Los Angeles, located in Southern California, is known for its film and television industry and all the food options they have to offer. This was our last stop on our 2 weeks California road trip. Since my husband and I both have been to Los Angeles, CA in the past, we decided to just do one day in LA to eat and check off things we didn’t get to do last time we were here. Here’s our list of everything you should check out while you’re in LA:
Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park
Having been to LA a couple of times, I am surprised this is my first time at Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park. We parked the car right by Home State and grabbed some tacos to enjoy while watching the sunset up at the park. Instead of driving up, we took the 30 minutes Observatory/Los Feliz bus from Vermont Ave & Franklin Ave. It took a bit longer because everyone had the same idea of catching the sunset from up there.
Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with an urban wilderness area in the United States. We almost missed the sunset because of the traffic so make sure you buffer another 10-15 minutes for traffic. To get the perfect view of Griffith Observatory and the city, you’ll want to start at Charlie Turner trailhead and head to Griffith Park Observatory Trails Peak. Since we were running behind, we stop mid-way and still had some amazing views of the sunset, Griffith Observatory, a birds-eye view of LA, and the Hollywood sign. Another tip is to make sure to bring a flashlight because it gets dark quickly. We got lost going back down because we took a wrong turn and didn’t check Google Map.
Griffith Observatory has a couple of exhibits that you should check out including Cosmic Connection, Edge of Space, Gunther Depths of Space, Public Telescopes, and more. There was a 20+ minutes wait to see Saturn through a telescope at the Public Telescopes for free. At the Gunther Depths of Space, you can see how much you would weigh on all the different planets. Samuel Oschin Planetarium is a 290 seat theater with a Zeiss star projector, digital projection system, and state-of-the-art aluminum dome with a live storyteller every night.
What Have I Learned:
1. If you are heading here for sunset, do not drive your car up there because it will be extremely hard to find parking. We saw a lot of cars go up just to be directed back down the hill because the lot was full. It’s best to park near the bus line that takes you up there.
2. Samuel Oschin Planetarium tickets have to be purchased at the Observatory and only for that day’s show. Advanced online, phone or in-person tickets are not available. Tickets for each show are sold until 10 minutes before the listed start time of that show.
Cost: FREE to walk around Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park. 7 USD for Samuel Oschin Planetarium adult tickets/ 3 USD for children 5-12 years
Hour: Fri: 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM/ Sat to Sun: 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM/ Mon to Thurs: Closed
Samuel Oschin Planetarium Show Times
TCL Chinese Theatre/ Hollywood Walk of Fame
TCL Chinese Theatre is the most famous movie theatre in the world that was built in 1927. It has been home to multiple red carpet movie premieres and special events where Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars come to watch their movies. It has the world’s largest IMAX auditorium with a state-of-the-art IMAX laser experience. The Forecourt of the Stars in front of the theatre has cement hands and footprints of major movie stars from past to present. The boulevard is also home to over 2,700 star’s bronze star plaques in pink and charcoal terrazzo squares. Here’s a link to the star directory.
What Have I Learned: Guests can purchase movie tickets or VIP tour tickets to experience the inside of the theatre themselves. Click here for tickets.
Cost: VIP Tour: 10 USD
Hour: Mon to Sun: 6:30 PM to 12:00 AM
Santa Monica Pier and Santa Monica State Beach
The Santa Monica State Beach is 3.5 miles long soft sandy beach located west of Downtown Los Angeles. It has lifeguards, bike trails, public restrooms, and outdoor rinse-off showers. The Santa Monica State Pier is located in the middle of the beach. It has an amusement park, aquarium, shopping, restaurants, and more. Route 66 starts in downtown Chicago and ends in Santa Monica in California. You can find the Route 66 End of the Trail Sign at the Santa Monica pier.
What Have I Learned: The Santa Monica pier parking lot is currently closed as of Mar 2022. There are 5 beach parking lots. One of them is at 1550 Appian Way, Santa Monica, CA 90401.
Hour: Beach Parking lots are open daily from sunrise to sunset/ Pier is open daily from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Venice Beach/ Venice Canals
Venice Beach is known for its beachfront boardwalk where there are a variety of street performers. It’s also home to Muscle Beach gym where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to come and use this outdoor weight room. Venice Canal has four canals that are about a quarter-mile long each lined with gorgeous houses. If you watched the movie, Valentine’s Day, then you saw Ashton Kutcher kissing Jennifer Garner at the Venice Canals in LA.
What Have I Learned: Like Venice in Italy, the bridges at Venice Canal in California are all unique and different from each other.
Hour: Broadwalk is open daily from 5:00 AM to 12:00AM/ Stores open around 11:00 AM and closes around sunset.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)/ Urban Lights
LA County Museum of Art is the largest art museum in the western United States that has a collection of over 147,000 art pieces. We didn’t have time to check out the museum but we did stop by Urban Light to see the 202 restored cast iron antique street lamps. It was super crowded when we went around 7:30 PM. This beautiful installation opened in 2008 and is free for all to see and take photos with.
What Have I Learned: Free admission on the second Tuesday of every month for all visitors. L.A. County residents receive free museum admission from Mon – to Fri from 3 PM to 5 PM.
Cost: Adult (Outside of LA): 25 USD/ Other ticket costs
Hour: Mon, Tues & Thurs: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM/ Wed: Closed/ Fri: 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM/Sat to Sun: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM
The Last Bookstore
This 22,000 sq ft bookstore is the largest used and new book and record independent store in California. In addition to all the books and records, you can also find a book tunnel and some other cool photo spots throughout the stores. It’s open daily from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM.
This beautiful interior building is the oldest commercial building in central LA. It’s open from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on weekdays and from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM on weekends and is free to see. This is located right by the Grand Central Market so you can do a quick stop here.
La Brea Tar Pits
It is on the same block as the LA County Museum of Art. The tar pits are natural asphalt that has seeped up from the ground for tens of thousands of years. The tar preserved the bones of trapped animals.
This white sand and crystal clear water island is just an hour from mainland California. This island is filled with lots of land and water activities such as scuba diving, ziplining, Descanso Beach, Wrigley Botanical Gardens, Buena Vista Point Scenic overlook, bison expedition, and more. It’s 76 USD from Long Beach to Avalon roundtrip but you can check out the schedules & fares here.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood/ Paramount Pictures Studio
If you want to see where your favorite movies were made, you’ll want to join a studio tour. At Warner Bros. Studio (Adult ticket: 69 USD), you can see set and sound stages such as the famous Central Perk cafe from “Friends”, DC Universe, and Harry Potter movie sets. Paramount (Adult ticket: 63 USD) is currently home to Dr. Phil, NCIS: Los Angeles, This is Us, Hawaii Five-O, and more.
The Getty Center/ The Getty Villa
I have been to LA multiple times but this is still on my list. The Getty Center (FREE admission but requires a timed entry reservation here) has an amazing art collection that includes Van Gogh, Monet, and Cezanne. It also has unique gardens plus spectacular city views. The Getty Villa is not in the same location as the Getty Center (18 minute drive away). The Getty Villa (FREE admission but requires a timed entry reservation here) is for Greek and Roman art lovers in addition it also has the villa’s largest garden with a reflecting pool.
Los Angeles Original Farmers Market
This farmers’ market started back in 1934 with 18 vendors. It has grown to more than 100 grocers, shops, and restaurants. Here’s the directory with all of them.
Walt Disney opened Anaheim amusement park in 1955. Disneyland has two theme parks, Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park, with about 90 rides and attractions. You can find tickets as cheap as 104 USD on certain weekdays to weekends prices as expensive as 164 USD. Disneyland is located just an hour away from Los Angeles International Airport.
The Magic Castle
This is a private magic club where guests must be invited or accompanied by a member. Here are a number of ways to get into the castle which you can find here. There’s no visible door to the interior but the entrance will appear when visitors say a secret phrase to a sculpture of an owl. There are five different magic performances in three different theatres every night. Those under 21 years of age are not permitted during evening performances. However, on Saturdays and Sundays, the Castle hosts brunch and performances which are open to all ages. Click here for the castle fees.
Universal Studios Hollywood
This is another popular amusement park in California. If you love Harry Potter as I do then this is the amusement park for you. They have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Jurassic World, The Simpsons Ride, and more. Tickets range from 109 USD to 134 USD for general admission and can be purchased here.
My husband and I went to Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms in NYC during one of our earlier dates. This exhibit has been relocated to The Broad museum and it has been on my list since. This is a contemporary art museum with a collection that includes: Flowers by Andy Warhol, Balloon Dog (Blue) by Jeff Koons, Under the Table by Robert Therrien, and more. General admission is FREE but you have to book advanced time entry tickets here. Tickets are released on the last Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m. PT for the following month. If you want to see Infinity Mirrored Room, make sure you click Infinity Mirrored Room Access + General Admission ticket here.
Mount Wilson Observatory
This astronomical observatory located in Log Angeles had the biggest telescope (100 inches) in the world from 1917 to 1949. Public tours (includes a mile of walking and climbing some stairs) are offered on Sat and Sun at 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM where tickets are available for purchase ONLY at the Cosmic Cafe. Tickets are 15 USD for adults and 13 USD for ages 12 and under & 62 and older.
El Matador State Beach
This is a popular beach known for its beautiful sea stacks and stunning sunsets. There are caves to explore but please make sure you check the tide schedule and go when it’s low tide. Also, if you watched The Notebook, the beach scene was shot here at this beach. Other things to check out near the beach are Point Dume for incredible coastal views, Escondido Falls, and Sandstone Peak.
Rose Bowl Flea Market
This large flea market includes crafts, apparel, antiques, and other goods once every second Sunday of every month. There is an admission price and it varies depending on when you go in. It cost 20 USD per person from5 AM to 7 AM, 15 USD from 7 AM to 8 AM, 12 USD from 8 AM to 9 AM, and 9USD for tickets brought after 9 AM. There’s also the option to purchase online here instead of in person.
This is a 55-mile winding road through the Santa Monica mountains that is famous for its views of Los Angeles and the mansions of Hollywood stars. There are multiple lookout points to stop out and two of the popular stops are Mulholland Scenic Overlook and Hollywood Bowl Overlook.
Grand Central Market
This 30,000 sq ft food hall opened in October 1917 and was the largest and finest public market on the Pacific Coast. It has endless food options from fresh peach and fresh strawberry donuts at The Donut Man to eggs sandwiches from Eggslut to pastrami sandwiches at Wexler’s Deli and many more listed here. Since we were on a food crawl and hopping from one spot to the next, we only tried the fresh peach donut (6.25 USD). It’s definitely on the pricey side and the sweeter side but we loved it. It does get very messy so just have wet wipes ready.
Rating: The Donut Man: 7.8/10.0
Hours: Mon to Sun: 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM
My friend reminded me that I forgot to include this famous burger spot on my LA food list. If you haven’t heard of this fast-food chain, they’re known for their cheap burger, milkshake, and the not-so-secret menu ( Animal style burgers and fries). Their animal style is similar to a thousand islands dressing. I love to stop here at least once when I am in California because they’re so good for their price.
Hours: Mon to Sun: 10:30 AM to 1:00 AM
Howlin’s Ray’s was only taking orders from Postmates due to Covid when we went to Cali. We parked by a taco truck and had them deliver the Sando Chicken Sandwich (13 USD) to where we parked so we can grab some tacos plus try the famous Howlin’s Ray sandwich. It was a bit spicy for me (someone that can’t handle spicy) and not spicy enough for my husband who loves spicy food. However, we both enjoyed it. Check their website for updates to see if you can order in person.
Hours: Wed to Sun: 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM/ Mon to Tues: Closed
El Chato Taco Truck
We arrived around 9 PM at the corner parking lot located at the corner of W Olympic Blvd & S La Brea Ave and found a line of people waiting to order and another group waiting for their food. We waited about 20 minutes to get our tacos. We tried the Carne Asada, Al Pastor, Cabeza, and Lengua tacos (1.25 USD/taco) and loved the Carne Asada and Al Pastor so much that we went back on the line to get two more tacos.
Hours: Sun to Mon: Closed/ Tue to Thu: 9:00 PM to 1:30 AM/ Fri to Sat: 9:00 PM to 3:30 AM
Daikokuya Little Tokyo
This ramen restaurant located in Little Tokyo has about 9K reviews on Yelp with 4 stars. We ordered the #1 top seller Daikoku Ramen with their famous tonkotsu soup base along with the small pork cutlet bowl (20.95 USD) and loved it.
Hours: Mon to Sun: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Leo’s tacos truck
Before heading to LAX airport, we purposely woke up earlier to grab tacos from this food truck. We ordered the Al Pastor burrito (7.50 USD), Asada quesadillas (7.50 USD), and a medium horchata (2 USD). We brought them to the airport to enjoy while we wait for our flight.
Hours: Sun to Thu: 10:00 AM to 2:00 AM/ Fri to Sat: 10:00 AM to 3:30 AM
I read so many articles about this egg sandwich spot before coming here. There are multiple locations located in California and around the world. I had my first Eggslut in Las Vegas but since my husband never had it, we stopped here for the Fairfax sandwich (8.25 USD). It’s scrambled eggs and chives, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, and sriracha mayo in a warm brioche bun. I love the soft scrambled eggs!
Hours: Mon to Sun: 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM
I added this seafood restaurant to my list when I go back to Los Angeles since I had never been to Malibu before. Malibu is known for its celebrity homes and beaches. This restaurant is located right by the beach and is known for its clam chowder and fish and chips.
Hours: Mon to Sun: 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Philippe the Original
This is another restaurant that we didn’t get to go to but is still on my list. This restaurant has been open since 1908 and is home to the original french dip sandwich. I can’t wait to try their roast beef on a French roll dipped in the natural gravy of the roasts.
Hours: Mon to Sun: 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Galco’s Soda Pop Stop
This family-owned grocery shop has been operating for more than 100 years. This shop is known for its assortment of soda pop and beer in addition to the old fashion candy section. John began increasing his assortment of sodas because of his love for them as well as to protest the larger soda companies that were not offering him the same prices as his larger competitors.
Hours: Mon to Sat: 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM/ Sun: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM
On the way to Griffith Observatory, we stopped at this restaurant and picked up some tacos to enjoy while watching the sunset at Griffith Park Peak. We ordered the brisket taco and picadillo taco with corn tortilla. Since it took us longer than 45+ to get from Homestate to the top, the tacos were cold so our rating is probably lower than it should be. I will definitely give this place another try when we go back since it has 4-1/2 stars with over 1,200+ reviews on Yelp.
Hours: Mon to Thu: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM/ Fri to Sun: 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM
Tacos Los Desvelados
My friend who moved to Cali suggested we meet up at this restaurant to catch up and enjoy some delicious tacos. There are three locations and we chose the one in West Covina. I shared a few things with my husband but we really love the Al Pastor taco. The sweet pineapple with the savory pork was on point at this place.
Hours: Mon to Thu: 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM/ Fri to Sun: 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM
How many days do you need in Los Angeles? 3 to 5 days
What is your main transportation in Los Angeles? Car. Public transportation isn’t really an option.
How long did it take to get to Los Angeles? We drove 2 hours from Solvang to Los Angeles.
Where did you stay? We stayed at Aventure Hotel in Koreatown which included free parking.
When did you go to Los Angeles? Beginning of August 2021
I’m LA born and raised, and I got SO excited when I saw your post! Agree with everything on this list, except about the 3-4 days in town…true, that’s enough time to cover the touristy parts of town (hopefully, given that traffic doesn’t suck up a lot of it), but honestly, you’d need a lifetime seeing all that there is to see here. You could spend your entire life just focused on the food scene here…I’ve only tried Eggslut and Leo’s on your list (actually never got around to trying The Donut Man, as it wasn’t open when I was in DTLA pre-pandemic), but I’d also recommend visitors to expand their taste buds to Armenian food in Glendale, Japanese cuisine in Sawtelle, and Ethiopian eats in Fairfax. So glad you covered my hometown, so big thank you!
I’ll have to ask you for local recommendations when I do go back! Yeah I put 3-4 days just to hit the major tourist spots and food spots. LA is like NYC where there are just too many restaurants and places to see where someone like me that lives in NYC still hasn’t try or seen it all.
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Oh my goodness, the food alone makes me want to hop on a plane and come and visit. I could spend a whole week just eating 🙂 The Griffith Park and Observatory area also looks super cool and what a wonderful tour of LA – thanks Mabe!
Yeah I feel like there are so many more food places that belong on the list but it was getting pretty long already haha. I am glad you like it! We really loved Griffith Park and Observatory and hoping we can spend more time there next time.
Los Angeles is a “new” city so it doesn’t have many “old” buildings as the east coast does or as in Europe, but it still does have some very interesting and beautiful architecture as well as many must-see sights. I’ve been watching LA’s Finest for the last few days and loved seeing the sun-drenched city on my TV screen. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx