First things first: shoes. You’re going to need some good ones. Make sure you’re ready for a lot of walking, because there is a lot to see from the moment you step foot outside of LAX. Los Angeles isn’t necessarily known for its public transportation, so you should either plan to rent a car from the airport, or take Uber or Lyft when you can’t walk. The fares might add up, but if you’re trying to tackle one of the country’s largest cities in a day, it’ll be worth it (trust us, you’re going to see a lot).
Geographically, the airport isn’t far from the beach, so we’ll start you by the water in Venice, then direct you inland to Downtown L.A., then up to the hills to visit Griffith Observatory, and you’ll finish the day for dinner and drinks in Hollywood. We recommend booking a room at the Hollywood Roosevelt, one of the neighborhoods most iconic and esteemed boutique accommodations.
8 a.m.: Head straight toward the Pacific for a breath of fresh air. There’s no better way to start the day than soaking up the morning sunlight in Venice with some killer L.A. coffee and a bike ride down the beach. Make a quick stop on the famous Abbot Kinney Boulevard for a piping hot latte (we recommend Blue Bottle or Intelligentsia, but when it comes to coffee in Venice, the limit does not exist). Then head out toward the Venice Beach boardwalk. Here, you can rent a bike from any number of little spots (they’re basically every couple blocks), and go for a revitalizing ride down the beach toward Santa Monica.
9:30 a.m.: Once you’ve had your fill of riding, head back to the Venice boardwalk, drop your bike, and make your way back in the direction of Abbot Kinney for some breakfast followed by some major Cali-vibe shopping. Grab a bite at either Bluestone Lane on Rose Avenue (the space is inspired by Aussie beach culture, and the food is light and seasonal—plus the coffee is to die for) or The Butcher’s Daughter which is right on Abbot (think organic, healthy eats like acai bowls and breakfast tacos, paired with delicious fresh juices in an airy, undeniably-L.A. space). After filling up on some local goodies, be sure to check out as many stores as you can while you stroll down Abbot Kinney Boulevard—a few you shouldn’t miss are Bassike (simple yet luxe Australian clothing made from organic cotton); Bazar (high-end antiques, textiles, vintage clothing, and more); Flowerboy Project (cafe meets home goods meets floral shop in a beautiful space); and Huset (modern Scandinavian home goods).
11:30 a.m.: After getting your fill of the beachside lifestyle, hop in the car and head out toward Downtown Los Angeles for some exploring. The city offers some amazing walking tours, which is one of the best ways to get a feel for the beautiful and storied architecture of L.A., and it’s a great way to learn about the history along the way. Try the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Historic Downtown Walking Tour or the Broadway Historic Theatre and Commercial District Walking Tour. Whichever you do, make sure you stop into the Grand Central Market before or after to get some delicious local bites (like the pork tacos from Via Moreliana). Odds are you’ll be really hungry by the time your walking tour ends, so you can either fill up at the market, or head to Redbird just around the block for an unforgettable atmosphere and menu—fine modern American cuisine with an emphasis on L.A.’s cultural diversity. The space is just as remarkable as the food, housed in the former rectory of the Vibiana, a beautiful landmark cathedral-turned-event space. (Make sure to get there before the kitchen closes at 2 p.m.)
3 p.m.: After you’ve gotten your fill of Downtown, hop back in the car and head for the hills! You can either drive up to the famed Griffith Observatory, or you can park and hike up if you’re looking to get the true Los Angeles experience. (This site has great information for where to park and what the different trails offer). Once you reach the observatory, you’ll have breathtaking views of the city below, as well as none other than the famous Hollywood sign.
5 p.m.: We’re willing to bet that after all the walking, you’ll be beat. Head from the hills down to Hollywood to end your day. Treat yourself to a refreshing drink at the legendary Chateau Marmont, which was built in the 1920s and is the epitome of Hollywood luxury (be sure to stroll around the grounds). Or you can check out Bar Covell, a staple wine bar of the city that serves hundreds of labels in an elegant yet urban setting (and the owner seems to always know just what to pour for his guests).
7 p.m.: After your pre-dinner drinks, head to Paley on Sunset Boulevard for dinner. Located at Columbia Square (known as “the birthplace of the Golden Age of Hollywood”), Paley offers guests a dynamic menu featuring classic dishes crafted—with style—from local ingredients. Make sure to try the seared jumbo scallops with uni cream, leeks, and Chinese chives, as well as the prime bone-in ribeye with chimichurri. Pro tip: the cocktails are amazing, especially the most expensive martini in Los Angeles (which clocks in at $162).
10 p.m.: After dinner, take a car to the Walk of Fame for a stroll to walk off dinner. You might be beat by the end of the day, but you can’t miss out on Hollywood nightlife. Have a drink at the upscale Parisian-style Pour Vous lounge for a craft cocktail, or check out Mama Shelter on Selma Avenue where you can drink atop the city at the roof bar. Walk over to the iconic Hollywood Roosevelt, where you’ll stay the night—known as “a modern Hollywood revival”—located just past the Walk of Fame.
Here, you can check out the Spare Room, a sleek cocktail lounge modeled in the style of speakeasy, but with the surprising flourish of two bowling alleys and a handful of beautiful wooden board games. Sip a cocktail and soak up the atmosphere (maybe you’ll even spot a star), and then head upstairs for a well-deserved sleep in the City of Angels. We bet you’ll come back for more.