Los Angeles in 1 day? Can it be done?
Yes, it can, if you go at it methodically.
You know, La La Land–we’ll begin with the beach and continue to the ritzy hotels and shopping district of Beverly Hills, the stars and footprints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and end at the Griffith Observatory for the best city views and a good shot at the Hollywood Sign.
So for this tour, we’ll skip downtown (DTLA), museums, the Sunset Strip and Dodger Stadium or Staples Center. We’ll catch those on the two day tour.
—We land at Los Angeles International Airport on the west side of town, and then head 6 miles over to Venice Beach, to experience the wild street scene. To look for: the iconic SoCal beach, street performers, local art, silly gift items like henna tattoos and your name written on rice. If you have time, head from the beach to the Venice Canals, which were created in 1906 by Venice’s founder Abbott Kinney, who set out to re-create Venice Italy in Southern California.
—Next up Santa Monica, 2.7 miles up the road, where the highlight is the Santa Monica Pier, often described as a photographers paradise. Pacific Park is a fully functional amusement park, where rides include a roller coaster, Ferris wheel and lots of games. From the Pier, there are great views (on a clear day) of Malibu to the north and Venice to the south. Or just walk or rent a bike and enjoy the paved walkway, where you’ll probably have to dodge electric scooters, which are all over Santa Monica. End your time here by cruising through the open air Santa Monica Promenade mall and Wilshire Blvd.
—Head seven miles up Wilshire and you’re in a land of ritz, glitz and glamour, the real 90210. In Beverly Hills the attractions are ultra-expensive stores on Rodeo Drive (treat the storefront windows like an art show) and historic hotels (the Beverly Wilshire, the Beverly Hills Hotel) which have served as locales in “Pretty Woman,” “Argo” and countless other movies. Also check out the huge palm trees on Beverly Blvd. and Santa Monica Blvd., which scream “California.”
—From the Beverly Hills Hotel and Sunset Blvd., go east 5.8 miles and you’ll get to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. We could tell you not to waste your time, as the area can be seedy, ultra-crowded and there’s not much to see beyond cement stars of people you probably haven’t heard of on the ground. But you’ll go there anyway. Most of the action takes place around the TCL Chinese Theater, where costumed performers, usually in superhero outfits, are ready to pose with you, in exchange for a tip. Posing with Spiderman is probably as close to a star as you’ll get on this trip. ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live tapes across the street at the El Capital Theater.
—From Sunset, head 4.5 miles east to the Griffith Observatory for the best city views and the closest you’ll probably get to a selfie with the Hollywood Sign behind you. The Sign, the symbol of Los Angeles, is actually quite a ways away, up on Mt. Lee, but the Observatory has the best posing spot, with the only available parking on a seven day a week basis. (You can get closer in residential neighborhoods, but there’s no parking available Saturdays and Sundays.)
That said, parking can be challenging at the Observatory as well, especially on weekends. The city recommends dropping the car down the road at the Greek Theater lot and walking up the hill, or taking public transportation. (There is a parking lot at the Observatory, no climbing required, that charges $6 an hour.)
At the Observatory, showcased in the recent film “La La Land,” as well as the 1956 classic “Rebel without a Cause,” it’s all about the views. You can go inside for a space and stars show, or just marvel at the city lights and skyline of Los Angeles from 1,100 feet up. And if you’re up for it, the Observatory is the starting point for the Hollywood Sign hike, which is either 2.8 miles away, for a frontal view, or just under 4 miles (and uphill most of the way) to get behind the Sign, for one killer Los Angeles view.
And that’s our one-day tour. The skies are dark now, so it’s a good time to roll back down the street and go to dinner, perhaps at a classic, vintage Hollywood establishment like Musso & Frank Grill, which is over 100 years old. You probably won’t see stars there, but then you never know. Johnny Depp and the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards have been known to dine there.