Epic 3-Day Itinerary For Los Angeles, California

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Having just 3 days in Los Angeles to explore may seem like a daunting task, especially for first-timers. The city’s vastness, diverse neighborhoods, and endless attractions can leave you feeling overwhelmed yet exhilarated. Having visited twice myself, I can attest to the magnetic energy of Los Angeles, despite its infamous traffic. There’s always something new to discover, and each neighborhood offers a unique experience waiting to be explored.

This West Coast gem has a special place in my heart, and I’m excited to share a curated 3-day itinerary for Los Angeles for those ready to dive into its unique spirit.

Viewing Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel

When is the best time to visit LA?

Los Angeles is a city that never truly sleeps, and the best time to visit largely depends on your preferred blend of experiences. I’ve enjoyed exploring LA during the winter months. While mornings and evenings might be crisp, the daytime sun bathes the city in a golden glow, creating perfect temps for exploring comfortably.

The off-season means fewer crowds, turning traffic into a more manageable aspect of the LA experience. Plus, parking, often a concern in bustling cities, surprisingly didn’t pose as much of a challenge as we anticipated.

But of course, LA summers are buzzing with an energy that is hard to resist. From June to August, the city comes alive with a variety of outdoor activities, events, and festivals.

A happy medium where you can expect great temps and fewer crowds are the months of March through May and September and November.

Venice Beach Pier in California

How many days do you need in LA?

When it comes to Los Angeles, how many days to spend depends on what you’re into. Five days is like hitting all the high notes – you get to dive deep into iconic spots and find those LA hidden gems.

But even in just three days, LA throws so much at you that you’ll leave with a taste for more! So don’t worry if you can’t swing the full five-day gig, this 3-day itinerary for Los Angeles will still give you a killer LA experience.

If you do end up having more time in LA, I suggest doing a day trip to Joshua Tree! Or better yet do an epic 1-week road trip from LA to Joshua Tree with a Palm Springs pit stop (this is what we did for our most recent trip!).

3-Day Itinerary For Los Angeles

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Day 1: Venice Beach and Santa Monica

Getting your LA Adventure Underway

If your flight touches down with plenty of daylight to spare, seize the opportunity to kick off your 3 days in LA with the sun, surf, and unmistakable vibes of Venice Beach, a mere 20-minute drive from LAX.

To make the most of your time in the sprawling city, consider renting a car for easy navigation between neighborhoods.

Venice Beach Boardwalk

Spend the Afternoon at Venice Beach

Venice Beach is like a whole little universe packed with culture and vibes! We found free parking near the Venice Canals, so we were able to stroll through those on our way to the beach area. They were such a calm oasis!

I recommend walking down the legendary Venice Boardwalk, where you’ll find street performers, cool vendors, and even some people pumping iron at Muscle Beach. If you feel like you have time to spare wander around Venice and check out some of the shops and grab a bite to eat.

Great White is a pretty popular local spot! We ended up going to Whiskey Reds in Marina Del Rey and it was so good! Plus they were having an awesome happy hour. We got oysters, a salad, calamari, and Brussels sprouts and the tab was so cheap and filled us up.

Check Out Santa Monica and Watch the Sunset at the Pier

Santa Monica is a quick 15-minute drive from Venice and let’s be real, no 3-day itinerary for Los Angeles would be complete without it! Start with the iconic Santa Monica Pier, a total classic with its amusement park, aquarium, and epic sunset views over the Pacific Ocean.

And, if you missed lunch in Venice or just want to treat yourself to dinner in Santa Monica, you’ve got to swing by Elephante. Make reservations in advance!

Trust me, the vibes are next level, and the food? It’s a whole mood. I’m still dreaming about their spicy vodka pasta – it’s a flavor explosion you won’t forget! It’s the perfect ending to your first day in LA, setting the stage for the adventures that await!

Day 2: Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Griffith Observatory

Optional: Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Tar Pits

You can start your day by visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, home to the iconic Urban Light installation! While you’re in the area, take a quick pitstop at the nearby La Brea Tar Pits to marvel at remnants from the prehistoric world. Don’t worry, this detour won’t steer you far from our next destination: Beverly Hills!

LA Tar Pits and Museum

Beverly Hills

Discover the glitz and glam of Beverly Hills, a place that sparks varied opinions—some are enchanted by its lavishness, while others take it in stride.

I felt like I just had to experience it once, but once was enough for me! As you wander through this posh neighborhood, treat yourself to a stroll down the renowned Rodeo Drive, where luxury boutiques are at every turn. Snap photos at the iconic Beverly Hills sign, soak in the palm tree-lined streets, and marvel at the magnificent mansions that define the area’s allure.

Oh, and if you’re hungry The Hideaway is a stunning, enchanting restaurant that serves up great food and cocktails! They even have a great happy hour daily from 3-6 PM.

If you need a caffeine fix, Parakeet Cafe is such a cute coffee shop in Beverly Hills! And the coffe was delicious too.

Hollywood’s Iconic Sights

On your way from Beverly Hills to Hollywood, if you didn’t make the last coffee stop, make a coffee stop at The Butcher, The Baker, The Cappuccino Maker. It’s a renowned coffee haven in West Hollywood. This trendy spot combines artisanal coffee with a stylish ambiance, making it the perfect place to recharge before continuing your day.

There are plenty of things to do in Hollywood, a lot being pretty touristy. But if you’re like me and one of those people who feels like they need to do even the touristy things just once, here is a list of some things to do in the area. Pick and choose your adventure!

  • Hollywood Boulevard— Hollywood’s bustling main street, famous for its entertainment venues, shops, and vibrant atmosphere.
  • Walk of Fame— A sidewalk adorned with stars bearing the names of celebrities. As a lover of The Office, I naturally had to find Steve Carell’s.
  • Warner Bros. studio tour An exclusive glimpse behind the scenes of one of Hollywood’s most iconic film studios, showcasing sets, props, and movie history.
  • Good Times at Davey Wayne’s— A speakeasy that transports you back to the ’70s with its groovy ambiance. The secret entrance is through a fridge door!
  • Chinese Theatre— A historic landmark known for its unique architecture, movie premieres, and the famous handprints and footprints of Hollywood stars.
  • Museum of Death— An interesting museum exploring the darker aspects of celebrity culture and mortality, offering a unique perspective on Hollywood’s fascination with death and fame.

Griffith Observatory

One of my favorite things to do in this 3-day itinerary for Los Angeles is a visit to Griffith Observatory. While it’s closed on Mondays, the rest of the week is full of daily programs that offer fascinating insights into the universe.

Not to mention, it’s one of the best free activities in the city! From the Observatory’s vantage point, soak in breathtaking views of Los Angeles that stretch for miles.

If you’re feeling adventurous and have the right gear, consider exploring the 53-mile network of trails throughout Griffith Park—it’s a fantastic way to immerse yourself in nature while marveling at the cityscape from different angles!

I did the Hollywood Sign via Canyon Drive trail. This LA hike does require a considerable amount of time (around 3 hours). However, if you can spare the time, it’s worth it! This trail offers fantastic views, including close-up shots of the Hollywood Sign for memorable photo opps, and you can even see behind the sign for a unique perspective!

Night on the Town

If you still have the energy for more adventure, enjoy the electric nightlife scene in West Hollywood. It will be an evening you won’t soon forget!

For my fellow Vanderpump Rules fans, step into the world of SUR and TomTom. They are truly sights to see! We mainly enjoyed cocktails (which were delish!), as well as the famous goat cheese balls.

Those are great pregame spots, but if you want to amp up the night even more head over to The Abbey, Beaches, and Heart WeHo. The atmosphere in these places is infectious and perfect for dancing the night away!

Day 3 Options: Explore More Beaches or Downtown LA Adventure

Option 1: Malibu and/or Manhattan Beach

For a sun-soaked coastal adventure, head to the pristine beaches of Malibu or the laid-back charm of Manhattan Beach. In Malibu, soak up the breathtaking views along the Pacific Coast Highway, explore the iconic Malibu Pier, and unwind on the sandy shores.

Alternatively, Manhattan Beach offers a relaxed atmosphere with its charming pier, waterfront dining, and bustling Strand Bike Path.

We opted for option 2 and dove into the vibrant scene of downtown LA, but I’m already planning to prioritize these beaches for my next trip to Los Angeles!

Malibu Beach California at sunset
Malibu Beach at sunset

Option 2: Downtown LA

Downtown LA is packed with some exciting options, and I’m here to highlight some of the best and most popular activities so you can create your own adventure!

Fun things to do in downtown Los Angeles:

  • The Broad— make sure you secure tickets in advance (they’re free!) for this mesmerizing Infinity Mirrored Room. It’s a captivating art installation.
  • Little Tokyo— A vibrant cultural and civic hub for Japanese Americans in Southern California that brings together a mix of cultural attractions, mouthwatering restaurants, and a rich historical legacy across its charming five city blocks in the heart of Downtown LA.
  • Chinatown— Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture and discover delicious Asian cuisine, unique shops, colorful festivals, and more in this vibrant LA neighborhood.
  • The Last Bookstore— The largest new and used bookstore in California. It’s full of “unexpected nooks of funkiness”.
  • Grand Central Market— An emporium with tons of food vendors and florists. They also host game nights, movies, and other fun events.
  • Central Library— Not a necessity, but if you find yourself in the area you can appreciate the architectural marvels of the Central Library, an ode to knowledge and creativity.
  • Library Bar— Enjoy exquisitely crafted cocktails and gastropub eats amidst the enchanting ambiance of this literary-inspired bar! As you may have noticed I have a thing for books.
  • Angel City Brewery— This vibrant brewery is located just outside of Little Tokyo and has a great selection of craft beers in a dynamic and artsy space.

Where to stay in Los Angeles

Selecting the perfect home base for your 3-day itinerary in Los Angeles is crucial. Especially because traffic and driving can take up a bit of your time.

We ended up staying in Koreatown, and while it provided a unique cultural experience with some amazing foodie spots (and my favorite coffee shop in LA, Spl Coffee), it’s essential to consider your itinerary.

In hindsight, staying centrally located wasn’t the most efficient choice for a city as vast as Los Angeles. I would recommend staying in Santa Monica or West Hollywood!

Santa Monica

Santa Monica offers a laid-back coastal vibe, a perfect contrast to the bustling city. Its picturesque beaches, charming streets lined with shops and restaurants, and vibrant beachfront culture create an atmosphere of relaxation.

Top picks for Santa Monica:

  • Huntley Santa Monica A luxurious beachside retreat offering elegant rooms with stunning ocean views, fine dining options, and a rooftop lounge with panoramic vistas of Santa Monica.
  • Palihouse Santa Monica A charming boutique hotel blending historic architecture with modern amenities, featuring stylish suites, a cozy courtyard, and a relaxed California-cool vibe.
  • Santa Monica Proper Hotel A chic and contemporary hotel boasting sophisticated design, vibrant dining experiences, a rooftop pool with sweeping city views, and a prime location near the beach and shopping districts.

West Hollywood

If you’re captivated by the glamour of Hollywood and the lively energy of West Hollywood, consider staying in this vibrant area. It’s a good choice if you plan to explore Hollywood attractions, enjoy a night out on the Sunset Strip, or visit popular spots like The Abbey. West Hollywood seamlessly blends luxury, entertainment, and a lively atmosphere.

Top picks for West Hollywood:

  • Montrose at Beverly Hills Experience luxury and sophistication at Montrose, offering elegant accommodations, personalized service, and a convenient location.
  • Andaz West Hollywood Andaz is known for its stylish rooms, creative dining options, and a rooftop pool with stunning views of the city.
  • Pendry West Hollywood Pendry has a contemporary design, exceptional amenities including a rooftop bar and pool, and a central location near Sunset Strip’s nightlife.

Are you ready to experience this epic 3-day itinerary for Los Angeles for yourself?!

Wrapping up this 3-day itinerary for Los Angeles I hope you’re feeling excited for all of the different opportunities and experiences that will be at your fingertips! From Hollywood glam to coastal serenity, this itinerary encapsulates the essence of the City of Angels.

There’s always more to explore, but this curated itinerary offers a taste of what LA has to offer. I hope you’ve fallen for its unique charm and lively energy just as I have!

Before you go, be sure to follow me on Insta @guidedbydestiny and check out some of my other Florida blog posts:

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