You only have one day in LA.
The thought of exploring the second largest city in the United States in 24 hours may sound daunting. However, with proper planning, it is possible to use your time to see the most famous sights and eat some good food.
You have come to the right place! As a 15+ years resident, I will take your hand and guide you, step by step, through this huge metropolis.
In addition, we will discuss important matters such as traffic and parking (sorry but we have to).
Now, get comfortable since we are going to discuss how to see the best of Los Angeles in a day!
Please note: This article contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link. Of course, this comes at no extra cost to you and helps me to keep offering solid information to readers.
Before getting into the details, I need to make sure we are on the same page. What I discuss in this article will work under certain circumstances. I am outlining those below.
My suggestions are ideal for first-time visitors to the city.
I am assuming you are interested in seeing the top sights. That means you will be moving around a lot. If you want a relaxing one day in Los Angeles, you need to pick an area and spend the day in there (see options below).
This itinerary assumes you have an entire day in Los Angeles. That means that you spent the night before in the city and are within close distance of the starting point.
Also, the itinerary assumes you are going to spend the night (after sightseeing) somewhere in the city
In short, you will need 10 to 12 daylight hours to follow what I have outlined here. If you have less time, you will need to cut things short.
On the same line, you need to start sightseeing early (9 to 10 a.m.).
This itinerary is doable with or without a car.
If you are renting a car, you need to take into consideration parking expenses. It may be more cost-effective to use ride-sharing services to move between spots.
If you do not have a car, I advise you to take Uber or Lyft between places. There are public transportation options but I would not spend time moving around on those with you have only one day in the city.
I will provide mileage information between stops. In that way, you can calculate the approximate costs of using ride-sharing services (using an application such as RideGuru).
Traffic in Los Angeles is terrible (it is one of the worst in the entire world). You want to avoid freeways during rush hours (6:00-9:00 a.m., 4:00-7:00 p.m.).
On this itinerary, you do not spend any money on attractions. Costs are related to transportation and food.
Get ready for a day of sightseeing by bringing the right gear. Here is a list of the items I pack to explore cities and towns in California.
- Walking Shoes – Comfortable walking shoes are a must. I recommend investing in a good pair. My go-to brands are Clarks, Tevas, and Sketchers.
- Anti-Theft Bag – Keep your belongings safe by keeping them in an anti-theft bag. The ones manufactured by Travelon have a 5-points security system including an RFID blocking pocket. >>Check out their crossbody bag here If you prefer a backpack, this one is a good option
- Sweatshirt – A sweatshirt is a must to keep me warm during chilly mornings and nights. >Click to see this California appropriate option here
- Sun Block – Do not leave the house (or the car) without applying sunblock. I repeat, always wear sunblock when outdoors. >Buy sunblock here
- Lip Balm with Sunscreen – Protect your lips by applying a balm with sunscreen. >Get one of the best lip balms here
- Wide Brim Hat – A wide brim hat is a great way to protect your scalp, face, and neck. The ones manufactured by FURTALK come with an anti-UV function. >Buy this amazing hat here
- Hand Sanitizer – Do not forget to pack hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.
- Sunglasses – These are another must when it comes to protecting from the sun. A polarized, sporty pair works better outdoors. >Take a look at this wonderful pair
- Water Bottle – Do not forget to bring water! Keep yours cold by taking a beautiful Hydro Flask water bottle. >Check out the insane options here
- THERMOS Tumblers – I have been a fan of the THERMOS brand since I received a tumbler as a gift. The tumblers keep drinks hot for hours. >>Buy THERMOS insulated tumblers here
- Camera – I have never gotten used to taking pictures exclusively with my phone. I prefer to use the Sony Alpha a6000. It is compact and takes gorgeous pictures. >Buy Sony Camera here
- Tripod – A compact tripod to take your photos and videos to a different level. >>Check out this popular option here
- Portable Power Bank – It is a pain to keep phones charged on trips (more if you are taking pictures, posting on social media, and navigating). Having a power bank is a lifesaver. The Anker portable charger can charge a phone 5 times. >Buy this incredible power bank here
One Day in LA: Detailed Itinerary
Here is my suggested itinerary for a memorable one day in Los Angeles.
Stop 1: Santa Monica or Venice Beach
Arrival time: 9:00 or 10:00 a.m.
Time Spent on Site: 3 hours
Start your day by spending some time on the beach. You have two main options here: Santa Monica or Venice Beach.
You need to pick one. I have seen several one day itineraries including both. In my opinion, seeing these two places will take more than three hours. Half a day can easily be spent in the area.
Pick Santa Monica if you prefer a sophisticated and family-oriented vibe.
For breakfast, you have options serving plenty of delicious dishes. I recommend checking out Blue Daisy Cafe, Bruxie Original Fried Chicken, and Waffle or Jinky’s Cafe.
After fueling your belling, it is time to start burning some calories. Stroll around the famous Third Street Promenade. This pedestrian-only street is full of interesting shops, cafes, and restaurants. Also, it has some cute dinosaurs made out of steel and grass. Do not forget to take your picture with one of them.
Then, it is time to take Colorado Avenue towards the Santa Monica Pier. This is probably one of the most well-known landmarks in the Los Angeles area. When walking the pier, take a look at the colorful rides of Pacific Park and the signs declaring “Route 66 End of Trail.”
If time allows, take a look at the Original Muscle Beach (located next to the pier entrance) and Tongva Park (Colorado and Ocean),
Parking in Santa Monica: You can park around the Third Street Promenade area or at the Santa Monica Place multi-level structure. If you are only interested in the beachfront attractions, park on or next to the pier.
Pick Venice Beach if you prefer a hip, fun and eclectic vibe.
For breakfast, I recommend indulging at Flake, 26 Beach Restaurant, Eggslut or Cafe Buna. If you have money to spend, you may want to check Gjelina one of the most sought-after restaurants in Los Angeles.
To get the insane feeling of Venice Beach, you need to walk The Boardwalk. This walkway between Venice Boulevard and Rose Avenue is full of performers, skaters, marijuana shops, people offering bad advice for a dollar and other crazy stuff that is hard to describe in words.
Also, you are going to see Muscle Beach, street art, graffiti, and tons of cheap trinkets. Do not miss the “Venice” sign at Pacific and Windward.
If you feel like avoiding the madness, stroll along Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a place full of stores selling elegant, bohemian and unique goods. It has excellent restaurants and ice cream parlors too! Oh, and you have to check the murals!
Parking in Venice Beach: There are several parking lots behind Abbot Kinney Boulevard (Irvin Tabor Circle and Electric Street). For beach parking, drive towards the end of Venice and Washington Boulevards.
Stop 2: Beverly Hills
Arrival Time: Around 1:00 p.m.
Time Spent on Site: 3 hours
Distance from Santa Monica: 9 miles or 15 km (25 minutes driving time)
Distance from Venice Beach: 9 miles or 15 km (30 minutes driving time)
If you do not have a car: Take an Uber or Lyft directly to Rodeo Drive.
If you are hungry, grab a quick bite at places such as Le Pain Quotidien, Nate n’ Al Delicatessen, M Cafe or Mulberry Street Pizzeria.
Proceed to walk the glitzy Rodeo Drive (between Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards). I am sure you will be happy to spot all the high-end designer stores but try to spot Bijan’s Bugatti, one of the many plastic surgery clinics, the building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (Anderton Court Shops) and the Rodeo Drive Steps.
Walk back to Santa Monica Boulevard and check out the Beverly Hills Sign at the Beverly Gardens Park. Less than a block from there, you are going to find the gorgeous Beverly Hills City Hall.
And, we cannot forget about all those who love cute things. On Santa Monica Boulevard you are going to find an ATM dispensing cupcakes. You read that right, Sprinkles Cupcakes started one of the most loved trends in Los Angeles.
I cannot continue without mentioning that next to Sprinkles there is a Kreation Organic. I am obsessed with their juices. Try their Serenity and Balance flavors.
Parking in Beverly Hills: There are several public lots on Rodeo and Beverly Drives. There are two large parking structures on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Stop 3: Hollywood
Arrival Time: Around 4:00 p.m.
Time Spent on Site: 3 hours
Distance from Beverly Hills: 5 miles or 8 km (20 minutes driving time)
If you do not have a car: Take an Uber or Lyft to Hollywood and Highland
No visit to Los Angeles would be complete without taking the time to see the Walk of Fame in Hollywood Boulevard.
Take into consideration there are 2,600 stars spread along 15 blocks. If you are interested in a particular star, research the exact location beforehand.
Having said that, the most popular stars are located on the two blocks on each side of Highland Avenue. You will see people conglomerated around the most popular stars.
Other than the stars, you want to take a look at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Dolby Theater (where the Oscars take place), and El Capitan Theater.
There are several nice photo opportunities at the Hollywood and Highland Shopping Complex. The Hollywood Sign is visible from the second level. Therefore, you can have a picture taken with the sign on the background.
Museums on the area include Madame Tussauds, Hollywood Wax and Ripley Believe it or not! On a personal level, I would skip these places since I feel like they do not provide enough value for the money spent on them. I recommend reading reviews and a bit of research before buying an entrance ticket.
Also, you will find many people dressed in character (Batman, Superman, Captain America, etc.) close to Hollywood and Highland. If you take your picture with one of them, you are expected to leave a tip. You are not supposed to be charged. Be vigilant since these characters are known for charging exorbitant prices to visitors.
There are not that many good places to eat around the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I will eat something on Thai Town or Sunset Boulevard (In-N-Out is located on Orange Drive and Sunset Boulevard, a block south of the TCL Chinese Theather).
Parking in Hollywood: Parking in Hollywood can be a nightmare. There is parking on the street (metered) but lately somebody decided to reduce the time limit to one hour (really?)
Public lots are located on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards and a parking structure at Hollywood and Highland (need validation from a merchant to get a cheap rate). Be ready to pay ($15 to $20 flat rate). Avoid lots that want you to pay $15 – $20 for 2 hours.
Cheaper rates can be found if you keep driving east on Hollywood Boulevard. Around Hollywood and Vine, you can find lots charging $10 flat rate (but you have to be out before 7:00 p.m.). The downside is that you have to walk several block to the main attractions.
Stop 4: Griffith Observatory
Arrival Time: Around 7:00 p.m.
Time Spent on Site: 1 or 2 hours
Distance from Hollywood: 5 miles or 8 km (20 minutes driving time). Even though you can drive to the observatory, the parking at the top is very limited. It is recommended that you leave your car parked in Hollywood and take a ride-sharing service to the top.
If you do not have a car: An Uber or Lyft will leave you in front of the observatory.
Last but not least, my itinerary takes you to the Griffith Observatory at the end of the day. The idea is to see the sun going down from the top of Mount Hollywood. You will be able to take in fantastic views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign.
While there, you can choose to see the free exhibits, buy a ticket to one of the Planetarium performances or participate in one of the special events.
Depending on how much time you spend on the observatory, you will be driving back to your accommodation from 8:30 to 9:00 p.m.
If are hungry at this time (and have a bit of energy within you), stop by the nearest In-N-Out to have a double-double burger and animal style French fries. If you do not feel it, consider stopping by the place during your time in California.
One Day in LA: Alternative Itineraries
The detailed itinerary presented above is a great way to hit Los Angele’s most famous sights in a day. But, it requires a lot of movement and limited time in a single place.
If you are looking for something more relaxed, here are some options.
Option #1: Beach Day
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, with one day in LA, you have to pick only one beach (assuming you want to see more stuff): Venice or Santa Monica. Well, what about picking both?
An entire day can be easily spent between these two communities. For example, start your day by checking the pier and the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Then, it would be time to take the bus, or an Uber, to Venice Beach. While in there, walk The Boardwalk, shop at Abbot Kinney Boulevard, and discover as many murals as possible.
Another option is to check Santa Monica’s attractions in the morning and then, walk or bike to Venice (one to two miles, one way).
Here are some resources that will help you to plan your day:
Abbot Kinney Boulevard: Shops, restaurants, and events
Option #2: Arts and Beach Day
For this option, head to The Getty after breakfast. This is one of the premier art institutions in Los Angeles. This is the place to go for interesting exhibitions, modern architecture, beautiful gardens and wonderful views of Los Angeles.
Yes, this is a museum but it is the kind that will appeal to even people that cannot stand museums. Now, here is the trick. Entrance to the institution is free but you have to pay $15 for parking.
After The Getty, head to Santa Monica or Venice and spend the rest of the day there. The distance from the museum to the beach is about 10 miles.
Option #3: Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Downtown
If the beach is not your cup of tea, you can scratch it from your itinerary.
Follow my suggestion above for Beverly Hills, Hollywood and end the day in Downtown Los Angeles. Now, Downtown Los Angeles is big. With limited time, I recommend focusing on the Civic Center and Bunker Hill.
Consider the following resource as part of your planning:
One Day in LA: When to Visit
The weather in Los Angeles is glorious year-round. Day temperatures rarely drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. So, an escape to Los Angeles is always a good idea!
Winter (Dec-Mar) is the rainy season in Southern California. Expect showers here and there. Now, some winters are wetter than others. We have had years where we have seen rain 5 times. Rain should not be an issue on your visit.
Summer is one of the best times to check out the area. However, take into consideration that is the season when we experience a phenomenon called “June Gloom.” A thick marine layer (fog) covers the coast from daybreak till 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. Once again, this should not be an issue but it in mind.
Spring and fall see fewer visitors and lower prices. These are good times to visit if you do not want to deal with the crowds.
I recommend bringing a jacket or a sweater even if you are in the area during warm months. Once the sun goes down, things can get a bit chilly. This is particularly true in the beach areas.
One Day in LA: Answering Questions
Since I initially published this article, I have gotten tons of questions from readers who want to maximize their time. I am including some of the most common questions here since they may benefit other readers.
Question #1: This is the exact itinerary I want to follow but my friend and I are thinking of renting a bike and riding from Santa Monica to Venice Beach and back. Do you think that is a feasible plan if we arrive in Santa Monica around 8 am?
In this itinerary, I allocate three hours to Santa Monica or Venice (one of those). The bike ride may be a possibility but keep in mind you are adding an activity to an already jam-packed itinerary. However, you may be the kind of person that is disciplined with time.
If you arrive at 8:00 a.m., you can have an additional hour on the area (this itinerary starts at 9:00 a.m.). The ride from Santa Monica to Venice is about three miles (one way, 6 miles round-trip). In theory, you can cover that distance in half an hour. However, it may take a bit longer since you may not be able to go as fast as you want (path is not straight at all times, there is sand covering the path, etc.). So, yes, the extra hour can be used for the ride.
Question #2: Is it possible to do the one day in LA itinerary backwards?
Absolutely! Here is how the itinerary looks in reverse:
Stop 1 – 9:00 a.m. – Griffith Observatory
Stop 2 – 12:00 p.m. – Hollywood
Stop 3 – 3:00 p.m. – Beverly Hills
Stop 4 – 6:00 p.m. – Santa Monica or Venice
After that, head to your accommodation or drive to your next destination (you are close to the 10 and 405 Freeways).
One Day in LA: Resources
For more information about the city, I recommend checking the following resources. They may help you to get discounts or deals for events and restaurants.
- LA Weekly
- Los Angeles Times
- Time Out Los Angeles
- The Infatuation Los Angeles
- Eater LA
- Travelzoo Los Angeles
- BlackBoard Eats
More of Los Angeles
If you have more than one day in LA, make sure to check the posts below for more ideas on what to do in the city.
2 Days in Los Angeles: Downtown-Based Itinerary
Los Angeles Itinerary: 2,3 or 4 Day in the City
A Day in Los Angeles: 4 Downtown Itineraries
More of California
Well, I hope you find this Los Angeles itinerary and easy to follow. Let me know how your trip went!
Have you spent one day in LA? What are your recommendations?
Pin “One Day in LA” for later!