beach or San Pedro, just south of the LA city centre.

Once in Catalina, you can spend your day wandering around the charming city of Avalon, touring the iconic Casino, hiking in the hills or, if you’d like simply lounging on the beach. Catalina is also a haven for those who like snorkelling, SCUBA diving or other watersports.

The historic Avalon Casino on Santa Catalina Island
The historic Avalon Casino

Where to Stay in Los Angeles

Hollywood Inn Suites Hotel – If you’re wondering where to stay in LA and are travelling on a mid-range budget then this modern hotel is a great choice. They have a number of rooms to choose from that are suitable for couples or families and there is a swimming pool for guests to enjoy.

Hotel Per La – This cool hotel located in downtown LA is the perfect place to stay if you’re after a bit of luxury when visiting the City of Angels. They have a central location and guests can enjoy a rooftop swimming pool with fantastic views of the surrounding area.

Freehand Los Angeles – If you’re travelling solo or prefer to save some money, then this hostel is a fantastic option Located in downtown Los Angeles, they have a range of both private rooms and dorms with facilities that you would typically only find in hotels such as a rooftop pool and fitness centre.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Los Angeles hotels!

Planning the perfect trip to Los Angeles is no easy task as this large and spread-out city has a lot to offer. Whether you’re looking to spot Hollywood stars, lounge on the beach or experience incredible world cuisine, you’re sure to find something to love about California’s largest city!

Are you planning to visit Los Angeles? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

Comments

  1. Hey Maggie
    I appreciate all the information you shared on here! My husband and I are headed to California from Canada here on Saturday and had no plans other then a rental car, hope to do some hiking, trying all the food and taking in all that California has to offer. We are starting in Los Angeles and were thinking of making our way up to Yosemite and Maybe San Francisco. We have 10 days so we will definitely be spending a good portion in Los Angeles because of the information you’ve given us here. If you have any other suggestions for our adventure around the state we are all ears!

    Reply

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