Los Angeles is really a city that has it all—from the heart of the film industry in Hollywood to Santa Monica’s white sandy beaches to the Downtown Arts District, there is something for everyone. And it’s big. In our latest count, LA has 272 neighborhoods, each with a distinct flavor, so taking on the city in a 3-day weekend can be daunting. Here’s what we’d do:
Day 1 // Friday // The Overview
Today’s agenda? Museum hopping and view stalking. Grab a bite to eat before diving into LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) by walking over to 3rd & Fairfax for the Original Farmer’s Market. Established in 1934, the market has 100+ grocers & restaurants ranging from local ethnic food to farm fresh produce to American cuisine. Be sure not to miss local fave Pampas Grill for some seriously good Brazilian BBQ or Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts for what are said to be the best donuts in LA. And if you’re looking to shop, the Grove is right next door (with name-brand retailers such as Nike, Shinola & Barney’s New York).
Time for LACMA. At the entrance, you’ll see the infamous Urban Light installation; a forest of 202 restored street lamps. Once you’ve gotten your photo-fix, head inside to experience all that the largest art museum in the western U.S. has to offer. If you heard about the closing of the Rain Room (i.e. a room you walk through without getting wet, despite hundreds of gallons of water falling from the ceiling), we have good news! LACMA recently announced the exhibit will become part of its permanent collection. No word yet on how soon it will reappear.
Hop in your rental car and drive to Downtown LA for The Broad. This is a relatively new museum with lots of (well-deserved) hype around it. Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room is a must-see (especially for those of you looking for the perfect ‘grams—who doesn’t want to look as if suspended in space?). If you plan in advance you can reserve your tickets online (it’s free!) so you don’t have to wait in the huge line day-of (this is especially necessary for the Infinity Room). After hours of museums, it’s time for dinner.
If it’s city views you’re craving, take the 10-minute walk to either Perch or 71 Above (don’t forget to stop and awe at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall along the way). Perch for an open-air rooftop with French small plates & awesome cocktails, 71 Above for high-end modern cuisine. Reservations recommended for both. But if it’s something a little more eccentric you’re seeking, walk over to Clifton’s Republic or take a quick drive to Philippe the Original. Clifton’s is a historic cafeteria that recently went through a $10 million restoration, and now offers three floors of differently themed bars/eateries (we got so lost exploring that we almost forgot to eat). And at Philippe’s, an LA establishment since 1908, you can nosh on “the original” french dipped sandwich. Salty, juicy perfection.
And to cap off your day, drive on over to Griffith Observatory for a truly breathtaking view (try to make it for sunset). Perched on the side of Mount Hollywood, the observatory has unobstructed views of the entire LA Basin. Plus, entrance to the space & science-themed exhibits inside is free.
Alternate option: freshen up (and dress up) to make an appearance at The Edison in Downtown LA. It’s a 1920’s themed speakeasy with killer drinks, live music, and burlesque shows on the weekend. Gatsby himself would feel right at home.
Day 2 // Saturday // Beach Day
What weekend would be complete without brunch? Start the day off right with 11am bottomless mimosas at The Independence in Santa Monica ($17 for 2 hours for unlimited drinking). Might we also suggest their $17 all-you-can-eat French toast?
Alternate option for those of you feeling adventurous: wake up early to get in a surf session in Manhattan Beach. There are a number of cool shops offering both rentals & lessons. And afterwards, stop by North End Caffé for some hard-earned breakfast.
With a full belly, it’s time see why LA is known for its beaches. Biking is a quick way to see the beach from Santa Monica all the way down to Venice. Grab a bike from any of Santa Monica’s Breeze Bike Share stations (just $7/hour) and head out. Santa Monica Pier, with its nostalgic carnival rides & beautiful views of the Pacific, is an iconic tourist destination worth visiting. Then, make your way to Venice Beach on the dedicated bike path (dodging the numerous pedestrians & roller skaters). Once at Venice, stop by Muscle Beach to watch bodybuilders and/or gymnasts in action and go along the promenade to watch some of the vibrant performers, unique vendors, and witty panhandlers. Leave the grittiness of the Venice Beach Boardwalk behind and head a few blocks inland to see the Venice Canals.
These man-made canals were built in 1905 and are now flanked by some of the most beautiful homes in the city. Ditch your bike at the nearest Breeze station and walk along Abbot Kinney Blvd, a mile-long strip of the latest art, trendy fashion and food. Since those mimosas have likely worn off, maybe it’s time for an afternoon pick-me-up? Duck into one of the many cafes and grab either a green juice (try Kreation) or a shot of espresso (Blue Bottle or Intelligentsia).
If traffic isn’t looking too bad (this is LA after all), drive out to the Getty Museum in Brentwood to view its vast collection of Western art and catch a view of the LA sprawl from its manicured gardens.
By this point, you’re probably sunburned (or “sunkissed”) and a bit tired so head back to your hotel to get ready for dinner. With so many options, how to choose? If you’re craving some LA sushi (and don’t mind spending a bit of $$), head to Nobu. The Malibu location has an awesome deck on the ocean where you can watch the sun set while eating some of the best Japanese food of your life (reservations required). And if it’s Mexican you’re looking for, try Toca Madera (we’ve been eyeing the tableside guacamole with plantain chips) or Gracias Madre for all you vegans (or even meat-eaters—it’s that good).
For a chill rooftop ambience, hit up EP & LP in West Hollywood and sip on a cocktail while lounging by one of the fire pits. And finally, if the day hasn’t taken it out of you, dance the night away at nearby Hyde Sunset Lounge or Bootsy Bellows.
Alternate option: snag a ticket to an outdoor movie at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Bring a blanket and be prepared to watch a classic movie under the stars. Plan in advance though, tickets always sell out.
Day 3 // Sunday // Hiking LA
After going all out yesterday in the food department, try a lighter option for brunch today such as the vegan-friendly Café Gratitude or Urth Caffé (think Beverly Hills people-watching paired with a Japanese green tea latté and poached eggs verde).
To continue your LA-inspired health kick, hike up Runyon Canyon, a 2.5 mile loop trail just north of Hollywood with incredible views of the city and usually an outdoor yoga class or two. There are a few ways up with varying levels of difficulty so check the link to decide where you should start. Be on the lookout for celebs as they frequent the spot (we spotted one of the Pretty Little Liars actresses last time). And if that’s not enough physical exertion for you, hike up to the Hollywood sign (yes, THAT Hollywood sign). The most popular route is the Mt Hollywood Trail starting in Griffith Park and is fairly easy.
Close out your weekend with a drive down Sunset Blvd (best marveled at from afar) to Silverlake Ramen (because what trip to LA is complete without ramen?). The line is typically long but the rich broth and perfectly textured noodles are worth the hype. Here’s to the weekend.
Where to Stay
The following hotels marry great locations with awesome service & amenities:
- Shore Hotel – in the heart of Santa Monica, this boutique hotel has an awesome pool and is right across from the pier. Complimentary champagne at check-in? Count us in.
- LINE Hotel – industrial chic & trendy hotel in the heart of Koreatown. Plus, floor-to-ceiling windows (with blackout shades) in the rooms so you can take in those views.
Looking to be away from the action a bit? Check out the South Bay neighborhood. Beautiful beaches less well-known and more relaxed.
The easiest way to get around is by car so we recommend renting one. And trying to decide when to visit? Anytime! As the locals say, there are only two seasons in LA: Hot Summer and Cold Summer 😉
Quick Take Version
- The Broad
- Griffith Observatory
- Santa Monica Pier & Beach
- Venice Beach Boardwalk & the Canals
- Abbot Kinney
- Getty Museum
- Runyon Canyon
- Hike to the Hollywood sign
- Drive down Sunset Blvd
- Original Farmer’s Market
- 71 Above
- Clifton’s Republic
- Philippe the Original
- The Independence
- North End Caffé
- Toca Madera
- Gracias Madre
- Urth Caffé
- Café Gratitude
- Silverlake Ramen