Los Angeles is one of the most famous destinations in the United States and even the world. It attracts millions of tourists year-round. For me, Los Angeles was my home for several years. In this article, you’ll find the perfect way to spend 2 days in Los Angeles, including local tips and lesser-known attractions.
Los Angeles goes by many names: LA, City of Angels, La-La Land, Tinseltown – the list goes on.
LA is most known for being the entertainment capital of the world, with millions of tourists and aspiring actors flocking to Hollywood. While it may be the mecca for the film industry and celebrity sightings, Los Angeles is known for much more than it.
LA is home to stunning beaches, theme parks (hello Disneyland), star-studded boulevards, picturesque nature, and renowned cuisine.
With all that variety, it’s no surprise that Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the US. Each neighborhood is a place of its own.
Here you can enjoy the glamorous, fast-paced city life, endless arts & culture, or laid-back beach living.
If you’re planning a trip to LA, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. With so much to see and do, it can be hard to know where to start. As a former LA resident, I’m here to help.
In this article, you’ll find the perfect itinerary for two days in Los Angeles. I’ve included activities for a range of budgets, and interests.
While the tourist track offers many worthwhile LA highlights, I’ve also included lesser-known activities for a well-rounded and unforgettable trip.
How to get around in Los Angeles and from the Airport
While there are several ways to get around LA, the only way that counts is by car. As the song says, nobody walks in LA. Renting a car is your best bet for enjoying the city. It can take at least an hour to get across town, depending on rush hour.
You can easily get a rental car at LAX. Most car rentals offer free shuttles from the airport straight to their rental lots, a few miles away.
I recommend booking your rental car online in advance, especially if you have a specific budget or model in mind.
Alternatively, you can take an Uber or Lyft easily throughout the city. This is definitely not cost-effective, however, especially if you plan to explore different parts of the city. A typical 3-mile ride will cost you $25-$30 USD, outside of surge times.
Lastly, you can take public transportation. LA has a bus and metro system but I would not recommend it if you only have two days in LA. It’s very confusing and you’ll spend the majority of your time trying to navigate it.
Find the best car rental deals and explore around freely, at your own pace. My favorite way to enjoy a destination!
Los Angeles 2 day itinerary – Day 1: Soak Up the City Life on the East Side
Use your first day in LA, while your energy is high, to explore the top attractions of the Eastside.
Most of the activities below can be done at any time, in any order. I’ve organized them geographically and included my favorite thing to do each.
I made sure to include all my favorite activities, perfect for both solo travelers and groups.
Enjoy the DTLA Arts District
My favorite part of Downtown LA is the arts district. Here you’ll find cool street art, galleries, and an ample amount of breweries. It’s a great place to drink, walk around, and admire the surroundings.
Be sure to visit the Arts District Co-Op for awesome local shopping including vintage and artisan goods.
Shop throughout the historic center
Downtown LA is known for its historic architecture (don’t miss the Bradbury Building) and also numerous iconic landmarks. It’s also world-famous for its shopping. Stop at the Last Bookstore, one of the most unique bookstores I’ve ever been to.
Then head to the fashion district. Check out Santee Alley and the Row for a truly unique and fantastic shopping experience.
Eat your way through Little Tokyo & Chinatown
There’s no better way to experience Los Angeles’ diversity than to walk around Downtown. Each district is a world of its own. Little Tokyo and Chinatown are no exception.
Be sure to visit these two districts for great sightseeing and even better food.
Explore Griffith Park
One of my favorite places on the Eastside is Griffith Park. This massive park is located right in the middle of Hollywood and filled with so many things to do. It’s the perfect place to picnic or go hiking.
Driving around the park is a great way to see gorgeous views of LA, the Hollywood Hills, and the jaw-dropping houses within. Griffith Park is also home to my favorite theater in LA, the Greek Theatre.
Lastly, you have to check out the Griffith Observatory. Home to arguably the best view of Los Angeles, this is a must-see if you have 2-days in LA. I recommend heading there for sunset and staying until dark.
View the Hollywood Sign
If you’re doing LA in two days, and it’s your first time, then you should check out the Hollywood Sign. If you’re adventurous, hike up to the Hollywood Sign through Griffith Park. You can also get a great view of it by hiking Runyon Canyon or Bronson Canyon.
If you’re not much of a hiker, you can see the sign clearly from the Griffith Observatory. Alternatively, drive up the famous Mullholland drive to get a peek of the sign among some of the most famous, palm-tree-lined residential streets in LA.
If you’re also interested in seeing the Walk of Fame, there’s a popular viewpoint from Hollywood Boulevard. You can see the sign clearly from the iconic Hollywood & Highland mall.
Get lost on Melrose
Melrose is one of the most famous LA streets. Park your car on the West end and stroll up Melrose. You can window shop your way through the most luxurious and high-end stores, take a photo at the Paul Frank pink wall, and grab a coffee at Alfred.
As you head down Melrose, you’ll see it go from high-end to gritty and artsy. You’ll see well-known tattoo shops, iconic murals, vintage shops, famous comedy venues, and great restaurants for all budgets and tastes.
Drive down Sunset Blvd.
One of my favorite things to do in LA is to drive down Sunset Blvd, starting at the Sunset Strip. On the strip, you’ll pass by many popular attractions like Chateau Marmont, Pink’s Hot Dogs, The Comedy Store, and legendary nightclubs and bars.
It’s fun to go out here but it’s equally fun to drive down, especially when you’re short on time.
As you continue West down Sunset you’ll drive by the most famous houses and landmarks in Beverly Hills. This is a great street to take photos on.
Visit the Grove & the Original Farmer’s market
If you only have two days in LA, then one of the best places to visit is The Grove. This outdoor shopping mall is home to famous LA restaurants and stores. Thanks to its great ambiance and gorgeous architecture, it’s a treat just to walk around it.
It’s also one of the only tourist attractions that have 75 minutes of free parking in their garage onsite.
Across the parking lot, you’ll find the historic “Original Farmers Market.” This daily market has been open since 1943. It’s the perfect place to taste delicious local eats and treats.
Visit the LACMA
The LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) became a tourist attraction due to the light installation out front. One of the most Instagrammable places in LA, the lights are best viewed at night.
I highly recommend visiting the actual museum, however. The LACMA has wonderful rotating exhibits and the grounds are quite impressive.
Additionally, located just next door, is the La Brea Tar Pits. It’s a must-see for fossil lovers.
Pretend you’re famous in Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills may be the most glamorous and televised place in LA. It’s also home to numerous top attractions.
People watch and window shop down Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard. Check out the famous Beverly Hills sign at Beverly Hills park or grab a bite at the Beverly Hills hotel.
The residential streets nearby are great for photo ops and admiring beautiful houses, like the historical Spadena House.
2 days in Los Angeles – Day 2 – Soak up the Sunshine on the West Side
Enjoy a Classic LA Brunch
The first thing you’re going to want to do on your second day in LA is to enjoy a good breakfast. Brunching is a big deal in LA, especially on the westside. There are so many great neighborhoods to enjoy a classic LA brunch in.
If you’re interested in seeing the more upscale side of West LA, with wonderful people watching, head over to Brentwood, Wilshire/Montana, or Santa Monica.
If you’re looking for a more laid-back, coastal vibe, check out some low-key and hip spots in Venice and Mar Vista.
Marvel at the Getty Center & Getty Villa
By far my favorite museum in LA is the Getty. There are two locations and I highly recommend both. They are completely free except for parking ($20 per car).
The Getty Center in West LA boasts some of the most impressive art collections, as well as extraordinary grounds. You could spend all day here.
The Getty Villa is smaller but even more aesthetic, located on the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s a recreation of ancient Roman villas and the architecture is extraordinary.
Enjoy a Farmers market
A big part of the LA lifestyle is eating fresh, local goods. As such, the city loves its farmers’ markets. It’s a great place to get both the local taste and feel of a place.
Stroll down Venice Boardwalk
No 2-day Los Angeles itinerary is complete without a trip to the Venice Boardwalk. A stroll down the Venice Boardwalk will show you a very different side of LA.
Stroll down the boardwalk and admire the street performers, artists, and rollerbladers. Grab lunch or beers at an ocean-front cafe, like the Venice Ale House. Watch the pros at the Venice Skate Park or the bodybuilders at Muscle Beach, an outdoor gym on the boardwalk.
Check out 3rd Street Promenade
While touristy, the 3rd Street Promenade is still worth a stop. This 3-block long walking street and the outdoor mall are home to great shopping, restaurants, and street performers.
There are plenty of parking garages directly off the third street that offers 75 minutes free. Located just a few blocks from the beach and the Santa Monica Pier, this is a great place to park if you want to explore the area.
A good option to explore that’s less touristy is Main Street, just a mile away. Main is home to some of the best restaurants, local bars, and small boutiques in Santa Monica.
People watch on Abbot Kinney
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is one of the most famous streets in LA. This trendy boulevard is home to everything that defines West LA.
Here you’ll find upscale juiceries, sustainable clothing shops, local designers, beautiful murals, and boujee California restaurants.
Go on a Bike ride
LA’s west coast is big, and it lacks convenient or affordable parking options. A great way to see the coastline without dealing with traffic or parking is to rent a bike.
The coastal bike path starts in Pacific Palisades and goes all the way to Manhattan Beach in South Bay Los Angeles. If you have a few hours, I highly recommend biking it in its entirety as it’s the best way to see the different beaches in LA.
Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the Venice Canals. Just off Venice Beach, this neighborhood explains where Venice gets its name from, and boasts some of the prettiest scenery in the area. It’s the perfect place to bike around.
Get in the Water
If biking isn’t your thing, hopefully, the Pacific Ocean is! You’ll see numerous people in the water year-round.
Stop by one of the many rental shops along the coast and get some gear. Try paddleboarding or take surfing lessons. You can rent a sailboat easily and enjoy a sunset or day cruise.
Go on a Hike
One of my favorite things about LA is the amount of easily accessible hikes throughout the city. The Westside is home to the prettiest ones, thanks to their oceanviews.
Catch a Sunset
The westside has the most gorgeous sunsets everywhere you go. You can easily watch the sunset on any beachfront, like Santa Monica, Venice or Marina Del Rey. Plus there are plenty of hotel rooftops that allow outside guests to get a drink and enjoy the view.
The best views however are in Malibu. The beaches here are stunning and there’s an abundance of delicious oceanfront restaurants.
Adding an extra day in Los Angeles
If you’re planning to stay an extra day, and you weren’t able to do everything above, now’s your chance.
A third day in LA is the perfect opportunity to see more of your favorite neighborhoods or explore new ones. Check out my list of awesome yet lesser-known neighborhoods at the bottom of this article.
Spend your third day doing full or half-day activities. Go hiking in Hollywood, Malibu, or Topanga. Spend the day at one of the numerous beaches in LA like Manhattan Beach, Playa Del Rey or Malibu.
If you’re into theme parks, this is a great chance to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood. You can also take a day trip to the beloved Disneyland. If you want to try something more local, check out Knott’s Berry Farm or Six Flags.
If you’re more into arts and culture, book a full-day excursion or guided tour. Spend the full day at a museum. Take a walking tour or architecture tour downtown (you’ll love the Walt Disney Concert Hall).
Things to do at night in Los Angeles
See a show in Los Angeles
If it’s summer, don’t miss the weekly Twilight concerts at the Santa Monica Pier.
See a movie in Los Angeles
There is no shortage of beautiful movie theaters in LA, like the Dolby Theater, famous for hosting the Academy Awards. Some of my other favorites are TLC Chinese Theater, the Egyptian Theater, and the Fox Village Theater.
Visit Pacific Park
The Santa Monica Pier is even more lively at night. With its own amusement park, Pacific Park, you can ride roller coasters or the famous Ferris Wheel above the ocean. It’s a great way to see the city lights at night.
Take in the views
There’s no better time to admire LA’s cityscape than at night. Head to one of the many rooftops throughout the city, visit the Griffith Observatory, or the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.
Enjoy the famous nightlife
Going out on the town is one of the most popular things to do at night in LA. Enjoy low-key bars in Venice or trendy, hipster-approved ones downtown.
Visit the numerous speakeasies in Hollywood or hit the famous clubs of West Hollywood.
Suggested day trips from Los Angeles
Located in Anaheim, just an hour away, is Disneyland. If theme parks and rollercoasters are your things, a day trip to Disneyland is a must.
Santa Barbara is also my former home and favorite LA getaway. This gorgeous little town is known for its Spanish architecture, unspoiled beaches, and fantastic local wine.
Enjoy the vineyards nearby or simply sip at the centrally located tasting rooms in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. Then shop your way through State St. and marvel at the beaches that put LA shame.
Where to stay in Los Angeles
West Side – Hotel Erwin
Located in one of the trendiest parts of Venice is the stylish Hotel Erwin. It’s walking distance to the best restaurants, nightlife, and shopping in Venice and also Santa Monica. Despite its beachfront location and cute hotel rooms, Hotel Erwin won’t break the bank.
With a gorgeous rooftop bar and helpful front desk, this is a great place to stay as a solo traveler.
Check rates and availability on Booking.com
East Side – The PaliHotel Melrose
This boutique hotel chain has several locations in Los Angeles. The Melrose location is prime real estate, just steps from the best attractions on Melrose. You’re only a short walk from Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Hollywood.
The PaliHotel is great for solo travelers thanks to its welcoming community spaces and trendy onsite bar.
Check rates and availability on Booking.com
Downtown – The Ace Hotel
The Ace Hotel is a famous Boutique hotel chain, and their Los Angeles location does not disappoint. Located in the heart of the historic center, you can easily walk to the best parts of downtown LA.
With an events calendar, trendy rooftop, and movie theater, founded by Charlie Chaplin, the Ace Hotel has it all.
Check rates and availability on Booking.com
Where to eat in Los Angeles
If you want to try one of the best vegan restaurants in LA, Gracias Madre is a must. Beloved by celebrities, wellness enthusiasts, and those looking for good Mexican food and a great vibe, Gracias Madre is it. It’s so good, you can’t even tell it’s vegan.
If real cheese and grease are what you’re craving for, however, then check out El Cholo. They are a great local chain known for the strongest margaritas and biggest portions since 1923.
In’ n’ out is iconic, but the Apple Pan is equally iconic for locals. Beloved by Westsiders, Apple Pan serves old-school burgers, fries, and their notorious pies.
If you’re on the westside during your 2-days in LA, then you have to head out to Malibu Seafood. If you like fried fish then this is worth the drive alone. Family run, they catch all their fish locally.
They have a variety of seafood offerings, but I highly recommend getting the squid and chips. You’ll always find a line around the building due to their high-quality food and unbeatable price point.
Swingers is the ultimate LA diner complete with retro decor and waitresses in 50’s attire. Their delicious menu has all the greasy classics with a California twist, thanks to their ample veggie and vegan options.
You have to try their famous cupcakes or their ultra fluffy banana pancakes.
While this is a must for breakfast or lunch, you’ll also see quite the late-night crowd here.
A great way to taste the variety of cuisines in LA is to head to Grand Central Market. Located in the heart of downtown LA, here you’ll find delicious, affordable food in a historic landmark.
It’s by far the best food market in Los Angeles and is always packed with locals and tourists alike.
Insider tips about visiting Los Angeles
Stay where you want to explore
Due to the famous LA traffic, I recommend choosing accommodation in the area you most want to explore. You can then walk to nearby attractions and spend less time in traffic.
When it’s time to explore outside of your neighborhood, don’t try to do everything. Instead, pick your must-sees, map them out, and plan your LA itinerary by location. This will allow you to maximize your short visit.
Make reservations in advance
If eating as much as possible is on your LA to-do list, I highly recommend making reservations in advance.
You’ll need a reservation if it’s a popular sit-down restaurant, the weekend, or dinnertime. Otherwise, be prepared for a long wait or the possibility of not getting a table.
Get outside of Hollywood
Los Angeles is so much more than Hollywood and Beverly Hills. While the common LA tourist attractions are in this area, I’d recommend exploring outside of Hollywood.
Each part of town is dramatically different with a variety of things to do and see. You won’t regret broadening your horizons and exploring less touristy neighborhoods.
I recommend Downtown LA, Echo Park, Silverlake, Westwood, Brentwood, Culver City, Marina Del Rey, Playa Del Rey, or Pacific Palisades.
About the Author: Alicia Briggs
A full-time traveler since 2018, Alicia is a writer and blogger, specializing in travel, social issues, and sustainability. She’s lived in over 70 cities and 25 countries, with expertise in California, Oregon, Mexico, Vietnam, and South Africa. Alicia is a self-described extroverted introvert, trying to balance her love of a great happy hour with her love of an isolated mountain top. You can follow her journey on her slow travel blog, Learning the Local Way