Exploring the West Coast? It’d be impossible to skip Los Angeles, California’s shining star and the second-biggest city in the USA. Whether you’ve been drawn here for the warm weather, the stunning beaches, or the iconic film industry, Los Angeles overflows with diversity and opportunity.
This huge city has something to please every type of traveler. Kickstart your stay in the “City of Angels” with a trip to Hollywood. With world-renowned attractions such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Universal Studios Hollywood to explore, a day here will be packed full of touristy fun. Prefer a slower pace? Head to Venice Beach or Santa Monica for a laid-back atmosphere and breathtaking coastal scenery.
Ready to live your California dream? Plan the perfect trip with this Los Angeles travel guide, including what to see, where to stay, and when to visit!
Why Treksplorer? Founded in 2011 by Ryan O’Rourke, Treksplorer provides travel recommendations and advice to millions of readers every year. Our content is rooted in our writers’ firsthand experiences, in-depth research, and/or collaborations with other experts and locals. Read more about our editorial policy.
What to see & do in Los Angeles
Escape to the fresh mountain air of Griffith Park. Stretching across 4,310 acres of the Santa Monica Mountains, this park is one of the best things to do in Los Angeles. You can get to this iconic green space in 10 minutes by car or walk 30 minutes from Hollywood.
On this scenic break from the buzz of the city, get your heart pumping with a huge selection of hiking trails. Some of these routes are among the best hikes in Los Angeles, where you’ll marvel at panoramic views of the city. If you can endure the crowds, Griffith Park is a marvelous place to soak up a beautiful sunset.
Head up to Griffth Observatory and look northwest to get a coveted photo of the Hollywood sign. The large platform stretches across the hills and overlooks the valley below. The observatory is also home to one of the world’s most powerful telescopes and a Tesla coil that charges lightning into the air.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
There’s no denying that visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame is one of the most touristy things you’ll ever do. But there’s a reason that this iconic spot attracts over 10 million visitors every year. Stroll the 15-plus blocks between Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street adorned with terrazzo and brass stars.
Over 2,700 stars immortalize the iconic actors, musicians, and directors that made Hollywood legendary. Even if you only have one day in Los Angeles, visit the Walk of Fame to feel humbled by the incredible talent that Hollywood has attracted, and have fun seeing how many famous names you recognize.
If you want to seek out the star of a favorite celebrity, you don’t have to spend hours searching the ground. Go to the official Hollywood Walk of Fame site beforehand to find a precise location.
Santa Monica Pier
The historic Santa Monica Pier offers picturesque views of Santa Monica Bay. Once an important point for fishermen in the area, the pier now serves as a stunning focal point. The neon signs adorning the entrance to the pier are among the most photographed places in the United States.
Attractions abound at the Santa Monica Pier. Browse charming boutiques, stop for lunch at the seafood restaurants, or get an adrenaline rush at the Pacific Park amusement park.
Peek at the million-dollar houses lining the shore or relax on the sandy beaches and enjoy a refreshing swim.
RELATED: Things to Do in Santa Monica, CA
With so much action, you’ll be tempted to go home for a nap, but make sure you stay until sunset for a glorious golden hour.
For the most pristine beach in Los Angeles, head to Malibu and spend the day at Zuma Beach. The ultimate stretch of white sand is so attractive that they’ve even filmed episodes of Baywatch here. Zuma Beach is one of the safest places for swimmers in the L.A. area and is ideal for a relaxing day out of the city.
There are plenty of volleyball courts along Zuma Beach if you feel like getting competitive. Embrace the surfer vibes with some lessons, or see if you can spot the local sea life. Whales, dolphins, sea lions, and seals often pop up to say hello.
RELATED: Things to Do in Malibu, CA
Wander up to the tip of the beach, and you’ll arrive at Point Dume. If views of the coast were the inspiration for your Los Angeles getaway, the sights here will take your breath away.
Grand Central Market
Love authentic local dishes? Spend an afternoon at Grand Central Market, the biggest and longest-standing market in the city. Serving up street food since 1917, this famed market might well deliver your most memorable meal in Los Angeles.
Grand Central Market is a foodie’s paradise and a melting pot of cuisine from around the world. Buy fresh bread and croissants from the organic bakery, get a taste of Mexico at one of many taco and burrito stands, or tuck into a homemade pie. From pasta to sushi, the market offers endless culinary delights.
Can’t agree on what you want? Seating areas are spread throughout the market. Split up, grab what you want from the vendors, then meet back at the table and be jealous of each other’s choices.
Where to stay
When picking where to stay in Los Angeles, keep in mind that California’s biggest city is a sprawling metropolis. Each area and neighborhood has its own distinct atmosphere and culture that’ll transform your experience. It’s important to find accommodation close to the must-visits of your trip. The most popular areas to stay are:
A central location and close distance to many top attractions makes Hollywood a popular area for tourists. Expect to feel like a tourist but also have convenience at your fingertips.
If it’s your first time in Los Angeles, Hollywood is an ideal base for ticking the sights off your bucket list.
Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles has great access to public transport and lots of hop-on hop-off tours for discovering the city’s attractions or tackling the best day trips from Los Angeles.
Spend the day in Downtown Los Angeles exploring famous sights like the Grammy Museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall before making the most of the area’s varied nightlife scene.
Trendy Venice Beach has California-style photo opportunities at every turn. Funky stores, colorful buildings, and adorable canals make this one of the city’s coolest places to stay.
Easy access to beaches and palm-lined boardwalks makes Venice Beach the perfect place to enjoy the sun. It may not have the glamor of Santa Monica, but it doesn’t have the price tag either.
If the beach is calling your name, look no further than the endless stretch of Santa Monica. This is the most attractive area of the city and is close to some of the best beaches in Los Angeles.
Classy restaurants, a vibrant art scene, and outdoor culture make Santa Monica the ultimate location if you are looking for a stylish place to stay in the city.
When to visit
The best time to visit Los Angeles is in the spring or autumn. The days are warm, and you won’t spend the whole time fighting through the summer crowds.
From June to August, the heat and smog can make your stay unpleasant. If you want to visit in the summer, consider a coastal area, such as Venice Beach or Santa Monica, to provide some relief from the hot temperatures.
If you want cheap deals and don’t mind the risk of rain, winter in Los Angeles is usually mild and less crowded.
Los Angeles is served by Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), located 18 miles southwest of Downtown Los Angeles. Several major airlines offer direct flights to LAX from major U.S. and international destinations, including:
- Alaska Airlines
- Allegiant Air
- American Airlines
- American Eagle
- Delta Air Lines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
Los Angeles is well-connected by road to other cities in California and neighboring states. Popular driving routes to/from L.A. and estimated driving times include:
- Santa Barbara, CA (1h55m)
- Long Beach, CA (35m)
- Anaheim, CA (44m)
- San Diego, CA (2h41m)
- Palm Springs, CA (2h)
- Las Vegas, NV (4h35m)
Los Angeles is a huge urban sprawl, and no matter how you dice it, it can take a while to get from A to B. You’ll want to plan your days strategically to minimize your time traveling and maximize your time exploring the city.
A car is the easiest way to get around L.A.—even if a little stressful. Car rentals can be affordable if you reserve early. Brace yourself for gridlock during rush hours.
If you prepare your days beforehand and don’t travel outside of peak hours, taxis may be a cheaper option. It’s difficult to flag one down, but you can book in advance by calling the taxi company or via mobile apps.
If you’d rather avoid the traffic, buy a TAP card and hop on the Metro. You can pre-load it with cash, and it gives you access to the DASH buses, Metro buses, and Metro train lines. The network spreads throughout Los Angeles, so it’s easy to get to & from the main points in the city.